Style Guide

living document – last updated on 26 August 2019

Business Malta (BM) uses the grammatical rules, spelling and lexis of British English (BrE). As such, the Oxford English Dictionary (Lexico platform) is consulted as a point of reference, while also paying close attention to the changes and evolution of the English language. The Business Malta Style Guide is a living document, hence is regularly updated and polished.

The present document intends to help the editorial staff deliver stories with the highest consistency possible, in order to create a comfortable and familiar copy flow for our readers. At the same time, this document serves as a point of reference for the PR agencies, marketing departments and businesses we work with related to the in-house style of Business Malta.

and vs ampersand (&)

We do not use the ampersand symbol (&) unless it is the official name of a company or an event and is important for the branding of the given arrangement. In all the cases the word “and” is used.

AmE → BrE

As the publication follows the rules of British English (BrE), Americanisms are always Anglicised, unless it is the official name of a business, organisation or body. Our editorial room pays special attention not only to lexis and grammar but also spelling.

-or → -our

E.g. instead of color we use colour.

-ize → -ise

E.g. instead of revolutionize we use revolutionise.

-er → -re

E.g. instead of center we use centre.

-lyze→-lyse

E.g. instead of analyze we use analyse

focused → focussed

Focussed is the BrE version, while the -ing form is focussing.

og → ogue

E.g. instead of analog we use analogue.

lexis

As in the following words: aging → ageing, airplane → aeroplane, aluminum → aluminium, annex → annexe, artifact → artefact, behoove → behove, check → cheque, chili → chilli, cozy → cosy, curb → kerb, draft → draught, gray → grey, licorice → liquorice, mold → mould, mom(my) → mum(my), omelet → omelette, pajamas → pyjamas, plow → plough, practice → practise, program → programme, story → storey, tire → tyre, vise → vice and yogurt → yoghurt.

Further examples and more detailed description are available here.

active vs passive voice

“Passive sentences, relative to active sentences, elicited greater activation in bilateral IFG and left temporo-occipital regions,” a neurolinguistics study has found. Therefore, whenever it is possible we avoid using passive sentences, as such a grammatical structure is more demanding to understand, undermining the reader’s flow.

AI as in artificial intelligence

Although AI is becoming much more of common knowledge than it used to be, the very first mention in an article is as follows: artificial intelligence (AI). Followingly, the abbreviation AI is used consistently. In headlines, crossheads and teasers, the AI abbreviation is used.

bitcoin

The word “Bitcoin” with a capital “B” is associated with the protocol and payment network; the ecosystem as a whole. Bitcoin with a lowercase “b” written as “bitcoin” is usually associated specifically with bitcoin as the currency. The same rule applies to other cryptocurrencies (such as Ethereum/ether, Litecoin/litecoin). In the case of IOTA, the ecosystem is all capitalised, while the cryptocurrency stays in the lowercase iota [note the Tangle is the moniker used to describe IOTA’s directed acyclic graph (DAG) based transaction settlement and data integrity layer focused on the internet of things (IoT)].

bloc vs block

The European Union is often referred to as the “bloc”, which is shorter and helps support the reader’s flow. The full title “European Union” is always used on the first mention in the article, and later on, the usage of “bloc” is accepted. Nevertheless, it is never to be confused with the word “block” such as a “block of flats”. The word “bloc” for the European Union is only used when the reference is clear.

blockchain

The word blockchain is always lowercased. On the one hand, a company exists with the name “Blockchain”, therefore using the proper noun would give the reader the idea that the article is talking about the company. On the other hand, with the word blockchain we follow the evolution seen in the words of “internet” and “web” (with reference to the World Wide Web); notions that used to be capitalised upon introduction but transformed into lower-case spelling, similarly to the blockchain.

When the word “blockchain” is used in a general sense and as a noun it is always referred to as “the blockchain” similarly to “the internet”. When the word is used as an adjective, “the” is dropped similarly to “internet”. See as follows: Data stored in the blockchain is immutable and transparent. A new blockchain startup promises to change the whole world.

brackets and parentheses

(round brackets)

Round brackets — or parentheses in AmE — are used to add information that is not essential to the meaning of the rest of the sentence; therefore, should the information in round brackets be removed from the sentence, it would still make sense.

