Style Guide

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:

  • Posting Guide: Technical information about creating posts including text formatting styles and instructions for dealing with images and video.
  • Lingua Translators GuideTechnical information about using the Lingua system to translate posts.
  • Translation Managers 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.

Introduction

This is a live document that provides a set of standards to ensure that GV content is consistent and clear for our readers and translators.

Points to consider:

  • Consistently high editorial standards adds credibility to our content.
  • Many in our audience are reading content that is not their primary language.
  • Consistency allows our Lingua team to translate posts into other languages seamlessly.

GV content is created, edited and published within the GV WordPress Content Management System.

GV Editorial Code

This code was drafted and endorsed by the Global Voices Community on Aug. 5, 2013. All GV stories should conform as much as possible to this code.

  • Be as accurate as possible.
  • Never plagiarize.
  • Be true to GV values. (1)
    • Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.
    • Be aware of the labels you attach to individuals, people and groups. Question terms, names, photos or practices used in other media and by governments – only use labels that are in line with our code and values.
    • Build community and encourage meaningful conversation through our reporting.
  • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
    • Be transparent and disclose unavoidable conflicts.
    • Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context. (2)
    • Distinguish news from promotional material. Do not blur the lines between the two.
    • Be honest; never misrepresent the relative size, importance or popularity of initiatives you are associated with.
  • Minimize harm in your reporting.
    • Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and photos of children. (3)
    • Be judicious about naming criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.
    • Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm to certain subjects and sources. Show compassion and responsibility for those who may be affected adversely in your reporting.
    • Put safety of sources and subjects above any other consideration, suggest anonymity when you are concerned that revealing their identity could lead to harm.
    • Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes. Be aware that identifying and/or naming juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes is illegal in some countries.
    • Be responsible when reporting on stories related to suicide. (4)
    • 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.

(1) We believe in free speech, and in bridging the gulfs that divide people.

(2) Coverage on Global Voices Advocacy is understood to be “labeled” as fact-based reporting that prioritizes the protection of human rights online.

(3) Read the UNICEF Reporting on Children Guidelines.

(4) Add this note to GV stories that deal with suicide.

GV Editorial code inspired and produced from the SPJ Code of Ethics.

GV Mission

All GV stories should support the mission of Global Voices as much as possible.

We work to find the most compelling and important stories coming from marginalized and misrepresented communities. We speak out against online censorship and support new ways for people to gain access to the Internet.

News writing

We want GV stories to be well-sourced, accurate and clear. This criteria largely falls under professional news writing standards. The guidelines that follow help ensure that readers around the world will be able to understand our stories and take away the main point even if they leave after a few paragraphs. Sticking to these standards also makes it easier for our volunteer translators to translate your story.

Inverted Pyramid

Attempt to answer the five Ws — who, what, when, where and why — and sometimes even the how at the beginning of the post. In this structure, called the “inverted pyramid“, the story starts with the most essential and interesting elements. Supporting information follows in subsequent paragraphs in order of diminishing importance.

Concise Sentences

Try to keep paragraphs between one to three concise sentences.

If you are unsure about sentence length, try to say the sentence out loud at a relaxed pace in a single breath. If you can't finish the sentence easily, you may want to break it up into two or more different sentences. Remember, we want to feed the story to the reader in short, digestible bites. Give the reader too much information, and he or she will choke.

Active Voice

Most of the time, it is better to use active voice instead of passive voice in your writing. This way, we keep people as the focus of our posts and not the events that happen around them.

PASSIVE: The meeting was protested by angry residents.

This is passive. The meeting is the subject of the sentence instead of the protesters.

ACTIVE: Angry residents protested the meeting.

This is active. The protesters are the subject.

One important exception to this rule is when writing a lead involving legal processes, injuries or death. In these cases, sometimes we prefer passive voice in order to keep a person as the focus of the lead.

ACTIVE: National police arrested a prominent blogger known for his ruthless exposés of government waste on charges of tax fraud.

Not bad, but police share the spotlight with the blogger in this lead.

PASSIVE: A prominent blogger known for his ruthless exposés of government waste was arrested on charges of tax fraud.

The blogger is now the sole focus of the lead.

It all depends on who should be the main focus of a lead.

Avoid Jargon

News style is obvious and precise. For our content to be easily understandable to a global audience it must be jargon-free. All specialized language or slang should be explained.

No Opinions

Authors must keep their personal opinions out of stories. All statements and perspectives should be accompanied by evidence that supports the claim.

