Put them in on French, German, Spanish and Portuguese words where we’re certain they’re right. Leave them off all other languages except in occasional instances when it’s polite, eg with a contributor’s name. Use discretion when the whole article contains accents and they are definitely correct and consistent. Leave them off common English words like cliche and protege. But do put them on words that could otherwise be confusing eg exposé.
In caps, no full stops (eg FIFA, UEFA). Exceptions are Concacaf and any other long word that looks ugly in caps (eg Cameroon FA – Fecafoot).
Add apostrophe “s” in the possessive to words already ending in “s” only when that’s how you would say the word, eg Ardiles’s, but Venables’). “What sounds right” is not a bad rule to follow. But never add it for clubs (eg Spurs’) or countries (eg Wales’). Possessive apostrophe not needed after club names with players: Rovers striker not Rovers’ striker. Think Sunderland striker.
Always take the plural (“Chelsea are, as ever, suspect at the back”) even when you actually say “the club” or “the team”. Eg “The club are about to convert their stadium into flats.”
Direction takes lower case (“it’s grim up north”), as does a general description (the north-east of England, eastern Europe, west Africa). Commonly used but vaguely defined areas (the west country) also take lower case unless it might risk any confusion. For recognised areas eg the East/West End of London or administrative areas (South Yorkshire) use caps. Countries obviously take upper case (South Africa).
October 29 or October 29, 1997. Seasons use 1986-87 or 2002-03 but write out full year on the turn of the century, eg 1999-2000. Decades, always use numbers seeing as we’re well into the 21st century. So the 1980s or 1990s, not the Eighties/Nineties.
Spell out one to ten inclusive, then use numerals from 11 upwards. Percentages follow the same rules: seven per cent, 17 per cent. Spell out million (seven million people, £7 million) on first usage but on currencies, m will do the second time and onwards. Similarly billion, bn.
Prefixes are in lower case when the first name is given, upper case when it is surname only, eg Paolo di Canio, but Di Canio; Pierre van Hooijdonk but Van Hooijdonk. Andy van der Meyde but Van der Meyde. Korean names: Jung Tae-se and Park Ji-sung.
In italics, (eg faux pas, de facto) unless they’ve become very common in English (like façade). Proper nouns in foreign languages (Serie A, Bundesliga) never italicise.
Use 5ft 9in, or 6ft
Hyphenate words with a short prefix when needed to separate the same vowel. “Re-enter” “pre-empt” and “co-operate”, but “reassess”. Except where word is preceded by another prefix, eg “non-cooperation” and “uncooperative”.
No full stops, eg WH Smith.
Always “v”, so: Aston Villa v Everton (not Aston Villa – Everton, Aston Villa versus Everton etc)
Full name on first mention, only surname thereafter. Except when referring to letter-writers/contributors, especially in Letters – use full name, then first name.
Only the main part of the title in italics, eg the Times, the Daily Mail.
No comma. Eg Rovers striker Gary Twigg scored two goals, not Rovers striker, Gary Twigg, scored… But the Rovers striker, Gary Twigg, scored… does need commas.
Use English spellings for foreign place names where they exist, eg Cologne, Ivory Coast.
No caps on left-wing and right-wing or prime minister, home secretary, other political positions etc, except when you say “Prime Minister Tony Blair”.
Always double quotation marks, except for quotes within quotes.
Use centigrade and write out, eg 13 degrees
Books, TV programmes, song/album titles, websites go in italics. Newspaper headlines in bold or semi-bold depending on the font.
Individual words and phrases
Africa Cup of Nations
all right (not alright)
all-seat (not seater)
among (not amongst)
any more (two words)
Argentinian (not Argentine)
benefited (not double “t”)
blond (male), blonde (female)
chairman (lower case) or chair
Champions League (no apostrophe)
Channel 4, Channel 5 (figure)
chief executive (lower case)
criticise (not -ze) and the same rule with other American “z” spellings
cryptocurrency (one word)
Cup when meaning FA Cup, cup when referring to other competitions
Cup-Winners Cup (no apostrophe)
CVA = company voluntary arrangement
debutant (unless they’re a woman)
deliver, avoid unless referring to pizzas or crosses
director (lower case)
dispatch not despatch
dos and don’ts
disinterested – be very careful that uninterested is not the real meaning, it usually will be
dugout not dug-out
extra time (but an extra-time winner)
FA Cup final (lower case ‘f’)
fans forum (no apostrophe)
first round, second round etc.
France 98, Euro 96, Euro 2012 (no apostrophe)
full-back, centre-forward etc (hyphen)
half time (but half-time whistle)
HM Revenue and Customs (followed by HMRC)
Internazionale or Inter, but not Inter Milan
internet, not Internet
Labour Party, New Labour
Laws of the Game (not rules)
the League, the Football League, the Premier League (cap) when it means the organisation. But “league games”, “leading league scorer” when it is defining the kind of match
licence (noun), license (verb)
message board (two words)
MLS (no need to write out Major League Soccer)
Mohamed Fayed – no Al
No 9, No 33 for shirt numbers (Cap N, figure and no full stop)
none takes singular
no one (two separate words)
Nou Camp (not Camp Nou)
OK, not Okay
Parliament, capped if referring to the body of MPs but not for fans parliaments etc
per cent (not %)
plc (lower case)
practice (noun), practise (verb)
Premier League, never Premiership, even retrospectively
programme, except in relation to computers, then program
Radio 5 Live
riveting, riveted (not double “t”)
Second World War, not World War Two
secretary (lower case)
semi-finals, quarter-finals (lower case)
stadiums, not stadia
Stock Exchange (caps), stock market (lower case)
swap (not o)
towards (not toward)
Ukraine, not “the Ukraine”
Under-21 (handy mnemonic: “Under-21 caps”)
the US (not USA)
while, not whilst
Wi-Fi (not wi-fi, wifi etc)
Updated February 2022