[square brackets]

Square brackets — or brackets in AmE — are used to add editorial information to quotes for clarifying the meaning, should the quote miss the essential context.

cannabis

The word “cannabis” is capitalised only when used as part of the taxonomic name such as “Cannabis Sativa” and similar. Any other mention of “medical cannabis“, for example, is to be lowercased.

capitalisations

Common nouns

Common nouns are never capitalised on Business Malta. In legal texts, common nouns are often handled as entities referring to a specific body and thus are capitalised. However, in Business Malta’s reporting this practice is not followed. Therefore, all the mentions of Government, Company, Manager and so on are lower-case words such as the government, the company and the manager.

consonant clusters

For avoiding to break the reader’s flow, words that end in a consonant cluster get simplified on Business Malta. As such, instead of “amongst” we use “among“, instead of “whilst” we use “while”. Simplicity is always of key importance. Additionally, although the “-rds” version is the BrE for words such as “forwards” and “towards”, we rather use “forward” and “toward” for the sake of keeping the text flow simple.

contractions

We do not use contractions in our text at all, to keep the formality of style. At the same time, contractions are removed from quotes, too, for consistency purposes. As such, we use “do not” instead of “don’t”, “cannot” instead of “can’t”, “we are” instead of “we’re” and so on.

cooperation

Although in BrE the hyphenated version of “co-operation” is used, which is highly accepted worldwide, we use the unhyphenated version “cooperation“. On the one hand, the word comes from the unhyphenated Latin cooperari and cooperatio, on the other hand, hyphens put off readers as they slow down the flow of reading. At the same time, in Middle English, the hyphen was not used either.

countries with ‘the’

Some countries come with “the”, which format is followed in our reporting. Examples include “the Netherlands”, “the Czech Republic”, “the United States” and “the United Kingdom”, to mention a few.

crypto

When we talk about “cryptocurrency” and “cryptocurrencies“, we use the phrase as one single word, assuming that crypto is a prefix such as in the word “cryptography“. However, “fiat currency” and “fiat money” are being used as two separate words.

Also, the word “crypto“, depending on the context, can usually be used as a shortening for the word “cryptocurrency“. As such, any collocation used with “crypto” carrying the meaning of “cryptocurrency” is used as two (or more) separate words e.g. “crypto wallet“, “crypto hack“, “crypto hedge fund“, “crypto investment“, “crypto investor“, “crypto finance“.

Despite the aforementioned rules, however, “cryptoeconomy“, “cryptoeconomics” and “cryptoeconomist” is always used as one single word, following the style of “microeconomics“, “macroeconomics“, “macroeconomist” and microeconomist“.

dashes

We place special attention to the difference between the hyphen (-), the en dash (–) and em dash (—). Please read this for further information. The hyphen is the shortest and is used for compound words and adjectives, as well as to separate numbers that are not inclusive.

The en dash is slightly longer than the hyphen but not as long as the em dash, simply meaning “through”. Although traditionally the en dash would indicate inclusive dates and numbers such as July 9–August 17 or pages 37–59, Business Malta uses the hypen in every case when the en dash would be used, as the difference is so insignificant in length that they are hard to tell apart in the screens of devices.

However, the em dash is significantly longer than the hyphen, and is used to create a strong break in the structure of a sentence. Em dashes can be used in pairs like parentheses.

As a rule of thumb, Business Malta reserves em dashes for breaks where using a comma simply would not be strong enough. At the same time, BM uses em dashes instead of parentheses as the latter add the feeling that they enclose information that is less important, while the former place special importance on the enclosed information.

dates

We follow the British dating format when using dates in articles. If the date refers to the present date, the year can be omitted. The format of the date is day and month, as 12 June. Should you need to include the year, then the format is number and month and date, as 12 June 1999. The conventions of spoken language using “the” twelf“th of” June are omitted.

iGaming vs gaming vs online gambling

The word iGaming is widely-used in Malta and in countries where the sector is vibrant. As a thumb of rule, when the sector/industry is being mentioned the word iGaming is used with the lowercase i and capital G without a hyphen. At the same time, we also use the word online gambling to refer to iGaming. Online gambling, however, is not online gaming, see the entry on eSports.

The watchdog for the industry is called the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) and the law is called as the Gaming Act (when it was introduced it was widely referred to as The New Gaming Act). 

ebook

For an electronic book, we use the word ebook. The word can be capitalised as Ebook only if it stands at the beginning of a sentence. The version eBook is not used on Business Malta.

election and elections

When we talk about the general election of a country or the European Parliament election, the word is always used in a singular form. However, it is possible to say elections to the European Parliament. If we talk about the Maltese general election it is singular as elections in Malta will be a collective noun for all the elections could be held in the country. In the case of the United States, we talk about the United States presidential election in singular, or the United States elections (general election).

electric scooter

The word “electric scooter” — just as the word scooter — is widely used for vehicles that one can sit or stand on. Despite bearing the same name, the two vehicles are highly different, both in their use and the legislative environment regulating their use. As such, Business Malta makes sure to use “electric bike scooter” versus “electric kick scooter” in the first mention of the article, to clarify which scooter is being talked about. This is always supported by a relevant leading picture added to the story. Should an article run with both the types mentioned, the full reference including the words “bike” and “kick” is used for maximum clarity.

eSports

The notion of eSports is relatively new and the spelling of the word is formed as being used internationally. For now, Business Malta uses the eSports spelling, following the convention used for iGaming. The word eSports is used for online gaming, while the word iGaming is used for online gambling.

