A quick summary of the rules Faith Today follows on abbreviations, capitalization, hyphenation, italics, numbers and more.
Intended for writers who want to be published in Faith Today magazine. Also relevant to other publications and webpages by The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. Writers who wish to know rates of pay, types of articles needed, etc., should see our writer guidelines.
This style guide has been written as a standard reference of journalistic style and practice at Faith Today magazine, based on The Canadian Press Stylebook (17th ed.) and Caps and Spelling (17th ed.). The following summarizes CP, but it also notes several exceptions. If you have a writing concern that is not found in this guide, please consult the CP Stylebook (order copies, approx. $35 each, by visiting www.cp.org or contacting them at 416-507-2197 or [email protected]). CP generally uses the Canadian Oxford Dictionary (2nd ed.) and we also commend this as our dictionary of choice.
Here are a few common trip-ups for those who don't intend to read further:
- Phone numbers no longer take parentheses around the area code.
- Following CP, we prefer “website” (one word, no caps), "email" (lowercased and recently un-hyphenated), and “world view” (two words).
- We prefer present tense with attribution, e.g. "God is cool," says James (not "said").
- We generally do not place the "serial" comma before the final “and” in a list, e.g., Joe, Mary and Fred.
- We place one space before and after our n-dashes, e.g., text — text.
- We almost never use ellipses within quotations. Where necessary type them as [space]. [space].[space].[space]
- United States is almost always spelled out in full.
- Punctuation is usually placed within quotation marks, e.g. “It was a thrill when she sang ‘Rhapsody in Red,’ ” says Nelson. (Note the space between single and double quotes.)
- Use “more than” instead of “over” with numbers. CP says to use numerals for 10 and up, but we make the exception of spelling out major round numbers, i.e., ten, a hundred, a thousand, a million.
- We don't use TH or ST with dates, e.g. "May 4 and June 21" is correct, but "May 4th and June 21st" is not correct.
1. All-capital abbreviations are written without periods (YMCA, CN, MP, UN, PAOC, MA, BRE. Ones with a lowercase letter sandwiched between are treated the same way (PhD PoW).
However, periods are used if the abbreviation is geographical (U.S., B.C., P.E.I.), refers to a person (C. S. Lewis, and note the space between initials) or is a single letter (N. for north but NNW).
2. Provinces: Use these abbreviations after the name of a community in a phrase or sentence.
Only when a province is referred to in a postal address format including postal code do we use the postal shortform of two capitalized letters without punctuation instead, e.g. YT, NL.
Quebec city-names that begin with St or Ste use a dash but no period, e.g., St-Jean
IN-HOUSE NOTES: Phrases in the body of a classified advertisement use the “longer” shortform (e.g., "Pastor wanted in Cambrose, Alta."), but where it is written as a mailing address use the shorter one (e.g., "Reply to 100 XYZ Street, Camrose, AB L3R 0Y4"). In our letters to the editor section, each letter is signed by a name with city and province using the “longer” shortform. For consistency in the letter signatures, we include a province with each city, contra CP style (which suggests leaving off the province for major cities).
3. Names of American states are abbreviated after the name of the community. Do not abbreviate Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Ohio, Utah or Puerto Rico or Virgin Islands.
4. Names of countries are not abbreviated. An exception (better avoided): “U.S.-based” (abbr. as an adjective, with period).
5. Spell out United Nations as a noun, but the abbreviation UN may be used as an adjective with well-known organizations. (The United Nations will meet. The UN Security Council voted.)
6. University is not abbreviated to U. (e.g., not U of Toronto, but University of Toronto). When listing universities, write ‘universities of Toronto and Calgary’ to save space.
7. For months used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. Spell out standing alone or with a year alone. Exception: Issues of Faith Today (e.g., in letters to the editor) are referred to as Jan/Feb 2001, Sep/Oct 2008, etc., using three letter shortforms even for June.
8. Currency is abbreviated without using periods (e.g. US funds, and $100 Cdn). Financial figures should be translated into Canadian funds. Any uncertainty should be clarified using prefixes as follows: C$500 or US$50 million.
