face to face When a story says two people meet for discussions, talks or debate, it is unnecessary to say they met face to face.

fact-finding (adj.)

Faeroe Islands Use in datelines after a community name in stories from this group of Danish islands in the northern Atlantic Ocean between Iceland and the Shetland Islands.

Fahrenheit The temperature scale commonly used in the United States.

The scale is named for Gabriel Daniel Fahrenheit, a German physicist who designed it. In it, the freezing point of water is 32 degrees and the boiling point is 212 degrees.

To convert to Celsius, subtract 32 from Fahrenheit figure, multiply by 5 and divide by 9 (77 - 32 = 45, times 5 = 225, divided by 9 = 25 degrees Celsius.)

In cases that require mention of the scale, use these forms: 86 degrees Fahrenheit or 86 F (note the space and no period after the F) if degrees and Fahrenheit are clear from the context.

See Celsius and Kelvin.

For guidelines on when Celsius temperatures should be used, see metric system entry.


Following is a temperature conversion table. Celsius temperatures have been rounded to the nearest whole number.


-26 -32 19 -7 64 18

-24 -31 21 -6 66 19

-22 -30 23 -5 68 20

-20 -29 25 -4 70 21

-18 -28 27 -3 72 22

-17 -27 28 -2 73 23

-15 -26 30 -1 75 24

-13 -25 32 0 77 25

-11 -24 34 1 79 26

-9 -23 36 2 81 27

-8 -22 37 3 82 28

-6 -21 39 4 84 29

-4 -20 41 5 86 30

-2 -19 43 6 88 31

0 -18 45 7 90 32

1 -17 46 8 91 33

3 -16 48 9 93 34

5 -15 50 10 95 35

7 -14 52 11 97 36

9 -13 54 12 99 37

10 -12 55 13 100 38

12 -11 57 14 102 39

14 -10 59 15 104 40

16 -9 61 16 106 41

18 -8 63 17 108 42

fairness doctrine See the equal time, fairness doctrine entry.

fall See seasons.

fallout (n.)

false titles Often derived from occupational titles or other labels.

Always lowercase. See titles.

family names Capitalize words denoting family relationships only when they precede the name of a person or when they stand unmodified as a substitute for a person’s name: I wrote to Grandfather Smith. I wrote Mother a letter. I wrote my mother a letter.

Fannie Mae See Federal National Mortgage Association in Business guidelines.

Fannie May A trademark for a brand of candy.

Far East The easternmost portions of the continent of Asia: China, Japan, North and South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the eastern portions of Russia.

Confine Far East to this restricted sense. Use the Far East and Southeast Asia when referring to a wider portion of eastern Asia.

See the Asian subcontinent and Southeast Asia entries.

far-flung (adj.)

far-off (adj.)

far-ranging (adj.)

farsighted When used in a medical sense, it means that a person can see objects at a distance but has difficulty seeing materials at close range.

farther, further Farther refers to physical distance: He walked farther into the woods.

Further refers to an extension of time or degree: She will look further into the mystery.

Far West For the U.S. region, generally west of the Rocky Mountains.

fascism, fascist See the political parties and philosophies entry.

father Use the Rev. in first reference before the names of Episcopal, orthodox and Roman Catholic priests. Use Father before a name only in direct quotations.

See religious titles.

father-in-law, fathers-in-law

Father’s Day The third Sunday in June.

Father Time

*fax (n.) or (v.) Acceptable as short version of facsimile or facsimile machine in all uses. (This is a change in APstyle.)

faze, phase Faze means to embarrass or disturb: The snub did not faze her.

Phase denotes an aspect or stage: They will phase in a new system.

FBI Acceptable in all references for Federal Bureau of Investigation.

feather bedding, featherbedding Feather bedding is a mattress stuffed with feathers.

Featherbedding is the practice of requiring an employer to hire more workers than needed to handle a job.

features They are not exempt from normal style rules. See special contexts for guidelines on some limited exceptions.

February See months.

federal Use a capital letter for the architectural style and for corporate or governmental bodies that use the word as part of their formal names: Federal Express, the Federal Trade Commission. (See separate entries for governmental agencies.)

Lowercase when used as an adjective to distinguish something from state, county, city, town or private entities: federal assistance, federal court, the federal government, a federal judge.

Also: federal District Court (but U.S. District Court is preferred) and federal Judge Ann Aldrich (but U.S. District Judge Ann Aldrich is preferred).

