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The Star Copy Guide


Legendary style guide regarded by Ernest Hemingway as “the best rules I ever learned in the business of writing.”

Use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Be positive, not negative.

The style of local communications is To The Star: in italics, out-of-town communications in this form. Salina, Kas. – To The Star:

Never use old slang. Such words as stunt, cut out, got his goat, come across, sit up and take notice, put one over, have no place after their use becomes common. Slang to be enjoyable must be fresh.

Use Kas., not Kan. or Kans., as an abbreviation for Kansas: use Ok., not Okla., for Oklahoma, Col., not Colo., for Colorado; Cal., not Calif., for California.

Watch you sequence of tenses. “He said he knew the truth, not “He said he knows the truth.” “The community was amazed to hear that Charles Wakefield was a thief,” not “was amazed to hear that Charles Wakefield is a thief.”

The style of The Star is 9:30 o’clock this afternoon or this morning or tonight; not 9:30 this forenoon, 9:30 p.m. or 9:30 this evening. Also let the hour precede – not this morning at 9:30 o’clock. He walked twelve miles, not a distance of twelve miles; he earned $10, not he earned the amount or sum of $10; he went there to see his wife, not for the purpose of seeing his wife. He was absent during June, not during the month of June.

Goods valued at about $25 were stolen,” not “about $25 worth of goods were stolen.”

Several fountain pens were stolen,” not “a number of fountain pens” – if you know the number, specify.

Eliminate every superfluous word as “Funeral services will be at 2 o’clock Tuesday,” not “The funeral services will be held at the hour of 2 o’clock on Tuesday.” He said is better than he said in the course of conversation.

In reference to specified time the word on is superfluous. Why write on January 16; Tuesday, January 16 and Tuesday are enough.

Don’t split verbs: He probably will go, not he will probably go. It previously had been shown better; not it had previously been better shown.

The verb precedes the time: He sold yesterday afternoon; not he yesterday afternoon sold. In certain instances, euphony or smoothness may admit a deviation from this rule.

Be careful of the word also. It usually modifies the word it follows closest. “He, also, went” means “He too went.” “He went also” means he went in addition to taking some other action.

Be careful of the word “only.” “He only had $10,” means he alone was the possessor of such wealth.” “He had only $10,” means the ten was all the cash he possessed.

The Rev. Q.Z. Smith, D.D., not the Rev. Dr. Q.Z. Smith.

Mr. Smith or Dr. Smith; not the Rev. Smith or the Rev. Mr. Smith or the Rev. Dr. Smith. Never call a minister a doctor unless he is a doctor of divinity.

He went to police headquarters, not he came to police headquarters. “He came to the office of The Star” would be correct.

“The police tried to find her husband,” not tried to locate her husband. To locate, used as a transitive verb, means to establish.

“He was ill in February” not “He was ill during February.” During February would mean every fraction of a second of the month’s time. A body may deliberate during the day, but that means no recess was taken in the entire period.

Don’t split infinitives – He wanted to live longer, not to longer live.

Avoid the use of adjectives, especially such extravagant ones as splendid, gorgeous, grand, magnificent, etc.

Say the girl was of light complexion, not light complected.

Say evening clothes, not full dress.

Say patrolmen not in uniform, not plain clothes men. Do not use cop.

A burglar enters a building where persons are sleeping – use thief or robber in other cases.

Use revolver or pistol, not gun, unless a shotgun is meant.

The thief seized her purse, not grabbed or snatched.

State things in writing, otherwise say, assert, declare, etc.

Say, “She was born in Ireland and came to Jackson County in 1874” not “but came to Jackson County.” She didn’t come here to make amends for being born in Ireland. This is common abuse of the conjunction.

“Smith asserted he had been arrested falsely,” not claimed he had been arrested.”

Use we should, they would. For instance, not, “We would like to see these abuses corrected.” That would be an appeal. The simple statement is, “We should like to see these abuses corrected.”

Don’t say “He had his leg cut off in an accident.” He wouldn’t have had it done for anything.

“He suffered a broken leg in a fall,” not “he broke his leg in a fall.” He didn’t break the leg, the fall did. Say a leg, not his leg, because presumably the man has two legs.

“The work began,” not the work was begun.”

He was graduated from Manual,” not “he graduated from Manual.”

Say Mary went shopping with Mabel – not “in company with Mabel”.

“Honor the memory of J.V.C. Karnes” not “honor J.V.C. Karnes” after his death.

Say “John Jones of St. Louis,” no comma between Jones and of.

“Mr Roosevelt is a leader who, we believe, would succeed,” not “whom, we believe, would.”

“Mr. Roosevelt is a leader whom, we believe the people will choose,” not “who, we believe.”

“None saw him except me,” not “none saw him but me.” Don’t use but as a preposition.

Use or after either, nor after neither, as a general rule. Certain deviations from this statement are good English, but extreme care in usage is best.

Indorsement of a candidate, not endorsement.

Say Chinese, not Chinamen.

Bodies are not shipped or sent – say “The burial will be in Ottumwa, Ia.”

Several persons were in the room,” not “several people.” “The people of Kansas City” is correct.

Both persons were pleased, not “both parties were pleased.” “Both parties to the contract” is correct.

He knew no good reason that he should not run” is better than “he knew no good reason why he should not run.”

“He threw the stone,” not “He threw the rock.” Rock is unquarried stone.

Write 250,000, 500,000, 750,000 and 1,000,000, 1/4 million, 1/2 million, 3/4 million and 1 million respectively.

Numbers less than 100 should be spelled out, except in matter of statistical nature, in ages, time of day, sums of money and comparative figures or dimensions.

