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mars 20, 2009

Dominion Style Guide

Copy Editing


headline - Capitalize first word and major words. Outside Edge

subhead - Capitalize first word and proper nouns. Angela James carved out her own path into the Hockey Hall of Fame

byline (print) - By takes a small b. by Meg Hewings

byline (web) - If more than one author, put them in alphabetical order by last name, separated by commas.

dateline - Location in all capitals, followed by em-dash, followed by first sentence. No spaces around the em-dash. On the web, this looks like MONTREAL—Angela James walks in through the side door...

photo captions - Click on the photo, then edit the body (of the caption) by clicking the edit tab. Copy edit as usual. Please try to ensure that captions form full sentences.

photo captions (photo essays) - Captions in photo essays are sometimes longer than captions in an article. Copy edit as usual.

photo credits - Format should be "Photo (or Image or Illustration) by Name Here"  Photo by Tim McSorley

mini-headlines/article dividers - Please flag if you see these in an article. We avoid them.

author bio (online) - Text is italicized.

author bio (print) - Text is bolded.

Month in Review (MiR) (web) - Copy editing MiR is an involved task because of all the code you have to wade through. Recommendation: print it off and edit on paper, then make corrections online. Reread the entire piece after making corrections. Please check to make sure all URLs work and take you to the right webpage.

where to fact-check - Editors fact-check (along with our volunteer fact checking team); this is not a copy editor's responsibility. It is good practice, however, for copy editors to double-check tricky spellings, such as First Nations band names, organization names and foreign words, and government departments, which are frequently shortened and otherwise incorrectly named in press releases and the like. Most of these things should, however, have been caught in the fact-checking stage.


1. Capitalization

Capitalize job titles.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper/Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister

Jason Kenney, Minister of Immigration

Job titles that stand alone (without a name) are lower-cased, as is the case for plural uses.

the prime minister

premiers Pauline Marois and Christy Clark

Job descriptions that are not official titles are lowercased.

Capitalize department/agency names.

the Ministry of Defence

the Supreme Court

the present Conservative Government

Capitalize proper nouns (proper nouns such as those below are often missed).

Quinte Detention Centre

Nigeria's Delta State

the Nigerian Army

Indigenous people, Indigenous culture

Waycobah First Nation, First Nations treaty rights

Western World /Third World/ Canada’s North/the East Coast/Middle East/(Vancouver's) Downtown East Side

First World War; Second World War (and not WWII, etc.)


the Media Co-op

Bill C-300

Capitalize all words when writing out the wording on a sign.

Anti-coup protesters in Asuncion, Paraguay. The sign on the left reads, "I Didn't Come For Lugo, I Came For My Country."

The following take a lowercase.

provincial government/federal government

university, city, river, etc., when not part of a proper noun

flora indigenous to Nova Scotia

tar sands, oil sands (note: these are also two separate words)

former prime minister Brian Mulroney [[flag for discussion]]

northern Alberta

NOTE: For further clarification on capitalization, take a look at this link from the Canadian Press.

2. Italics

Publications, book names, TV series, movie titles, ship names (The Dominion, The Catcher in the Rye, The West Wing, Old Boy, the Mavi Marmara) are italicized.

Foreign words (followed by the English translation in parentheses, if warranted) in their first instance are italicized.

He then boarded a gulet, a traditional wooden boat used in Turkey, to get home.

Words in foreign languages are italicized, unless they are proper names. So Sûréte du Québec is not italicized, while coup d'état is.

We are quite happy with the status quo.

3. Punctuation

We do not use serial commas (the comma that comes immediately before a co-ordinating conjunction, such as and and or, which precedes the final item in a list of three or more items).

Example: a list of three countries can be punctuated as either "Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras" (with the serial comma) or as "Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras" (without the serial comma).

Other uses of the comma:

Goldcorp, Inc

James Write, Jr

Letters, packages, etc, are to remain in the hall.

