King County Editorial Style Guide - Listings - A
a, an. Use the article an before vowel sounds (a, e, i, o, u): an 18-car pileup, an environmental catastrophe, an FBI investigation, an hour ago, an NBC broadcast, an SEC filing. Use the article a before consonant sounds: a European country, a historic moment, a one-year anniversary, a uniform. Note that if the letter h is sounded, a is the proper form: hamburger, history, historical, house.
abbreviations and acronyms. Abbreviations and acronyms must benefit your readers by making written text simpler and less cumbersome to read. Do not use an abbreviation or acronym that would confuse your readers. When in doubt, spell it out. See individual terms and abbreviations in this style manual for preferred uses.
Avoid nonessential abbreviations (soon or as soon as possible, not ASAP), Latin abbreviations (for example, not e.g.), uncommon contractions (could've, mightn't, that'll) and obscure acronyms (not applicable, not available or none, not n.a., N/A), especially in documents that may be translated for or used by readers with limited English proficiency. Also, avoid informal nonstandard spellings (high, not hi; through, not thru ) and shortened words (veteran or veterinarian, not vet).
Never abbreviate county or County. See other individual terms and abbreviations in this style manual for preferred uses.
Always spell out terms, common names and the complete proper name of an organization, project, process, program or document the first time you use them, and repeat the complete term or name at the beginning of sections in longer documents. Although abbreviations or acronyms are capitalized for some common or generic nouns and terms, lowercase the spelled-out form. See capitalization.
If an abbreviation or acronym of the term or name would not be clear on second reference, avoid using it. Instead, use a shortened version of the name or a generic word, such as the agency, the committee, the department, the division or the company.
If using unfamiliar abbreviations and acronyms is necessary, an effective style on first reference is to follow the complete name with the abbreviation set off between commas: The Endangered Species Act, or ESA, affects many projects. Later references could use the abbreviation, a shortened version of the name or a generic word. Whenever possible, avoid following the name of an organization, project or program with an abbreviation or acronym in parentheses: the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
If you don't use an abbreviation or acronym later in a document, don't provide the abbreviation or acronym after first spelling out a term. (The reason for providing an abbreviation or acronym early in a document is so readers are familiar with it when it's used again in the same document.)
If the meaning is clear to readers or explained elsewhere in a document, abbreviations and acronyms may be used in headlines and headings. Avoid placing an abbreviation or acronym in parentheses within a heading or headline.
Acronyms: When each letter is pronounced in most acronyms, capitalize every letter. Capitalize only the first letter in most acronyms with more than six letters. Omit periods in most acronyms unless the result would spell an unrelated word. Check this style manual or your dictionary for exceptions to these guidelines. The word the is unnecessary before acronyms pronounced as words instead of letter by letter: OSHA, CAD.
Abbreviations: Put a period after each letter in most two-letter abbreviations: U.N., U.S., M.A. Leave out periods in most abbreviations unless the result would spell an unrelated word: M.A.N. built the buses. When each letter is pronounced in longer abbreviations, capitalize every letter but don't include periods: NBC, EIS, NEA. Check this style manual or dictionary for exceptions to these guidelines. Use only one period when a sentence ends with an abbreviation that includes periods. Use the before abbreviations only when you would use the before the full name: the ESA, the state DOT, IBM.
Most common plural abbreviations are formed by adding an s: UFOs, IOUs, Drs., chaps., CDs, ABCs, TVs. Some times, an apostrophe may precede the s: when the abbreviation has internal periods (M.A.'s, M.B.A.'s, Ph.D.'s), when the abbreviation is composed of lowercase letters (pdf's), when the abbreviation is a single letter (A's, S's) and when the abbreviation would be confusing if only the s were added (OWS's instead of OWSs). In the last example, if your readers might misinterpret an abbreviation like OWS's as showing possession, leave out the apostrophe.
