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Editor’s note: The NPR Style Guide provides an editorial framework for journalists, including member station colleagues, who create content for NPR, including its newsmagazines, website, social platforms and podcasts.
The Associated Press Stylebook is the basis for many of the guidelines that appear here, and exceptions to AP style are highlighted. In most instances, preferred spellings are based on Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fifth Edition. Additional guidance can be found in the AP Stylebook’s Ask the Editor section.
For broader questions that fall into the “editorial guidance” category, consult NPR’s standards and practices editor and/or the newsroom’s managing editors/deputy managing editors.
The NPR Style Guide is not meant to discourage editorial creativity. Rather, it exists to help ensure a level of editorial consistency and excellence that our audiences have come to expect. As such, this style guide is a living document that will change over time. Updates will be reviewed periodically, and changes will be made when appropriate.
Finally, this document serves first as an in-house style guide for NPR. And although it has been written in a way that should be useful to anyone who contributes to NPR platforms, there are some terms that will be familiar only to NPR journalists. These include references to Seamus, NPR’s content management system. Some internal links will not be accessible to those outside NPR. Likewise, journalists who do not have subscription access to NPR’s annotated AP Stylebook are encouraged to consult their own copy.
Last updated Nov. 2, 2023
abortion Use abortion-rights supporter or abortion-rights advocate, not pro-abortion rights or pro-choice; and anti-abortion rights or abortion-rights opponent, not pro-life. Note the double hyphen in constructions such as anti-abortion-rights activist. For more information, see NPR Editorial Guidance Book
abbreviations and acronyms Unlike AP, NPR allows a full name to be paired with its acronym or abbreviation on first reference because it might be helpful to the reader. It’s not required. Use your judgment. Example: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced changes on Monday.
accents See diacritics
accessibility radio initiative terminology The following words should be lowercase: accessible media, sensory disabled, hearing and visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, closed captioning for radio. But: HD Radio (it’s a trademark).
A.D. Latin for anno Domini, in the year of the Lord. It always goes in front of the year: A.D. 79. Do not use with centuries; it’s implied for any that are not B.C.
adviser not advisor
affect/effect Affect, as a verb, means to influence. Effect, as a verb, means to cause, and as a noun means result.
African American no hyphen (AP change 3/29/19)
Air Quality Index
à la but a la carte. Per NW
Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades per AP
Al Jazeera no hyphen, per AP (2022 style change). Also applies to Al Jazeera English
al-Mourabitoun terrorist group linked to al-Qaida; claimed responsibility for November 2015 attack in Mali
al-Qaida per AP
al-Qassam the armed wing of Hamas
American dream per AP FAQ
American Trucking Associations Note the S on Associations. Takes a singular verb.
among/between Generally, use “between” for two items. “Among” is used for more than two.
Anglican Communion/Episcopal Church Per the AP Stylebook, the Anglican Communion is “the worldwide association of national Anglican churches. Each national church is independent.” The U.S. national church is the Episcopal Church. Other national churches include the Church of England (the original Anglican body), the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.
anthrax is a bacterium, not a virus.
antiretroviral per AP FAQ
antisemitism, antisemitic one word, per AP’s April 2021 style change. (AP’s previous style was anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic.)
António Guterres U.N. secretary-general. Assumed office in January 2017
AP Use AP for photo credits, not Associated Press. References in running copy should always be Roman, not italics.
Arabic names Drop the al- or el- and use only surname on second reference to people with Arabic names.
Araks River per NW
artworks Titles of works of art take italics regardless of medium. See titles of works.
as much as/times more than They don’t mean the same thing. If a Mercedes costs $50,000 and an Audi R8 is $200,000, the Audi is four times as much as the Mercedes but only three times more than the Mercedes.
Assad, Bashar no al-. Per AP
Associated Press, The NPR is a subscriber to the AP, not a member.
Atta, Mohamed a ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks; hijacker pilot of American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane to hit the World Trade Center
backstory per AP FAQ
backstroke per AP
bacteria is a plural; the singular is bacterium.
bad/badly Bad is an adjective; badly is an adverb. “He feels badly” would mean that he has a bad sense of touch.
Balakliia Use Balakliia (not Balakliya or Balaklia) for the city in Ukraine.
Baqouba per AP
barbed wire noun, adjective. Per AP FAQ
B.C. not B.C.E.
Belmokhtar, Mokhtar a top figure in al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb; possibly responsible for the January 2013 kidnappings of Western workers at a gas plant in Algeria
Benghazi The September 2012 attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and others took place at a diplomatic compound and a CIA annex, not the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. (added 11/14/18)
bemused Do not confuse with amused. Bemused means muddled, bewildered.
Ben Ali, Zine el-Abidine (sometimes spelled al-Abidine) Tunisian leader ousted in 2011 and died in 2019. Ben Ali on second reference
biweekly Every other week. Twice a week is semiweekly.
BlackBerry plural BlackBerrys
bluejeans per NW
Bogotá exception to AP (added 1/17/19)
Bombay is outdated. Use Mumbai.
Bosporus not Bosphorus (or Strait). Per AP
brackets Use square brackets, not parentheses, to set off material that is our editorial insertion within quotations, including within interviews. Exception to AP
breastfeed, breastfeeding, breastfed dropped hyphen per AP change 3/6/18
breaststroke per AP
Burma See Myanmar
Cabinet/cabinet Capitalize references to a specific body of advisers heading executive departments for a president, king, governor or other government executive. For example: The president-elect said he has not made his Cabinet selections. Mary Reed, the head of the Department of Revenue, is the most recent addition to the Reading, Pa., mayor’s Cabinet.
Lowercase Cabinet departments when they follow someone’s name or are used without a name: Martin Jones was named energy secretary; the energy secretary spoke off the record. But: Energy Secretary Martin Jones; the Treasury secretary. Treasury is capped in all uses when referring to the United States Treasury.
cap-and-trade noun, adjective
captions Here are some specific guidelines for the various elements that appear in a caption.
Dates: We use the day of the week. If the event took place more than a week ago, use the month and day. If it took place a year ago or more, add the year. But when a specific date is irrelevant, as with many stock images, consider dropping it altogether or just giving the year or writing something like “last month” or “in April.” Also, put a comma after the year if the date doesn’t come at the end of the sentence. (Wrong: On June 6, 1972 a star was born. Right: On June 6, 1972, a star was born.)
Locations: This datelines entry in the AP Stylebook has a list of cities that stand alone. Any city not on this list should include either its state (abbreviated) or country. Use standard state abbreviations from the AP Stylebook, not the two-letter postal codes, unless in a complete address. Eight states are never abbreviated except in full addresses: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, Utah. A state, state abbreviation or country should be followed by a comma when not at the end of the sentence.
Directionals: Generally speaking, identify people from left to right, putting directionals in parentheses: Mary Bean (left) and Joan Jones. If there are more than two subjects, or if the subjects are sitting at a table or are in an odd grouping, start from the left and list them clockwise: Joe Smith (from left), John Jones and Amy Jackson. But give our readers some credit. If Martha Green is in the photo with Harrison Ford, assume our readers can figure out who is who. Use directionals only if they’re really necessary to identify someone.
Length: You do not need to summarize the entire story in the caption. If the caption is as deep as the photo, it’s too long! Keep captions to a couple of lines.
