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Bill Bennett

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ABC radio style guide

Australia’s state-owned ABC radio published a useful online style guide. The original is no longer available, the link here goes to a stored version at the Internet Archive.

The style guide is useful for down-under writers, journalists and editors – with plenty of notes on local use.

I also recommend the short version with the style guide’s main points. Again, this is no longer online. As a service to readers here are those main points:

1. Newspaper style headings
For example: Why only one human race? (not Why Only One Human Race?). If your heading includes the title of, say, a book or a film, then write it like this: Kirsten Alexander reviews The Omega Force by Rick Moody.

2. Minimal capitalisation
We limit initial caps (apart from those marking the beginning of a sentence) to proper nouns—that is, nouns naming a particular person or thing. So we’d write ‘Mark Scott, the ABC’s managing director…’ or ‘John Smith, a bouncer at Honkers…’ No need for ‘respect’ caps these days.

No caps for ‘premier’, ‘prime minister’, ‘president’, ‘executive producer’, ‘artistic director’, ‘curator’, and so on, because these are all common nouns. When used as a form of address, a common noun is capitalised like this: President Obama, Queen Elizabeth, Pope Benedict, Governor Schwarzenegger; but ‘Australia’s prime minister, Julia Gillard, is visiting New York…’ or collectively, ‘Previous popes have held similar views…’ are all lower case.

Single deities such as God, Buddha, Allah, are always capitalised. A reigning queen or emperor or the incumbent pope becomes the Queen, the Emperor and the Pope, but we don’t extend this to presidential or prime ministerial ranks.

3. Abbreviations, acronyms
No full stops after or between abbreviations and acronyms. No full stops after or between initials in people’s names.

Dr, Mr, WA, NSW, etc, eg, km, and so on (unless at the end of a sentence). And it’s TS Eliot, kd lang, George W Bush.

4. Titles of books, films, etc
Italicise titles of books, newspapers and magazines, films, plays, operas, works of art, performances, TV and radio programs etc. Find more details here

For web publishing, wrap the text to be italicised in the following HTML code:
<em>text to be italicised</em>

5. Titles of songs, poems, etc
Single inverted commas for titles of songs, short stories, shorter poems, articles or chapters. Names of groups, organisations etc are written in plain type.

6. Quotations, speech
Our house style is for single inverted commas for everything except quotes within quotes, which take double inverted commas. For example:

He said, ‘My father always told me, “Come out fighting,” and I’ve never forgotten it.’

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