Spell out (don't abbreviate) all words and phrases in direct quotations if that's the way they were expressed by a speaker or writer: "We were in Taos, New Mexico, on January 28." See dates, quotations, state names.
about, around. About is preferable to around in referring to numbers. Use about for round numbers, not specific figures: About 50 people attended. Forty-eight people attended. If saying a figure is an estimate, also using the word about is redundant. Use one or the other, not both. About is also redundant when giving a range. Incorrect: She estimated the crowd at about 1,500. A crowd of about 200-300 turned out. Around is more common than about in other uses: beat around the bush, strewn around the parking lot, all around the county. See approximately.
aboveground. One word.
academic degrees, titles. Avoid abbreviations for degrees; instead, use a phrase such as Sally Forth, who has a doctorate in microbiology, a bachelor's degree, a master's degree. Do not capitalize the type of degree or major, except for proper nouns like English. If using abbreviations such as B.A., M.A. or Ph.D., put them after a full name, capitalize, include periods, and set off with commas: Charlie McCarthy, Ph.D., spoke. (Exception: no periods in professional initials on county business cards.)
Also, capitalize and spell out titles like professor when they go before a name, but don't capitalize modifiers: journalism Professor Bill Chamberlain. Lowercase elsewhere: Bill Chamberlain, journalism professor. See doctor. Also see King County graphic standards for county business communications.
accent marks. Use of accent marks (or diacritical marks) is optional in English for words like cliche or resume or Renee--or cliché, résumé or René. If you use must them, use them consistently and correctly. Check your dictionary.
acceptable. Commonly misspelled.
accept, except. Often misused or confused. Accept means to receive or agree to: Please accept my offer. Except means other than and to leave out: We agreed on everything except the schedule.
access. It's best used as a noun. As a verb, it's technical jargon when referring to computers. For other uses, try acquire, connect, enter, find, get, locate, look up, reach, retrieve or even gain access.
accessible, accessibility. Commonly misspelled. See Americans with Disabilities Act for guidelines on the required statement about publications in accessible (or alternative) formats. Also see the King County Guidelines for Accessible Print Materials (DOC, internal link).
accidentally. Commonly misspelled as accidently. Remember that you're adding ly to accidental.
accommodate. Commonly misspelled. May be overstated if the meaning is fit. Simplify. Try replacing with fit, hold or adapt (to)--or try help, give, provide, house, hold, handle, grant or allow.
accompany. Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try go with.
accomplish. Overstated. Simplify. Try a form of do or achieve.
accumulate. Commonly misspelled.
acknowledgment. Commonly misspelled.
acoustic. Commonly misspelled.
acre See dimensions.
(Adobe) Acrobat, (Adobe) Acrobat Reader. See PDF.
acronyms. See abbreviations and acronyms.
action. Use verb form when appropriate. Replace take action with act.
active vs. passive verbs. A verb is active when it shows that the subject acts or does something: The woman caught the bus. The council passed the resolution unanimously. A verb is passive when the subject of the verb is acted upon: The bus was caught by the woman. The resolution was passed unanimously by the council. The active voice is simpler, more direct and more forceful than the passive voice. Passive voice may be acceptable when the person or thing receiving the action is more important than the person or thing doing the acting. Also, avoid shifts between active and passive within a sentence. Change: The new manager majored in mechanical engineering and was employed by the Boeing Co. as a project engineer. To: The new manager majored in mechanical engineering and worked at the Boeing Co. as a project engineer. See headlines; Clear and simple sentences in the county's Plain-language writing guide .
actually. Vague, overused adverb. Avoid. Change: They actually finished the project on time. To: They finished the project on time.
ADA. See Americans with Disabilities Act.
added. See attribution.
Mailing addresses and street addresses have some differences in editorial style and formatting. See correspondence for exceptions to King County's editorial style manual in formal business correspondence for the county. These exceptions apply to abbreviating, capitalizing and punctuating mailing addresses. The U.S. Postal Service prefers various abbreviations, all capital letters, limited or no punctuation, certain ZIP code uses, and sans serif fonts (like Arial or Helvetica) in mailing (or delivery) addresses, especially for computer-generated labels and bulk mailings. Follow the standards below and elsewhere in this style manual for return addresses and mailing addresses within the text of a document.
Use numerals for an address number: She lives at 3456 N.E. 78th St.
