a, an, the. Use the article a before a word beginning with a consonant sound, including the aspirate h: a car; a hotel; a historical. Also use it before words like union, euphonious and unit. Use an before a word beginning with a vowel sound: onion; uncle; honor. The choice of article before an abbreviation, a numeral or a symbol depends upon the likely pronunciation: an N.Y.U. student; a C.I.A. officer; an 11-year-old girl.
Avoid the journalese practice of dropping A or The at the beginning of a sentence. If several consecutive sentences or paragraphs begin with the same article, recast some to break the monotony.
An article should appear before each parallel noun in a series or a pair: The ambulance carried a nurse, a paramedic and a doctor; The hero and the heroine received medals. Make an exception if the nouns convey a single idea: a bow and arrow; a hook and eye.
In the title of a literary, artistic or musical work—in English or a foreign language—omit the opening word a, an or the when it follows another article: an “Old Curiosity Shop” character. If the opening article in a title is necessary information, rephrase the surrounding sentence to avoid direct juxtaposition with a second article.
If a foreign-language expression begins with an article and appears in an English-language passage, translate the article: at the Arc de Triomphe. But if the article forms part of a title, uppercase it, untranslated: Le Monde; La Scala.
Also see the.
A.A. for Alcoholics Anonymous.
AAA (without periods). The former American Automobile Association has adopted the initials as its full official name.
A.&P. for the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, the supermarket chain. In a headline, insert a thin space after the ampersand, to balance the appearance of the preceding period.
AARP, an association of middle-aged and older Americans, was the American Association of Retired Persons until 1999. The newer name, written without periods, is officially considered neither an abbreviation nor an acronym.
A.B. or B.A. for Bachelor of Arts. Also: a bachelor’s degree.
A.B.A. for the American Bankers Association, the American Bar Association or the American Booksellers Association. In headlines, abbreviate only when the context is unmistakable.
abbreviations. Commonly used abbreviations are listed separately. In general, spell out the names of government bureaus and agencies, well-known organizations, companies, etc., on first reference. In later references, use short forms like the agency or the company when possible because handfuls of initials make for mottled typography and choppy prose. Here is an example of what not to do: The U.A.W. and the U.M.W. supported the complaints made by the W.H.O., Unicef and the F.A.O., but A.F.L.-C.I.O. leaders did not.
When abbreviations are highly familiar, though, long or cumbersome expressions may be shortened even on first reference, and especially afterward. Examples include A.F.L.-C.I.O., C.I.A. and F.B.I. If the article deals centrally with such an organization, the full name should appear somewhere in the copy.
Abbreviations may be used more freely in headlines. A title that would be spelled out in copy may be shortened with a surname in a headline: Gen. Barany; Gov. Lamb; Rep. Berenich (but not Sen., even in a headline). Place designations and company terms may also be abbreviated in headlines: Fifth Ave. (or 5th Ave.); Fordham Rd.; Patchin Pl.; Brooklyn Hts.; Acme Co.; News Corp. And Department may be abbreviated in a headline as part of a name (State Dept.).
Even freer use of abbreviations is permitted in charts, listings and tables to conserve space. All standard abbreviations may be used, as well as coined contractions, so long as they are understandable. In all types of copy, avoid unfamiliar or specialized short forms like R.W.D.S.U. (for Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union).
Ordinarily use periods in abbreviations when the letters stand for separate words: F.C.C.; N.R.A. Use no spaces after the periods within an abbreviation. (But use thin spaces between personal initials, even those forming part of a company or organizational name: J. C. Penney.)
In an acronym—an abbreviation pronounced as a word—omit periods. Ordinarily uppercase such an expression if it is up to four letters long: NATO; CUNY; AIDS; SALT. Acronyms of five or more letters are upper-and-lowercased: Unicef; Unesco; Alcoa; Awacs. (Lowercased exceptions exist, and the dictionary is the guide: modem; radar; sonar.)
Omit periods in certain technology terms for which the full expression is unfamiliar or rarely used: USB, PDF, URL, DSL, DVR, LED. If the term is central to an article, include a full reference and brief explanation at some point. Abbreviations popular in online and texting slang should be used only rarely, for special effect, and should be rendered as readers most often see them: BTW, FYI, LOL, OMG, tl;dr, etc.
If a corporation adopts a former abbreviation or other cluster of letters as its full name, without periods, follow that style: the AT&T Corporation; the ITT Corporation.