Federal Aviation Administration FAA is acceptable on second reference.

Federal Bureau of Investigation FBI is acceptable in all references. To avoid alphabet soup, however, use the bureau in some references.

Federal Communications Commission FCC is acceptable on second reference.

federal court Always lowercase.

The preferred form for first reference is to use the proper name of the court. See entries under U.S. and the court name.

Do not create nonexistent entities such as Manhattan Federal Court. Instead, use a federal court in Manhattan.

See judicial branch.

Federal Crop Insurance Corp. Do not abbreviate.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. FDIC is acceptable on second reference.

Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA is acceptable on second reference.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission This agency replaced the Federal Power Commission in 1977. It regulates interstate natural gas and electricity transactions.

FERC is acceptable on second reference, but the agency or the commission is preferred.

Federal Farm Credit Board Do not abbreviate.

Federal Highway Administration Reserve the FHA abbreviation for the Federal Housing Administration.

Federal Home Loan Bank Board Do not abbreviate.

Federal Housing Administration FHA is acceptable on second reference.

federal legal holidays See the holidays and holy days entry.

Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Do not abbreviate. Use the service on second reference.

Federal Power Commission It no longer exists. See Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Federal Register This publication, issued every workday, is the legal medium for recording and communicating the rules and regulations established by the executive branch of the federal government.

Individuals or corporations cannot be held legally responsible for compliance with a regulation unless it has been published in the Register.

In addition, executive agencies are required to publish in advance some types of proposed regulations.

Federal Reserve System, Federal Reserve Board On second reference, use the Federal Reserve, the Reserve, the Fed, the system or the board.

Also: the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (Boston, etc.), the bank.

Federal Trade Commission FTC is acceptable on second reference.

felony, misdemeanor A felony is a serious crime. A misdemeanor is a minor offense against the law.

A fuller definition of what constitutes a felony or misdemeanor depends on the governmental jurisdiction involved.

At the federal level, a misdemeanor is a crime that carries a potential penalty of no more than a year in jail. A felony is a crime that carries a potential penalty of more than a year in prison. Often, however, a statute gives a judge options such as imposing a fine or probation in addition to or instead of a jail or prison sentence.

A felon is a person who has been convicted of a felony, regardless of whether the individual actually spends time in confinement or is given probation or a fine instead.

See the prison, jail entry.

Ferris wheel


fertility rate As calculated by the federal government, it is the number of live births per 1,000 females age 15 through 44 years.

fewer, less In general, use fewer for individual items, less for bulk or quantity.

Wrong: The trend is toward more machines and less people. (People in this sense refers to individuals.)

Wrong: She was fewer than 60 years old. (Years in this sense refers to a period of time, not individual years.)

Right: Fewer than 10 applicants called. (Individuals.)

Right: I had less than $50 in my pocket. (An amount.) But: I had fewer than 50 $1 bills in my pocket. (Individual items.)

fiance (man) fiancee (woman)

Fiberglas Note the single s. A trademark for fiberglass or glass fiber.

field house

figuratively, literally Figuratively means in an analogous sense, but not in the exact sense. He bled them white.

Literally means in an exact sense, do not use it figuratively.

Wrong: He literally bled them white. (Unless the blood was drained from their bodies.)

figure The symbol for a number: the figure 5.

See numerals.

filibuster To filibuster is to make long speeches to obstruct the passage of legislation.

A legislator who used such methods also is a filibuster, not a filibusterer.

Filipinos The people of the Philippines.

film ratings See movie ratings.

financial editor Capitalize only as formal title before a name.

See titles.

firearms See weapons.

fire department See the governmental bodies entry for the basic rules on capitalization.

See titles and military titles for guidelines on titles.

firefighter, fireman The preferred term to describe a person who fights fire is firefighter.

One meaning of fireman is a person who tends fires in a furnace. Fireman is also an acceptable synonym for fire-fighter.

firm A business partnership is correctly referred to as a firm. He joined a law firm.

Do not use firm in references to an incorporated business entity. Use the company or the corporation instead.

first degree, first-degree Hyphen-ate when used as a compound modifier: It was murder in the first degree. He was convicted of first-degree murder.

first family Always lowercase.

first lady Not a formal title. Do not capitalize, even when used before the name of a chief of state’s wife.