We don't normally write first-person narratives; our authors rarely use ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘us’ or ‘we’ and all stories, with a few concrete exceptions, are written in the third person.

Sourcing

At GV, we rely on trusted citizen media, local or independent sources to back up our facts. We avoid linking, quoting and sourcing to corporate, state and mainstream media because our mission is to provide an alternative to them.

Any time the information in your story comes from a source, and not you, it should be attributed, regardless if that information is a direct quote or not. A good rule of thumb is to attribute once per paragraph. This may seem repetitive, but it’s important for our authors to be clear about where their information is coming from.

Sourcing with links is essential in the quotes we use from social, citizen and local media to support our writing. Whenever you quote, blockquote or reference a blog or media channel in your post, provide a direct hyperlink to the source. Try to only hyperlink a few words  don't hyperlink whole sentences of text.

First-Hand Reporting

We are mostly a second-hand reporting site – we curate from sources that live on the Internet – but sometimes we do engage in first-hand reporting. And whenever we do, we try to overemphasize that this is a case of first-hand reporting through clear attribution.

In cases of first-hand reporting, where the interview was conducted over email, phone, Skype or in person and there aren’t any public digital files to back up attribution, we encourage authors to make attribution transparent and clear by adding language that explains how, where and when the interview was conducted. Examples:

I conducted this interview in person with Navi Lagis.

Global Voices conducted an email interview with Ali Omar.

Speaking with Global Voices on Skype, Ali Omar said […]

Read our guidelines for conducting first-hand reporting.

News Writing Checklist

A useful writing checklist to go over before writing your Global Voices story for review:

  • Have fun: Researching and writing a story for Global Voices should be a positive experience. Write about something that interests you and have fun with it. Your readers will thank you for it.
  • Don’t write in a stream of consciousness: When you draft your story, the inverted pyramid will be your best friend. The structure will allow you to give the reader a solid idea of the story in the first few sentences, and provide relevant supporting information afterwards.
  • Get it right: Don’t be selective about the information you include, unless you’re confident that you are giving your audience the most accurate account based on what's available. Take your time to get the facts straight. If you don’t know the answer, find it from a reliable source. If you don’t have facts, you don’t have a story.
  • Be skeptical: Just because you found it on the Internet doesn't make it true. Don’t believe every statistic or quote you come across. Verify the information and save yourself the embarrassment of writing a correction later on.
  • Be fair: There is more than one side to a story. Go to great lengths to get information from all sides, even if you personally don't agree with them. If one side is unwilling to talk or hasn't publicly commented on the issue, say so in your piece. At least you tried.
  • Be civil: Avoid getting personal in your story. If it’s not relevant to the story, don’t attack the character of another individual.
  • Avoid conflicts of interest: If you have a close tie to a source or organization in your story, let your audience know. Don’t let it come out later; people will question your judgement and integrity. Don't blur the line between promotional material and news. And no matter how small, don’t accept gifts.
  • Don’t plagiarize: Don’t steal content from someone else. You wouldn't like it if it happened to you. Give the story a unique spin by putting things in your own words.
  • Find your voice: The Internet is full of content, so you have to find a way to stand out from the rest. Be original, be interesting and be relevant.
  • Keep good records: Make sure you document where and how you found information. Your editor may ask for proof of the great job you did reporting.
  • Never stop learning: No matter what stage of life or professional development you are in, you can always improve as a writer and researcher. Take courses, read lots, and ask questions.

Story Structure

The standard GV story contains the following elements: headline, lead, context, citizen or social media commentary, photo and/or video, closing and excerpt.

We also do basic photo posts, interviews, video posts and podcasts; these stories always have a headline, lead and context.

To save time for readers, authors, editors and translators, the word limit for stories is a 1,000 words. The total number of words in a post is displayed at the bottom of the editing field in WordPress. There can be exceptions depending on the story; speak to your editor if you would like to write a longer post.

In addition to specific structural elements, all stories should be written with these three elements in mind:

  • Purpose refers to making it clear why a story matters and how it furthers Global Voices’ mission.
  • Impact refers to writing a story in a way that resonates with readers no matter where in the world they are or what level of background. Writing with a global audience in mind will increase a story's chances of being read and shared.
  • Clarity refers to clear writing that is understandable.

Headline

Headlines should give readers a general idea of what the story is about or why it matters. They should be catchy and interesting, but also as relevant and descriptive as possible. Good headlines are never dull; they are often emotional and create a vivid mental picture of the story.

