a Catalan, not Spanish, name; note the accent
no need to call it “the social networking site” every time – we know what it is
not a trivial fact, but a mistaken assumption repeated so often that it is believed to be true (a word coined by Norman Mailer, who defined it as “something that everyone knows is true, except it ain’t!”)
the Cup (the cap C is hallowed by convention); all other cups lc at second mention
use in brackets, without degree symbol, after celsius figure, eg 37C (98.6F); to convert, multiply the celsius temperature by 1.8, then add 32; alternatively, double the celsius figure, subtract one-tenth of that figure, and add 32; or you could save yourself the bother by using a conversion website
Ireland’s tourism authority
The Fairtrade mark is a certification system run by the Fairtrade Foundation; products are entitled to be called Fairtrade (cap F) if they meet the following criteria: a price that covers producers’ costs, a premium for producers to invest in their communities, and long-term and more direct trading relations; fair trade refers to the movement as a whole, eg only fair trade will enable farmers in developing countries to become self-sufficient
noun and adjective; but fairy story
may be called religious schools without fear of divine retribution
word favoured by politicians to make them sound caring and concerned (“hard-working families”), which doesn’t mean we have to do so, as in this 2010 Guardian splash headline: “Families face nuclear tax on power bills”.
As a reader pointed out: “So don’t older people, single people, etc, face the same tax? ... the implicit attitude [is] that those not part of families are of secondary significance.” Quite
not family-sized, fun-sized
If something’s famous, you don’t need to tell people; if you need to tell people something’s famous, it isn’t.
“Famously” is typically used to mean one of two things:
I know everyone knows this, but I can’t think of an original way to start so I am going to say it anyway.
Harold Macmillan, asked what the biggest challenge is for any leader, famously replied: “Events, my dear boy, events.”
You don’t know this? I do. That shows I am clever and know lots of stuff you don’t.
Reich famously declined to continue in academia, preferring to support himself via a series of blue-collar jobs.
From a reader: “Please can you rein in the many writers who insist on dropping the word famously into their copy ... as in famously overused, famously redundant or famously not really famous at all.”
A preferable alternative to “famously” is “memorably”, which at least suggests that you remember it, rather than assuming that everyone does or should
fanbase, fanbelt, fanclub, fanmail
if you describe Ukip supporters in this way (not Farageists, even though they are followers of Nigel Farage)
adverb; faraway adjective: she moved to a faraway place, and now lives far away
it stands for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia; note the definite article
but east Asia or south-east Asia is preferable
not farm labourer
or just Faroes
a hotchpotch or jumbled mixture; not synonymous with fiasco (a humiliating failure)
language spoken by the majority of Iranians (not Persian)
farther or further?
farther and farthest are the comparative and superlative of far as in distance (eg farther away, the farthest point north): “a few miles farther, and we will reach the farthest point”.
further and furthest are the comparative and superlative of far as in degree (eg further discussion, the candidate furthest to the left)
not facism, facist, careless but common errors
collections should be spelled out with slashes (spring/summer 2014 or autumn/winter 2013) everywhere except captions and web furniture, where SS14 and AW13 are acceptable if necessary.
companies are singular: Temperley has presented full-length silk gowns; Dolce & Gabbana is hiring a new chief financial officer, etc.
fashion weeks like this: London fashion week, Milan fashion week, etc
noun; fast-track verb
deadly; fateful momentous
“The fateful game arrived. It was to prove fatal for Wednesday’s hopes of promotion”
a fatality is worse than death, and like most euphemisms best avoided
should be used sparingly, even if writing about overweight moggies
father of two, mother of two
etc (no hyphens); only describe people in this way if relevant
an edict, not necessarily a death sentence
a fete worse than death
overwhelmed; phased stage
“Everything seemed to faze him, but it was just a phase”
Federal Bureau of Investigation; no need to spell out
what the former First Division Association now calls itself; you will need to say it is the senior civil servants’ union or no one will know who you are talking about; note that FDA also stands for the US food and drug administration
Arab fighters (the word means those who risk their lives for a cause); can be capped up when referring to a specific force, eg the Saddam Fedayeen militia, which fought coalition forces in the 2003 Iraq war
at first reference, the Fed thereafter
fed up with
not fed up of
lc, eg a fellow of All Souls, fellow artist, fellow members, etc (and do not hyphenate)
not “woman” or “women” in such phrases as female home secretary, female voters
female genital mutilation
not “female circumcision”
ferment or foment?