See titles.

first quarter, first-quarter Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier: He scored in the first quarter. The team took the lead on his first-quarter goal.

fiscal, monetary Fiscal applies to budgetary matters.

Monetary applies to money supply.

fiscal year The 12-month period that a corporation or governmental body uses for bookkeeping purposes.

The federal government’s fiscal year starts three months ahead of the calendar year — fiscal 1987, for example, runs from Oct. 1, 1986, to Sept. 30, 1987.

fitful It means restless, not a condition of being fit.


flack, flak Flack is slang for press agent.

Flak is a type of anti-aircraft fire, hence figuratively a barrage of criticism.

flagpole, flagship

flail, flay To flail is to swing the arms widely.

To flay is, literally, to strip off the skin by whipping. Figuratively, to flay means to tongue-lash a person.

flair, flare Flair is conspicuous talent.

Flare is a verb meaning to blaze with sudden, bright light or to burst out in anger. It is also a noun meaning a flame.

flak See the flack, flak entry.

flare up (v.) flare-up (n.) See the flair, flare entry.

flash flood See weather terms.

flaunt, flout To flaunt is to make an ostentatious or defiant display: She flaunted her intelligence.

To flout is to show contempt for: He flouts the law.

flautist The preferred word is flutist.

fleet Use figures and capitalize fleet when forming a proper name: the 6th Fleet.

Lowercase fleet whenever it stands alone.

flier, flyer Flier is the preferred term for an aviator or a handbill.

Flyer is the proper name of some trains and buses: The Western Flyer.

flimflam, flimflammed


floods, flood stage See weather terms.


floor leader Treat it as a job description, lowercased, rather than a formal title: Republican floor leader John Smith.

Do not use when a formal title such as majority leader, minority leader or whip would be the accurate description.

See the legislative titles and titles entries.

floppy diskUse diskette.

Florida Abbrev.: Fla. See state names.

Florida Keys A chain of small islands extending southwest from the southern tip of mainland Florida.

Cities, or the islands themselves, are followed by Fla. in datelines:

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) —

flounder, founder A flounder is a fish; to flounder is to move clumsily or jerkily, to flop about: The fish floundered on land.

To founder is to bog down, become disabled or sink: The ship floundered in the heavy seas for hours, then foundered.

flout See the flaunt, flout entry.

flowers See plants.

fluid ounce Equal to 1.8 cubic inches, two tablespoons or six teaspoons. The metric equivalent is approximately 30 milliliters.

To convert to milliliters, multiply by 30 (3 ounces x 30 equals 90 milliliters).

See liter.


flush To become red in the face. See livid.

flutist The preferred term, rather than flautist.

flyer See the flier, flyer entry.

FM Acceptable in all references for the frequency modulation system of radio transmission.

f.o.b. Acceptable on first reference for free on board. The concept should be explained, however, in contexts not addressed to business-oriented audiences: The seller agrees to put an item on a truck, ship, etc., at no charge, but the transportation costs must be paid by the buyer.

-fold No hyphen:

twofold fourfold

folk singer, folk song

following The word usually is a noun, verb or adjective: He has a large following. He is following his conscience. The following statement was made.

Although Webster’s New World records its use as a preposition, the preferred word is after: He spoke after dinner. Not: He spoke following dinner.

follow up (v.) follow-up (n. and adj.)

food Most food names are lowercase: apples, cheese, peanut butter.

Capitalize brand names and trademarks: Roquefort cheese, Tabasco sauce.

Most proper nouns or adjectives are capitalized when they occur in a food name: Boston brown bread, Russian dressing, Swiss cheese, Waldorf salad.

Lowercase is used, however, when the food does not depend on the proper noun or adjective for its meaning: french fries, graham crackers, manhattan cocktail.

If a question arises, check the separate entries in this book. If there is no entry, follow Webster’s New World. Use lowercase if the dictionary lists it as an acceptable form for the sense in which the word is used.

The same principles apply to foreign names for foods: mousse de saumon (salmon mousse), pomme de terre (literally, “apple of the earth” — for potato), salade Russe (Russian salad).

Food and Agriculture Organization Not Agricultural. FAO is acceptable on second reference to this U.N. agency.

Food and Drug Administration FDA is acceptable on second reference.

foot The basic unit of length in the measuring system that has been used in the United States. Its origin was a calculation that this was the length of the average human foot.

