Welcome to the Global Voices Style Guide. This is a reference document for all authors, translators and editors to help the community ensure high editorial standards across the entire GV site.
Other important documents:
- How to Write for GV Best practices for writing and reporting a GV story.
- Posting Guide Technical information about creating posts including text formatting styles and instructions for dealing with images and video.
- Lingua Translators Guide Technical information about using the Lingua system to translate posts.
- Lingua Editors Guide Information about administrating a Lingua site.
If you are not yet a Global Voices contributor please see the Get Involved page to learn how to become an author or translator.
- 1 Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation
- 2 Bold or Italic Emphasis
- 3 Subheadings
- 4 Language Codes
- 5 Media Names
- 6 Job Titles
- 7 Acronyms
- 8 Translations in Parentheses
- 9 Articles, Reports, Books, Videos, Etc.
- 10 Numbers, Dates, Times, Currency
- 11 Special Situations
- 12 Disclose Conflicts
- 13 Anonymous Authors
- 14 Reporting on “Undocumented” Immigrants
- 15 Reporting on Indigenous and Aboriginal Peoples
- 16 Reporting on Persecuted Communities
- 17 Covering Conflicts
- 18 Reporting on Suicide
- 19 Offensive Language
- 20 Graphic Content
- 21 References and Resources
Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation
Global Voices English authors can use either US or UK English in their posts – just ensure that you are consistent in whatever spelling, grammar and punctuation style you use in a story.
Bold or Italic Emphasis
Avoid using italics or bold text to create emphasis in posts unless the emphasis is part of the original quote.
In longer posts, subheadings can be very useful to break the story into sections. Subheadings are used like titles for different parts of the story.
Subtitles can be set simply to bold font or wrapped in one of the headline cases, which often look nicer.
You only need to capitalize proper nouns in section subheadings.
Global Voices in English no longer uses language codes to signal when a hyperlink goes to a non-English-language website. Instead, we should:
- incorporate into the story any observations about language when necessary (for example, “Korean-language newspaper” or “in this Catalan-language interview”). However, be careful not to overload the post with these details.
- make sure to tick all the language categories relevant to a post.
- use links to webpages in the language of the story as much as possible. For translations, replace as many as possible.
Don't use italics to indicate media or blogs.
Capitalize a person's title when used with the person's name or as a direct address. The title is not capitalized when used generally. For example:
US President Barack Obama apologized to the bloggers.
The president apologized to the bloggers.
Barack Obama, US senator from Illinois, won the primary election.
Democratic Senator Barack Obama from Illinois won the primary election.
When mentioning an acronym for the first time, also spell it out. For example:
- United Nations (UN)
- Council of Europe (CE)
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Unless absolutely necessary to explain its appearance later on, try to avoid including acronyms in posts. Acronyms can be tricky for a reader to remember, especially one that isn't familiar with the particular region. Instead of using an acronym, refer to the organization by a general word. For example:
The Partisan Socialist Party of Pangea (PSPP) released a statement condemning the verdict. PSPP said they will appeal as soon as possible.
It's easier for a reader like this:
The Partisan Socialist Party of Pangea released a statement condemning the verdict. The party said they will appeal as soon as possible.
Translations in Parentheses
When you simply want to provide a brief translation, such as an organization's name, add it in (parentheses) after the original. For example:
The organization's Facebook page “Manifeste Pour la Tunisie” (Manifesto for Tunisia) has many members.
Articles, Reports, Books, Videos, Etc.
Titles of any specific articles, reports, books, videos, etc. quoted or mentioned in a story should be enclosed in either single or double quotation marks, depending on your regional style. Whatever you choose, be consistent throughout For example:
In a post titled ‘Why Whales?’ on his blog The Pequod, Ishmael explains why he decided to go to sea.
The book “4001” lifts the lid on the world of South Korean politics.
Numbers, Dates, Times, Currency
Numbers one to nine or ten, depending on your preference, are spelled out. Anything above that is represented using numerals:
Bloggers claim five people were killed.
Police reported that 50 people were injured in the explosion.
Numbers that begin a sentence are always spelled out.
Seventy people have signed the petition so far.
Use a comma as a thousands separator and a period (full stop) as a decimal separator:
100,000.89 (one hundred thousand point eight nine)
For figures above 999,999, write out the word “million” after the initial numbers:
More than 5 million people were cut off.
Nearly 540 billion insects live on the planet.
Generally, ordinal numbers should follow the same pattern:
It was the fifth time Gaddafi had spoken to his people.
It was the 15th time Gaddafi had spoken to his people.
Editors and authors are free to use whatever date format is preferred, but the format should be consistent throughout the entire story.
