Newsnet Scotland Style Guide


In order to achieve our goal of becoming a serious and respected Scottish news, culture and politics site, Newsnet Scotland must maintain professional standards in our journalism. That means we must take care with spelling and punctuation.

We want to look good but we also want to make you look good, so with that in mind we have prepared this style guide in order to help you make sure that your article attains a professional standard of written English.

Some of the style suggestions here may strike some people as political correctness. However political correctness is simply taking care to avoid giving unnecessary offence. If you want to create offence intentionally that’s quite a different matter, but the inadvertent use of a term some people find objectionable will distract readers from the points you are trying to make in your article.

Don’t worry too much about the points covered in this style guide. They are here to help and advise you, not to put you off. Newsnet Scotland will proof-read all articles before they go live, and we will correct any mistakes you might have missed.



Abbreviations : Unless the abbreviated name of an organisation is very well known (eg. BBC, SNP, etc.) the first time you mention the organisation in your text you should give its name in full, with the abbreviation following in brackets. On subsequent mentions you can use the abbreviation alone. You might know that SIBF stands for the Scottish Indoor Bowling Federation, but your readers won’t necessarily be familiar with it.

Eg. Today the Scottish Indoor Bowling Federation (SIBF) announced the opening of a new centre for the sport in Coatbridge. Mr. Humpty McNumpty, an SIBF committee member, said that he hoped the new facilities would make people stop complaining that a good movie was being shown on BBC England while BBC Scotland showed the bools.

Actually : Actually means ‘truly, really’. It is often used to mean ‘in actual fact’ as a way of contradicting an erroneous or misleading statement or belief. However it is often misused as a filler which doesn’t add anything to the meaning of your sentence. Actually you can often do without it, as in this sentence.

Advice / Advise : The first is a noun the second is a verb. She gives good advice about spelling. He advises her to stop complaining about his spelling.

Affect / Effect : Effect can be either a noun or a verb, affect is usually a verb. Effect as a noun means that which has happened as a result of something. ‘A big hairy spider jumped on him, the effect was to give him arachnophobia.’ Effect as a verb means to bring about change. ‘We will effect alterations to our spider avoidance policy.’ Affect as a verb means to produce an effect upon. ‘After the spider jumped on him it affected his behaviour.’

Apostrope S : The bane of anyone writing in English. The rules are not entirely logical so it’s hardly surprising people are confused by them. The Scottish football team is Queen’s Park with an apostrophe, but the English football team is Queens Park Rangers without. Go figure. The basic rule is that apostrophe S signifies a single possessor, more than one possessor is signified by S apostrophe.

The boy’s ball. A ball belonging to one boy.
The boys’ ball. A ball belonging to more than one boy.
Jones’s ball. A ball belonging to a guy called Jones.
The Joneses’ ball. A ball belonging to a family called Jones.

Special rules apply to words with an irregular plural.
The man’s ball. A ball belonging to one man. Add apostrophe S as normal.
The men’s ball. A ball belonging to more than one man. Still has apostrophe S even though it’s possessive plural.

Note however that its without an apostrophe is the possessive form of it. Its ball. It’s with the apostrophe is a shortened form of it is. If in doubt, ask yourself whether you can replace the “its” in your sentence by “it is”. If you can, “it’s” should have an apostrophe. If you can’t then no apostrophe is required.

Aran / Arran : The Isle of Arran is in the Firth of Clyde. The Aran Islands (one ‘r’) are off the coast of Galway in Ireland. The Val d’Aran in Catalonia also has only one ‘r’.

Argyll / Argyle : Argyll is the county, Argyle is the loud coloured diamond patterned socks and sweaters. I always get that one wrong, but I don’t play golf.

Beg the question : Correctly used to refer to circumstances where a conclusion is implicit in the premise. The phrase points out the circular logic. Eg. Teenager – “Mammy, I want tae go oot wi ma mates the night.” Mammy – “Naw. Ye cannae.” Teenager – “But how no?”  Mammy – “Because I say so.” The teenager could then say, “But that’s begging the question. And it’s no fair.” And the mother would cry “Ma wean’s gonnie be a great philosopher! Course ye can go oot love. “But the teenager is more likely just to say, “But that’s no fair.” Then storm off in a sulk.

Begging the question is a leading cause of teenage temper tantrums, the phrase does not mean ‘to raise the question’. If you can substitute ‘raise the question’ for ‘beg the question’ without making any difference to the meaning of your sentence, you’ve probably used ‘beg the question’ wrongly. But this sense is the sense in which the phrase is most often used these days and it begs the question of whether anyone should bother complaining about it. 

