Introduction Clarity of writing usually follows clarity of thought. So think what you want to say, then say it as simply as possible. Keep in mind George Orwell’s six elementary rules (“Politics and the English Language”, 1946):
  1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
American English Since Techseen is a global publication, it will follow the American style of English. Our huge audience will come / comes from the US. For example, avoid ‘s’ in spellings. Use ‘z’. Like specialization; not specialisation (which is British). Vigor, instead of Vigour. Unnecessary words Some words add nothing but length to your prose. Use adjectives to make your meaning more precise and be cautious of those you find yourself using to make it more emphatic. The word very is a case in point. If it occurs in a sentence you have written, try leaving it out and see whether the meaning is changed. The omens were good may have more force than The omens were very good. Avoid strike action (strike will do), cutbacks (cuts), track record (record), wilderness area (usually either a wilderness or a wild area), large-scale (big), the policymaking process (policymaking), weather conditions (weather), etc. This time around just means This time. Active, not passive Be direct. A hit B describes the event more concisely than B was hit by A. An’ before a vowel and a consonant An should be used before a word beginning with a vowel sound (an egg, an umbrella, an MP) or an h if, and only if, the h is silent (an honorary degree). But a European, a university, a U-turn, a hospital, a hotel. Historical is an exception: it is preceded by an, the h remaining silent. Abbreviations Unless an abbreviation or acronym is so familiar that it is used more often than the full form (eg, BBC, CIA, FBI, HIV, IMF, NATO, OECD), or unless the full form would provide little illumination (eg, AWACS, DNA) write the words in full on first appearance: thus, Trades Union Congress (not TUC). If in doubt about its familiarity, explain what the organization is or does. After the first mention, try not to repeat the abbreviation too often; so write the agency rather than the IAEA, the Union rather than the EU, to avoid spattering the page with capital letters. There is no need to give the initials of an organization if it is not referred to again. If an abbreviation can be pronounced (eg, EFTA, NATO, UNESCO), it does not generally require the definite article. Other organizations, except companies, should usually be preceded by the (the BBC, the KGB, the NHS, the UNHCR and the NIESR). Except in the Britain section, use MP only after first spelling out member of Parliament in full (in many places an MP is a military policeman). Do not use small caps for roman numerals. Use lower case for kg, km, lb (never kgs, kms), mph and other measures, and for i.e., e.g., should both have periods. When used with figures, these upper-case abbreviations should follow immediately with space (15 kg, 35 mm, 100 mph, 78 rpm). However, as should AD and BC (76 AD, 55 BC), and AM and PM would be caps (9 PM and 4:30 PM). There would be no :00 between hour and minute (not 9:00 PM). There would be a colon between hour and minutes (not 9.30 PM). The elements are not lower case. Lead is Pb, carbon dioxide is CO2, methane is CH4. Chlorofluorocarbons are, however, CFCs, and the oxides of nitrogen are generally NOX. Different isotopes of the same element are distinguished by raised prefixes: carbon-14 is 14C, helium-3 is 3He. Initials in people’s names, or in companies named after them, do not take points (with a space between initials and name, and between initials). Thus F W de Klerk, V P Singh, E I Du Pont de Nemours, F W Woolworth. In general, follow the practice preferred by people, companies and organizations in writing their own names. Do not use Prof, Sen, Col, Mr, Mrs, Ms, etc. Lieut-Colonel and Lieut-Commander are permissible. Always spell out page, pages, hectares, miles. But kilograms and kilometers can be shortened to kg (or kilos) and km. Miles per hour are mph and kilometers per hour are kph. Ampersands should be used (1) when they are part of the name of a company (eg, AT&T, Pratt & Whitney); (2) for such things as constituencies where two names are linked to form one unit (eg, The rest of Brighouse & Spenborough joins with the Batley part of Batley & Morley to form Batley & Spen. (3) in R&D and S&L. Remember, that the V of HIV stands for virus, so do not write HIV virus. Members of Parliament are MPs: of the Scottish Parliament, MSPs; and of the European Parliament, MEPs (not Euro-MPs). And similarly SMSes (not SMSs). Figures Never start a sentence with a figure; write the number in words instead. Use