For decades, include the entire year and drop any apostrophes:
In the 1980s jogging was considered cool.
When mentioning times, be sure to add the relevant time zone.
Use the following format for times:
The police arrived at 2:30 p.m.
The police left at 3 p.m.
Spell out foreign currencies at the first instance. You can abbreviate afterwards using the ISO 4217 three character Currency Code List.
Any of these formats are fine:
More than 30 US dollars were spent.
The report cost the government 400 million GB pounds.
Last year the European Commission spent 23 billion euros on education.
The prime minister stands accused of embezzling 300,000 Swiss Francs (CHF) and spending 200,000 CHF on his own family.
Always supply a rough conversion to US dollars of any other currency amount in your post to help give an indication of the amount for the most readers possible:
The bloggers raised more than 20,000 Australian dollars (12,000 US dollars) for the open-source software.
Corrections After Publication
Occasionally, changes have to be made to stories after they have been published. Everyone makes mistakes!
If an error is minor, such as a spelling mistake or a broken link, no apology note is necessary. It is important, however, to document the change via the Edit Request Form so the Lingua translation team is alerted and can make any necessary changes to versions of the story in other languages.
We should promptly correct and acknowledge major errors in our reporting. If you need to make a correction to your published story, contact your editor and add a note at the bottom of the corrected post, similar to the following examples:
An earlier version of this story was missing XXX information.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Malaysia has the world's largest Muslim population. The world's largest Muslim population is in Indonesia.
This post was updated on August 1, 2013 at 16:00 GMT. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated XXX. Thanks to YYY for spotting the error.
After adding the correction and note, please submit an Edit Request Form so our Lingua teams are alerted to the changes, and can make edits to all translations of the story.
If the situation of the story has changed or new information has been added to a story, an update note should be placed at the top of the post. Please contact your editor to discuss this step.
Updates should be placed at the top of the post for maximum visibility, in the following format (in bold):
Update (1 August 2013): The situation in Bahraini capital Manama has worsened significantly since this report was published.
Updated at 04:50 GMT, June 10.
We try to be as honest and transparent as possible when dealing with unavoidable conflicts that may arise in our reporting.
If you are writing about an initiative or group that you are associated with, make a full disclosure your policy by including a note in italics at the top of the post:
EXAMPLE: The author of this post works for the news site IMHK, which has been quoted multiple times in this report.
We don't encourage GV authors to ‘self-quote’ from blogs or social media accounts they are associated with, but if you absolutely have to, please include an editor's note in brackets right before the quote:
EXAMPLE: According to Twitter account @PakVotes, some voters were intimidated outside polling stations in Pakistan [Editor's note: The author of this post co-curates @PakVotes]:
EXAMPLE: According to the blog African Youth, blogging is being replaced by tweeting [Editor's note: The author of this post is an editor with African Youth]:
In certain situations, we keep the name of an author anonymous to ensure their safety. To do this, we use the “Guest contributor” author profile. We also add this note to the top of a post:
The author's identity has been kept anonymous for safety reasons.
And this note to the bottom:
<div class=”notes”>The Global Voices community takes the security of our members very seriously. We omitted the name of this post's author in an effort to protect the security and safety of this person.</div>
Reporting on “Undocumented” Immigrants
When referring to an immigrant who has entered or is residing in a country in violation of that country's civil or criminal law, please use the term “undocumented” exclusively, avoid using the term “illegal” or “alien.”
Read this AP blog post ‘Illegal immigrant’ no more for details about the debate around using the term illegal.
Reporting on Indigenous and Aboriginal Peoples
Be aware that the use of the words “indigenous” and “aboriginal” and their capitalization can be controversial, especially in the Australian context. A good rule to follow is to use these two words as adjectives, not nouns.
Reporting on Persecuted Communities
“Be aware that people are ostracized for their beliefs and can even be persecuted for their beliefs or lifestyle in parts of the world. Be cautious in your language that describes a person’s relationship to their belief system, religious, political or otherwise.” – GV Editorial Code
We should never describe anyone as “anti-Islam” or “anti-Christian”, because we really don't want to give ammunition to those who persecute them. It is best to let their quotable words or actions speak for themselves and forgo the label altogether.
When dealing with sources or photos from members of LGBT communities or other minority groups within countries where they are persecuted for their lifestyle or identity, we should avoid identifying them by their full name, and should pixelate their faces in photos. You can add a note at the end of the post similar to the one below:
Real names were not used for XXX and YYY quoted in this post to minimize harm because they are Ahmadis, a persecuted minority group in Pakistan.
