a work in progress…

Most common mistakes

Mixing tenses 

Very often, authors write that someone said something, and then in the same article write that that person says something. This is confusing, time-wise; choose one tense or the other and stick with it. For most straight news reporting, the past tense said is preferred. Use the present tense says purposefully — there are good reasons to use the present tense! Just make sure you’re using it intentionally — think about why and when you’re using which tense.

Confusing pronouns

Pronouns he, she, it, and they almost always refer to the most previous proper noun(s). If the pronoun does not refer to the most previous proper noun(s), consider rewording or using the proper noun again. 

How to guides

Page layout and ledes

Style guide



Ableist language
Don’t use: blind eye, tone deaf, lame, psycho, etc.

Avoid the use of accident when talking about cars hitting each other or pedestrians. Instead, use crash or collision.

Avoid ALL CAPS used for emphasis; italics are preferred, if necessary.

Most times, when asked is redundant; use the simpler asked.

Incorrect: When asked about the pandemic, Strang said…

Correct: Asked about the pandemic, Strang said…

Canadian spelling
In general, the Examiner uses Canadian spelling:

centre (not center, except in proper nouns that use the American spelling)

flavour (not flavor)


use jail (not gaol)

use plow (not plough)

Avoid unnecessary capitalization.

Province is only capitalized when used in the legal sense: 

The lawsuit is the Province of Nova Scotia vs. Acme, Inc.

but not otherwise:

The province is suing Acme, Inc.

Child care
Child care as two words, not childcare (one word)

When possible, name the author(s) of a piece we’re linking to or citing, and credit the author specifically, and not just the publication.

Improper use:

The New York Times wrote a dreadful piece about Hilary Clinton…

Proper use:

New York Times columnist Maureen Down wrote a dreadful piece about Hilary Clinton…

Also, try to avoid possessives when attributing a piece to an author. A reporter works for, and is not owned by, a publication. So:

Improper use:

As the CBC’s Michael Gorman reported…

Proper use:

As Michael Gorman reported for the CBC…

Corporations and institutions 
The pronoun for a corporations or institution is it.

Proper use:

Acme, Inc announced that it will offer health care benefits to its employees.

Improper use:

Acme, Inc. announced that they will offer health care benefits to their employees.

Post-publication corrections or revisions that are substantive (fixing incorrect information, changing the meaning of a passage) should be identified to the reader, with an asterisk at the revision and a bottom note explaining the change.

Non-substantive corrections or revisions (typos, for instance) don’t need to be brought to the attention of the reader.

In the very rare case that a substantive correction or revision should not be brought to the attention of a reader, Tim must approve.

Use COVID, not covid or Covid. 

COVID-19 is the Corona Virus Disease of 2019.


June 2, not June 2nd.

November 2019, not November of 2019.

Em dashes
Use a space before and after.

Fixed-term lease, not fixed term lease

Halifax Examiner
The company is the Halifax Examiner (two words), not The Halifax Examiner (three words). So:

As reported by the Halifax Examiner, …

And not:

As reported by The Halifax Examiner,…

First use in an article should be the Halifax Examiner; subsequent references can be to the Examiner. (“Halifax” not necessary.)

As with all newspapers and media outlets, do not italicize Halifax Examiner.

The corporation that operates the news site is Halifax Examiner, Inc. The president of the corporation is Tim Bousquet. The registered agent is David Coles.

The mailing address of the Halifax Examiner is PO Box 463, Halifax, NS B3J 2P8.

Health care
Use health care (two words) and not healthcare (one word).

Honourifics and job titles
Do not use Mr., Mrs., or Ms. except in quotes or in such literary or pop culture references such as Something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones? 

Job titles are only capitalized when used with the name of the person: 

“We have a difficult job ahead of us,” said President Joe Biden.

“We have a difficult job ahead of us,” said the president.

Titles such as Premier Iain Rankin, Health Minister Zach Churchill, Dr. Robert Strang, etc, can be used on first reference, but then not again with the full name. After the first reference, the person is referred to as either the premier or Rankin but not Premier Rankin. The exception is in very long articles, where the person may need to be reintroduced because the reader needs a reminder as to who they are.

For Halifax Regional Councillors, use Coun. before the name. So, Coun. Lisa Blackburn, but spell out councillor elsewhere.

Try to avoid the sterile and dehumanizing copspeak. In most instances, person or people works just fine, and brings a bit of humanity to the equation.

Invest and investment are political spin words for spending public money. Don’t use them to describe government funding, unless it’s actually a stock purchase in a company, and in those cases try to give contextual information — is it an equity stake?

For government expenditures, use expenditure or cost.

Jail & Prison
In Canada, jails are operated by provinces. Most people incarcerated in jails are awaiting trial (meaning they have not been convicted) or other court hearings. Canadian jails also house people have been convicted of crimes and sentenced to less than two years.

In Canada, prisons are operated by the federal government. Canadian prisons house people who have been convicted of crimes and sentenced to two years or more in custody.

In the United States, jails are city and county institutions. US prisons are primarily state institutions, but there are also federal prisons. Some US cities, counties, and states operate their own jails and prisons, but many contract operation of the institutions out to for-profit corporations.

People housed in jails and prisons are either prisoners or incarcerated people. Do not use the term inmate, as it is considered depersonalizing.

Use the Canadian spelling licence for the noun; the verb for uses an S: The bar owner is going through the licensing process.

Generally, the numbers one through nine are spelled out:
one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine

and the numbers 10 and above use numerals:
There are 13 donuts in a bakers dozen.
There are 52 cards in a deck.

