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By John Allen

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Select a trend or a reaction to the figures as a way of signalling to the listener that big numbers are coming up. If the listener is prepared, there’s a better chance of achieving comprehension rather than confusion. There is no obvious reason for it, but among journalists the innumerate are numerous. Figures can cause problems. Percentages are frequently misused and misunderstood: The Chancellor has shocked industry by raising corporation tax by 10 per cent, from 20 per cent to 30 per cent. That is not an increase of 10 per cent.

The church near Trafalgar Square in London is St Martin-in-the-Fields, not St Martin’s. The building in the City of London is Guildhall, not the Guildhall. They can be made a peer or knight, or receive a peerage or knighthood. Medals such as the George Medal are conferred. Middlesbrough is so spelt (not borough). The epicentre is the spot on the earth’s surface directly above the focus of an earthquake. It is not just a fancy word for centre. A light year is a unit of distance, not time (and a knot is a unit of speed, not distance).

They will start their investigations into the outbreak of smallpox tomorrow. In sport, teams are always plural. England are expected to beat the Balearic Islands; Tranmere Rovers have extended their lead at the top of the Premiership. NB Words such as media and criteria are plural. The medium of television is the most exciting of media. ) It is BBC style to use referendums and forums rather than referenda and fora. The BBC News Styleguide | Confusables | Confusables True ease in writing comes from art, not chance/As those move easiest who have learned to dance.

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The BBC News Styleguide by John Allen


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