A style guide or manual establishes agreed standards for the writing and design of documents. A set of standards for a specific publication, a newspaper, magazine or website, is known as a “house style”. Its purpose is to present that publication in a readable and consistent manner. A style guide can help ensure a uniform look and tone of voice among contributors, so that the publication appears cohesive and professional.
In some cases style guides are restricted to the employees of the publication. Others can be accessed by the general public but for a fee. Of the free-to-view manuals, the online version of the style guide for the Guardian and Observer newspapers in Britain is probably the best known.
This guide focuses on writing for An Sionnach Fionn. It advises on how to write for the web (structuring, brevity, tone of voice, etc.) and lays down a standard style (e.g. for titles, dates, and so).
Contributors can follow all or some of it as they wish.
2. Writing for the Web
People read online publications in a very different manner from reading text in print. Studies show that online readers:
- Scan the top of the page more than the bottom
- Look in particular at headings, words in bold type, and images
- Skim and select
- Read a little at a time, mainly in short bursts
- Grab what they need and then move on
Website visitors are looking for “quick-hit” information. If you don’t give it to them immediately, they’ll get frustrated – and probably look elsewhere or exit the site.
- Online readers often jump about from one page / section of a page to another (unlike print readers who usually turn pages sequentially and start at the top of a page and work down)
- Pages need to stand alone
- Make it easy for users to take their own journey around your site – the three click rule
- Users need to know where they are and what else is available
Digital media does not have the same boundaries as print. It’s essential to have a clear focus and remain in control.
In general, your web content needs to do one or both of the following:
- Support a key objective (e.g. promote progressive politics or republicanism or encourage others to do so)
- Help a web visitor to complete a task (e.g. give news content or information being searched for)
Thus, you should first decide exactly who you’re addressing, your objectives, what information you need to provide, and how to best structure it.
Focus on your readership. First, ask yourself:
- Who are you talking to? Who are you targeting?
- What do you want to tell them? What do they need or want to know?
- Why should they be interested?
Define your objectives. What exactly do you want to achieve? Do you just want readers to be informed, or to take a particular course of action? For any article or post, ask yourself:
- Why am I writing this page?
- What do I want to say?
- Will readers want to read it?
- What do I want the reader to do?
Limit each article to one or two topics at most. Split your content into coherent chunks. Each should focus on a particular topic.
Structure your content with headings and sub-headings if required (the longer the article the more necessary are sub-headings). Add headings so that readers can see the page content at a glance. Think of headings as signposts for readers in a hurry. Headings serve at least two purposes: they tell readers what a particular section is about, and they break up the monotony of the text.
Keep your headings brief and use keywords. Avoid bland labels and “dead phrases”; use strong snappy sentences where possible. Capitalise only the first letter of the first word and any proper nouns and names.
If you want to help readers find specific bits of information, simple informative headings are best. On the other hand, if you want to get attention, a catchy heading may be suitable. But be careful. Readers want to know immediately what a particular article is all about. Avoid “‘clever” or enigmatic headings.
Front‐load your content. To “front‐load”’ your content means putting the key point first, followed by the details. The opening paragraph in an article should answer two questions:
- What will readers find in this piece? What is its function?
- Why should they care? How will they benefit?
Detailed background information should be put downpage in footnotes or on a child page.
It’s best to use the “inverted pyramid” – in other words, put the most important information first, following by other details in order of diminishing importance.
Write content. As you start writing, remind yourself of the readership you’re targeting and stay focused on the information you want to convey, omitting superfluous details.
Write in a friendly, relaxed manner. Online readers are put off by long blocks of stodgy text written in a highly formal style. Be user-friendly. Use the language you’d use if the reader was sitting beside you without “dumbing down”.
It’s fine to use contractions such as “won’t” rather than “will not” and occasionally to start sentences with “and” ,”but” or “because”. This of course does not mean being over-colloquial in expression and careless in your writing.
Write clearly, concisely and correctly. Unclear or over-complicated text, long‐winded text and text with basic errors will put off readers and create a bad impression of the website. Some content needs colour and richer language, but it still needs to be written concisely.
Use topic sentences. A “topic sentence” is the first sentence in a paragraph and introduces the main idea of the paragraph. It makes your text more scannable and easier to read.
Use lists. Present long lists in the form of bullet points. Lists are better than long paragraphs because they:
- Are easy to scan
- Help to ensure concise text
- Are less intimidating for readers
Tell a story where appropriate. Telling a story is a good way of engaging people. It can be as simple as writing content with a clear beginning, middle and end, with a clear narrative running through it. This is particularly true of personal anecdotes and experiences or when dealing with complex historical matters.
Use the active voice. Use strong, active verbs (the structure of “who does what”). Sentences with active verbs are easier to read and have more energy.
Use descriptive link text. When you’re linking, don’t write “click here”. Instead, use a title that describes where the user will go to by clicking the link. And integrate the link with your content, making it part of a sentence.
Include a call to action, if appropriate. If you want readers to do something, tell them what you want them to do and make it as easy as possible for them to do it. For example, if you want them to complete a petition, link to it or tell them where they can get it.
When it comes to spelling, check, check and check again. Poor spelling and grammar distracts and detracts from anything you’ve written. To self-proof an article, finish the document and save it as a draft version. Return to the draft an hour or two later and reread it. You will be surprised by how many mistakes it will contain.
