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King County Editorial Style Manual

abbreviations, capitalization, grammar, numbers, punctuation, spelling, word usage

said, say See attribution, state.

salmon See chinook salmon, coho salmon, fish.

saltwater. Two words when used as a noun: They moored the boat in salt water. One word when used as an adjective: The saltwater mooring was convenient.

SCAN. Abbreviation for State Controlled Area Network. King County uses this network for all business-related long-distance telephone calls. See telephone numbers.

scenario. Overused cliché. Avoid. Try chain of events, plan or situation.

scheme. Do not use as a synonym for a plan or a project.

scoping notice. Lowercase.

screen saver. Two words.

sea level. Two words.

seasons. Lowercase summer, fall, winter and spring. Don't separate the season and the year with a comma: The report is scheduled to come out in summer 2004.

SeaTac. The city in King County. No space or hyphen between Sea and Tac.

Sea-Tac. See Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Seattle-King County Public Health Department. See health department.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Including International is optional. Sea-Tac Airport is acceptable on second reference. If needed for limited space in charts, tables and maps, abbreviate as Sea-Tac Airport or Sea-Tac Airpt. To avoid confusion with the city of SeaTac, avoid using Sea-Tac alone. See airport.

second reference. In this manual, this term applies to all later references to an organization or person named in an article or publication.

secretary. Capitalize before a name if is an official organization title. Do not abbreviate. See capitalization, titles.

section. Capitalize the name of the department's organizational sections: Community Relations Section. Also capitalize when used with a numeral to identify part of a law or bill: Section 201 of the U.S. Clean Water Act. See capitalization.

secure (v.). Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try get.

seizure. Commonly misspelled.

semi-. Rules in prefixes apply.

semiannual. Means twice a year. To avoid reader confusion, avoid use of semiannual.

semicolon. (;). The semicolon has three common uses. Sometimes called a "supercomma," the semicolon shows a greater separation of thought and information than a comma but less separation than a period. Instead of using a semicolon as described in the second and third guidelines below, breaking a long sentence into two or more shorter sentences (and omitting the semicolon) can aid readability and clarity.

First, use semicolons to separate parts of a series when at least one item in the series also contains a comma. A semicolon also goes before the final and in such a series: The products included are as follows: lawn mower, Sears; organic fertilizer; weed puller, Home Depot; water timer; and compost.

Second, use a semicolon to link two (or more) closely related statements that could stand alone as independent sentences (or clauses): The train arrived on time; the passengers were overjoyed. If a coordinating conjunction such as and, but or or separates the two independent clauses, a comma would replace the semicolon: The train arrived on time, and the passengers were overjoyed.

Third, use a semicolon between two independent clauses when the second clause begins with transition words such as therefore, however, consequently and for example: The department had planned to discontinue the service; however, overwhelming customer demand persuaded officials to keep it.

Place semicolons outside quotation marks.

semimonthly. Means twice a month. To avoid reader confusion, avoid use of semimonthly. See bimonthly.

semiweekly. Means twice a week. To avoid reader confusion, avoid use of semiweekly. See biweekly.

senior. See junior, senior.

senior citizen. Use this term sparingly. See elderly.

sentence length. Varying sentence length makes writing more interesting. Short sentences, 10-15 words or less, are good for emphatic, memorable statements. Longer sentences, no more than about 30 words, are good for detailed explanation and support. Try to include only one idea in a sentence, with an average length of 20 to 25 words. See lists, period, and Clear and simple sentences in the county's Plain-language writing guide.

SEPA. See State Environmental Policy Act.

separate. Commonly misspelled.

serve, service. Use serve to describe things that are of general and continuing benefit: We serve King County residents. Use service to describe installation and maintenance: Mechanics service buses. Also, consider using simpler repair instead of service.

serviceable.

serviceman, servicewoman. But service member (two words).

service mark. A brand, word, phrase, symbol or design used by a service supplier and protected by law to prevent inappropriate use by a competitor. If you must use a service mark, capitalize it. Unless use of a service mark is essential, replacing it with a generic term (lowercased) is preferred in King County documents: real estate agent, not Realtor. Use of the service mark symbol--SM--is usually unnecessary when giving the name of a service. But see Healthy IncentivesSM, KingCareSM. Also see trademark.

set up (v.), setup (n., adj.).

7-Eleven. Trademark for the neighborhood convenience store.

sex, sexism. Base communication on pertinent qualities of men and women, not on their sex or sexual orientation. See gay, lesbian.