9. Metric symbols are not written with periods: m, L, kW (except at the end of a sentence). In general, spell out such terms as foot, hundredweight, kilogram, metre and minute. A few common terms such as km-h, mm, m.p.h., c.c. are acceptable on second reference when used with figures.
10. Do not use %, except in charts or sidebars or paragraphs that report so many percentages that spelling out feels cumbersome. Per cent is spelled as two words.
11. Abbreviate in addresses when the number is used, except for official residencies such as 10 Downing Street or 24 Sussex Drive. Examples: along St. Catherine Street, 36 King St. E., the Portage Avenue bus, Wellington Crescent, Cres., Blvd., Rd., Sq.
12. Do not abbreviate books of the Bible. (And use arabic, not roman, numerals, e.g., 1 Timothy.) Do not print chapter and verse references without actually quoting a few words of text. (Many Evangelicals talk this way, but we don’t want to alienate anyone who hasn’t memorized the text.)
13. Avoid institutional acronyms, especially at the beginning of a sentence. For example, instead of this: “. . . the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC) produced the report. The CCC says. . . .” we prefer this: “. . . the Canadian Council of Churches produced the report. The Council says “. . . .”
1. Use present tense for both direct and indirect quotes, except when the quote could not be made again if the subject were re-interviewed today. Examples:
- “Profiting by circumventing the law is not lucrative in the long run,” says Jack Black.
- Jack Black, in his book Kill Criminals, says, “Crime does not pay.”
- Jack Black argues that crime does not pay.
- In a speech made days before his death, Fred Smith said crime does not pay.
2. Words like “indicates" or “suggests” may be appropriate where “says” is not, and are mandatory in stories on opinion polls. (Not: The poll shows fewer than 10 per cent of Canadians believe. . . . But: The poll suggests fewer than 10 per cent. . . .)
3. Many substitutes for “says” and “said” are risky or, at best, vague: “Admits” implies confession, “affirms” states a fact, “asserts” declares strongly, “claims” and “maintains” hint at doubt, “confides” implies a confidence, “declares” states explicitly, “reveals” presumes earlier concealment. Be especially wary of “explains,” “points out,” “claims” and “notes.” They imply that what is being said is fact. “According to” and “says she believes” imply a doubt about credibility.
1. Capitalize all proper names, the names of departments and agencies of national and provincial governments, trade names, names of associations, companies, clubs, religions, languages, nations, races, places and addresses. (Terms such as aboriginal, black, brown and white are not proper names and so are lowercased.)
2. Capitalize names of major Christian traditions, e.g. Baptist, Pentecostal, Anabaptist, Evangelical, etc. Exceptions: only capitalize "Evangelical(s)" when a noun, leaving adjectival forms lowercased, e.g. "Many Evangelicals love to read the free magazines they find in the back of evangelical churches." Also lowercase: evangelicalism, fundamentalism, fundamentalist.
3. Capitalize pronouns referring to God and Jesus (e.g., He, His, but not relative pronouns such as who or whose). Capitalize the term “Church” when it is used in the broadest sense. However, do not alter written material that is within quotation marks, e.g., don't add a capital H within a Bible passage where the translation uses lowercase.
4. Common nouns such as church and league are capitalized when part of a proper name: Anglican Church, National Hockey League. They are lowercase when standing alone: the church’s stand, a league spokesman.
With names of periodicals, Magazine is only capped if part of the official name, e.g., Faith Today magazine, Maclean's magazine, Harper's Magazine.
The common-noun elements of proper nouns are lowercase in plural uses: the United and Anglican churches, the National and American leagues. Alberta and Northwest Conference, if this is one group; Alberta and Northwest conferences, if this is two groups.
5. Job descriptions are lowercased: soprano Maria Stratas, managing editor Anne Davies. But see "Job Titles," below.
6. Capitalize religious holidays and feasts and all special times: Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter, Hanukkah, Yom Kippur.