Spell out and capitalize First through Ninth when used as a street name: The bus drove down Fourth Avenue South. Use numerals with two letters for 10th and above: He lives at 1234 56th Ave. S. Don't use superscript: 56th, not 56th. Don't separate the address numbers and the street number with a hyphen or extra space (not 1234-56th Ave. S.)
Abbreviate compass points (N.W., S., etc.; all caps with periods) in a numbered address: The building is at 543 N.W. 252nd St. Don't abbreviate South as So. The periods for abbreviated compass points in numbered addresses may be omitted in correspondence, maps, charts and tables.
Abbreviate only avenue, boulevard and street as Ave., Blvd. and St. in a numbered address: King Street Center is at 201 S. Jackson St. See mail stops.
When using intersections as an address to identify the location of facilities, avenue, boulevard, street and compass points may be abbreviated: They used the park-and-ride lot at Fifth Ave. N.E. and N.E. 145th St. But: King Street Center is at 201 S. Jackson St. on Second Avenue South.
Spell out and capitalize words such as alley, drive, road, way and terrace when part of an address or name: He worked on Holman Road Northwest and lived at 200 Holman Road N.W. Lowercase them when used alone or in plural forms: The crew will repave Holman and Somerset roads.
When first used without a number, always spell out and capitalize the full name of a street, avenue, road or boulevard: He lived on South Washington Street. Also spell out compass points (South, Northwest, etc.) if omitting the number: The building is on Northwest 252nd Street.
Compass points (South, Northwest, etc.) and common names (Street, Avenue, etc.) may be left off in later references if the location is clear.
Lowercase street, avenue, boulevard or road and the compass point when using the plural form: The property is between 75th and 78th avenues northwest on Northwest 238th Street. But don't lowercase those words when the form is not plural: You can catch a bus on Second or Third Avenue. Also, lowercase and spell out street, avenue, boulevard or road when used alone: He drove down the tree-lined boulevard.
Use ZIP codes and ZIP code abbreviations for states only in mailing addresses. Do not use them in street addresses to show the location of a building, facility, meeting or event. See state names for standard abbreviations in other uses. Also see ZIP code.
For post office boxes, use periods in the abbreviation P.O. when giving P.O. Box numbers: P.O. Box 4311. Also, lowercase post office in all uses.
Also see the King County Graphic Standards for county letterhead, business cards and envelopes.
adequate number of. Wordy. Simplify. Replace with enough.
adjacent to. Pompous. Simplify. Replace with next to, beside, by, near or close to. Also, adjacent things may or may not be touching each other: adjacent houses, an adjacent garage. Adjoining things are actually in contact with each other: adjoining tables, adjoining rooms.
ad-lib (n., v., adj.). Not adlib or ad lib.
administration. Lowercase unless it's part of an agency name: Social Security Administration.
Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Reader. See PDF.
adverb. An adverb is a word that modifies a verb, an adjective or another adverb. Place an adverb as close as possible to the word or phrase it modifies. In compound verbs, the adverb usually goes before the main verb: He will probably attend, she has already completed, the book did not clearly describe. See hyphen, only.
advertise, advertisement, advertising. Commonly misspelled. Not advertize, advertizement, advertizing.
adviser. Not advisor.
advisory committee. See capitalization.
affect, effect. Often misused or confused. Usually used as a verb, affect means "to influence, to have an effect on": The pesticide will affect the stream. (Avoid using the rare noun version of affect from the field of psychology.) Effect is usually a noun, meaning "result" or "consequence": The total effect of the project was disappointing. Effect is sometimes used as a verb, meaning "to cause, to bring about, to produce": She will effect many changes in the group. But use those other simpler, clearer terms instead. See also effect many changes, have an effect on.
affirmative action. King County has an Affirmative Action program, but it takes affirmative actions in recruiting minorities, women and people with disabilities. Don't abbreviate.
afford an opportunity. Wordy jargon. Simplify with allow or let.