Belarus / Belorussia / Byelorussia : The official name of the country is Belarus. The older forms Belorussia or Byelorussia derive from the Russian name for the country. The language and people are Belarusian with one ‘s’.

Black, gay : Are adjectives, not nouns referring to people. They do not need to have a capital initial. The use of ‘blacks’ or ‘gays’ to refer to black or gay people is offensive to many and should be avoided. Referring to ‘a black’ or ‘a gay’ is taking you deep into the wild-eyed territory of the rabid Daily Mail reader. On the other hand lesbian is acceptable as a noun, a lesbian. She is a lesbian, but he is a gay man. Is this usage illogical? Yes. Welcome to the English language.

Block Capitals : ARE SHOUTING. IT’S RUDE TO SHOUT. Avoid. The only legitimate use of block capitals is to signify an acronym (a name made up of initial letters), like COSLA which stands for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

By-election : Always by- without an e because it comes from the Norse word by ‘town, local’, a bye-election would be one you waved cheerio to. There’s no such thing as a buy-election, except perhaps in Glenrothes. The e-less spelling also occurs in by-law and by-pass.

Catalonia / Catalunya / Cataluña : Catalonia is the traditional English name for the country of the Catalans. Catalunya is the Catalan spelling. Cataluña is the Spanish spelling, it is disliked by many Catalans and should be avoided when discussing Catalan self-determination.

Celtic : Pronounced Seltick it’s a football team, pronounced Keltick it’s a group of languages and the culture of their speakers. When it’s spelled Keltyck it’s usually a sign you’re dealing with a tripped out auld hippy who thinks y’s and k’s are more mystyck man.

Collective nouns : Singular nouns which refer to a group of people or an organisation take a singular verb when thought of as a unit. When thought of as a collection of individuals they take a plural verb. Both ‘the Labour party is clueless’ and ‘the Labour party are clueless’ can be correct depending on the context and what you are trying to say.

The family is coming home for the holidays. They’re all coming together.

The family are coming home for the holidays. Each family member makes their own way separately.

Conservatives : Note to West of Scotland contributors, F*ckintories is not a proper word but if it were it would have a capital F.

Definitely : This definitely ought to have been included earlier, thanks to enneffess for pointing it out. It’s definitely one of the most commonly misspelled words in English. It follows the same pattern as fine – finite. So it’s define – definite, and the adverb is definitely, not definately.

Dependant / Dependent : The first is a noun, the second an adjective. Your children are your dependants and are financially dependent upon you. Quite often until they’re in their late 30s.

Dilemma : Not just any old problem, but a problem with only two equally unacceptable solutions. If there are more than two possible solutions it’s not strictly speaking a dilemma, it’s just a bit of a bummer.

Discreet / Discrete : Discreet means ‘circumspect, careful to avoid discovery’, discrete means ‘in separate parts’. Dicreet is what Tommy Sheridan wasn’t, discrete is what became of the shreds of his reputation afterwards.

Divine / Devine : Divine means relating to a deity or god, Devine is the usual spelling of the surname. To err is human, to claim shelving on expenses is Devine.

Dr : Use as a title for academics who have the relevant scientific degree, clerics who are doctors of divinity, or medical doctors. It should not be used for politicians who happen to have a PhD in history, because they’re nowhere near big and clever enough. Yes John Reid, we’re looking at you – you’re no Steven Hawking, sweetie.

Note that these days it’s usually Dr without a dot but Dr. is the older usage which some feel is more correct. Whichever you choose, be consistent throughout your text. Similarly with Mr or Mr., Mrs or Mrs., Ms or Ms. If you decide to write Dr. with a dot you should also write Mr. Mrs. and Ms. with a dot.

Ellipsis : Alternatively known as thae three wee dots. Used to signify a dramatic pause in reported speech or that a part of a quotation has been omitted. Leave a space between the end of the last word and the start of the three dots. When a sentence ends with an ellipsis you don’t need a full stop.

Elmer Fudd : To be strongly encouraged as a nickname for Iain Gray. Because we all know what fudd means. Fnarr, fnarr.

Ethnic : Never say ethnic by itself when what you really mean is ethnic minority. We’re all ethnic in one way or another.

