Dad or dad?
capital D if it’s just Dad, eg “I’ll have to ask Dad”; otherwise lowercase, eg “my dad was a dustman, what does your dad do?” etc
lower house of parliament in the Irish Republic, normally just the Dáil
capital of Senegal; Dhaka capital of Bangladesh
no abbreviation: he is always the Dalai Lama
takes initial cap, whether used literally (as in referring to Doctor Who), or figuratively (as in describing, say, your boss)
(1904-89) Spanish surrealist
one word (thanks to Arctic Monkeys for this one)
(also known as hanging participles)
Avoid constructions such as “having died, they buried him”; the pitfalls are nicely highlighted in Mark Lawson’s novel Going Out Live, in which a TV critic writes: “Dreary, repetitive and well past the sell-by date, I switched off the new series of Fleming Faces.”
Another example, from a leading article: “Due out in January as a white paper, Ms Kelly may be unable to overcome Mr Blair’s apparent determination to stick with A-levels.”
And this particularly exotic dangling participle somehow found its way into the paper: “Though long-legged and possessing a lovely smile, gentleman journalists aren’t looking up her skirt and wouldn’t even if she weren’t gay”
issued by the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee, “advising” that the media do not publish sensitive information; formerly D notices
Syrian city, 90km from Damascus, not to be confused with Darayya, a suburb of Damascus, also sometimes described as a city
Dar es Salaam
A single dash can add a touch of drama – like this. But use sparingly.
A pair of dashes are an alternative to commas or brackets for parenthesis when you want to draw the reader’s attention to something surprising or unusual. An example from the paper of how not to do it: “Many neighbours in the block – which sits close to the banks of the Thames – were visibly shaken.” The block’s innocuous location does not need underlining with dashes. Commas would suffice.
Beware sentences – such as this one – that dash about all over the place – commas (or even, very occasionally, brackets) are often better; semicolons also have their uses.
Dashes should be en dashes rather than em dashes or hyphens
takes a singular verb (like agenda), though strictly a plural; you come across datum, the singular of data, about as often as you hear about an agendum
Our style is: 21 July 2016 (day month year; no commas).
21 July-6 August, 6-10 August, etc.
In the 21st century but 21st-century boy; fourth century BC; AD2007, 2500BC, 10,000BC.
Use figures for decades: the 1960s, the swinging 60s, etc.
Should you have occasion to say 2016 out loud, for example in a podcast, pronounce it “twenty sixteen”, not “two thousand and sixteen”
daughter of, son of
Think twice before referring to people in these terms. Often only the person’s father is described and such descriptions can smack of snobbery as well as sexism.
Simplistic labels may also be misleading: we published a clarification after calling Captain James Cook the son of a Scottish farm labourer. True enough, but Cook’s mother was a Yorkshire woman and he is a famous son of Yorkshire
suffragette who died four days after stepping in front of George V’s horse at the 1913 Derby
TM; but note the X-Ray Spex hit The Day the World Turned Day-Glo
province in Afghanistan
but month-long, year-long, night-time
two words, eg Day Trip to Bangor by (trivia question) ... Fiddler’s Dram
not Day Zero, in relation to water crises in Cape Town and elsewhere
6 June 1944, or used figuratively (“Monday is D-day for the Blades’ promotion hopes”)
Avoid or say “closed ears”; the phrase is not just a rather lazy cliche but offensive to many deaf people. For the same reason, do not use “dialogue of the deaf”: most deaf people are perfectly capable of conducting a dialogue using BSL and other sign languages. The term “deaf mute” is also outdated and offensive; “deaf”, where relevant, will suffice.
Note that a hearing aid is not a “deaf aid” (although we contrived to use the phrase in a crossword in August 2012)
but death row
no accents; like farce and fiasco, to be used sparingly in news reporting
1950s, etc; use figures if you abbreviate: roaring 20s, swinging 60s, a woman in her 70s, the first reader’s email of the 00s (pronounced, unfortunately, “noughties”)
ambiguous (in one survey, half the respondents thought “deceptively easy” meant easy, and half thought it meant hard), and therefore best avoided – advice unlikely to be heeded, sadly, by estate agents
nowadays used to mean destroy (yes, we know it originally meant to kill one in 10)
lc, eg Laeken declaration on the future of Europe
no need normally to put OBE, KCMG, etc after people’s names
condemn; descry discover
You only ever see descry when someone uses it wrongly to mean decry
of the US
definite, definitely, definitive, definitively
”For me, this is definitely the definitive style guide”
or unfriend (Facebook)
render harmless; diffuse spread about
(1834-1917) French artist
de Gaulle, Charles
(1890-1970) French military leader and statesman; De Gaulle on second mention
like this: my sons all got firsts, but I only got a second – although it was a 2:1 – and I did go on to a master’s
defined as the phenomenon of having the strong sensation that an event or experience currently being experienced has already been experienced in the past (whether it has actually happened or not). So watching England underperforming and being knocked out of a major football tournament at an early stage, for example, might be said to induce a sense of deja vu
unless specifically referring to the small area of the city that is New Delhi
the arrival of a baby, letter or parcel; also widely found in such gruesome examples of marketing-speak as “delivering care” or “delivering quality and value”
not Deloittes, Deloitte Consulting, or Deloitte & Touche
are, like other geographical features, lc: Nile delta, Okavango delta, etc
delusion or illusion?