Don't use periods with the shortened version of a title, company designation or figure of speech.

Goldcorp, Inc

James Write, Jr

Letters, packages, etc, are to remain in the hall.

Commas and periods lie within quotation marks, even if there is only one word inside the quotation marks.*

The response was an enthusiastic "Aye."

The only exception to this rule is when what is enclosed is a single number or letter.

I thought you were writing "X", not "10".

If another group of words directly after a quote is part of the same clause, the comma or period goes at the end of the clause, not inside the quotation marks.

"Don't ask, don't tell" has been official military policy in the US, but new marriage legislation in many states is putting pressure on the feds to get a life.

*This rule, an American standard, seems to be the result of historical accident. When type was handset, a period or comma outside of quotation marks at the end of a sentence tended to get knocked out of position, so the printers tucked the little devils inside the quotation marks to keep them safe and out of trouble. But apparently only American printers were more attached to convenience than logic, since British printers continued to risk the misalignment of their periods and commas.

Use semi-colons to join more than one independent clause, except when sentences are short and alike, and for certain colloquialisms.

I hardly knew him, he was so changed.

Here today, gone tomorrow.

Single quotation marks (' ') are used for a quote inside a quote. Otherwise, use double quotation marks (" ").


Use quotation marks around article names, the titles of works of art.

If a question mark or an exclamation mark is part of a quote, the question mark or exclamation mark goes inside the quotation marks. If the question or exclamation applies to the sentence as a whole, the punctuation mark goes outside the quotation marks. Same goes for semicolons and colons.


This is a hyphen:     -     It is commonly used in double-barrel words.


one-time offer

the 14-year-old president of the chess club


co-op, co-operative, co-ordinator



This is an en-dash:    –     It is used to convey a span of time.

19 May–31 May

This is an em-dash:    —    It is used to separate elements (like parentheses do) and is often the one intended. It can also serve a function similar to that of a colon. It is made like this: — (web), and there should be no spaces on either side of an em-dash.

An ellipsis (affectionately, dot-dot-dot) indicates the omission of a word, phrase, line or paragraph from a quote. An elipsis is composed of three periods—not a triple-dot glyph, a single character where the dots are much closer together. An ellipsis should have no spaces on either side of it, and no brackets or square brackets. An ellipsis found at the end of a sentence should have four dots (three for the ellipsis + one for the period).

"Canadians want more trade...but we also want...the partners we trade with to respect democratic values," said the opposition's international trade critic Don Davies.

Square brackets are used to add a foreign element in a quote (i.e.; anything not verbatim, usually included for context). Note: Editors often use square brackets or double square brackets ([[ ]]) when editing; if you come across these in a text you've been asked to copy edit, please flag it, as it could be something the editor has missed.

To pluralize a word ending in s, add apostrophe-s (Charles's book). [[flag for discussion]]

4. Acronyms

All capitals, no periods (CIPSES, NATO, WMDs). Currently, British Columbia is shortened to BC; we'll have to watch for conflict when writing about time before Christ.

Insert the acronym in brackets after the full title of an organization/group on the first reference, except if widespread knowledge makes the full title unnecessary (AIDS, EU, US). Thereafter, use the acronym to refer to the group.

5. Names

Use first name and surname on first reference; use only surname thereafter (unless confusion could arise in the mind of the reader, in which case use as much of the name as necessary to clarify who is being talked about).


Spanish surnames traditionally use the paternal followed by the maternal surname, so in references after the first mention of someone’s name, use the first surname. [[flag for discussion]]



1. General examples



centre (not center, unless the official name of US organization—eg. Center for Media and Democracy)

co-operate, co-ordination, co-ordinator

defence, but defensive


greenhouse gases



program, programming

9/11, G20, G8/G20


3D, three-dimensional

et cetera, etc. [[flag for discussion]]

standardize, subsidize (ize, not ise)

2. Nouns ending in –our






honour; honorary


odour; odorous





3. Avoid using –ae






4. Double consonants

benefitting, rivalled, travelling, parcelled

5. Where accents exist in proper names and titles, they should be used. Please check to ensure accuracy. Please do not use accents in Headlines.

