Contractions

Do not use don’t, isn’t, won’t, aren’t etc unless they are in a direct, verbatim quote. Exceptions are personalised columns, comment and light off-diary stories.

Exclamation marks

Exclamation marks should never be used in text for emphasis. If something is funny, the reader will laugh. If it’s not funny, the exclamation mark isn’t going to convince them otherwise. They can be used in quotes after exclamations like “Oh!”

Hyphens

Make sure you do not leave out hyphens from compound nouns or adjectives, as it can create confusion. E.g. "A white bearded man" has white skin and a beard, while a "white-bearded man" has a white beard.

It is correct to use three-year-old girl or to describe her as a three-year-old. It is wrong to says she is three-years-old, drop the hyphens.

Quotes

Use double quotes when quoting someone, e.g. Jane Smith said: “The fire was so hot it scorched my eyebrows.”

Use single quotes for a quote within a quote, e.g. Jane Smith said: “I heard someone shout ‘everybody out!’ and then there was an explosion.”

Note where the full stop goes. For a quote that is a complete sentence it goes inside the quote marks. For quotes that form part of a longer sentence, put the full stop outside of the quote marks.

Never use quotes for titles of films, books, plays, songs, poems, shows, TV and radio programmes, competitions etc.

Never use a quote without first identifying the speaker. Remember that the normal laws of libel govern quotes. Putting quotes round a defamatory word or phrase in a headline is no defence in a libel action.

Stick to using "said" when introducing most direct quotes. Alternatives like stressed, emphasised, pointed out, retorted, exclaimed, declared, stated, rapped etc should be avoided in hard news stories - they can give a false impression of tone. Watch out for others like claimed and insisted which can carry overtones of doubt (note the difference between: the fire was arson, police said and the fire was arson, police claimed).

If you are going to use “added”, make sure the following quote is short... it looks silly if what is added is another four paragraphs of waffle.

Other phrases, when appropriate, can be used sparingly in features, but make sure they accurately reflect the tone of the interview.

Contractions, exclamations, hyphens, and quotes