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WomANZ Style Guide

WomANZ uses the Buzzfeed style guide as its base, which is a combination of conventions from both AP and Chicago styles. You can find links to resources for both of these style guides in the general advice and hand tools at the end of the document


Posts on the WomANZ blog should follow the formatting guidelines listed below.


Headlines should for articles should appear in title casing
WomANZ Spotlight: New Zealand Geo-Organiser SamKayNZ
WomANZ + Patch Partnership


If subheadings are full sentences, use sentence casing rather than title casing. Only capitalize proper nouns such as organisation names
How to start streaming on a budget
What’s the deal with WomANZ?

If subheadings form a list of titles of proper nouns (eg: names, titles etc.) then use title casing. except for prepositions, articles, conjunctions that are three letters or fewer — and, at, but, for, of, etc.
Erin Hughes, Team Manager of Incognito
Scott Morrison, Australian Prime Minister


No end punctuation on your headlines unless it is a question mark or an exclamation mark (use exclamation marks in headlines very sparingly!)

Try to avoid headlines that form a yes/no question.

When you’re working in title case you need to capitalize your verbs! Is, Be, and Are! They’re tiny little verbs! Capitalize them!

If you’re writing a headline for a listicle, please retain the The in superlative headline
The 30 Most Inspiring Films
The 25 Best Gifs of 2016

Grammar, spelling, punctuation and all that great stuff

Always use Australian English spelling. (colour, favourite, realise, organise etc.)
WomANZ uses the Australian Macquarie Dictionary for all spelling (hereafter referred to as MW)


No spaces on either side of ampersands in constructions like Q&A, R&B, etc.
Do not use a serial comma before an ampersand.
Do not use an ampersand as a stand-in for ‘and’ in headlines or in running copy.

Adhere to self-stylization for companies, titles, etc., that use an ampersand.
D&D, H&M, Ben & Jerry’s, H&R Block, Dolce & Gabbana etc.

Quote attribution

As a general rule, all quotes should be attributed in running copy.
A colon after the sentence that directly precedes a quote is fine; otherwise, aim for attribution within or after the first sentence of a quote. “Says” and “said” are preferred verbs for attribution.

Avoid flowery attributions “she notes,” “he laughs,” “they contend,” unless there is really no other option for attribution. As always use your common sense to guide you on this. You’ll be able to see if the attribution you’re using will be too flowery for the rest of your copy.

Be careful of misusing “Explain” is the person quoted really explaining something? Don’t use “he explains/ed” unless it’s an explanation.

Most news posts should use past-tense attribution (“said”); service-driven posts generally should use the present tense (“says”). Use your best judgment here.

In crowdsourced posts or posts with anecdotes by several different people, quotation marks around the blurb are not necessary. Just add a “—FirstName LastName” (or “—Anonymous”) after the anecdote.


Capitalise words that are “often” or “usually” capped per MW

Never begin a sentence with a lowercase letter unless it is a well-known brand (iPod, eBay etc.) Wherever possible avoid starting a sentence with a lowercase letter.

Use lowercase for general directions like north, south, east, west etc.
When referring to nondefined regionals use lower case directionals southeast Brooklyn, west Melbourne etc.
Use capitals when referring to specific regions like the Northern Hemisphere, Eastern Europe etc.

Product and brand names should use initial capitalisation unless the name is made of Initials.
Examples initial cap:
Ikea, Commonwealth Bank
Examples all initials:

Inter-capitalisation/bi-capitalisation is fine in instances that delineate new words. If the intercap is simply part of graphic branding do not replicate it in copy
Examples of accepted intercaps:
BlackBerry, iPod, NyQuil etc.
Examples of intercaps as part of branding:
PrAna (should be written in copy as Prana)

Product names in all lowercase letters should be capitalised
iPod Nano, Samsung Galaxy S9

Do not capitalise ‘’the” in the names of print or web publications, companies or institutions even if it is part of the official title.
the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Australian, the Sydney Morning Herald

Using initials in copy

Use periods and no spaces when referring to someone’s initials in running copy.
We call him J.B. back home.

