Online style guide

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
p's and q's Link to this term

do need apostrophes if in lower case, but not if in caps (Ps and Qs)

paean Link to this term

song of praise

paederast Link to this term
paediatrician, paediatrics Link to this term
paedophile, paedophilia Link to this term

please be careful: a child-sex offender can only be a paedophile; a child sex offender could be a young sex offender.

paella Link to this term
pageantry Link to this term
paintings and sculptures Link to this term

and other works of art ... titles should appear in italics

palaeolithic, palaeontology Link to this term
Palaeozoic Link to this term
palate, palette Link to this term

palate is taste, or the roof of your mouth ... palette is a range of colours or a painter's board

Palme d'Or Link to this term

(Cannes film festival)

Panadol Link to this term

proprietary name is capitalised, but generic name, paracetamol is not

paparazzi (plural) paparazzo (singular) Link to this term

James Fawcett is the Australian paparazzo who faced legal action. He's part of the paparazzi.

par, on a par with Link to this term

I'm feeling a bit below par. The golfer finished the round six under par. Can home schooling be seen as on a par with the state-run system?

parallel's more important than you think Link to this term

...there's still a split among historians about whether he was a hero or villain... The sentence trails off disappointingly and needs lifting. It should be either 'a hero or a villain' or just 'hero or villain'. We often naturally speak in parallel construction because the resulting speech rhythms are more satisfying. 'Come for a beer and a pizza.' 

parallel, paralleled, paralleling Link to this term
participle Link to this term

is a word formed from a verb: having, been, going, gone. A participle can cause problems when left to 'dangle'

party Link to this term

Labor party, Liberal party ... no need to capitalise party

passed Link to this term

by on the other side

passer-by, passers-by Link to this term
past Link to this term

that's in the past

past, passed Link to this term

the worst of the fire danger is now past (present tense) ... the worst of the fire danger has now passed (past tense).

pastime Link to this term

what you do to pass the time

pedal Link to this term

a bicycle, (peddle is what a pedlar does, unless he's a drug peddler)

peek, peak Link to this term

a peek is what you take when you want to see something, and a peak is the top of a mountain

pejorative Link to this term

deprecatory ... nothing to do with perjury

per se Link to this term

by or in itself; intrinsically (Macquarie). It's Latin, and sometimes appears in RN transcripts as 'per say', which is wrong.

percentages Link to this term

per cent, not percent

perennial Link to this term
periodicals Link to this term

titles should appear in italics

permissible Link to this term
Perspex Link to this term

trademark, so capitalise

Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA) Link to this term

Arts is plural. But in the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) the word 'Art' is singular

phase Link to this term

refers to a period of time ... faze means worry, as in 'nothing fazed her'.

PhD Link to this term
phenomenon (singular) phenomena (plural) Link to this term
Philip, Phillip or Philippe Link to this term

it's Philip Glass, Phillip Adams and, if he's French, Philippe

Philippines, Philippine islands, Philippine president, Philippines government Link to this term

inhabitants are Filipino (m), Filipina (f), Filipinos (m + f)

Philippoussis, Mark Link to this term
Phnom Penh Link to this term
phosphorus (noun), phosphorous (adjective) Link to this term
pin number Link to this term

now normally used to avoid ambiguity, not PIN alone (even though PIN stands for personal identification number and 'number' is inherent)

Pitjantjatjara Link to this term

major Aboriginal language group

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Link to this term
placenames Link to this term
plain English Link to this term

for example, we prefer begin or start to the rather pompous commence; buy to the equally pompous purchase.

plain English please Link to this term

This clunker was found on our site:

'The South Australian government has asked consumers to try to find alternatives to turning on their air conditioners, fearing more power outages due to heavy demand.'

Not only is it hard to read because of all the spiky phrases like 'to try to' and 'due to', but it's full of unnecessary words. A simple rewrite makes it shorter, smoother to read, easier to understand, and less pompous.