But at the start of a sentence, spell out the number:
Forty-eight people signed the petition.

For numbers over a million:
Alberta has a population of six million people.
Germany has a population of 60 million.

But for dollar amounts:
The McNeil government gave $5 million to Sandpiper Ventures.

When numbers describe an event, spell them out:
John Bidwell made his fortune by selling mining equipment to forty-niners.

Generally, we use the numeral and the “%” sign rather than “percent” of “per cent” — so 5% and not five per cent or five percent. The exception is at the beginning of a sentence: Five percent of people say library fees are too low. We use the one-word percent, not the two-word per cent.

Beware of the difference between percent change and percentage point change. For example, consider two public opinion polls a month apart, when respondents have changed their opinion: 

Before the murder of George Floyd, 30% of Americans said they were concerned about police violence against Black people; after the murder, 50% of Americans said they were concerned about police violence against Black people, a change of 20 percentage points. [not: a 20% change]

Commas and periods go inside quotation marks.

Regional spellings (including community names and infrastructre)

Angus L. Macdonald Bridge (or Macdonald Bridge/”Old Bridge”)

A. Murray MacKay Bridge (or MacKay Bridge/”New Bridge”)

Halifax Harbour Bridges, not Halifax Bridge Commission

Halifax City Hall or just city hall

Halifax Regional Municipality

Halifax regional council. Never City of Halifax

Beaver Bank not Beaverbank

Avoid using Sackville, so readers don’t confuse it with Sackville, New Brunswick. Use Lower Sackville, Middle Sackville, or Upper Sackville instead. Not Sack Vegas.



Shubenacadie (Sipekne’katik is the name of the Mi’kmaw territory and the band name)


Mount Uniacke

Musquodoboit (there’s Middle Musquodoboit and Upper Musquodoboit)

L’Ardoise (pronounced Lordways, by the way)

Dartmouth is not Halifax (here’s a good map to show what communities are within the HRM boundaries)

Most place names in Nova Scotia don’t use the possessive apostrophe. There are four exceptions:

  • the town of Clark’s Harbour
  • the Mi’kmaw reserve of Fisher’s Grant
  • the municipal district of St. Mary’s
  • the village of St. Peter’s

There is no apostrophe in Peggys Cove.

Saint John, but St. John River

Nova Scotia Health, NOT Nova Scotia Health Authority

Serial commas
We use them:

I’d like to thank my parents, God, and the great dane Rover.


I’d like to thank my parents, God and the great dane Rover.

Use a single space (not double spaces) after periods. 

If we’re in a two-way conversation with someone, we talk with them. If we’re scolding someone, we talk to them.

Correct: I want to know more about corruption, so I talk with Peter Kelly.
Incorrect: I want to know more about corruption, so I talk to Peter Kelly.

Avoid the term taxpayer when referring to government expenditures. Public money is preferred.

Incorrect: About $5 million in taxpayer money went toward the space port.

Correct: About $5 million in public money went toward the space port.

The Canadian Taxpayer Federation is a lobbyist group that represents a very small number of people and not “taxpayers” generally. The Halifax Examiner does not ask its opinion of government expenditures, and generally avoids giving the organization credibility. When we must refer to it, provide contextual information from its critics.

Time of day
The Examiner style is 10am, noon, 4pm, midnight. The 24-hour military (or European) clock can be used for scheduling: 14:00 for 2pm.

For titles of books, TV series, films, plays, albums, epic poems, symphonies, exhibitions, video games, works of art and other major compositions. Capitalize all principal words of a title. These include the first and last words; all nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs and verbs in all their forms; and all other words of four letters or more. 

Titles of short stories, poems, songs, episodes of television programs, passages within musical compositions, etc., take quotation marks, as do titles of reports, scientific studies, and news headlines when cited in body copy. 

Titles of newspapers, magazines, and journals are not italicized.

Traffic calming
traffic-calming measure
a measure engineered for traffic calming

United Kingdom
Abbreviated as U.K.

United States
Abbreviated as U.S.


  • never, never, never use a photo from another news media outlet unless there is explicit, written permission, and even then, with credit.
  • after necessary cropping (next bullet point), place the largest possible size of a photo in the library
  • Try to crop photos to make them as interesting as possible, concentrating on the person, people, or action. For example, a big photo of a dais with a tiny head above it is not interesting (unless that’s the intent); you can crop out most or all of the dais and fill the photo mostly with the human.
  • Be sure to add a description as well as a caption when you’re adding a photo to the library.
  • Always add alt text to a photo when you’re adding it to the library. Alt text is just a description of the photo. This text is for our blind or partially sighed readers who use screen readers.


Simply place the YouTube URL for the video into the post; WordPress does all the magic after that.

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

One reply on “Halifax Examiner style guide”

  1. Perhaps you could abolish the word ‘multiple’ for a month and see how it goes. I mention this because some journalists (and others) don’t seem to understand that a plural noun is, well, plural and doesn’t need ‘multiple’ in front to tell us it’s plural. For example, “… was facing multiple civil court battles …” appears on CBC’s web site today. The Examiner isn’t bad in the redundant multiple department but I’ve seen it there too.

    While I’ve got the hobby horse saddled up I’d like to whinge about saying ‘reached out’ when ‘contacted’ is what you did. Look, you reach out to commiserate with a friend after their dog died or you’re hoping for a date or a loan. It’s personal. But if you’re trying to get officialdom to answer a question then you contact.

    There’s more but that’s enough for a while.

Comments are closed.