This page provides guidance for the writing style adopted by Construction News in print and online, from January 2020.
Provide a person’s full name and job title on first mention. Don’t include Mr, Miss, Mrs or Ms.
Subsequent mentions in the same story should use only the person’s surname.
Exception: CN journalists (The work of Construction News head of content Zak Garner-Purkis has been recognised among the top political writing in the UK. Zak has been longlisted for The Orwell Prize for Journalism…)
The titles Lord, Lady, Baron, Baroness and Professor can be used for both first and subsequent mentions. The person’s full name should be given on first mention (Lord Tony Berkeley, for example) and the shorter title used for subsequent mentions (Lord Berkeley).
The titles Sir and Dame should be included on first mention but surname alone is sufficient on subsequent mentions (Sir Keir Starmer on first mention, Starmer on second mention; Dame Judith Hackitt on first mention, Hackitt on second mention).
Doctor/Dr should not be used unless it is relevant to the story (an expert giving an opinion on a technical matter, for example).
Unnamed spokespeople should always be associated with a defined organisation (A spokesman for Kier said, “We have launched an investigation.”). When we have important information from a confirmed source but we cannot report either their name or organisation, we should avoid quote marks and put the information into reported speech (CN understands that the accusations are true).
Whistleblowers or other sources who cannot be named to protect their identity can be quoted in full, but the reader should be given sufficient information to gauge the source and extent of their knowledge (an electrician who worked at one Crossrail site early in 2019 told CN: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.”) Care must be taken to ensure the attribution used is not sufficiently specific to allow those with detailed site records to identify the individual.
When possible, list a person’s organisation and job title in an adjective format on first mention (“Wates chief executive David Allen said…”). Commas are not required in this format.
Where a long job title makes the above difficult to read, or you need to describe the nature of the organisation or add other contextual information, put the person’s name first and use commas: (“Steven Carey, partner in the real estate, construction and engineering team at law firm Speechly Bircham, said…” or “Jérôme Stubler, chief executive at Vinci, which is currently bidding for the contract, said…”).
Don’t capitalise the first letter after a colon in a headline. Use single marks for quotes, except where the headline includes an apostrophe. (For example, Regulator says ‘action now inevitable’ and Regulator says “it’s now or never” would both be correct).
Avoid the use of multiple short paragraphs, which can hamper a story’s flow. Group together sentences that belong together. Use “he said”, “she said”, “they said” when using secondary quotes in one paragraph. Reintroduce a continuing speaker by surname in each paragraph.
Long quotes can span paragraph breaks. In this case, don’t use a closing quote mark but use an opening quote mark at the start of the new paragraph to remind the reader that the quote continues.
Long quotes can be hard to follow, so consider converting into reported speech, reserving direct quotes for the most pithy or memorable sentences.
News should be in the past tense, except for the first line, which should be in the present perfect tense (The government has announced the latest cut to solar subsidies. The announcement was made by energy secretary Ed Davey.)
Briefings, analysis, features and opinion should be written in the present tense.
Contractions are fine in features/opinions etc but not in news unless it’s a direct quote.
Spell out single figures in text – one to nine – with 10 and up to 999,000 as figures (note the comma). Don’t use “k” to signify thousands. Thereafter, 2.5m, 14.3bn, etc, unless it’s a round figure being used for effect or because the data is uncertain, in which case: one million.
Decimal fractions should include a zero before the full point (0.3 not .3).
Round complicated numbers up or down to no more than three significant figures (10.8% not 10.79%; £25.2m not £25.23m; $4bn not $4.003bn) except where greater precision is necessary in context (“The cost rose from £10.76m to £10.82m.”)
Units of measurement always use numerals, even below 10 (6 per cent, 7cm).
With ordinals, spell out those of one word (first, hundredth, etc) except for military units (3rd Battalion) and centuries (19th century) but for more than one digit use figures (23rd, 121st – no full stop).
Never use a figure at the start of a sentence – rewrite to avoid if necessary.
Ranges of units should use hyphens (“growth of 4-6 per cent”, “about 100-120 staff”) except where ‘between’ is used (“between four and five years”).
Measures and units
Use metric values except where Imperial measures are still more commonly understood, as may be the case with square feet, miles and mph. For example when referencing a road speed limit set in mph it would be unhelpful to convert to km/h.