The South Australian government has asked people to ease off on their air conditioners in case heavy demand leads to more power outages.

plaster of paris Link to this term

no caps for paris

Plasticine Link to this term

trademark, so capitalise

plateau (singular), plateaus (plural) Link to this term

not plateaux

play-off (noun), play off (verb) Link to this term
plays and other live performances Link to this term

titles are displayed in italics

playwright, playwriting Link to this term

a playwright practises the art of playwriting. therefore it's playwriting prize, not 'playwrighting prize'.

plural possessive Link to this term

Perth Writers' Festival, not Writer's. There are a number of writers involved, not just one. And the Greens' policy, not Green's. The Greens is a political party with a number of Greens in it, not just the one.

pm, am Link to this term

4 pm, 10.20 am

poems Link to this term

titles of long poems should appear in italics, titles of short poems in single quotes ... The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and 'The Tiger' by William Blake. Titles of poetry collections in book or pamphlet form are italicised.

pollie Link to this term


Pope Benedict XVI Link to this term
Pope Francis Link to this term

not Pope Francis I, a Vatican spokesperson has advised.

poppadom Link to this term
populous Link to this term

describes a place with a large populace

poring or pouring Link to this term

we spent the evening inside, poring over the budget papers. Outside it was pouring with rain.

pork barrel, pork barrelled, pork barrelling Link to this term
Port Hedland Link to this term

town in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia

portico, porticos Link to this term
poser Link to this term

artist's model or puzzle ... poseur is a striker of false attitudes

possession Link to this term
possessive apostrophe Link to this term

as in Tom's meaning belonging to Tom. There are no possessive apostrophes in the following possessive pronouns: its (belonging to it), hers (belonging to her), his (belonging to him), theirs (belonging to them) and so on...

Post-it Link to this term

trademark, so capitalise

post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS) or disorder (PTSD) Link to this term
postmodern, postmodernism Link to this term
postwar Link to this term
potato, potatoes Link to this term
PowerPoint Link to this term

the presentation software

POWs Link to this term

not POW's for the plural please

practice (noun) Link to this term

doctor's practice ... lawyer's practice ... violin practice ... don't make a practice of it ... he saw it could work in theory, but would it work in practice?

practise (verb) Link to this term

they practise law ... that scam is widely practised ... why don't you practise more ... he was practised at storytelling

pray or prey Link to this term

pray in a church, but hunt your prey. So it's 'preying on young girls', not 'praying'.

pre-Raphaelite Link to this term
premier Link to this term

foremost, or political leader ... a first performance is premiere

preposition Link to this term

ending a sentence with a preposition is fine: something to aim for ... a great place to walk to.

prepositions: of Link to this term

awareness of (not awareness about), knowledge of (not knowledge about), understanding of (not understanding about). Scourge of the countryside (not for the countryside). It does matter which preposition you choose. Check the dictionary if you're not sure.

prerogative Link to this term
prescribe, proscribe Link to this term

prescribe is to lay down as a rule to be followed (Macquarie) ... proscribe is to forbid, denounce or condemn. So '...development can only take place under certain proscribed circumstances...' doesn't make sense.

president Link to this term

When referring to presidential office, as in 'the current president is George W Bush' then it's lower case. When the word is used as a title as in 'President Bush left the White House', then capitalise.

pressured Link to this term

to be under pressure ... pressurised might refer to the atmosphere inside a plane

prevaricate Link to this term

in speech procrastinate in action

preventive Link to this term

not preventative (preventive medicine, not preventative medicine)

prewar Link to this term
pricey Link to this term
prime minister Link to this term

Kevin Rudd is the prime minister of Australia. David Cameron is England's prime minister. If we were transcribing an interview we might write, 'Fran Kelly: Good morning, Prime Minister...' because there the term is being used as a form of address, but for descriptive purposes, as in 'Fran Kelly spoke to the prime minister this morning,' we use lower case.

principal, principle Link to this term

Principal Skinner's overbearing mother is the principal reason he's still single. Principle means a fundamental truth or law, or the basis of something. In principle means regarding fundamentals but not necessarily in detail. On principle means based on some moral stance.

prize-winning Link to this term

Nobel prize-winning, Pulitzer prize-winning, etc

prizes Link to this term

Pulitzer prize, Nobel prize, Man Booker prize, etc

procedure Link to this term
proceed, proceeded, proceeding Link to this term

but precede, preceded, preceding

procrastinate Link to this term

(action) prevaricate (speech)

prodigal Link to this term

means extravagant or wasteful, not a returned wanderer, except in the Bible.

