Wac, WAC Wac is no longer used by the military but is an acceptable term in a reference to a woman who served in what used to be the Women’s Army Corps.

WAC is acceptable on second reference to the corps.

Waf, WAF Waf no longer is used by the military but is acceptable in a reference to a woman who served in the Air Force.

WAF is acceptable on second reference to Women in the Air Force, an unofficial organizational distinction formerly made by the Air Force but never authorized by Congress.

waiter (male) waitress (female)

Wales Use Wales after the names of Welsh communities in datelines.

See datelines and United Kingdom.

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

Wall Street When the reference is to the entire complex of financial institutions in the area rather than the actual street itself, the Street is an acceptable short form.

See capitalization.


war Capitalize when used as part of the name for a specific conflict: the Civil War, the Cold War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the War of 1812, World War II, etc.

warden Capitalize as a formal title before a name. See titles.

wards Use figures. See political divisions.


war horse, warhorse Two words for a horse used in battle.

One word for a veteran of many battles: He is a political warhorse.



warrant officer See military titles.


washed-up (adj.)

Washington Abbreviate the state as Wash.

Never abbreviate when referring to the U.S. capital.

Use state of Washington or Washington state and Washington, D.C., or District of Columbia when the context requires distinction between the state and the federal district.

See state and state names.

Washington’s Birthday Capitalize birthday in references to the holiday.

The date he was born is computed as Feb. 22. The federal legal holiday is the third Monday in February.

Some states and some organizations refer to it as Presidents Day but the formal name has not changed.


waterspout See weather terms.

Wave, WAVES Wave no longer is used by the military but is acceptable in a reference to a woman who served in the Navy.

WAVES is acceptable on second reference to the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, an organizational distinction made for women during World War II but subsequently discontinued.


weapons Gun is an acceptable term for any firearm. Note the following definitions and forms in dealing with weapons and ammunition:

anti-aircraft A cannon that fires explosive shells. It is designed for defense against air attack. The form: a 105 mm anti-aircraft gun.

assault-style weapon Any semi- automatic pistol, rifle or shotgun originally designed for military or police use with a large ammunition capacity. Also, firearms that feature two or more accessories such as a detachable magazine, folding or telescopic stock, silencer, pistol grip, bayonet mount or a device to suppress the flash emitted while shooting in the dark.

artillery A carriage-mounted cannon.

automatic An autoloading action that will fire a succession of cartridges while the trigger is depressed or until the ammunition supply is exhausted. The form: a .22-caliber automatic.

buckshot See shot below.

bullet The projectile fired by a rifle, pistol or machine gun. Together with metal casing, primer and propellant, it forms a cartridge.

caliber A measurement of the diameter of the inside of a gun barrel except for most shotguns. Measurement is in either millimeters or decimal fractions of an inch. The word caliber is not used when giving the metric measurement. The forms: a 9 mm pistol, a .22-caliber rifle.

cannon A weapon, usually supported on some type of carriage, that fires explosive projectiles. The form: a 105 mm cannon.

carbine A short, lightweight rifle, usually having a barrel length of less than 20 inches. The form: an M-3 carbine.

cartridge See bullet above.

Colt Named for Samuel Colt, it designates a make of weapon or ammunition developed for Colt handguns. The forms: a Colt .45-caliber revolver, .45 Long Colt ammunition.

gauge This word describes the size of a shotgun. Gauge is expressed in terms of the number per pound of round lead balls with a diameter equal to the size of the barrel. The bigger the number, the smaller the shotgun.

Some common shotgun gauges:

Gauge Interior Diameter

10 .775 inches

12 .729 inches

16 .662 inches

20 .615 inches

28 .550 inches

.410 .410 inches

The .410 actually is a caliber, but commonly is called a gauge.

The forms: a 12-gauge shotgun, a .410-gauge shotgun.

howitzer A cannon shorter than a gun of the same caliber employed to fire projectiles at relatively high angles at a target, such as opposing forces behind a ridge. The form: a 105 mm howitzer.

machine gun An automatic gun that fires as long as the trigger is depressed. The form: a .50-caliber Browning machine gun.

