This is a comprehensive list of language idiosyncrasies associated with BankNXT.com. You’ll discover the correct way to spell minuscule and the difference between ‘that’ and ‘which’. This is a flexible guide, which means it constantly changes according to the general use of language, and it’s also open to suggestions from contributors.
All writing should be conversational in tone, without being colloquial. Talk to the reader as an individual, never as a group. Share their passion, excitement and enthusiasm for the financial services industry. Share your knowledge, expertise and insider information.
So, what’s this all about?
Simply put, this is a guide to what’s right, and sometimes what’s wrong, when it comes to making some sort of contribution to the website we work on called BankNXT. You may be a freelance writer, a freelance sub-editor or a valued member of the BankNXT team. Whichever category you fall into, you should find something useful within these pages.
Why do I need it?
Because no one’s perfect. If you think you can write perfect prose and submit your work without structural, grammatical or typographical errors, then think again. My job is to try to steer your work in the right direction. Sometimes, it’s hard work. At other times, you make my job seem easy. What’s unavoidable is the fact that you will make mistakes, yet some of the pitfalls you’ll come up against are easily avoided if you have a little knowledge about how a website is put together and how online copy should read. (And if you see a mistake on BankNXT, please let us know. We love fixing things!)
I don’t have time for this. I’m a busy person.
Aren’t we all? Think of it this way: you’re an expert at your chosen profession for a good reason. You’ve probably spent a great deal of time studying your craft, you practice regularly and you’re keen to improve your skills in order to keep up with your peers. You’re also a writer, which means you should perhaps time-manage in order to sharpen your writing skills, improve your vocabulary and submit the best possible work you can muster. You may be a financial expert, but your writing is the spotlight you use to illuminate your knowledge. This guide is simply another tool in your arsenal.
We use a handful of reputable sources as guides for the language we use on BankNXT, including The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage (2015 Edition), The Guardian’s online style guide and the Collins American Dictionary (online). For common usage, we sometimes refer to Wikipedia or the many expert blogs we consume on a daily basis.
BankNXT uses British English, even when an article is pitched at a US audience. However, we also use common sense and good judgment when we write and edit, and have our ears to the ground when it comes to language trends and popular usage. We won’t always get everything right, but we’ll strive to make our website as readable as possible. After all, 2015 is the year of making things ‘really nice’. Enjoy your journey!
A or AN before H?
Use ‘an’ only if the h is silent: an hour, an heir, an honest woman; but a hero, a hotel, a historian (but don’t change a direct quote if the speaker says “an historic”).
Don’t use full points in abbreviations, or spaces between initials (see INITIALS): BBC, US, UK, 4am, No 10, PJ O’Rourke, WH Smith, etc. Also, explain acronyms at the first opportunity (unless they’re obvious). Once explained, use acronym thereafter.
Use on French, German, Spanish and Irish Gaelic words, but not anglicised French words such as cafe. Remember Orwell: “Do not use a foreign word where a suitable English equivalent exists.”
Don’t use hyphens after adverbs ending in -ly. For example, a hotly disputed penalty, a constantly evolving newspaper, genetically modified food, etc. However, hyphens are needed with short and common adverbs: ill-prepared report, hard-bitten hack.
Use in company names when they do: Barnes & Noble, Kempen & Co, P&T Luxembourg.
Some plural nouns have no ‘s’ (eg children). These take an apostrophe and ‘s’ in the possessive: children’s games, gentlemen’s outfitter, old folk’s home. The possessive in words and names ending in ‘s’ normally takes an apostrophe followed by a second ‘s’ (Jones’s, James’s), but be guided by pronunciation and use the plural apostrophe where it helps: Mephistopheles’ rather than Mephistopheles’s.
Use apostrophes in phrases such as in two days’ time, 12 years’ imprisonment and six weeks’ holiday, where the time period (two days) modifies a noun (time), but not in nine months pregnant or three weeks old, where a time period is adverbial (modifying an adjective such as pregnant or old). If in doubt, test with a singular such as one day’s time, one month pregnant.
add-on (noun) add on (verb)
Adrenalin is a trademark
Not advisor, but it’s OK to say robo-advisor
‘Exhortations in the style guide had no effect [noun] on the number of mistakes. The level of mistakes was not affected [verb] by exhortations in the style guide’
Alright is not all right
Any more is used in the UK
Avoid using approx.