Euskadi / Basque Country : These terms do not mean exactly the same thing. In Basque Euskadi refers solely to the three provinces of Gipuzkoa, Araba and Bizkaia which together form the autonomous region of the Basque Country in northern Spain, called El País Vasco in Spanish and often translated into English simply as the Basque Country. Euskal Herria, which means literally ‘Basque Country’, is the Basque name for the whole of the Basque Country which includes these provinces, but also includes the Spanish autonomous region of Nafarroa (Navarre) and the three French Basque provinces of Lapurdi, Zuberoa and Nafarroa Beherea.

Exclamation marks : Don’t use them unless in directly reported or quoted speech. Eg. “Iain Gray is an idiot!” she exclaimed. But we’d simply write that it is common knowledge that Iain Gray is an idiot. Not that it is common knowledge that Iain Gray is an idiot! Even if you do feel like screaming it.

Multiple exclamation marks are the print and online equivalent of a letter in green crayon. Avoid like the plague!!!!! Never use an exclamation mark to signal that you’re making a joke unless you’re making a joke about exclamation marks. Allow your readers to decide whether it’s funny or not.

Expat : No hyphen, it’s short for expatriate. It contains the Latin prefix ex ‘from, out of’ and not the hyphenated prefix ex- ‘former’. Expatriate means one who lives outside of their homeland. An ex-pat is a former Irishman. Note the spelling expatriate, not ‘expatriot’.

Fat jokes : Avoid. Do not make insulting references to people’s personal appearance or body shape or size, even if Jackie Baillie is a tempting target. Insult them for what they say and do, which is far more satisfying.

Fewer / Less : Fewer is used with separate items you can count, fewer in number, fewer coins, fewer banknotes. Less is used with mass nouns and quantities, less money, less cash. As a rule of thumb, fewer is usually used with a plural noun, whereas less is usually used with a singular noun.

Figures and numerals : Spell out figures from one to nine. For 10 and above use numerals. There were four people in the vehicle. 4,000 vehicles crossed the bridge in an hour.

Gaelic : Use the full name Scottish Gaelic unless it is clear from the context that you mean Scottish Gaelic, then Gaelic alone is perfectly acceptable. Don’t call the language Gàidhlig when writing in English or Scots, after all we don’t call French Français or German Deutsch when writing in English. Avoid the use of the term Irish Gaelic to refer to the modern Irish language, call it Irish. Similarly with Manx.

Galicia : A country to the north of Portugal, part of the Spanish state. The language is called Galego in Galician and Gallego in Spanish. Some Galician nationalists prefer the spelling Galiza for the country’s name. Galicia is also the name of a historic province in Eastern Europe, now divided between Poland and Ukraine.

Gender specific terms : Try to use terminology that refers equally to men and women and avoid the use of gender specific terms unless you are actually referring to one gender in particular. Firefighter is better than fireman, postal worker is better than postman, police officers is better than policemen. Get it wrong and you’ll provoke the ire of women firefighters and police officers, and they can be really scary.

Handicapped : Do not use when you mean people with disabilities or learning difficulties.

Hangar / Hanger : Hangers are for clothes, hangars are for planes.

Hanged / Hung : Hanged by the neck, but well hung.

He, she, they : Avoid the use of he when you are referring to any individual out of a group of people. Eg. If anyone has an objection, could he please raise his hand. This is widely felt to be sexist. The use of ‘he or she’ is often clumsy. Use they instead. Eg. If anyone has an objection, could they please raise their hand. Some purists object to this usage, but it’s long established in English and is found in the works of Shakespeare, so yah boo sucks to you pedants.

Here : Do not use to mean ‘in Scotland’. Not all your readers are in Scotland. Some are in furren pairts, where it’s warm and sunny and not raining.

Hopefully : Widely used as a sentence modifier to indicate the writer’s emotional take on events. Other adverbs like sadly and happily are used in a similar way without attracting the displeasure of pedants, although of course they express a different emotional stance on the part of the writer. I’ve never really been sure why some people object to this use of hopefully. Hopefully they’ll all die off soon and stop bugging the rest of us.

Holyroodhouse : The Windsor family cooncil hoose in Edinburgh is officially called the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Holyroodhouse is written as one word. The Palace of Holyrood is widely used and is equally acceptable, but it is not the official name.

Illegal Immigrant : Avoid the use of this term unless the individual has actually been brought before a court or the immigration authorities and their immigration status has been legally determined. The widespread American term “illegals” to refer to people with irregular immigration status is abhorrent. People cannot be illegal, their migration status can be illegal but that’s a different matter.