In general, headlines should not exceed 15 words. Please be aware that editors may change headlines to ensure they are clear to the maximum number of readers. It is helpful to brainstorm headlines with your editor to get the very best one possible.

For more detailed guidance on writing headlines, read Tips for Crafting Headlines.

Headline Formatting

  • Be sure to include a location (country, region, city, etc.) that is familiar to most readers. For example:

Oil spill in the Peruvian Amazon first poisons children, then employs them

  • Explain any elements that readers might not be familiar with. For example:

China detains star news anchor Rui Chenggang amid widening anti-corruption campaign

  • Use single quotation marks when quoting word-for-word from elements of the post. For example:

Thailand's military junta cements its power with ‘undemocratic’ interim constitution

Avoid Using…

Here’s a list of words and/or phrases that should be avoided in headlines:

Overused words:

  • Blogosphere
  • Netizen
  • Bloggers
  • Twittersphere

Vague verbs:

  • Bloggers React
  • Netizens Respond
  • Citizens Discuss
  • Bloggers Express

Problematic phrases:

  • Mixed Feelings Follow
  • Debates Emerge

Problematic words:

  • Tweep
  • Tweeple

Generic headlines:

  • Fate of Refugees
  • State of Social Media

Both country and nationality:

  • Nigeria: Nigerian Netizens
  • Sudan: Sudanese Schools

Additional Resources

“Your headline is the first, and perhaps only, impression you make on a prospective reader. Without a headline or post title that turns a browser into a reader, the rest of your words may as well not even exist. But a headline can do more than simply grab attention. A great headline can also communicate a full message to its intended audience, and it absolutely must lure the reader into your body text.” - How to Write Headlines That Work

“… think about this: when someone Tweets your blog article, what do other people see? Your headline. That means they will choose whether or not to click on your blog based on your headline alone. No summaries. Probably no pictures.” - Top 6 Qualities of a Good Headline

“Treat your title as a mini advertisement for your work. Take at least a few minutes before hitting ‘Publish’ to not only make sure your post is in order, but that your title is going to do everything it can to maximize the chances that people will engage with what you have to say.” - Why Headlines are Important

Lead

“Do you know what the single, solitary purpose of your headline is? It's to get you to read the first sentence. Do you know what the single and solitary purpose of your first sentence is? To get you to read the second sentence.” -Demian Farnworth

The lead (or lede) is the most important element of a news story. It is often the first sentence or sentences of our stories. It should hook readers and convey the main idea. The lead is often followed by a nutgraph — a concise paragraph that gives an explanation of the story and why it matters in a nutshell.

For more detailed advice on writing leads, read Tips for Writing Leads.

Front Load Stories

Front loading means you put your most important information first when writing for the web.

The benefits:

  • Readers can quickly assess whether they want to read your entire article.
  • Readers can stop reading at any point and still come away with the main point of your article.
  • By starting with your conclusion, the first few sentences on your web page will contain most of your relevant keywords, boosting your Search Engine Optimization.

So don’t bury your leads!

When you begin a story with information of secondary importance, you are “burying the lead” and forcing readers to delve deeper into the article to discover its essential points. Most readers won’t have the patience to do this.

Types of Leads

Direct Lead:

Direct leads explain to the reader what the main idea of the story is immediately. Also known as hard news leads, they answer the who, what, where, when, and why of a story right from the start. For example:

A group of academics say Shakespeare was a ruthless businessman who grew wealthy dealing in grain during a time of famine.

Delayed Lead:

Delayed leads introduce the story to the reader in a more creative way. This could be an anecdote of some kind of a playful use of language or description. A more detailed explanation should follow immediately after to explain how the lead is relevant to the story. For example:

Hoarder, moneylender, tax dodger – it's not how we usually think of William Shakespeare.But we should, according to a group of academics who say the Bard was a ruthless businessman who grew wealthy dealing in grain during a time of famine.

Researchers from Aberystwyth University in Wales argue that we can't fully understand Shakespeare unless we study his often-overlooked business savvy.

-“Study shows Shakespeare as ruthless businessman” from the Associated Press

Additional Resources

“A good lead is like a flashlight shining down into the story.” -“Writing Great Leads”

“Writing a great lead is really about listening to what your gut tells you about what makes a story interesting.” -“Aha Leads”

“I've often heard writers say that if you have written your lead you have 90 percent of the story.” -“The Lead”

Context

Context explains to our readers why the information we are giving them is important. We shouldn't assume that readers are as familiar with the topic as we are.