April Foolʼs Day
anti money laundering
The British spelling is artefact
Rather than auntie
Books and films/TV shows are italicised, but games and other software applications are not. References to magazines, such as American Banker, are also in italics. Also, when italics are used, any punctuation immediately following should also be italicised.
If the sentence is logically and grammatically complete without the information contained within the parentheses (round brackets), the punctuation stays outside the brackets. (A complete sentence that stands alone in parentheses starts with a capital letter and ends with a stop.) See also SQUARE BRACKETS.
As in back-end developer, and developed for the back-end. See also front-end
As in backward compatible, not backwards compatible
beside the point
Use a capital letter if referring to the Old or New Testament. It should be lower case if used in a sentence such as, ‘the BankNXT style guide is my bible’. Also, biblical should be lower case
You can also use bite-sized
black and white would be used for ‘he saw things in black and white’
As in a blue chip company
bored with, by
Not bored of
Opinion seems to be split down the middle for the majority of reputable dictionary sources, with some preferring brand-new, others preferring brand new. We’ll follow the example set by the Brand New Heavies, and also the Stylistics, who sang You Make Me Feel Brand New
As in a company buyout
Overused words and phrases to be avoided include:
- back burner
- boost (massive or otherwise)
- bouquets and brickbats
- but hey …
- drop-dead gorgeous
- politically correct
- raft of measures
- to die for
- upsurge (surge will do).
Verbs overused in headlines include:
- set to
Use like this: to deliver the goods that have been invoiced in the preceding words. For consistency, capitalize what follows a colon if it is a complete sentence. And in headlines, uppercase any word directly after a colon.
“The editor, James Bloggs, is a man of great vision” – correct (commas) if there is only one editor. “The writer Daisy Chain is all style and no substance” – correct (no commas) if there is more than one writer.
A tricky area, as so many companies these days have adopted unconventional typography and other devices that, in some cases, turn their names into logos. If a company name looks like a logo, we should try to avoid it, or look to this style guide list to see how we’ve approached it in the past. Use your better judgement. If it looks daft, change it. And we never use TM, R, C, etc.
Conversational truncations are encouraged, such as it’s (it is), there’s (there is), but never use clumsy truncations such as how’d (how would) or these’ll (these will).
When the whole word is used, it is lower case: euro, pound, sterling, dong, and so on. If a product is only available in dollars, donʼt do a currency conversion as we are a global website.
Always use numerals for measures of money and percentages. £6 not 6.00; £6m (no space) not £6,000,000 or £6million; 6 million people (space), though we would usually write this as six million anyway. It’s acceptable to use ‘m’ or ‘bn’ in headlines, straps and main copy. For example, Joe was owed £6m by Daisy.
When to use the ISO code (from the Europa Interinstitutional Style Guide): When the monetary unit is accompanied by an amount, use the ISO code ‘EUR’ followed by a hard space and the amount in figures (compulsory in all legal texts), like so:
The amount required is EUR 12,500.
A difference of EUR 1,550 has been noted.
In written text, it is ‘a’ rather than ‘an’ EUR 3m programme. However, we are only likely to use ISO codes for dollars rather than euros.
case in point
Christmas Day and Christmas Eve
Created by Citibank, so we’ll capitalize for now
combat, combated, combating
common sense (noun) common-sense (adjective)
compare to, with
The former means liken to, the latter means make a comparison. Unless you’re likening someone or something to someone or something, use compare with
complement vs compliment
To complement is to make complete: ‘the two strikers complemented each other’. To compliment is to praise. A complimentary plastic spoon is free
To consist of. To say ‘comprise of’ would be incorrect
As in, ‘I need to consult the editor’ rather than ‘I need to consult with the editor’
Of the same period. This is often wrongly used to mean modern; a performance of Shakespeare in contemporary dress would involve Elizabethan costume, not 21st century clothes
cutting edge (noun)
Example: ‘It was at the cutting edge of science and technology’. However, it was cutting-edge technology’ (adjective)
Beware sentences – such as this one – that dash about all over the place. Commas (or even, very occasionally, brackets) are often better.