7. Lowercase a.m. and p.m.: 2 p.m., 2:30 a.m. EST, EDT.
8. Capitalize universities and colleges but not their departments: Simon Fraser University, Macdonald College, McGill medical school, department of dentistry, faculty of education.
9. Capitalize all words in the titles of books, broadcast programs, films, plays, poems, songs, speeches, works of art and other compositions, except for articles (such as "an" or "the") and short conjunctions/prepositions (two or three letters long, such as "in" or "by"): Gone With the Wind, “In Flanders Fields.” The first word in a subtitle or title is capped: J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography.
10. Lowercase the ordinary internal elements of an organization, e.g. the United Church's division of mission. But capitalize the names of major subdivisions of an organization, e.g. the General Council of the United Church of Canada. Thus, in reference to The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, capitalize the Centre for Research on Canadian Evangelicalism and the Centre for Faith and Public Life.
A number of Canadian organizations fall under the umbrella of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada but are technically independent (and therefore capitalized): e.g. Global Mission Roundtable, Religious Liberty Commission, Youth and Young Adult Ministry Roundtable, etc.
11. Use "Indigenous Peoples" as an umbrella term that includes all First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in Canada. "First Nations" usually refers to people on-reserve only. Avoid the common construction "Canada’s Indigenous Peoples." To many, it evokes a sense of possession and colonialism. Use "Indigenous Peoples in Canada" instead. Avoid "native." The word "tribe" in its original sense was reserved for primitive peoples. Some First Nations use it casually and it need not be entirely avoided. But community, people, nation, band, language group are alternatives.
12. Here is our preferred way to write some commonly mis-capitalized words:
- 18th century (no superscript on the “th”)
- apostle, the Twelve Apostles, the Apostle Paul
- Bible, biblical, Bible Belt (but: the Sikh bible, i.e. the Adi Granth [not italicized] )
- ChristianWeek (no space between the words)
- God, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit; uppercase for personal pronouns: He, Him, His (not relative pronouns: whose)
- Gospels (the books) / gospel (the message)
- Grade 7; kindergarten; grades 5 and 6
- the Holy Land
- Indigenous Peoples (includes Inuit and Métis and people on and off reserves)
- the Internet (but no caps on: website); avoid “the web”
- iPad, iOS
- the Maritimes, Maritime provinces
- New, Old Testament
- the Prairies, the Prairie provinces (refers to political unit; use prairies to refer to geographical unit / ecosystem)
- Salvation Army, the Army, Salvationist
- Satanist, Satanism, satanic, the Devil
- Scripture (when synonymous with Bible, but scripture when synonymous with a verse or passage), scriptural
- Ten Commandments
- First World War (not World War I or World War 1)
1. Headlines are always in present tense. Writers should submit a headline with each article. Aim for four words maximum (although feature and cover stories may go longer or have a secondary headline ["deck"] which immediately follows the headline in a font sized halfway between the body text size and headline size). Capitalize the first letter of every word in a headline (the editor will lowercase the exceptions). The byline should have a capital “b” on “By Fred Smith.”
2. Articles more than 800 words long usually have subheads that break the body text into sections. The writer may compose them (it can help in structuring) but cannot assume the editor will leave them in (and thus MUST write transition sentences to guide the reader from one section to the next). Subheads are usually in ALL CAPs.
1. Generally adhere to the hyphen after prefixes that end in the same letter as the word begins with (re-evaluate and re-emerge as compared to reopen or reëstablish). CP hyphenates co-operate and co-ordinate (not cooperate and coordinate).
2. Use a hyphen when adding a prefix that will make an unfamiliar word, but omit the hyphen for words in common usage (multi-denominational, but multicultural).
3. Use hyphens with a successive compound adjective (note spacing): 18th- and 19th-century fashions; 10-, 20-, and 30-second intervals.
4. Telephone numbers are hyphenated as follows: 905-479-5885. We no longer use parentheses around the area code.
5. Plain words which often evoke “hyphenation hesitation:”
- co-operate, co-ordinate, co-worker, co-host, co-owner
- copy editing
- email (no cap)
- fund raising BUT IF ADJ. fund-raising
- full-time (adj.)