ethereum vs ether

When we talk about the Ethereum we talk about the ecosystem. The cryptocurrency used to pay on the Ethereum blockchain is ether, lowercase. The conventions here are similar to the case of bitcoin.

females and males

While it is acceptable to use the word female or male in some cases, such as female members or male members, Business Malta uses men and women whenever it is possible, instead of females and males when we talk about humans.

fintech

Although FinTech is widely-used with the double capital for being a coined word, following our common noun rules — and the word being so widely known — we use the spelling fintech, no caps. Today, fintech is common knowledge.

freeport

If the full name is provided, we use Malta Freeport Terminals with capitals to signal it is the company. However, if the freeport is mentioned without using the whole title, it is just a common noun so we lowercase it.

names and titles

On the first mention of a person, the full name and title are used. Later on, the surname preceded by Mr or Ms is used. Alternatively, they might be referred to by their title or profession, if the reference is clear. If more people are quoted in an article, and the storyline jumps from one person to another, the surname might be followed by “of” and the company name. For example, “We are looking to grow,” said George Smith, CEO of CoolCompany. “The environment is welcoming,” the CEO added. “We are positive about our future,” said Mr Smith (of CoolCompany).

Mr, Ms and Dr + Prof

Mr, Ms, and Dr are always used without the dots, as the dotted version is the AmE style. The first mention of a name is always the full name with the appropriate title/position, without Mr or Ms. Later on, the surname preceded by Mr or Ms is used. Dr is only reserved for doctors of medicine. Nevertheless, “Prof” is used with the name on the first mention of a professor.

MIA – Malta Institute of Accountants

The Malta Institute of Accountants is traditionally capitalised when referred to as “Institute”. This conflicts the in-house style of Business Malta. Nevertheless, as agreed with the organisation, BM will always refer to the body as the Malta Institute of Accountants or MIA, honouring their traditions but not violating our in-house style. As such, the words “institute” or “Institute” are not used in reference to MIA.

MLA – Malta International Airport

Earlier, the Malta International Airport would use the abbreviation MIA when referring to the company. However, the company is moving to the MLA abbreviation, which is the international code of the airport. As such, in a story, the first mention is always “Malta International Airport (MLA)” and then the abbreviation MLA is possibly used, alongside clear references, such as “the hub” or “the airport”.

persons vs people

The word “persons” is highly legal and looks odd in everyday text. As such, we use the singular “person” and the plural form “people“. We use people instead of “persons” in every case.

special characters

When it comes to foreign names and words, usually international press Anglicises the spelling. Nevertheless, Business Malta, with respect to foreign languages and names, makes an extra effort in trying to keep the original spelling. For example Babiš (Czech PM) or Orbán (Hungarian PM).

ton vs tonne

The word ton can refer to the UK long ton of 2,240 pounds or the US short ton of 2,000 pounds. Both the tons are defined as one ton equals 20 hundredweight, however, the UK hundredweight is 112 pounds, while the US hundredweight is 100 pounds. We always break down clearly in our stories whether it is the UK long ton or the US short ton is being referred to.

However, the metric ton is referred to as tonne, which equals 1,000 kilogrammes, approximately 2,204 pounds. The SI standard calls it tonne, however, the US government recommends calling it metric ton. We always refer to the metric ton as tonne

Maltese spelling

Based in and focusing on Malta, all Maltese phrases must be written in their proper spelling, using all the special characters as follows:

Ċ ċ Ġ ġ Għ għ Ħ ħ Ż ż

Therefore, for example, Ghajn Tuffieha is incorrect and Għajn Tuffieħa is correct.

they — gender-neutral singular

Third-person plural “they” — together with its inflected and derived forms such as “them”, “their”, “themselves” — is used as a first-person gender-neutral reference on Business Malta, instead of the “he/she” or “he or she” versions. Nevertheless, even if the word “they” is used as a singular, the grammatical agreement happens in the plural. For example: “If one invests in volatile assets, they need to be prepared for the possibility of losing a significant amount of their investment.”

UK, US and EU

Although the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union are often referred to by using their abbreviations, we always use the full version when talking about the country or the bloc. The abbreviations are only to be used for adjectival relations. For example, The United Kingdom is facing difficulties in the Brexit process. The UK-based company is planning to relocate its headquarters to the European Union, as the management says EU regulations create a welcoming environment.

quote marks

Although traditionally BrE uses single quotes, we always use double quotes in the text. Single quotes are only to be used if there is a quote inside the quote, or in headlines and crossheads. For example, Bank introduces new ‘Payment Service’ in the headline, PM tags new tax system ‘bad’ in crosshead, and “As I was walking he shouted ‘Hey, you left your wallet’ after me, it was kind of him,” Mr Smith said in text.

dumb quotes vs smart quotes

Instead of the so-called dumb quotes and apostrophes having become widely-used, we always opt for the so-called smart quotes (x and x and xx), as they are more comfortable for the reader’s eyes.

For further information see Jason Santa Maria’s guide made for the Word Punctuation Day 2013.