In writing of animals use the neuter gender except when you are writing of a pet that has a name. Then it is permissible to use the masculine or feminine.

“The man left the car while it was in motion is simpler and better than “alighted from the car.”

“The man was sentenced to be hanged,” not to be hung.”

“The death sentence was “executed,” not “The man was executed.”

The execution of the death sentence,” not “the execution of the man.”

The prisoner was electrocised, not electrocuted.

“None of them is so sorry as myself,” not “none of them are so sorry.”

He was “eager to go,” not anxious to go.” You are anxious about a friend who is ill.

“If I were king,” not if I was king.”

“The building was partly insured,” not partially insured.”

“It seemed as if he meant business,” not “as though he meant business.” Do not say “she looked like she would faint. Say as if.

A long quotation with out introducing the speaker makes a poor lead especially and is bad at any time. Break into the quotation as soon as you can. thus: “I should prefer,” the speaker said, “to let the reader know who I am as soon as possible.”

Try to preserve the atmosphere of the speech in your quotation. For instance in quoting a child, do not let him say “Inadvertently, I picked up the stone and threw it.”

“He saw more than one thousand ducks flying” – not “over one thousand ducks.” Also say “fewer than” instead of “less than,” when numbers, not quantity, are considered. It is proper to write “He had more than $10.”

“He was made unconscious,” not “he was rendered unconscious.”

He died on the sidewalk,” not “He fell dead on the sidewalk.”

Never say “The deceased.

Such words as “tots, “urchins, “mites of humanity” are not to be used in writing of children. In certain cases, where “kids” conveys just the proper shading and fits the story, it is permissible.

Watch out for trite phrases such as “Burly negro,” “crisp bank note,” “cold cash,” “hard cash,” etc.

Avoid expressions from a foreign tongue “He received $2 a day” is English, not “received $2 per day.”

A man marries a woman :she is married to him.

“The voters will choose among the several candidates,” “not between” the several.” “Choose between two candidates is correct.

“Twenty attended the meeting among others, C.W. Armour, J.C. Nichols.” The word others implies that the persons mentioned are apart from persons already mentioned, but the implication does not hold true. The sentence should read: “Twenty attended, among them, C.W. Armour and J.C. Nichols.”

He died of heart disease, not heart failure – everybody dies of “heart failure.”

Representative Bland, not Congressman Bland. The members of both the house and senate are Congressmen. The titles “Representative” and “Senator” distinguish them.

“He suspected the negro was guilty,” not “He suspicioned the negro was guilty.” “The police were suspicious of him,” not “The police considered him suspicious.” Do not use suspect as a noun.

The words donate and donation are barred from the columns of The Star. Use give or contribute. The use of raise in the sense of obtaining money has been forced into usage where no other word seems to do as well. But raise is not a noun.

Don’t confuse the words habit and custom as “John Jones was a victim of the drug habit.” “It was the custom of John Jones to go to the bank at 11 o’clock each day.”

A man is not arrested for “investigation.” There is no such charge as “investigation.”

The Star does not use “dope” or “dope fiend.” Use habit forming drugs or narcotics and addicts.

Don’t say: “Three men put in an appearance.” Just let them “appear.”

Do not use picnic as a verb.

Say luncheon, not lunch.

You expect a record crowd, not anticipate it. But you can anticipate some legal action, for example, by taking some step of precaution, and be correct in usage.

Portion in almost all cases refers to food. “Portion” of an estate is correct, however.

Watch for plural collective nouns; they take singular verbs. “The committee was discharged.” “The company was solvent.” Three thousand dollars was stolen.”

Spell it program, quarter, quintet, etc.

Call it parent-teacher association.

Do not use the term squad in referring to motor cars or traffic policemen. Write “Sergeant Jones of the motor cycle police,” or “Lieutenant McCormick of the traffic police.” A squad is a fixed and limited number of men.

In Jefferson City, preferable to at Jefferson City.

Probably with not likely will.

As to use of state after name of a city. Use state except where city is so well known as to make the name of the state entirely superfluous. Use state where there are two or more cities of that name. In connection with this, however, use Independence, when Independence, Mo., is meant; use Independence, Kas.

Avoid using that too frequently, but govern use largely by euphony, and strive for smoothness.

Say the morning edition of The Star.

In most cases, desire is preferable to want.

Say crippled boy, but not a cripple.

Each other applies to two, one another to three or more.

Latter applies to one of two. Where more than two are considered, last is the word.

If is used to introduce a supposition clause, as, I shall not go if it rains. It is incorrect to say: I do not know if I can go. The correct form is whether:

I do not know whether I can go.

Resolutions are adopted, not passed. Bills are passed and laws are enacted. The house or senate passed a bill; congress or the legislature enacted a law.

Do not use evidence as a verb. This wrong use is especially common in the past tense form. Burglarized and jailed are equally objectionable.

Both simplicity and good taste suggest home rather than residence, and lives rather than resides.

“John Jones, who was arrested yesterday, and who furnished release bond, was arrested again today.” The second who is superfluous.

Equally As - The as is superfluous.

He Was Presented With - This is an old offender, which gets in despite all injunctions and a general knowledge that the with is entirely superfluous.

A Woman of the Nam e of Mary Jones -

Disrespect is attached to the individual in such sentences. Avoid it. Never use it even in referring to street walkers.

Admittance and Admission - Admittance is better than admission in relation to admittance fees and admittance to places, lodges, etc.

Motor car is preferred but automobile is not incorrect.

In marking typographical style in copy, conform to the adopted style sheet of The Star.

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