- health care (no hyphen even when adj.)
- lifestyle (avoid if possible)
- part-time (adj.)
- per cent
- pro-life (pro-lifer)
- task force
- under way
- work force
- world view
1. Italicize the names of television shows, films, magazines, newspapers, books, pamphlets, reports, plays, paintings and long poems. Also the names of vehicles such as boats. Also legal statutes and court cases (e.g., the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when the title is mentioned in full, but the shortform "the Charter" is not italicized). The names of wire services are not italicized.
2. Titles of stories, songs, articles, episodes in a TV series and shorter poems are put within quotes, not italics, to signify they are part of a larger whole, e.g., The band played "Kumbaya," the lead single from their album Campfire Songs.
3. Italics may also be used to emphasize a word or to set off un-assimilated foreign expressions (e.g., don't italicize "ad hoc" because it has been assimilated).
1. Only short titles come before a name: e.g. senior editor XYZ. Longer titles go after a name separated from the rest of text with commas, with no article preceding the title: e.g. XYZ, chairperson of the board of ABC; not XYZ, the chairperson of the board.
Note: use chairman or chairwoman, spokesman or spokeswoman, depending on the gender of the person in the position. If the gender is unknown or if the person prefers, use terms such as chairperson or spokesperson. If the position is shared, use the term “co-chair” (not co-chairperson or co-chairman).
2. Don’t capitalize titles, except heads of state and government titles. Former titles are not capitalized, e.g., “former prime minister Brian Mulroney.” It's correct to write Minister of Justice Fred Lum, Mayor Cindy Reynolds, but titles after the name are lowercased: Fred Lum, the justice minister, and Cindy Reynolds, the mayor.
IN-HOUSE NOTE: Job titles of EFC leaders are treated in the same way as government titles, e.g., EFC President Bruce J. Clemenger.
1. One to ten are spelled out (contra CP which spells one to nine); 11 and upwards are digits. Contra CP, spell out a hundred, a thousand and a million, etc.
2. For time, always use numerals. Not nine a.m. but 9 a.m.
3. Use Grade 3, or third grade; not Grade three.
4. For centuries, write for example "18th century" using numerals to shorten the word (and don't superscript the TH).
5. Use First/Second World War (not World War I/II or World War 1/2).
6. Use commas to set off thousands, e.g., 13,250 km, but leave commas out of years, street addresses or page, phone or serial numbers.
1. Don’t stack quotes, i.e., have one person go on and on for 5-6 paragraphs. To do so gives the impression that the author has lost control of the story and that the source is dominating. It also tires the eye to read many quotes in a row.
Better to break up the text by taking information out of direct quotes and putting it into paraphrase. An author can still attribute the information to the source, if it’s an opinion. Even better, try to take material that is factual out of quotes; then it needs no attribution and can still break up a string of quotes.
Choose the best one or two quotes to use and leave it at that.
2. Generally, it's best to concisely set up the quote with the background information then drop in the quote, now that it has been clearly contextualized:
Conservative Baptists criticized the document as not going far enough because Catholics still hold positions on sacramental grace, purgatory and other doctrines that are at odds with orthodox evangelical faith.
“Baptist Evangelicals don’t have any business signing any doctrinal consensus papers with Rome,” says Leonard Cohen, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
3. Additions or clarifications within a quote normally go in square brackets, i.e., [ ] not ( ).
4. Capitalize the first word of any mid-sentence quote that constitutes a sentence: e.g., At the meeting, Johnson recalls, “He sneered and said ‘Never.’ ” (Capitalize "Never.") Note that a space is always placed between single and double quotes when they immediately follow each other.
1. Like CP, our spelling authority is the Oxford Canadian Dictionary (2nd ed.). It often prefers British style where it does not affect length of the word: e.g., centre, meagre. It also prefers -ize endings for words like criticize and -ce endings for words like defence.
