Dalhousie Gazette Style Guide

This is a student paper, not a den for criminals.

Libel is a crime. Libel is any published material, whether directly stated or insinuated, that damages a person’s reputation. We will not print unnecessarily offensive content, including opinion pieces and quotes. Editors will draw the line between controversial and offensive. Truth is a defense against libel, so if we print it, it better be true.

Don’t steal.

Plagiarism means passing off someone else’s work as your own – a dishonest practice that has no place in journalism. All facts in stories must be attributed to a named source, unless that information is common knowledge, such as “Dalhousie University is in Nova Scotia.”

Don’t copy and paste anything into a story. If it’s not your own work, don’t use it. Slightly re-wording sentences doesn’t count. If you’re using a quote or other information from an interview conducted by another staff member or contributor, write “With files from___” at the end of the article.

If a writer submits a story that is discovered to contain plagiarism, editors will not accept subsequent stories from that writer for publication. So just don’t do it.

We’re in control of the stories we print.

Never allow any sources to see stories before they are published. Instead, read back quotes or complicated information during an interview to make sure you’ve got it right. Making third parties privy to pre-published stories undermines the independence and freedom of our newspaper

Don’t play favourites. Never promise coverage – or worse, favourable coverage – to any individual or organization. And don’t interview your friends. It’s impossible to be completely objective, but we need to steer clear of anything that might appear as a conflict of interest.

Editing tips:

Make sentences as tight as possible by getting rid of unnecessary words.

Common culprits
  • that – Reduce each “he said that…” to simply “he said…”
  • very 
  • amidst 

Place killer quotes high in the story – after introducing the speaker, of course.

Lede: the first one or two sentences in a story. Your lede should both attract attention and give readers a good idea of what they’ll be reading about. Ledes are usually the most newsworthy part of a story and only 35 words max. Quotes and questions do not make good ledes.

Replace “like” with “such as.”

Always use toward and afterward, not “towards” or “afterwards.” It’s cleaner.

General style and formatting points:

The Gazette follows the Canadian Press Stylebook. Key points specific to our paper are listed in this guide but editors should check CP Caps and Spelling for reference. We encourage all writers pursuing journalism to pick up a CP stylebook.

Use profanity in moderation.

When necessary, we’ll print fuck and shit and the dirty like. Not f-word, *&@! or s—t. But too much swearing and we’re less like an edgy student publication and more like an annoying three-year-old who’s just learned a new word. Use good judgment.

Use an active voice.

Passive writing is boring, it’s lazy and it often leaves out information, making it difficult to edit back to active voice. Section editors should ask writers for any missing facts.

Incorrect: The report was written by officials in the biology department.

Correct: Mike Gray, head of Dal’s biochemistry and molecular biology department, wrote the report.

Use only one space between sentences.

Your spacebar will thank you.

Capitalize only the first letter of the first word in a headline.

I Don’t Care If You Think It Looks Better Like This.

No honourifics.

No Mr., Ms., Mrs., Dr., etc. Use people’s full names on first reference. On second reference, use only the person’s last name. The exception is if two people in a story have the same last name. A medical doctor is referred to like this: Dr. John Doe on first reference and Doe on all subsequent references. People with PhDs are just like everybody else.

Quotes

Quotes should express emotion, not relay facts. If you can write it more succinctly than they said it, don’t quote! Quotes should rarely include numbers or detailed information. And do not set up a quote by paraphrasing it. It’s nauseatingly repetitive and it makes the source sound like a parrot.

Incorrect: Dal spokesperson Charles Crosby said more and more students are choosing this university.

“Two years ago we had 14,000 students, last year we had 14,500 and this year we have almost 16,000,” he said. “More and more students are choosing to enroll at Dal and we expect that trend to continue.”

(Cue disappointing buzzer sound.)

Correct: More than 1,000 new students have enrolled at Dal over the past year, said university spokesperson Charles Crosby.

“More and more students are choosing to enroll at Dal,” he said. “We expect that trend to continue.”

Always introduce the speaker when plugging a quote. 

It’s more straightforward, in writing as in life. Imagine a stranger suddenly talking to you without telling you who he is. That’s weird. And, like a reader skimming across an un-introduced quote, you probably won’t pay much attention.