Repetition: Assume the reader looks at a page from top to bottom. You do not need to include everything in every caption. If the top photo says Amy Morgan delivers the commencement address at Barnard College in New York City on Monday, and there is a second photo from the event, you do not need to repeat that it was at Barnard College in New York City on Monday. Once someone has been identified with a full name in the first image featuring him or her, just use a surname for later photos, unless confusion may result.
File (or undated) photo: DON’T USE. It’s jargon and useless, especially for the majority of stock images. Add a date to the caption if it’s relevant for context.
Credits: Should be initial caps only. Sometimes they are imported in all caps; please keep an eye out and fix as needed. Also, credit style is AP, not The Associated Press. Don’t put the same information in both the Photographer and Source fields. (Wrong: Photographer: Jeff Brady Source: Jeff Brady/NPR. Just use the Source field: Jeff Brady/NPR.) See photo credits
Handout photos: Credit the provider in the photo credit by placing the information in the Source field, not as part of the caption. Wrong: This handout photo from the Montana governor’s office shows Jeffrey March, who was arrested Thursday following a manhunt. Right: Montana governor’s office via AP (in the Source field)
Stock photos: When using a static image such as a federal building, it’s generally not necessary to identify the building in the caption language. Instead, write a caption that uses facts from the story. Wrong: The Internal Revenue Service headquarters in Washington, D.C., on March 23, 2015. Right: The IRS has contracted with an outside company to call people who owe taxes.
captured, kidnapped Captured applies to combatants on a battlefield. Kidnapped is used for civilians and crimes. For more information, see NPR Editorial Guidance Book
CBC Canadian Broadcasting Corp., not Canadian Broadcasting Co.
cease-fire, cease fire noun/adjective, verb
center As a verb, takes the preposition on, not around. Revolve around is an alternative.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention takes a singular verb. CDC on secondary reference
chairman, chairwoman Do not use chair or chairperson unless it is an official title (for example: Fed Chair Janet Yellen).
chainsaw per AP FAQ.
Chinese names In China, surnames generally come first, followed by given names. Examples: Mao Zedong, Hu Jintao. Mao and Hu are surnames. One caveat: Ethnic Chinese living abroad sometimes adopt Western convention, so be sure to double-check.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Mormon church (note the lowercase c) is acceptable on secondary references. For more information, see NPR Editorial Guidance Book
claim Saying that someone claims something implies doubt on our part, so avoid using it. “Says” is an all-purpose neutral substitute and preferred. Claim can be used in reference to insurance and legal situations.
classical music titles are much more complicated than their counterparts in other genres. Many commercial classical releases do not have album and track titles per se, apart from the names of the main compositions on the recording. Those that do spell out the compositions and their movements can vary in approach, and the liner notes and digital listings are not always trustworthy. Capitalization within titles can vary tremendously by country of origin.
- For compositions, the general rule is to style “generic” names — those that simply describe composition types, key signatures or featured instruments — in Roman text: for example, John Adams’ Violin Concerto or Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. In the latter case, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is also acceptable. (Or you can be exhaustive and write the full formal title, Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67, but for such a well-known and popular work it’s usually not necessary.)
- Works bearing “nongeneric” names — the more artful titles assigned by the composer — are styled in italics. That includes operas (La fanciulla del West by Puccini), compositions given programmatic titles (Ravel’s La valse) and song cycles (Schumann’s Dichterliebe).
- Individual songs in a song cycle, or arias within an opera, are styled in quotation marks: “Sea Snatch” from Samuel Barber’s Hermit Songs; “Ombra mai fu” from Handel’s Xerxes. Note that in the case of opera arias, generally only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized, e.g., “This journey to Christ” from Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking.
- Certain compositions have popular nicknames — such as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, “Eroica,” or Haydn’s Symphony No. 94, “Surprise” — which are styled in quotation marks.
- When titles include key signatures, the sharp and flat keys are hyphenated: Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, “Moonlight”; Chopin’s Berceuse in D-flat major.
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, available in hard copy at NPR’s D.C. headquarters, won’t help with formatting decisions like italics but is great for looking up the full official names of the old masterworks. Contemporary works can generally be verified with the label or institution overseeing the release or event.
clichés Try to avoid using hackneyed phrases — in the wake of; enter xxx. More often than not there’s a better way to say something without resorting to one. See comparison clichés
climate change no hyphen in all uses
Clinton, Hillary no Rodham
collective bargaining no hyphen in any use
collective nouns In American English, collective nouns — class, company, family, group, staff, etc. — take a singular verb.
commentator, commenter A commentator reports, analyzes and evaluates news. People who post comments on blogs and news stories are commenters.
comparison clichés Phrases such as “an area the size of XX football fields,” “could fill XX Olympic-size pools,” “about the size of a can of soda” are hackneyed and don’t tell the reader anything useful. Avoid them.
compose, comprise, constitute Compose means to create or put together. She composed a song. The United States is composed of 50 states.
Comprise means to contain. The whole comprises its parts; it is not comprised of its parts. Wrong: The jury is comprised of five men and seven women. Fifty states comprise the U.S. Right: The United States comprises 50 states. The jury comprises five men and seven women.
Constitute, in the sense of form or make up, may be the best word if neither compose nor comprise seems to fit: Fifty states constitute the United States. Five men and seven women constitute the jury. A collection of animals can constitute a zoo.
conceal-carry, open carry Hyphenate the adjective (open-carry supporter) and verb (You can conceal-carry in Texas). Do not hyphenate a noun (He supports open carry). Exception to AP FAQ
Congo Two countries in Africa have similar names: the Democratic Republic of Congo (the larger of the two, whose capital is Kinshasa) and the Republic of Congo (the smaller of the two, whose capital is Brazzaville). Spell out the Democratic Republic of Congo on first reference and then use just Congo. When referring to the Republic of Congo, use the full name throughout.
Congress Only the president addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress; anyone else speaks to a joint meeting. During the State of the Union annual speech, the president addresses a joint session.
Congress party formally the Indian National Congress, but we use Congress party (lowercase p) in all references
convicted takes the preposition of. Smith was convicted of multiple counts.
convince, persuade Convince takes of, not to. Persuade is an infinitive, takes to.
COPPA Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act
couch-surfing noun, adjective
court cases Italicize legal citations, including shorthand references. Roe v. Wade; Roe No italics, no quotes for headlines.
courtesy titles In general, avoid using courtesy titles. Exception: Secondary references to the first lady can include Mrs. when she is mentioned in the same story as the president, if it’s too unwieldy to keep repeating her full name.
court-martial The plural is courts-martial.
crescendo A crescendo is an increase in loudness/intensity/force. Something doesn’t reach a crescendo; it crescendos to a peak or climax.
criterion/criteria Criterion is singular and takes a singular verb; criteria is plural and takes a plural verb.
crowd estimates NPR is not in the business of estimating crowd numbers at demonstrations or protests. Such estimates are easily open to challenge and hard to back up. Instead, use descriptive language to give a sense of the size of demonstrations or crowds. For example: the number of city blocks filled by people; the density of the crowds.
crowdfunding, crowdsourcing per AP
Curaçao (added 5/2/19)
curveball per NW
cyber See this AP Stylebook entry, which includes NPR style notes.