We have a responsibility to be extra vigilant, fair and accurate in times of conflict, where either side is looking to prove they have been wronged. Scrutiny of unknown sources is extremely important, and we want to avoid using sensational language, or repeating numbers of dead or wounded early on in a conflict. Whether our sources are partisan groups, news reporters, or neutral observers such as the United Nations, we should be extremely cautious and never accept “facts” without question.
Reporting on Suicide
It's important that we report on suicide responsibly. Some suicide deaths may be newsworthy. However, the way media covers suicide can influence behavior negatively by contributing to contagion or positively by encouraging help-seeking. Think about reporting on suicide as a health issue, not just in response to a recent death.
Please add the following code to the very bottom of any post that touches on suicide:
<div class=”notes”>The number one cause for suicide is untreated depression. Depression is treatable and suicide is preventable. You can get help from confidential support lines for the suicidal and those in emotional crisis. Visit <a href=”http://www.befrienders.org”>Befrienders.org</a> to find a suicide prevention helpline in your country.</div>
Below is a quick ‘do and don't’ list put together by World Health Organisation, which you should follow if you decide to go ahead with a news piece about a suicide case.
- Work closely with health authorities in presenting the facts
- Refer to suicide as a completed suicide, not a successful one
- Present only relevant data, on the inside pages
- Highlight alternatives to suicide
- Provide information on helplines and community resources
- Publicize risk indicators and warning signs
- Publish photographs or suicide notes
- Report specific details of the method used
- Give simplistic reasons
- Glorify or sensationalize suicide
- Use religious or cultural stereotypes
- Apportion blame
We can also reduce the type of language that may increase suicide risk. Samaritans advises the use of phrases such as:
- A suicide
- Die by suicide
- Take one’s own life
- A suicide attempt
- A completed suicide
- Person at risk of suicide
- Help prevent suicide
And avoiding phrases such as:
- A successful suicide attempt
- An unsuccessful suicide attempt
- Commit suicide. (Suicide is now decriminalised so it is better not to talk about ‘committing suicide’ but use ‘take one's life’, or ‘die by suicide’ instead.)
- Suicide victim
- Just a cry for help
- Suicide-prone person
- Stop the spread/epidemic of suicide
- Suicide ‘tourist’
Read more in the GV guide on Reporting Suicide Responsibly.
GV does not have a blanket policy to include or not include curse words in stories. It is up to individual authors and editors to write or translate responsibly, but also accurately. If you are unsure, ask your editor.
GV aims to help make non-mainstream voices heard, but we also have a responsibility to our readers. If we embed graphic content in a post directly, we don't give our readers a choice over whether or not they view it.
By providing a link and warning, we pass the decision whether or not to view graphic content to the reader. Sometimes violent images or videos are needed to illustrate an important story; be sensitive as to how you use content such as this.
If an image or video shows death, serious injury or graphic violence, it is best to describe the content and provide a link, plus a warning, rather than embed the image or video in the post.
Also, it is important to describe graphic videos in the text. Firstly, because you are linking rather than embedding and text description can help inform your readers decision whether or not to click on to view it. Secondly, graphic content on e.g. YouTube is often removed; if you have a description, it is preserved whether the video or image is available or not.
A video uploaded to YouTube [Warning: Graphic] by user emmab33 on 16 May, 2011, shows Libyan police brutally beating a protestor to death on Tuesday 15 May, 2011.
Here is a real post example:
The incident took place in Yopougon, a district of Abidjan, and was filmed. The video was posted by YouTube user AfricaWeWish on March 15.
In the video, you can see a crowd gathered around the young man on the ground. He has been covered in tree branches. After hearing that the man is from a Northern city of Côte d'Ivoire, people start throwing bricks at his face. An Ivorian blogger has confirmed that the man killed in the video was from the north’.
At 00:44 minutes the assailant asks, “You were just passing by? Where did you come from?”. The man on the ground replies at 00:55 minutes, “I'm a trader in Séguéla (in the north of the country)” and at 01:20 minutes they start throwing stones at him. This corresponds with the version of the story shared on the Twitter hashtag #civ2010. This is the link to the video, but please be warned these are extremely graphic images.
References and Resources
- Guidelines for writers when writing for translation: “Do not write thinking of only what you want to say, but what you want the reader to understand.”
- Plain English Campaign: Learn about the fight against gobbledygook or gobbledegook (sometimes gobbledegoo, gobbledeegook)
- Fight the Fog, an informal campaign by European Commission's translators urging writers and speakers to be as clear as possible in their original language.
- The Associated Press Stylebook is a great place to start when it comes to style standards.
- The Economist Style Guide for those who prefer a British accent.