Baby Bells A collective description of the regional telephone companies formed out of the breakup of the Bell System of AT&T. Avoid except in quotes.

baby boomer Lowercase, no hyphen.

baby-sit, baby-sitting, baby-sat, baby sitter


bachelor of arts, bachelor of science A bachelor’s degree or bachelor’s is acceptable in any reference.

See academic degrees for guidelines on when the abbreviations B.A. or B.S. are acceptable.

back up (v.) backup (n. and adj.)

backward Not backwards.

back yard (n.) backyard (adj.)

bad, badly Bad should not be used as an adverb. It does not lose its status as an adjective, however, in a sentence such as I feel bad. Such a statement is the idiomatic equivalent of I am in bad health. An alternative, I feel badly, could be interpreted as meaning that your sense of touch was bad.

See the good, well entry.

Bahamas In datelines, give the name of the city or town followed by Bahamas:

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) —

In stories, use Bahamas, the Bahamas or the Bahama Islands as the construction of a sentence dictates.

Identify a specific island in the text if relevant.

bail Bail is money or property that will be forfeited to the court if an accused individual fails to appear for trial. It may be posted as follows:

—The accused may deposit with the court the full amount or its equivalent in collateral such as a deed to property.

—A friend or relative may make such a deposit with the court.

—The accused may pay a professional bail bondsman a percentage of the total figure. The bondsman, in turn, guarantees the court that it will receive from him the full amount in the event the individual fails to appear for trial.

It is correct in all cases to say that an accused posted bail or posted a bail bond (the money held by the court is a form of bond). When a distinction is desired, say that the individual posted his own bail, that bail was posted by a friend or relative, or that bail was obtained through a bondsman.

Bakelite A trademark for a type of plastic resin.

baker’s dozen It means 13.

Bakery and Confectionery Workers’ International Union of America The shortened form Bakery Workers union is acceptable in all references.

Headquarters is in Washington.

balance of payments, balance of trade The balance of payments is the difference between the amount of money that leaves a nation and the amount that enters it during a period of time.

The balance of payments is determined by computing the amount of money a nation and its citizens send abroad for all purposes — including goods and services purchased, travel, loans, foreign aid, etc. — and subtracting from it the amount that foreign nations send into the nation for similar purposes.

The balance of trade is the difference between the monetary value of the goods a nation imports and the goods it exports.

An example illustrating the difference between the two:

The United States and its citizens might send $10 billion abroad — $5 billion for goods, $3 billion for loans and foreign aid, $1 billion for services and $1 billion for tourism and other purposes.

Other nations might send $9 billion into the United States — $6 billion for U.S. goods, $2 billion for services and $1 billion for tourism and other purposes.

The United States would have a balance-of-payments deficit of $1 billion but a balance-of-trade surplus of $1 billion.

ball carrier

ballclub, ballpark, ballplayer, ballroom

ball point pen

baloney Foolish or exaggerated talk.

The sausage or luncheon meat is bologna.

Baltimore The city in Maryland stands alone in datelines.

Band-Aid A trademark for a type of adhesive bandage.

Bank of America Acceptable in all references for Bank of America National Trust & Savings Association.

BankAmerica Corp. of San Francisco is the parent company.

baptism See sacraments.

baptist, Baptist A person who baptizes is a baptist (lowercase).

A Baptist (uppercase) is a person who is a member of the Protestant denomination described in the next entry.

Baptist churches It is incorrect to apply the term church to any Baptist unit except the local church.

The largest of the more than 20 Baptist bodies in the United States is the Southern Baptist Convention. It has more than 12 million members, most of them in the South, although it has churches in 50 states.

The largest Northern body is American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., with about 1.5 million members.

Blacks predominate in three other large Baptist bodies, the National Baptist Convention of America, the National Baptist Convention U.S.A. Inc., and the Progressive National Baptist Convention Inc.

The roster of Baptist bodies in the United States also includes the Baptist General Conference, the Conservative Baptist Association of America, the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, the General Association of General Baptists, and the North American Baptist General Conference.

The Baptist World Alliance, a voluntary association of Baptist bodies throughout the world, organizes the Baptist World Congress meetings generally held every five years. Headquarters is in Washington.