Ex. “There were always students raising their hands, but they just walked by and passed over, over and over again,” said Jamal St. Lewis, a fifth-year management student who was at the community meeting.

Broken up quote method

Quotes separated at the natural punctuation mark, rather than appearing as a huge block of words with quotations around them are easier for readers to digest.

Ex. “There isn’t a simple solution to this in terms of policy,” said Florizone. “That’s exactly why we’re taking the approach we are tonight [at the community meeting.]”

Partial quote

Ex. He said the argument was “remarkably bitter.”

Paraphrase

To convey the same meaning of and idea using different words

 

“You” have no place in a story. 

Neither does “I.” Stories for all sections except opinions should always be in third-person. Don’t use generalized assumptions involving “you,” (or “students” as a substitute for “you”, in stories.

Incorrect: Finding a girlfriend is hard if you’re a computer science student.

Incorrect: Most students think Dalhousie President Tom Traves doesn’t care about them, but in last month’s Dal News, Traves was quoted as saying he does.

Eliminating generalizations forces writers to carefully consider what’s most important and unique to their stories.

He says, she says. 

Always use “says” – or “said” when referring to a past event and writing a hard news story. Every other word describing speech is too opinionated. No stated, noted, admitted, explained, confessed, etc. It may seem repetitive to the writer, but readers won’t notice. And no “thoughts” – you don’t know what they thought, only what they said.

 

Punctuation:

All punctuation goes inside quotes, like this:

“Of course everyone loves me,” Boyle says. “I have a Scottish accent and I wear kilts.”

Em dashes (–) are for special emphasis or to add extra information. If the sentence isn’t complete without the information between two em dashes, you are using it incorrectly. 

Ex. She stayed up all night to finish her essay – then her computer crashed.

Semicolons (;) only make sense between two independent clauses or before a conjunction.

Ex. Tuition fees for all Nova Scotia students are currently frozen at last year’s levels; however, N.S. university tuition is the highest in the country.

If you don’t know how to use them, sprinkling semicolons into sentences won’t make you look smart.

Ellipses (… ) indicate part of a quote has been left out. Never use ellipses to indicate pauses in speech. Use them only when absolutely necessary because they can make writing look sloppy and can cause readers to wonder what information is missing. Use the broken up quote method as an alternative.

Use only round brackets ( ) when clarifying quotes, and do so sparingly. Just because you put brackets in to clarify a quote doesn’t mean you can add anything you want in there. Otherwise, all stories should be free of brackets (you’re not hiding anything.)

Incorrect: “We don’t want (students) to be alarmed (that the crooked administration is actually pocketing half of their tuition fees),” said Dal spokesperson Charles Crosby.

Yes, that example was libelous.

Correct: “We don’t want (students) to be alarmed,” said Dal spokesperson Charles Crosby.

Hyphens (-) tend to make writing clunky and hard to read. They are usually unnecessary. Any word ending in -ly doesn’t need a hyphen afterward.

Ex. Dalhousie is trying to implement more environmentally friendly policies.

But, Dalhousie is trying to implement more eco-friendly policies.

Common hyphen use

Three-year-old, 19-year-old, etc.

Smith is a first-year student, but: Smith is in his first year.

E-mail, vice-president, etc.

Commas (,) are slippery suckers, do not use commas between two sentences that make sense on their own. Like I just did. No comma splices in quotes, either. They still count!

Incorrect: “I thought I could do it, I really did.”

Correct: “I thought I could do it. I really did.”

There is no comma after “and” in a list.

Ex. I’m taking English, math and science.

There is a comma before which, and no comma before that.

Ex. I’m taking a journalism class, which isn’t as beneficial as working at a newspaper.

Ex. I’ve taken a journalism class that wasn’t as beneficial as working at a newspaper.

Acronyms:

Acronyms breed confusion and lazy writers. Writers should avoid acronyms at all costs unless those acronyms are commonly used and easily understood. Even then, they should only appear on second reference, after mention of a full name, and should rarely, if ever, appear in a story’s lead.

Always put acronyms in brackets after the full name if you intend to use the acronym in the story.

Ex. The Dalhousie Faculty Association (DFA) is preparing to strike. 

But using phrases such as “the centre” or “the association” rather than an acronym is often less confusing.

Never make up your own acronyms. Who do you think you are?