figures for numerals from 11 upwards, and for all numerals that include a decimal point or a fraction (eg, 4.25,). Use words for simple numerals from one to ten, except: in references to pages; in percentages (eg, 4%); and in sets of numerals, some of which are higher than ten, eg, Deaths from this cause in the past three years were 14, 9 and 6. It is occasionally permissible to use words rather than numbers when referring to a rough or rhetorical figure (such as a thousand curses). Fractions should be hyphenated (one-half, three-quarters, etc) and, unless they are attached to whole numbers (8½, 29¾), spelled out in words, even when the figures are higher than ten: He gave a tenth of his salary to the church, a twentieth to his mistress and a thirtieth to his wife. Convert lakh and crore to million and billion to lakh [By the way, it will always be lakh and not not lakhs and crore not crores]. Convert Rs and £ to $ with an approximation current rate. Put no space after $, as in $20 (not $ 20). Also, when it comes to Rupee, it is Re 1 (not Rs 1), but it will be Rs 1.50 (not Re 1.50 paise) Write percent and not per cent. It will be 48 percent (not 48 per cent and not 48%). Except in charts and headlines, it will be 48%. Hyphens Use hyphens for 1. FRACTIONS (whether nouns or adjectives): two-thirds, four-fifths, one-sixth, etc. 2. MOST WORDS THAT BEGIN with anti, non and neo. Thus anti-aircraft, anti-fascist, anti-submarine (but antibiotic, anticlimax, antidote, antiseptic, antitrust); non-combatant, non-existent, non-payment, non-violent (but nonaligned, nonconformist, nonplussed, nonstop); neo-conservative, neo-liberal (but neoclassicism, neolithic, neologism). Words beginning Euro should also be hyphenated, except Europhile, Europhobe and Eurosceptic; euro zone and euro area. Some words that become unmanageably long with the addition of a prefix. Thus under-secretary and inter-governmental. Antidisestablishmentarianism would, however, lose its point if it were hyphenated. A sum followed by the word worth also needs a hyphen. Thus $25M-worth of goods. 3. SOME TITLES Vice-President Director-General but General Secretary Deputy Secretary Deputy Director District Attorney 4. TO AVOID AMBIGUITIES a little-used car a little used-car cross complaint cross-complaint high-school girl high schoolgirl fine-tooth comb (most people do not comb their teeth) third-world war third world war 5. SEPARATING IDENTICAL LETTERS: book-keeping (but bookseller), coat-tails, co-operate, unco-operative, pre-eminent, pre-empt (but predate, precondition), re-emerge, re-entry (but rearm, rearrange, reborn, repurchase), trans-ship. Exceptions include override, overrule, underrate, withhold. 6. NOUNS FORMED FROM PREPOSITIONAL VERBS: bail-out, build-up, call-up, get-together, lay-off, pay-off, round-up, set-up, shake-up, etc. 7. THE QUARTERS OF THE COMPASS: north-east(ern), south-east(ern), south-west(ern), north-west(ern), the mid-west(ern). Italics 1. Hindi & foreign words and phrases. 2. Newspapers and periodicals. But for techseen it will be in Bold. 3. Names of movies and books and names of programs. Apostrophes Use the normal possessive ending ‘s after singular words or names that end in s: boss’s, caucus’s, Delors’s, St James’s, Jones’s, Shanks’s. Use it after plurals that do not end in s: children’s, Frenchmen’s, media’s. Use the ending s’ on plurals that end in sDanes’, bosses’, Joneses’—including plural names that take a singular verb, eg, Reuters’, Barclays’, Stewarts & Lloyds’, Salomon Brothers’. Although singular in other respects, the United States, the United Nations, the Philippines, etc, have a plural possessive apostrophe: eg, Who will be the United States’ next president? People’s = of (the) people. Peoples’= of peoples. Try to avoid using Lloyd’s (the insurance market) as a possessive; it poses an insoluble problem. The vulnerable part of the hero of the Trojan war is best described as an Achilles heel. Do not put apostrophes into decades: the 1990s. Also please be careful about how you write its and it’s. The exception to the general rule that one should use an apostrophe to indicate possession is in possessive pronouns. Some of them are not a problem. “Mine” has no misleading “s” at the end to invite an apostrophe. And few people are tempted to write “hi’s,” though the equally erroneous “her’s” is fairly common, as are “our’s” and “their’s”—all wrong, wrong, wrong. The problem with avoiding “it’s” as a possessive is that this spelling is perfectly correct as a contraction meaning “it is.” Just remember two points and you’ll never make this mistake again. (1) “it’s” always means “it is” or “it has” and nothing else. (2) Try changing