Overlong sentences are to be avoided. People have a habit of writing sentences that simply, run and run and run. If you can break up a sentence into smaller chunks do so. It will always look – and read – better.
Repetition is a common habit in human speech (think Donald Trump) but it looks very poor in written form. Avoid the repeated use of the same words, terms and phrases in a single article. Space them out or break them up by using alternatives. For instance in one long piece you could alternate between the “government of Ireland”, the “Irish government”, the “government in Dublin”, the “Dublin government”, the “coalition”, the “Fine Gael-led government”, the “FG administration”, the “Dublin authorities” and so on.
The key to quality writing is the quantity of writing you produce. You learn by doing. Be your own harshest critic, your proof-reader and your editor. If you have someone whose opinions you trust get them to read your work first before submitting or publishing it. Do not be afraid to take criticism or to see your work edited or rewritten by others. It is common practice in the publishing industry. Remember, online reading is different from that of the printed word, especially when commenting is available. Develop a thick skin and be prepared to be taken to task by well-informed readers if you make any mistakes or post inaccurate claims. Learn from their criticisms and do not be afraid to engage with them.
3. Search engine optimisation (SEO)
Use keywords to make the content searchable. You can use a few simple techniques to improve your page’s ranking with search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo and so on).
Page title: Each page should have a title that accurately describes its topic. Place the most important words at the start of the title.
Headings and subheadings: Search engines focus in particular on headings, so use key words in your headings that clearly explain the topic.
Body text: Use the terms and phrases your readers are likely to use when they’re searching for information. This will also make your pages easier to understand.
Hyperlinks: Search engines also focus on hyperlinks, so “click here” won’t mean much to them. Use keywords in the link.
Keywords: Use the keywords of your topic in your opening sentence and repeat them a few times as appropriate on the page.
4. Basic rules – ASF style decisions
Accents. Use on Irish, French, German and Spanish words, but not on anglicised words such as cafe, apart from exposé.
Acronyms. These are okay, as long as you’re sure readers will understand what you’re saying. If you aren’t positive, spell it out on the first mention, followed by the abbreviation in brackets. After that, use the abbreviation. It is preferable to use acronyms when they are better known than the actual words, such as VAT, PRSI, PAYE, GATT, Vhi, RTÉ, ESB. However remember that the readership for An Sionnach Fionn is both local and international.
Full stops. Don’t use full stops between letters and don’t add an apostrophe in plurals.
Age. Age ranges are written. It should be “twenty” or “thirty-one” not “20” or “31”. Often the word “age” can be omitted: instead of when you reach the age of sixty-five, when you reach sixty-five.
Ampersands (&). Do not use them in written content and only used to truncate titles for layout purposes. The ampersand (&) is used in some company names. Check online.
Bullet lists. Bullets point lists are a simple way of avoiding wordiness and waffle. They’re particularly useful if you need to ask readers to carry out more than one action. They allow readers to scan key points quickly and easily. Do not insert a comma, semi-colon or final full point after each point – unless each point is a full sentence, in which case start each point with a capital letter and end with a full point. If each bullet point is a complete sentence, use sentence case.
Capital letters. These are used to start sentences. Don’t drop them into the middle of a sentence to emphasise a word. Capitalise events when referring to a specific event, as in “Open Day”, “Gala Dinner”, “Autumn Conference”, but not when speaking generally, as in: “We’re planning a gala dinner at the end of the year”.
Captions. When writing captions to pictures showing people or objects, name or describe from left to right.
Dates. Dates are written as the “20th of December 2016”, without any commas. Use superscript “th”, “st”, “nd” or “rd” after the numerals. Include the day of the week where useful to the reader (e.g. if the date concerns an important event in the past, near future or a deadline): Tuesday, the 20th of December. For decades, write like this, without an apostrophe: “the 1990s” followed by “the ’90s” and then back again. When writing about periods of time, use either the words “from” and “to” or a dash “–” not both.
Fahrenheit or Celsius? Use Celsius. Write 68C.
Fractions. These should be written out as words: half, two-thirds, five-eighths, two and a half. Or replace with a percentage: 50%, 75%. Use “%” rather than “percent” if using digits.
Gender. Use gender-neutral titles where possible: chair or chairperson, not chairman/chairwoman, actor not actress. Try to avoid using “he” or “she” (or “s/he” or “he/she”) when referring to people in general.
Linking to other pages/sites. Hyperlinks are the links in a webpage that, when clicked on, open other pages in the ASF website or in external websites, or link to downloadable documents. Don’t use phrases such as click here or more. Create links that explain what is being linked to (both for your readers and the search engines). Many visitors will arrive at your website on pages other than the home page, so remember to hyperlink to relevant information that they may have bypassed.
Money, currency. Write like this, with no spacing: €655.50. Use the symbol “€” as in €6.5 million. The plural is euro and cent not “euros” and “cents”. For US dollars and pounds sterling, use the symbols: US$2,000 and £3,000. Write out million and billion in full, as in €7.2 million. Where possible convert foreign currencies to euros, though include US dollars and pounds sterling in brackets.