Dakota Access Pipeline
dashcam per AP
data Typically takes a singular verb when used collectively to mean “information” or “data set” (a collection of data points). For example: “Customers’ data was hacked” or “The data shows” or “The data is complete.” (updated to match common usage and AP 4/20/21)
dates In text, use the day if it’s within a week; if it’s more than a week ago, or more than a week from now, use the date; for today, use the day, not “today.” It is unnecessary in the vast majority of cases to use the date with the day of the week. In captions, for a general illustration, no date is needed. If it’s depicting an event such as a campaign stop or a congressional talking head, use the appropriate day of the week for the first one and no date on multiples. If it’s historical, use your judgment as to whether just a year suffices or it should have a complete date. See captions
datelines In domestic digital stories, include datelines when a reporter files from the field. Domestic digital stories written from the desks don’t carry datelines. International digital stories include datelines if certain conditions are met, primarily that the reporter is on the ground in the international location or region where a story is set. See detailed guidance in the right-hand column here. On air, we say “joins us from XX” for both domestic and international stories. Also, NPR retains the datelines in AP stories, whether domestic or international.
Day 1 and similar (Episode 6; Item 2; Season 4; Phase 1; Level 2; Stage 4)
death tax Do not use this politically charged term. Use inheritance tax instead.
de-escalate, de-emphasize, etc. Retain the hyphen for de- words with a double e (unlike re- and pre- words such as reelect or preeclampsia or preestablished, which do not have a hyphen even when the e is doubled), per AP (2019)
de Kirchner, Cristina Fernández vice president of Argentina (elected October 2019). Kirchner on secondary reference. Exception to AP (updated 10/28/19)
Democrat/Democratic NPR uses Democratic as the adjectival form for the political party whose members are known as Democrats.
departments Lowercase departments when they follow someone’s name or are used without a name: Martin Jones was named energy secretary; the energy secretary spoke off the record. But: Energy Secretary Martin Jones; the Treasury secretary (Treasury is capped in all uses; an exception to the rule).
desalination, desalinization They mean the same thing, so use the shorter desalination.
diacritics The following diacritical marks can be used for Romance language words and names:
- acute: Chávez
- grave: père
- circumflex: château
- cedilla: François
- tilde: año
Do not use them in non-Romance names: Viktor Orban, not Orbán. Don’t use less familiar accent marks such as Scandinavian, Turkish, Hungarian or those in other Eastern European languages. Marks can be copied/pasted in via Character Map on your computer, or you can copy/paste from any NPR.org story page. To find Character Map, click the start button, then type character into the search bar. You can pin it to the taskbar at the bottom of your screen (right click the indicator there and choose pin). If you use Character Map, be sure the typeface is set to Tahoma.
Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, Miguel Mario new president of Cuba 4/19/18. Díaz-Canel on secondary references. He is not the first person not named Castro to be president since 1959.
different It should not be followed by than or to. The proper preposition to follow different is from.
disinterested/uninterested Use disinterested to mean impartial; uninterested means lacking interest.
District of Columbia Abbreviation D.C. takes periods in all uses except full street addresses. Washington, D.C., is acceptable in all uses. D.C. is OK in informal contexts.
“don’t ask, don’t tell” Lowercase in all uses, with quotes on first reference.
double-check, double-checking hyphenate the verb per AP FAQ
Dow Jones industrial average
DREAMer an immigrant who was brought to the U.S. illegally as a child. Derived from the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (which has never passed). Exception to AP
DREAMers are protected by DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
Note that in September 2017 a new Dream Act was introduced, by Sens. Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham. Take care to differentiate between this bill and the original DREAM Act bill.
Dreamliner Nickname for the Boeing 787. Dreamliner can be used as a secondary reference (exception to AP), but be sure to make clear that the actual designation of the plane is 787. No quotes needed on Dreamliner.
drunk vs. drunken Drunk is the adjective used with the verb “to be.” Drunken is the adjective used in front of nouns. For example: Dave Smith says he was drunk when he made obnoxious remarks about his boss. Dave Smith was arrested on charges of drunken driving. (In this case, driving is a gerund.) Dave Smith is accused of being a drunken driver.
due to must follow a noun. Wrong: She went due to an emergency. (Make it owing to or because of.) Right: He had a fever due to a virus. In many cases, you can turn the sentence around to avoid the phrase entirely.
Wrong: The store was closed due to bad weather. Instead: Bad weather forced the store to close.
each other/one another Two people look at each other. More than two look at one another.
earthquakes The Richter scale is no longer widely in use; refer to earthquakes in terms of magnitude.
E. coli is a bacterium, not a virus.
either … or/neither … nor The verb must agree with the noun that is closest to the verb. “Either the girls or Fred is going” or “Neither Fred nor the girls are going.”
ElBaradei, Mohamed former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (1997-2009)
Editor’s notes should be styled as follows, with bold italics and italics: Editor’s note: This story contains graphic descriptions of sexual violence.
el-Sissi, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Sissi on second reference. Per AP FAQ
em dash To create an em dash in Seamus, use a double hyphen, and leave space on each side.
enormity does not mean large. It means something outrageous or heinous (the enormity of war crimes). Use immensity to mean greatness of size, extent, etc.
Enter xxx Introducing someone or something with “Enter [whatever/whoever]” is trite and overused (Sandman notwithstanding). There is almost always a better option.
entitled Do not use in reference to the names of works. They are titled, not entitled.
execution An execution is the putting to death of someone “in accordance with a legally imposed sentence.” AP advises that “to execute a person is to kill him in compliance with a military order or judicial decision.” For more information, see NPR Editorial Guidance Book
expletives see profanity
faceoff AP FAQ exception to NW
fact-check, fact-checking; fact check Hyphenate all except when using fact check as a noun. For stories slugged FACT CHECK that are broken into sections use Heading Paragraph to write the subheads with sentence-style initial caps.
farther/further Farther refers to physical distance; further refers to time or degree. “He ran farther than his opponent” or “She took the idea one step further.”
Federal Register (added 9/12/19)
felon Convicted felon is redundant. You can’t be a felon if you haven’t been convicted.
female genital mutilation FGM for secondary references. There are some entities that have taken to calling it female genital cutting, or FGC. WHO uses FGM; NPR will follow suit.
Fernández de Kirchner, Cristina vice president of Argentina (elected October 2019). Kirchner on secondary reference. Exception to AP (updated 10/28/19)
fewer/less Use fewer for individual items and less for bulk or quantity. “The farmer harvested fewer bushels this year than last year” or “The farmer harvested less corn this year than last year.”
first lady is not an official title. Lowercase in all uses.
first world war Lowercase this informal reference to World War I.
flaunt/flout To flaunt is to make an ostentatious or defiant display. To flout is to show contempt for. “He flaunted his knowledge of the language” or “She flouted the law.”
forbid, forbidden take the preposition to
foreign words Italicize words that most English speakers wouldn’t recognize or that are italicized in the hard copy version of the NW dictionary (Example: We wouldn’t italicize piñata, but we would italicize guisantes.) Consult the NW dictionary (fifth edition).
Founding Fathers Cap when referring to the men who signed the Declaration of Independence and those who participated in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. But lowercase founders.
fractions Use full-size figures, not the fraction character in the Seamus toolbar or automatically generated by MS Word (you can turn these off in the Tools option under AutoFormat and AutoFormat As You Type). For mixed numbers, put a space between the whole number and the fraction: 5 1/2. All mixed numbers should be in numerals, not spelled out.