Immigrant : Can be an emotionally loaded term, use with care. Migrant is more emotionally neutral. An immigrant is someone who has come to live in a country, an emigrant is someone who has gone to live in another country. Immigrant has two m’s, emigrant has one.

Independence : Starts with a small letter i unless it starts a sentence. Eg. ‘the campaign for Scottish independence’ not ‘the campaign for Scottish Independence’. Remember it’s independence an e, never independance with an a. You’d be amazed how many of us get it wrong. Just remind yourself that ‘in de pen dance’ is where the pervy farmer met his favourite sheep, and we wouldn’t want to go there now would we?

Independentist : A word favoured by certain left wing supporters of Scottish independence who do not consider themselves to be nationalists of any hue. A useful word, because it makes it clear that the desire for Scottish self-determination is not identical to nationalism. It suits Unionist parties to conflate these two concepts. Unfortunately it is not widely used in English, and if you say you’re an independentist some people may ask how much you charge for orthodontic work.

Inuit / Eskimo : Inuit is always plural, it means ‘human beings’. It can be used as an adjective so say ‘an Inuit man/woman’ instead of ‘an Inuit’. Inuit people generally dislike being called Eskimo, but not all Eskimo people are Inuit. The Eskimo of southern and central Alaska and Siberia call themselves Yupik and are quite happy to be called Eskimo but don’t like being called Inuit.

-ise / -ize : Until recently the verb ending -ize was more typical of US spelling, all other varieties of English typically used -ise. So it was realize, capitalize, recognize in the States, but realise, capitalise, recognise elsewhere. With US English spellcheckers on many computers the US spelling has become more widespread. It doesn’t really matter whether you choose -ise or -ize, but pick one and stick with it throughout your text. Note that the verb capsize is always written with a z. ‘He realised the boat would capsize.’

Italics : Use italics for any foreign words and phrases used within your text as well as for scientific names such as Canis familiaris – that’s a dug to the rest of us. If quoting a foreign word or phrase, give its translation unless it’s a word or phrase widely used in English. Italics should also be used for quotations from poetry or song lyrics.

Jet-ski : With a hyphen. Isn’t Jetski a Russian airline?

Kosova / Kosovo : Kosova is the Albanian name. Kosovo is the Serbian name. The Serbian version is more widespread in English but this doesn’t necessarily reflect the writer’s views on the political situation there. The English adjective is Kosovan whether you’re Serbian or Albanian. The Kosovan government prefers the official English title Republic of Kosova. The people are Kosovans, not Kosovars.

Lib Dems : The correct abbreviation for the Liberal Democrats is Lib Dems written as two separate words without a hyphen, not LibDems or Lib-Dems. Other informal terms like ‘Tory Supporting Scum’ are not generally acceptable in polite circles.

Like / As if : English style guides advise against using like in place of as if. ‘It looks as if it will rain’ is preferred to ‘It looks like it will rain’. However this use of like is well established in Scots, so it’s not like we care.

Like / Such as : Some style guides advise against using like to mean such as, and reject sentences like this one. However Fowler’s Guide, the grandaddy of English language don’t-do-that-ery, does not object to this usage, so feel free. The usage is found in Jane Austin, so it’s well posh.

Lose / Loose : Lose (looz) is the verb as in ‘Oppositions don’t win elections governments lose them’. Loose (looss) is an adjective – ‘the bottle top is loose’, or ‘that Tory councillor has a screw loose’. Don’t say that someone is a looser, it makes you look like a loser.

Moldova / Moldovia : Moldova is the former Soviet republic, now an independent state. Its inhabitants are Moldovan. Moldovia is a province of Romania, its inhabitants are Moldovian.

MP MSP : The plurals are MPs and MSPs without the apostrophe as in – Today MPs vote on the proposal to …

‘The MP’s expenses continue to provoke comment.’ Possessive singular, the expenses of a particular MP are provoking comment.

‘The MPs’ expenses continue to provoke comment.’ Possessive plural, the expenses of more than one MP are provoking comment.

Myanmar : Officially adopted by the Burmese military junta as the English name of Burma. The final r is not supposed to be pronounced. Use Burma instead, because it annoys the generals and because if they want the name to be pronounced Myanmah that’s what they ought to have written. What makes this name change even more ridiculous is that the word written Myanmah in Classical Burmese is in fact pronounced Bah-ma in modern Burmese.

