CN style guide

This page provides guidance for the writing style adopted by Construction News in print and online, from January 2020.

People

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).

  • Reminder that Noble Francis should be Professor Noble Francis on first mention.

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 sources

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.

Job titles

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.

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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…”).

Headlines

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).

Paragraphs

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.

Tenses

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.

Numbers

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).

Money

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

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.

Common queries

AC
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

Acronyms
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.

Act
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

adviser
Not advisor

ageing
Not aging

A-levels

among
Not amongst

and
Try to avoid starting sentences with it

apostrophes
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”.

apprenticeship levy
Lower case

army
Lower case

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’

Autumn Statement
Capped up

bank holiday
No caps

Bill
Capped when using full name, eg Apprenticeships and Skills (Public Procurement Contracts) Bill, but cap down otherwise: “The bill states…”

billion
When referring to large numbers use bn with no spaces (£26bn)

BIM
building information modelling, no caps when spelling it out. Also, Level 2 – capping the L

BREEAM
Cap up the rating without single quotes: BREEAM Excellent, BREEAM Good etc

Budget
The government’s Budget is capped, but pre-Budget report only caps the B

build-to-rent
Hard to imagine a scenario where this wouldn’t be hyphenated

Building Regulations
Upper case

buyout
No hyphen

Cabinet
Capped

cashflow

centre
Centre on, not around

chair
chair, chairman or chairwoman; chairperson to be used in headline only to avoid awkward phrasing

chancellor
lowercase like any other job title

chief executive
as a default, rather than CEO or chief executive officer

CHP
Combined heat and power

colloquialisms
Terms like “subbies” are welcome in direct quotes but should be avoided in the editorial voice.

committees
Parliamentary and select committees are lower case when spelt out in full: public accounts committee (PAC)

common-sense
This is an adjective (“a common-sense solution”), common sense is the noun

companies
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).

compare to/with
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’

conferences
‘the Conservative Party Conference’ / ‘last week’s party conference’

consortiums
Not consortia

Control Period 5
Capped

Construction 2025
Not italicised

Construction News
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).

Contractors’ Framework
Capped up when referring to the EFA’s Contractors’ Framework

co-ordination
Hyphenated

cost-effective
Hyphenated

councils
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

councillor/Cllr
Do not use as a prefix to a name

counter-claim
Hyphenated

court
Lower case except for a specific court (“He told the court” BUT “At Bow Street Magistrates’ Court”).

Customs
(and Excise) is capped

crown representative
Lower case

cubic metres
Always spell out in full except in tables or charts, then m3

cyber
Use a hyphen, as in ‘cyber-attack’ or ‘cyber-security’, but consider using “digital” instead.

dates
6 July 2020. If two consecutive years: 2019/20; if a timeframe of more than two consecutive years: 2014-19.

data
Always singular

decision-making / decision-makers
Hyphenated

design-and-build contracts/projects/contractor
Hyphenate when used as an adjective

development consent order
Lower case

Display Energy Certificate
Capped

drylining
One word

earthmoving
One word

Eastern Europe
Capped

eg
Replace with “for example” unless used in a direct quote.

email
No hyphen

energy efficiency
Not hyphenated

energy-efficient
Hyphenated

enquiry/inquiry
Inquiry for an investigation into an event; enquiry for a request for information

E.ON
All caps

etc
Do not use – rephrase or use a more verbose form such as “and so on”

EU directive
Lower case ‘d’ unless stating the directive’s full name

euro / eurozone
Lower case

façade
Use facade

fallout
One word

fewer
Use for things in the plural (fewer bricks) but ‘less’ for things that have no plural or that cannot be counted (less steel)

first-time buyer

First World War

FiTs
feed-in tariffs, lower case and plural

floorplates
One word

focused
Not focussed

forecast
Not forecasted

foreign
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.

foreign words
No need to italicise if in common usage (ad hoc, status quo)

full stops
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.

futureproof

game-changer
consider “revolutionary” instead.

general election
Not capped

going forward
Replace with “in future” if that’s what you mean

government
Lower case, except when giving a formal title such as ‘Scottish Government’ or ‘Welsh Government’

Grade II-listed
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’

groundbreaking
One word

head up
Just “head” or “lead” will suffice when referring to leadership, but hyphenated when referring to a head-up display (HUD).

homegrown
One word

homeowner
One word

housebuilder / housebuilding
One word

housing zones
Lower case

High Speed 2 / HS2
Spelled out on first mention with caps and numeral

HVAC
Spell out heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) on first mention

hyphens
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.”)

impact
Try to avoid using as a verb

industrial strategy
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

-ise
Not -ize

joint venture
Use JV only on second mention or in headlines.

judgement
Use this spelling whether talking about a court judgement or a moral judgement

judges
Mr Justice Smith, Lord Justice Smith or Lady Justice Smith – same in every mention

junctions
M4 J11 / junction 11 – capital J when shortened but lower case when spelt out

key
Avoid overuse – ‘crucial’ or ‘critical’ can often replace

kick-start
Hyphenated

kW
Not kw and spell out kilowatt on first mention

landbank
One word

landowner
One word

learned
Not learnt

legionnaires’ disease
Don’t cap up

lifecycle
One word

living wage
Lower case

London councils
Lewisham Council, not Lewisham Borough Council or London Borough of Lewisham