2. We use -our rather than -or endings: arbour, armour, behaviour, candour, colour, endeavour, favour, flavour, honour, humour, labour, neighbour, saviour, etc. (But additional suffixes require the “u” be dropped, e.g., glamorous, coloration, honorary, humorous, humorist, laborious, valorous.) In organization names and Bible passages, do not change -or to -our.
3. Generally double the consonant when adding suffixes (ed or ing), thus: travelled, rivalled, medallist, counselled, labelled, totalled. Also: worshipped, programmed.
4. Plurals for words ending in s: usually add the extra s, e.g. Lewis's. But no extra s in words like Jesus and Moses in which a z sound precedes, e.g. Jesus' and Moses'.
5. Watch for these often misspelled words (noting that, although "advisor, intervenor and judgement" would be more Canadian, we have decided to follow CP's Americanized spelling in those cases):
- amid (avoid Britishisms such as amidst, amongst, leapt for leaped, dreamt for dreamed, etc.)
- organize, organization
- adviser (not advisor)
- co-operate, co-ordinate
- criticize, criticism
- intervener (not intervenor)
- judgment (not judgement)
- OK (not okay)
- organize, organization
- program (not programme), but programmed
Words commonly misused or confused
1. “Over” is used for geographical references; “more than” is used for numbers.
2. Only use the word “while” when two things are happening at the exact same time. Many people write “while” when “though” is more appropriate.
3. “Affect” is a verb. “Effect” is a noun or a result. The exception is the use of “effect” as a verb that means “to bring about,” e.g., He effected great change in the institution.
4. One is amiable of people, amicable of things.
5. “Principal” is the most important, or a school principal (trick to remember the spelling: she's your “pal”). “Principle” is a fundamental belief.
6. Dropping the word “that” often makes for smoother reading, especially in shorter sentences. (She says [that] she wanted to be alone.) But retain it to avoid misleading the reader even momentarily. (Carr says that on May 1 he was in Halifax; Justice Minister Kim Campbell warned that the government would step in.)
“That” is generally used when the clause is essential to the noun it defines or when it narrows the topic: The movie that opened at the Roxy last week. (It’s not just any movie, it’s the one that opened last week at a specific theatre.)
7. “Which” clauses give a reason or add a new element: The movie, which cost $4 million to make, has done landslide business. (The assumption here is that the reader already knows which movie is being discussed, and its cost is an added bit of information.)
8. Correct usage of “who” and “whom” can be determined by dividing a sentence in two. Use “who” when it stands for he, she, they. Use “whom” when it stands for him, her or them. Examples: The police issued a public alert for a man who they say is armed and dangerous. (They say he is armed and dangerous so “who” is correct.) She escaped to her next-door neighbour’s whom she had trusted in the past. (She trusted her so “whom” is correct.) However, in a direct quote don't correct someone's grammar this way, as it can make them sound like a pedant.
Tips for good writing
1. Always indicate where an organization is located or has its headquarters. Usually indicate place for a person, too.
2. Names of people go first, not organizations, e.g., "John Ritson, the pastor of Hillside Church" (not "the pastor of Hillside Church, John Ritson").
3. Cut titles whenever possible, e.g., first reference can be Rev. Nancy Ritson but after that simply Ritson.
4. Use first and last names in the first reference, second names only in additional references. Exception: when a person reappears near the end of an article and the reader will need reminding.
5. Don’t list institutions and places separated by a comma. It breaks the flow of the sentence. Instead of Regent College, British Columbia, write Regent College in British Columbia.
6. When dealing with obscure or large numbers, be sure to put them in some sort of context the reader can understand. For example: “the austere Iraqi diet, which consists of a weekly allotment of 2.5 kg of flour, 650 g rice, 300 g lentils, 300 g oil, and a little salt and tea.” This is better understood in servings per day: “one bowl of rice sprinkled with a few lentils and a cup of tea per day.” (It is more apparent that this is a starvation diet.)
© The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. Version updated April 2019. By Bill Fledderus, with original contributions from Marianne Meed Ward and Holly McIntire.