theleftberlin Style Guide

To-do/To discuss During/post Thursday meeting:


  • Formatting (I can’t see the original so maybe more of this is already done); organise guide as a document w/headers, itemization, table of contents?
  • Formatting articles: Guidance on when articles should use headers.
  • Asking for rudimentary proofreading from contributors
  • Genre categorisation and genre-specific guidelines (what genres can articles generally be categorized into?), subsections for specific genres, introduction defining genre,%2C%20Asian%2C%20and%20Native%20American.

Open questions

  • When to keep foreign words or names, and how to do so. Slightly different standards for German than other foreign languages, as we want to acquaint readers with German-language context.
  • Excerpts – leave blank until website gets fixed
  • »people refusing to integrate« — this is killing me, we need to write quotation marks over these things that I forget the name of. They’re not used in English.
  • What are our editing standards when we’re sent something that has already been published elsewhere, such as a mirrored article in ND or a section of a book?


theleftberlin Style Guide

Editorial Guidelines – Work in Progress 


Types of articles

We publish a variety of articles, including interviews, news pieces, speeches, and things which do not fit in any of these categories. 

News/current events

The purpose of a news article is to inform and educate on current affairs and events. As such, they should aim to be truthful , with information being drawn from primarily external sources rather than the author’s own perspective. Later factual corrections should be noted at the top of the article.

Articles should begin with a lead—ideally just one sentence—summarising the subject of the article. Direct professional/expert sources should be mentioned by full name, position and organisation (if relevant). Layperson/civilian/eyewitness sources should be mentioned by first and last name and their relationship to the event. Always obtain clear consent for publishing names. If a source does not wish to be mentioned by their full name, First name and last initial, first name only, and pseudonyms indicated with an asterisk (*) are other acceptable options. 

 For ethical guidelines, refer to the German Press Code of Ethics.


In interviews, we bold the interviewer’s words, and keep the interviewee(s’) words unbolded. 

The name of the interviewee should be mentioned in the title or subtitle, and/or any brief description note at the beginning of the article. They do not need to be mentioned every time the interviewee speaks. 

An exception for this last point is in the case of multiple interviewees, in which case initials can be used at the beginning of the first paragraph anytime anyone begins speaking.

Interviews should be edited down when sent to the weekly editor to remove points of repetition and the unnecessary extra words which come with spoken language (the “ums and ahs”). That said, interviewers and editors should seek to maintain the style of the interviewee’s language as much as possible, while removing any grammatical errors, repeated words, or lack of clarity that come with spoken language.

Interviews do not need to include sources, although they are recommended, especially when specific information is brought up, such as statistics. Generally speaking, interviews require less fact checking than news articles; editors should only check specific or suspicious claims.


When we publish a speech it should be clearly marked as such in the title to avoid confusion as to the form of the text (unlike interviews, which are obvious to the reader).

For speeches, we use lighter editing than we do for interviews. While we can still take out the “ums and ahs”, word choice or sentence structure which feels more like dialect or “improper” written English can be left in, as long as the sentence is still clear in meaning.

It may be helpful to ask the person who gave the speech to what degree they would like their words to be edited to fit into written English (or not) before the editor begins working on the piece.

Speeches do not need to include sources, although they are recommended, especially when specific information such as statistics, as in the case of interviews. In cases where we have requested the text of someone’s speech, editors may need to do the fact checking and find the sources. Generally speaking though, speeches require less fact checking than news articles; editors should only check specific or suspicious claims.

Creative pieces

We receive a number of texts which do not fit into any of the above categories, such as photo essays, poetry, or what can best be described as experimental writing. We are open to all these forms of writing, including pieces which bend the rules of article formatting. That said, basic spelling and grammar should be maintained, as should clarity of meaning (we are not an avant-guard publication), and the editor will often be required to use a high degree of common sense and best judgement in editing the piece.

Writers are invited to ‘lean in’ to personal experience and emotion in creative pieces.


Opinion pieces should be more grounded in fact than creative pieces, but less objective than news pieces. It is acceptable for writers to tie facts to their central argument, while a news piece should primarily describe events with analysis being secondary. Avoid attacks; even when there is a definite ‘bad guy’,  this should be clear through the presentation of facts and there should be room for readers to draw their own conclusions. 

Here is an example of a solid opinion piece which uses humour and consistent voice while backing up arguments with specific examples:


Opinion pieces should briefly summarise the argument e.g., ‘Another East Germany was possible’. 

News pieces should include a specific detail and avoid vagueness. E.g. not ‘Homelessness in Berlin’ but ‘Berlin homeless population reaches record levels’. 

