Style Guide

Copy this readable does not happen by accident. This ongoing style guide explains the style we use, why we use it and gives contributors a head start in getting it right first time.

Abbreviations do not carry punctuation. For example eg and ie. (At the time of writing, Apple’s auto correct does not make this easy.)

‘Three-letter acronym’ has become a common saying. It refers to things like BBC, DVD and, much as it pains to type it, WTF. However, these are not acronyms. They are not even abbreviations. They are initialisations. An acronym is a word formed by initials, such as Nato, Purl and radar. Radar is so common that it is not even necessary to capitalise it. We capitalise acronyms, except for those in common use as lower case.

booklet maker
Two words.

Because it's an acronym. See Acronyms.

We all know that typing words in all caps is tantamount to shouting. That turns the reader off. The general rule is we style words in all caps only if each letter is said separately. Therefore HTML and Ipex. (See Acronyms)

Companies 1
Companies are singular.

Companies 2
Company or firm? Company. A firm is a partnership for carrying on a business and is usually reserved for lawyers, accountants, etc. One often comes across the phrase ‘a firm of solicitors' but never ‘a firm of printers’. Firm may be used in rare cases to replace company, perhaps in a headline where space is limited.

Print Business uses the British format of Date Month Year, eg 1 January 2015.

LengthxWidth, ie no space between the dimensions and the x symbol. Don’t forget the comma if it runs to thousands except resolution ie 1200x1200dpi. Units are in lower case and closed up to the dimensions.

Dispatch is more often seen presented as despatch. The argument about which way is correct goes back to Samuel Johnson, inventor of the dictionary. In his famous book it is despatch though as he himself always used dispatch, it is thought to be an error. We prefer dispatch. Perhaps the television programme Dispatches could look into the matter.

Doesn’t matter
Yes it does. The interviewee may say ‘doesn’t, isn’t, shouldn’t’ in quotes. Print Business says ‘does not, is not and should not’.

E is for electronic
e-commerce but email, ebooks

Far East
A specific geographical area and therefore has initial capitals.

Fujifilm. Avoid temptation to shorten to Fuji.

One word, like waterproof.

Where would we be without the much neglected hyphen? In proper English, that should have read much-neglected hyphen, as much-neglected is an attributive adjective and should by hyphenated. But it does litter the text up a bit and makes for harder, not easier, reading if every attributive adjective were hyphenated. And it seems that certain phrases are hyphenated automatically, such as high-speed and up-to-date but low speed and old fashioned remain unhyphenated.

We hyphenate numbers – ten-colour presses, to differentiate that they are presses that have ten colours rather than ten (separate) colour presses. We also hyphenate where no hyphen would cause confusion (the previous example serving well here).

Job titles
Job titles are lower case. Fred Bloggs may be the Managing Director of Bloggs Printers on his business card but, as managing director is not a proper noun, he is the managing director in our text.

Large format
The phrase large format was once confined to supersized litho presses. When inkjet started to struggle to get out of its proofing shackles, it was referred to as wide format, referring to the width of the substrate the inkjet head zoomed across. Now that inkjet printing is mainstream and the length of an inkjet press is somewhat longer than the inkjet array, large format seems more appropriate. Large format is also device neutral. It refers to the size of printing, rather than whether it is inkjet or litho, whereas wide format suggests inkjet. Print Business uses large format for all print that is large in format.

A logo is a graphic that denotes a company or product. Essentially a logo is a picture. How do we represent pictures in text? We don’t.

As far as text is concerned, the name of a company or a product is a proper noun and proper nouns have initial capital letters.

As words and phrases such as e-commerce and iPod become common, the reading public is used to seeing proper nouns beginning with a lower case e or i followed by a capital letter. So we accept this. We do not accept proper nouns in all lower case. Also, when a logo is styled with a mixture of upper and lowercase letters, that is confusing to the reader, who stumbles over it when it is presented as such in text and is most likely to stop reading.

Punctuation marks indicate a pause to the reader, and if that pause is part of a name, then the reader is likely to stop reading (scroll down to How People Read). Therefore we remove punctuation marks from names of companies and products.

Print Business is often asked to emulate logos in our text, but only which letters are upper and lower case. This is a little odd as in this digital age, we could get a fairly close match to the font and the colour too, so why is that never requested?

If Print Business tried to incorporate everyone else's house style, it wouldn't have one of its own. So the answer to the question "Why haven't you put our name in uppercase/lowercase/a mix of both?" the answer is "So more people will read the article."

Hell will freeze over before we begin a sentence, let alone an article, with a lower case letter. Proper nouns have capital letters. If a logo is styled in lowercase (see Logos) it is still a proper noun and therefore is capitalised.

Print Business went completely metric in 2014. Where measurements are supplied to us in imperial, we convert them to metric. If the original is precise (273ft per minute) we will convert it precisely. If it is an approximation in square feet, say, we will replace it with metres squared, rounded up or down to the nearest appropriate number.


One to ten are spelled out and 11 onwards are presented as figures. Larger numbers are 1 million.

OEM as a verb
Not just using a noun as a verb, but using an initialisation as a verb. Although it goes against the grain, sometimes the convoluted sentence that results in trying to reword the meaning is just as bad. We use OEM as a verb and the past tense is OEMed. We are, of course, going to hell in a handcart.

Overcapacity, one word.

People’s names
People are referred to by their full name in the first instance and by their surname thereafter. In the case of people with the same surname being quoted, they are referred to by their full name each time.