We should try to include any important context near the top of our stories instead of buried near the end. Imagine someone from the other side of the world reading your story. Explaining right away why the story matters and/or how it fits into the bigger picture is part of what will hook them into reading the rest of it. If the reader is left asking “so what?” at the beginning of a post, he or she might give up on it.

According to Journalism Professor and Media Critic Jay Rosen, for news stories there are three types of context.

Background Knowledge

This encompasses the things you need to know to “get” why the story is news. This can be achieved by briefly explaining and linking to an explainer article or Wikipedia entry. For example, in our coverage of Bangladesh's Shahbag protest demanding capital punishment for war criminals we included an explanation on and Wikipedia link of the 1971 Bangladesh's Liberation War, which is when the atrocities were committed:

It is not only Bangladeshi men who are occupying the capital city Dhaka's Shahbag intersection demanding capital punishment for war criminals.

The protests have seen extraordinary participation by women. Students, working professionals, and mothers accompanied by their young children have all lent their voice to the Shahbag protests, a movement spearheaded by bloggers and online activists which is seeking the death penalty for those who committed crimes against humanity during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.

An estimated 200,000 to three million people were killed by the Pakistani army and approximately 250,000 women were raped during the war.

The Story So Far

This is vaguely similar to background knowledge but is more specialized. It essentially gives our readers a round-up of what happened before they started paying attention to the story.

The story so far is required for developing stories and benefits from linking to previous GV stories written on the same topic.

Take a look at this example from a story from our coverage of press freedom protests in China, which briefly explains and links to previous stories:

China's Central Propaganda Department has issued an urgent notice, blaming “foreign forces” for the rare protests in support of press freedom that are taking place online and offline in the country. The protests were triggered after the newspaper Southern Weekend's New Year’s editorial was censored and rewritten by a provincial propaganda department.

Related Material

This is context in the sense of the phrase “the larger context.” It delves into the deep historical context, or goes into the discussion of implications and consequences related to the context of the news.

We did this, for instance, in our Special Coverage page “Reformists on Trial in Saudi Arabia.”:

LEAD: Two prominent reformists and human rights activists in Saudi Arabia are on trial. Mohammad al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamid are being prosecuted for “breaking allegiance to the ruler and his successor” and “trying to impede the country’s developments”.And here's some related material context:

CONTEXT: Saudi Arabia is one of the few remaining absolute monarchies in the world and has a devastating human rights record which includes arbitrarily detaining over 30,000 people. Since the state officially imposes (its interpretation of) Sharia law, trials and hearings are expected to be religious debates of what Sharia means.

Commentary

We include citizen media commentary from blogs, forums and social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Sina Weibo. No matter the source, there are a few basic things to keep in mind when selecting commentary:

Avoid including many quotes that say the same thing.

The selected commentary should show a range of opinion on a topic. You can paraphrase a repeated sentiment. For example:

@alpha, @beta and @gamma were unanimous in their view that Global Voices is the best website in the world.

Explain who the user is.

If they are a well-respected blogger, area expert or media professional, mention that in the text leading into the quote. This establishes their credibility as a source.

We must be clear about any agendas that users may have. This will alert readers to take what they say with a pinch of salt.

Opt for users located in the country where the event is taking place or people whose accounts focus on the area or topic being discussed.

Explain why that particular point of view is relevant.

A basic rule of news writing is to never assume that readers know something you haven’t explicitly told them. We need to put all the important information on why a point of view matters right there in the post, so readers can figure out how it fits into the bigger picture.

Add context.

Explain any terms, references or slang in the tweet that our global audience might not understand. Mention if the commentary was in response to another comment, story or event, appeared on a certain page or group, or coincided with a certain event or date.

Be selective.

Instead of including a lengthy selection of a social media publication in a story, it's a good idea to only quote the most relevant, witty or to-the-point part and paraphrase the rest. That way, we tighten our stories and avoid repeating any information unnecessarily.

Avoid copy-pasting commentary one after the other.

Don't overload a post with commentary after commentary, with only a “This person wrote:” followed by “And this person wrote:” between them. Citizen commentary should move the story along with purpose, not simply be there because it's expected.

Always include the original commentary.

Don't include retweets or shares. We should always use the original source in its original form.

More details in our Verifying Citizen Media guide.

Social Media

Twitter

GV doesn't set a limit for number of tweets per post, but we recommend not including more than 8-10. Avoid adding tweets just to demonstrate a hashtag. Instead, mention the hashtag in the text.

