BankNXT style guide

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, this is the year of making things ‘really nice’. Enjoy your journey!

Shaun Weston
editor-in-chief

Contact me with suggestions

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”).

abbreviations

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.

accents

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.”

adverbs

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.

ampersand

Use in company names when they do: Barnes & Noble, Kempen & Co, P&T Luxembourg.

apostrophes

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.

ABN Amro

acknowledgement
Not acknowledgment

adaptor
Not adapter

add-on (noun) add on (verb)

adrenaline
Adrenalin is a trademark

adviser
Not advisor, but it’s OK to say robo-advisor

affect/effect
‘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’

ageing

Agile
When talking about Agile values and principles for software development

all right
Alright is not all right

ambience

amid

among

anymore
Any more is used in the UK

approximately
Avoid using approx.

April Foolʼs Day

anti money laundering
or AML

artifact
The British spelling is artefact

aunty
Rather than auntie

awe-inspiring

book/film titles

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.

brackets

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.

back-end
As in back-end developer, and developed for the back-end. See also front-end

backstory

backward
As in backward compatible, not backwards compatible

BBC One/Two/Three

believable

benefited

beside the point

best-case scenario

bestseller
And bestselling

Bible
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

big data

bitcoin

bite-size
You can also use bite-sized

black-and-white
black and white would be used for ‘he saw things in black and white’

blue chip
As in a blue chip company

Bluetoothing

bone fide

bored with, by
Not bored of

brand new
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

broadband

bugbear

bulletproof

buyout
As in a company buyout

cliches

Overused words and phrases to be avoided include:

  • back burner
  • boost (massive or otherwise)
  • bouquets and brickbats
  • but hey …
  • drop-dead gorgeous
  • insisted
  • major
  • massive
  • politically correct
  • PC
  • raft of measures
  • to die for
  • upsurge (surge will do).

Verbs overused in headlines include:

  • bid
  • boost
  • fuel
  • hike
  • signal
  • target
  • set to
  • scoop.

colon

Use like this: to deliver the goods that have been invoiced in the preceding words. For consistency, capitalise what follows a colon if it’s a complete sentence. And in headlines, uppercase any word directly after a colon.

commas

“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.

company names

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 judgment. If it looks daft, change it. And we never use TM, R, C, etc.

contractions

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).

currency

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.

cafe

captcha

case in point

case-sensitive

checkbox

Christmas Day and Christmas Eve

Citicoin
Created by Citibank, so we’ll capitalize for now

colorblind

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

comprise
To consist of. To say ‘comprise of’ would be incorrect

consult
As in, ‘I need to consult the editor’ rather than ‘I need to consult with the editor’

contemporary
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

cooperate
And cooperation

coordinate

cost-effective

counterparty, counterparties

criticise

cutting edge (noun)
Example: ‘It was at the cutting edge of science and technology’. However, it was cutting-edge technology’ (adjective)

cyber breaches

cybercrime

cybersecurity

cyberterrorist, cyberterrorism

dashes

Beware sentences – such as this one – that dash about all over the place. Commas (or even, very occasionally, brackets) are often better.

dates

  • 1 January 2007 (no commas)
  • 21st century
  • fourth century BC
  • AD2007 but 1000BC.

For decades, use figures: the 1960s or the 60s.

day-to-day (adjective)

de facto

deja vu

dependent (adjective) dependant (noun)

descendant
Not descendent

devil, the

die-hard (noun) die hard (verb)

different from
Or different to. Never different than

digitize

discreet
Showing prudence, while discrete means separate

dollar

dos and donʼts

downmarket

downside

dreamed
Try to avoid dreamt

driving license
Not driverʼs license

ellipses

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!

ecommerce

euro

effect
See also affect

elbowroom

email

Emergent Fintech

encyclopedia

end user
In the US, they say end-user

energize, energized

enroll, enrolled, enrollment
In the UK, enrol would have one ‘l’

enthrall, enthralled, enthralling
In the UK, enthral would have one ‘l’

ensure
To make certain. You insure against risk

etc
Try to not use. Replace with ‘and so on’

Europe
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

eurozone

every day (noun/adverb)
‘It happens every day’. However, it’s an everyday mistake (adjective)

expandable

extendable

eye-level

faint-hearted

fed up with
Not fed up of

fewer
For numbers, less for quantity

filmmaker
And filmmaking

fine-tune

finserv
For financial services

fintech
For financial technology

first
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

forgivable

Fortune 500

front-end
As in front-end developer, and developed for the front-end. See also back-end

frontrunner

fulfil, fulfilling, fulfilment
In the UK, fulfil would have one ‘l’

Funding Circle

future-proof

gender

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.

geography

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.

geopolitics, geopolitical

glamour, glamorize, glamorous

God

godchild, godfather, godmother, godson, goddaughter

gradation
For color. Graduation is something that happens after university

graffiti
This is the plural, while graffito is the singular

grassroots

groundbreaking

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.

hyphens

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.

handheld

handmade

hard-and-fast
A hard-and-fast rule

harebrained

halfway

head start

healthcare

heaven

helpdesk

high-end

high profile (noun) high-profile (adjective)

high-tech

holy grail

homegrown

homemade

homepage

honest-to-God

hotel
Use ʻa hotelʼ rather than ʻan hotelʼ

humor, humorist, humorous

initials

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).

