Accuracy – is paramount. Take special care with names of companies, pieces of legislation, etc; it’s all too easy to make assumptions that turn out to be wrong. Facts need to be right (and if they are actually assumptions or guesses or opinions, identified as such). If in doubt, check. Even if not in doubt, it’s often worth checking.
Clarity – trumps everything else below. If it is clearer to the reader to break with house style, do so. But know why you are doing it.
Unfussiness – we try to keep our language as unfussy as possible. So, we say Jones rather than Mr Jones, we avoid unnecessary hyphenation (though we do hyphenate if a phrase would read oddly or be grammatically ambiguous otherwise), we tend to avoid internal caps within words, and so on.
Jargon – legal, marketing or otherwise. ECigIntelligence includes a lot of legal content, which is very useful to our readers. It’s very important to be accurate but inaccessible or over-wordy copy will send our readers elsewhere. Most are paying for this content because they are not lawyers – if they can’t digest the information we’re presenting, we’re not doing our job. So avoid heavy legal vocabulary, excessive repetition, awkward constructions, overlong sentences. If you can’t understand it, it’s not much use to anyone but a lawyer.
What’s your story about? Get to the point as soon as possible. Get the most important fact in early and keep sentences as short as possible, especially in the early part of your story. Detail can come later.
Tone of voice – we are a serious source of information and an authority on our subject. This means we have a long-form journalistic style in most instances. The reports can be the exception to this rule but we are not an academic publication so their style shouldn’t be overly wordy. But equally…
Bosses blast hack slang – we avoid journalese (much of which developed to save space in print, not an issue online). Scientists have criticised, not boffins have slammed!
Assumptions – we can assume our readers understand what an e-cigarette is and other basics of the sector – we don’t need to spell these out every time. But we can’t assume they have expertise beyond their area of involvement. An advertising agency may not understand the science. A scientist may not know much about retailing.
Internationalism – by default we use British English rather than any of the language’s many other international variants. But we can expect readers from around the world, so we must not fall into the trap of making local assumptions. A Brazilian may well not know what an MEP is, and a Washington lobbyist may not realise what NHS stands for. If in the smallest doubt, explain before using non-obvious terminology.
Attribution and quoting – you do not need to attribute uncontentious facts; you can simply state them. You can make minor edits to direct quotations for grammatical correctness, etc, without indicating that you have changed the quote – but if you make major elisions or substitutions, use ellipses or square brackets to show that (examples below). Note that in general we don’t adjust variant spellings or grammatical faux pas in long quotations from published material, for example from academic journals – because once you start down that road, you’ll spend a long time on it.
What This Means – many news stories end with a para, or a few paras, headed What This Means. You can be opinionated here, but avoid preaching. It’s fine to say if governments want to prevent e-cigarette use on public transport, they should consider doing such-and-such. But it’s coming down too much on one side to say governments should prevent vaping on trains. We can express opinions on how policy objectives might be achieved, but should always nod to the other options. It is not our role to opine on what the broad policy goals ought to be.
WHO ARE OUR READERS?
They are mostly working for e-cig companies (some tobacco, some not) or suppliers to those companies. A few are government regulators.
Most will not be lawyers or scientists, although we do need to cover those areas thoroughly. Making law and science interesting and relevant to business people without distorting the detail, or at the other extreme giving too much irrelevant detail, is one of our big aims.
Given the cost of our premium subscription packages, they will be at a high executive level – CEOs of smaller companies, perhaps divisional or departmental directors of very big ones – although some will also be sharing their subscriptions with more middle-ranking people.
Overwhelmingly, they are in the UK or the US, with smaller numbers in other European countries.
More than half are under 35 (but these are not necessarily the highest-value readers so don’t make huge assumptions based on that).
Our research suggests they like the context, analysis etc that we provide but the real motivation for actually paying out large sums of money is the hard data. We shouldn’t lose sight of that, but we don’t want to become purely a provider of raw numbers either.
E-CIGARETTES, TOBACCO AND SMOKING
It is in the nature of this publication that we are constantly writing about e-cigarettes and cigarettes. There is really no alternative to using those words pretty often, but do consider alternatives like products or brands to add a bit of variety where you can. Also remember the following:
- e-cigarette (not E-cigarette and not ecig) is our principal preferred term.
- electronic cigarette and e-cig are acceptable as alternatives for variety.
- ordinary cigarettes should be called tobacco cigarettes or conventional cigarettes or combustible cigarettes or similar (not just cigarettes unless it’s very obvious from the context what is meant).
- smoking (or using or consuming) is what you do with tobacco cigarettes. E-cigarettes are used, or you can employ the term vaping. Likewise, e-cigarette users and vapers (not vapeurs, let alone vapists).
- e-cigarette users are not necessarily smokers, nor are they necessarily non-smokers. Many are ex-smokers or former smokers. If they have never smoked a cigarette, they are never-smokers. Many are dual users (which strictly can mean that they use e-cigarettes along with any other form of nicotine or tobacco, but in practice is widely understood to mean that they use e-cigs and combustible cigarettes).
- avoid puns about butts, stubbing out, no smoke without fire, lighting up, mist, clouds, and so on.
A-Z of specific style points >