You ferment alcohol, but foment unrest
no need for a cap F, although the first was built by George Washington Gale Ferris Jr for the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893
lc, whether artistic or sporting: Cannes film festival, Cheltenham festival, Edinburgh festival fringe, London jazz festival, etc
fewer or less?
fewer means smaller in number, eg fewer coins; less means smaller in quantity, eg less money
male, fiancee female; but note divorcee is both male and female
Irish political party
like debacle and farce, overused in news stories: who says it’s a fiasco?
lower leg bone, plural fibulas; also Latin for brooch or clasp, plural fibulae
but with initial capitals when used as a title, for example Field Marshal John Smith
Spell out from one to nine; numerals from 10 to 999,999; thereafter 1m, 3.2bn (except for people and animals, eg 2 billion viewers, 8 million cattle); spell out ordinals from first to ninth, thereafter 10th, 31st, etc
filmgoer, film-maker, film star
TM; use personal organiser unless you are sure
avoid; use complete, completed or finish, finished
Financial Conduct Authority
FCA on second mention
Irish political party
fire brigade, fire service
lc, eg Cheshire fire brigade
do not use to describe a military skirmish
the people who do the firing; if they are aiming at you, you are in the line of fire not in the firing line
strictly a partnership without limited liability, such as solicitors or accountants, but may be used in place of company in headlines
first, second, third
rather than firstly, secondly, thirdly, etc; spell out up to ninth, then 10th, 21st, millionth
first floor, second floor
In the UK, the first floor you come to when you go upstairs is the first floor (the clue is in the name); the second floor is the one above that
(Scottish parliament, Welsh assembly, Northern Ireland assembly)
first name, forename, given name
not Christian name.
Use one on first mention, but not subsequently, except for people under 18.
Avoid just initials, unless that is how a person is known – TS Eliot, DBC Pierre, etc.
In stories about more than one member of a family, for example where two brothers appear in a court case, first names can be used to distinguish between them.
Occasionally, using first names in features or interviews will strike the most appropriate tone
first world war, second world war
preferable to fish stocks
rather than fisherman/fishermen
fission or fusion?
In nuclear fission, the nucleus of an atom splits to produce two smaller elements often releasing free subatomic particles and energy.
In nuclear fusion, two or more atomic nuclei come together and combine. In the process some of their mass is converted into large amounts of energy. Fusion is the reaction that powers the sun
avoid using this term to describe a seizure
fit for purpose
cliche that quickly proved itself unfit for the purpose of good writing
fit the bill
not fill the bill
Abbreviate to “twigs” on second mention
a flagship is a ship, a “flagship store” would be a store where one bought flagships, and a “flagship local authority” is a cliche
rather than inflammable (although, curiously, they mean the same thing); the negative is non-flammable
computer memory that can be erased and reprogrammed, used for example in mobile phones, digital cameras and MP3 players
All TVs nowadays are flatscreen, so the adjective is unnecessary
flaunt or flout?
to flaunt is to make a display of something, as in flaunting wealth; to flout is to show disregard for something, as in flouting the seatbelt law.
Think of Max Bialystock in The Producers admiring a white Rolls-Royce in the street: “That’s it, baby, when you’ve got it, flaunt it, flaunt it!” Then think of Bialystock and Bloom, his partner, flouting the law – as well as the principles of good taste – by staging Springtime for Hitler
flood water, flood waters
but rainwater, wastewater; also, flood plain, flood plains
Normally indoors, apart from in expressions such as forest floor and ocean floor. If, say, a policeman knocks you over, you fall on to the ground, not the floor, although you might say you have been floored.
