July Books 3) The Economist Style Guide

3) The Economist Style Guide

Mandatory reading for those of us doing editing for a living, of course. Full of useful snippets and helpful hints, though I dare to disagree on a few points:

Dominicans Take care. Do they come from Dominica? Or the Dominican Republic? Or are they friars?


federalist in Britain, someone who believes in centralising the powers of associated states; in the United States and Europe, someone who believes in decentralising them.

Perhaps that one was a bit more tongue-in-cheek.

Abbreviations that can be pronounced and are composed of bits of words rather than just initials should be spelt out in upper and lower case

Agreed, but their examples include “Kfor” and “Sfor” which I would always spell KFOR and SFOR, since that is and was the capitalisation preferred by the peacekeepers themselves.

Put the accents and cedillas on French names and words, umlauts on German ones, accents and tildes on Spanish ones, and accents, cedillas and tildes on Portuguese ones: Françoise de Panafieu, Wolfgang Schäuble, Federico Peña. Leave the accents off other foreign names.

C’mon, in this day and age I think we should be able to go a long way in spelling names correctly even if the version of the Latin alphabet used in unfamiliar. Though I accept that Đà Nẵng, for instance, has an English spelling of Da Nang.

Capitalisation rules – much tougher than I would be inclined to be, with odd lapses from that toughness – why, for instance, “the queen” but “the Queen’s Speech”?

community is a useful word in the context of religious or ethnic groups. But in many other others [sic] it jars. Not only is it often unnecessary, it also purports to convey a sense of togetherness that may not exist.
The intelligence community means spies.
The online community means geeks and nerds.


It is sometimes useful to talk of human-rights abuses but often the sentence can be rephrased more pithily and accurately. The army is accused of committing numerous human-rights abuses probably means The army is accused of torture and murder.

Fair point. Though Anne wonders if the latter phrase is not in fact more precise, while being equally accurate.

haver means to talk nonsense, not dither, swither or waver.


There is an insanely complex set of rules for the correct spelling in English of Russian names, almost all of which I agree with, apart from the idea that you should always transliterate “дж” as “j”; giving as an example Stalin’s real surname, Jugashvili. I would always write Dzhugashvili. (Though of course in his native Georgian it was ჯუღაშვილი which I would transliterate as Jugashvili, as “ჯ” is normally transcribed “j”; but we know him through translation from the Russian.) They then go on to add, absurdly, that his first name should be spelt “Josef” not “Iosif”. I would have said that the man know to us as “Joseph Stalin” was born “Iosif Dzhugashvili”. (Accepting Иосиф Джугашвили ratehr than იოსებ ჯუღაშვილი as the more official version of his original name.)

Placenames: I’m glad that they are with me on Transdniestria, rather than “Transnistria” which is gaining ground. But there’s no way I’m using “Leghorn” for Livorno.

More places: The list of administrative divisions of Belgium, bafflingly, lists only nine provinces, omitting Brussels (and Flanders and Wallonia), though there is a hint that Brabant can be Flemish or Walloon. And the list of Swiss cantons, while including without explanation the splits of Appenzell and Unterwalden, does not mention that Basel is similarly split.

Will keep it by my desk though.

One thought on “July Books 3) The Economist Style Guide

  1. Obviously another conformist who’s seen where the blinkered knee-jerk Guardian lock-step is headed.

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