Don’t insert a space between the quantity and the unit (4km, 40mph, 4ha, 4kW)
Don’t pluralise the abbreviated unit (4km not 4kms)
To avoid confusion between millions, miles and metres, don’t use the abbreviation “m” for either miles or metres. Always spell these values out in full (4 metres, 40 square metres, 400 cubic metres, 40 miles, 4 square miles) except where space is an issue in charts and tables. Avoid compound contractions such as cu m or sq m in these cases; use m2 or m3 instead.
Spell out tonnes and litres in full and use the appropriate plural and singular forms (“About 20 tonnes of rubble was loaded onto a 40-tonne truck.”)
Write out less commonly used units in full on first mention. (“A 10 kilowatt-hour battery was chosen, after the 15kWh and 20kWh options were deemed too expensive.”)
Specific temperatures should be converted to Celsius and written using the degrees symbol (“It was over 40°C in the tunnel”). Changes in temperature can be simply written in degrees (“The tunnel had to be cooled by 10 degrees.”)
Figures of 1,000 million (or more) should not be used. These should be described as one billion (or more).
Energy and power
In science and engineering, energy and power are not the same thing. Power is the rate at which energy is used or delivered. A powerful machine uses a lot of energy in a short space of time.
Power is measured in watts (W). Power stations tend to deliver in megawatts (MW). Don’t abbreviate megawatts as mW, because the small “m” indicates millwatts (the kind of power delivered by the batteries in a TV remote).
Energy tends to be measured in joules (J) by scientists and in watt-hours (Wh) by engineers. A watt-hour is the amount of energy transferred when a watt of power is delivered for an hour, or 2W is delivered for half an hour, or 4W is used for 15 minutes, etc.
Battery capacities are often specified in watt-hours, indicating the sum of energy they can contain. Electric car battery capacities are usually measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). Don’t try to abbreviate watt-hours as W/h (with a slash), as this means watts per hour, which indicates a rate of change in power delivery. Writing W/h or kW/h is almost always a mistake as there are very few cases where it would be relevant (it might indicate the pace at which power delivery falls away as a battery charge runs out, but that’s about it).
Use conventional contractions for large and small sums: £15bn; £24m; £10,000; £7.75; 75p; $100m, €100m.
Currency names such as dollar, pound, sterling and euro are always lowercase. Always spell out other currencies such as yen or yuan rather than using currency symbols.
Always explain foreign sums by adding the sterling value in brackets (“A Chinese contract worth 10bn yuan (£1.09bn) has been awarded to the joint venture”).
Punctuation goes inside the quote where the quote is a full clause or sentence (“This is quite ridiculous,” Bloggs said. “I was elsewhere.”) but outside where only a word or phrase is quoted (Bloggs described the accusation as “ridiculous”, insisting that he was “elsewhere”.) The same rule applies to full stops before or after a closing bracket at the end of a sentence.
Spell out air conditioning on first mention to differentiate it from alternating current electricity. Don’t use ac or a/c. No hyphen in air conditioning
Always use full capitals. UNESCO not Unesco. In general, spell out acronyms in full on first mention, followed by the abbreviated form: for example, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) should be cited in this fashion on first mention, and then referred to as the CITB throughout the remainder of the story. There is no need to spell out acronyms that are very widely understood in their contracted form: BBC, NASA, UN, EU, VAT, etc.
Upper case when using full name, eg Children and Young Persons Act 1967 – no comma before year. But cap down otherwise: “The act states.” Also see Bill/bill
A levels, T levels
Try to avoid starting sentences with it
There are no apostrophes in the plural forms of MP, NGO, etc (MPs, NGOs). Don’t bother with an apostrophe in decades: “In the 80s”, not “in the 80’s” or “in the ’80s”.
as vs because
It is OK to use ‘as’ to link cause and effect in place of ‘because’
Asset Management Plan
Capped, and not ‘Period’ or ‘Programme’
Capped when using full name, eg Apprenticeships and Skills (Public Procurement Contracts) Bill, but cap down otherwise: “The bill states…”
When referring to large numbers use bn with no spaces (£26bn)
building information modelling, no caps when spelling it out. Also, Level 2 – capping the L
Cap up the rating without single quotes: BREEAM Excellent, BREEAM Good etc
The government’s Budget is capped, but pre-Budget report only caps the B
Hard to imagine a scenario where this wouldn’t be hyphenated
Centre on, not around
chair, chairman or chairwoman; chairperson to be used in headline only to avoid awkward phrasing
lowercase like any other job title
as a default, rather than CEO or chief executive officer
Combined heat and power
Terms like “subbies” are welcome in direct quotes but should be avoided in the editorial voice.