Combining forms

This will generally depend on readability and whether or not closing up or hyphenating will change any meaning. Always consult MW first to see if a combined form already has its own entry. Otherwise, follow the guidelines below.

anti- (hyphenate, unless it has its own entry in MW: anti-gay, anti-labor, anti-terrorism, but antibiotic, antioxidant, antisocial)

-ass (typically hyphenated: wild-ass party, kick-ass; exceptions: badass, dumbass)

-bait (typically closed up: clickbait, linkbait, tweetbait)

butt- (typically closed up: buttcrack, buttface, butthole)

co- (hyphenate only if readability is an issue, e.g., co-owner, co-creator, co-counsel, but coworker, cofounder; also, be mindful of whether a co- combining-form word is redundant, e.g., co-conspirator or copartner

crypto- (closed up: cryptography, cryptocurrency, etc. Do not use as a stand-alone noun unless in a quote, where meaning should be clear from context)

cyber- (closed up unless it affects readability: cyberwarfare, cyberbullying, cybersecurity, etc., but Cyber Monday)

-esque (closed up/hyphens depend on readability: yolo-esque, Kafkaesque)

-fest (most combining forms should be closed up: lovefest, puppyfest, etc.)

-fuck (usually closed up: clusterfuck, bumblefuck)

-gate (close up and capitalize all forms: Pizzagate, Gamergate, Nipplegate, etc.)

-goer (hyphenate only if readability is an issue: beachgoer, theatergoer, fairgoer, filmgoer)

half (follow MW: half brother, half shell, half-court, half-mast)

-head (close up [metalhead, pothead] unless it interferes with readability [hip-hop-head, Phish-head])

hyper- (follow MW, typically closed up)

-ian (usually closed up unless doing so makes the word unreadable, e.g., Trumpian

-ish (usually closed up unless doing so makes the word unreadable, e.g., emoji-ish, New Yorkish)

-less (usually closed up; hyphenate if not found in MW: childless, witless, audience-less, pants-less)

-like (usually closed up unless doing so makes the word unreadable; use MW and good judgment, e.g., childlike, but doll-like, novel-like)

-maker (follow MW: decision-maker, deal-maker, but policymaker, lawmaker)

-mate (close up most combining forms: tourmates, cellmates, but running mate)

mega- (generally hyphenate new forms, follow MW; also megadonor)

mid- (close up most, follow MW for guidance: mid-1950s, mid-Atlantic, but midterm, midday)

mini (use in an open compound, unless closed up in MW: mini cupcakes, but miniseries)

multi- (follow MW)

non- (close up non- words, unless readability is an issue or the next word begins with an “N”, e.g., non-negotiable

now- phrases (hyphenate: his now-husband, the now-president)

-plus (preferable to +, as in He was 20-plus years old.)

post- (hyphenate, unless it has its own entry in MW: post-college, postmortem, postdoc, postwar)

pre- (follow MW and close up unless doing so makes a word hard to read)

re- (follow MW and close up unless doing so makes a word hard to read or changes its meaning; consider distinctions, e.g., between re-create vs. recreate and re-cover vs. recover,

-seeker (job seeker, asylum-seeker, thrill-seeker)

self- (hyphenate: self-absorbed)

-shaming (hyphenate: slut-shaming, fat-shaming, body-shaming)

size/-sized: generally use -sized to describe the size of something (a nickel-sized spider); -sizeto describe something’s function or utility (child-size furniture); also, bite-size, oversize, plus-size

super- (generally hyphenate if it creates a compound modifier, otherwise two words: a super-long line, but that line is super long)

then- phrases (hyphenate: her then-boyfriend, then-senator Obama)

-time (generally close up, unless the preceding word ends in a “t”: naptime, playtime, lunchtime, but breakfast time)

-turned phrases (do not hyphenate, unless it comes before a person’s name: the actor turned lawyer; actor-turned-lawyer John Smith…)

-ward (not -wards, no “s”: afterward, backward, toward, forward)

-wear (close up unless doing so makes a word unreadable: businesswear, streetwear, workwear)

über- (generally hyphenate if it creates a compound modifier, otherwise two words: an über-cool giraffe, that giraffe is über cool)

-worthy (one word; use hyphen only if readability is an issue: newsworthy, Oscarworthy, lustworthy, law-worthy)


Complete sentences following a colon are capped; incomplete sentences following a colon are not capped.