Headlines should include specific detail while remaining short and ‘‘snappy’’. 

A headline should in general not exceed 70 characters

Most headlines should contain a verb, e.g., ‘The wrestler who took on Nazi Germany’. 

A question word can also add interest e.g., ‘What’s next for the German Left?’ Or ‘How Berlin housing unions are fighting gentrification’. 

Headlines should avoid gratuitous/sensationalist language.

If in doubt, look at other online news sites, The Economist is a good example for clear and concise headlines and subtitles that appeal to the reader. (Disclaimer: not the content just the format) 

A colon in a headline is a great way to get keywords in for SEO and also to make it more ‘punchy’ e.g. Housing crisis in Berlin: how Deutsche Wohnen Enteignen is taking on landlords.

In general, colons should be used rather than dashes in most headlines, but em dashes can be used when you want to make a dramatic pause.

Headlines use US spelling, even if the article itself uses British spelling.

Capitalization: We follow the New York Times US edition style for headline capitalization. That means capitalise all nouns, pronouns and verbs, and all other words of four or more letters. Handle shorter words as follows: Capitalise No, Nor, Not, Off, Out, So, Up; lowercase a, and, as, at, but, by, en, for, if, in, of, on, or, the, to, v., vs., via.

Handle infinitives this way: to Be; to Do; to Go.


The keywords in urls have a huge impact on whether your article will pop up in a search or not. Editors should take it on as part of their routine in editing articles to look at the url. It’s better to include as many keywords as possible, rather than have the url make sense (no one looks at them anyway). For example:

could be: /blair-biden-UK-US-elections

That way if someone searches UK US, UK elections US, Blair Biden elections etc. the article will have a better chance of popping up. 


The subtitle should in general not be more than 15 words. Only the first 15 words or so will appear on Twitter.

The subtitle indicates the purpose of the article and draws the reader in. It should avoid any repetition from the headline (ideally, do not reuse any word from the headline in the subtitle) and not attempt to summarise the whole article. Subheadlines should be in mixed case, i.e. capitalise only the first word and proper nouns. 

Example: How the headline and standfirst look on Twitter.


The name of the author is written below the subtitle with a link to the author’s page if we have a page for that author on the website. If we have no page for the author, one should either be made or there should be a sentence at the bottom of the article saying who the author is.  

Editor and translator’s notes

Editors and translators notes are entered with the same formatting. They can be used to clarify information or context.

They should be in square brackets, without italics, in the following format: [editor: this was first argued by Phil Butland in the early 2000s] and [translator: a TV puppet from East Germany].

Translator’s notes may also be necessary for context in articles written for a German-speaking target audience, as the author may have assumed that the readers have a higher level of context about German politics than we can assume for our readers. See also our practices on German-language words in articles.


Long articles can be broken up with subheadings.

Subheadings break up the body text in the main article. They are written in body text in bold (but not italic). There should be an empty line following the last sentence before a subheading. Following the subheading, the text should begin directly on the next line. For example, see this style guide ;).

A subheading should in general not exceed 15 words.

Block Quotes

Should be used sparingly throughout the article, so they actually stand out. There shouldn’t be two block quotes directly under each other, or only separated by one sentence. 

Should be short, ideally not longer than one sentence. 

Block quotes should relate to the text around them, be striking, or somehow representative of the paragraph/section around them .



German words should be italicised in the first usage, and then used in Roman type.

For other foreign languages, words should be translated in most cases. Authors can follow the guide set out for German in the case of especially culturally specific words, or words which are central to the argument.

For the use of stress, follow the the New Oxford Style Manual:

“Setting type in italics indicates emphasis by setting off a word or phrase from its context[…] 

“Employ italics sparingly for emphasis. It may be better to achieve the same effect by making the emphasis clear through the sentence structure, or by using intensifying adjectives and adverbs:

The actual purpose of her letter remained a mystery

Rather than

The purpose of her letter remained a mystery

Naming publications and books should be in italics, e.g., “Writing for the liberal paper The Guardian, Phil Butland argued”, or “Hannah Arendt’s classic work, Eichmann in Jerusalem, highlights that”. 

Article titles should be put in double quotation marks, even when the article is linked. Naming the article is not necessary unless it is the subject of the analysis. In the latter case, the article should be hyperlinked to either the word “article” or to the verb relating to the article. Ex: “Phil Butland has already argued that[…]”

Repeated use of book or article names should be avoided when possible. When this is not possible, for example when several articles by the same author are being discussed, a shortened form of the title in quotation marks should be used after first usage.