Nationalist : When referring to SNP policies or SNP representatives, Nationalist or Nationalists should have a capital N. When using nationalist as a general term to signify a supporter of Scottish independence, it should have a lower case n. However if you mean the SNP it’s usually better just to say SNP. The use of (Scottish) Nationalist to refer to the SNP is widespread but should be avoided, since Scottish nationalism and the pro-independence movement is bigger than a single political party. All Scottish Nationalists are Scottish nationalists, but not all Scottish nationalists are Scottish Nationalists. See how confusing that is?

Parliament : Be careful with the spelling, parliament has a silent i. Always spelled with capital P when referring to Holyrood or Westminster. The First Minister told Parliament that …

Practice / Practise : Just like advice/advise the spelling with the c is a noun, the spelling with an s is a verb. The practice of pedantry, but he likes to practise pedantry.

Prime minister, first minister : Generally without capitals except when used as a title prefixing a person’s name. Subsequent mentions of the same individual by their title alone will also have capitals.Eg. ‘The prime minister is not directly elected in the Westminster system.’ We’re discussing prime ministers in general, so it’s lower case. But ‘First Minister Alex Salmond said the Labour leader should have done his homework. The First Minister then flattened Iain Gray’s argument.’ We’re discussing a particular First Minister and the sole holder of the office and so use capitals.

Principal / Principle : Principal is an adjective meaning first in importance, principle a noun meaning a standard of conduct or ethics. The principal reason for independence is that Westminster is a system with no principles. Principal can also be a noun, but only when referring to an American headteacher.

Political Correctness : Almost always followed by ‘gone mad’. Try to avoid using the term as it’s most often a right-wing smear without any real meaning. It usually refers to just about anything which the Daily Mail disapproves of.

Political parties : The correct usage is the Conservative party with lower case p not the Conservative Party with capital P. The same usage also applies to the other political parties, eg. the Labour party. The main exception is the SNP where Party is an essential part of the title which cannot be omitted, so when written in full it’s Scottish National Party not Scottish National party. The difference is because Labour, Conservatives or Lib Dems can stand by themselves as names for political parties, but Scottish National(s) cannot. Party should never be added to the name Plaid Cymru because Plaid is the Welsh word for party.

Publicly : Not publically.

Quotation Marks : Introduce direct or quoted speech with double quotes and use double quotes to signify the end of the quoted passage. If you are quoting from an individual or a printed source, take care to ensure that you are faithfully copying the original. Always give the source of any quoted material.

Avoid using quotation marks to indicate “sarcasm”.

Referendums / Referenda : Referendum was not a noun in Latin, it was a part of speech called a gerund which did not have a plural. Referenda is what the Latin plural would have been were referendum a Latin noun, but it is an artificial form which was never used in Latin. Technically this is called a hypercorrection. However referendum has been borrowed into English as a noun and the rules of English grammar demand that it has a plural. Since referendum only requires a plural because of the demands of English grammar, not Latin grammar, the English plural referendums is more correct even though referenda is widely accepted. Quote this at pedants who use referenda and feel smug and superior. Even the Mayor of London Boris Johnson with his supposedly wonderful grasp of the Classics gets it wrong. West of Scotland Comprehensive 1, Eton 0. Ha.

Regard / Regards : With regard to a topic, not with regards to. With regard to the First Minister means ‘concerning the First Minister’. With regards to the First Minister is what you’d write on his birthday card along with luv and kisses.

Right wing / Rightwinger : Right wing is written as two separate words, rightwinger is written as a single word.

Romany / Roma : The plural of Romany is Roma.

Routeing / Routing : Routeing (pronounced rooting) is the -ing form of the verb to route. ‘Tomorrow the bus company is routeing the number 62 via Parkhead.’ Routing (pronounced rowting) is the -ing form of the verb to rout. ‘Scotland is routing England at the football match.’ (Well, we can dream.)

Royal Marines : A branch of the Royal Navy not the army. Don’t call them soldiers it annoys them. They’re Royal marines on the first mention then marines in subsequent mentions.

Scotland Office : Often incorrectly referred to as the Scottish Office which was the pre-devolution name, the official title is now the Scotland Office except in Gaelic where it’s still An Oifis Albannach ‘the Scottish Office’. It’s officially a department within the Ministry of Justice. (Oh the irony.) The unofficial title is Governor Generalship of the Scottish Colony or the Westminster Propaganda Office.

Equally the former Welsh Office is now the Wales Office.

Scots : We encourage the use of Scots. There is often no single accepted spelling for many Scots words, if in doubt check the online Dictionary of the Scots Language at Scots punctuation and capitalisation rules are the same as those in English.