It's important that we don't violate anyone's right to privacy in a quoted tweet. Don't quote from a private Twitter account. Be aware that Storify may bypass this.

Some tweets have to be anonymous to protect the Twitter user concerned. In these cases, try to give a little context if it will not impact the user. For example:

@anon_China, an anonymous Twitter user from Kunming province, China, tweeted on Friday, March 18:

For more information on how to format tweets, please refer to the Posting Guide.

Facebook

Posting material from Facebook pages, groups, or individual profiles can be tricky, as sometimes content that once was publicly available is subsequently made private by the user.

There is also an ethical perspective to consider. Many people using Facebook still don't realize that their images and content may be taken and used in a news context. You may need to consider the implications of including an individual's name and comments made on Facebook in a story. Will it put them in danger or affect them at all?

A good rule of thumb is to only use content that is freely available in the public domain, i.e., that can be viewed by anybody and is not restricted to Facebook friends of the individual. Always try and link directly to the comment or comment thread.

However, if news is broken on Facebook, then it is permissible to use information or material from a personal profile. Please discuss with your editor.

Groups and pages are different. If anyone can join, then the content is in the public domain. Bear in mind that some Facebook groups need approval to join, in which case the use of that information or material should be discussed with your editor.

When including information taken from Facebook, always include a link to the publication (found in the “timestamp”). For more information on how to format Facebook content, please refer to the Posting Guide.

Sina Weibo

When including commentary from Sina Weibo, we want to include the person's real name if available, a link to their account, a description of who they are if available, the date of when the post was published, a link to the specific post, and then finally the post itself in a blockquote.

Remember the blockquote in the original language should be immediately followed by its translation.

Try to avoid writing usernames in Chinese characters. They can be very difficult for non-Chinese speakers to visually distinguish. Use common sense to determine whether to translate the usernames into English or leave the usernames spelled out in pinyin. In either case, it's important to be consistent throughout the story.

Inline Quotes vs. Blockquotes

Short, direct quotes can be enclosed in either double “…” or single ‘…’ quotation marks, depending on whether you use UK or US spelling and grammar. Lengthier quotes should be enclosed in a blockquote tag on its own line.

Consider alternating blockquotes with inline quotes to avoid the visual eyesore of blockquote after blockquote, which can be overwhelming on first glance.

Always provide hyperlinks for direct quotes if the quote is taken from someplace that is available online.

Correcting Language in Quotes

Where text is a direct quote, it cannot be changed from the original. If the original text has a lot of spelling and grammar errors, you may want to indicate that the spelling mistakes are in the original with the word “sic” in square brackets. For example:

These errors are reproducced [sic] exactly from the orignal [sic] source.

If you want to request a correction or update to a story that has already been published, you can request it via the Edit Request Form.

Multimedia

Images

All stories should have a big, beautiful image at the top. Images captions are brief descriptions that usually appear underneath a published photo. Like headlines, captions should be concise, precise and visual, explaining to the reader what is not obvious about the photo. In addition to copyright information, captions should try to answer the following questions:

  • Who is that?
  • Why is this image in the post?
  • What is going on?
  • When and where was this?
  • Why does he/she/it/they look that way?
  • How did this occur?

EXAMPLE: A woman displays her ink-stained finger after voting in Cairo, Egypt on 9 Nov. Egyptians took to the polls today for the first round of parliamentary election. Image by Flickr user @adam101 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The caption explains elements of the photo that aren't obvious to an observer – that the ink-stained finger is a result of voting as well as the significance of the election.

EXAMPLE: A child severely burned by a car bomb on 8 June, 2005 receives care at the Indira Gandi Institute of Child Medicine in Kabul, Afghanistan. Doctors are struggling with limited medicines to treat the growing number of child victims. Image by Flickr user @adam101 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The caption explains why the child is burned, where the hospital is located, and the complications of the care the child is receiving there – all things that are not obvious from the image itself.

Check out this column in The Guardian to learn more about the importance of photo captions as well as this International Journalists’ Network article with tips on how to write better captions.

For more information on the technicalities of inserting photos, please refer to the Posting Guide.

Video

When embedding videos in a story, please remember to include:

  • An explanation of who uploaded the video and where
  • An explanation of what the video shows
  • A link to the video

We can't assume that readers will watch a video embedded in a story, especially if it is more than a few seconds long. Videos are sometimes deleted after we include them in a story, too. To ensure readers have the information necessary to understand a story now and in the future, we need to explain what happens in the video and quote any important dialogue (and, if necessary, offer a translation of dialogue).