“That the sun moves round the Earth was once a delusion, and is still an illusion” (Fowler)
not “senile dementia”.
We should take care to refer to a person or people with dementia, or living with dementia, not as a “dementia sufferer” or “victims of dementia”.
Dementia is an umbrella term that refers to various conditions. Some of the more common types of dementia include Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy Body dementia, and fronto-temporal dementia (eg Pick’s disease). Respect people’s choices about how they identify themselves, for example as someone with Alzheimer’s disease rather than dementia
DeMille, Cecil B
(1881-1959) Hollywood producer and director; the B stood for Blount
In American politics, Democrat is a noun, Democratic an adjective: Hillary Clinton is a Democrat, and a member of the Democratic party.
The distinction is important because the Republicans use “Democrat” as an adjective, eg “Democrat party”, in a pejorative way
the Democratic Republic of the Congo
DRC on second mention; not to be confused with its smaller neighbour Congo-Brazzaville (which is also known as the Republic of the Congo); both countries border the Congo river. DRC, formerly the colony of Belgian Congo and then Zaire, is the second largest country in Africa by area and the fourth most populated
Dench, Dame Judi
one who denies, as in “Holocaust denier”; there is no such word as “denialist”.
The OED defines a sceptic as “a seeker of the truth; an inquirer who has not yet arrived at definite conclusions”, which is highly flattering to “climate change sceptics” who are literally in denial about the overwhelming scientific evidence and deny that climate change is happening or is caused by human activity, so denier is the more accurate, and our preferred, term.
denier is also a unit of weight for fibre, eg 10-denier tights
De Niro, Robert
departments of state
British government ministries (but not ministers) take initial caps, as follows:
Cabinet Office (but the cabinet)
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, or Foreign Office (abbreviate to FCDO after first mention)
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)
Department for Education (DfE)
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU)
Department for International Development (DfID) – no longer exists after merging with the Foreign Office in 2020
Department for International Trade (DIT)
Department for Transport (DfT)
Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)
Ministry of Defence (MoD)
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG)
Ministry of Justice (MoJ)
Office of the Leader of the House of Commons
Northern Ireland Office
Scotland Office not Scottish Office
Wales Office not Welsh Office
Use the abbreviations in brackets sparingly, especially the clumsy ones: business department, culture and sport department, and so on are fine, or just the department, the ministry, etc.
Departments and ministries of other English-speaking countries also take an initial capital, eg US Department of State, Indian Ministry of Railways.
Departments and ministries of non-English-speaking countries are lc, eg French ministry of the interior, Iraqi foreign ministry
noun; dependent adjective; dependence
His dependants were dependent on him for everything
person; depository place
express disapproval; depreciate reduce in value.
Hence self-deprecating humour or remark, not “self-depreciating”
as in Everton v Liverpool or Newbury FC v Thatcham Town; it is not normally necessary to include the word “local”
the two Us are de rigueur
derisive or derisory?
The former means contemptuous, as in a yell of derision; the latter means unworthy of serious discussion, as in a derisory offer
Derry, Co Derry
(County Derry at first mention) not Londonderry, Co Londonderry
come after ancestors; you wouldn’t think we would get this simple thing wrong as often as we do
pudding, but just deserts
rather than third world
de Villepin, Dominique
Villepin on second mention
a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood sugar (glucose) level to become too high. The hormone insulin, produced by the pancreas, is responsible for controlling the amount of glucose in the blood.
There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2, and it is important to distinguish between the two.
Type 1 diabetes, where the pancreas does not produce any insulin, comprises about 10% of cases but is the most common type of childhood diabetes. Type 1 is an auto-immune disease, cause unknown (although genetics is believed to play a part). Weight is not a factor
Type 2 diabetes, where the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin, comprises about 90% of adult cases. Obesity, lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet have contributed to an increase in the number of adults developing type 2 diabetes
formerly known as the British Diabetic Association
(1872-1929) Russian impresario; founder of the Ballets Russes
cockney, estuary English, geordie, scouse
is what people do in the Guardian (not “passed away”, “shuffled off this mortal coil” or any other euphemism)
although the film series is Die Hard
must be trained and qualified in dietetics, and registered with the Health Professionals Council; not the same as a nutritionist, a less precise term (although some nutritionists are also registered dietitians)
is traditionally the correct form; different to is widely accepted nowadays, but note the difference between:
She looked very different to those who came before (to the people who came before, she looked very different).
