Work in progress – A-Z style guide

Work in progress – A-Z style guide


abbreviations refrain from putting full stops between or after letters in abbreviations, thus St not St., UK not U.K. and so on. Where the letters in the abbreviation stand for words, the abbreviation should be capitalised, thus USA, UK, GATT, and so on. (See acronyms below for exceptions to this rule.) Where the abbreviation is a contraction of a single word it should be in upper and lower case: for example; Mr, Rd, Dr. Rather than using the Latin abbreviations i.e., etc., e.g., cf., spell out their meanings instead; that is, and so on, for example, compare.

acronyms are words formed from the initial letters of a group of words, such as Apec, Nato, Unesco, Hart, Act. Since they are invariably proper nouns the first letter is capitalised. Aids is an acronym, HIV is an abbreviation. Some government departments in Aotearoa New Zealand have widely used but unofficial acronyms such as MAFF and DOC. In these cases capitalise them as abbreviations.

affect means to act upon or influence, effect is a result. ‘The effect of her meditation practice was startling’ but ‘the retreat was affected when the retreat centre lost power’. Although possible, avoid using effect as a verb, it sounds bureaucratic; ‘the care committee was slow to effect the recommended changes’.

all right is preferable to alright.

allude/elude you allude to something by referring to it obliquely, but you elude those who are following you.

amongst is anachronistic, use among.

American English and New Zealand English differ. The latter follows British English in its spelling conventions. Where American or Australian institutions are being discussed, though, preserve the spelling, thus Labor party, American Federation of Labor.

anti-government, pro-government, pro-business and so on, use a hyphen for the prefixes pro and anti, but no hyphen for pre and post (prewar, postmodernism) See hyphenation below.

antisemitic, antisemitism are one word with a lower case s.

anyone, anybody are single words; only spell them as two words when you mean any single thing. ‘Anyone over 18 can vote’, ‘Any one teacher can ask for a teacher meeting’. The same rule applies to everyone and everybody. Anymore is an Americanism, spell it as two words; any more.

apostrophes are used to signify possession among nouns. On singular nouns, add an apostrophe and an s; ‘the sitting group’s cushions’. On plural nouns, the apostrophe goes after the s ‘successive communities’ guidelines’. If the plural noun does not have an s, treat it as a singular noun for the purposes of signalling possession; thus ‘the children’s toys’. Avoid apostrophes in proper nouns, thus Hawkes Bay, not Hawke’s Bay; Students Association, not Students’ Association. Use apostrophes when forming plurals of single letters; ‘mind your p’s and q’s’, but not for any other group of letters or numerals; thus ‘CHEs’ or ‘1980s’.

around is a preposition while round is generally an adjective.

back yard is the noun, while backyard is the adjective.

benefited only one t.

budget ‘the community’s budget relies on donations from meditators’. Note there is only one t in budgeted.

capitalisation the first word of a sentence and proper nouns should have an initial cap. In other cases use lower case. Too many capitals interrupt a reader’s flow and makes a sentence look ugly. If in doubt, use lower case. For example; the government, the prime minister, dharma. Do not capitalise adjectives or nouns based on surnames: for example; marxism, marxist, freudian, jungian. However, do capitalise words based on other proper nouns; Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Australian, French, Samoan.

cheque and chequebook, not check or checkbook (obsolete in Aotearoa New Zealand).

compliment/complement the former means to praise, the latter means ‘to add to’.

dashes use en dashes (–) rather than hypens (-) or em dashes (—). On an Apple device you can type an en dash by holding down the option key and pressing the hyphen key. Otherwise two hyphens in succession indicate a dash.