Parliamentary and select committees are lower case when spelt out in full: public accounts committee (PAC)
This is an adjective (“a common-sense solution”), common sense is the noun
Organisations of all types are singular. Suffixes such as Ltd are not used, apart from in legal cases, or where it’s necessary for distinction, for example: HS2 (the project) and HS2 Ltd (the company).
The former means liken to, the latter means make a comparison: so unless you are specifically likening someone or something to someone or something else, use ‘compare with’
‘the Conservative Party Conference’ / ‘last week’s party conference’
Control Period 5
Always spelt out and italicised in running text on first mention, CN thereafter. Not italicised in standfirsts or headings. Never italicised or spelled out in full when used for branding: (CN Awards not CN Awards).
Capped up when referring to the EFA’s Contractors’ Framework
Lower case after first mention (“Manchester City Council revealed that… The council will deliver…”). In London, use Lewisham Council, not Lewisham Borough Council or London Borough of Lewisham
Do not use as a prefix to a name
Lower case except for a specific court (“He told the court” BUT “At Bow Street Magistrates’ Court”).
Not Covid-19 or coronavirus
(and Excise) is capped
Always spell out in full except in tables or charts, then m3
Use a hyphen, as in ‘cyber-attack’ or ‘cyber-security’, but consider using “digital” instead.
6 July 2020. If two consecutive years: 2019/20; if a timeframe of more than two consecutive years: 2014-19.
decision-making / decision-makers
Hyphenate when used as an adjective
development consent order
Display Energy Certificate
Always means profit, never revenue or turnover
Replace with “for example” unless used in a direct quote.
Inquiry for an investigation into an event; enquiry for a request for information
Do not use – rephrase or use a more verbose form such as “and so on”
Lower case ‘d’ unless stating the directive’s full name
euro / eurozone
Use for things in the plural (fewer bricks) but ‘less’ for things that have no plural or that cannot be counted (less steel)
First World War
feed-in tariffs, lower case and plural
Consider other words such as ‘overseas’ or ‘international’, or specific country and region names, when referring to people, projects and markets. OK to use in reference to foreign languages.
No need to italicise if in common usage (ad hoc, status quo)
No punctuation should be added to names or words formed from initials (BBC, CBI, pm, Dr, Prof). Contractions such as etc or ie and eg should be avoided – though they can be included in direct quotes.
consider “revolutionary” instead.
Replace with “in future” if that’s what you mean
Lower case, except when giving a formal title such as ‘Scottish Government’ or ‘Welsh Government’
Cap G, lower case l. Similarly, it is a listed building.
greenbelt / green belt
One word as adjective – ‘greenbelt land’; two words as noun – ‘on the green belt’
Just “head” or “lead” will suffice when referring to leadership, but hyphenated when referring to a head-up display (HUD).
homebuilder / homebuilding
One word – and not housebuilder
High Speed 2 / HS2
Spelled out on first mention with caps and numeral
Spell out heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) on first mention
When it is possible to spell as one word, do not use a hyphen. But use hyphens when distinction is necessary (re-sign), where same letters coincide (co-operate, re-enter), for fractions (two-thirds), for compound titles (vice-chairman), and where words clearly complementary are used (poverty-stricken). A trailing hyphen can be used when referring to multiple related things (“Demolition produces a mix of high- and low-value material.”)
Try to avoid using as a verb
Lower case – a generic term applied to multiple government strategies
inquiry / enquiry
Inquiry for an investigation into an event; enquiry for a request for information
in situ / in-situ
As a verb / as an adjective
Use JV only on second mention or in headlines.
Use this spelling whether talking about a court judgement or a moral judgement
Mr Justice Smith, Lord Justice Smith or Lady Justice Smith – same in every mention
M4 J11 / junction 11 – capital J when shortened but lower case when spelt out
Avoid overuse – ‘crucial’ or ‘critical’ can often replace
Not kw and spell out kilowatt on first mention
Don’t cap up
Lewisham Council, not Lewisham Borough Council or London Borough of Lewisham
The title Lord should be used on first and subsequent mentions. The House of Lords is capped.