She looked very different from those who came before (she did not look like the people who came before).
Different than is frowned on, at least in British English; and it’s always differs from, not differs to
digital rights management
can be abbreviated to DRM after first mention
administer digitoxin (extracted from foxglove leaves) to treat heart conditions; digitise transcribe data into digital format
Not just a posh word for decision. It suggests a choice between two difficult choices of action. Perhaps the best known dilemma is “to be or not to be”
are generally known as school meals supervisors these days
People we write about are allowed to speak in their own, not necessarily our, style, but be sensitive: do not, for example, expose someone to ridicule for dialect or grammatical errors.
Do not attempt facetious phonetic renditions such as “oop north”, “fooking” and “booger” when interviewing someone from the north, or “dahn sarf” when writing about south London
not “the disabled”
We aim to use positive language about disability, avoiding outdated terms that stereotype or stigmatise.
Terms to avoid in reference to disability, with acceptable alternatives in brackets, include victim of, suffering from, afflicted by, crippled by (prefer person who has, person with); wheelchair-bound, in a wheelchair (uses a wheelchair); person who is less able, invalid (disabled person); mentally handicapped, backward, retarded, slow (person with learning difficulties or disabilities); the disabled, the handicapped, the blind, the deaf (disabled people, blind people, deaf people); deaf and dumb (deaf and speech-impaired, hearing and speech-impaired); the vulnerable, vulnerable people (disabled people)
Note that in the UK there is no central register of disabled people so avoid using terms such as “registered disabled”.
take apart; dissemble conceal
give out money; disperse scatter a crowd
rotating optical disc: CD, CD-Rom, DVD, etc; disk rotating magnetic disc: disk drive, floppy disk
a patient is discharged, not released, from hospital; a prisoner is released from jail
(verb) to make uncomfortable or uneasy (its older meaning, to thwart or frustrate, has largely fallen into disuse); discomfort (noun) inconvenience, distress or mild pain
circumspect; discrete separate
rather than deformed, deformity
means free from bias, objective (the negative form of interested as in “interested party”); often used incorrectly instead of uninterested, not taking an interest (the negative form of interested as in “interested in football”). So disinterest is impartiality, not a lack of interest.
The distinction is one we should strive to maintain because it is not helpful to readers if we use disinterested and uninterested to mean the same thing
(formerly Euro Disney)
dispatch, dispatch box
(Commons), dispatched; not despatch, despatched
TM; call it aspirin
not disassociate, disassociation
distinct or distinctive?
There’s a distinct possibility that he will insist on showing you the distinctive birthmark on his left buttock
not a synonym for crashing: if you ditch a helicopter, you make a controlled landing on the water after an emergency – we have got this wrong several times
a divorced person, male or female
divvy up, divvying up
The BBC used the grotesque “divi’ing up”
see DA notices
the title of the series – do not abbreviate to Dr Who; the character is the Doctor, who is a Time Lord
normally lc, eg alsatian, doberman, jack russell, labrador, rottweiler, yorkshire terrier; but note German shepherd, Irish setter, old English sheepdog, French bulldog
as Homer Simpson would say (note the apostrophe)
character who talked to the animals, created by Hugh Lofting; Doolittle, Eliza character created by George Bernard Shaw in Pygmalion; also a British singer-songwriter (born 1988)
Millennium Dome at first mention, thereafter the dome; now the O2
as in doomsday scenario, but Doomsday Clock
domestic abuse/family abuse (see also abuse)
Both terms are acceptable, and a mention, where relevant, that a story involves domestic/family abuse is helpful for clarity. (It is also preferred by some advocacy groups.) The term abuse is preferable to violence as it more widely encompasses the different forms of abuse that can occur, ie not just physical but emotional, psychological, financial and sexual. Always include helpline numbers:
• In the UK, call the national domestic abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247, or visit Women’s Aid. In Australia, the national family violence counselling service is on 1800 737 732. In the US, the domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Other international helplines may be found via www.befrienders.org
Use the following endnote if a story is about a murder/suicide:
• In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 and the domestic abuse helpline is 0808 2000 247. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14 and the national family violence counselling service is on 1800 737 732. In the US, the suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 and the domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Other international helplines can be found via www.befrienders.org
domestic violence victims/survivors