Magnum A trademark for a type of high-powered cartridge with a larger case and a larger powder charge than other cartridges of approximately the same caliber. The form: a .357-caliber Magnum, a .44-caliber Magnum.

M-1, M-16 These and similar combinations of a letter and figure(s) designate rifles used by the military. The forms: an M-1 rifle, an M-16 rifle.

musket A heavy, large-caliber shoulder firearm fired by means of a matchlock, a wheel lock, a flintlock or a percussion lock. Its ammunition is a musket ball.

pistol Any handgun that does not hold its ammunition in a revolving cylinder. It may be a single shot, a semiautomatic or an automatic. Its measurement is in calibers. The form: a .38-caliber pistol.

revolver A handgun. Its cartridges are held in chambers in a cylinder that revolves. The form: a .45-caliber revolver.

rifle A firearm designed or made to be fired from the shoulder and having a rifled bore. It uses bullets or cartridges for ammunition. Its size is measured in calibers. The form: a .22-caliber rifle.

Saturday night special The popular name for the type of cheap pistol used for impulsive crimes.

shell The word applies to military or naval ammunition and to shotgun ammunition.

shot Small lead or steel pellets fired by shotguns. A shotgun shell usually contains 1 to 2 ounces of shot. Do not use shot interchangeably with buck-shot, which refers only to the largest shot sizes.

shotgun A small-arms gun with a smooth bore, sometimes double-barreled. Its ammunition is shot. Its size is measured in gauges. The form: a 12-gauge shotgun.

submachine gun A lightweight automatic gun firing handgun ammunition.


weather bureau See National Weather Service.

weatherman The preferred term is weather forecaster.

weather terms The following are based on definitions used by the National Weather Service. All temperatures are Fahrenheit.

blizzard Wind speeds of 35 mph or more and considerable falling and/or blowing of snow with visibility near zero.

coastal waters The waters within about 20 miles of the coast, including bays, harbors and sounds.

cyclone A storm with strong winds rotating about a moving center of low atmospheric pressure.

The word sometimes is used in the United States to mean tornado and in the Indian Ocean area to mean hurricane.

degree-day A unit of measurement describing how much the temperature differs from a standard average for one day. It is usually used to gauge the amount of heating or cooling needed for a building. If the standard average temperature for a day is 65 degrees, then a temperature of 10 below zero for 24 hours yields 75 degree-days.

dust storm Visibility of one-half mile or less due to dust, wind speeds of 30 mph or more.

flash flood A sudden, violent flood. It typically occurs after a heavy rain or the melting of a heavy snow.

flash flood warning Warns that flash flooding is imminent or in progress. Those in the affected area should take necessary precautions immediately.

flash flood watch Alerts the public that flash flooding is possible. Those in the affected area are urged to be ready to take additional precautions if a flash flood warning is issued or if flooding is observed.

flood Stories about floods usually tell how high the water is and where it is expected to crest. Such a story should also, for comparison, list flood stage and how high the water is above, or below, flood stage.

Wrong: The river is expected to crest at 39 feet.

Right: The river is expected to crest at 39 feet, 12 feet above flood stage.

freeze Describes conditions when the temperature at or near the surface is expected to be below 32 degrees during the growing season. Adjectives such as severe or hard are used if a cold spell exceeding two days is expected.

A freeze may or may not be accompanied by the formation of frost. However, use of the term freeze usually is restricted for occasions when wind or other conditions prevent frost.

freezing drizzle, freezing rain Synonyms for ice storm.

frost Describes the formation of thin ice crystals, which might develop under conditions similar to dew except for the minimum temperatures involved. Phrases such as frost in low places or scattered light frost are used when appropriate. The term frost seldom appears in state forecasts unless rather heavy frost is expected over an extensive area.

funnel cloud A violent, rotating column of air that does not touch the ground, usually a pendant from a cumulonimbus cloud.

gale Sustained winds within the range of 39 to 54 mph (34 to 47 knots).

heavy snow It generally means:

a. A fall accumulating to 4 inches or more in depth in 12 hours, or

b. A fall accumulating to 6 inches or more in depth in 24 hours.

high wind Normally indicates that sustained winds of 39 mph or greater are expected to persist for one hour or longer.

hurricane or typhoon A warm-core tropical cyclone in which the minimum sustained surface wind is 74 mph or more.