dates are best expressed in a sequence which goes from the smallest to the largest unit (such as 25 January 2018); or – when expressed in numerals only – the sequence might go the other way: 180125. Dispense with apostrophes, st and th. So: ‘the 1960s’ or ‘the sixties’. In ranges of years occurring within the same century omit the first two digits in the second figure, using an en dash. 1993–98, but 1999–2005. But in full for someone’s lifespan 1906–1975. For decades use either the 1960s, or the 60s, not sixties or ’60s. For centuries spell out in lower case; thus nineteenth century and twentieth century but note the hyphen in twenty-first century.

discreet means cautious, tactful. ‘She kept a discreet silence’. Its opposite is indiscreet. Discrete means individually distinct. ‘There were four discrete elements in the sutta’. The noun from discreet is discretion, from discrete it is discreteness.

dissociate not disassociate.

emphasis for emphasis in text, use bold or italics, never ALL CAPITALS.

ensure means to make certain. You insure against risk and assure your life. ‘The care committee assured us that the changes will not result in fewer sitting opportunities.’

firefighter is one word.

focus has only one s at all times, except in ‘focuses’. Thus ‘focused’, not ‘focussed’.

foreign words not found in an English language dictionary go into italics the first time you use them. But any repetition of them should appear in regular, roman type. Some authors choose to italicise them when they appear many pages apart, when the reader has likely forgotten about them, but the overriding rule is consistency throughout the text. Use the English equivalent of Pali terms wherever possible, but if you do need to use a transliteration of a word from an Asian language the first letter should be lower case; dharma, sangha as Asian scripts have no capital letters. Words in te reo Māori are set in the same type style as the texts around them, and macrons are used.

geographically use northwest, southeast, etc. Britain rather than Great Britain or the United Kingdom.

harass, harassment has only one r. Embarrass and embarrassment have two r’s and two s’s.

hard line separate with a space when used as a noun. Hardliner is one word.

headings use a capital on the initial word only, as you would for a normal sentence. When supplying text in a Word or Pages document (or similar) type your headlines in upper and lower case, not all capitals.

highlight is one word; ‘The efficacy of meditation practice was highlighted by the way she was able to adapt to circumstances.’

historical (old) is not to be confused with historic (famous).

historical events are not capitalised; thus the 1984 election, the Fiji coup, the Russian revolution, the great depression, the French revolution, and so on. The first world war and the second world war are the preferred forms for these two bloodbaths, but WW1 and WW2 are acceptable abbreviations in headings. The Gulf war and the Vietnam war are named after places, so they contain initial capital letters.

hyphens should be used to separate amalgamated words that have the same adjacent letter or vowel sound at the point of union, thus prearrange or postwar but pre-empt, co-author. Use a hyphen for compound words where the meaning would be unclear without one; re-creation, not recreation. For adjectives formed by two words only use a hyphen when the meaning would be unclear without one. Cooperate and cooperative are exceptions to this rule.

ideologies are lower case; thus anarchism, communism, dialectical materialism, fascism, monetarism, socialism, social democracy. But be aware of the Communist party or the Socialist deputies in the German parliament.

initials when referring to an individual with two or more initials, you don’t need a space between them either (for example, ‘BR Ambedkar’ not B R Ambedkar). The same logic applies to entities such as USA, UK, EU, IMF and UNICEF. You don’t need full stops after abbreviated titles like Dr or Mr.

internet does not have an initial capital letter.

italics use italics for titles of books, films, newspapers, ships etc. In such cases the definite article ‘the’ should be printed in roman, unless it is part of the title itself. For example, The Sydney Morning Herald but the Sunday Star-Times.

it’s is only ever a contraction of ‘it is’. In all other occasions it is its. ‘It’s going to be harder this year for the meditation community since it lost its meeting venue.’

jail not gaol.

left wing, right wing not left-wing, right-wing for nouns, though may be suitable hyphenated as an adjective.

lockout (noun) is one word, but ‘the workers were locked out’ is two.