Numbers. Spell out numbers from zero to one hundred, then use digits, as in, “Last year, three professors and 102 students attended the event”. Use commas in numbers greater than 999: 2,139 instead of 2139. When giving a range of figures, use the dash: 45-65, instead of 45 to 65. At the start of sentences, write the number in words.
Percentages, percent. Use the symbol “%” for per cent.
Write out first, second, third etc (not “st”, “nd”, “rd”) up to ninth, then 10th, 11th, 51st, millionth, billionth.
Times. Write as follows: 2am, 6.30pm, etc (use the 12-hour clock instead of the 24-hour clock and don’t insert full points in ‘am’ or ‘pm’). For periods of time, use a hyphen, with spaces either side.
Personal and job titles. Do not add a full stop after a contracted title: “Mr”, “Mrs”, “Ms”, “Dr”. Use capitals for job titles, but not for jobs.
5. The Irish language
Irish words and terms. Always use Irish language words, terms and phrases when they are in common or near-common usage. So write “the Gardaí” not “the Guards” and so on.
Fada, Síneadh Fada. The acute accent in Irish spelling is important and should be included (and verified as being correct). It make a difference to the sound of words, showing that a vowel is long, as in the names Síle and Seán. It also distinguishes between words such as Seán “John” and sean “old”. Be particularly careful when spelling names or titles in Irish.
Mac, with a space, as in “Mac an tSionnaigh” or “Mac Néill”.
Ó, with a fada, space and no apostrophe, as in “Ó Briain”
Ní, with a fada and space, as in “Ní Chíobháin” or “Nic Airt”
Nic, with a space, as in “Nic Airt”
Uí, with a fada and a space, as in “Uí Bhriain”
6. Grammar rules
Punctuation. It’s important.
Abbreviations. e.g. (use the full stops) means “for example”. In lists beginning with e.g., don’t end with etc, as etc is not giving an example.
etc In the abbreviation a full stop is not needed.
i.e. The abbreviation is written like this, with the full stops; it means “that is”.
Brackets. If a sentence is complete without the information contained within the parentheses (round brackets), put the punctuation outside the brackets. (A complete sentence within parentheses should begin with a capital letter and end with a stop.)
Colon. Use before a list, before a full-sentence quotation, or to introduce a bulleted list.
Comma. Use commas after items in a list, except the last but one. Before and after a clause that provides extra information — but make sure the sentence still makes sense if the clause is removed. If necessary for clarity, especially in a long sentence. To test this, read the sentence aloud and add a comma where you pause for breath. Better still, divide it into two sentences at the point where you pause (remembering to double-check the grammar). After introductory phrases or words.
Dash. When you want to use a dash in a sentence, use a dash, not a hyphen. Note: in Microsoft Word, if you type a word, a hyphen and then another word, the program automatically turns the hyphen into a dash.
Exclamation mark. Avoid using exclamation points (!) unless stylistically appropriate, e.g. in a quote.
Full stop. Add a full stop the end of a sentence. Do not use:
- At the end of a heading
- At the end of short items in a bulletpoint list
- After titles such as Mr/Mrs/Ms/Dr
- After initials in names (Ms S Kiely)
- In acronyms (UCC, Vhi, ESB, VAT, BBC)
- For am and pm in times (7am, 10.30pm)
- In measurements (km, cm, lb)
Note: after a full stop in a sentence, use a single space, not two spaces.
Hyphen. Hyphens are useful, but try to make one word wherever possible. Use them, however, to avoid confusion. Adjectives take a hyphen when they go before the noun (object) they are describing. Also use a hyphen in prefixes: non-negotiable, re-entry, ex-directory, mid-1990s. Verbs do not take hyphens as in “to break up” but “the break-up”. Hyphenate part-time and full-time.
Quotation marks. Use double quotation marks (scare quotes) when you are quoting someone, and single quotes for quoted words within the quotation. In the case of a complete quoted sentence, place full points and commas inside the quotes. In the case of a partial phrase, place full points and commas outside the quotation. Use double quotation marks for the titles of articles poems news headlines and so on.
Semicolon. Use semicolons to separate items in a series when the items use internal commas.
Apostrophe after words ending in “s” not a double “s’s” to indicate possession. Thus it is, “Robbie Williams’ new album” not “Robbie Williams’s new album“.
7. Words, phrases and spelling
Think of writing web content as having a conversation. Internet language is more informal than the equivalent content for hard copy. If you wouldn’t use a word or phrase in everyday conversation, think twice before using it online.
Here are some examples of the kind of phrase to use lightly: accordingly / in a position to / in accordance with / in excess of / in respect of / in the event that / assist / in the majority of cases / in view of the fact that / in light of the fact that / due to the fact that
Proof-read everything you write, not once but several times. A common practice is to finish and save an article or post, put it away for several hours and then return to it. Upon re-reading you will almost certainly find mistakes in both spelling and grammar, repetitions of words and phrases, extended sentences and so.
8. Additional resources
For queries on the English language – and some others – check Collins’ Free Online Dictionary. For Irish language queries please check the Foclóir, the New English-Irish Dictionary from Foras na Gaeilge, Teanglann, the Dictionary and Language Library, or Téarma, the National Terminology Database for Irish. All are considered authoritative sources for the purposes of the guide.