- 1 January 2007 (no commas)
- 21st century
- fourth century BC
- AD2007 but 1000BC.
For decades, use figures: the 1960s or the 60s.
dependent (adjective) dependant (noun)
die-hard (noun) die hard (verb)
Or different to. Never different than
Showing prudence, while discrete means separate
dos and donʼts
Try to avoid dreamt
Not driverʼs license
According to The Guardian’s style guide, the use of spaces before and after ellipses (eg ‘She didn’t want to go there … ‘) is grammatically correct. However, it takes some getting used to as we’re not used to employing ellipses this way. Persevere in the name of good English!
See also affect
enroll, enrolled, enrollment
In the UK, enrol would have one ‘l’
enthrall, enthralled, enthralling
In the UK, enthral would have one ‘l’
To make certain. You insure against risk
Try to not use. Replace with ‘and so on’
Includes the UK, so don’t say something is common ʻin Europeʼ unless it’s common in the UK as well. To distinguish between the UK and the rest of Europe, the phrase ʻcontinental Europeʼ may be useful; eastern Europe, central Europe, western Europe
every day (noun/adverb)
‘It happens every day’. However, it’s an everyday mistake (adjective)
fed up with
Not fed up of
For numbers, less for quantity
For financial services
For financial technology
And second, third … up to ninth, then 10th, 21st, millionth. However, figures may be used in titles and headlines
first person (noun) first-person (adjective)
focus, focused, focusing
As in front-end developer, and developed for the front-end. See also back-end
fulfil, fulfilling, fulfilment
In the UK, fulfil would have one ‘l’
Our use of language should reflect not only changes in society, but the websiteʼs values. Phrases such as ʻcareer womanʼ, for example, are outdated (more women have careers than men) and patronizing (there is no male equivalent). Businessmen, housewives, male nurse, woman pilot, woman (or lady!) doctor similarly reinforce outdated stereotypes.
Actor and comedian cover men and women; not actress, comedienne (but waiter and waitress are acceptable, at least for the moment). Firefighter, not fireman; PC, not WPC (most police forces have abandoned the distinction).
Use humankind or humanity rather than mankind, a word that alienates half the population from their own history.
Distinct areas are capped up: Black Country, East Anglia, Lake District, Midlands, Peak District, West Country. Areas defined by compass points are lower case: the north, the southeast, the southwest, and so on.
glamour, glamorize, glamorous
godchild, godfather, godmother, godson, goddaughter
For color. Graduation is something that happens after university
This is the plural, while graffito is the singular
headlines and straps
Generally, only the first word starts with a capital letter, with the rest in lower case unless a product or person’s name is included, and no italics should be used in a strap or headline. If in doubt, refer to a previous story to see how we’ve tackled this before.
Our style is to use one word wherever possible, including some instances where a word might be hyphenated by other publications. Hyphens tend to clutter up text. Use hyphens where not using one would be ambiguous, eg to distinguish ʻblack-cab drivers come under attackʼ from ʻblack cab-drivers come under attackʼ.
Do not use after adverbs ending in -ly, eg politically naive, wholly owned, and so on. But hyphens are needed with short and common adverbs, eg ill-prepared report, hard-bitten hack, much-needed grammar lesson, well-established principle of style (not, though, that in the construction ʻthe principle of style is well establishedʼ, there is no need to hyphenate).
The boy is six and a half but a six-and-a-half-year-old boy.
There is one very special case in which you might want to write a piece of a word in any kind of text. Consider the following example:
Pre-war and post-war Berlin could hardly be more different.
Thereʼs another way of writing this:
Pre- and post-war Berlin could hardly be more different.