Avoid the use of an apologetic apostrophe to signify a sound pronounced in English but not found in the equivalent Scots word. Eg. Gie is better than gi’e for give, hae is better than ha’e for have.

Scottish Government : Usually with a capital S and G. Same applies to the British Government. When referring to government or governments in general, it takes a small initial g. This usage is highly variable, the Guardian prefers Scottish government, British government, the Herald prefers Scottish Government, British Government. Either is acceptable, but whichever you choose make sure you are consistent throughout your article.

Self- : Always use a hyphen when self- is a prefix. Eg. ‘self-government’, ‘self-determination’ etc. not ‘self government’, ‘self determination’.

Sexual Orientation / Sexual Preference : Heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality are sexual orientations not sexual preferences. A sexual preference is whether you like to do it with the lights on or the lights off.

Shetland : The Shetland Isles or Shetland, never the Shetlands. Similarly Orkney or the Orkney Isles, never the Orkneys. The Hebrides is perfectly fine, but see Western Isles.

Separate, separation, separatist : The second vowel letter is ‘a’ not ‘e’.

Split Infinitives : A split infinitive means sticking another word (usually an adverb) between to and a verb – to happily split infinitives. The rule against doing this was introduced into English by Latin obsessed grammarians in the 18th century because in Latin you can’t split an infinitive, in Latin infinitives are single words. The most famous example comes from Star Trek: To boldly split infinitives where no man has split infinitives before. If it’s good enough for Captain Kirk it’s good enough for the rest of us.

Titbit : A tidbit is only for people who are too uncomfortable to write the word tit under any circumstances, but no one calls a bluetit a bluetid.

Titles : Traditionally newspapers used the surname only to refer to ‘disreputable people’ and those who cannot sue for defamation – journalists, musicians, artists, criminals, professional sports people, politicians and dead people. When mentioning ordinary punters in your text, be sensitive. Referring to Mr James Smith as Smith can appear rude and if Mr Smith happens to be the victim of a crime or an ill-thought out government policy referring to him as Smith can make it appear that you are not sympathetic. Use your judgement here, but if in doubt err on the side of politeness.

Also see Dr and the note on whether to use a dot or not.

Toeing the line : The phrase refers to placing one’s toes against a line so that everyone is correctly lined up like soldiers on parade. Towing the line is incorrect, it means pulling a line behind you.

Ukraine : A country of Eastern Europe. Use the name by itself, ‘the Ukraine’ with the definite article is now considered archaic. Similarly Argentina not the Argentine, Yemen not the Yemen, Lebanon not the Lebanon.

Union, Unionist : Always begin with a capital U when referring to the Union of Scotland and England and the political parties who support that Union. With lower case, union refers to a trade union.

Versus / Versa : Versus is used when two things are in opposition, typically in sporting matches where two teams or individuals are in contention, Celtic versus Rangers. In this usage versus can be abbreviated either as v. or as vs. It should not be used when there are more than two individuals in contention.

Versus is also used in citing legal cases, Regina versus X where X is the name of the defendant in criminal cases – insert the name of your favourite Labour MP here. Regina is Latin for queen, the monarch is the plaintiff in all UK criminal cases. Criminal cases in the United Kingdom are usually cited as R. v. the surname of the defendant. When citing civil cases the correct usage is that the name of the plaintiff (the one making the allegation) comes first, followed by the name of the defendant. When Tommy Sheridan sued the News of the Screws the case was Sheridan v. News International. If following the later perjury trial, which was a criminal trial (R. v. Sheridan), News International decided to sue Sheridan, the case would be News International v. Sheridan. The usual abbreviation of versus in legal cases is lower case v. with a dot following, never vs.

Versus is not used in the phrase vice versa, which ends in an -a not -us.

Wales : A country, not a unit of measurement for the acreage of rainforest chopped down annually.

Western Isles : A synonym for the Outer Hebrides, the term Western Isles does not include the Inner Hebrides. The Gaelic title should be used when referring to the local authority , Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. However the Gaelic name for the island group is Na h-Eileanan Siar with Eileanan not Eilean, note also the use of small h followed by a hyphen then capital E. And you thought English spelling was complicated.

Whacky : Not wacky. Whacky is derived from whack. This is the opposite to what the Guardian Style Guide advises, but we’re Scottish and know how wh is supposed to be pronounced.

Xmas : Write out Christmas in full or Santa won’t bring you any presents.

Zzzzz : The sound many bored people start making before they manage to read this far.