Style on WikiTribune

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WikiTribune is working to align stories to a range of Wikipedia style guides which have developed organically, and when they don’t have all the answers, writers currently refer to the Associated Press Style Guide.

Propose changes, suggest different guides, or improve what is here!

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Before you ask, we’re agnostic about US versus UK spellings.  Writers are trying to tend to use US spelling more often, so that the site doesn’t seem “too British” for American readers. WikiTribune won’t always be consistent, but that’s the beauty of collaborative editing.

Wikipedia style guides

We find these valuable:

Wikipedia Manual of Style
Wikipedia Manual of Style/Dates and Numbers
Wikipedia Guide to Inverted Pyramid style in journalism
Wikipedia Citation Templates

Daily Operation

Some of these are based on the AP Stylebook. AP Style’s aim is to present information in an accurate and neutral way.

Nothing on this page is a strict ‘rule’. Ignore them if it makes more sense in the story.

Write clearly and concisely. Avoid elegant variation: choose a word and use it throughout. Avoid wavering between “marriage” and “union”. Writing “protesters” in one sentence and “demonstrators” in the next can be confusing for the reader.

Some basic tips

Spell out whole numbers below 10 and numerals that start a sentence. Example: Thirty-five dogs were released this morning. Try to avoid starting a sentence with numbers.

Within a story, don’t switch numerical categories like comparing percentages to ratios. Example: 25 percent in one example and 1 in 15 in the next. 

Use digits for 10 and above and for all ages and percentages. WikiTribune aims to spell “percent” as one word but some people prefer the use of the symbol “%”.

In an address, abbreviate words “street,” “avenue” and “boulevard” after numbered addresses. Also abbreviate compass directions. Use digits for the numbers in addresses.

Dates should always use numerals without st, nd, rd or th in dates, and avoid using yesterday, today and tomorrow so everything is more factual and lasting. When writing about an event use the month and date e.g. April 30, June 2. However, when referring to a month, day and year, separate the year with commas e.g. April 22, 2017. Months should never be abbreviated within stories.

AM to PM should be presented as so but in lower case: am or pm. Apart from noon and midnight, use digits. The time of day should be written like this: 4:40 pm.

Years are presented in full – don’t miss out the first two digits e.g. the 1960s, 1972.

Titles should be capitalized, apart from the articles: “a,” “an” and “the” or other conjunctions or prepositions. It’s traditional to italicize newspaper and book titles: The New York Times, The Handmaid’s Tale.

People’s names should be capitalized, along with their official titles – do not separate title from name with a comma. WikiTribune founder Jimmy Wales.

Places should be capitalized as usual, including U.S. regions and geographical areas.

Ethnic Groups 

Use “black,” not African Americans, and do not capitalize. Use “white” for Caucasians, also lowercase. Use “Asian” for Asian people capitalized.

Internationally and since its adoption by the UN, the preferred term is “indigenous peoples” with the final “s”. You can refer specifically to a geographical area as in: indigenous peoples in North America or indigenous peoples in New Zealand. See Wikipedia articles: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portal:Indigenous_peoples_of_North_America, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigenous_peoples

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Numbers

For easy reading, use a period/point/full stop as the decimal separator and use a comma as the thousands separator. For example: 12,345.67, rather than 12345.67. This is particularly important where there are several adjacent identical digits. For example: 100,000 is far easier to correctly read than 100000.

Be aware of presenting numbers more accurately than they should be but be guided by the source and context.

  • thousand represents 1,000
  • million represents 1,000,000
  • billion represents one thousand million, ie 1,000,000,000
  • trillion represents one thousand billion, ie 1,000,000,000,000

When using these, use a space to separate them from the number. For example: 1.2 billion, not 1.2billion.

Only use when the amounts are over a million, etc. For example: 1.23 million but not 0.123 million (write the latter as 123,000 or 123 thousand).

Currencies

This is very similar to the above guidelines.

The common currency symbol is used, £, $, €, etc, but to avoid confusion people should specify the country or use the three-letter alphabetic country code if it’s not obvious from the context.

For example: GBP123. Note there in no space between the country code and the number.

For larger amounts, use million, billion and trillion. For example: $1.23 million.

A Guide to Punctuation

Use commas between words in lists of things. Do not put a comma before a conjunction in a simple sentence. A comma before a conjunction in a longer complex sentence adds clarity by separating the independent clauses. Use a comma before and after a person’s age. Avoid overusing commas.

When using colons, capitalize the first word after the colon only if it is a proper noun or the start of a sentence. For example: This is what he said: “Hello, my name is Jimmy Wales.” Colons go outside quotation marks unless part of quoted material.

A semi-colon joins two independent sentences that are closely linked in content.

Use a hyphen (-) for compound adjectives before the noun, unless the first word ends in “-ly.”

Use a dash (–) when breaking up a sentence where a comma wouldn’t be appropriate.

Use a single space after a full stop at the end of a sentence. Don’t put a space between initials, though.

Quotations indicate exact wording, so only use them when that quote is exactly what someone said. Quote marks should come outside of punctuation. Use a comma inside the quotations at the end or at the beginning when introduced or followed by an attribution. Begin a new paragraph with each speaker and use single marks for quotes within quotes. If a quote is more than two sentences, use a colon after attribution.

Spellings

WikiTribune has an international readership, and as such any attempts to enforce a localized spelling of an English word are unnecessary and counter to the goal of accepting international edits. However, we should aim to use the same spelling throughout a story.

When a word has different meanings in different variations of English, we should try and find an alternative. This is both in the body of the story and within the headline. For example, tabled in the United States means “put aside,” whereas in England it means “presented.”

If a subject is heavily focused on one country (say, New Zealand) local spellings should be respected throughout the story.

Accessibility & Access

Many people use text-to-speech readers. If you use a picture of text, make sure to fill in the ‘Alt Text’ field and, if possible, put the actual text of the image below.

For more Associated Press grammar and spelling in a downloadable format from the University of Texas try here.

Other online style guides we like include:
The Reuters Handbook of Journalism – Style
– The Guardian and The Observer Style Guide

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