When letters within a single word are extracted for use as an abbreviation, they are capitalized without periods: DDT; TV; TB. (By contrast, V.D. requires the periods because it stands for two words.)
For consistency in references to broadcasting services, networks and stations, omit periods in all their abbreviations, and in call letters (CBS, CNN, PBS, NPR, WNBC, KPFA).
Also see acronyms; company and corporation names; department; state abbreviations; subway lines; television networks.
ABC for the former American Broadcasting Companies, now a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company. ABC operates the ABC Television Network. ABC News and ABC Sports are divisions of the network, which also owns and operates 10 television stations, among them WABC-TV. Any of these names, as well as ABC, may be used in a first reference. (Do not attribute an ABC News production to ABC Television.) ABC may stand alone in later references and should stand alone when several networks are mentioned together: ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC will televise the news conference.
A B C’s (the alphabet or the basics). Use thin spaces between the letters.
ABM for antiballistic missile.
abortion. The political and emotional heat surrounding abortion gives rise to a range of polemical language. For the sake of neutrality, avoid pro-life and pro-choice except in quotations from others. Impartial terms include abortion rights advocate and anti-abortion campaigner (or, in either case, campaign, group or rally). Anti-abortion is an undisputed modifier, but pro-abortion raises objections when applied to people who say they do not advocate having abortions. Abortionist carries overtones of stealth and illegality. In copy about abortion, woman and fetus are more neutral terms than mother (for a pregnant woman) and baby (for a fetus).
absence. See lack.
absolutely necessary. A redundancy.
Abstract Expressionism. Capitalize when referring to the postwar American art movement. Recognized Abstract Expressionists include Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. See arts terminology.
A.C. for an athletic club after the first reference and in headlines: the Downtown Athletic Club; Downtown A.C.
academic degrees and titles. See separate entries. Also see Dr.; Prof.
academic departments. Lowercase history department, English literature department, etc. (school, college or university). That wording is preferred, but style also permits department of natural history; department of English literature.
Académie Française, the. Equally acceptable, in most contexts: the French Academy.
academy. Lowercase in later references to the French Academy and the National Academy of Sciences. For the United States Military, Naval, Coast Guard and Air Force Academies, on later references make it the Air Force Academy or the academy.
Academy Award(s); the award(s); the Oscar(s). Articles dealing centrally with the awards should mention that they are presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In brief or passing references, Oscar can stand alone, without explanation. Also see Emmy Award(s); Grammy Award(s); Tony Award(s).
accent marks are used for French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and German words and names. For simplicity, use the marks uniformly with uppercase and lowercase letters, despite conventions that treat certain uppercase accents as optional. Do not use accents in words or names from other languages (Slavic and Scandinavian ones, for example), which are less familiar to most American writers, editors and readers; such marks would be prone to error.
Some foreign words that enter the English language keep their accent marks (protégé, résumé); others lose them (cafe, facade). The dictionary governs spellings, except for those shown in this manual.
In the name of a United States resident, use or omit accents as the bearer does; when in doubt, omit them. (Exception: Use accents in Spanish names of Puerto Rico residents.)
Times style calls for six marks:
éThe acute accent on an e in French signifies an “ay” sound (communiqué). In Spanish or Portuguese it denotes an irregularly placed syllable stress (Lázaro; simpático).
àThe grave accent alters various vowel sounds in French (frère; voilà) and occasionally in Portuguese. In Italian it marks an irregularly placed syllable stress (Pietà; tiramisù). In Italian and French it sometimes distinguishes between similar-looking words (où and ou; la and là).
ôThe circumflex, in French, may modify vowel sounds (Rhône) or signify the evolutionary disappearance of an s that existed in Latin (hôtel). In Portuguese the circumflex usually marks syllable stress (Antônio).
çThe cedilla beneath a c, in French or Portuguese, produces the soft sound of s in front of certain vowels that would otherwise dictate a hard k sound (garçon; français).
ñThe tilde, in Spanish, produces a y sound after n (mañana). In Portuguese it denotes a nasal vowel sound (São Paulo).
üThe umlaut modifies vowel sounds in German (Götterdämmerung; Düsseldorf). Some news wires replace the umlaut with an e after the affected vowel. Normally undo that spelling, but check before altering a personal name; some Germans use the e form. In the Latin languages, the umlaut is known as a dieresis. It denotes separated pronunciation of two adjacent vowels (naïve; Citroën; Noël), or signals pronunciation of a normally silent final consonant (Saint-Saëns; Perrier-Jouët).