Lords
The title Lord should be used on first and subsequent mentions. The House of Lords is capped.

lots
‘lot one’, not ‘Lot 1’

M&E
Always cap up, but spell out mechanical and electrical (M&E) on first mention

MMC
Spell out modern methods of construction (MMC) on first mention

magistrates’ court
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

make-up
Never one word

mayor
lower case like other job titles (mayor of London Sadiq Khan)

megaproject
one word

millions
£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

multi-million-pound
two hyphens

named media
Italicise the names of reports, magazines, newspapers, online and TV media outlets, books, films, TV programmes and court cases.

national living wage
Lower case

new
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

newspapers
Cap the ‘The’ if part of a title (The Times)

new year
Lower case when talking generally – ‘jobs likely to rise in the new year’; only capped up when referring to the specific holiday

none
Can take plural verb as appropriate

no one
Do not hyphenate

Northern Powerhouse
Capped

offices sector
Plural

Offsite
No hyphen. Not interchangeable with MMC.

OK
in preference to okay

onsite
As an adjective, otherwise ‘on site’

organisations
Including consortiums are always referred to as singular entities. Use ‘its’ not ‘their’

overrunning / overrun / overruns
One word, not hyphenated

parliament
Lower case, but House of Commons or House of Lords cap up.

party (political)
Lower case in general, capped only when part of a formal name, eg: the party’s policy / the Labour Party manifesto

pence
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.”

per
As a prefix to Latin tags such as per annum; use ‘a’ when using Anglicised equivalents (£10,000 a year, etc)

per cent
Two words, use % only in headlines, charts and tables. Don’t use ‘pc’

phases
Lower case, eg ‘HS2 phase two’, not ‘HS2 Phase Two’

policy-makers / policy-making
Hyphenated

pound
Lower case, eg ‘the pound’

precast
One word

preconstruction
No hyphen

prefab/prefabrication
No hyphen

pre-let
Hyphen

prequalification
No hyphen

pre-tax profit

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

prime minister
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

profit
Singular

project bank accounts / PBAs Spelt out on first mention in lower case

Queen’s Speech
Capped

quote marks
Double quotes, with single quotes used around further quotes therein. Single quotes in headlines, standfirsts and captions.

ratios
such as 50:50 require a colon, not a hyphen or forward slash

ready-made
Hyphenated

re-cladding
Hyphenated

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

revenue
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

Rivers
Capped, eg River Thames

Road Investment Strategy
Capped; ‘Road’ is singular

royal assent
Lower case

school-leavers
Hyphenated

seasons
Lower case, eg ‘spring’, ‘autumn’

sector deal
Lower case – generic term applied to more than one specific deal

Second World War
not World War 2 or II

shake-up
Hyphenated as a noun, eg ‘management shake-up’; two words as a verb, eg ‘Balfour to shake up team’

shares
UK shares are quoted in p, not pence

skillset
One word

smart motorways
Lower case

Spending Review
Capped up (rarely called Comprehensive Spending Review any more)

spokesman / spokeswoman / spokesperson
are all acceptable; “A source said” is not.

square metres
Spell out, don’t use sq m. Use m2 within charts and tables

stadiums
not stadia

stand-out
Hypehenated when used as an adjective

Starter Homes
Capped

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”)

stations
Lower case as part of station name (Waterloo station, King’s Cross station)

street numbers
No comma after number: 14 Elm Street, WC1

subcontract / subcontractor
One word, no hyphen. Avoid “subbies” except in direct quotes.

takeover
Noun is one word; take over (verb) is two

teams
Teams take singular verbs – this includes sports teams (and bands)

telephone numbers
No hyphens: 020 7505 6857

temperatures
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.”

the
No caps as a rule for publications, buildings, events, etc

thinktank
One word

tier one contractor
No caps, no numerals; except for tier 1.5

timelapse
One word, no hyphen

trillion
Equals one thousand billion, or a million million. Written as tn with no space (£4.8tn)

trio
Singular

trusts
Lower case when used along after first full mention (‘The Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust… A spokesman for the trust said..’)

tube
Lower case – same with stations (Bank tube station) and lines (Northern line, Jubilee line).

turnover
We focus on revenue excluding JVs and associates (some firms like Balfour include these in their headline figure)

Ucatt
Lower case

underfloor
One word

under way
Two words

undersecretary
One word

upskill
One word. Consider “retrain”.

US
Not USA or America

use
Not utilise

U-turn
Upper case. Similarly, S-shaped, X-shaped, W-shaped, etc.

U-value Only the U capped up, hyphenated

website
One word

wellbeing
One word

Western Europe
Capped

while
Not whilst

whole-life costs
Hyphenated

wi-fi
Hyphenated

wind farm
Two words

writedowns
One word

Yorkshire & the Humber Ampersand, not ‘and’