the “its” in your sentence to “his” and if it doesn’t make sense, then go with “it’s.” Commas Use commas as an aid to understanding. Too many in one sentence can be confusing. It is not always necessary to put a comma after a short phrase at the start of a sentence if no natural pause exists there: On August 2nd he invaded. Next time the world will be prepared. But a breath, and so a comma, is needed after longer passages: When it was plain that he had his eyes on Saudi Arabia as well as Kuwait, America responded. Use two commas, or none at all, when inserting a clause in the middle of a sentence. Thus, do not write: Use two commas, or none at all when inserting . . . or Use two commas or none at all, when inserting . . . If the clause ends with a bracket, which is not uncommon (this one does), the bracket should be followed by a comma. Commas can alter the sense of a sentence. To write Mozart’s 40th symphony, in G minor, with commas indicates that this symphony was written in G minor. Without commas, Mozart’s 40th symphony in G minor suggests he wrote 39 other symphonies in G minor. Do not put a comma before and at the end of a sequence of items unless one of the items includes another and. Thus The doctor suggested an aspirin, half a grapefruit and a cup of broth. But he ordered scrambled eggs, whiskey and soda, and a selection from the trolley. Do not put commas after question-marks, even when they would be separated by quotation marks: “May I have a second helping?” he asked. Full stops Use plenty. They keep sentences short. This helps the reader. Do not use full stops in abbreviations or at the end of rubrics. Inverted commas Use single ones only for quotations within quotations. Thus: “When I say ‘immediately’, I mean some time before April,” said the spokesman. For the relative placing of quotation marks and punctuation, follow Hart’s rules. Thus, if an extract ends with a full stop or question-mark, put the punctuation before the closing inverted commas. His maxim was that “love follows laughter.” In this spirit came his opening gambit: “What’s the difference between a buffalo and a bison?” If a complete sentence in quotes comes at the end of a larger sentence, the final stop should be inside the inverted commas. Thus, The answer was, “You can’t wash your hands in a buffalo.” She replied, “Your jokes are execrable.” If the quotation does not include any punctuation, the closing inverted commas should precede any punctuation marks that the sentence requires. Thus: She had already noticed that the “young man” looked about as young as the New Testament is new. Although he had been described as “fawnlike in his energy and playfulness”, “a stripling with all the vigor and freshness of youth”, and even as “every woman’s dream toyboy”, he struck his companion-to-be as the kind of old man warned of by her mother as “not safe in taxis”. Where, now that she needed him, was “Mr Right”? When a quotation is broken off and resumed after such words as he said, ask yourself whether it would naturally have had any punctuation at the point where it is broken off. If the answer is yes, a comma is placed within the quotation marks to represent this. Thus, “If you’ll let me see you home,” he said, “I think I know where we can find a cab.” The comma after home belongs to the quotation and so comes within the inverted commas, as does the final full stop. But if the words to be quoted are continuous, without punctuation at the point where they are broken, the comma should be outside the inverted commas. Thus, “My bicycle”, she assured him, “awaits me.” Titles Do not use Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms or Dr on first mention even in body matter. Plain George Bush, Tony Blair or other appropriate combination of first name and surname will do. Use Dr only for qualified medical people, unless the correct alternative is not known or it would seem perverse to use Mr. And try to keep Professor or Prof for those who are in a university job. If you use a title, get it right. Rear-Admiral Jones should not, at least on first mention, be called Admiral Jones. On first mention use forename and surname; thereafter drop forename (unless there are two people with the same surname mentioned in the article). Ramesh Kumar, then Kumar. Avoid nicknames and diminutives unless the person is always known (or prefers to be known) by one: like Balki for film-maker Balakrishnan. Designations Write designations after the name, as: Ramesh Kumar, Senior Vice President, Tata Tea. The first letter of designations and company name should be in caps. Put a comma after name, designation, and company.
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