CLERGY: All members of the Baptist clergy may be referred to as ministers. Pastor applies if a minister leads a congregation.

On first reference, use the Rev. before the name of a man or woman. On second reference, use only the last name of a man; use Miss, Mrs., Ms., or no title before the last name of a woman depending on her preference.

See religious titles.

See religious movements for definitions of some descriptive terms that often apply to Baptists but are not limited to them.

barbecue Not barbeque or Bar-B-Q.



bar mitzvah The Jewish religious ritual and family celebration that marks a boy’s 13th birthday. Judaism regards the age of 13 as the benchmark of religious maturity. Bar mitzvah translates as "one who is responsible for the Commandments."

Conservative congregations have instituted the bas mitzvah or bat mitzvah, a similar ceremony for girls.

baron, baroness See nobility.

barrel A standard barrel in U.S. measure contains 31.5 gallons.

A standard barrel in British and Canadian measure contains 36 imperial gallons.

In international dealings with crude oil, a standard barrel contains 42 U.S. gallons or 35 imperial gallons.

See the oil entry for guidelines on computing the volume and weight of petroleum products.

barrel, barreled, barreling

barrel-chested, barrelhouse Also: double-barreled shotgun.

barrister See lawyer.


BASIC A computer programming language. Acronym for Beginners’ All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. Use of acronym on first reference is acceptable if it is identified as a programming language. For example: That model of a personal computer uses the programming language, BASIC.

battalion Capitalize when used with a figure to form a name: the 3rd Battalion, the 10th Battalion.

battlefield Also: battlefront, battleground, battleship. But battle station.

baud A unit for measuring the speed of data transmission by com-puter.

Bavarian cream

bay Capitalize as an integral part of a proper name: Hudson Bay, San Francisco Bay.

Capitalize also San Francisco Bay area or the Bay area as the popular name for the nine-county region that has San Francisco as its focal point.

bazaar A fair. Bizarre means unusual.

B.C. Acceptable in all references to a calendar year in the period before Christ.

Because the full phrase would be in the year 43 before Christ, the abbreviation B.C. is placed after the figure for the year: 43 B.C.

See A.D.

because, since Use because to denote a specific cause-effect relationship: He went because he was told.

Since is acceptable in a causal sense when the first event in a sequence led logically to the second but was not its direct cause: They went to the game, since they had been given the tickets.

before Christ See B.C.

Beijing The city in China (formerly Peking) stands alone in datelines.

Belize The former British Honduras.


benefit, benefited, benefiting

Benelux Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

If Benelux is used, explain that it is an inclusive word for these three nations.

Ben-Gurion International Airport Located at Lod, Israel, about 10 miles south of Tel Aviv.

See airport.

Benzedrine A trademark for a type of pep pill or stimulant.

Berlin Stands alone in datelines.

Berlin Wall On second reference, the wall.

Bermuda collar, Bermuda grass, Bermuda shorts

beside, besides Beside means at the side of.

Besides means in addition to.


best seller (n.)

betting odds Use figures and a hyphen: The odds were 5-4, he won despite 3-2 odds against him.

The word to seldom is necessary, but when it appears it should be hyphenated in all constructions: 3-to-2 odds, odds of 3-to-2, the odds were 3-to-2.

bettor A person who bets.

between See the among, between entry.

bi- The rules in prefixes apply, but in general, no hyphen. Some examples:

bifocal bimonthly

bilateral bipartisan


biannual, biennial Biannual means twice a year and is a synonym for the word semiannual.

Biennial means every two years.

Bible Capitalize, without quotation marks, when referring to the Scriptures in the Old Testament or the New Testament. Capitalize also related terms such as the Gospels, Gospel of St. Mark, the Scriptures, the Holy Scriptures.

Lowercase biblical in all uses.

Lowercase bible as a non-religious term: My dictionary is my bible.

Do not abbreviate individual books of the Bible.

The books of the Old Testament, in order, are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chron- icles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

The books of the New Testament, in order: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Cor-inthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, Epistles of James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation.

Citation listing the number of chapter and verse(s) use this form: Matthew 3:16, Luke 21:1-13, 1 Peter 2:1.

