SNN Newsroom

SNN Style Guide

Every publication has its own guidelines for writers
-- rules that create consistency from page to page.

At SNN, we have a style guide, too. But instead of starting from scratch, we've turned to some of the experts for help!


What is a Style Guide?
A style guide offers answers to nagging questions you may have.

For example:

  • The second time you refer to someone in your story, do you call him by his last name or do you use a title like Mr.?

  • Do you write "ten thousand students marched in the protest" or is it "10,000 students"?

  • How do they spell "color" if they live in Canada? Or is it "color"?

The Canadian Press is a national news agency that helps media outlets exchange and receive news and information from across the country and around the world. This is the style guide most Canadian journalists use and it is the style guide that SNN uses. It includes guidelines on spelling, numbers, titles, punctuation and other details that make stories clear and easy to read.


Here is a brief overview of the SNN Style Guide.

In general, we do not use courtesy titles or honorifics like Mr., Mrs. Miss or Ms. You should use the person's full name the first time you mention them and use their last name every time after.

  • Kim Campbell was prime minister of Canada for 133 days. Campbell was elected leader of the Progressive Conservative party in June 1993, defeating Jean Charest.

You may want to use titles if their story includes several people with the same last name -- a parent and child, cousins, siblings or a married couple. Sometimes, you may need to call the person by their full name to make the story clear.

If a married couple shares the same name, refer to them with both their first names and their last name:

  • Jean and Aline Chretien were at Rideau Hall for the ceremony.

If they have different names, you may want to explain their connection:

  • Joe Clark and his wife, Maureen McTeer attended the event.

You should use the title Dr. for medical doctors and licensed health professionals, not those who have doctorates in other subject areas.

For religious titles, use the title and the full name on first reference and use their last name in later references: Rev. John Smith and then Smith.


Material presented in quotation marks must be an exact representation of what the source said. The only exception is that grammar, pauses, etc. may be corrected if the only purpose is to make the source's thoughts clearer. The meaning of a quote may not be changed for any reason.

Sentences which introduce a quotation should include proper punctuation between the rest of the sentence and the quote. For example:

Principal Robert Buzzy said, "I hate students."

I think you're all nuts," said Randall, "Leave me alone."

If punctuation comes at the end of a quotation, it must be placed inside the quotation marks, for example:

"The cafeteria food is delicious," said Weckbaugh.

The only exception is quotation around brief phrases or titles wherein the whole quote is used as one part of speech, for example:

"Soul Man" is a classic song.


To ensure that words are spelled consistently, the Canadian Press relies on one source -- the Concise Oxford Dictionary.

CP prefers to use Canadian spellings for words like honour, colour and favour -- instead of the American spelling: honor, color and favor.

Here are some commonly misspelled words:

  • absence
  • accommodate
  • advice (noun)
  • advise(verb)
  • cemetery
  • commitment
  • councillor (as in: city or town)
  • counsellor
  • descendant
  • deterrent
  • dilemma
  • disappoint
  • eligible 
  • embarrass
  • envelope (noun)
  • envelop (verb)
  • facilitate
  • focused, focusing
  • fulfil (but: fulfilled, fulfilling)
  • gauge
  • grisly (as in: terrible)
  • grizzly (as in: bear)
  • harass
  • impostor
  • infallible
  • install
  • instalment 
  • judgment
  • liaison
  • licence (noun)
  • license (verb)
  • kilometre
  • manoeuvre
  • millennium
  • necessary
  • panelist
  • per cent (two words)
  • personal
  • personnel (as in: staff)
  • phenomenon (singular)
  • phenomena (plural)
  • prerogative
  • privilege
  • questionnaire
  • responsible
  • responsibility
  • rhythm
  • siege
  • stationary (as in: standing still)
  • stationery (as in: writing paper)
  • supplement
  • weird

The world of computers and the Internet raises some style questions. How do you spell new words and punctuate sentences with computer jargon and addresses in them? Here are a few examples:

  • E-mail or e-mail
  • multimedia
  • WWW or World Wide Web or the Web
  • Web site
  • the Internet


When it comes to numbers in news stories, spell out whole numbers below 10 and use figures for 0 and above.

  • Examples: five cars, the third period, nine minutes, the 16th hole, 10 skiers, the 22nd day

When should you use actual numbers?: in addresses, stand-alone ages, dates and years, decimals, numbers larger than one with fractions, scores, odds, military terms, money, temperatures, and times. If you aren't sure about it, ask someone, like the teacher, for help.

  • Examples: (a) 2 Meadow St., (b) Ryan, 2, has a younger brother, (c) Dec. 8, 1990, (d) 0.35 centimetre, 4½ days, (e) The Cougars beat the Bears 7-5 (but a two-goal win), (f) a 10-1 longshot, (g) 2nd Lieut. Tammy Smith, (h) $2 (not $2.00), $150, (i) 8 C, -6 C, (J) 1 a.m. (not 1:00 a.m.), 5 o'clock, 9:15 p.m

Numbers are usually avoided at the beginning of sentences, but if you must, spell out numbers at the start.

  • Twenty-five people escaped from the plane without a scratch.

With larger, rounded numbers in the millions, spell them out instead of putting in all those zeros.

  • Examples: 10 million cars, $2.5 billion, 8 million jelly-beans.

Also spell out numbers you use in everyday speech.

  • There were thousands of pelicans flying across the sky.


Words: Most words should be written out rather than abbreviated, i.e. "Street", not "St.". If long names are repeated throughout the article they may be written out the first time with the future abbreviation marked, i.e. "Students Against Driving Drunk (S.A.D.D.)". On further references, just the abbreviation may be used, i.e. "S.A.D.D.".

Dates: March, April, May, June and July are never abbreviated. The other seven months are abbreviated: Jan.; Feb.; Aug.; Sept.; Oct.; Nov.; and Dec. Specific date usage may also be used, i.e. Nov. 21, 1976 or just Nov. 21. If there is no specific date, November 1976 may be used. There is no comma between the month and year if no specific date is referenced.

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