African American. Acceptable to use interchangeably with black when referring to black people in the United States. Don't hyphenate as a noun. Don't use Afro-American. When in doubt about how to refer to a person's race or cultural or ethnic identity, ask the person in question what is preferred. Some may prefer black, others African American. See black, capitalization, race.
agencywide. One word.
agenda. Use it with singular verbs and pronouns: The agenda is two pages long. It is ready for distribution. Its plural form is agendas.
ages. Use a numeral when stating the age of a human being, animal or inanimate object in years or months. When using ages as adjectives before a noun or as substitutes for a noun, use hyphens: A 7-year-old girl. The girl is 7 years old. The workshop is for 10-year-olds. The baby is 4 months old. The law is 8 years old. The man is in his 20s (also, no apostrophe). Classes are for children 5-15 years of age (or 5 to 15 years of age). This rule is one of the exceptions to the general rule for numbers. Also see hyphen.
airline, airlines, airways. Capitalize as part of a proper name for an airline company: United Airlines, Japan Air Lines, Qantas Airways. On second reference, use only the proper name (United), the airline, or an abbreviation (TWA). Use airline or airlines in generic references to airline companies.
airport. Capitalize as part of a proper name: King County International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. If needed for limited space in charts, tables and maps, abbreviate as Airpt. Lowercase airport when using alone: Her family went to the airport. See King County International Airport/Boeing Field, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
air traffic controller. No hyphen.
aka. Abbreviation for also known as. Lowercase with no periods or spacing: John Merrick, aka the Elephant Man. For informal use.
Alaskan Way Viaduct. Capitalize viaduct when used with Alaskan Way: Alaskan Way Viaduct. Lowercase viaduct when used alone: The viaduct is closed for repairs.
align. Often misspelled.
all, any, most, some. These words can be singular or plural. If the word means "general amount or quantity," it's singular: All of the fuel was delivered Tuesday. Some of his report was quoted in the article. If you can read "individual and number" into the sentence, use a plural verb: All of the riders were treated and released. Have any of their relatives been notified? See more, most.
all of. Wordy. Simplify. Drop of unless followed by a pronoun: all of them.
allow, enable, permit. Enable means to make possible, practical or easy: The new vehicles will enable the division to provide better service. Allow and permit imply power or authority to give or deny. Permit suggests formal sanction, approval, consent or authorization. Allow, in contrast, suggests merely the absence of opposition or refraining from prohibiting actions: We permitted the radio station to broadcast from the parking lot. Our manager allows us to dress casually on Fridays. Also, let is a simple synonym for allow.
all ready, already. Commonly confused. All ready means "prepared"; already means "earlier or before now": The contractor is all ready to begin work; in fact, it's already started.
all right. Commonly misspelled. Two words. Not alright.
all-round. Commonly misspelled. Not all-around.
all-terrain vehicle. Include hyphen. ATV is OK on second reference.
almost all. Replace with simpler most.
along with, together with. Wordy. Simplify. Try cutting along or with, or omitting those phrases completely. Change: Treatment plant operators, together with process control analysts, attended the meeting. To: Treatment plant operators and process control analysts attended the meeting. Or: Treatment plant operators attended the meeting with process control analysts. Also, in both expressions, with does not govern the verb: The suspect, along with another man, was being questioned. Not: The suspect, along with another man, were being questioned.
a lot. Commonly misspelled as alot. It takes a plural verb with countable items--A lot of people are waiting to buy tickets--and a singular verb with uncountable concepts--A lot of work has gone into the project. See allot, allotted, allotting.
already exist. Redundant. Drop already.
alright. Nonstandard. Use all right (two words) instead. Memory aid: All right is the opposite of all wrong.
alternate, alternative. Often misused or confused. As a verb, alternate means to occur in turns--first one, then the other--or every other one in a series: Day alternates with night. As an adjective, it means arranged by turns: The engineers worked on alternate days. As a noun, it means a substitute: He's my alternate on the committee. As a noun and adjective, alternative means a choice or option between two things or among several things: They preferred an alternative color scheme for the facility. The alternatives are a northern site and (not or) a southern site.
See Americans with Disabilities Act (below) for guidelines on the required statement about publications in alternative formats.
a.m. See time.