Bible Belt Those sections of the United States, especially in the South and Middle West, where fundamentalist religious beliefs prevail. Use with care, because in certain contexts it can give offense.

See religious movements.


big-bang theory The theory that the universe began with the explosion of a superdense primeval atom and has been expanding ever since.

The oscillating theory, another hypothesis, maintains that expansion eventually will stop, followed by contraction to a superdense atom, followed by another big bang.

The steady-state theory, an alternative hypothesis, maintains that the universe always has existed and that matter constantly is being created to replace matter that is constantly being destroyed.

Big Board Acceptable on second reference for the New York Stock Exchange.

big brother One’s older brother is a big brother. Big Brother (capitalized) means under the watchful eye of big government, from George Orwell’s "1984."

Capitalize also in reference to members of Big Brothers-Big Sisters of America Inc. The organization has headquarters in Philadelphia.

Big Three automakers General Motors, Ford, Chrysler.


billion A thousand million.

For forms, see the millions, billions entry.

Bill of Rights The first 10 amendments to the Constitution.

bimonthly Means every other month. Semimonthly means twice a month.

birthday Capitalize as part of the name for a holiday: Washington’s Birthday. Lowercase in other uses.

bishop See religious titles and the entry for the denomination in question.

bit Acceptable in all references as an acronym for binary digit. Actual data transmitted take the form of electrical impulses. These can be thought of as either on or off or 1 and 0. The pulses are bits.

biweekly Means every other week. Semiweekly means twice a week.

bizarre Unusual. A fair is a bazaar.

black Preferred usage for those of the Negro race. (Use Negro only in names of organizations or in quotations.) Do not use colored as a synonym. See the colored entry.

Black Muslims See Muslim(s).

blackout, brownout A blackout is a total power failure over a large area or the concealing of lights that might be visible to enemy raiders.

The term rotating blackout is used by electric companies to describe a situation in which electric power to some sections temporarily is cut off on a rotating basis to assure that voltage will meet minimum standards in other sections.

A brownout is a small, temporary voltage reduction, usually from 2 percent to 8 percent, implemented to conserve electric power.

blast off (v.) blastoff (n. and adj.)

Blessed Sacrament, Blessed Virgin

blind See disabled, handicapped, impaired.

blizzard See weather terms.

bloc, block A bloc is a coalition of people, groups or nations with the same purpose or goal.

Block has more than a dozen definitions, but a political alliance is not one of them.

blond, blonde Use blond as a noun for males and as an adjective for all applications: She has blond hair.

Use blonde as a noun for females.


Bloody Mary A drink made of vodka and tomato juice. The name is derived from the nickname for Mary I of England.

blue blood (n.) blue-blooded (adj.)

blue chip stock Stock in a company known for its long-established record of making money and paying dividends.

B’nai B’rith See the fraternal organizations and service clubs entry.

board Capitalize only when an integral part of a proper name. See capitalization.

board of aldermen See city council.

board of directors, board of trustees Always lowercase. See the organizations and institutions entry.

board of supervisors See city council.

boats, ships A boat is a watercraft of any size but generally is used to indicate a small craft. A ship is a large, seagoing vessel.

The word boat is used, however, in some words that apply to large craft: ferryboat, PT boat, gunboat.

Use Arabic or Roman numerals in the names of boats and ships: the Queen Elizabeth 2 or QE2; Titan I, Titan II.

The reference for military ships is Jane’s Fighting Ships; for non-military ships, Lloyd’s Register of Shipping.

Boeing Co. Formerly Boeing Aircraft Co.

Headquarters is in Seattle.

boldface Use boldface type for the slug lines, bylines and underlines for bylines atop a story, and for separate subhead lines if needed within a story.

Do not use boldface for individual words within a paragraph.

bologna The sausage. Baloney is foolish or exaggerated talk.

bona fide


bonds See loan terminology in Business guidelines and style section.


book titles See composition titles.

Books on Tape A trademark for a brand of audiotapes. Use a generic term such as audiotape or audiocassette.

borscht Exception to Webster’s New World.

Bosporus, the Not the Bosporus Strait.

Boston The city in Massachusetts stands alone in datelines.

