M

Majority

Overused. If you’re claiming something is in the majority, you should have the figures to back it up – in which case, you’re better off quoting the figures precisely anyway.

Mayors

Mayors attend hundreds of events every year, so their arrival at a fete or a village shop is not a unique occurrence worthy of mention in your intro. If the Mayor turned up, say so – but find a better, stronger angle about the real people involved in an event to lead with. When booking pictures, make sure photographers are briefed to take shots without the Mayor in them, otherwise the same face will be beaming out of every page in your newspaper.

Medical

Be specific when dealing with medical terms but explain them simply. Care needs to be used in references to the disabled to ensure no unkind or hurtful phrase is used. There is a difference between viruses and bacteria. If in doubt, ask a contact at the NHS for help.

Infectious/contagious. Contagious: disease spread by contact. Infectious: disease spread by air/water.

Doctors are customarily given the prefix Dr, and most surgeons are Mr. However, as some are also doctors it is wise to check. Cut out jargon in your stories: fractured means broken, lacerations are cuts, contusions are bruises, haemorrhage is bleeding, abrasions are grazes. Cap P for the Pill, as in contraceptive.

 

N

New

Much of what we write about is “new”. The word is not banned, but be careful with it as it’s easy to overuse. If houses are being built in Medway, it’s a fair bet that they are going to be new ones (how many old houses do you see being constructed?)

Not to mention...

It seems like a nice little literary flourish - but what's the point of saying you won't mention something, and then going ahead and mentioning it anyway? Save yourself the words and energy.

Numbers

All numbers at the start of a sentence should be written in full. One to nine should be in words and 10 and above in numerals (all numbers should be in numerals for headlines).

Use commas in large numbers, e.g. 10,000 or 100,000. Simplify larger numbers by writing £1 million, or £1.7 million. Both £1m and £1 million are acceptable. Round large figures up or down unless the exact number is relevant.

A billion is a thousand million.

Always convert Roman numerals into normal figures, with the exception of monarchs (eg Henry VIII) and listed buildings, which are Grade I or Grade II

 

O

Occasions

Don't say "on two separate occasions" or "on two different occasions"... just "on two occasions" is better. Often just "twice" will do the trick.

Of no fixed abode

Police jargon. Say of no address.

Olde English

Avoid at all costs - it just sounds twee and false.

Over

Don't use it to compare figures, e.g. Over 400 people attended the fair. It's nonsense that has worked its way into common use. Use “more than” for comparisons of figures. Of course, it's fine to say the kite flew over the pub.

 

P

Per annum

Say “a year”

Per cent

Use “per cent” rather than “percent” or % - but the symbol is ok in headlines.

The annoying habit of saying someone gave “110 per cent” will have to be put up with in direct quotes (if nothing better has been said - and you should try hard to get something better), but never use it in your text.

Planning committees

These are a hive of jargon so avoid turning native and writing about how the "dwelling is considered to have an excellent visual amenity and good access to local facilities" when you can just say it has a good view and is next door to the grocer's.

Planning documents will often refer to categories of buildings, listed below:

A1 - retail
A2 - financial and professional services
A3 - restaurants and cafes
A4 - drinking establishments
A5 - Hot food takeaways
B1 - Business
B2 - General Industrial
B8 - storage or distribution
C1 - hotels
C2 - residential institutions
C2a - secure residential institutions
C3 - Dwelling houses
D1 - non-resident institutions
D2 - Assembly and leisure

Post mortem

Means “after death”. Officially the term for tests on a corpse should be “post mortem examination” but newspapers now abbreviate this to “post mortem” without trouble.

Prestigious award

Will appear in many news releases. The South East London Annual Hair Dressing Assistant of the Year awards are not prestigious, even if the press release says so. The Oscars are prestigious - but there's no need to tell readers that, they already know.

Principle/principal

A principal is the head teacher of a school or college. Use head teacher. It can also lead to the lead role in a theatrical performance, or an original loan or investment.

A principle is a fundamental truth.

Programme/program

Programmes are bought before football matches or theatrical shows, or are shown on television. Computers run programs.

Puns

Use them sparingly and with care. In headlines only very clever ones can be effective; most embarrass the paper. It is better to avoid them than strain for effect by distorting words or changing their spelling. Over-done puns include Paws for thought, Eggs-traordinary. 

Purchase

Just use "buy"

M to P