In the UK, the ground floor is at street level and the first floor is one level up
Florence + the Machine
not “and” or “&”
whether in a tank, or on the stock market
flotsam and jetsam
The former is cargo or wreckage found floating in the sea; the latter (originally a variant of jettison) is stuff that has been thrown overboard. Used together to mean odds and ends
flounder or founder?
to flounder is to perform a task badly, like someone stuck in mud; to founder is to fail: a business might be foundering because its bosses are floundering
abbreviation of forecastle, and a surviving entry from the 1928 “Style-book of the Manchester Guardian”
focus, focused, focusing
not fogy or fogies
folklore, but folk song
after is preferable, eg Wednesday went to pieces after their latest relegation
noun; follow up verb
receptacle for baptism, digital file (originally a foundry) that contains a typeface; fount of all knowledge and wisdom
abbreviation for football, but note that in Australia (particularly Victoria), footy is what they call Australian rules football
for all its worth
but for what it’s worth
The former means for all (of) its worth (of is implied), as in for all (of) its value; the latter is a contraction of for all it is worth
refrain; forebear ancestor: “I forbear from blaming my forebears for my family’s lack of ambition”
Use accents on French, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Irish Gaelic words – and, if at all possible, on people’s names in any language, eg Sven-Göran Eriksson (Swedish), Béla Bartók (Hungarian). This may be tricky in the case of some languages but we have had complaints from readers that it is disrespectful to foreign readers to, in effect, misspell their names
The French (or French origin) de or le and the Dutch van are normally lowercase when the name is full out: eg Charles de Gaulle, Graeme le Saux, Giovanni van Bronckhorst; but De Gaulle, Le Saux, Van Bronckhorst when written without forenames.
Note that the Belgian former president of the European council is Herman Van Rompuy (uppercase V), and the French National Rally leader is Marine Le Pen (uppercase L).
The Italian De or Di is normally uppercase, eg Antonio Di Natale
abbreviated to FCDO not FO, as its official name is Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
Style for foreign placenames evolves with common usage. Leghorn has become Livorno, and maybe one day München will supplant Munich, but not yet. Remember that many names have become part of the English language: Geneva is the English name for the city that Switzerland’s French speakers refer to as Genève and its German speakers call Genf.
Accordingly, we opt for locally used names, with these main exceptions (the list is not exhaustive, apply common sense): Archangel, Basel, Berne, Brittany, Catalonia, Cologne, Dunkirk, Florence, Fribourg, Genoa, Gothenburg, Hanover, Lombardy, Milan, Munich, Naples, Normandy, Nuremberg, Padua, Piedmont, Rome, Sardinia, Seville, Sicily, Syracuse, Turin, Tuscany, Venice, Zurich.
The late Muammar Gaddafi renamed Libya “The Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriyya”, but it never really caught on.
foreign political parties
In general, we use the English translation of a political party if (a) that is how it is most commonly known in the English-speaking world, or (b) the party’s name in its own language is not easy for readers to translate themselves. Otherwise, we use the name of the party in its own language. All initialisms are in the party’s own language.
Christian Democratic Union, or Christian Democrats (CDU); (Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands, in German)
Social Democratic party, or Social Democrats (SPD); (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, in German)
Alternative für Deutschland (AfD)
Stand up (Aufstehen)
La République En Marche (La REM) (Republic on the Move, in English)
National Rally (RN) (Rassemblement National, in French; formerly Front National)
France Unbowed (La France Insoumise, in French)
Citizens party (Ciudadanos, in Spanish)
People’s party (Partido Popular, in Spanish, PP)
Podemos (We Can, in English)
Spanish Socialist Workers’ party (PSOE)
Syriza (Greek acronym for Coalition of the Radical Left)
To Potami (The River, in English)
foreign words and phrases
Italicise, with roman translation in brackets, if it really is a foreign word or phrase and not an anglicised one, in which case it is roman with no accents (exceptions: exposé, lamé, paté, résumé, roué). Remember Orwell: do not use a foreign word where a suitable English equivalent exists
is not a synonym for scientific. It derives from forum (Latin for court) and that is what it means: all evidence in court is forensic. A forensic scientist is one whose work is done for legal purposes (so a page 1 headline in which we referred to “new forensic evidence” should have said “new scientific evidence”). Forensic medicine means medical jurisprudence
take initial capital, eg Black Forest, Epping Forest, New Forest
in the UK; elsewhere, use the term that is most common, eg bushfires in Australia, wildfires in the US. If you’re not sure about other countries, use wildfires as the default
continually: he is forever changing his mind
for always: I will love you for ever
avoid: we said police recruits might be forced to work “for free”; it would have been more elegant to say “for nothing”
go without; past tense forwent, past participle forgone
go before; forego, past tense forewent, past participle foregone (as in “foregone conclusion”)
in a formal manner; formerly in the past: “He formerly dressed formally, but now he’s a slob.”
