Leatherwood Online
Tasmania's Journal of Discovery

Print this page


Style guide

Just about all media newsrooms use a style guide of some kind, to guide the writing of journalists. Style is a combination of grammatical rules, journalistic convention and the individual preferences of editors. This guide will assist you to ensure that work published with Leatherwood Online is consistently correct in terms of grammar and style. Contributors need to ensure that writing does not contain elements that may confuse or irritate the reader. Clear, correct style is essential in this process.

Leatherwood Online has put this guide together to help writers with some basic rules that will ensure consistency for the online publication. This is by no means a comprehensive listing and it will be updated whenever style or usage issues arise. It is necessary for contributors to familiarise themselves with this style guide when undertaking a writing project for Leatherwood Online.

Key words

These key words should guide your writing:
Consistency, clarity, simplicity, brevity, logical structure.


Standard number style is: One to nine (in words); then 10, 11, 12… (in numerals).

Sentences should not begin with a numeral.

Use a comma between numbers greater than 999 — i.e. 1,000, 100,000, etc.

For millions of dollars, use $10 million.

Never use an apostrophe in, for example, the 1960s. This is a simple plural, not a possessive.

Dates should be day-month-year — 2 August 2002. Note that there is no punctuation. Never use "the 2nd of August".


Seasons, such as spring and winter, do not require capital first letters (ie, do not write “Spring”).


Use standard Australian spelling (not American spelling). For example, colour, harbour, etc (not –or). Travelling, not traveling. Catalogue, not catalog. Use centre and theatre, not center and theater. NEVER use "gotten" instead of "got".

Use –ise, not –ize, for example. recognise, organise.

Dr, Ms, Mr, etc, should not have a full-stop .

NSW, QC and other acronyms should not have full-stops between letters and should not have apostrophes for plurals (QCs).

Minimise use of capital letters and only use them to start proper nouns.

"Criteria" is a plural. Use "criterion" for the singular.

"Phenomena" is plural; "phenomenon" is singular.

Collective nouns take singular verbs and pronouns - eg, "CSIRO is doing this research" (not "are").

Try as much as possible to stick to journalistic past tense - use "said" rather than "says" for attribution.

Avoid synonyms of "said" such as "added".

Always attribute matters of fact to the source. Use direct quotes to give authority.

"Myriad" is not a quantity, therefore you will NOT write "the reef had a myriad of fish". The correct use of this beautiful adjective is, for example, "the reef had myriad fish".


Always ensure that sentences have a finite verb — that is, a verb that can be altered to show past, present or future tense. Do not use the word "being" as the operating verb of a sentence — it is not a finite verb.

Refamiliarise yourselves with Subject-Verb-Object (active voice) sentence structure and Object-Verb-Agent (passive voice) sentence structure. Use active voice where possible.


Use per cent, not percent or %.

For Australian dollars, use $100. For American dollars use $US100.

The exception. When you are writing about different currencies (for example, a story about a Tasmanian export business) refer to each with attribution, ie, $A and $US.

Use "km" for both singular and plural forms of kilometre. For example: "The house was one km from the shop" and "The house was 10km from the shop".

Likewise for the abbreviations of millimetre, kilogram, metre, etc.

Use the metric system — ie, it is a two-metre shark, not an eight-foot shark.

When referring to temperature use the abbreviated version. For example, “Oceans in the tropics are now 1.5°C warmer than they were 100 years ago.” If you use a PC and your editor uses a Mac, you may want to spell it out in parentheses to avoid formatting confusion. For example, “Oceans in the tropics are now 1.5°C (1.5 degrees Celsius) warmer than they were 100 years ago.”


No exclamation marks. Ever.

Please revise correct use of commas and apostrophes. Take special care with apostrophes, which have quite simple, but often abused, rules. For example, it is NOT correct to write the following: "I got my video's from the shop". This is a simple plural, not a possessive, so does not have an apostrophe. The word is "videos".

Use double quotation marks around direct quotes (" ") and single marks for quotes within quotes.

Do not use a comma before a verb unless it is to insert a non-essential phrase or clause and therefore ends with a comma. For example. "The woman, who was increasingly impatient, waited in line." In this case, the phrase "who was increasingly impatient" must be opened and closed with a comma to mark the fact that it is an addition to the sentence that could be removed without damaging the S-V-O sentence structure.


Italicise newspapers and magazines (The Mercury, the Herald Sun, New Scientist); books (Gould’s Book of Fish); poems (Mulga Bill’s Bicycle); plays (Death and the Maiden); movies (Muriel’s Wedding); TV programmes (Bananas in Pyjamas); art works (Van Gough’s Irises); song titles, music and website titles.

Leatherwood Online’s subtitle, Tasmania’s Journal of Discovery, is always capitalised.

Our web site is called Leatherwood Online. The address of the website is www.leatherwoodonline.com. Do not use www.leatherwoodonline.com as the web site title.


A simple rule: DON'T USE.


Do not use double-spacing at the end of sentences, use a single space only.

For more information, refer to George Orwell's great essay, Politics and the English Language. He outlines six timeless principles for writing:

  • Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing (or hearing)
  • Never use a long word when a short word will do
  • If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out
  • Never use the passive when you can use the active
  • Never use a foreign phrase, scientific word or jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent
  • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

This style guide has been modified from Liz Tynan’s style guide for journalism students at the University of Tasmania, News Limited’s style guide (2001), and the combined experience of our writers.

Print this page