             If there is an English version of a word without the accent, use it. So Montreal, not Montréal. However, for proper names or in reference to things without an English equivalent, stay with the accent. So: Justin Piché, not Justin Piche, Sûréte du Québec, not Surete du Quebec. 


1. Numbers

Spell out one to nine; use figures for 10 and above.

Spell out numbers that begin a sentence.

Sixty-eight people gathered to pass the Media Co-op's financial reports.

Insert commas to separate powers of three (1,000, 100,000).

Spell out fractions that stand alone (three-quarters), use figures for mixed fractions (9 ¾).

Spell our ordinal numbers (first, second, twenty-third). However, note our standard for dates (below).

2. Dates and time

Spell out month in full and follow with date-comma-year-comma (if not the end of the sentence). No st, nd, rd, th after numbered dates. Always add the year to a numbered date. If no date is specified, no commas are necessary. [[flag for discussion]]

Only after the events of October 31, 2006, did things return to normal.

Only after the events of October 2006 did things return to normal.

21st century

5:00 pm

3. Quantities

$700 billion, US$700 billion, CAD$700 billion (Only specify Canadian currency if the context calls for it.)

18-year-old, 18 years old

per cent, percentage

Spell out distances and other measurements

The high-security wall that forms the border between Kenya and Somalia is 682 kilometres long.

It is a myth that humans ought to consume eight litres of water daily.



1. Suggest active, positive, concrete language.

Active verbs bring immediacy to the story.

In June 2008, two Mohawk grandmothers were arrested by CBSA agents, and one suffered a heart attack.

edited to:

In June 2008, CBSA agents arrested two Mohawk grandmothers, one of whom suffered a heart attack.

There were four hundred people at the rally at Queen and Bloor in Toronto.

edited to:

Four hundred people gathered for a rally at Queen and Bloor in Toronto.

Statements in the positive form are simpler and easier to understand.

He was not very often on time.

edited to:

He usually came late.

On top of that, he did not pay any attention to me.

edited to:

On top of that, he ignored me.

Concrete, definite, specific language helps bring an image or idea to life.

[Need example.]

2. Choose brevity.

Being succinct does the reader a favour and can sometimes also increas impact.

The CBSA plans to arm all of their 4,800 border guards by 2016.

edited to:

The CBSA plans to arm all 4,800 border guards by 2016.

You can usually cut the following words and clauses:


the fact that

who is, which was

case, character, nature

personally, currently, actually



And make wordy clauses concise:

whether (vs. the question as to whether)

no doubt, doubtless (vs. there is no doubt but that)

used for taxation (vs. used for taxation purposes)

he (vs. he is a man who)

hurriedly (vs. in a hurried manner)

this issue (vs. this is the issue that)

Your haircut is stunning. (vs. Your haircut is a good one.)

whether (vs. as to whether)

use (vs. utilize)

orient (vs. orientate)

doubt, help (vs. doubt but, help but)

inside (vs. inside of, which means in less than)

3. Avoid redundancy.

Exclude unnecessary or repeated elements.

Canada Border Service Agency attempted to arm border guards at a border post at the Cornwall crossing, which lies within the Akwesasne reserve.

edited to:

Canada Border Service Agency attempted to arm border guards at the Cornwall crossing, which lies within the Akwesasne reserve.

