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July Books 3) The Economist Style Guide

3) The Economist Style Guide

Mandatory reading for those of us doing editing for a living, of course. Full of useful snippets and helpful hints, though I dare to disagree on a few points:

Dominicans Take care. Do they come from Dominica? Or the Dominican Republic? Or are they friars?

federalist in Britain, someone who believes in centralising the powers of associated states; in the United States and Europe, someone who believes in decentralising them.
Perhaps that one was a bit more tongue-in-cheek.

Abbreviations that can be pronounced and are composed of bits of words rather than just initials should be spelt out in upper and lower case
Agreed, but their examples include "Kfor" and "Sfor" which I would always spell KFOR and SFOR, since that is and was the capitalisation preferred by the peacekeepers themselves.

Put the accents and cedillas on French names and words, umlauts on German ones, accents and tildes on Spanish ones, and accents, cedillas and tildes on Portuguese ones: Françoise de Panafieu, Wolfgang Schäuble, Federico Peña. Leave the accents off other foreign names.
C'mon, in this day and age I think we should be able to go a long way in spelling names correctly even if the version of the Latin alphabet used in unfamiliar. Though I accept that Đà Nẵng, for instance, has an English spelling of Da Nang.

Capitalisation rules - much tougher than I would be inclined to be, with odd lapses from that toughness - why, for instance, "the queen" but "the Queen's Speech"?

community is a useful word in the context of religious or ethnic groups. But in many other others [sic] it jars. Not only is it often unnecessary, it also purports to convey a sense of togetherness that may not exist.
The intelligence community means spies.
The online community means geeks and nerds.

It is sometimes useful to talk of human-rights abuses but often the sentence can be rephrased more pithily and accurately. The army is accused of committing numerous human-rights abuses probably means The army is accused of torture and murder.
Fair point. Though Anne wonders if the latter phrase is not in fact more precise, while being equally accurate.

haver means to talk nonsense, not dither, swither or waver.

There is an insanely complex set of rules for the correct spelling in English of Russian names, almost all of which I agree with, apart from the idea that you should always transliterate "дж" as "j"; giving as an example Stalin's real surname, Jugashvili. I would always write Dzhugashvili. (Though of course in his native Georgian it was ჯუღაშვილი which I would transliterate as Jugashvili, as "ჯ" is normally transcribed "j"; but we know him through translation from the Russian.) They then go on to add, absurdly, that his first name should be spelt "Josef" not "Iosif". I would have said that the man know to us as "Joseph Stalin" was born "Iosif Dzhugashvili". (Accepting Иосиф Джугашвили ratehr than იოსებ ჯუღაშვილი as the more official version of his original name.)

Placenames: I'm glad that they are with me on Transdniestria, rather than "Transnistria" which is gaining ground. But there's no way I'm using "Leghorn" for Livorno.

More places: The list of administrative divisions of Belgium, bafflingly, lists only nine provinces, omitting Brussels (and Flanders and Wallonia), though there is a hint that Brabant can be Flemish or Walloon. And the list of Swiss cantons, while including without explanation the splits of Appenzell and Unterwalden, does not mention that Basel is similarly split.

Will keep it by my desk though.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 7th, 2006 09:00 pm (UTC)
Regarding Basel Stadt/Land
Sidenote: I'm still not sure if I should be amused or horrified by their perpetual feud. I remember last year that once again, their respective electorates voted against consolidated their emergency ambulance and fire services - even though it would improve service at lower cost.

The local leaders of each Half-Canton shared bemused smiles at the expected result's annoucement.
Jul. 7th, 2006 09:13 pm (UTC)
you should always transliterate "дж" as "j"

No, you are right and the Economist is wrong here. Apart from the fact that "д" corresponds to "D" and "ж" to "ZH", which one would have though logical enough, what of the fact that "j" is invariably pronounced as the English "y" in just about all the Roman-script using Slavic languages I can think of. And what of the Serbian "Ђ" which is pronounced the same as "дж" (near as damn it, anyway) but is invariably rendered as "Đ" or "DJ"?
Jul. 8th, 2006 05:19 am (UTC)
Actually it's Serbian Џ which is pronounced дж; the pronunciation of Ђ is subtly different, though I admit I can't actually hear it, even though I know intellectually that I am forming the sounds differently!
Jul. 7th, 2006 09:49 pm (UTC)
I actually met the man who wrote the Economist style guide when I was on safari on my honeymoon. I have to say I was a bit starstruck. His wife is chief book reviewer for the Spectator or something.
Jul. 7th, 2006 09:51 pm (UTC)
Reads through. Understands most, gets confused by the Russian and other linguistic stuff, wonders who on earth was thinking Leghorn was a sensible name for anywhere not in America, and decides to leave again.

But... Belgian administrative divisions, to ignore the three "regions" completely, maybe they're all missed off for the same reason? Unless my memory fails, those three are the next level below national, right?
Jul. 8th, 2006 05:21 am (UTC)
It's in a section on the "main administrative divisions" of certain countries. Since Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia actually have more power than the provinces (and since they list intermediate units for other countries too) it is strnage to omit them.
Jul. 8th, 2006 02:09 pm (UTC)
That then, is very weird. Oh well, Economist is better than most at accuracy.
Jul. 7th, 2006 10:41 pm (UTC)
If only they could be bothered to lavish as much care on their quantitative illustrations as their prose. The New York Times could teach them a thing or two there.
Jul. 8th, 2006 12:10 am (UTC)
haver means to talk nonsense, not dither, swither or waver.


Jul. 8th, 2006 02:17 am (UTC)
plus some of us went to a lot of trouble
learning the Alt codes for some of the other ones so that we could do Old English/Rohirric, Elvish, and Númenórean correctly...
Jul. 8th, 2006 10:19 am (UTC)
There's always Ukraine instead of the Ukraine...
Jul. 8th, 2006 01:32 pm (UTC)
And Sudan? Lebanon? Netherlands?
Jul. 8th, 2006 05:09 pm (UTC)
I forgot about those! Ukraine is the one we keep getting reminded of at work!
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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