Māori use roman rather than italic for words in te reo Māori, and please use macrons where needed, including in people’s names. If you’re unsure look in:

Māori and Pakeha are spelt with initial capital letters, as are other ethnic groups (Palestinians, Jews and so on). The plural of Māori and Pakeha is the same as the singular form.

measurements are in metric. Separate the quantity from the unit of measure with a space, thus 5 km, not 5km. The correct abbreviation for metric weights and measures is in the back of most good dictionaries. Note that g not gm is the correct form for grams, and that m and km are lower case.

medieval not mediaeval.

money The dollar sign should immediately precede the numeral denoting dollar quantities. Put NZD, AUD or USD followed by a space before the $ if necessary to denote the currency. When there are five digits or more, separate each three digits with a comma. Use numerals up to $999,999, but after that use numerals and million, billion (1000 million) or trillion (1000 billion). Examples are $4500, $45,000; NZD $10 million, USD $5 billion. Use the abbreviation M for million in headings, thus ‘Retreat centre building costs soar to $1M’.

MPs (capitals) are members of parliament (lower case). 

multinational is one word as an adjective and a noun.

neoliberal is one word.

new right is lower case and unhyphenated unless used as an adjective.

newspapers The primary newspapers in Aotearoa New Zealand are the NZ Herald, the Post, the Press, the Otago Daily Times (or ODT) and the Sunday Star-Times.

nazi with a lower case n describes the contemporary variety. The German Nazi party of the 20s, 30s and 40s is, of course, capitalised, and its members are Nazis.

numbers In body copy for numbers one to nine, spell out. For numbers 10 and over, use numerals. ‘The course will run for four weeks’ or ‘The two courses will each run for 12 weeks’. Spell out when quantifying months; thus ‘twelve and eighteen months’, not ’12 and 18’. For more than eighteen months use years to quantify time. In headings and money quantities use numerals for all numbers. ‘6 die in mine disaster’, ‘$18 an hour’.

percent is one word not two. Use the % sign with figures and statistics.

prescribe/proscribe the former means to set down in writing, the second means to prohibit.

punctuation the strongest kind of punctuation is a full stop, so please don’t use a comma where a full stop or other pausing mark would do instead. Use commas between long clauses in sentences (usually before conjunctions like but, so, and, for and yet), to separate two or more adjectives for the same noun, and to separate nouns in lists. Use colons and semicolons if you wish, but sparingly.

quotation marks come after the end of the sentence punctuation, except (a) where the quotation marks enclose words that don’t amount to a potential standalone clause or sentence; and (b) where a superscript footnote number is involved, since it must come last. For example: ‘I’m a regular meditator,’ Kataraina told her friend. But: Kataraina told her friend she was ‘a regular meditator’.

referencing avoid the academic habit of breaking up your text to insert a whole reference. Instead, use a modified Harvard system, which is easier to manage for both writer and reader. The author provides a list called ‘References’ to go at the end of a chapter, or the back of the book. It contains referenced works only. Entries in the list will look like this:

     Higgins, Winton (2018) After Buddhism: a workbook (Wellington: Tuwhiri)

You can then display a discrete superscript footnote or endnote number at the appropriate place in your main text. The note itself will simply read ‘Higgins 2018’, or – if you want to refer to a specific page – ‘Higgins 2018: 119’.

spaces use just one between sentences.

spelling in most uses of New Zealand, British and Australian English verbs derived from Latin or Greek end with –ise not –ize.

telephone numbers for local numbers separate the first three digits from the last four with a single space. For national numbers put the prefix in brackets followed by a single space and then the local number. For international numbers use the plus sign followed by the country code followed by a space followed by the area code followed by a space then the local number. Thus Tuwhiri’s landline number is 970 3531, (04) 970 3531, or +64 4 970 3531. Do not use hyphens.

Treaty of Waitangi or Te Tiriti o Waitangi is capitalised and can be shortened to ‘the treaty’ or ‘te tiriti’.

under way or underway depend on context.

waterfront one word.

whilst is anachronistic, use while.

worldwide is one word.

Main image photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash
Alphabet soup photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

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