Fragile X syndrome
front line, front-line noun, adjective
Fuhrer italics per NW
G20 shorthand for Group of 20. No hyphen for G7, G8, G20 or similar. (updated 2023, per AP)
game names Names of games of any kind — including computer and video games — should be capped and Roman, no quotes.
gamut/gantlet/gauntlet A gamut is range or series. A gantlet is a flogging ordeal, literally or figuratively. A gauntlet is a glove. You can run the gamut or run the gantlet, but you throw down the gauntlet. Run the gauntlet is incorrect.
Generation X Gen Xer is acceptable as well.
Generation Z Gen Zer is acceptable as well.
genus and species Genus names should be capped, species names should be lowercased, and both take italics: Homo sapiens (exception to NW); Canis lupus; Tyrannosaurus rex. Secondary references may be abbreviated: E. woodii; E. coli.
Ghani, Ashraf former president of Afghanistan (served from 2014 until 2021, when the Taliban overthrew his government). On first reference he is Ashraf Ghani. On second reference he is Ghani. Some media refer to him as Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Ghani Ahmadzai on second reference. While he was president, the Afghan Embassy in Washington said he wished to be known as Ashraf Ghani. (Ahmadzai is a family name used in Afghan media.)
Gitmo Do not use (not even in headlines) unless it’s in a quote. Use Guantánamo Bay or Guantánamo instead.
Giuliani, Rudy (changed from Rudolph per AP response 8/19/16)
Government Accountability Office not General Accounting Office
green card Permanent residents of the U.S. are issued what’s known as a green card.
ground zero Lowercase in all uses. Per AP
guilty/not guilty There are two verdicts a jury can find: guilty and not guilty. A not guilty verdict does not mean a defendant is innocent; no one pleads innocent, and juries do not find anyone innocent.
Hawaii/Hawaiian Hawaiian is an ethnic group/designation. Per AP Stylebook: “Hawaiians are members of an ethnic group indigenous to the Hawaiian Islands and are also called Native Hawaiians. Use Hawaii resident for anyone living in the state.”
half-mast/half-staff Ashore, except at naval installations, flags are flown at half-staff for mourning in the U.S. On ships and at naval stations ashore, flags are flown at half-mast. British usage may vary.
hanged never hung for past tense when referring to human beings. Paintings are hung.
hark back per AP FAQ
headlines Headlines are “sentence” style with capitalization of first words, names and proper nouns. For example: It was the deadliest year ever for land and environmental activists; Tropical Storm Nicholas heads toward Texas and Louisiana; The best moments from the MTV VMAs.
Use numerals for all numbers, including ordinals, even those under 10 and those that are the first word. For example: Miami 4th-graders write about their hurricane experiences; 5 things you need to know about headlines; Meet the 7 people who saved $1 million in just 2 years. But spell out “one” when used as a descriptive rather than in a counting sense: One taxi driver’s mission; Richard Gere is a one-man social network (effective 10/1/21)
Exception: For titles of individual podcast episodes, capitalize each word. Example: How To Start A Budget. (And Why You Might Actually Enjoy It)
health care two words, no hyphen, not even as a compound modifier, unless it’s part of a proper name
HealthCare.gov Cap H and C in all references to the federal website.
hermaphrodite, intersexuality Hermaphrodite is considered to be an outdated term and potentially offensive by those who are born with “sex chromosomes, external genitalia or an internal reproductive system that is not considered standard for either males or females.” They refer to themselves as being intersex. We should be sensitive and focus on explaining rather than labeling.
high jinks not hijinks
HIPAA Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Not HIPPA.
historic It should be preceded by the article a and not an because in the U.S. we pronounce the “h” in historic and an is used only before a word that begins with a vowel sound or an unaspirated “h.” “An historic” sounds affected to many listeners.
hole-in-one plural holes-in-one per AP FAQ
homepage per AP
House Intelligence Committee (changed to caps 9/27/19)
H-1B a visa program for nonimmigrant foreign workers that allows them to be employed in specialty occupations
hurricane names We do use the names of hurricanes, but we do not use the names of winter storms. For more information, see NPR Editorial Guidance Book
hyperlinks Please use these guidelines:
- It’s usually not necessary to include an entire sentence — choose the words that are most relevant to the linked material. A hyperlink should not span multiple lines.
- Don’t place individual links on each of several words in a row unless there is punctuation or other words between them. Otherwise, since the hyperlinks are not underscored, the reader has no way of knowing they are discrete links.
- Don’t include the extra space at the beginning or end of hyperlinks.
- Don’t include the ending punctuation of a sentence as part of a hyperlink. If the hyperlink is in quotes, put the quotation marks outside the link. Exception: Quoted material within a larger link should retain the marks, even if they include ending punctuation.
- Italics are permitted. NPR style change, April 2021
illegal immigrant; undocumented immigrant Do not refer to people or groups as illegal immigrants or aliens. Do use language such as “people who have entered the country illegally.” Unauthorized, undocumented are acceptable as well. It is always best, when possible, to describe what people have done — “entered the country illegally,” “overstayed their visas,” “climbed a fence on the Texas border,” and so on. It is fine to refer to the “debate over illegal immigration.” Actions are illegal; people are not.
imam Lowercase when describing the leader in a Muslim mosque. Capitalize before a name when used as the formal title for a Muslim leader or ruler.
IMAX exception to AP
impact The verb means to press firmly together; to force tightly together; pack; wedge. Impacted means pressed tightly together; driven firmly in; wedged in; especially firmly lodged in the jaw (as in impacted wisdom tooth); financially or otherwise strained by heavy demand on public services. Do not use impacted to mean influenced or affected.
impostor not imposter
independent Lowercase when referring to voter affiliation.
Indigenous Cap when referring to people — for example, as an alternative to Native American.
in order to In order is almost always superfluous and can be left off (added 4/19/19)
-in-residence Hyphenate constructions such as composer-in-residence.
internet Lowercase unless it’s part of a proper name or starts a sentence. (updated 4/20/21 to match AP style)
Internet of Things Use quotation marks on first reference if not explained. Do not use IOT as a secondary reference.
interview style Please set up an NPR interview page using this format:
- Separate the intro text from “Interview highlights” with a rule
- ”Interview highlights” should be in heading paragraph format
- The subject line of each highlight should be sentence case (no initial caps) and in regular boldface. Do not use colons or any other ending punctuation unless it is a question. Italics are acceptable where they would ordinarily be used (for example, in a book title). Use double quotes if quotes are called for.
- Do not use quotation marks on the grafs. Use double marks for quotes within the copy.
- When using ellipsis to signal elisions between grafs, end one graf with . … and then just start the new graf. Do not begin a graf with an ellipsis. Do not put an ellipsis on a line by itself.
- When more than one person is interviewed, use boldface and initial caps to identify the speaker, with the full name on first reference and then just the surname for subsequent ones. If the subjects are related and have the same surname, you can use just the first name for the secondary references. The colon that follows the name should also be boldface.
- Examples on NPR.org (note: Ignore the “up style” capitalization in the headlines; that’s old NPR style.):
in the wake of Avoid this cliché. Aftermath, response to, reaction to, following are just four possible alternatives.
