MONGABAY STYLE GUIDE

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Welcome to the Mongabay Style Guide.  Below are the most common style-related issues you’ll encounter when writing for us. In general, we follow the conventions of the Associated Press Stylebook, with a few deviations. If you have any questions that aren’t covered below, please e-mail your editor.

NUMBERS

  • Spell-out numbers one through nine; use numerals for 10 and up, EXCEPT:
    • ages and percentages – always use numerals.
    • a number that begins a sentence – always write it out. If it sounds awkward, rewrite the sentence to move the number from the beginning. EXCEPT:
      • sentences that begin with a calendar year. Use numbers for these.
  • For written-out large numbers, use a hyphen to connect a word ending in “y” to another word.
    • e.g., one hundred forty-seven
  • Don’t use commas in written-out numbers.
    • e.g., sixty-four thousand five hundred twenty.
  • For currency, usually convert to U.S. dollars – do not include “USD.”
    • e.g., $100 million
  • For dates, always use numerals without cardinal suffixes (i.e., -st, -nd, -rd, or –th).

ABBREVIATIONS/ACRONYMS

  • First write-out long versions, followed by the acronym in parentheses. Then use just the acronym throughout the piece. EXCEPT:
    • UN, IUCN, WWF, EU, or U.S. – these can be used without first defining the long version.
  • When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec.
    • e.g., Jan. 4
  • When including only a month and a year, don’t separate with a comma.
    • e.g., June 1990
  • When including a day, month, and year, offset the year with a comma.
    • e.g., Sept. 15, 1987

PUNCTUATION

  • In general, don’t capitalize after colons.
  • Commas and periods always go inside quotation marks – even when not part of the quote.
  • Use single quotes only in piece titles, and within quotes.
    • e.g., “Then she said, ‘Don’t do it! Shrews are venomous!’ so I decided not to pick it up.”
  • You’re free to use the Oxford comma or not. The AP Stylebook says not to use Oxfords, but sometimes they help make things clearer – especially in long sentences. However, your use (or lack thereof) must be consistent throughout a piece; you can’t use it in one paragraph and not use it in another.
    • e.g., The elephants were strong, smart, and feisty/The elephants were strong, smart and feisty.
  • Use dashes — made by using two hyphens, with spaces before and after — to denote an abrupt change in a sentence.
  • Use hyphens for compound words before nouns.
    • e.g., well-known, full-time.
  • Try not to use parentheses when describing or explaining things; try to use commas or dashes instead, or rewrite the sentence in a way that doesn’t necessitate their use. But if you must use them, remember to put the sentence’s period after the closing parenthesis — unless the parenthetical text is a complete sentence.
  • When using a quote, include your attribution as part of the first sentence of the quote. In other words, use a comma to separate the quoted text from the attribution, not a period.
    • e.g., “Pacific bluefin tuna have declined more than 90 percent over the past 50 years,” Guerra said. “There really should be more stringent quotas.”
  • You can shorten quotes by using ellipses and make them more understandable by using brackets to sub in clearer words for technical lingo.
    • e.g., “We determined the [DNA makeup] of each specimen…and found them to be very distinct.”

TITLES

  • Professional titles should be added to a researcher or other individual when you first introduce them, along with their associated organization, after which just refer to them by last name.
    • e.g., The study was led by Dr. Simone Bourgeois, a herpetologist with Prominent Research Organization. Bourgeois and her team collected skin samples from…
  • Italicize journal titles.
  • Seasons should not be capitalized.
  • Specific IUCN statuses should be capitalized and used whenever possible.
    • e.g., Red pandas (Ailurus fulgens), listed by the IUCN as Vulnerable, are very heat sensitive.

SCIENCE-SPECIFIC & OTHER CONVENTIONS

  • If you’re primarily covering a study, always mention where it was published in the first couple paragraphs of your piece.
  • Write-out measurements, and include both metric and imperial units.
    • e.g., The territories of Malabar giant squirrels rarely exceed 10 square kilometers (3.8 square miles).
  • If you’re covering a scholarly article, always include its citation at the end in APA format (easily done by using Google Scholar’s “cite” tool below a title link).
    • e.g., Asefi-Najafabady, S., & Saatchi, S. (2013). Response of African humid tropical forests to recent rainfall anomalies. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences368(1625).
  • If your piece is about specific species, refer to them by their common names, with their italicized Latin names following in parentheses the first time you refer to them.
    • e.g., Red pandas (Ailurus fulgens), listed by the IUCN as Vulnerable, are not closely related to giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca).
  • Don’t capitalize common names unless they include proper nouns.
    • e.g., The ranges of the common loon and Pacific loon overlap in parts of their respective distributions.
  • When mentioned in a piece, mongabay.com should be written in lowercase, and Mongabay should be uppercase.