For example, the story “VIDEO: Student Film on Japan's Ruthless Job Hunt Goes Viral” explains what the student film shows:

Finding a job in today's tough economy is hard. But for Japanese college students, the country's ultra-competitive recruitment process or “shu-katsu” which starts a year or more before graduation, takes things to a whole new level.”Recruitment Rhapsody,” an emotional short animated film that captures the rigid and obstacle-ridden job hunt process Japanese students must endure, has gone viral with more than 350,000 views.

The film by art student Maho Yoshida was uploaded to YouTube on March 9, 2013 and illustrates a regular carefree university student who suddenly finds herself struggling to find a job among a crowd of focused, competitive, and uniformly dressed sycophants.

For more information on how to embed videos in a post, please refer to the Posting Guide.

Closing

Sum up your post with a big picture closing. What do you want to reader to feel when they finish the post? Should they have a sense of how big the problem is? Or should they feel hopeful? Make sure your last few words speak to them.

Excerpt

All stories should contain an excerpt that entices the reader to click and read. These excerpts appear on the homepage under the headline and next to the photo. They also appear on social media sites like Facebook when someone posts a link to the story.

Excerpts should not repeat the headline or lead. For more on excerpts, see Tips for Writing Tempting Excerpts.

Permalink

WordPress automatically uses the headline of a story as its permalink. This is convenient when we use straightforward headlines that include several keywords, but some kinds of headlines, like questions or “teasers” designed for sharing on social media, might not have all the important keywords in it.

In these cases, it's a good idea to edit the permalink to something that includes a few keywords. For example, the headline “Why Activists Sent 128 Tomatoes to Every Single Member of Lebanon's Parliament” teases readers, but doesn't include many keywords that would help it show up in a Google search. That's why the permalink is more straightforward:

…activists-fight-lebanon-parliament-term-extension/

For more on how to edit a story permalink, please refer to the Posting Guide.

GV Story Checklist

Before submitting your Global Voices story for review, check these items:

  • Headline: Will readers feel compelled to share this headline on Facebook and does it have the keywords that search engines need to bring it right to the top?
  • Lead: Do you have a captivating 15-to-25-word summary of the story somewhere in the first three paragraphs of the post?
  • Photo: Is there a nice big image at the top that is at least 800×600 px? Do we have permission to use it? Did you include that info in the caption and the link? And did you upload it to the feature box?
  • Context: Did you highlight our purpose for telling the story? Why is this story breaking, trending or why is it important to us? Did you give the reader enough background to understand this story?
  • Commentary: Did you add 1-6 tweets or citizen media comments? Include some background on the person making the comment. Is a real name associated with the account or is the account under a pseudonym for a person who wants to stay anonymous – we should specify. Is the commenter an expert on the region? Or is he or she just a really well informed comedian from the region? Do they have 10K followers on Twitter; let’s add that in. Or are they an eyewitness? We should specify why their voice is being amplified.
  • Big picture closing: What do you want to reader to feel when they finish the post? Should they have a sense of how big the problem is? Or should they feel hopeful? Make sure your last few words speak to them.
  • Categories: Did you select the most relevant categories?
  • Excerpt: Did you include an excerpt that is different from the lead?
  • Thumbnail: Did you remember to select a thumbnail image?
  • Have you saved a copy of HTML post in a text editor prior to submitting in case of tech errors?
  • Have you notified your regional or language editor that your post is ready for review?

GV Style

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.

Subheadings

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.

Language Codes

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.

Media Names

Don't use italics to indicate media or blogs.

Job Titles

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.

Acronyms

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

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.

Dates

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.

Times

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.

Currency

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.

Percent or %?

Always use the word “percent”, not the symbol %.

According to a recently released report by Japan's Ministry of Education (MEXT), 96.7 percent of postsecondary students who graduated in March 2015 were employed by April 1 and the start of the 2015 fiscal year.


Special Situations

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.

Apology Note

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.

Updates

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.

Disclose Conflicts

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 is working with @Verdade on this project

EXAMPLE: The author of this post ,Faisal Kapadia, is managing the live streaming and social media of this event.

EXAMPLE: The author of this post works for Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), the organization heading this project.

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]:

Anonymous Authors

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.

For more, read Aborigines or Aboriginal – Which Word to Use? and Indigenous, Aboriginal or Aborigine? It’s not black and white.

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.

Covering Conflicts

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.

Do…

  • 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

Don't…

  • 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.

Offensive Language

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.

Graphic Content

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

  • 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.