The metric equivalent is exactly 30.48 centimeters, which may be rounded to 30 centimeters for most comparisons.

For most conversions to centimeters, it is adequate to multiply 30 (5 feet x 30 equals 150 centimeters). For more exact figures, multiply by 30.48 (5 feet x 30.48 equals 152.4 centimeters).

To convert to meters, multiply by .3 (5 feet x .3 equals 1.5 meters).

See centimeter, meter; and dimensions.

foot-and-mouth disease

forbear, forebear To forbear is to avoid or shun.

A forebear is an ancestor.

forbid, forbade, forbidding

forcible rape A redundancy that usually should be avoided. It may be used, however, in stories dealing with both rape and statutory rape, which does not necessarily involve the use of force.

Ford Motor Co. Use Ford, not FMC, on second reference.

Headquarters is in Dearborn, Mich.

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

forebrain foregoing

forefather foretooth

There are three nautical exceptions, based on long-standing practice:

fore-topgallant fore-topsail


forecast Use forecast also for the past tense, not forecasted.

See weather terms.

forego, forgo To forego means to go before, as in foregone conclusion.

To forgo means to abstain from.

foreign governmental bodies Capitalize the names of the specific foreign governmental agencies and departments, either with the name of the nation or without it if clear in the context: French Foreign Ministry, the Foreign Ministry.

Lowercase the ministry or a similar term when standing alone.

foreign legislative bodies In general, capitalize the proper name of a specific legislative body abroad, whether using the name in a foreign language or an English equivalent.

The most frequent names in use are congress, national assembly and parliament.

GENERIC USES: Lowercase parliament or a similar term only when used generically to describe a body for which the foreign name is being given: the Diet, Japan’s parliament.

PLURALS: Lowercase parliament and similar terms in plural constructions: the parliaments of England and France, the English and French parliaments.

INDIVIDUAL HOUSES: The principle applies also to individual houses of the nation’s legislature, just as Senate and House are capitalized in the United States:

ROME (AP) — New leaders have taken control in the Chamber of Deputies.

Lowercase assembly when used as a shortened reference to national assembly.

In many countries, national assembly is the name of a unicameral legislative body. In some, such as France, it is the name for the lower house of a legislative body known by some other name such as parliament.

foreign money Generally, amounts of foreign money mentioned in news stories should be converted to dollars. If it is necessary to mention the foreign amount, provide the dollar equivalent in parentheses.

The basic monetary units of nations are listed in Webster’s New World Dictionary under “Monetary Units of All Nations.” Do not use the exchange rates listed in the dictionary. Instead, use, as appropriate, the official exchange rates, which change from day to day on the world’s markets.

foreign names For foreign place names, use the primary spelling in Webster’s New World Dictionary. If it has no entry, follow the National Geographic Atlas of the World.

For personal names, follow the individual’s preference for an English spelling if it can be determined. Otherwise:

—Use the nearest phonetic equivalent in English if one exists: Alexander Solzhenitsyn, for example, rather than Aleksandr, the spelling that would result from a transliteration of the Russian letters into the English alphabet.

If a name has no close phonetic equivalent in English, express it with an English spelling that approximates the sound in the original language: Anwar Sadat.

For additional guidelines, see Arabic names; Chinese names; Russian names; and Spanish and Portuguese names.

foreign particles Lowercase particles such as de, la, and von when part of a given name: Charles de Gaulle, Baron Manfred von Richthofen.

Capitalize the particles only when the last name starts a sentence: De Gaulle spoke to von Richthofen.

foreign words Some foreign words and abbreviations have been accepted universally into the English language: bon voyage; versus, vs.; et cetera, etc. They may be used without explanation if they are clear in the context.

Many foreign words and their abbreviations are not understood universally, although they may be used in special applications such as medical or legal terminology. Such words are marked in Webster’s New World by a double dagger. If such a word or phrase is needed in a story, place it in quotation marks and provide an explanation: “ad astra per aspera,” a Latin phrase meaning “to the stars through difficulty.”

foreman, forewoman Seldom a formal title.

formal titles See titles.

former Always lowercase. But retain capitalization for a formal title used immediately before a name: former President Nixon.

Formica A trademark for a brand of laminated plastic.

Formosa See Taiwan.

Formosa Strait Not the straits of Taiwan.

formula, formulas Use figures in writing formulas, as illustrated in the entries on metric units.

forsake, forsook, forsaken

fort Do not abbreviate, for cities or for military installations.