9. Submitting entries
If you’ve spotted a mistake in the style guide or wish to suggest a change or entry contact ASF through the online Contact form.
Accordingly: Can seem rather formal. Other options include “so” and “therefore” – or nothing.
Acronyms: Always capitalise, unless common usage dictates otherwise. Thus it is “NATO” not “Nato”. Do not include full stops.
Active Service Unit; (ASU): An “active service unit” was the smallest fighting-section of the Irish Republican Army (PIRA) from the mid-1970s to the early 2000s. Normally consisted of four to twelve volunteers. It is based upon an earlier, though far larger, group of the same name formed by the Dublin Brigade and GHQ Intelligence Department of the Irish Republican Army during Ireland’s War of Independence (1919-21).
Advise: Means to give advice. Don’t use it when you mean inform or tell.
Adviser: The correct form. Do not use advisor.
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, The; (APNI): A moderate or liberal centre-right unionist party in the north-east of Ireland. Use the full title in the first instance and the “Alliance” or the acronym, “APNI”, thereafter. Do not describe the party as “non-sectarian” or “cross-community”. Both are debatable terms and confuse its unionist identity. If preferable you may use the terms “pro-union”, “pro-UK” or similar.
Amidst, Amid, Amongst: Should be replaced with “among”, though is sometimes necessary in a legal context. Otherwise, try to avoid it as it can be confusing for the reader.
Anglophone: An English-speaker, known as a “Béarlóir” in the Irish language (plural “Béarlóirí”).
As Of: Is best replaced by “since” or, in the future, “from”.
Bank Holiday: Two words and in lower case, thus “bank holiday”.
Biannual: Means twice a year, while biennial means every two years. Alternatively, use twice-yearly or two-yearly.
Billion: One thousand million, not one million million. Use billion for sums of money, quantities or inanimate objects – so it’s €2.5 billion, 3 billion litres, etc. For people or animals, spell out billion.
Britain: The island and the nation-state. More correctly known as the United Kingdom. Consists of three historical countries or regions: England, Wales and Scotland. Avoid the use of “great” as in “Great Britain”, a late affectation. Do not include the UK Occupied Six Counties in either Britain or the United Kingdom unless referencing a formal title or using in a direct quote.
British Occupation Forces; (BOF): Collective term for the military and paramilitary forces and services of the United Kingdom in Ireland. If required abbreviate as the “British Forces”, the “Occupation Forces” or the “BOF”. By preference restrict use to the period before 1998-2005. After 1998-2005 use the term “British Forces”. This is not a hard-and-fast rule.
Avoid the terms “Security Forces”, “Crown Forces” or similar except in direct quotes. The former is a propaganda term, the latter is an antiquated description. If used elsewhere place these phrases in double quotation marks.
Bunreacht na hÉireann: The Constitution of Ireland. The Irish language term is preferred. Abbreviate to “the Bunreacht”. If further explanation is required say,
“The new amendment to Bunreacht na hÉireann, the Constitution of Ireland, was passed by 55% to 45% vote.”
City: Do not capitalise except in titles. Write “Dublin city” but “Dublin City Council”.
Chair, Chairperson: Not chairman or chairwoman.
Collective Nouns: Describe groups of people or animals – a flock of birds, an orchestra, a committee. Whether they’re singular or plural (“the committee” is or “the committee are”?) depends on what we’re saying about them – is it the committee as a unit, or the committee as a group of individuals?
Other collective nouns include: the board, majority, the public, the staff, the team, the crowd, the firm and the company.
Commence: Is sometimes too formal – consider “begin”.
Communicate: Try to be specific. Write, “phone”, “email” or “tell”.
Compact Disc: CD, CDs and CD-rom.
Complete, Finish: Both are better than finalise.
Comprise: Is rather formal – use “consists of”, “include” or “contain”.
Co-operate, Co-operation, Co-operative: These are preferential to “cooperate”, etc.
Co-ordinate, Co-ordination: These are preferential to “coordinate”, etc.
County: Do not capitalise except in titles, as in “County Dublin”. When abbreviated should be written as Co. (singular) or Cos. (plural).
Cross-Border: Do not capitalise except in titles.
Dáil Éireann: Assembly of Ireland (literal). The lower house of Ireland’s bicameral national legislature. The title does not require the use of “the” before it in a sentence. May be used in conjunction with “an Dáil”.
“The ministers entered Dáil Éireann as the debate on the new regulations began.”
Dáil, An: The Assembly (literal). The lower house of Ireland’s bicameral national legislature. Write, “an Dáil”, avoid “the Dáil” unless used in a direct quote. May be used in conjunction with “Dáil Éireann”.
“The minister made a brief statement before an Dáil, to much cheering.”
Note that the Irish word “an” or “the” is only capitalised at the start of a sentence.
Democratic Unionist Party; (DUP): Currently the largest unionist party in the north-east of Ireland, it sits to the political far right. Use the full title in the first instance and the “Democratic Unionists” or the acronym “DUP” thereafter. The party may be described as “conservative”, “far right”, “extreme” or “militant”. Colloquially known as the “Dupes” or “Dupers”.
Double-quotation marks: If quoting a sentence or a phrase use double quotation marks. Also known as “scare quotes” in the United States. Can also be used to make a word or phrase stand out from the main text. Avoid single quotation marks as these confuse readers.
