Friday, 5 September 2008

Sun style guide

It took almost 37 years, but the Toronto Sun and all of its subsequent sister newspapers now have an official Sun Media style guide.

The Word Usage and Style Guide, Version 1 was unveiled this week online in PDF format and it opens with "Basic Rules and things to avoid."

There is also a chapter on use of profanity.

For most of the early years, the Toronto Sun newsroom loosely followed the Canadian Press style book, opting to ignore it occasionally to suit its tabloid nature.

(The CP style book has provided generations of journalists with a consistency that print media need for employees and readers.)

The Sun also took "tight and bright" to extremes, shortening Peterborough to Peterboro and dropping the "u" in "ou" words until irate readers voiced their opinion about Americanizing our language.

A Sun style guide is warranted, but there are questions to be asked.

Who compiled the guide? It doesn't say, but a TSF reader says the managing editor in Calgary was involved.

And the "ages" style is not 100% clear:

"Ages: always use as figures after the name; otherwise write out one to nine."

So it is Mike, 1, and one-year-old Mike, not 1-year-old Mike as some reporters have been using in the past year?

Also on ages:

"Use hyphens in a compound modifier; eg. an 84-year-old showgirl. Also correct would be the 84-year-old. But it is 84 years old. No apostrophe for plurals; eg. the woman is in her 30s. A girl becomes a woman at age 18; a boy becomes a youth at 16 and a man at 18."

Other style notes of interest:

"Feminine forms of words: Generally we don’t use them. Poetess, authoress, actress, murderess, traitoress etc. are banned."

Bravo. Actress instead of actor has been banished elsewhere for years.

"Pass away: people in news stories die, they don’t pass away."

More applause and cc that one to the broadcast media.

On a Sensitivity 101 note:

"Tabloid is a format but more commonly a negative term for sensational publications. Always use supermarket weeklies to distance us from National Enquirer et al."

More applause for "Unique: One of a kind. Something can not be very unique, more unique or somewhat unique."

Meanwhile, the late George Carlin would be smiling and performing a new routine with material from the guide's chapter on profanity.

"Balls" to describe testicles is out, but someone "has balls" is OK.

There are also seven words "not to be used or abbreviated in any way." Use your imagination for those seven words, well, eight if you count Jesus Christ (when used as profanity) as two words.

Also on that list are goddamn and tits.

BTW: How would you abbreviate tits? Our favourite juvenile way to get around using the word is (.) (.)

The style guide allows abbreviations for four curse words "only to be used when important to the story. " They are b------- ; f--- ; s--- and a------ You can fill in the spaces, but think bs, fu, sh.. and ass....

The guide says "senior editors will make the call on when or if profanity is to run."

As for sports and entertainment reporters and columnists, Sun Media sees no reason for profanity on any of those pages.

"Sports and Entertainment should have very little reason to use profanity - abbreviated or not - and every reason to eliminate it from copy. Just because they said it, doesn’t mean we to run it."

WTF, there goes a lot of colour commentary by Jim Slotek and the hockey writers.

Meanwhile, a recommended addition to the guide: Electrocuted

If you are electrocuted, you are dead, not recovering in hospital as reported in a Sun story a few years ago.

The guide being in PDF format, it can, and probably will, be updated for additions and clarifications.

"I don't agree with it all but at least it's an attempt at codifying a uniform approach to style." says one Sun vet.

It's a start, but when it comes to the profanity guidelines, Sun Media has clearly distanced the Suns from a "tabloid" image. More broadsheet than tab, but then the Globe and Mail is a broadsheet and it has a very liberal approach to profanity.

Sanitized tabs (aside from the large number of adult entertainment and rub and tug massage parlour ads.) Go figure.

It makes us wonder if Paul Rimstead could say "dammit" in his columns if he were alive today.

1 comment:

  1. Why is there no link to the style guide?