Professor Link to this term

write in full, (not Prof) when part of a title: Professor John Smith. Lower case to describe job: John Smith, professor of linguistics at... Upper case if part of endowed professorship: John Smith is Arthur C Clarke Professor of space studies at...

progeny Link to this term

is plural

program Link to this term

not programme

proper names Link to this term

Nothing destroys the credibility of a writer more than sloppy use of people's names. Here are some pointers:

  • Public figures: use both given and family names (Barack Obama, Paris Hilton, Osama bin Laden, Ai Weiwei, Vincent van Gogh) at first mention, then either both names or family name only (Obama, Hilton, bin Laden, Ai, van Gogh). Never use only given names as this will undermine the all-important tone and integrity of your writing. And note that not all names follow the European convention of Christian name or first name followed by surname or second name. You may need to do a bit of research to get the name order right, but it's worthwhile.
  • Spelling: always double-check spelling, even for a well-known name. Use the subject's own website or a reliable academic source. Particularly check names that have common variants. Be fussy about upper or lower case in names like MacDonald, Fitzsimons, and always try to follow the style used by the subject—even if it's a typographic challenge like kd lang, ee cummings, π-o (the poet Pi O) and so on.
prophecy (noun) Link to this term
prophesy (verb) Link to this term
prosecute Link to this term

you can prosecute a person in the sense of instituting legal proceedings against them, or you can prosecute an inquiry in the sense of carrying it out. But this use of the word is wrong: Belarus is ... a place where freedom of expression is severely limited, and regularly prosecuted. Freedom of expression itself cannot be prosecuted, only the people who advocate it. The sentence should read: Belarus is ... a place where freedom of expression is severely limited and its advocates regularly prosecuted.

prostate cancer Link to this term

not prostrate

prosthesis, prostheses Link to this term
protagonist Link to this term

chief player (in drama or novel). Does not mean participant

protest...the Australian way Link to this term

in Australia we still say 'protest against' something when we mean, for instance, drivers protesting against fuel price rises. If we use the word on its own, we mean to claim something, for instance, to protest our innocence.

protester Link to this term

not protestor

prove, proved, proven Link to this term

This whole affair has proved to be a disaster, and that's a proven fact

proverb Link to this term
Ps and Qs Link to this term

no apostrophes when in caps

publicity blurb Link to this term

avoid recycling publicists' puff words (acclaimed, accomplished, amazing, fantastic, renowned, standout, leading). ABC Editorial Policies state: 'Care should be taken in the choice of words used to describe commercial organisations and people. Qualifying descriptors should be restricted to factual elements...'

publicly Link to this term

not publically

publishing on the RN website Link to this term

Please refer to the RN online main house style points if you are providing copy to be published on the RN website

pudding Link to this term

the proof of the pudding is in the eating (not 'the proof is in the pudding')

punctuation spacing Link to this term

no space between word and punctuation mark, so (part one) never *( part one ), and as follows: not *as follows : The exception is between a word and an en-dash: This morning – and what a morning – was to be my last. If you choose to use an em-dash it is usual to close the spacing thus: This morning—and what a morning—was to be my last. It's all about readability.

punctuation spacing again Link to this term

A comma comes immediately after a word, with a space after it, not before. The same goes for question marks, exclamation marks, colons, and semi-colons. One good reason for this rule is so the word and its punctuation mark can't become separated at a line break
, like this.

pursue, pursuit Link to this term
Pyrex Link to this term

trademark, so capitalise

pyrrhic victory Link to this term

won with heavy losses

p’s and q’s Link to this term

do need apostrophes if in lower case, but not if in caps (Ps and Qs)

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z