Avoid use of words that restrict use or meaning to males. Include all people in general references by substituting asexual words and phrases: informal agreement for gentlemen's agreement, homemaker for housewife, employees and their spouses for employees and their wives.

Here are other examples: hours worked, staff hours or working hours for man-hours; people, human beings, the human race or humanity for mankind; physical strength, resources, human effort, personnel, workers or work force for manpower; artificial, synthetic, manufactured or fabricated for manmade; and large, big, generous or formidable for man-sized. Also, consider using sewer access, pipeline opening, utility maintenance hole or utility access hole for manhole. See man.

Avoid using man or woman as a suffix or prefix in job titles: Substitute business executive or businessperson for businessman; worker, laborer or employee for workman; camera operator, videographer or cinematographer for cameraman; firefighter for fireman, letter, mail or postal carrier for mailman; and sales representative, agent or clerk for salesman. Use generic titles or descriptions for both men and women. Avoid referring to woman managers, male secretaries, men's work, women's interests such as recipe swapping, sewing and fashion. See chairman, chairperson, chairwoman.

Reword sentences to drop unnecessary gender pronouns, especially the outdated generic he and his but also she and her. Here are some alternatives:

  • Try eliminating use of any pronoun.
  • Substitute the articles a or the for the pronoun where appropriate.
  • Use the plural pronouns they and their in reference to plural nouns: Workers ... they. Not The worker ... he. Using plural pronouns with singular nouns is not yet widely accepted: The worker ... they.
  • Use he or she and his or hers--but don't overdo it. Alternate between using those phrases and other alternatives. See he or she, he/she; his, his/her.
  • Repeat the original noun or use synonyms for second references to nouns like the worker or workers. But don't overdo that either. Make sure it's clear to readers that the synonyms refer to the same person or people.
  • Alternate male and female expressions and examples. This style manual uses examples involving both males and females.

Refer to women and men equally and consistently: Communication Specialists Larry Carson and Emily Johnson won the awards. Not: Communications Specialists Larry Carson and Mrs. Gus Johnson won the awards. See Miss, Mr., Mrs., Ms.

Use parallel language when referring to people by sex: Substitute husband and wife for man and wife, ladies and gentlemen for ladies and men (or gentlemen and ladies, for variety). Neither men nor women over the age of 18 are boys or girls. Usually, use woman and man as the noun and female and male as the adjective. Female and male are OK as nouns when talking about animals, when it's not known if a person is an adult or a child and when talking about a group that includes both adults and children.

Grant equal respect to women and men. Do not describe men by mental attributes or professional position and, simultaneously, describe women by physical attributes. Only refer to appearance, charm, intuition or physical strength when pertinent.

shake-up (n. and adj.). Used to explain a major reorganization or service change. If used as a noun or adjective, hyphenate: They scheduled the shake-up for Sept. 1. Transit operators filled the shake-up room.

shall, will. Will is the preferred word in most cases: You will like it. She will not be pleased. We will meet. Shall may be used to stress determination: We shall overcome. It's also used in legal or regulatory documents: Tenants shall pay rent by the 15th of each month. But must is a clearer, stronger, less pretentious word.

sharing the same. Redundant: Sharing the same office or sharing the same birthday. Substitute: using the same office, sharing an office, having the same birthday, sharing a birthday.

Sheetrock. A trademark for a brand of gypsum wallboard. Use plasterboard instead.

she. Do not use this pronoun to refer to ships or nations. Use it instead.

sheriff, sheriff's office. Commonly misspelled. Capitalize when used as an official title before a name and when used in place of the name for the elected county sheriff King County Sheriff Wyatt Dillon, County Sheriff Wyatt Dillon, Sheriff Dillon, the County Sheriff said .... Do not abbreviate sheriff. Capitalize Sheriff's Office with or without the name of the county when referring to a particular sheriff's office.

On first reference, capitalize an officer's rank when used as a formal title only before the name of a sheriff's officer (as well as a before the name of police officer or firefighter). Except in direct quotations, abbreviate most military-style titles used before the name of a person: Lt., Capt., Sgt., Maj. If needed for clarity, add King County Sheriff or County Sheriff before the title. And add police or fire before other titles if needed for clarity: County Sheriff Sgt. Smitty Williams, police Capt. John Davidson. Spell out detective and other titles not used in the military. Don't continue using the title with the name in later references. Use only the last name.