The term victim is used for those in a violent situation or at risk of violence. The term survivor is used for people who have experienced domestic violence in the past. Give priority to the preferences of the person we are writing about
former British colony in the Windward Islands, south-east of Dominican Republic
independent Spanish-speaking country that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti
dos and don’ts
Dostoevsky, Fyodor Mikhailovich
(1821-81) Russian novelist, author of Crime and Punishment and The Idiot
as in Chelsea won the Double in 2010 (FA Cup and Premier League)
bus; Double Decker chocolate bar
avoid using except when quoting someone; instead use more widely known, less informal alternatives such as repeat, restate, increase, reinforce, reiterate etc
despite Dunkin’ Donuts
a bird, not the past tense of dive, which is dived
Dow Jones industrial average
play down is preferable
say (if relevant) a baby with Down’s syndrome, not “a Down’s syndrome baby” – we wouldn’t say “a cerebral palsy baby”. The diagnosis is not the person
a term Australians themselves rarely use, and best avoided
the senior member of a group, eg “she was the doyenne of ballet critics.” It once meant a leader or commander of 10 men
precisely, not approximately, 12
at first mention for people practising as a doctor in the field in which they gained that qualification, including medical and academic doctors and doctors of divinity (but not surgeons, and not, for example, a politician who happens to have a PhD in history or a medical qualification); thereafter, just use surname except in leading articles
and all other medical and scientific doctors and doctors of divinity, but not surgeons
document; draught current of air
of documents; draughtsman, draughtswoman of drawings
this shirt will only get drier after an hour in the tumble dryer (while I use the hairdryer)
past tense drank, past participle drunk: he drinks too much – last night he drank 10 pints, the least he has drunk on any night this week
drink-driver, drink-driving, drunk-driving
The limits in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are breath: 35 micrograms per 100 millilitres; blood: 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres; urine: 107 milligrams per 100 millilitres. The limits in Scotland are breath: 22 micrograms per 100 millilitres; blood: 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres; urine: 67 milligrams per 100 millilitres
not driver’s licence in British English
honeybee whose function is to mate with the queen, and by extension therefore someone who lives off the work of others (the worker bees); however, it seems to be used increasingly to mean something like an obedient, unimaginative worker (“office drone”)
drug companies, drug dealer, drug raid, drug squad, drug tsar
not drugs raid, etc
a more accurate and less judgmental term than “drug abuse” or “misuse” (often all three terms have been scattered randomly through the same reports)
the former Dixons; owns Currys and PC World. DSG stands for Dixons Store Group, but in June 2010 the company, belatedly realising that no one in the world was aware of this, decided to change back to Dixons
Avoid such tabloidese as “he has been dubbed the nation’s leading expert on style” (even if true)
not duck tape
due to or owing to?
Traditionalists argue that “due to” should only be used when it is the complement of the verb “to be”, and could be replaced by “caused by”; otherwise, use “owing to” or “because of”:
The train’s late arrival was due to [caused by] leaves on the line; the train was late owing to [because of] leaves on the line.
The distinction, once routinely taught in primary schools but now assailed on all sides, especially by train and tube announcers, is being lost.
There is no such controversy about “due to” in other contexts – rent is due to the landlord, we are due to arrive in 10 minutes, etc
duffel bag, duffel coat
The fabric was named after Duffel, a town in Belgium
Duke and Duchess of Cambridge or Sussex
These are their official titles. However, the following terms can be used for the princes: Prince William, Prince Harry; thereafter William, Harry or the prince. The following can be used for their wives: Kate or the Duchess of Cambridge, Meghan or the Duchess of Sussex; thereafter, Kate, Meghan or the duchess.
“Princess Kate” and “Princess Meghan” are wrong, as is the use of their former surnames of Middleton and Markle.
“Kate, Duchess of Cambridge” and “Meghan, Duchess of Sussex” should not be used in copy, but are acceptable shorthand for headlines, or you can use their first names alone.
Duke of Edinburgh
or Prince Philip at first mention; thereafter the duke or Philip
Duke of York
or Prince Andrew at first mention; thereafter the prince or Andrew
do not use when you mean speech-impaired
du Pré, Jacqueline
(1945-87) English cellist, Du Pré at second mention
(1886-1971) French organist and composer
(1471-1528) German painter
dutch auction, dutch courage, dutch treat
but double Dutch
stands for digital versatile disc
plural of dwarf (not dwarfs); but the verb is to dwarf, eg the Shard dwarfs the surrounding buildings
football teams from the former Soviet Union are Dynamo; teams from Romania are Dinamo
write “Paul has dyslexia” rather than labelling him “a dyslexic” or saying he “suffers from” dyslexia