‘lot one’, not ‘Lot 1’
Always cap up, but spell out mechanical and electrical (M&E) on first mention
Spell out modern methods of construction (MMC) on first mention
Note the apostrophe
main line / Main Line
Never one word – capped up when part of a formal route name, such as West Coast Main Line
Never one word
lower case like other job titles (mayor of London Sadiq Khan)
£1m, £25.4m, unless it’s a round million being used for effect, in which case: one million, five million
More to follow
(online stories) Italicise, not bold, no full stop
Italicise the names of reports, magazines, newspapers, online and TV media outlets, books, films, TV programmes and court cases.
national living wage
Avoid overuse of this word. If you’re building a house, it’s pretty obvious it’s new. If you’re launching a product, there is no need to say it’s new
Cap the ‘The’ if part of a title (The Times)
Lower case when talking generally – ‘jobs likely to rise in the new year’; only capped up when referring to the specific holiday
Can take plural verb as appropriate
Do not hyphenate
No hyphen. Not interchangeable with MMC.
in preference to okay
As an adjective, otherwise ‘on site’
Including consortiums are always referred to as singular entities. Use ‘its’ not ‘their’
overrunning / overrun / overruns
One word, not hyphenated
Lower case, but House of Commons or House of Lords cap up.
Lower case in general, capped only when part of a formal name, eg: the party’s policy / the Labour Party manifesto
Use “p” when referring to specific values (“Each screw cost 10p”) but spell out when used generically (“Each one cost only a few pence but millions were needed.”
As a prefix to Latin tags such as per annum; use ‘a’ when using Anglicised equivalents (£10,000 a year, etc)
Two words, use % only in headlines, charts and tables. Don’t use ‘pc’
Lower case, eg ‘HS2 phase two’, not ‘HS2 Phase Two’
policy-makers / policy-making
Lower case, eg ‘the pound’
Previous issue references
(CN 24 April 2019, p12)
private finance initiative / PFI
Spell out first time in lower case
private finance 2 / PF2
Spell out first time in lower case
No caps – the prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor Sajid Javid
Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs)
Initial caps – the proper name of a regular event in the Commons
Priority School Building Programme
‘School’ is singular, but ‘priority schools’ is fine to refer to relevant projects
project bank accounts / PBAs Spelt out on first mention in lower case
Double quotes, with single quotes used around further quotes therein. Single quotes in headlines, standfirsts and captions.
such as 50:50 require a colon, not a hyphen or forward slash
Regional Framework Capped up when referring to the EFA’s Regional Framework
regions Cap up for specific UK regions – ‘the South East’, ‘the North’ – but lower case otherwise – ‘south east London’, ‘to the west of the site’
reusable One word
Singular. We focus on revenue excluding JVs and associates (some firms like Balfour include these in their headline figure)
Right to Buy
Capped up when referring specifically to the policy
Capped, eg River Thames
Road Investment Strategy
Capped; ‘Road’ is singular
Lower case, eg ‘spring’, ‘autumn’
Lower case – generic term applied to more than one specific deal
Second World War
not World War 2 or II
Hyphenated as a noun, eg ‘management shake-up’; two words as a verb, eg ‘Balfour to shake up team’
UK shares are quoted in p, not pence
Capped up (rarely called Comprehensive Spending Review any more)
spokesman / spokeswoman / spokesperson
are all acceptable; “A source said” is not.
Spell out, don’t use sq m. Use m2 within charts and tables
Hypehenated when used as an adjective
state of trade surveys
Many organisations use this generic phrase as part of their survey’s full title, but unless we’re spelling out that full title then no caps and no italics: (“The organisation’s latest state of trade survey”) (The NSCC’s State of Trade Survey Q1 2013”)
Lower case as part of station name (Waterloo station, King’s Cross station)
No comma after number: 14 Elm Street, WC1
subcontract / subcontractor
One word, no hyphen. Avoid “subbies” except in direct quotes.
Noun is one word; take over (verb) is two
Teams take singular verbs – this includes sports teams (and bands)
No hyphens: 020 7505 6857
10°C; “The temperature was raised by 400 degrees.” Convert Fahrenheit to Celsius
that vs which
‘That’ defines; ‘which’ elaborates. “He listed the reasons that justified his actions.” “He said his actions were justified by a list of reasons, which he spelled out one by one.”
No caps as a rule for publications, buildings, events, etc
tier one contractor
No caps, no numerals; except for tier 1.5
One word, no hyphen
Equals one thousand billion, or a million million. Written as tn with no space (£4.8tn)
Lower case when used along after first full mention (‘The Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust… A spokesman for the trust said..’)
Lower case – same with stations (Bank tube station) and lines (Northern line, Jubilee line).
We focus on revenue excluding JVs and associates (some firms like Balfour include these in their headline figure)
One word. Consider “retrain”.
Not USA or America
Upper case. Similarly, S-shaped, X-shaped, W-shaped, etc.
U-value Only the U capped up, hyphenated
Yorkshire & the Humber Ampersand, not ‘and’