America, American. Though acceptable as a description for residents of the United States, American also may be applied to any resident or citizen of nations in the Caribbean and North, Central and South America. When possible, use a more precise term: history of the United States instead of American history, U.S. citizen or U.S. resident instead of American. Because they are used only in the United States, terms such African American, Asian American and Mexican American may be used. See African American; American Indian, Eskimo below; Asian, Pacific Islander; Hispanic, Latino; race.
American Indian, Eskimo. American Indian and Native American are synonymous. Preferences differ among indigenous people in the United States and Western Hemisphere. When in doubt about how to refer to a person's race or cultural or ethnic identity, ask the person in question what is preferred. When possible, use national, or tribal, affiliation rather than generic American Indian or Native American: Snoqualmie, Muckleshoot, Cherokee. For Eskimos and Aleuts in Alaska, Alaska Native is preferred to American Indian. Don't use disparaging words like wampum, warpath, powwow and squaw. To specify someone was born in the United States, but isn't Native American, use native-born. Lowercase native when it stands alone. See capitalization, race, tribe.
Americans with Disabilities Act. Spell out and capitalize on first reference. ADA (all caps, no periods) may be used in later references
Include a version of the following statements on all printed material prepared for distribution to the public and employees. Use a hyphen, not parentheses, to separate the area code from the rest of the phone number. See TTY for other advice on giving TTY phone numbers:
Alternative Formats On Request [underlined]
XXX-XXX-XXXX | TTY Relay: 711
This information is available in alternative formats on request at XXX-XXX-XXXX (voice) or XXX-XXX-XXXX (TTY).
To request this information in alternative formats for people with disabilities, call XXX-XXX-XXXX or TTY Relay: 711.
Alternative Formats or Disability Accommodations On Request [underlined]
XXX-XXX-XXXX (voice) | XXX-XXX-XXX (TTY)
Alternative Formats or Reasonable Accommodations On Request [underlined]
XXX-XXX-XXXX | TTY Relay: 711
To request this information in alternative formats or to request reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, call XXX-XXX-XXXX (voice) or XXX-XXX-XXXX (TTY).
Accessible or alternate may be substituted for alternative. See alternate, alternative.
The statement should be printed in black (not colored) ink in an easy-to-read non-italic typeface such as Arial or Helvetica of at least 14 points. White lettering on black is also acceptable. Do not hyphenate any words in the phrase. Neither boldfaced type nor a box around the statement is required.
Also see Alternate Formats and Resources and Guidelines for Accessible Printed Materials (internal links), maintained by the King County Office of Civil Rights. See disabled for style guidelines on writing about people with disabilities.
among, between. Between introduces two items. Among introduces more than two: The host divided the pie between Don and Phil. The host divided the pie among Peter, Paul, John, George, Gordon and Mary. Amongst is archaic.
Between may be used to express the relationships of three or more items when the action described can take place between only two of the items at once: Officials scheduled meetings between the Metropolitan King County Council and the Seattle, Bellevue and Redmond city councils. See Eight myths of writing.
Also, note the correct use of between ... and in this sentence: They had a choice between wide shoulders and sidewalks. Using between ... or instead is incorrect: They had a choice between wide shoulders or sidewalks.
amount, number. Use amount with mass nouns or things in bulk, number with count nouns and individual items: a large amount of asphalt, a large number of speed bumps. See amount of below, many, much; number.
amount of. Wordy. Consider omitting, or try replacing in the amount of with for or for the. Change: She received a check in the amount of $300. To: She received a check for $300. If necessary, use amount of to refer to a general quantity: There was a large amount of work to be done. See number.
ampersand (&). Use when it's part of a company's full name or part of the title for a magazine, book, movie or other similar work. Do not use the ampersand to replace and. The ampersand may be used in charts and tables.
Amtrak. Do not use AMTRAK.
an. See a, an.
and also. Redundant. Simplify. Use either and or also, not both.