As a general rule avoid using colons to introduce quotes that are fewer than two sentences long.


WomANZ uses the serial (aka Oxford) comma, e.g., We picked up cyan, magenta, yellow, and black balloons for the party.

When used with too: When too is used in the sense of “in addition,” use a comma.
I ate a slice of pie and three cookies, too,

Omit the comma when too refers to the subject of the sentence.
Oh, you like cats? I like cats too.

Use commas with too when you want to emphasize an abrupt change of thought
per CMOS, He didn’t know at first what hit him, but then, too, he hadn’t ever walked in a field strewn with garden rakes…

Do not use commas before Jr. or Sr. in names.

To create a list within a sentence use numbers or lowercase letters and right-facing parenthesis. Separate items with a comma.
When I grow up, I want to own a farm that has a) acres and acres of land, b) goats of all shapes and sizes, and c) a pack of huskies for dogsledding.

Do not use a comma between words repeated for emphasis, e.g., It’s what makes her her, not It’s what makes her, her.


Use one space between a period and the next sentence. Never two.


Only use semicolons between two complete sentences or in lists with internal commas.
We visited Buffalo, New York; Tampa, Florida; and Lima, Ohio.


Use three dots in a row, no spaces between each dot: …

If ellipses are being used to indicate a mid-sentence pause, don’t use a space on either side, e.g., We could go there…or not.

If ellipses are used to indicate a trailing off in thought or a long pause before a full sentence, insert a space before the next sentence, e.g., I don’t know… Certainly, I don’t think it will be good.

If ellipses are being use to indicate the omission of a full sentence (as in a quote) use a period followed by a space before inserting ellipses.
We moved to New Orleans in 2010. … By 2012, we were back in New York.

If ellipses are being used to indicate omission of words, rather than a full sentence or are inserted mid-sentence, use a space on either side of the ellipses.
I adopted the cat yesterday and he’s the best. He’s already made himself right at home would become I adopted a cat yesterday … He’s already made himself right at home; Let’s hang out on Saturday and do something fun because the weather is supposed to be nice would become Let’s hang out on Saturday … the weather is supposed to be nice.

If ellipses are being used in a subheading, do not follow with a space. As a general rule lowercase the word following the ellipses in the sub.

If inserting ellipsis into a written quote, use brackets to indicate that they were not part of the original text.

You can find further advice on using ellipsis in your copy in the general advice and handy tools section of this guide.

Em dash

Create the em dash with keystroke option + shift + hyphen on a mac or alt + 0151 on a windows machine.
Always use spaces on either side of your em dash.
Try to avoid use of the em dash when if parentheses, commas, or a semicolon can work instead.

If you’re using an em dash is used to indicate interrupted speech, set it flush with the text and closing quotation mark.
“I’m throwing my dog a bar mitz—”

En dash

Create the en dash with keystroke option + hyphen on mac or alt + 0150 on windows machine.

Use the en dash in sports scores, date rangers and compound noun constructions. Do not use a hyphen.
the New York–New Jersey border

Use the en dash for clarity when you are using open compound nouns as modifiers
a New York–born man
a non–high school friend

Never use spaces on either side of an en dash.

Never use a hyphen after an adverb (not limited to but including most words ending in “-ly”)
It was a poorly written book
NOT poorly-written

Hyphens are not needed for use in adverbs unless their meaning is ambiguous.
a well-known presenter
a little-regarded athlete

Use hyphens for clarity when using compound modifiers.
open-mouthed, full-length.

It’s always fine to hyphenate adjectival compounds.
Five-Alarm Chilli, First-Rate Movie.