Also see capitalization; correspondence; police, police department; titles.

ship canal. See Lake Washington Ship Canal.

shopworn.

short-term. See long-term, short-term.

should, would. Use should to express an obligation or an expectation: We should help the needy. They should be back in 15 minutes. Use would to express a customary action, a hypothetical or a preference: In the summer we would spend hours by the seashore. She would do it if she could. I would like to see you.

shut down (v.), shutdown (n.).

shut off (v.), shut-off (n., adj.).

signage, signs. Signage is jargon. Signs is preferable. When stating the words of a sign in text, capitalize the words; don't italicize them or place them in quotation marks: A growing number of people obeyed the No Smoking signs.

sightseeing, sightseer.

similar. Often misspelled or mistyped. Not similiar.

since. See because, since.

sizable.

situation. Hackneyed. Use sparingly. Try to find a more concrete, descriptive word.

-size. Something may be small, medium-size or large. Size is inherent in the meaning of small and large.

Skid Road, Skid Row. The term Skid Road originated in Seattle, where dirt roads were used to skid logs to the mill. It later became a synonym for the area where loggers gathered, usually down among rooming houses and saloons. In other cities, Row has replaced Road in many references to areas that are havens for derelicts.

skillful. Commonly misspelled. Two l's in the middle, one at the end

sky-high. Hyphenate in all uses, as an adjective and adverb, before and after a noun: sky-high ticket prices; trees grown sky-high.

slant, slash (/). See virgule for punctuation mark.

slide show. Two words.

smartphone. Lowercase.

snowfall, snowflake, snowman, snowplow, snowstorm. Each one word.

Social Security. Capitalize all references to the U.S. system.

SODO, SODO area, SODO district. SODO capitalized without periods. Use in references to the area south of downtown Seattle: SODO Busway. When necessary, make sure the location of the area is clear to your readers. See busway.

software. Software is a mass (or non-count) noun, like postage, research, machinery, hardware, cash, advice and mail. Mass nouns take singular verbs. To refer to software in countable or measurable--and plural--terms, add countable phrases or use software as an adjective: Three types of software are available. Three software products are available.

Capitalize (but don't italicize) software and app titles like Outlook, Firefox and Windows. Use quotation marks (without italics) around only computer game titles: "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?"

soil. See collective nouns.

some. See all, any, most, some.

some of the. Wordy. Simplify. Replace with some.

somewhat. Consider deleting this weak word.

sort of. See kind of, sort of.

sound. See Puget Sound.

Sound Transit. See Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority.

Sounder commuter rail. Refer to Sounder commuter rail on first reference. Acceptable later references are the Sounder and ST Sounder. Do not use all uppercase letters.

Southend. To avoid ambiguity, avoid this term to refer to the area of Seattle and King County south of downtown Seattle. Use more precise area names if possible, such as Rainier Beach, Burien, Kent and Federal Way. See capitalization,. directions and regions.

south King County. Do not capitalize south.

SOV. Abbreviation for single-occupant vehicle. Avoid use of this abbreviation.

spacing. Use only one space after a period, question mark or exclamation point at the end of a sentence--and after a colon within a sentence or book title. Also see Spacing under Creating an enticing design in the King County plain-language writing guide.

In Microsoft Word, you can set options that will automatically ensure one space at the end of sentences:
Click Tools on the Word toolbar.
Choose Options in the drop-down list.
Choose the Spelling & Grammar in the drop-down list.
Under Grammar, mark Check grammar as you type
Press
the Settings button under Grammar.
Choose 1 in the drop-down list next to Spaces required between sentences.
Press OK.

Spanish-speaking. See Hispanic, Latino.

species. Same in singular and plural. Unless referring to coined money, don't use the substandard specie as the singular form. Use singular or plural verbs and pronouns with species depending on the sense: The species has been unable to maintain itself. Both species are extinct. See family, genus, species, fish.

speeches. Capitalize and use quotation marks for formal speech titles. See composition titles.

speechmaker, speechmaking.

speech tags. See attribution.

speeds. Use figures: The bus was moving about 8 miles per hour.

Spelling spelling. Frequently misspelled words are listed alphabetically throughout this style manual. Also listed are preferred spellings for words with more than one possible spelling. For more guidance, see capitalization, collective nouns, compounds, hyphen, plurals, possessives, prefixes, suffixes, verbs.

Check separate entries for preferred spellings of words with more than one possible spelling.