Boston brown bread, Boston cream pie, Boston terrier

boulevard Abbreviated only with a numbered address. See addresses.



box office (n.) box-office (adj.)

boy Applicable until 18th birthday is reached. Use man or young man afterward.

boycott, embargo A boycott is an organized refusal to buy a particular product or service, or to deal with a particular merchant or group of merchants.

An embargo is a legal restriction against trade. It usually prohibits goods from entering or leaving a country.

boyfriend, girlfriend

Boy Scouts The full name of the national organization is Boy Scouts of America. Headquarters is in Irving, Texas.

Cub Scouting is for boys 8 through 10. Members are Cub Scouts or Cubs.

Boy Scouting is for boys 11 through 17. Members are Boy Scouts or Scouts.

Exploring is a separate program open to boys and girls from high school age through 20. Members are Explorers, not Explorer Scouts. Members of units that stress nautical programs are Sea Explorers.

See Girl Scouts.

bra Acceptable in all references for brassiere.

Brahman, Brahmin Brahman applies to the priestly Hindu caste and a breed of cattle.

Brahmin applies to aristocracy in general: Boston Brahmin.

brand names When they are used, capitalize them.

Brand names normally should be used only if they are essential to a story.

Sometimes, however, the use of a brand name may not be essential but is acceptable because it lends an air of reality to a story: He fished a Camel from his shirt pocket may be preferable to the less specific cigarette.

When a company sponsors an event such as a tennis tournament, use the company’s name for the event in first reference and the generic term in subsequent references: The Buick Women’s Open; the $200,000 women’s tennis tournament, the tournament.

Also use a separate paragraph to provide the name of a sponsor when the brand name is not part of the formal title.

Brand name is a non-legal term for service mark or trademark. See entries under those words.

brand-new (adj.)

break in (v.) break-in (n. and adj.)

break up (v.) breakup (n. and adj.)

Bricklayers, Masons and Plasterers’ International Union of America The shortened form Bricklayers union is acceptable in all references.

Headquarters is in Washington.

bride, bridegroom, bridesmaid Bride is appropriate in wedding stories, but use wife or spouse in other circumstances.

brigadier See military titles.

Bright’s disease After Dr. Richard Bright, the London physician who first diagnosed this form of kidney disease.

Brill’s disease After Nathan E. Brill, a U.S. physician. A form of epidemic typhus fever in which the disease recurs years after the original infection.

Britain Acceptable in all references for Great Britain, which consists of England, Scotland and Wales.

See United Kingdom.

British, Briton(s) The people of Great Britain: the English, the Scottish, the Welsh.

British Airways The successor to British European Airways and British Overseas Airways Corp.

Headquarters is in Hounslow, England.

British Broadcasting Corp. BBC is acceptable in all references within contexts such as a television column. Otherwise, do not use BBC until second reference.

British Columbia The Canadian province bounded on the west by the Pacific Ocean. Do not abbreviate.

See datelines.

British Commonwealth See Commonwealth, the.

British Petroleum Co. Ltd. BP is acceptable on second reference.

Headquarters is in London.

British thermal unit The amount of heat required to increase the temperature of a pound of water 1 degree Fahrenheit. Btu (the same for singular and plural) is acceptable on second reference.

British ton See ton.

British Virgin Islands Use with a community name in datelines on stories from these islands. Do not abbreviate.

Specify an individual island in the text if relevant.

See datelines.

broadcast The past tense also is broadcast, not broadcasted.

Broadway, off-Broadway, off-off-Broadway When applied to stage productions, these terms refer to distinctions made by union contracts, not to location of a theater.

Actors’ Equity Association and unions representing craft workers have one set of pay scales for Broadway productions (generally those in New York City theaters of 300 or more seats) and a lower scale for smaller theaters, classified as off-Broadway houses.

The term off-off-Broadway refers to workshop productions that may use Equity members for a limited time at substandard pay. Other unions maintain a hands-off policy, agreeing with the Equity attitude that actors should have an opportunity to whet their talents in offbeat roles without losing their Equity memberships.


Bromo Seltzer A trademark for a brand of bicarbonate of soda.

