Newsela can be found in the classroom, just like a textbook. But unlike a textbook, our usage of the English language and some grammatical rules is different. Because our content is news, we use similar rules to other news websites or newspapers.
A case in point. A teacher recently wrote to Newsela:
Today I browsed several articles on your website in the attempt to locate some nonfiction to complement a unit of study in my 9th grade English class…. There are numerous grammatical errors in all of the articles I read. Many are simple, such as lack of capital letters.
This teacher was addressing MLA style. It’s typically used by writers and editors in the education sector. At Newsela, we follow the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook. There are many style guides and there is no right or wrong style. It’s just important to pick one style and stick to it for consistency. At The New York Times, they write Mr. and Mrs. when referring to a person. It looks courteous, but AP Style doesn’t do that. At the magazine, The New Yorker, their style calls for a dieresis. It’s a mark (¨) placed over the second vowel to indicate that it should be pronounced in a separate syllable, such as in naïve or coöperate. Some observers think the dieresis isn’t necessary but it’s what gives The New Yorker its unique style.
At Newsela, we mainly follow AP style but we also do things a little differently for our young readers. Here’s our style:
Instead of a textbook-style headline: Banning Sledding in a City Park our readers will see the journalistic style of a sentence-structure headline: Banning sledding in a city park.
We write a person’s full name in the first reference and use only their last name in later references. The consistency of using last names in second reference gives everyone in every story the same amount of respect. When we have to distinguish between two people with the same last name (married couples, siblings), we use first and last name throughout. As for the names of persons younger than 18, we use their first name in second reference.
At Newsela, we have a unique style that calls for us to refer to all people by their first name in second reference in our 2nd-grade versions. This was requested by our reading experts who said that referring to last names would be too confusing for these younger readers.
News organizations have a different spelling for some terms. This is especially common among foreign terms that don’t use the Roman alphabet in which the English language is based. For example, AP uses Quran as the preferred spelling of the Muslim holy book versus Koran in newspapers like The New York Times. Similarly, AP prefers Shiite over Shia which is used by BBC News.
AP style spells out numbers up to and including nine, such as one and ninth. For numbers greater than 10, they’re written in figures, such as 11 or 12. At Newsela, we’re a bit different. Especially in our younger reading levels, we’ll use “6 out of 8” instead of “six out of eight” because we think our young readers will understand it a bit more quickly.
News and feature stories are the heart of Newsela. The stories depend on sources: people who talk to reporters. What they tell the reporters must get attributed to them, so that we’re answering the question “how do we know this?” for the reader.
- We use direct quotes through the usage of quotation marks. For example: “It was pouring buckets,” he said.
- We also use indirect quotes which paraphrase what a source told a reporter. For example: It rained hard that night, he said.
At Newsela, we want to unlock the written word for our student readers. But we also want to unlock the world for our readers by producing news articles in a consistent, objective and fair manner. By referring back to our style guide, we check to make sure that we stick to those rules, all the time.