A Word on the Words: Why The Sunday Post has style… and also house style

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DO you like our tastefully redesigned newspaper? We have style in The Sunday Post… and we also have house style.

Of course, all newspapers have a house style, it is their preferred way of spelling, punctuating, and using words.

For instance, we present the date as September 24, 2017, never 24 September 2017, or September the 24th 2017. We spell numbers – three, four, five – under 10, but use figures for 10 or above – 15, 100, 900 – until a million, which is spelled out. Other papers do it differently.

Our reporters and sub-editors know house style as well as they know how to spell their names. Or they should do.

The new look Sunday Post

 

One thing that trips up even the best writers and sub-editors is how to present ages. We’d say: “The man was 96 years old” but if written the other way round, “a 96-year-old man”, we insert hyphens. This is because the number and words before the noun they are describing become a compound modifier.

The interesting thing about compound modifiers is that they are adjectival but don’t have to be adjectives. “Year” isn’t an adjective. In “long-term” (as in a contract) “term” isn’t an adjective.

The hyphen is important because it can change the meaning. If you saw a man eating lion you might be surprised (if it was in Scotland you’d be very surprised!) But if you saw a man-eating lion, then that hyphen indicates that you should run away very fast.

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