Two Spanish punctuation marks—¿ and ¡—are available for special effects. But ordinarily punctuate Spanish questions and exclamations in English style.
access. Use it only as a noun; as a verb it is technical jargon. Conversational substitutes abound: look up, retrieve, find, connect, enter and even gain access.
accused. Just as an accused stockbroker is a stockbroker, an accused forger is some type of forger. Avoid any construction that implies guilt on the part of someone merely accused, charged or suspected. Also see allegedly.
Achilles’ heel (not Achilles heel or Achilles’s). The exceptional style is customary for the possessive of a classical name.
acre. An acre equals 43,560 square feet or 4,840 square yards or 4,047 square meters. The metric hectare equals 10,000 square meters or 2.47 acres. In copy, generally convert hectares into acres; if the hectare figure is a round number, round the acres as well.
acronym. An acronym is a word formed from the first letter (or letters) of each word in a series: NATO from North Atlantic Treaty Organization; radar from radio detection and ranging. (Unless pronounced as a word, an abbreviation is not an acronym.) When an acronym serves as a proper name and exceeds four letters, capitalize only the first letter: Unesco; Unicef. Also see abbreviations; company and corporation names.
across from. Often opposite is smoother: The shop was across from the school. In that sentence, across seems to need an object. Make it The shop was across 50th Street from the school, or The shop was opposite the school.
acting. Uppercase only when it modifies an uppercased title: Acting Attorney General Hilary B. Miel; the acting attorney general; the acting secretary of state; the acting secretary; the acting chairwoman of the committee. Generally move a long title after the name, to avoid this awkwardness: Acting Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Hilary B. Miel.
actor, actress. While actor can refer to a woman as well as to a man, actress remains widely used and seems exempt from most objections to grafted feminine endings. See men and women.
acts, amendments, bills and laws. Capitalize the name of an act or a law when using the full title or a commonly known shorter form: Sherman Antitrust Act; Social Security Act; Taft-Hartley Act; Multiple Dwelling Law; etc. But lowercase act when it stands alone or in a general description: the antitrust act; the housing act.
A draft measure is a bill until it is enacted; then it becomes an act or a law. Lowercase the names of bills and proposed constitutional amendments not yet enacted into law (housing bill; food stamp bill) except for proper names occurring in the description (Baranek-Lamm bill).
A ratified amendment to the United States Constitution is capitalized in a reference to its formal title (including the number): the Fifth Amendment; the 18th Amendment. But lowercase an informal title (the income tax amendment), except words that are capitalized in their own right (the Prohibition amendment).
Act Up. Upper-and-lowercase the name of the protest group concerned with AIDS issues. (It is not an advocacy group.) Its full name is the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power.
acute accent. See accent marks.
A.D. for anno Domini. Since it means in the year of the Lord (or of our Lord), place the abbreviation ahead of the numerals: The town was founded in A.D. 73. In a reference to a century, though, the number comes first: fourth century A.D.
B.C., for before Christ, always follows the date: founded in 128 B.C. or The town dates from the second century B.C.
adage. The word means an old saying. So old adage is redundant.
addresses. For the names of streets, avenues, etc., in ordinary copy, spell out and capitalize ordinal numbers: First through Ninth. Also spell out and capitalize Avenue, Street, West, East, etc.: First Avenue; Fifth Avenue; Park Avenue; East Ninth Street. Use figures for 10th and above: 10th Avenue; West 14th Street; 42nd Street; West 113th Street. When an address includes a compass point, abbreviate it without periods: 818 C Street SE; 1627 I Street NW.
Use the plural (Streets or Avenues) when and appears in a location: between 43rd and 44th Streets. But use the singular in a to phrase: along Fifth Avenue, from 43rd to 44th Street. For “decades” of numbered streets, use figures: the 60s; the East 60s; the West 80s; the 130s; etc.
Avenue, Street, Road and the like may be abbreviated with a name (Ave.; St.; Rd.) in headlines, charts, maps, lists and tables, but not in ordinary copy. In headlines, figures may also be used for the ordinal numbers through 9th in the designations of streets and avenues. But avoid 1st.
Use figures for all building numbers: 1 Fifth Avenue; 510 Broadway; 893 12th Avenue. When numbers exceed three digits, omit commas: 1135 11th Avenue. Omit No. before a building number except in a phrase like at 510 Broadway, but not at No. 512.
Copyright © 2015 by Allan M. Siegal. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.