In datelines for cities:


In datelines for military installations:


fortnight The expression two weeks is preferred.

FORTRAN A computer programming language. Acronym for Formula Translation. Use of acronym on first reference is acceptable if it is identified as a programming language.

fortuneteller, fortunetelling

forty, forty-niner ’49er is acceptable.

forward Not forwards.

foul, fowl Foul means offensive, out of line.

A fowl is a bird, especially the larger domestic birds used as food: chickens, ducks, turkeys.

founder See the flounder, founder entry.

four-flush (stud poker)

Four-H Club 4-H Club is preferred. Members are 4-H’ers.

four-star general

Fourth Estate Capitalize when used as a collective name for journalism and journalists.

The description is attributed to Edmund Burke, who is reported to have called the reporters’ gallery in Parliament a “Fourth Estate.”

The three estates of early English society were the Lords Spiritual (the clergy), the Lords Temporal (the nobility) and the Commons (the bourgeoisie).

Fourth of July, July Fourth Also Independence Day. The federal legal holiday is observed on Friday if July 4 falls on a Saturday, on Monday if it falls on a Sunday.

fractions Spell out amounts less than 1 in stories, using hyphens between the words: two-thirds, four-fifths, seven-sixteenths, etc.

Use figures for precise amounts larger than 1, converting to decimals whenever practical.

Fractions are preferred, however, in stories about stocks. See stock market prices.

When using fractional characters, remember that most newspaper type fonts can set only 1/8, 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, 5/8, 3/4 and 7/8 as one unit; use 11/2, 25/8, etc. with no space between the figure and the fraction. Other fractions require a hyphen and individual figures, with a space between the whole number and the fraction: 1 3-16, 2 1-3, 5 9-10.

In tabular material, use figures exclusively, converting to decimals if the amounts involve extensive use of fractions that cannot be expressed as a single character.

See percentages.

fragment, fragmentary Fragment describes a piece or pieces broken from the whole: She sang a fragment of the song.

Fragmentary describes disconnected and incomplete parts: Early returns were fragmentary.

frame up (v.) frame-up (n.)

frankfurters They were first called hot dogs in 1906 when a cartoonist, T.A. "Tad" Dorgan, showed a dachshund inside an elongated bun.

fraternal organizations and service clubs Capitalize the proper names: American Legion, Lions Club, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Rotary Club.

Capitalize also words describing membership: He is a Legionnaire, a Lion, an Odd Fellow, an Optimist and a Rotarian. See American Legion for the rationale on Legionnaire.

Capitalize the formal titles of officeholders when used before a name.

See titles.

free-for-all (n. and adj.)

free-lance (v. and adj.) The noun: free-lancer.

free on board See f.o.b.


Free World An imprecise description. Use only in quoted matter.

freeze-dry, freeze-dried, freeze-drying

freezing drizzle, freezing rain See weather terms.

French Canadian, French Canadians Without a hyphen. An exception to the normal practice in describing a dual ethnic heritage.

French Foreign Legion Retain capitalization if shortened to the Foreign Legion.

Lowercase the legion and legionnaires. Unlike the situation with the American Legion, the French Foreign Legion is a group of active soldiers.

french fries See capitalization and food.

frequency modulation FM is acceptable in all references.

Friday See days of the week.

Friends General Conference, Friends United Meeting See Quakers.

Frigidaire A trademark for a brand of refrigerator.

Frisbee A trademark for a plastic disc thrown as a toy. Use Frisbee disc for the trademarked version and flying disc for other generic versions.

front line (n.) front-line (adj.)

front page (n.) front-page (adj.)


frost See weather terms.

fruits See food.

fulfill, fulfilled, fulfilling

full- Hyphenate when used to form compound modifiers:

full-dress full-page

full-fledged full-scale


See the listings that follow and Webster’s New World Dictionary for the spelling of other combinations.

full house (poker)

full time, full-time Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier: He works full time. She has a full-time job.

fulsome It means disgustingly excessive. Do not use it to mean lavish or profuse.

fundamentalist See religious movements.

fund raising, fund-raising, fund-raiser Fund raising is difficult. They planned a fund-raising campaign. A fund-raiser was hired.

funnel cloud See weather terms.


further See the farther, further entry.



F.W. Woolworth Co. Woolworth’s is acceptable in all references.

Headquarters is in New York.