E.g.: Should be written as “e.g.” with the full stops. Means “for example”. In lists beginning with e.g., don’t end with etc, as etc is not giving an example.
Éire: The Irish language name for the island-nation of Ireland. A geographical and political term for the same entity.
Elderly: The word is acceptable if used occasionally, but people aged over sixty-five prefer the term “older person” or “senior citizen”.
Email: Do not use a hyphen (“e-mail” is incorrect).
Etc: A full stop is not required for “etc”. Don’t use etc after a list preceded by e.g.
Ex-: The term “ex-” is okay for a wife, husband, etc, but less so for job titles or roles. By preference use “former”.
Expect, Anticipate: To “anticipate” is to forestall or to be ready to act to avoid something, while to “expect” is to await or look forward to something.
Farther, Further: The word “further” is for time (a period of time), while “farther” is for distance.
Feedback: A technological term. Use a word that tells the reader what you really want – “suggestions”, “views”, “thoughts”, “ideas”, “comments”, “evaluation” or “criticism”.
Fenian: A general term for an Irish republican, specifically a revolutionary republican. The name dates back to the Fenian Brotherhood of America (FBA), a mid-to-late 19th organisation in the United States and Canada, with branches in several other countries. Its European equivalent was the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), primarily based in Ireland and Britain. These – and their successors – were known collectively as the “Fenian movement” or the “Fenians”.
Fenian is sometimes used as a derogatory term, especially in British and British unionist circles, with a wider application meaning “an Irish (Catholic) person”. In recent years it has come to mean a specific type of progressive republicanism, to the political left or centre-left, socialist or social-democratic in nature.
An Sionnach Fionn is very much a Fenian website.
Fewer (Less): The word “fewer” means a smaller number and is used for things you can count – seven students, three exams, six projects. Less means a smaller quantity and is used for things you cannot count – activity, commitment, trouble.
Finalise: The word “finalise” is spelled with an “s” but it is best avoided. Alternatives include “complete”, “finish”, “conclude”.
First Name: This is the preferred term rather than “Christian name”. The word “forename” may be used if required.
Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly: Use “first”, “second” and “third”. If you make a point using the word first, you must have at least one following point, and you must start it with the word second.
Following: The term is not as good as “after” or “since”.
Garda Síochána na hÉireann: The Peace Guard of Ireland (literal), that is the Irish police service. Commonly abbreviated as “the Garda Síochána” (the Peace Guard), “the Garda” (the Guard) or “the Gardaí” (literally, the Guards). An officer with the Garda Síochána is known as a “garda” (guard), the plural of which is “gardaí” (guards). Note that “Gardaí”, capitalised, is the Guards as a service or organisation while “gardaí”, without capitalisation, is the plural for individual guards. Do not confuse the two.
Get: This word can be too colloquial. Choose a more specific word such as “obtain”, “receive” or “earn”. Don’t use “gotten”, which is an Americanism.
Government: This word should have a capital letter when referring to Ireland, as in in the “Government of Ireland” or “Earlier today the Government announced…”. Otherwise there is no capitalisation.
Grandmother, Grandfather, Grand-aunt, Grand-uncle: Note presence and absence of hyphens.
Hibernophone: An Irish-speaker or “Gaeilgeoir” in the Irish language (plural “Gaeilgeoirí”).
Hi-tech: Abbreviation for “high technology”. Use the full term first and the abbreviation thereafter.
I.E.: The abbreviation is written “i.e.”, with the full stops. It means “that is”.
Initials: These do not need spaces or full points – e.g. Mrs P Murphy, Mr JRR Tolkien.
Initiate: This word is not as good as “begin” or “start”.
Ireland: The sovereign and independent nation-state of Ireland, currently administering the Twenty-Six Counties. The preference on ASF is for “Ireland”. Avoid the partly artificial term “Republic of Ireland” (or the dreaded acronym, “ROI”) unless referring to the 1916-23 revolutionary state or similar historical entities, or using in a direct quote. If required elsewhere use in double quotation marks. In the Irish language the country is “Éire”.
Irish: The people of Ireland, both the inhabitants of the island and the citizens of the nation-state which is coeval with the island. Both plural and singular. In the Irish language the words used are “Éireannach” (plural “Éireannaigh”) and “Gael” (plural “Gaeil”). Both have the same meaning, though the latter carries with it a greater connotation of indigenous Irish identity, whether native or adopted.
Irish: Adjective, of Ireland or of the Irish people, culture, nation, etc.
Irish, Language: The indigenous Celtic language of the island-nation of Ireland, dating back three thousand years to the Late Bronze Age or earlier. The majority and dominant tongue on the island until the 19th century when British colonial policies supplanted it with English. Written as “the Irish language” or simply “Irish”. In its own tongue the language is called “an Ghaeilge” (the Irish) or more colloquially, “Gaeilge” (Irish).
Irish Republican Army; (IRA): Historical revolutionary force in Ireland and elsewhere. Where possible avoid the common acronym “IRA” and use the full title or “the Republican Army”, “the Army”.
