Call a spade a spade, not a digging implement. Likewise: deaf not hard of hearing, undertaker not funeral director etc. People die, they don’t pass away.


Affect generally refers to the influence a change has on something else. “The tax cuts affected the council’s ability to pay for services”. Effect is either a verb meaning to cause, create or make a change, or a noun meaning the result of a change. “The Prime Minister effected a change in tax policy” or “The effect of the policy change was that councils received less money”.


Always use inquire/inquiry


To make certain. Not insure, which is to protect against risk


Be careful in saying something is the first ever or last ever... are you sure?




A generic jargon word which describes nothing. Be specific about what it is (e.g. kitchen facilities are a toaster, a kettle, a fridge and a microwave.)


Do not use the phrase well-known. If the person was not well known we would not be writing about them, and if a person was famous you do not need to tell readers - they already know. Not everyone on television is a star.


Fiancé for a man, fiancée for a woman.


Only give the cause or probable cause if you have information from the senior fire officer, police or building owner and attribute the source. Fire can cause £1 million of damage or damage estimated at £1 million, but it cannot cause £1 million worth of damage (because something damaged has no value). Words like inferno, holocaust etc overstate most fires. They are appropriate only in spectacular disasters.


To flaunt means to display. To flout means to disregard with contempt.


Often misused instead of “after”. To say someone died following a crash is wrong (and in a literal sense, very confusing). They died after a crash. You can say someone dedicated their lives to following Christ.

Forked out

Is a cliched term for "paid", so avoid using it.

Free of charge

A tautology - just "free" will do.



General public

Just say public. Better still, talk about people and be as specific as you can who you mean. "Public" can be a dehumanising term.


Avoid phrases like "people of all shapes and sizes" or "people of all ages" - they don't add anything to your story. If an event is open to people of all ages, then it's open to everyone. Save yourself three words. The same goes for "the performance has something for everyone" in reviews - find something better and more specific to say.


It is easy to belittle either gender in copy. Remember ...

There are no ladies (unless they are titled) or lady drivers, no career girls (ever heard of a career boy?) actresses or comediennes (just actors and comedians).

There are no firemen, only firefighters; no policemen of policewomen, only officers, PCs, Sergeants, Inspectors etc; no male nurses, just nurses; no chairmen or chairwomen just chairperson, chair or, better still, write around it (e.g. Joe Smith, who chaired the meeting,).

Avoid using "his" as a generalisation when referring to men and women, boys or girls. Write "a manager who values his or her staff" or write around it, such as "managers who value their staff".


Female under 18. See Age.



Soldiers from Nepal. Not Ghurka




People are hanged. Pictures are hung.


When referring to height, putting numbers and measurements in full is long winded, e.g. five feet and six inches. Use numbers instead to make it simpler for readers, e.g. 5ft 6in.


Nothing is historic before it happens, so beware of using this in pre-writes of major events. The term is overused.

Home Counties

Kent, Essex, Hertfordshire, Surrey, Middlesex and Greater London. Not Sussex.


People are made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) or Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) – they do not “receive” or “get” these honours. People receive awards like British Empire Medals, or a knighthood.


People are not hospitalised (jargon) they are taken to hospital.


Hypothermia is abnormally low body temperature caused by exposure to cold. Hyperthermia is dangerous overheating of the body.

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