And, But. Despite what you may have learned in school, most past and present writing authorities approve the use of the conjunctions and and but to begin sentences. They're useful transition words between related (and) and contrasting (but) sentences--And instead of Additionally, Furthermore, In addition or Moreover, and But instead of However. But don't overuse them; they'll lose their punch. See Eight myths of writing.
and (conjunction). When joining two or more nouns or pronouns with and to form a compound subject, use a plural verb: Wastewater Treatment and the City of Shoreline are planning a joint project. Rain, hail and wind have caused about $4,500 damage. Except for company names, do not use the ampersand (&) to replace and. Singular verbs are OK for routinely combined phrases, such as fish and chips and law and order, but even then a plural verb would be OK. See or, plus.
and/or. Jargon. Avoid this ambiguous, awkward, overused phrase. Change: Use the colors red and/or white to paint the picture. To: Use red or white or both colors to paint the picture. Or simply use or alone. See virgule (/).
announced. See attribution.
annual. Don't refer to an event as annual until it has taken place at least two consecutive years. And don't use first annual. Say: Sponsors plan to hold the event annually.
annual meeting. Lowercase.
anticipate, expect. Commonly confused. Anticipate means to expect and prepare for something; expect doesn't include the idea of preparation: Planners expect increased ridership. They have anticipated it by providing additional service.
any. See all, any, most, some.
anybody, any body, anyone, any one. Anybody and anyone are interchangeable as indefinite references "to any person": Anybody can ride the bus. Anyone can do that. Anyone is used more often. Any one means "any single person" or "any single thing." Use two words to single out one element of a group: Any one of them may speak at the meeting. Any body means "any human form" or "any group."
anytime. One word.
anxious, eager. Often confused. Anxious means "to be worried, apprehensive, feeling anxiety." An unpleasant sensation, anxious is followed by about or for: The project lead is anxious about the expense. Eager means "wanting something very much." Denoting pleasant feelings, eager is followed by to: The group is eager to begin work.
AP. See Associated Press.
apostrophe ('). This punctuation mark does four things. First, it often shows possession: Dan Lindler's appointment. Second, it frequently marks the omission of letters--including the formation of contractions: finger lickin' good, he'll, won't. Third, it's used in abbreviations of years and decades: the class of '68, the '90s. It's not used, however, in plurals of decades: the '70s, the 1980s. And fourth, it sometimes marks the plural of single letters and abbreviations with internal punctuation: Dot your i's. She got straight A's on her report card. M.A.'s. See abbreviations and acronyms, contractions, it's, its, plurals, possessives.
app. Short for application. Lowercase unless part of a proper name; no period. Acceptable on first use, but spell it out at least once near the beginning of a document.
append. Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try attach.
appendixes, appendices. Appendixes is the preferred plural for appendix.
appropriate. Consider replacing with simpler proper or right.
approximately. Overstated. Replace approximately with simpler about, nearly, roughly or almost.
area codes. See telephone numbers.
argument. Commonly misspelled.
armed forces. Lowercase when writing about the U.S. armed forces or armed forces of other countries. But capitalize Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard and Reserve when writing about U.S. forces. U.S. is not required before the names of U.S. forces if the affiliation is clear. Don't use abbreviations for those armed forces: USA, USN, USAF, USMC and USCG.
around. See about, around.
arrive. Always follow this verb with the preposition at: She will arrive at Sea-Tac Airport by 2 p.m. Friday.
ASAP. Abbreviation for as soon as possible. All caps, no periods. For informal use. Spell out, use soon or be specific about time in other uses. See as soon as.
ascertain. Pompous. Simplify. Replace with check, be sure, discover, learn or find out.
Asian, Pacific Islander. A person having origins in any of the original people of East Asia, Southeast Asia, the Asian subcontinent or the Pacific islands. When in doubt about how to refer to a person's race or cultural or ethnic identity, ask the person in question what is preferred. See capitalization, Oriental, race.
as if. Use as if instead of like when followed by a clause with its own verb: She typed as if her life depended on it. As ifis also preferred to as though. See as, like below.
as, like. Often confused. Both mean "equally" or "the same as." Use the conjunction as, however, to introduce a clause (a group of words with its own subject and verb), he should in this example: Jim saves his computer work as he should. Use like as a preposition to make a direct comparison of nouns or pronouns. It requires an object, an expert in this example: Jim saves his computer work like an expert. Memory tip: As is followed by a noun and a verb while like is followed by only a noun. See as if above.