Hyphens are not usually used if a phrase is made up entirely of nouns
video game console, health care reform

If you are adding a prefix before a compound adjective, use hyphens between all components.
a non-habit-forming drug
Ideally try to re-word the sentence if possible to avoid the need for hyphens.

In a list where the modifying phrase will not be repeated, use a suspended hyphen.
a university-owned and -operated bookstore
second-, third-, and fourth-grade teachers

Use hyphens rather than slashes for basic compounds and double titles.

Slashes can be used for specific contexts such as and/or.

Sometimes quotation marks can be easier to read instead of multiple hyphens, so consider utilising them in place of hyphens if your sentence seems awkward
He heaved a “back to the drawing board” sigh. Not He heaved a back-to-the-drawing-board sigh.

Use an en dash after hyphenated compound nouns if they are part of a modifying phrase.
an editor-in-chief–approved plan.”

Italics and quotation marks

Always use roman type inside of quotation marks when you are quoting someone speaking.
“He used the word ‘chillax’ way too often.”

Always use italics for the names of movies, television shows, books, album titles, plays, art exhibitions/collections, web series, podcasts, radio programs, video games (including console, browser, and arcade; apps, however, should be roman, and capped).
The X Files

Always use quotations for names of movie/play scenes, television episodes, articles, chapters, song titles, individual pieces of art, and names of studies.
X Files, episode 3, “Squeeze”

News publication names (both print and digital), magazine and journal titles, news organizations, and local news affiliates do not need to be italicised.

Italicize the name of films/books etc. but use standard roman type for franchises in the general sense.
Is this the last movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
I’m a big fan of Star Wars and Star Trek.

Italicize the franchise names when referring to a series in the specific sense.
George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Board games, card games, and spoken games do not need to be italicized, but should be capitalized and in roman type
Monopoly, Uno, Never Have I Ever.

Keep all punctuation, including apostrophes (‘s) in roman case following italics.

When using nomenclature like scientific names, italicize both genus (capitalized) and species (lowercase) names.
Homo sapiens
E. coli.

When using a non-English word, or a word or phrase that could be unfamiliar to an English-speaking audience, use your good judgement on deciding whether to italicize it. Itallics have been used to indicate a potentially unfamiliar word in the past, however this can also be distracting. If you can, try losing the italics in these situations.

For more advice on italics check the general advice and handy tools section of this document.


Thoughts are set off with a comma, initial capped, and italicized. (I thought, What if I were to move to Switzerland?)


When using tildes for ~whimsical~ emphasis, put punctuation on the outside of the ending tilde.

Job titles and names of people

As a general rule, use a gender-neutral job title unless gender is relevant to the story.
Sales rep instead of salesman
Lawmaker instead of Congressman/woman
Chair rather than Chairman/Chairwoman

Avoid gendered terms like actress, songstress etc. outside of a direct quote.

In news stories, use surnames on second reference (except for children); if there is a compelling reason to refer to a subject on first-name basis, then it would be acceptable. Use your best judgement.

If two or more people in the same story have the same surname, generally refer to all quoted talent by their first name on second reference.

Chinese names generally place surnames first and then given names. Second reference should always use the family name.
Deng Xiaoping, where Deng is the family name.

You’ll find more advice on Chinese naming conventions in the general advice and handy tools

If a surname begins with al- or el- or similar prefix, drop the prefix on second reference.
Muammar al-Qaddafi on first reference, Qaddafi on second (and subsequent references).

Institution names

Format university names with more than one location list the location after a comma on first reference.
University of California, Berkeley.
Notre dame University, Western Australia

You can abbreviate university or institution names on second and subsequent references.
UC Berkeley.
Notre dame.


“They” is the accepted and preferred pronoun as a singular stand-in when gender is unknown or irrelevant. It should also be used if an individual expresses that this is the pronoun they identify themselves with.
For more information about pronouns for non-binary individuals, see the LGBT section under Compliance and Ethics.


Inoffensive, “casual-use” profanity in cases where it’s warranted by the tone or subject matter of a post is appropriate
She shit-talked her ex, He royally fucked up
More sensitive words, like the c-word or n-word, should generally be styled using hyphens as shown.