Irbil town in Iraq. Not Erbil. Per AP FAQ
IRS forms and designations Tax and other forms and designations should follow IRS convention: Form 1040; 401(k); 403(b); 501(c)(3); W-2. Check the IRS website if you need guidance.
Islamist not the same as Islamic. Use Islamist in reference to fundamentalists and fundamentalism (as an adjective that specifically describes Muslims who are politically active or militant); use Islamic when referring to Muslim tenets (religious references). Mnemonic: fundamentalist = Islamist
Israel When referring to Israel’s construction of a fence around Palestinian areas, call it a barrier.
Israel Defense Forces not Israeli. IDF acceptable for secondary references
Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem Do not use words like disputed or controversial. While these are not wrong, they are inflammatory, and any word is going to be disagreeable to someone. Just say East Jerusalem, West Bank, settlement, without descriptives.
italics Italicize court cases, names of newspapers, magazines, journals, blogs, TV and radio shows, podcasts, movies, documentaries, plays, musicals, ballets, CDs, albums, books (including dictionaries and encyclopedias), poetry collections and long poems published separately, comic strips, and works of art. If the name is used in a headline, use single quotation marks (example: ‘The Help’ leads Oscar nominations). Commas and semicolons that follow something in italics should also be italics, but do not include the ‘s in an italic possessive (The Wall Street Journal‘s). Write around such a construction if possible. If something within parentheses is completely italicized, the parentheses should also be italicized: (The New York Times), but (He doesn’t read The Times). Foreign words and phrases take italics unless they are proper nouns, which should be capped and Roman. See the NW dictionary (fifth edition). Also see genus, species and titles of works
Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan-based Islamist party
Jerusalem The city stands alone. Do not place it in Israel, because its status is disputed and resolution of the issue is presumed to be subject to negotiations. This is the view of a vast number of countries. The Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the U.S. Embassy there but acknowledges that the city’s borders are up for negotiation. Meanwhile, passports issued to U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem do not say “Israel” after the city name; they just say “Jerusalem.” (added 11/2/18)
Jiddah not Jeddah. Per AP FAQ
JPMorgan Chase & Co. JPMorgan on secondary reference
kettlebell per AP FAQ
King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud King of Saudi Arabia. Salman on secondary reference unless confusion will result. In such cases, King Salman can be used.
Kirchner, Cristina Fernández de vice president of Argentina (elected October 2019). Kirchner on secondary reference. Exception to AP (updated 10/28/19)
Kolkata not Calcutta. Per AP
Korean names Surname (last name) comes first, followed by given (first). South Korean given names are two-part and hyphenated (e.g., Kim Dae-jung). North Korean given names are also two-part, but not hyphenated (e.g., Kim Jong Il). Mnemonic: North = No hyphen.
Note: As with many ethnic Chinese living outside China, many Korean immigrants to the West reverse the order of surname and given name to conform to Western norms. And some South Koreans don’t use the hyphen. Any known personal preference supersedes style.
kudos The word is singular. It takes a singular verb. It means praise.
Kyiv not Kiev (change per AP 9/23/19)
LA secondary references to Los Angeles. Note no periods. Per AP
language advisories Use with excerpts and such that include curse words. For advisories on story pages, put the following at the top in italics: Editor’s note: This story contains language that may be offensive. More guidance is available in the NPR ethics handbook. See also profanity
Latinx May be used in all contexts without explanation unless one is needed to avoid confusion.
Lavrov, Sergey not Sergei, per AP FAQ
lay/lie The action word is lay. It takes a direct object. Laid is the form for its past tense and its past participle. Its present participle is laying. Lie indicates a state of reclining along a horizontal plane. It does not take a direct object. Its past tense is lay. Its past participle is lain. Its present participle is lying.
- I will lie down.
- I will lay the book on the table.
- Yesterday he lay down.
- I laid out the dinner plates.
- The boxes were lying on the floor.
legal citations Italicize legal citations. Roe v. Wade; Roe (secondary reference)
legislative titles Use this format: Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., with the affiliation set off by commas. Or spell out: Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon; Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, a Democrat. Do not abbreviate the following states: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, Utah.
lend, loan Lend is the preferred verb. Use loan as a noun.
LIBOR London Interbank Offered Rate. Exception to AP.
like/as Like is a preposition and requires an object: “He writes like an amateur.” Use the conjunction as to introduce clauses: “He writes as an amateur would.” Like does not mean such as or as if.
loath, loathe Loath means reluctant (banks are loath to lend money). To loathe is to abhor or hate. Mnemonic: You can’t spell hate without the E.
long-term care, long-term-care insurance note second hyphen in the latter
Los Angeles LA on secondary references, without periods. Per AP
Luhansk Use Luhansk for the Ukrainian city (not Lugansk).
madrassa per AP
magazines Names of magazines should be in italics.
Mahdi Army a militia force created by Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr
Manhattan Can stand alone in New York references unless meaning is unclear. Lower Manhattan, Midtown Manhattan (NPR exceptions)
Maya, Mayan Use Maya when referring to people: The Maya lived in Yucatán. The Maya woman spoke no English. Mayan is the language*: The Maya woman spoke Mayan. When used as a noun, Maya is both the singular and plural.
Maya is also an adjective to describe the people and their food, culture and civilization. For example: Maya civilization, Maya city, Maya ruins, Maya clothing.
*Reserve Mayan with an “n” as an adjective for the family of languages. Maya without the “n” (used as shorthand for Yucatec Maya) is a particular language.
medals Military medals and citations are earned or awarded. Do not say they are won.
“Medicare for All” Do not hyphenate (but should legislation be introduced that uses hyphens, follow that style). Use quote marks on first reference. No quote marks on later references. (per AP 2019)
meetup per AP FAQ
mega Unless otherwise listed here, in the AP Stylebook or in the NW dictionary, mega words are solid. For example: megachurch, megafarm, megadisaster, megamerger
meta Unless otherwise listed here, in the AP Stylebook or in the NW dictionary, meta words are solid. For example: metadata, metastory. But hyphenate if the following word begins with an A (meta-analysis).
metric system Always convert metric figures. Add within square brackets if part of a quote.
micro Unless otherwise listed here, in the AP Stylebook or in the NW dictionary, micro words are solid. For example: microfarming, microlending. Per AP FAQ
military terminology Only members of the Army are called soldiers; Marines are Marines; members of the Navy are sailors; members of the Air Force (men and women) are airmen. Acceptable collective nouns: troops (though some will disagree), military personnel, armed forces. For the National Guard, everyone is a guardsman, regardless of gender. Military medals and citations are earned or awarded. Do not say won.
ministry Nations’ ministries are equivalent to Cabinet departments and should be capped. For example: Foreign Ministry. Shorthand references should be lowercase: ministry officials.
mixed numbers Always use numerals with fractions (3 1/2). Do not use autoformatted fractions (turn them off in story editor [Word, Google Docs, etc.]).