Hurricanes are spawned east of the international date line. Typhoons develop west of the line. They are known as cyclones in the Indian Ocean.

When a hurricane or typhoon loses strength (wind speed), usually after landfall, it is reduced to tropical storm status.

hurricane categories Hurricanes are ranked 1 to 5 according to what is known as the Saffir-Simpson scale of strength:

Category 1 — Hurricane has central barometric pressure of 28.94 inches or more and winds of 74 to 95 mph, is accompanied by a 4-5 foot storm surge and causes minimal damage.

Category 2 — Pressure 28.50 to 28.93 inches, winds from 96 to 110 mph, storm surge 6-8 feet, damage moderate.

Category 3 — Pressure 27.91 to 28.49 inches, winds from 111 to 130 mph, storm surge 9-12 feet, damage extensive.

Category 4 — Pressure 27.17 to 27.90 inches, winds from 131 to 155 mph, storm surge 13-18 feet, damage extreme.

Category 5 — Pressure less than 27.17 inches, winds greater than 155 mph, storm surge higher than 18 feet, damage catastrophic.

Only two Category 5 storms have hit the United States since record-keeping began: the 1935 Labor Day hurricane that hit the Florida Keys and killed 600 people and Hurricane Camille, which devastated the Mississippi coast in 1969, killing 256 and leaving $1.4 billion damage.

hurricane eye The relatively calm area in the center of the storm. In this area winds are light and the sky often is covered only partly by clouds.

hurricane season The portion of the year that has a relatively high incidence of hurricanes. In the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, this is from June through November. In the eastern Pacific, it is June through Nov. 15. In the central Pacific, it is June through October.

hurricane tide Same as storm tide.

hurricane warning Warns that one or both of these dangerous effects of a hurricane are expected in specified areas in 24 hours or less:

a. Sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher, and/or

b. Dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and exceptionally high waves, even though winds expected may be less than hurricane force.

hurricane watch An announcement for specific areas that a hurricane or incipient hurricane conditions may pose a threat to coastal and inland communities.

ice storm, freezing drizzle, freezing rain Describes the freezing of drizzle or rain on objects as it strikes them. Freezing drizzle and freezing rain are synonyms for ice storm.

ice storm warning Reserved for occasions when significant, and possibly damaging, accumulations of ice are expected.

National Hurricane Center The National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center in Coral Gables, Fla., has overall responsibility for tracking and providing information about tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.

The service’s Eastern Pacific Hurricane Center in San Francisco is responsible for hurricane information in the Pacific Ocean area north of the equator and east of 140 degrees west longitude.

The service’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu is responsible for hurricane information in the Pacific Ocean area north of the equator from 140 degrees west longitude to 180 degrees.

nearshore waters The waters extended to five miles from shore.

offshore waters The waters extending to about 250 miles from shore.

sandstorm Visibility of one-half mile or less due to sand blown by winds of 30 mph or more.

severe blizzard Wind speeds of 45 mph or more, great density of falling and/or blowing snow with visibility frequently near zero and a temperature of 10 degrees or lower.

severe thunderstorm Describes either of the following:

a. Winds — Thunderstorm-related surface winds sustained or gusts 50 knots or greater.

b. Hail — Surface hail three-quarters of an inch in diameter or larger. The word hail in a watch implies hail at the surface and aloft unless qualifying phrases such as hail aloft are used.

sleet (one form of ice pellet) Describes generally solid grains of ice formed by the freezing of raindrops or the refreezing of largely melted snowflakes. Sleet, like small hail, usually bounces when hitting a hard surface.

