Philanthropist Journal style guide

General editorial guidelines

  • Use Canadian spelling: our first reference is Canadian Oxford Dictionary, 2nd edition. Where CanOx doesn’t have the answer (it’s no longer being updated and is becoming a little outdated), use Merriam Webster.
  • We don’t follow any particular style guide, but we lean toward the Chicago Manual of Style (and away from the Canadian Press style guide).
  • Follow assigned word limits – although we allow some flexibility to let a story “go where it needs to go.”
  • Run the spell check on Word. Word’s grammar check is basically useless, but sometimes it can flag problems with subject/verb agreement and other straightforward grammatical problems.
  • Self-edit: Take a break of a day or so after finishing the writing and then read your piece again a couple of times, watching for overly long sentences, repetition, lack of clarity, etc.
  • In general, avoid using passive tense. (Passive = The report was written by Susan. Active = Susan wrote the report.)
  • Jargon: Avoid it – use plain language that all readers, regardless of background or experience, will understand.


  • In general, avoid formatting (no indents, tabs, numbered lists, etc – although bullets are OK).
  • Place an extra blank line between paragraphs to separate.


  • Use serial/Oxford comma
  • Spaced en dash for dashes: like – this
  • Use bullet points for lists, not asterisks or check marks
  • Hyphens: “non-profit,” not “nonprofit”
  • Use double quotation marks. Single quotation marks are used only for quotes within quotes and for display copy (i.e., headlines)
  • Periods: Use periods for e.g. and i.e. but not for NGOs, MPs, BC, US, UK, etc.


  • Assume Canadian currency; specify otherwise: US$14 million, £10 million
  • Spell out numbers to nine, then 10 and up
  • Time of day: 2 p.m.
  • Don’t use superscript for ordinals: 21st
  • Percentages: Use the symbol (%) not per cent or percent. Remember that moving from 43% to 45% is not a shift of 2%, it is a change of two percentage points.
  • Temperature: 35°C (on a Mac keyboard the degree sign is created by keying shift + option + *)
  • Dates: Use unabbreviated month, day (add comma) and year. Example: November 5, 2005
  • Consecutive years: 2022/2023
  • Write out numbers at the beginning of sentences; recast to avoid beginning sentences with a year or other numeral.


  • In general, we don’t use italics for so-called foreign words
  • Use sparingly for emphasis: I did not say that.
  • Use for titles of works: books, movies, newspapers, TV shows, magazines, podcasts (but individual chapters, episodes, etc in double quotation marks)


  • Use sentence case, not title case, for headings/sub-headings (e.g., Sector seeks consensus and a louder voice in Ottawa)
  • Titles before names are capitalized; titles after names aren’t: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau/Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister
  • Don’t capitalize job titles: managing editor Lesley Fraser
  • No capital on full sentence after a colon, unless the colon introduces a series of questions/related sentences


  • Use a single space after periods.
  • References: We prefer hyperlinks to relevant reports, surveys, etc, rather than author/date citations and reference lists. In cases where notes must be included, use endnotes rather than footnotes (there’s no “bottom of the page” on a website)
  • Names: Use first and second name at first mention and then surname only at second mention. Never use first names only. Do not use honorifics such as Mr, Professor, Dr, etc.
  • Possessive for names ending in “S” like this: Adams’s
  • Use present tense for direct quotes: “For me, the key here is the experiment,” says Bruce MacDonald.
  • Full name of orgs, etc. on first ref + acronym in parentheses; acronym only on subsequent reference. But avoid overloading a piece with acronyms – we don’t want to create memory tests! If an org is mentioned only a couple of times, consider just spelling it out.

Facts and fact checking

  • Avoid using dated information or statistics.
  • Always identify where information comes from.
  • Crosscheck your facts.


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