Mohamed Atta one of the ringleaders of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks; believed to have been the hijacker pilot who crashed the first airplane (American Airlines Flight 11) into the World Trade Center
Mohammed bin Salman Saudi crown prince. Salman on secondary references, but if others with the same surname are mentioned, use his full name to avoid confusion. (added 9/26/19)
Mohammed, Khalid Sheikh per AP
Mohammed Morsi elected president of Egypt in July 2012 but was later ousted and died 2019.
monger Unless otherwise listed here, in the AP Stylebook or in the NW dictionary, monger is a solid combining form. For example: fearmonger
MP Do not use as shorthand for member of Parliament. If it’s in a quote, bracket in [member of Parliament] unless the meaning cannot possibly be misunderstood. (added 2/19/19)
Muhammad Use this spelling when referring to the prophet and founder of the Islamic religion. Capitalize Prophet in front of the name.
Muqtada al-Sadr Sadr on second reference
Myanmar Use Myanmarese to describe the people, rather than Burmese. For more information, see NPR Editorial Guidance Book
- Minors — We agree with AP’s thinking: “AP does not name juveniles accused of crimes unless there are overriding needs, such as warning the public about dangerous situations, e.g., a manhunt. In exceptional cases, juveniles charged as adults for particularly serious crimes may be named in news stories, but only after clearance by senior [NPR] editors.” In stories without a crime element, children under 16 should be referred to by first name on secondary references. In limited cases, a first name may be appropriate for older teens. For example: In a piece about the victims of the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting, most of the students were under 16, but several were older. We used first names for all. Consult the standards and practices editor or a deputy managing editor for guidance.
- Victims — Normally, do not use the names of victims of abuse, but when a victim self-identifies, the name can be used.
narcoculture, narcostate extrapolation from AP FAQ
National Park Service Park Service on subsequent references. Note that it’s singular. Not Parks
Natural Resources Defense Council not National Resources Defense Council
Navy SEALs may also be referred to as special operations forces. Not U.S. Special Forces, which refers only to the Green Berets
NECCO common name for New England Confectionary Co. (added 1/25/19)
news desk capitalize if you’re talking about NPR’s News Desk
none It usually means no single one. When used as such it takes singular verbs and pronouns.
non-life-threatening not nonlife-threatening
no one takes a singular pronoun and verb
Northern Virginia exception to AP FAQ
Nouri al-Maliki Maliki on second reference
NPR.org Use uppercase NPR, lowercase .org to refer to the website in all text. There is no reason to overemphasize the name of the website in body text.
numbers In general, spell out whole numbers below 10 and use numerals for 10 and above, except when referring to people’s ages, which are always numerals. Use numerals for all mixed numbers including ages (2 1/2); percentages and percentage points; points on a scale; millions, billions and so forth; and measurements (including distance: 5 miles). Headlines take numerals in nearly all instances even as the first word of a sentence. Exception: “One” should be spelled out when used as a descriptive rather than in a counting sense. For example: One taxi driver’s mission; Richard Gere is a one-man social network.
Obamacare On first reference, it’s best to refer to the Affordable Care Act or the health care law. On later references, Obamacare is acceptable, but mix it up with other references rather than using it repeatedly.
obscenity/profanity/vulgarity These words are not synonyms. Something is obscene if it is offensive to morality or decency, depraved or causing uncontrolled sexual desire. Profane means characterized by irreverence or contempt for God or sacred principles or things. Vulgarities are characterized by ignorance of or lack of good breeding or taste. See profanity. For more information, see NPR Editorial Guidance Book
off of “Of” is unnecessary (He fell off the couch. Not he fell off of the couch).
on-air per NW
on-screen adjective, adverb
one of the only This is illogical. It’s (a) the only one; (b) one of the/a/only a few; (c) one of only X number.
open-carry, conceal-carry Use a hyphen for adjective (open-carry supporter) and verb (You can conceal-carry in Texas). No hyphen in a noun (He supports open carry). Exception to AP FAQ
open source noun, adjective. Per AP FAQ
Opium Wars first Opium War; second Opium War
oral/written/verbal To ensure clarity, use oral to mean spoken words and written to mean words committed to paper. Verbal is imprecise and can cause doubt as to your meaning.
ordinance, ordnance An ordinance is a decree. Ordnance is a general term encompassing a military’s weapons, ammunition and combat vehicles.
Palestinians Never Palestine unless referring to something in history. Good substitutes: the Palestinians (the people), Palestinian territories (the land), Palestinian Authority (governing body). PA announced it will use “State of Palestine” on official documents (January 2013), but NPR does not use that term. Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) should be called president of the Palestinian Authority, not president of Palestine. Don’t use Abu Mazen except in quoted material.
Paris Agreement Cap this reference to the 2015 climate change accord, per AP FAQ. The official U.N. document is here.
partial-birth abortion Do not use this term except when referring to the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. All other references should be written around (so-called partial-birth abortion, the procedure opponents call partial-birth abortion).
party Cap when part of the official name; lowercase otherwise.
Pashto, Pashtun Pashto is a language in Afghanistan; Pashtun refers to the people.
pass away, passed away Do not use this euphemism. People die.
pass code per AP FAQ
percent Use the symbol with a numeral for all percentages: 3%; 25% (AP change 3/29/19). Avoid beginning a sentence with a percentage wherever possible. However, if there is absolutely no way around it, spell it all out: Thirty-five percent of the respondents
Percentages take a singular verb when standing alone or when a singular word follows an of construction: The teacher said 60% was a failing grade. He said 50% of the membership was there.
It takes a plural verb when a plural word follows an of construction: He said 50% of the members were there.
For fractional percentages, use decimals, not fractions: 3.5%
For amounts less than 1% percent, precede the decimal with a zero: The cost of living rose 0.6%. Exception: baseball batting averages (Anthony Rendon is hitting .393.)
N.B.: When comparing the difference between two percentages, you are referring to percentage points, not percent. For example: If the president’s approval rating changes from 55% to 61%, that is a change of 6 percentage points, not 6%. As a percentage, it’s 10.9 (11%).
Persian Gulf NPR follows AP: “Use this long-established name for the body of water off the southern coast of Iran. Some Arab nations call it the Arabian Gulf. Use Arabian Gulf only in direct quotations and explain in the text that the body of water is more commonly known as the Persian Gulf.”
photo credits It is standard NPR practice to give all photographers credit when available.
- NPR: Reporter/NPR (Jeff Brady/NPR)
- Member station: Reporter/Station (Carolina Hidalgo/St. Louis Public Radio)
- The Associated Press: Photographer’s name in Photographer field; AP in Source field (Nick Wass/AP)
- Getty: Photographer’s name in Photographer field; Getty Images in Source field (Jewel Samad/Getty Images)
- Reuters: Photographer’s name in Photographer field; Reuters in Source field (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)
- iStockphoto: Photographer’s name (when available) in Photographer field; iStockphoto in Source field
Credits, both source and photographer, should be initial caps only — you’ll frequently have to fix the info that Seamus automatically pulls in as all caps. When there is no individual photographer listed with an agency, just put the agency in the Source field and leave the Photographer field blank. (Wrong: AP Photographer/AP. Right: AP) And don’t put the same information in both the Source and Photographer fields; just use the Source field.
Do not use the phrase “Courtesy of” in photo credits.
Playbill Cap and italicize the name of the theater publication.
pleaded not pled
podcasts Use italics for podcast titles.
Poe, Edgar Allan not Allen. Mnemonic: the only E‘s are at the beginning and end.
poetry Indicate line breaks with a slash, adding a space on each side and preserving all original punctuation (I never saw a purple cow, / I never hope to see one; / But I can tell you, anyhow, / I’d rather see than be one!). If the poem is more than a few lines, style as a block quote instead, with the line breaks and punctuation present and without slashes. Titles of short poems are Roman with quotation marks; poetry collections and long poems published separately take italics.