sleet (heavy) Heavy sleet is a fairly rare event in which the ground is covered to a depth of significance to motorists and others.

snow avalanche bulletin Snow avalanche bulletins are issued by the U.S. Forest Service for avalanche-prone areas in the western United States.

squall A sudden increase of wind speed by at least 16 knots and rising to 25 knots or more and lasting for at least one minute.

stockmen’s advisory Alerts the public that livestock may require protection because of certain combinations of cold, wet and windy weather, specifically cold rain and/or snow with temperatures 45 degrees or lower and winds of 25 mph or higher. If the temperature is in the mid-30s or lower, the wind speed criterion is lowered to about 15 mph.

storm tide Directional wave(s) caused by a severe atmospheric disturbance.

temperature-humidity index The temperature-humidity index indicates the combined effect of heat and air moisture on human comfort. A reading of 70 or below indicates no discomfort. A reading of 75 would indicate discomfort in half the population and all would feel uncomfortable with a reading of 79. The National Weather Service issues the THI between June 15 and Sept. 15.

tidal wave A term often used incorrectly for seismic sea wave. These waves are caused by underwater earthquakes, landslides or volcanoes and are sometimes referred to as great sea waves. Scientists call them tsunamis, a term that is not widely used and should be explained if used.

tornado A violent rotating column of air forming a pendant usually from a cumulonimbus cloud, and touching the ground. It usually starts as a funnel cloud and is accompanied by a loud roaring noise. On a local scale, it is the most destructive of all atmospheric phenomena.

tornado warning Warns the public of an existing tornado or one suspected to be in existence.

tornado watch Alerts the public to the possibility of a tornado.

travelers’ advisory Alerts the public that difficult traveling or hazardous road conditions are expected to be widespread.

tropical depression A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind is 38 mph (33 knots) or less.

tropical storm A warm-core tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface winds range from 39 to 73 mph (34 to 63 knots) inclusive.

typhoon See hurricane or typhoon in this listing.

waterspout A tornado over water.

wind chill index Also known as the wind chill factor. No hyphen.

The wind chill is a calculation that describes the combined effect of the wind and cold temperatures on exposed skin. The wind chill index would be minus 22, for example, if the temperature was 15 degrees and the wind was blowing at 25 mph — in other words, a temperature of 22 below zero with no wind.

The higher the wind at a given temperature, the lower the wind chill reading, although wind speeds above 40 mph have little additional cooling effect.

wind shear It is caused when a mass of cooled air rushes downward out of a thunderstorm in what is called a microburst, hits the ground and rushes outward in all directions. Wind shear itself is described as a sudden shift in wind direction and speed. A plane flying through a microburst at low altitude, as on final approach or take-off, would at first experience a strong headwind and increased lift, followed by a strong tailwind and sharply decreased lift.

winter storm warning Notifies the public that severe winter weather conditions are almost certain to occur.

winter storm watch Alerts the public to the possibility of severe winter weather conditions.

weather vane

Webster’s New World College Dictionary See dictionaries.

Webster’s Third New International Dictionary See dictionaries.

Wednesday See days of the week.



weights Use figures: The baby weighed 9 pounds, 7 ounces. She had a 9-pound, 7-ounce boy.

weird, weirdo

Welcome Wagon A trademark of Welcome Wagon International Inc.

well Hyphenate as part of a compound modifier: She is a well-dressed woman.

See hyphen in the Punctuation chapter for guidelines on compound modifiers.




west, western See the directions and regions entry.

West As defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, the 13-state region is broken into two divisions.

The eight Mountain division states are Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

The five Pacific division states are Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington.

See North Central region; Northeast region; and South for the bureau’s other three regional breakdowns.

Western Hemisphere The continents of North and South America, and the islands near them.

It frequently is subdivided as follows:

Caribbean The islands from the tip of Florida to the continent of South America, plus French Guiana, Guyana and Suriname on the northeastern coast of South America.

Major island elements are Cuba, Hispaniola (the island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti), Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the West Indies islands.