Irish Republican Army, Provisional; (PIRA): The “Provisional Irish Republican Army”, was a temporary name adopted by the faction of the Irish Republican Army which supported the formation of the Provisional Army Council in December of 1969. By the mid-1970s the “Provisional” had been dropped by the insurgent force but it remained in common use with the press and politicians. Where possible avoid the common acronym “IRA” and use the full title or “the Republican Army”, “the Army”.
Colloquially known as the “Provos” (singular “Provo”) or “Provies” (disparaging), though where possible avoid this term, excluding direct quotes. If required elsewhere use in double quotations marks.
Islamic State, The; (IS): While other titles were used previously this is the current and preferred title of the grouping.
Island, of Ireland: Ireland is both an island and a nation-state. On ASF the preference is to combine both as in “the island-nation of Ireland” or “here on our island-nation”. Where “island” is used in an article please also make reference to “nation” and “country” in the piece. In the Irish language it is “Éire”.
-ise or -ize: ASF uses the conventional -ise endings as in analyse, centralise, organise and realise.
It’s, Its: The term “it’s” is a shorter version of “it is” or “it has”. The apostrophe shows there is a letter missing. In contrast “its”, with no apostrophe, says something belongs to something or someone.
Judgment: A judicial opinion or final act in a case or court of law.
Learned: Not learnt.
Log-in: A noun word, written like this, with a hyphen. “I used the log-in option.”
Log in: A verb word, written like this, as two words. “I decided to log in to the computer.”
Long-term: This word has a hyphen when it’s describing something else: a long-term programme, but: in the long term.
May, Might: There is a difference between “may” and “might”. May allows for the possibility that something may still happen. Might says it didn’t.
Midday: This is one word and so is midnight, but mid-August, mid-week and mid-term have hyphens.
Million: This word is written after the number as “millions” e.g. $25 million, three million tonnes of supplies, one million people, 23 million rabbits.
Mrs, Miss, Ms: Use whichever the woman in question prefers. With most women in public life (Mrs O’Rourke) that preference is well known. If you don’t know, try to find out; if that proves impossible, use Ms.
Muslim: This word is correct while “Moslem” is not.
No-one, No one: Remember, “no-one” is better than “no one”.
Northern Ireland; (NI): The British name for the UK Occupied Six Counties. Avoid except in titles or direct quotes. If required elsewhere place in double quotation marks.
North of Ireland, the; (NofI): General Irish term for the UK Occupied Six Counties. Where possible abbreviate to “the north” or similar (no capitalisation).
North of Ireland, the British Occupied: The British Occupied North of Ireland. A more pointed alternative to the term, “British-administered north of Ireland”.
North of Ireland, the UK Occupied: The UK Occupied North of Ireland. A more pointed alternative to the term, “UK-administered north of Ireland”.
North-East of Ireland, the UK Occupied: The preferred term on ASF for the Six Counties. It can be used on its own or abbreviated (“the north-east”). Can be qualified as the “British-administered north-east of Ireland” or the “UK-administered north-east of Ireland” and so on.
If required refer to it as a “region” or “area”. Never use the terms “province” or “country” for the Six Counties except in titles or in quotations. If required elsewhere use double quotation marks.
The term “Six Counties” is an acceptable alternative to all of the above, though it should be used in conjunction with the other terms.
Óglaigh na hÉireann; (ÓÉ): The (Military) Volunteers of Ireland (literal), the Irish language name of several organisations in history dating back to the foundation in 1913 of the Irish Volunteers (IV), a nationalist paramilitary force.
Óglaigh na hÉireann; (ÓÉ): Defence Forces Ireland (DFI), an organisation dating variously from 1913, 1916 or 1922 depending on different historical and political interpretations. Officially, the military of Ireland, consisting of three branches: land, sea and air.
Óglaigh na hÉireann; (ÓÉ): Originally the Irish language title for the 1913 Irish Volunteers, which formed the bulk of the 1916-1923 Irish Republican Army. Adopted as the general Irish title for various organisations known in English as the Irish Republican Army.
Older People: This is what people over sixty-five prefer to be called.
Ongoing: Use “continuing”, “continuous” or “continual” instead.
Online: The word is written like this.
Partially: The word is not as good as “partly”.
Part-time: This word is hyphenated as in “a part-time soldier”.
Per cent (Percent): The term should be written “%”, without a space after the number. Avoid beginning a sentence with the figure.
Period of time, a: Avoid incorrect use. A “period of three years” is simply three years.
Persons: Use for more than one person though it is not as good as “people”.
Place Names: Do not capitalise “north”, “south”, etc, unless used as part of a region’s proper name as in “North America” but note, it is “north Dublin”.
Police Service of Northern Ireland; (PSNI): The UK’s paramilitary police force in the north-east of Ireland. Successor to the infamous Royal Ulster Constabulary. Use the full title in the first instance; thereafter use the acronym “PSNI”. Always qualify the use by making reference to the organisation as a “paramilitary police force”.
“The officers of the PSNI, the UK’s paramilitary police force in the north-east of Ireland, have increasingly come under the influence of leading former RUC men.”
Do not use the term “police service” except in titles or direct quotes. If required elsewhere use double quotation marks.
Post-: Like “pre”, is in most cases it is not hyphenated but joined to the word it precedes, as in “prenatal”, “postnatal” and “postgraduate”. When not a prefix, do not use to mean after.