Verb forms of abbreviations and non-traditional words

Use ‘ing’ or an apostrophe + d to create the verb form of an all-capped abbreviation

For nouns or other words that traditionally wouldn’t take a verb form, use a hyphen + -ing to create the verb form if the word ends in a vowel.
bro-ing, Vine-ing

Use your good judgment in terms of readability to determine if the past tense should be formed with an -ed or apostrophe + -d,
bro’d down, Vined.

If the word ends in a consonant, add -ing or -ed with no hyphen
computering, computered.

Compliance and Ethics

Compliance and Ethics are a huge part of writing for the web and writing for media. WomANZ follows the current MEAA Code of Ethics when writing about issues to do with mental health, sharing imagery of indigenous Australians, court proceedings and police investigations.
You can find a copy of the MEAA Code here.
Use your best judgement with controversial and sensitive issues and if in doubt, discuss your concerns with the admin team.

Mental health resources

Any post to do with mental health or domestic violence should include the following quote at the end of the article.

If you or anyone you know needs help:

Lifeline on 13 11 14

Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800

MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978

Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467

Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36

Headspace on 1800 650 890

LGBT resources

When referring to the broader community, “queer” (as in “queer people” or “LGBT” as in “LGBT people”) is appropriate. “Gay” is not. “LGBT” is only appropriate when referring to the broader community or groups of people, not when referring to individuals.

When discussing issues of discrimination opt for “anti-gay” rather than “homophobic”; “anti-trans” rather than “transphobic.”

Unless you already know based on research, it should be standard to ask how people identify themselves: gay, bi, genderqueer, queer, trans, etc. and then using their preferred pronouns to refer to them in the piece. If you do not know how the talent identifies, please use the gender neutral “they”. By the same token, A person can be trans without also being gay or lesbian. If you need to mention the individual’s sexuality within your piece, be sure to speak with them about it and ensure you’re using their preferred identifier in your copy.

Cisgender should be used to refer to a person who is not transgender. Cis is acceptable shorthand for cisgender.

Trans and transgender are interchangeable, however in nearly all cases transgender should be used on first reference. Trans can be used on subsequent references.

Use “marriage equality” and “same-sex marriage” rather than “gay marriage” in running copy.

If you are reporting on legal issues surrounding same-sex marriage, it is more accurate to refer to “same-sex couples’ marriage rights” or something similar rather than “same-sex marriage,” though this is still acceptable shorthand for space or clarity purposes, i.e., in headlines.

Pride should be written as the lowercase “pride” unless it is forming part of the proper name of an event.
Show us your LGBT pride!
The NYC Pride Parade is this Sunday.

Use “pride flag” instead of “rainbow flag” when discussing the LGBT flag. The same can be applied to banners. “pride banner” instead of “rainbow banner” etc.

“Openly” is preferred over “out” as a modifying phrase.
openly gay
openly trans

Keep in mind that openly and out can be used interchangeably if a writer or subject prefers. Be mindful, however, of whether a modifier is necessary given a story’s or sentence’s context; using it may be redundant.

Instead of highlighting “preferred pronouns” describe the pronoun with which someone identifies in neutral terms.
Jack uses ‘they’/’them’ pronouns.

Common terminology

Transgender: An umbrella term (adj.) for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term may include but is not limited to: transsexuals, cross-dressers and other gender-variant people. Transgender people may identify as female-to-male (FTM) or male-to-female (MTF). Use the descriptive term (transgender, transsexual, cross-dresser, FTM or MTF) preferred by the individual. Transgender people may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically.

Transsexual: An older term (NOT an umbrella term), which originated in the medical and psychological communities.

Cross-dressing: To occasionally wear clothes traditionally associated with people of the other sex. “Cross-dresser” should NOT be used to describe someone who has transitioned to live full-time as the other sex or who intends to do so in the future.

Always use a transgender person’s chosen name. It is never appropriate to put quotation marks around either a transgender person’s chosen name or the pronoun that reflects that person’s gender identity.