Common acronyms

  • Use Dalhousie on first reference and Dal on every subsequent reference.
  • Same goes for University of King’s College and King’s.
  • Dalhousie Student Union (DSU)
  • King’s Students’ Union – note apostrophe placements! – (KSU)
  • Student Union Building (SUB)

Abbreviations:

Provincial abbreviations are used only when they come directly after a city name. Otherwise, write the whole damn word.

Here’s the full list:

Yukon, N.W.T., Nunavut, B.C., Alta., Sask., Man., Ont., Que., Nfld., N.B., N.S., P.E.I.

Countries are abbreviated with periods, such as U.S. and U.K.

Organizations don’t get periods — the UN, NATO, WTO, etc.

Only abbreviate street names when including the full address.

Ex. 6350 Coburg Rd.

But, don’t forget! He lives on Coburg Road.

 

Dates:

Weekdays

 Write out the full word. We prefer exact dates rather than referring to the week or events in the recent future or recent past because the Gazette publishes bi-weekly.

Ex. The Superfantastics played at The Marquee last Saturday.

Months 

Write out the full word. They’re only abbreviated when they precede a date.

Ex. The class runs from September to December.

Ex. The Superfantastics played at The Marquee Oct. 21. Not Oct. 21st!

Some months are never abbreviated. Here’s the full list:

Jan., Feb., March, April, May, June, July, Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec.

Times:

9 a.m.

9:30 p.m.

Four o’clock in the morning (use rarely)

Do not write phrases such as “9 p.m. at night.” It’s redundant and it sounds ridiculous.

Numbers:

One to nine are written in full and 10 and up are written numerically, unless the number starts a sentence.

Ex. Twenty students attended the conference.

First to ninth, but 10th and up.

Use “$” instead of “dollars”

$1.50, not one dollar and fifty cents.

Ex. The campus makeover would have cost students $25 million.

But, Dalhousie’s president proposed a multi-million-dollar construction project.

Percentages:

Write three per cent, 10 per cent, 100 per cent, 6.5 per cent. Not percent or %!

Numbers more than 1,000 are like this. Not “over one thousand.” Note:  always write “more than” instead of “over;” it’s more precise.

Decades:

I was born in the 1980s. Not 80s or 1980’s.

Metric symbols:

We use the metric system, so convert miles to kilometres (note the Canadian spelling,) etc. On second reference use cm, m, or km. The only exception is in height measurements:

Ex. Dal’s star basketball player is six-foot-three.

Capitalization:

The word “university” is not capitalized unless it is part of a noun, such as “Dalhousie University.”

School subjects are not capitalized unless they are languages.

Ex. Dal doesn’t have a journalism program.

Ex. The French department is accepting student exchange applications.

Internet is capitalized. But website and online aren’t.

Only the first letter of the first word in a headline should be capitalized.

University terminology

Most students seek a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree, not a Bachelor’s Degree, a B.A. or a Master’s. A few of them will earn PhDs.

Write first-year, second-year, etc., with a hyphen. We write international development major instead of IDS major.

Dalhousie Student Union on first reference, or Dal Student Union on first reference if the word “Dalhousie” has already been mentioned in the story, and DSU in all subsequent references.

DSU positions

Cory Larsen, DSU vice-president (Student Life),…

or, less often, like this:

DSU VP (Internal) Alex Hughes….

Titles

A person’s title is only capitalized if it comes directly before his or her name.

Ex. Dalhousie President Richard Florizone…

Ex. Richard Florizone, the president of Dalhousie, …

Dalhousie Student Union formats:

Ex. DSU President Amina Abawajy…

But, Vice-president (Student Life) Cory Larsen…

Or: Cory Larsen, VP (Student Life), …

Use italics for titles of: books, movies, albums, television shows and publications (including the Dalhousie Gazette.) The Canadian Press is not italicized because it is primarily a wire service and not a publication.

Song titles are in quotation marks.

Ex. “Notes From The road” by Beppe Gambetta

Common Canadian spellings:

Labour, colour, honour, centre, metre, neighbour, theatre, levelled, travelled, counselled, etc.

Don’t use clichés!

Chances are if you’ve heard the phrase before, it’s a cliché. Clichés are b o r i n g.

Finally and most importantly: write for your reader and not for yourself.