Everyone knows this, but they are frequently mixed up
former Soviet republics
Armenia adjective Armenian
Azerbaijan adjective Azerbaijani (though there are ethnic Azeris in, eg, Armenia)
Belarus adjective Belarusian
Estonia adjective Estonian (Estonia did not join the Commonwealth of Independent States)
Georgia adjective Georgian
Kazakhstan adjective Kazakh
Kyrgyzstan adjective Kyrgyz
Latvia adjective Latvian (not in the commonwealth)
Lithuania adjective Lithuanian (not in the commonwealth)
Moldova adjective Moldovan
Russia adjective Russian
Tajikistan adjective Tajik
Turkmenistan adjective Turkmen (its citizens are Turkmen, singular Turkman)
Ukraine adjective Ukrainian (not “the Ukraine”)
Uzbekistan adjective Uzbek
plural formulas, but formulae in a scientific context
in copy; F1 is fine in headlines and standfirsts
by chance, not by good fortune. The same football commentators who ruled that deflections must always be described as “wicked” also decided that fortunate or lucky does not sound as impressive as fortuitous.
If we use the word correctly, it is entirely fortuitous
founder or flounder?
A business will typically founder (think of a sinking ship) because its managers flounder (think of a drowning man)
(not font) of knowledge
Fourth of July
Family Planning Association at first mention, thereafter the FPA, although the organisation has decided to style itself “fpa” (lc, no definite article) in its literature and on its website
fellow of the Royal Academy; FRS fellow of the Royal Society
two-thirds, five-eighths, etc, but two and a half, three and three-quarters, etc.
However, use 1⁄3, 3⁄4 in tables, recipes, etc.
Do not mix fractions and percentages in the same story
le français is the French language, le Français the French man
the monster’s creator, not the monster
has become a cliche to describe GM food; do not use
free climbing, free climber
climbing using ropes and protection, but only to protect against injury in falls and not to assist progress - compare with free solo climbing
freedom of information
But Freedom of Information Act. FoI when abbreviated
Freemasonry, the Freemasons, Freemason, Mason
for the semi-secret society and its members; but masonic, adjective referring to Freemasonry and its practices
as in giving free rein to one’s ideas – the expression comes from holding a horse’s reins loosely
Even if you disapprove of them, there is no need to use quotation marks or call them “so-called free schools” in news stories.
Free schools are outside local authority oversight, not “local authority control”. No schools are directly under local authority control, although local authorities oversee admissions and standards at some schools
free solo climbing, free solo climber
climbing without ropes or protection. Can be abbreviated to free soloing, free soloist - compare with free climbing
french fries, french horn, french kiss, french letter, french polish, french toast, french window, but French bulldog
an overseas département of France on the Caribbean coast of South America; do not confuse with Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, or Guinea-Bissau, which are all in Africa, or Guyana, which is also in South America
British artist, not Lucien
curious adverb defined by the OED as “in a friendly manner, like a friend”
no quotation marks necessary
Friends of the Earth
abbreviated to FoE after first mention
TM; if in doubt, call it a flying disc
frontbench, frontline, frontman, frontrunner
folk and roots music magazine. Do not delete the f
a word frequently misspelt (in the Guardian and elsewhere) as “fuschia”; it may help to note that it is named after a botanist called Fuchs
not “a good, honest old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon word” (as it is often described) because there is no such thing as an Anglo-Saxon word (they spoke Old English) and, more important, its first recorded use dates from 1278.
Use only when relevant, typically when quoting someone; can be spelt out in full, although “the F-word” offers an alternative
overused as a verb, although handy in headlines
fulfil, fulfilling, fulfilment
(or for that matter “full-time father”) should be avoided, as it implies that parents who go to work aren’t full-time parents
Not a fancy word for full, it indicates cloying, lavish excess, as in this eloquent description in the London Review of Books, by Rosemary Hill, of books about the Queen Mother: “His biography was pious to a degree and, like his equally fulsome edition of her letters, much too long.”
This sorely misused word is most often seen in the phrase “fulsome praise”, which should not be used in a complimentary sense