Deadnaming: The preferred term in the community for using a trans person’s assigned name at birth. Generally, avoid the practice of deadnaming in stories, unless it is preferred by the subject.

Please use the correct term or terms to describe gender identity. For example, a person who transitions to become female is a transgender woman, whereas a person who transitions to become male is a transgender man.

Avoid pronoun confusion when examining the stories and backgrounds of transgender people prior to their transition. It is usually best to report on transgender people’s stories from the present day instead of narrating them from some point or multiple points in the past.

Use “anti-transgender bathroom bill” (“anti-LGBT bathroom bill” is OK in a hed or where space is limited) to describe legislation geared at banning transgender/nonbinary people from using bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

Transgender terms to avoid:

Avoid: “transgenders,” “a transgender”

Use: “transgender people,” “a transgender person”
Transgender should be used as an adjective, not as a noun. NO: “Tony is a transgender.” YES: “Tony is a transgender man.”

Avoid: “transgendered” (adj.)

Use: “transgender” (adj.)

Avoid: “she-male,” “he-she,” “it,” “trannie,” “tranny,” “shim,” “gender-bender”

Avoid: “sex change operation”

Use: sex reassignment surgery (SRS) or gender affirmation surgery; adhere to a subject’s preferred term

Avoid: “transvestite”

Use: “cross-dresser”

Avoid: “sex change,” “pre-operative,” “post-operative”

Use: “transition”

Avoid: “Gender Identity Disorder (GID)”
Offensive because it labels people as “disordered.”

GLAAD have an excellent Transgender Glossary of Terms that you can refer to. You can find it in the resources section of this document.


General advice

The following websites provide good advice for people writing in the media, refer to them as needed




The following tools can help you verify sources and keep your copy clean and web friendly

Hemmingway app for cleaning up copy http://www.hemingwayapp.com/

Grammarly app for cleaning up copy https://www.grammarly.com/

Yoast SEA course https://yoast.com/academy/free-seo-training-seo-for-beginners/

Verification Junkie http://verificationjunkie.com/

The Shorter Thesaurus http://www.ironicsans.com/thsrs/

Help with voice, tone and style

Explanation of different writing Styles – https://thinkwritten.com/writing-styles/

Inverted Pyramid and other mainstream media style hints – https://open.lib.umn.edu/mediaandculture/chapter/4-3-different-styles-and-models-of-journalism/

Buzzfeed Style Content Strategy – https://blog.markgrowth.com/5-clever-content-strategies-we-can-steal-from-buzzfeed-65bfd80bef99

NYU Media & Comms Styleguide Writing for the Web – https://www.nyu.edu/employees/resources-and-services/media-and-communications/styleguide/website/writing-for-the-web.html

Commonly used style guides and cheat sheets

Elements of Style https://www.bartleby.com/141/index.html

Chicago Manual Online https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org

AP Cheat Sheet https://infograph.venngage.com/p/121129/ap-style-at-a-glance

Conscious Style Guide https://consciousstyleguide.com/

GLAAD Transgender Reference https://www.glaad.org/reference/transgender

Quick and Dirty Ellipses https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/ellipses

Transcription resources

Guide to Transcribing – Aine Humble (follows APA formatting guidelines)


Cool list of transcription tools/aps etc https://www.journaliststoolbox.org/2019/05/11/reportinginterviewing_techniques_and_tools/

Op Ed resources


Interview resources





SEO Tips

Always use subheadings! Subheadings are one of the easiest ways to improve SEO rankings.
As a general rule, any block of 300-500 words should have a subheading. Obviously some pieces may require more or less subheadings, so use common sense and your knowledge of the piece you’re writing to make your decision about the number of subs to use.

Short and sweet! Google loves short sentences. If you can break a longer sentence apart into two sentences, that’s great. If you can’t split a sentence don’t worry, but keep it in mind when you’re writing and try to avoid run on and long sentences as much as you can.

Key word focus! SEO loves keywords, so we should be sure to check that we’re including relevant key words in our copy and also in the focus key phrase section on Yoast.

Adding the focus key phrase to this part in the back end of our blog posts will help our articles perform better in search indexing.

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