Plethora is a much wrongly-used word. Its origins are in medicine, and it means so much of a good thing that is becomes a bad thing. For example, obesity may be caused by a plethora of cream cakes. Cream cakes are a good thing as a treat but eating two dozen at a time is a bad thing. It is used by far too many people to sound posh when they mean 'a great deal of', or simply 'a lot'. It's a shame, because there are occasions where we could use it in its proper sense (it is the plethora of B1 printers that has led to overcapacity) but readers may misunderstand what we mean. So we avoid it.

printhead. As in inkjet.

Personalised URL is an acronym and therefore has an initial capital.

Raster image processor is an acronym and therefore has an initial capital.

Run on sentences
Run on sentences are those where two sentences are divided by a comma instead of a full stop. We always make them two sentences or use a conjunction.

saddle stitcher
Two words.

Straightaway is one word.

Straightforward is one word.

Software as a system
This is reproduced as an acronym but with a final capital as well. It shouldn’t, but it seems to be what our readers want. So SaaS it is.

When a model is called the ABC 123 we remove the space so it reads ABC123. This is simply to standardise model formats throughout our publications and make it less jarring for the reader.

Speech is usually in the present tense. If Fred Bloggs said it at the time there is no reason to believe that he has changed his mind now, which is what 'said' may imply.

Speech: Synonyms for 'says'
Press releases are full of quotes. At first the managing director says something. Then he comments. After that he explains. Further in he might state. Thankfully no one has yet to ejaculate. The point is, there is nothing wrong with repeating 'says'. It is just a marker in the text to let the reader know it is still the same person speaking. Sometimes 'comments', 'explains' and 'states' are appropriate, but no reader has ever noticed the repetition of 'says'. However, the use of a different synonym for every occurrence of speech can be irritating.

Suffixes, superfluous
In the Middle Ages there was a trend to ‘fancify’ language. This meant adding prefixes and suffixes to words to make them sound posher. Several hundred years later, this is back in fashion, with amongst, whilst and unbeknownst cropping up everywhere. Print Business uses among, while and unknown etc.

There is a long tradition in type to not give an initial cap T to 'The' in the title of anything except books, films and television programmes. A certain popular beat combo was always known as the Beatles. Despite having 'The' in the title, newspapers remained the Times, the Telegraph. The tabloid is known as 'the Daily Mirror despite not having the word 'The' in its title. Print Business was, for the first five years of its existence, known as The Print Business, in an attempt to align it with The Economist. Under new ownership, the first change that was made was to drop the 'The'. It is a bit of an affectation and can be quite clumsy. For example, would one say "A The Print Business case study is a good marketing tool"? The 'The' would be dropped. It is for these reasons that in cases where 'The' is part of the name or title, we include the 'the' but with a lower case.

When a website URL is also the name of the company, it takes a capital letter, eg This indicates to the reader that it is something more than a website address.

Wide format
The phrase large format was once confined to supersized litho presses. When inkjet started to struggle to get out of its proofing shackles, it was referred to as wide format, referring to the width of the substrate the inkjet head zoomed across. Now that inkjet printing is mainstream and the length of an inkjet press is somewhat longer than the inkjet array, large format seems more appropriate. Large format is also device neutral. It refers to the size of printing, rather than whether it is inkjet or litho, whereas wide format suggests inkjet. Print Business uses large format for all print that is large in format.

woodfree paper

How Print Business makes style guide decisions

People don’t read letter by letter. There are enough ‘if yuo cna raed tihs yuo’re clveerer tahn you thnik’ posts on the internet to prove that.

We all take in words in the same way, but some process them more efficiently than others. The eye takes in the sort of text used in magazines, newspapers and books (body text) by taking readings of characters about the size of a fingernail (called saccades). The eye follows the row of text, with the previous line and the next line, moving saccade by saccade, then moving down at the end of the row, like an old typewriter.

The brain knits these saccades together, using information that it has already learned. It takes the shape of the word, the context of what it has already deciphered and its vocabulary to predict what the word is most likely to be. It relies heavily on signals such as ascenders (b, d, h etc), descenders (g, y etc), initial capital letters and punctuation to work out what the text says (which is why text in all capitals is difficult to read).

People who have read a great deal tend to read quickly. Those who haven’t, such as those who spend their time communicating verbally, tend to read less fluidly. And many decision makers are verbal communicators.

What happens if someone who doesn’t read huge amounts every day comes across something in text that is difficult to work out? If the article is interesting enough, they may take the time to work out what the obstacle means.

More often, though, they will just stop reading. Simple as that.

That is why this style guide contains what it does. Print Business has a tone that is authoritative yet readable. It is written in such a way that even strong verbal communicators’ eyes can skip quickly over the words and find they’ve taken in a four-page feature with no effort at all.

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How Print Business reads

How Print Business reads

We are often complimented on how easy Print Business is to read. We put a lot of effort into making it as effortless as possible.

We have developed guidelines over many years (a lot are the legacy of our staff's time at the weekly Printing World). Others come from advice from experts in their field (the former editor of the TV Times when it was the UK's biggest selling magazine, for example).

Some of us have devoted three decades to keeping the reader's eye on the printed page (and digital page) and have picked up a tip or two about how to do that.

In other words, we know what keeps people reading the words and what turns them off. And when they turn off, they turn the page or go off and do something else.

The style guide is embedded in us. It comes naturally to those of us who write and edit the magazine and website. When we come across something we're not sure of, we have a discussion, decide on what is best for the reader and go with it.

So we are putting our style guide into words and publishing it. If any clarification is needed, please email us on

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Sight of Copy Courtesy

Sight of Copy Courtesy

All of the content of Print Business is independent, impartial and generated in house. Sight of copy is a courtesy only, and is granted in very few cases.

Print Business's house style is strictly enforced and other styling cannot be accommodated. Any changes must be limited to factual errors. Changes submitted for consideration must be returned within 48 hours of receipt and may not be carried out, especially when close to artwork deadline.

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