Bronze Age The age characterized by the development of bronze tools and weapons, from 3500 to 1000 B.C. Regarded as coming between the Stone Age and the Iron Age.

brother See Roman Catholic Church.

Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers BLE is acceptable on second reference.

Headquarters is in Cleveland.

brothers Abbreviate as Bros. in formal company names: Warner Bros.

For possessives: Warner Bros.’ profits.

brownout See the blackout, brownout entry.

brunet, brunette Use brunet as a noun for males, and as the adjective for both sexes.

Use brunette as a noun for females.

brussels sprouts

Btu The same in singular and plural. See British thermal unit.

Budapest The capital of Hungary. In datelines, follow it with Hungary.

Buddha, Buddhism A major religion founded in India about 500 B.C. by Buddha. Buddha, which means enlightened one, was the name given to Gautama Siddhartha by his followers.

Buddhism has about 250 million followers mostly in India, Tibet, China, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia. About 250,000 practice Buddhism in North America.

Buddhists believe that correct thinking and self-denial will enable the soul to reach nirvana, a state of release into ultimate enlightenment and peace. Until nirvana is reached, believers cannot be freed from the cycle of death and rebirth.

There are four major groups within Buddhism.

—Hinayana or Theravada: Followers stress monastic discipline and attainment of nirvana by the individual through meditation. It is dominant among Buddhists in Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Sri Lanka.

—Mahayana: Followers lay stress on idealism. The ideal life is that of virtue and wisdom. The sect is found mostly in Japan, Korea and eastern China.

—Mantrayana: Major centers for this group are in the Himalayas, Mongolia and Japan. It is similar to Maha-yana but also has a structure of spiritual leaders and disciples, believes in various evil spirits and deities, uses magic, and has secret rituals.

—Zen: Followers seek enlightenment through introspection and intuition. The doctrines are again similar to Mahayana and like Mantrayana there is a loose structure of leaders and disciples. This group is found mostly in Japan.

Bufferin A trademark for buffered aspirin.

bug, tap A concealed listening device designed to pick up sounds in a room, an automobile, etc. is a bug.

A tap is a device attached to a telephone circuit to pick up conversations on the line.

building Never abbreviate. Capitalize the proper names of buildings, including the word building if it is an integral part of the proper name: the Empire State Building.

build up (v.) buildup (n. and adj.)

bullet See weapons.

bullfight, bullfighter, bullfighting

bullpen One word, for the place where baseball pitchers warm up, and for a pen that holds cattle.

bull’s eye

bureau Capitalize when part of the formal name for an organization or agency: the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Newspaper Advertising Bureau.

Lowercase when used alone or to designate a corporate subdivision: the Washington bureau of The Associated Press.

burglary, larceny, robbery, theft Legal definitions of burglary vary, but in general a burglary involves entering a building (not necessarily by breaking in) and remaining unlawfully with the intention of committing a crime.

Larceny is the legal term for the wrongful taking of property. Its non-legal equivalents are stealing or theft.

Robbery in the legal sense involves the use of violence or threat in committing larceny. In a wider sense it means to plunder or rifle, and may thus be used even if a person was not present: His house was robbed while he was away.

Theft describes a larceny that did not involve threat, violence or plundering.

USAGE NOTE: You rob a person, bank, house, etc., but you steal the money or the jewels.

bus, buses Transportation vehicles. The verb forms: bus, bused, busing.

See buss, busses.

bushel A unit of dry measure equal to 4 pecks or 32 dry quarts. The metric equivalent is approximately 35.2 liters.

To convert to liters, multiply by 35.2 (5 bushels x 35.2 equals 176 liters).

See liter.

business editor Capitalize when used as a formal title before a name. See titles.

business names See company names.

buss, busses Kisses. The verb forms: buss, bussed, bussing.

See bus, buses.

by- The rules in prefixes apply, but in general, no hyphen. Some examples:

byline byproduct

bypass bystreet

By-election is an exception. See the next entry.

by-election A special election held between regularly scheduled elections. The term most often is associated with special elections to the British House of Commons.


bylines Use only if the reporter was in the datelined community to gather the information reported.

Nicknames should not be used unless they specifically are requested by the writer.

byte A computer "word," made up of bits. The most common size byte contains eight bits, or binary digits.