Central America The narrow strip of land between Mexico and Colombia. Located there are Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.

Latin America The area of the Americas south of the United States where Romance languages (those derived from Latin) are dominant. It applies to most of the region south of the United States except areas with a British heritage: the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and various islands in the West Indies. Suriname, the former Dutch Guiana, is an additional exception.

North America Canada, Mexico, the United States and the Danish territory of Greenland. When the term is used in more than its continental sense, it also may include the islands of the Caribbean.

South America Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, and in a purely continental sense, French Guiana, Guyana and Suriname. Politically and psychologically, however, the latter three regard themselves as part of the Caribbean.

West Indies The term is no longer used extensively, but it applies to the Caribbean islands east of Puerto Rico southward to South America.

Major island elements are the nations of Barbados, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago, plus smaller islands dependent in various degrees on:

—Britain: British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, and the West Indies Associated States, including Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and St. Christopher-Nevis.

—France: Guadeloupe (composed of islands known as Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre, plus five other islands) and Martinique.

—Netherlands: Netherlands Antil-les, composed of Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, St. Eustatius and the southern portion of St. Martin Island (the northern half is held by France and is part of Guadeloupe).

—United States: U.S. Virgin Islands, principally St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas.

West Indies See Western Hemisphere.

West Point Acceptable on second reference to the U.S. Military Academy.

See military academies.

In datelines:


West Virginia Abbrev.: W.Va. (no space between W. and Va.). See state names.

wheat It is measured in bushels domestically, in metric tons for international trade.

There are 36.7 bushels of wheat in a metric ton.



whereabouts Takes a singular verb:

His whereabouts is a mystery.


which See the essential clauses, nonessential clauses entry; the that, which entry; and the who, whom entry.

whip Capitalize when used as a formal title before a name. See legislative titles and titles.

whiskey, whiskeys Use the spelling whisky only in conjunction with Scotch.

See the Scotch whisky entry.

white-collar (adj.)

White House Do not personify it with phrases such as the White House said. Instead, use a phrase such as a White House official said.

white paper Two words, lowercase, when used to refer to a special report.

whitewash (n. and v. and adj.)

who, whom Use who and whom for references to human beings and to animals with a name. Use that and which for inanimate objects and animals without a name.

Who is the word when someone is the subject of a sentence, clause or phrase: The woman who rented the room left the window open. Who is there?

Whom is the word when someone is the object of a verb or preposition: The woman to whom the room was rented left the window open. Whom do you wish to see?

See the essential clauses, non essential clauses entry for guidelines on how to punctuate clauses introduced by who, whom, that and which.


wholesale price index A measurement of the changes in the average prices that businesses pay for a selected group of industrial commodities, farm products, processed foods and feed for animals.

Capitalize when referring to the U.S. index, issued monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an agency of the Labor Department.


who’s, whose Who’s is a contraction for who is, not a possessive: Who’s there?

Whose is the possessive: I do not know whose coat it is.

wide- Usually hyphenated. Some examples:

wide-angle wide-eyed

wide-awake wide-open


Exception: widespread.

-wide No hyphen. Some examples:

citywide nationwide

continentwide statewide

countrywide worldwide


widow, widower In obituaries: A man is survived by his wife, or leaves his wife. A woman is survived by her husband, or leaves her husband.

Guard against the redundant widow of the late. Use wife of the late or widow of.

widths See dimensions.



Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

will See the shall, will entry and subjective mood.

Wilson’s disease After Samuel A. Wilson, an English neurologist. A disease characterized by abnormal accumulation of copper in the brain, liver and other organs.

Windbreaker A trademark for a brand of wind-resistant sports jacket.

wind chill index See weather terms.

window dressing The noun. But as a verb: window-dress.


wind up (v.) windup (n. and adj.)


winter See seasons.


wiretap, wiretapper The verb forms: wiretap, wiretapped, wiretap-ping.

Wisconsin Abbrev.: Wis. See state names.