For spelling and definitions not covered in this manual, consult a dictionary, such as Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (external site). Other online dictionaries are listed here. Also consult The Associated Press Stylebook. The Associated Press prefers Webster's New World College Dictionary.

If two (or more) spellings are listed in your dictionary, use the first one unless this manual lists a specific exception. If your dictionary provides different spellings in separate entries (gray and grey, for example) use the spelling followed by a full definition (gray). If a dictionary entry is listed as usually or often, use that entry.

Avoid using nonstandard, informal spellings: high, not hi; low, not lo; light, not lite; through not thru.

Use computerized spelling checkers carefully; they don't catch mistyped words that are spelled correctly--not instead of now--or words that sound alike but are spelled differently--too, two, to.

spell out. Hackneyed. Use explain, specify, illustrate, describe or detail instead. And don't spell out in detail.

split infinitives. Split infinitives are sentence constructions that split the infinitive forms of a verb by putting a word or words between to and the verb, such as to quickly leave or to willingly help. Despite what you may have learned in school, most past and present writing authorities approve the use of split infinitives. Splitting infinitives is grammatically correct--and even useful if it helps strengthen the meaning of a sentence by placing the modifying word or words before the verb they're modifying: He wanted to really impress the council. But you should try to not awkwardly split infinitives, as in this sentence. Use of split infinitives also might distract some readers who incorrectly think they're incorrect. See Eight myths of writing.

sport-utility vehicle. No s at the end of sport. Hyphenate. SUV is acceptable on second reference: SUVs are vehicles that combine sport and utility while filling local freeways.

spreadsheet. One word.

springtime.

square. Do not abbreviate. Capitalize when part of a proper name: Pioneer Square.

square feet, square foot. See dimensions.

stadium, stadiums. Capitalize only when part of a proper name: Husky Stadium, the stadium.

staff. Collective noun, it takes singular verbs: The staff is working on the project. Staff members may be used, if needed: Staff members are working on the project. See collective nouns, man.

stand-alone (adj.). Two words, hyphenated.

standard transmission. See transmission.

start. See begin, start.

startup (n., adj.), start up (v.).

State Controlled Area Network. See SCAN.

state (v.). Say or said is often a better word than state or stated in most writing. State sounds formal or stilted, unless you're stating something officially and specifically: The department's complaint policy states that all letters will be researched thoroughly. The department's complaint policy states, "All letters will be researched thoroughly." See attribution.

stated. See attribution.

State Environmental Policy Act. Spell out and capitalize on first reference. SEPA is acceptable in later references. As with other abbreviations, don't identify the abbreviation when first spelling out the term if the abbreviation won't be repeated in your document.

state names. Spell out the names of the 50 U.S. states when they stand alone: He moved to Washington after living 20 years in New York. State names may be abbreviated when they stand alone in charts and tables, using these standard abbreviations below.

Except in business correspondence, Web pages and direct quotations, abbreviate most state names when used with the names of cities, counties, towns or villages--using these standard abbreviations. Spell out the names of the six states that have five or fewer letters and the two states that are not part of the continental United States: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah.

Do not use the two-letter ZIP code abbreviation for a state name unless it's part of a mailing address: For more information, write King County Office of Civil Rights, 400 Yesler Way, Room 260, Seattle, WA 98104-2683. Always spell out other uses of state names in business correspondence, Web pages and direct quotations. See addresses, correspondence, ZIP code.

For punctuation, put one comma between the city and the state names and another comma after the state name, unless ending a sentence: She moved to Portland, Ore., from Portland, Maine.

Avoid using the redundant the state of before most state names. But use state of Washington or Washington state--with lowercase state--when necessary to distinguish the state from the District of Columbia. See Washington.

Lowercase state when used as an adjective: a state map, the state flag. They visited the state of Washington. Capitalize state when referring to the state government: He worked for the State of Washington.

Don't capitalize state when used as an adjective to specify a level of government: state Rep. Ellen Berger, state funds, state Department of Ecology. But capitalize the full name of state governmental units: Washington State Department of Ecology. See ecology, Ecology; governmental bodies.

Below are the standard abbreviations for state names. Don't put a space between parts of an abbreviation: N.M., not N. M.:

Ala. Ind. Neb. R.I.
Alaska Iowa Nev. S.C.
Ariz. Kan. N.C. S.D.
Ark. Ky. N.D. Tenn.
Calif. La. N.H. Texas
Colo. Maine N.J. Utah
Conn. Md. N.M. Vt.
Del. Mass. N.Y. Va.
Fla. Mich. Ohio Wash.
Ga. Minn. Okla. Wis.
Hawaii Miss. Ore. W.Va.
Idaho Mo. Pa. Wyo.
Ill. Mont.    