Other common redundancies:

unique (vs. most unique or very unique)

pledge (vs. pledge to give, pledge to provide)
protest (vs. protest against)

4. Good practice, common errors.

lend vs. loan - Use lend as a verb, loan as a noun.

fewer vs. less - Use fewer for countable things, less for a measurable quantity that is not countable
(fewer people, less sympathy). Use less, however, for statistical or numerical expressions (ten dollars less, less than five kilometres, less than 1,600 words).

more than vs. over - Use more than for countable numerical expression, over for expressions of time, age or height.

onto vs. on to - She climbed onto the roof, but let’s go on to the next point.

who vs. that or which - Use who to refer to people, that or which to refer to animals, organizations and objects.

Pinochet ordered the imprisonment of those who protested his policies.

The dog that wagged its tail is mine.

Oxfam is an NGO that deals primarily with food security.

that vs. which - Use that when the clause following defines or restricts the noun, which with non-restrictive relative clauses (when the clause that follows does not define, but adds to, the noun).

The business that closed last year is back open.

The business, which you passed on your way here, is now open.

like vs. such as - Like is a comparison. Such as shows examples.

We want to hear more stories like the one you just told.

The Dominion’s mandate is to report on the affairs of the grassroots, such as Indigenous land rights issues and literature from small presses.

one of the only - This expression could mean one of only three, or one of only 1,295. Instead, use one of the few.

pronouns for groups - Groups can be referred to by either singular or plural pronouns. When spoken of in terms of their members, it makes sense for the group to take a plural (they). When referred to in terms of the group as a whole—such as a company, government or organization—it is preferable to use the singular (it).

Sisters in Spirit hosted a rally Monday. Holding hands, they walked down the centre line of Main Street, slowing traffic in both directions.

If Shell Oil drills, which it is expecting will begin next week,...

youth - The plural of youth (one youth) is youths (a group of youths). An alternative is young people.

participle phrase - A participle phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to its grammatical subject.

Being in dilapidated condition, I was able to buy the house for cheap.

edited to:

Being in dilapidated condition, the house sold for cheap.

modifiers - Modifiers should come, if possible, next to the word they modify.


emphasis - Place the emphatic words in a sentence at the end.


correlative expressions - Complete correlative expressions. (If you use not only, complete the correlation with but also.)

both ... and

not ... but

not only ... but also

either ... or

first ... second ... third

The land is not for sale, but may be leased.

He painted not only her portrait but also her cat's.



If you note any of these in text you've been asked to copy edit, please flag them.

The federal Conservatives are not Tories. Tories are members of the Progressive Conservative party, which is still active provincially. [[Suggest to remove - Alex H: The term is not specific to the PCs. It's much older, applies more broadly than in Canada and is widely accepted to apply to the current CPC, including by the party itself.]]

Beginning an article In an age of...

Beginning an article or a paragraph XX years ago,...

Beginning a sentence with a conjunction (but, however, and).

The expression community members. We write a lot about the grassroots and grassroots-level organizing. The terms community and community member, used to describe any relatively small geographic or interest group, have begun to lose meaning, since everybody in the world is a community member. Try to be more specific (local farmers, residents of the Downtown East Side, or simply use people.

The expression the foreseeable future. Vague. How long into the future?

Quoting people - Keep quotes clean by using she said rather than she stated or she expressed, or other variations.

Authors sometimes use the present tense (she says, they say) when crediting quotes. The general rule is that the past tense should be used for news pieces but that the present tense is acceptable in the case of longer narrative pieces. Always check for internal consistency in each article.

A quote that takes up an entire paragraph should be attributed to the speaker, even if it seems fairly obvious who said it.

When a quote runs over the end of one paragraph and into the beginning of the next, the first paragraph is not closed with quotation marks, but the second paragraph is opened with quotation marks.



Find a copy-editor

Hello all,

Sorry if this is not the place for this. I am an editor for an new academic journal. This is an international students journal on international development studies. I am in need of a copy-editor. A key challenge for the copy-editor will be people ESL writers.

How do I go about finding a copy-editor in who could do this, and also, how do I know if I am about to hire a competent copy-editor or someone who just claims to be, and what is a decent rate?

Thank you,