Pokémon Go exception to AP
Poland and references to Nazi camps there See prisoner of war camps/concentration camps/death camps
political designations Use this format: Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., with the affiliation set off by commas. Or spell out: Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon; Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, a Democrat. Do not abbreviate the following states: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, Utah.
pore, pour To study something intently is to pore: She pored over the election results. To pour is to flow freely. Mnemonic: Pore = read; liquid pours
Poroshenko, Petro former president of Ukraine, elected May 2014 and served until 2019
predominant, predominantly not predominate or predominately. Per AP
prefecture lowercase (Fukushima prefecture)
president Use President Surname for a sitting president. Secondary references can be either just Surname or the president. For example: President Trump; Trump, the president. Exception to AP
press secretary lowercase in all uses. Per AP
preventive, preventative They mean the same thing, so use the shorter preventive.
prisoner of war camps/concentration camps/death camps Geographic and historic references to such camps must be carefully worded. We have to be clear about who created and ran the camps. For instance, during WWII, the Japanese military held prisoners in the Philippines. Do not simply say they were Philippine prisoner of war camps. They were Japanese-run prisoner of war camps in the Philippines. Auschwitz was not a Polish death camp. It was a Nazi (or German) death camp in Poland. Sobibor was a Nazi death camp in German-occupied Poland. We do not want to give any mistaken impressions about who was in charge of such camps.
profanity Generally speaking, profanity should not be spelled out. If it must be used, style it with the first letter and asterisks, but be sure the intent is understandable: s***; motherf******. But: bull****; f***ing, a**hole. (updated 4/19/19)
Consult the standards and practices editor or a deputy managing editor if you are unsure whether the usage is appropriate or requires an advisory. If an advisory is warranted, include this disclaimer at the top, in italics: Editor’s note: This story contains language that may be offensive.
**For more information, see NPR Editorial Guidance Book
prohibit, prohibited take the preposition from
protester not protestor
prove, proved, proven The past tense of prove is proved. Use proven only as an adjective. For example: a proven track record
province lowercase (Kandahar province)
pushback, push back noun, verb
Qinghai province, China Do not refer to Qinghai province as a Tibetan region. Qinghai province can be correctly described as “an area populated mostly by ethnic Tibetans” or as “a province on the Tibetan Plateau.” For more information, see NPR Editorial Guidance Book
quotation marks When double and single quotes abut, put a space between them: “Even if you take just the examples that were illustrated in our report, people think, ‘We’re better than that. We shouldn’t have those kinds of incidents in Seattle,’ ” she says.
Note that commas and periods should go inside the single quote rather than in between the single and double quotes. Placement of question marks and exclamation points is determined by whether they are part of the material inside the single quote. Semicolons go outside all quote marks (single if there isn’t a double quote immediately following; otherwise, after the double quotes). Colons go outside all.
quoted material We do not clean up speakers’ language; if you feel something should be changed, fix it and surround the changed portion with square brackets. Material from a published source should be quoted exactly as originally published, even if it does not conform to NPR style. If there is an egregious error, remove it and bracket in the correct wording, using square brackets. Published official transcripts (think State of the Union address) should also be published as is, with no changes. We avoid the use of [sic] except in rare circumstances.
Qusayr Syrian town held by rebels and retaken by government forces in June 2013
racial identification Identifying the race of a criminal suspect is rarely germane to the story. On the network level identifying the race of suspects has no news value, unless an all points bulletin was put out nationwide for their apprehension.
Rand Corp. not RAND Corporation
re-create, recreate The first means to create again; the second, to engage in recreation.
reelect, reelection no hyphen (AP change 3/29/19)
Redskins see Washington Commanders
reform The word has a positive connotation so use it advisedly when referring to an issue that is controversial and has no universally held position (immigration reform, health care reform, welfare reform). Good substitutes: revamp, overhaul, change
RICO Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act
ride-sharing, ride-hailing per AP
robo Unless otherwise listed here, in the AP Stylebook or in the NW dictionary, robo words are solid. For example: roboadviser, robocall
rock and roll Use this or just rock when not referring specifically to old-time rock ‘n’ roll (added 12/9/19).
Rouhani, Hassan president of Iran June 2013
Rudy Giuliani (changed from Rudolph per AP response 8/19/16)
rulebook per AP FAQ
runoff per NW
run-up per dictionary and AP FAQ (based on most recent response, 4/24/22)
SAT Do not call it the Scholastic Aptitude Test or the Scholastic Assessment Test or other names. The name has changed several times over the years, and now it is simply the SAT, per the College Board.
S corporation per irs.gov
Saint Louis University exception to abbreviation rule per AP FAQ
screen grab per AP
screenshot per NW, exception to AP FAQ
second world war Lowercase this informal reference to World War II.
Senate Intelligence Committee (changed to caps 9/27/19)
Sept. 11 It is acceptable to use Sept. 11 or 9/11 to refer to the day the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked. Include 2001 for clarity as needed. (updated to match AP 4/20/21)
series names Names of series should be Roman, no quotes (the road trip series Our Land).
sexual assault Either survivor or victim is correct when referring to someone who has been sexually assaulted, but survivor is more sensitive.
sexual orientation not sexual preference
Shia Exception to AP style. (Don’t use Shiite.)
ship names Roman, not italics. Ships are it, not she.
shootdown (n); shoot down (v)
showrunner per AP FAQ
Siamese twins Do not use this outdated term for conjoined twins.
Sierra Nevada, the It’s redundant to add “Mountains” because Sierra is the Spanish word for mountain range. Also redundant: Rio Grande River, since Rio means river.
slower, more slowly One is an adjective, the other an adverb. In this sentence — “Consumer prices are currently rising slower than last year” — it should be more slowly because slower is the adjective and an adverb is needed to modify a verb. The slower car moves more slowly.
smooth, smooths exception to AP FAQ
spartan lowercase to mean sparse, austere and the like. Cap when referring to ancient Sparta. per AP FAQ
special juvenile immigrant status lowercase (extrapolation from temporary protected status; added 4/30/19)
species and genus Genus names should be capped, species names should be lowercased, and both take italics: Homo sapiens (exception to NW); Canis lupus; Tyrannosaurus rex. Secondary references may be abbreviated: E. woodii; E. coli.
spokesman, spokeswoman Don’t use spokesperson unless it’s a formal title.
Stage 4 For cancer and other diseases that are measured in stages, uppercase S and use an Arabic numeral. Per AP’s “numerals — sequential designations”
stand-up Hyphenate references to comedy and comedians, per NW. Use standup when referring to news reports.
State of the Union Capitalize when referring to the U.S. president’s annual address. Also, an incoming president’s first address is not called a State of the Union address.
states Use standard state abbreviations (Ala., Ark., etc.) when called for, including with a city and for political designations when appropriate. The following states are never abbreviated: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah. A full list of state abbreviations is available in the AP Stylebook. Do not use two-letter postal codes except in full addresses. NPR does not follow AP’s style of spelling out states with cities. See political designations
stem cell, stem-cell noun, adjective
stop-and-frisk Hyphenate in all uses.