as long as. Wordy. Replace with simpler if or since.
as of now. Wordy. Replace with simpler now.
as regards. Pompous. Simplify. Use about or as for.
assessor. See capitalization: independently elected officials.
assist. Try simpler help or aid.
assistant. Capitalize when part of an official title before a name: Engineering Assistant Teresa Gustafson. Lowercase when set off by commas after a name: Colin Healy, assistant supervisor, provided essential information. Do not abbreviate. See capitalization, titles.
as soon as. Acceptable but wordy phrase. Simplify. Try when or once.
assuming that. Wordy. Simplify. If beginning a clause, try if instead.
assure. Assure means to state confidently to another person or group that something has been or will be done: The director assured the council that staff will act on the resolution. See the ensure, insure.
as to. Cliché Simplify. Replace with about or on.
as well as. Wordy. Simplify. Use and or also if applicable. If you do use as well as to begin a parenthetical phrase, it does not affect the following verb: Snohomish County, as well as King County, uses the service. Do not use as well as with the word both. Incorrect: Both Snohomish County, as well as King County, use the service. Correct: Snohomish County and King County both bought use the service. Snohomish County and King County use the service.
ATM. Abbreviation for automated teller machine, not "automatic teller machine." ATM machine is redundant.
at all times. Wordy. Simplify. Try always.
attain. Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try reach.
at the end of. Wordy. Simplify. Try after.
at the present time, at this point in time, at this particular time, at this time Wordy and pompous. Try now or today, which are shorter and less obtrusive if repeated. Or omit the phrase entirely.
at the time. Wordy. Simplify. Try when.
a total of. See total, totaled, totaling.
attempt (v.). Overstated. Simplify. Use try instead.
attired. Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try dressed.
attribution. When attributing the source of information, especially in quotations or indirect quotations, avoid putting the attribution at the beginning of a sentence. Put the attribution in a less prominent position, unless the source is important or the preceding paragraph quoted another source. Include enough attribution so readers will know clearly who said what.
The verb to say, usually in the past tense, said, is used most commonly in effective speech tags and attribution. It is inconspicuous, unobtrusive and short, and the meaning is unequivocal.
Special situations may call for the careful use of verbs with special meanings: for example, testified in trials, public hearings and other official proceedings; cried out when quoting an injured person; pointed out if the statement is a fact. Save formal verbs like stated and announced for formal and important occasions. Be wary of words with meanings that readers could misinterpret: admitted, claimed, confessed, conceded, contended, refused, revealed. Don't use added, concluded or went on to say unless presenting statements in the same order used by the speaker. Also, went on to say is wordy. See according to, state.
The most straightforward word order for speech tags is subject first, verb second: Wright said, Gov. Santos said, the director said, she said. But put said first if other words, such as long titles or descriptions of the speaker, would separate the verb and the speaker's name too widely: said David Koyama, manager of the Administrative Services Division; said Donna Nelson, first-place finisher in the annual Metroadeo. See comma, quotation marks.
ATV. See all-terrain vehicle.
audiovisual. One word.
augment. Consider replacing with simpler form of increase.
automated teller machine, automatic teller machine. See ATM.
auxiliary. Commonly misspelled.
avenue. Capitalize only when part of a proper name: 35th Avenue Southwest, the avenue; but First and Second avenues, First or Second Avenue. Spell out in street names; abbreviate when used in a numbered address. Street names may be abbreviated in charts and tables. See addresses.
average person. Imprecise. Average is best used in referring to numbers. Consider typical person instead.
awards. Capitalize the specific names of awards. Do not capitalize award if it is not part of the award's name. 1995 Operator of the Year, 1993 Gold Award, certificate of merit. The organization gave the department an award. She won a second-place certificate.
awhile, a while. Best used as a one-word adverb not preceded by the prepositions for or in: He rested awhile. After a preposition, spell as two words: He rested for a while. Also, consider replacing either by specify how long: He rested 15 minutes.
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- Abbreviations and acronyms
- Myths of writing
- Guide to concise writing
How to use this guide
Select the letter that begins the term you’d like to look up, then scroll down to find the term (or use your browser’s Find function).Learn more