Pre-: As in “prenatal” and “predeceased”, it is not hyphenated, but use a hyphen before a vowel, as in “pre-existing”.
Program, Programme: Use “programme” unless you are referring to computer software. A “government programme”, a “television programme” but a “computer program”.
Publicly: Never “publically”.
PUL: “Protestant Unionist Loyalist”, a common, generally sectarian or communal acronym for the British unionist community in Ireland. Avoid unless in a title or direct quote. If required, use in double quotation marks, “PUL”.
Regularly: The word doesn’t mean “often”. It means “at regular intervals”.
Republican, Irish: A person or organisation believing in a specific form of Irish nationalism, one advocating a republican form of government in a sovereign and independent nation-state of Ireland. Traditionally, anti-establishment, left-wing or progressive. Closely associated with Irish revolutionary politics.
Royal Ulster Constabulary; (RUC): The UK’s former paramilitary police force or militia in the north-east of Ireland. Use the full title in the first instance and the acronym “RUC” thereafter. Always qualify the use by making reference to the organisation as a “paramilitary police force” or “police militia”.
“The men of the RUC, the UK’s former paramilitary police force in the north-east of Ireland, were increasingly under the influence of the British terror factions.”
“The men of the RUC, the UK’s former police militia in the north-east of Ireland, were increasingly under the influence of the British terror factions.”
Avoid where possible references to “RUC officers”. Instead, use “RUC men” or “RUC man”, etc.
Emphasis the force’s sectarian or communal nature and closeness to the British terror factions. Note that it was “disbanded” as part of the Peace Process of the 1990s and early 2000s.
Do not use the term “police service” except in titles or direct quotes. If required elsewhere use double quotation marks.
Schoolboy, Schoolgirl, Schoolchild, Schoolchildren: All are written like this – but write “school-leaver”.
Short-term: Has a hyphen when used as an adjective. However note the use of “in the short term”.
Side-effects: As written.
Significant: Has a precise meaning when used to indicate statistical significance, but in general is overused. If you mean important, big or substantial, then use those words instead – or don’t use any adjective.
Sinn Féin; (SF): The historical Irish republican party dating from the 1916-23 revolution. Abbreviate as “SF”. To specify the era being referred to you may state “historical Sinn Féin”, “revolutionary Sinn Fein”, “revolutionary-era Sinn Féin”, etc.
Sinn Féin; (SF) – (Provisional Sinn Féin): A contemporary centre-left Irish republican party. Formerly “Provisional Sinn Féin”. Abbreviate as “SF”. Avoid the derogatory terms “Shinners”, “Provos”, “Provies” except in direct quotes. If required please place in quotation marks.
Six Counties, The; (6 Cos.): The British Occupied North-East of Ireland. Should be used in conjunction with the terms “north-east” and the “north”.
State, The: The word should have a capital letter when referring to Ireland, as in “the State”, but not when it’s an adjective, as in “state exams”, a “state benefit”. On ASF the preferred term is “the Republic” rather than “the State”.
Tánaiste na hÉireann: Deputy-Premier of Ireland. The deputy head of government in Ireland. The formal title, not generally encountered. Use sparingly. Does not use “the” before the title.
“Despite her recent troubles Tánaiste na hÉireann, Joan Burton, opened the exhibition on Friday with a rousing speech to the gathered crowds.”
Tánaiste, An: The Deputy-Premier. The deputy head of government in Ireland. Generally considered the informal and more common title. Write “an Tánaiste ” not “the Tánaiste “.
“Despite recent speculations an Tánaiste, Joan Burton, declined to answer any questions from the press on her first day at the inquiry.”
Taoiseach na hÉireann: Premier of Ireland. The head of government in Ireland. The formal title, not generally encountered. Use sparingly. Does not use “the” before the title.
“Despite his recent troubles Taoiseach na hÉireann, Enda Kenny, opened the exhibition on Friday with a rousing speech to the gathered crowds.”
Taoiseach, An: The Premier. The head of government in Ireland. Generally considered the informal and more common title. Write “an Taoiseach” not “the Taoiseach”.
“Despite recent speculations an Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, declined to answer any questions from the press on his first day at the inquiry.”
Till, ’til: Use the word “until”.
Ulster Defence Association; (UDA): A legal British terror group in the north-east of Ireland, and the lawful public face of the Ulster Freedom Fighters. Use the full title in the first instance and the acronym “UDA-UFF” thereafter by linking to the latter grouping.
“The Ulster Defence Association, the legal face of the Ulster Freedom Fighters, enjoyed great success in its fund-raising efforts. Through its criminal enterprises the UDA-UFF was able to purchase arms and explosives for its terror campaign.”
Emphasis that the UDA was a “legal terrorist organisation” until the 1990s.
“Despite pressure from Dublin and Washington, the authorities in London and Belfast refused to ban the UDA-UFF for nearly two decades, granting it the relatively unique status as one of the few terrorist groups to have operated legally anywhere in the Western world”.
“The UDA-UFF’s lawful status emphasised in the eyes of many it role as an arm of Britain’s counter-insurgency war in Ireland.”
Always qualify the use of “UDA-UFF” by making reference to the group as a “terrorist”, “terror”, “extremist” or “militant” faction. Never refer to it as “paramilitary” or “guerrilla” group.