Strait of Hormuz not Straits
subheads Subheads are sentence style with no ending punctuation unless a question mark is appropriate. Use double quotation marks and italics as warranted.
Sudan not The Sudan
super PAC two words (revised 3/17/20 to align with AP style)
superscript Do not use superscript for anything other than scientific or mathematical notations. Suffixes such as “th” should be standard font size. For example: 19th century
synagogue, temple When referring to places of worship in Israel, the correct word is almost always synagogue. Do not capitalize either unless used in a formal name (Central Synagogue of Nassau County) or in reference to the historical Temple in Jerusalem.
Taliban comes from the Arabic word for religious students and typically takes a plural verb.
Tea Party, Tea Partier exception to AP
teasers Teasers should be written in present tense, with all today/tomorrow/yesterday references changed to days of the week. Avoid merely echoing the head.
teen, teenager, teenage (not teen-aged) In most cases, the word teenager is not used once someone turns 18. It’s better to just state the individual’s age and leave it at that. “Young adult” may be an alternative. (updated 2022 to match NPR Editorial Guidance Book)
telephone poles obsolete usage; the preferred term is utility poles because they usually carry several lines — electric power, cable, telephone, etc.
temple, synagogue When referring to places of worship in Israel, the correct word is almost always synagogue. Do not capitalize either unless used in a formal name (Central Synagogue of Nassau County) or in reference to the historical Temple in Jerusalem.
temporary protected status lowercase per AP FAQ. TPS acceptable for secondary references.
terrorism not terror. For example: Al-Qaida is a terrorism network. The United States is fighting a war on terrorism. Zacarias Moussaoui is a confessed terrorism conspirator. The detainees at Guantanamo are suspected terrorists, suspected of terrorism and causing terror in people, but they are not terror suspects.
that/which; who/whom Use that and which in referring to inanimate objects and to animals without names. Use who and whom in referring to persons and to animals with names.
Thein Sein former president of Myanmar
thundersnow per NOAA usage
time zones When reporting the time that a news event happened, use the clock time at the location where the event happened. For example, if an earthquake shook California at 5 p.m. Pacific time, don’t say it happened at “8 p.m. ET.” If confusion could result, say “5 p.m. local time” or “5 p.m. in California.” Be particularly careful with international stories, where often not just the time could be different but so too could the day. If needed for clarity, use wording such as “1 a.m. Monday in Pakistan.” EXCEPTIONS: Closing times for polls in U.S. national elections are reported in Eastern time. Other nationwide events that span time zones, such as natural disasters, can also be reported in Eastern time when using local times would create confusion about the timeline. In stories outside the continental U.S., if a time is critical to the story, a conversion to Eastern time can be put in parentheses. For example: The hijackers said they’d kill the hostages if they didn’t receive $10 million by 10 a.m. local time (3 a.m. ET).
titled Books, movies, other works are titled. Not entitled.
titles (legislative) Use this format: Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., with the affiliation set off by commas. Or spell out: Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon; Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, a Democrat. Do not abbreviate the following states: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, Utah.
titles of people Titles are capitalized in front of a name, but not when following the name or when standing alone. For example: FBI Director James Comey; Rex Tillerson, secretary of state; the defense secretary
titles of works
- Italicize names of newspapers, magazines, journals, blogs, TV and radio shows, podcasts, CDs, albums, books (including dictionaries and encyclopedias), poetry collections and long poems published separately, comic strips, movies, documentaries, plays, musicals, ballets and works of art.
- Use Roman and quotation marks for song titles, video titles*, short stories, short poems, reports, studies, names of exhibits and exhibitions. If the name is used in a headline, insert it in single quotation marks. (Example: ‘The Help’ leads the Oscars race)
*Referring here to short videos or show episodes, such as YouTube clips, not full shows or films. For example: Friends, a show, would be italicized, but an episode on YouTube would be “The One Where Joey Runs Into The Wall, Again.”
today/tomorrow/yesterday Do not use in copy. Instead, use the day of the week.
Tour de France The “de” is lowercase.
toss-up Changed 9/13/16 per AP FAQ following NW reversal that reinstated hyphen
tranquility preferred over tranquillity per AP FAQ
Transitional National Council TNC is acceptable for secondary references.
translator, interpreter A translator renders written words into another language. An interpreter does the same for spoken words.
Trans-Pacific Partnership TPP is acceptable for secondary references.
trans woman, trans man For more information, see NPR Editorial Guidance Book
Treasury Cap in all uses.
Type 2 diabetes
Ukraine not The Ukraine
Ulaanbaatar per AP
undocumented immigrant, illegal immigrant Do not refer to people or groups as illegal immigrants or aliens. Do use language such as people who have entered the country illegally. Unauthorized or undocumented are acceptable as well. It is always best, when possible, to describe what people have done — entered the country illegally, overstayed their visas, climbed a fence on the Texas border, and so on. It is fine to refer to the debate over illegal immigration. The word illegal should be used only when describing actions, not people.
unique, unusual Unique cannot be modified by a comparative adjective — something either is unique or it isn’t. Unique means one-of-a-kind, so nothing can be very unique — say very unusual or very rare.
United Nations U.N. on secondary references and in headlines. (Periods in headlines are an exception to AP.)
updates We often need to update digital stories. Use an updated time stamp on a story when the update involves a significant amount of new material or when an update significantly changes the arc of a story. Do not use the updated time stamp for minor grammatical fixes or changes to copy. (as of 3/10/21)
upper chamber Do not use as a synonym for the U.S. Senate.
U.Va. Use for secondary references to the University of Virginia. Not UVA
Van Gogh, Vincent per AP FAQ
vice president The sitting vice president is referred to without a first name. For example: Vice President Pence. Secondary references should be either just last name or the vice president.
video games Names should be Roman
war on terrorism not war on terror
Washington, D.C. acceptable in all uses. On second reference, Washington or the District. D.C. is OK in informal contexts. Exception to AP
Washington Commanders is the name of the NFL team formerly known as the Washington Redskins. The team retired the Redskins name and logo in 2020 and began calling itself the Washington Football Team temporarily. The team revealed the Commanders name in 2022. For more information, see NPR Editorial Guidance Book (updated 2/2/22)
Washington Redskins See Washington Commanders.
web Lowercase unless it’s part of a proper name or starts a sentence. (updated 4/20/21 to match AP style)
website a location on the World Wide Web that maintains one or more pages at a specific address. Also, webcam, webcast, webfeed, webpage and webmaster.
whether or not The “or not” is usually superfluous and should be left out.
WHO World Health Organization. WHO on secondary references (no need for “the” in front)
Wikipedia While information in Wikipedia can be a good starting point, we do not cite it as a source, nor do we link to Wikipedia pages. Ever.
winter storm names The practice of naming winter storms was started by The Weather Channel in 2011. NPR does not use the names of winter storms in reporting online or on air. See also hurricane names. For more information, see NPR Editorial Guidance Book
whiteboard per AP FAQ
X-ray not x-ray
Yangtze River (added 1/31/19)
yesterday/today/tomorrow Do not use in copy. Instead, use the day of the week.
Yuletide AP exception to NW
Zelenskyy, Volodymyr president of Ukraine since May 2019 (spelling change per AP 4/9/21) His wife is first lady Olena Zelenska (note the -ska ending).
ZIP code ZIP is an acronym for Zone Improvement Plan.