immune to
Not immune from

imposter

independent

in-depth
As in in-depth analysis, but ʻit was looked at in depthʼ

indispensable

infrared

in-house

install, installment

insurance tech
Rather than InsuranceTech, but insurtech is good

insure
You insure against risk, while ensure is to make certain

intercommunicate

internet

ironclad

italicize, italicized

job titles

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

jewelry
jewellery is a British spelling

judgment , judging, judgmental
See also nonjudgmental. Judgement is also acceptable, but stay consistent.

junior
Abbreviate this to Jr, not Jun or Jnr. For example, Sammy Davis Jr

keyword

kick-off

knockout

kung fu

laissez-faire

lamppost

laptop

lawsuit

learned
Not learnt, unless youʼre writing old-fashioned poetry

Lendico

Lending Club

LendingTree

license

life cycle

lifelong

lifesaver

like-minded

liquefy
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

livelihood

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)

long-term

long-winded

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.

magistrates court

mailbox

makeover

manoeuvre, manoeuvring

marketplace

market share

medieval

metadata

microfinance

microservices

midday

midweek

mileage

millennium, millenary, millenia

million
We usually opt for a simple ʻmʼ, but it makes sense sometimes to say ʻthere are six million people at riskʼ

mindset

minuscule
Not miniscule

mis-sell, mis-selling

misuse

Moore’s Law

more than
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

movable

multi-function

multimedia

multi-task

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.

naive
Without the diaeresis

Nasa

nation
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

naught
To mean nothing, while nought is the figure 0

neighbor

neobank

nerve-racking

the Netherlands
with a small ‘t’

never-ending

newfound

new year
But say New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve. Also New Year honours list, New Year resolutions

night-time

nitty-gritty

no manʼs land

noncommercial

nonexistent

nonjudgmental
See also judgment

nonprofit

nonstop

no one
Not no-one

notable

noticeable

offline

OK
OK is OK, okay is not

on board

once-over

OnDeck

one-to-one

online

onscreen

on-site

on-the-fly

onto
As in ʻhe jumped onto the busʼ, while ʻhe may be moving on to different thingsʼ

optimize

organization

OSes
The plural of OS

outsource

overexpose

overindulgent

overprice

overrule

percentage rises

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.

palate
The roof of the mouth

palette
Something an artist uses to mix colour

pallet
A platform on which goods can be moved

passers-by
plural

pastime

paycheck
Not pay cheque

per cent
But we usually use % in headlines and main copy

performant
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’

permissioned

phonebook

phonecall

pipeline

plc
Not PLC, unless specifically styled by the company

pop-up
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

preeminent

presently
This means soon, not ʻat presentʼ

pricey

prime time

principal
This means first in importance, while a principle is a standard of conduct

program

pros and cons

quotation marks

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.

quotes

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.

queueing
Or queuing. They both look strange to me

quick-fire

Qurʼan

re/re-

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).

ready-made

real time
But a real-time effect

rebrand

recognize

recordkeeping

recurring

re-enact

re-establish

regrettable

reinforce
You can reinforce an argument, you can enforce your opinion, too

reinstate

removable

reopen

replaceable

respondent

Rest, Restful APIs

reuse

robo-advice, robo-advisor

rock solid

roll out (verb) roll-out (noun)

run of the mill

square brackets

Use for interpolated words in quotations. For example, Marge said: “Homer [Simpson] has my full support.” See also BRACKETS.

swearwords

We may use them in a quote, but only after some consideration, and never aggressively. Cunt is still taboo.

salmonella

scalable
Not scaleable

sceptic
Not skeptic, which is the American spelling

screenshot
Or screengrab

Scrum
When talking about Scrum as part of the Agile movement

seasons
spring, summer, autumn, winter – all lower case

second hand
Of a clock, but second-hand means previously owned

self-control, self-defence, self-esteem and self-respect

setback

set-up (adjective and noun) set up (verb)

shortcut

shortsighted

side-effects

sim card

sizeable

slow motion (noun)
But a ʻslow-motion sceneʼ

smartphone

Solar System

southwest
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

spec’d
As in ‘we spec’d the system’

standalone

startup
As in ʻa startup companyʼ

state of the art (noun) state-of-the-art (adjective)

straightforward

superfast
As in superfast broadband

superscript
To show superscript in WordPress, use this in the text editor: <sup>1</sup>

surefire

that or which?

That defines, which informs: this is the house that Jack built, but this house, which Jack built, is now falling down.

talk to
Not talk with

targeted, targeting

test-drive

theirs
No apostrophe

thinktank

third party
Noun and adjective

thumbs up

time frame

timescale

ton

top-notch

touchpoint

touchscreen

towards
Not toward, which is archaic

trendsetter
And trendsetting

try to
Avoid ʻtry andʼ

T-shirt

turnover (noun) turn over (verb)

up-and-coming

username

U-turn

vice versa

virality
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.

wacky

wall-to-wall

web

webcam

webinar

website

well-being

white paper

Wi-Fi

Yahoo

yours
No apostrophe

zero
Singular, zeros plural

zero-day attack

zigzag