This style is permissible, but observe that the now isolated prefix pre- requires a hyphen, since it is only a piece of a word. The same thing happens when you want to write a piece of a word which is not normally hyphenated, in order to avoid repetition:
Natalie is studying sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics, which can also be written as follows: Natalie is studying socio- and psycholinguistics.
A hard-and-fast rule
high profile (noun) high-profile (adjective)
Use ʻa hotelʼ rather than ʻan hotelʼ
humor, humorist, humorous
No spaces or points, whether businesses or individuals. For example, US Bancorp, PLC, JP Morgan (though this is probably seen as JPMorgan Chase these days).
Not immune from
As in in-depth analysis, but ʻit was looked at in depthʼ
Rather than InsuranceTech
You insure against risk, while ensure is to make certain
Should be lower case, such as the editor in chief of BankNXT.com, managing director, chief executive, and so on. However, someone may be referred to as the CEO of a company.
Donʼt be persuaded by the authority of a title, such as the president of the United States, the prime minister, or Dumbledore the professor. However, itʼs correct to say President Obama or Professor Dumbledore.
jack of all trades
jewellery is a British spelling
judgment , judging, judgmental
See also nonjudgmental
Abbreviate this to Jr, not Jun or Jnr. For example, Sammy Davis Jr
Not learnt, unless youʼre writing old-fashioned poetry
This is the original variant, yet the spelling has been abused so often by liquify that the latter is now included in standard dictionaries. Let’s stay true to the original for the time being
loan (noun) lend (verb)
In the past tense, use lent rather than loaned
login, logon (nouns) log in, log out, log off, log on (verbs)
may or might?
The subtle distinctions between these (and between other so-called modal verbs) are gradually disappearing, but they still matter to many readers and can be useful.
May implies that the possibility remains open: ‘The Mies van der Rohe tower may have changed the face of British architecture forever’ (it has been built); might suggests that the possibility remains open no longer: ‘The Mies tower might have changed the face of architecture forever’ (if only they had built it). Similarly, ‘they may have played tennis, or they may have gone boating’ suggests I don’t know what they did; ‘they might have played tennis if the weather had been dry’ means they didn’t, because it wasn’t.
millennium, millenary, millenia
We usually opt for a simple ʻmʼ, but it makes sense sometimes to say ʻthere are six million people at riskʼ
Preferred to ʻoverʼ – ʻthere were more than 20,000 people at the gameʼ, ʻit will cost more than £100 to get it fixedʼ. However, ʻhe was over 18ʼ
numbers and symbols
Spell out from one to nine, then 10 to 999,999. After this, use million or billion (see also million). For example, five billion people, and so on. In headlines, straps or main copy, it’s OK to use ‘m’ or ‘bn’ for monetary values.
90 degrees and 90-degree angle; 0.35 (include the 0).
Commas should be used every third figure to the left: 21,000 and 100,000.
A monitor is 17in, not 17-inches or 17″. Distance is measured in ft, not feet, and m, not meters. For example, 12ft and 17m.
Time is displayed in its short form, as in Wednesday morning, 3am.
We like to use % rather than per cent.
Dimensions and resolutions are displayed like so: 800×600 (with no spaces). A range should be quoted as 8-15, rather than 8 to 15, and £8-15, not £8-£15.
We don’t hyphenate telephone numbers, but we do use spaces. For example, +44 (0) 870 0464747. The number must be split into two sections, with the final section almost always consisting of seven digits. London numbers are supposed to begin 020, but we prefer 0207 or 0208.
Without the diaeresis
Do not use when you mean country or state. Reserve ʻnationʼ to describe people united by language, culture and history so as to form a distinct group within a larger territory
To mean nothing, while nought is the figure 0
with a small ‘t’
But say New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve. Also New Year honours list, New Year resolutions
no manʼs land
See also judgment
OK is OK, okay is not
As in ʻhe jumped onto the busʼ, while ʻhe may be moving on to different thingsʼ
The plural of OS
Probably our most common lapse into ‘mythematics’: an increase from 3% to 5% is a 2 percentage point increase or a 2-point increase, not a 2% increase. Any sentence saying ‘such and such rose or fell by X%’ should be considered and checked carefully.