-wise No hyphen when it means in the direction of or with regard to. Some examples:

clockwise otherwise

lengthwise slantwise

Avoid contrived combinations such as moneywise, religionwise.

The word penny-wise is spelled with a hyphen because it is a compound adjective in which wise means smart, not an application of the suffix -wise. The same for street-wise in the street-wise youth.

Woman’s Christian Temperance Union Not women’s. WCTU is acceptable on second reference.

women Women should receive the same treatment as men in all areas of coverage. Physical descriptions, sexist references, demeaning stereotypes and condescending phrases should not be used.

To cite some examples, this means that:

—Copy should not assume maleness when both sexes are involved, as in Jackson told newsmen or in the taxpayer...he when it easily can be said Jackson told reporters or taxpayers...they.

—Copy should not express surprise that an attractive woman can be professionally accomplished, as in: Mary Smith doesn’t look the part, but she’s an authority on...

—Copy should not gratuitously mention family relationships when there is no relevance to the subject, as in: Golda Meir, a doughty grandmother, told the Egyptians today...

—Use the same standards for men and women in deciding whether to include specific mention of personal appearance or marital and family situation.

In other words, treatment of the sexes should be even-handed and free of assumptions and stereotypes. This does not mean that valid and acceptable words such as mankind or humanity cannot be used. They are proper.

See courtesy titles; divorcee; the man, mankind entry; and -persons.

Women’s Army Corps See the Wac, WAC entry.

Woolworth’s Acceptable in all references for F.W. Woolworth Co.

word-of-mouth (n. and adj.)

word processing (adj.) Do not hyphenate.

words as words The meaning of this phrase, which appears occasionally in this book and similar manuals that deal with words, is best illustrated by an example: In this sentence, woman appears solely as a word rather than as the means of representing the concept normally associated with the word.

When italics are available, a word used as a word should be italicized.

Italics are not available to highlight this type of word use on the news wires. When a news story must use a word as a word, place quotation marks around it.

See plurals.

word selection In general, any word with a meaning that universally is understood is acceptable unless it is offensive or below the normal standards for literate writing.

This stylebook lists many words with cautionary notes about how they should be used. The entries in Webster’s New World Dictionary provide cautionary notes, comparisons and usage guidelines to help a writer choose the correct word for a particular context.

Any word listed in Webster’s New World may be used for the definitions given unless this stylebook restricts its use to only some definitions recorded by the dictionary or specifies that the word be confined to certain contexts.

If the dictionary cautions that a particular usage is objected to by some linguists or is not accepted widely, be wary of the usage unless there is a reason in the context.

The dictionary uses the description substandard to identify words below the norms for literate writing.

The dictionary provides guidance on many idiomatic expressions under the principal word in the expression. The definition and spelling of underway, for example, are found in the “way” entry.

If it is necessary to use an archaic word or an archaic sense of a word, explain the meaning.

Additional guidance on the acceptability of a word is provided in this book under:

Americanism jargon

colloquialisms special contexts

dialect vernacular

foreign words

See also the obscenities, profanities, vulgarities entry.


workers’ compensation

work force

working class (n.) working-class (adj.)



World Bank Acceptable in all references for International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

World Council of Churches This is the main international, interdenominational cooperative body of Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant and old or national Catholic churches.

The Roman Catholic church is not a member but cooperates with the council in various programs.

Headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland.

World Court This was an alternate name for the Permanent Court of International Justice set up by the League of Nations.

See the entry for the International Court of Justice, which has replaced it.

World Health Organization WHO is acceptable on second reference.

Headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland.

World Series Or the Series on second reference. A rare exception to the general principles under capitalization.

World War I, World War II


World Wide Web In later references, the Web is acceptable. Also, Web site, Web page.

Web addresses should be a self-contained paragraph at the end of a story, separated from the rest by three long dashes.


*worship, worshipped, worshipper (A change in AP style.)


would See the should, would entry.

wrack See the rack, wrack entry.

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


Wyoming Abbrev.: Wyo. See state names.