See ZIP code.

state route. See highway designations.

state with confidence. Stock phrase. Consider omitting or rephrase with a form of be confident.

station. The call letters alone are frequently adequate for radio and television stations, but when needed, lowercase the description: radio station KMTT, television station KING. See call letters, TV.

stationary, stationery. To stand still is to be stationary. Writing paper is stationery. Memory tip: Both stationery and paper contain er.

ST Express. Sound Transit's regional bus service. No periods after ST.

storm event. Don't use. Say storm.

stormwater. One word.

storm weather (n.), storm-weather (adj.).

strategize. Overstated. Simplify. Consider replacing with plan.

streambed. One word.

street. Abbreviate with a numbered address: 23905 N.W. 74th St. Capitalize only when part of a proper name: Southwest Hanford Street, the street; but Pine and Pike streets, Pine or Pike Street. Street names may be abbreviated in maps, charts and tables. See addresses, correspondence for exceptions.

streetcar. See Waterfront Streetcar.

sub-. Usually, no hyphen: subculture, subtotal, subdivision, subcommittee, but sub-subcommittee.

subcommittee. Lowercase when used with the name of a legislative body's full committee: a Transportation subcommittee. Capitalize when a subcommittee has its own a proper name: the Regional Transit Committee's Service Evaluation Subcommittee.

subsequently. Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try later or afterwards.

subsequent, subsequent to. Pompous. Try after, next or later.

substitute. People substitute one thing for another. Don't use substitute by or substitute with.

succeed. Commonly misspelled. It's one of only three English words that end in -ceed. (The others are exceed and proceed).

successfully. Often unnecessary: She completed the assignment successfully means the same as She completed the assignment.

such as. See including, such as.

sufficient number of. Overstated and wordy. Simplify. Consider replacing with enough.

suffixes. See separate listings in this style manual for commonly used suffixes. Usually, do not hyphenate words formed with the suffixes wide, down, less. If in doubt, follow your dictionary. If it does not list a word combination, use two words for the verb form and hyphenate any noun or adjective forms. See capitalization, titles.

Here are some general rules:

  • The suffix -able is more common than -ible, and it is used mostly with complete root words: workable, dependable, changeable, noticeable. The final e is dropped in some root words: desirable, excusable, indispensable, usable.
  • Only -able follows g, i and the hard c ("k" sound): navigable, amiable, irrevocable.
  • The suffix -ible is commonly used after double consonants (like 11), s, st, some d sounds and the soft c ("s" sound): infallible, divisible, credible, forcible.
  • The -ance/ant and -ence/ent suffixes don't follow any firm rules, so use your memory: attendance, maintenance, relevant, resistant; existence, independence, persistent, superintendent.

suites. See room and suite numbers.

summertime.

summon. Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try send for or call.

superintendent. Do not abbreviate. Capitalize as an official job title before a name. See capitalization, correspondence, titles.

supervisor. Capitalize as an official job title before a name: Division Two Supervisor Connie Tyler. Lowercase when standing alone or between commas after a name: Keith Jagger, motor pool supervisor, thanked his crew. See capitalization, correspondence, titles.

supersede. Commonly misspelled. It's the only English word that ends with -sede.

superstitions of writing. See Eight myths of writing.

supplement. Simplify. Try add to instead of supplement.

surprise. Commonly misspelled.

surrounded. Completely surrounded is redundant. Simplify. Drop completely. Also, King County is not surrounded by water. Water does not encircle King County.

SUV. See sport-utility vehicle.

symbols. Avoid using symbols in texts, especially on first reference. Symbols may be used in charts and tables. See percent, temperatures.

syndrome. Jargon. Avoid this term unless the meaning is medical.

systemwide. One word, no hyphen.

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How to use this style manual
This online manual is in alphabetical order. To get answers for words or terms you have questions about, click on the letter that begins the word or term you have a question about--or learn more about How to use this style manual.

King County editorial style guide (DOC, 468KB)--A summary of key entries in the County's online Editorial Style Manual. If you need a printed version of the manual, download this condensed style guide. Except for this Word document, there is no print version of the whole style manual. Updated June 29, 2010.

What's new--Significant new, updated and improved entries in the King County Editorial Style Manual.