The roof of the mouth
Something an artist uses to mix colour
A platform on which goods can be moved
Not pay cheque
But we usually use % in headlines and main copy
You may not find this in the dictionary, but it’s an acceptable word apparently created by software developers ‘to describe software that performs well, in whatever way you want to define performance’
Not PLC, unless specifically styled by the company
As in ʻpop-up boxʼ, but pop up is the verb
practice (noun) practise (verb)
However, practice is preferred for nearly everything in American English
This means soon, not ʻat presentʼ
This means first in importance, while a principle is a standard of conduct
pros and cons
Use double quotes at the start and end of a quoted section, with single quotes for quoted words within that section. Place full stops and commas inside the quotes for a complete quoted sentence, otherwise the stop comes outside: “Mary said, ‘Your style guide needs updating,’ and I said, ‘I agree.'” However, “Mary said updating the guide was ‘a difficult and time-consuming task’.”
When beginning a quote with a sentence fragment that is followed by a full sentence, punctuate according to the final part of the quote. For example: The minister called the allegations “blatant lies. But in a position such as mine, it is only to be expected.”
Use in headlines and straps, but only sparingly. For parentheses in direct quotes, use square brackets and avoid ellipses if possible.
Take care with direct speech. Our readers should be confident that words appearing in quotation marks accurately represent the actual words uttered by the speaker, though ums and ahems can be removed and bad grammar improved. If you’re not sure of the exact wording, use indirect speech. Take particular care when extracting from printed material such as a press release.
Introduce the speaker from the beginning, or after the first sentence. It’s confusing and frustrating to read several sentences or even paragraphs of a quote before finding out who is saying it.
Or queuing. They both look strange to me
Use re- (with hyphen) when followed by the vowels e or u (not pronounced as ‘yu’). For example, re-entry, re-examine, re-urge.
Use re (no hyphen) when followed by the vowels a, i, o or u (pronounced as ‘yu’), or any consonant. For example, rearm, rearrange, reassemble, reiterate, reorder, reuse, rebuild and reconsider.
Exceptions: re-read, or where confusion with another word would arise: re-cover (recover), re-form (reform), re-creation (recreation), re-sign (resign).
But a real-time effect
You can reinforce an argument, you can enforce your opinion, too
roll out (verb) roll-out (noun)
run of the mill
Use for interpolated words in quotations. For example, Marge said: “Homer [Simpson] has my full support.” See also BRACKETS.
We may use them in a quote, but only after some consideration, and never aggressively. Cunt is still taboo.
Not sceptic, which is the British spelling
spring, summer, autumn, winter – all lower case
Of a clock, but second-hand means previously owned
self-control, self-defence, self-esteem and self-respect
set-up (adjective and noun) set up (verb)
slow motion (noun)
But a ʻslow-motion sceneʼ
We’re going for the lower case option, as it’s not a designated postal reference, therefore Oxford Dictionary is correct to say south-west. However, I don’t like overusing hyphens, hence its omission
As in ‘we spec’d the system’
As in ʻa startup companyʼ
state of the art (noun) state-of-the-art (adjective)
As in superfast broadband
To show superscript in WordPress, use this in the text editor: <sup>1</sup>
that or which?
That defines, which informs: this is the house that Jack built, but this house, which Jack built, is now falling down.
Not talk with
Noun and adjective
Not toward, which is archaic
Avoid ʻtry andʼ
turnover (noun) turn over (verb)
As of April 2015, this word wasn’t included in the Collins American English Dictionary, but it is a term that seems to be in popular use, and is described as being ‘the tendency of an image, video, or piece of information to be circulated rapidly and widely from one internet user to another; the quality or fact of being viral’.
who or whom?
Use of whom has all but disappeared from spoken English, and seems to be going the same way in most forms of written English, too. If you’re not sure, it’s much better to use who when whom would traditionally have been required than to use whom incorrectly for who, which will make you look not just wrong, but wrong and pompous.
Singular, zeros plural