The preferred terms are “group”, “gang”, “faction” rather than organisation.
UDA-UFF members are “gunmen”, “bombers”, “killers”, “murderers”, “men”, etc. They are not “activists”, “guerrillas”, etc.
Emphasis group’s links to the British Occupation Forces and government, at least in the recent past.
“The UDA-UFF men, part of the UK’s counter-insurgency war in Ireland, attacked the homes later that night.”
“By the early 1970s the UDA-UFF had been partially incorporated into Britain’s counter-insurgency machine.”
Ulster Defence Regiment; (UDR): Formerly a unit of the British Army, locally recruited and based among the British unionist community in the north-east of Ireland. Use the full title in the first instance and the acronym “UDR” thereafter. Describe as a “British Army militia”, “British militia”, etc. Avoid “regiment” or “unit”. Members of the UDR are “UDR men” or “British Army soldiers”. Adjectives “feared”, “infamous”, “loathed” may be used.
Ulster Freedom Fighters; (UFF): See Ulster Defence Association, UDA.
Ulster: The ancient province covering all or most of the northern quarter of the island-nation of Ireland. The modern version consists of nine counties: Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan, Fermanagh, Tyrone, Derry, Antrim, Down and Armagh. Six of those counties, Fermanagh, Tyrone, Derry, Antrim, Down and Armagh, were partitioned by the United Kingdom from the rest of Ulster and Ireland in 1920-23 and remain under UK occupation. The term “Ulster” should be avoided unless referring to the nine county entity. Do not refer to the British Occupied Six Counties as “Ulster”, though “north-east Ulster” may be used.
Ulster Resistance; (UR): The former terrorist wing of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), founded by senior figures associated with the political party, the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster (a Christian denomination founded by the DUP leader Ian Paisley) and various militant factions. Use the full title “Ulster Resistance” in the first instance and the acronym “UR” thereafter.
Describe the organisation as the, “Ulster Resistance, the former terrorist wing of the DUP,…”
Ulster Unionism: see Unionism, British. Avoid the term “Ulster unionism” except in titles or direct quotes (e.g. the Ulster Unionist Party, and so on). If required elsewhere place in double quotations marks.
Ulster Unionist: see Unionist, British. Avoid the term “Ulster unionist” except in titles or direct quotes (e.g. the Democratic Unionist Party, and so on). If required elsewhere place in double quotations marks.
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; (UKGB&NI): Technically, the full and correct name for the nation-state of Britain. Use the half-name “United Kingdom” in the first instance and the acronym “UK” thereafter. Do not use the full name except in titles or direct quotes. If required elsewhere place in quotation marks.
Ulster Unionist Party; (UUP): Formerly the largest unionist party in the north-east of Ireland, it sits to the political right. Use the full title in the first instance and the acronym “UUP” thereafter. Avoid the term “Ulster Unionists” as it tends to confuse between party and community.
Ulster Volunteer Force; (UVF): A British terror group in the north-east of Ireland. Use the full title in the first instance and the acronym “UVF” thereafter. Always qualify the use by making reference to the group as a “terrorist”, “terror”, “extremist” or “militant” faction. Never refer to it as “paramilitary” or “guerrilla” group.
The preferred terms are “group” or “faction” rather than organisation.
UVF members are “gunmen”, “bombers”, “killers”, “murderers”, “men”. They are not “activists”, “guerrillas”, etc.
Emphasis group’s links to the British Occupation Forces and government, at least in the recent past.
“The UVF men, part of the UK’s counter-insurgency war in Ireland, attacked the homes later that night.”
“By the early 1970s the UVF had been partially incorporated into Britain’s counter-insurgency machine.”
Unionism, British: Unionism is a particular, occasionally militant or expansionist form of UK nationalism. In an Irish context it refers to the politics or ideology of the British unionist minority on the island-nation of Ireland, a pro-UK separatist community descended in part from colonists who emigrated from Britain in the 1600s.
Unionist, British: An advocate or practitioner of unionism, a particular, occasionally militant or expansionist form of UK nationalism. In an Irish context it refers – in broad terms – to the British unionist minority on the island-nation of Ireland, a pro-UK separatist community descended in part from colonists who emigrated from Britain in the 1600s. Should be written as “unionist” and “unionists”, no capitalisation.
United Ireland: General or common description for the reunification of the island-nation of Ireland, ending British-enforced partition, an imposition which dates to the early 1920s. By preference use terms like “a reunited Ireland”, “the reunification of Ireland”, “Ireland reunited” etc. Avoid or minimise use of “united Ireland” except in titles or direct quotations.
Volunteer, (Military): A (military) volunteer in Ireland is historically defined as a member of a nationalist and republican revolutionary or guerrilla force. In the Irish language it is written as óglach (plural óglaigh). The Irish language version is generally preferred, even when writing in English. Insurgents with several underground organisations styling themselves as the Irish Republican Army in the 20th and 21st centuries are known as volunteers or óglaigh.
Web: Written “the Web” with capitalisation.
Website: The term is written as “website”, no capitalisation and as one word.
Whilst: This word is not as good as “while”.
Worldwide: The term has no hyphen.
Workplace: The term has no hyphen.