Header images must be in landscape format. 

Should concisely describe the image, relate to the article content in some way. 

Source of the image should be included as hyperlink if possible, or image credit given. 


For English-language acronyms, write the full title upon first usage with the acronym in brackets even if it seems obvious. Following this, use the acronym.

For foreign names not in English or German, we would use the common English title of the party, while maintaining the abbreviation of the original language (allowing for transliteration). For example, “Communist Party of Greece” instead of “Kommounistikó Kómma Elládas”, but we would still use the abbreviation KKE. 

For German names, give the German version in italics with the German abbreviation, but put it in English with the abbreviation. Ex: ‘‘Kampagne für Opfer rassistischer Polizeigewalt (Campaign for the Victims of Police Violence, KOP)’’. This is meant to help our readers familiarise themselves with important German groups and context.

For organisations with English names, give the full title on first usage with the abbreviation in brackets.

Acronyms do not use periods to separate the letters. For example, it is “USA”, not “U.S.A.”


In German to English translations long numbers are often written with points in between, e.g., 25.000. These do not make sense in English and must be substituted with a comma, e.g., 25,000.

Whole numbers below 10 should be written out in letters, anything else should be in figures.

Percentages should be in digits with a percentage sign, e.g., 3% or 27%.

Fractions should be written in words, e.g., “two thirds” or “a quarter”.

Large round numbers can be expressed either as a mixture of digits and words (6 million, 1.5 million), or entirely in words (six million, one and a half million). Articles should be consistent in usage.

Large numbers which are not round should be expressed in digits, e.g., 1,000,621.

Authors and editors should be wary of expressing approximations with digits (“about 600”, “under 20”, “more than 1,000,000”) as the use of digits can provide a false sense of security. When dealing with large round numbers in this case, a mixture of digits and words is preferred. In the end however, attention should be paid to the language used around the digits, in order to ensure that the approximation is clearly stressed.

For sentence beginnings, do not begin sentences with numbers, unless a calendar year. Otherwise, rearrange the sentence to avoid beginning with a number. Ex: “5 people live in the building” should be changed for “The building is home to 5 people”, etc.

American v British English 

Currently we publish the article in the style that it was written and make sure it is consistently used. Most writers use American English spellings but it depends on their education and background and they are free to use either, however it must be consistent throughout the article. For the purposes of article conformity, whether you use American or British English try to stick to one of them throughout the entirety of the article.


Generally, we recommend maintaining key words in German instead of translating them, with a brief note explaining them, in order to help our readers familiarise themselves with important German-language concepts.

Due to the nature of this publication, more liberty can be taken when using German words in-text. German nouns that are relevant to life in Germany and/or cannot be easily translated should be kept in their original language. At first usage, explain the term in brackets as briefly as possible. If the term is too abstract to explain in brackets without cluttering the text, a new sentence can be used to introduce it to the readera footnote is acceptable (but please use footnotes sparingly). Then, naturally integrate further usage into the text, italicised. 

Some examples of words that should stay in the text in their original form are Volksverhetzung, Holocaustverharmlosung, Ordnungsamt, etc. Use Ampel-Coalition rather than ‘traffic light coalition’; party names do not need to be italicised but the German name should still be used (‘Alternative für Deutschland’ rather than ‘Alternative for Germany’). 

There are German words that have been integrated into regular English such as Bundestag, kindergarten, sauerkraut, etc. These do not need to be explained or italicised. 

Germanised Punctuation

Here is a list of common punctuation mistakes that occur as a result of confusion between German (or other languages) and English standards:

  • ‘‘text’’ or ‘text’  rather than ‘‘text,, or »text« 
  • Ellipses (…) are almost exclusively used to indicate that words have been removed from a quote. (See “Em dash” under “other punctuation”)
  • Titles of books, films, plays, etc are italicised rather than in quotation marks
  • Commas and periods/decimals are inverted in numbers (see ‘Numbers’ above)


Hyperlinks can be very useful for clarifying key terms, concepts and events by providing additional information. They can also be used to link to articles and sources to clarify where information comes from, or to support an argument. In this case, the relevant word or phrase (3-4 words) should be hyperlinked. Avoid hyperlinking a whole sentence, this looks clunky. When making a general reference to a book, the hyperlink should link to the publisher’s page displaying a summary and publishing information about the book. See example:

We no longer use footnotes, even for direct quotations from a printed work. Rather, the name of the author and at least a short title of the work should be inserted into the text leading up to the quote. Pages can then be inserted in brackets, with “p.” to clarify that it is a page number. The brackets should go after any quotation marks, but prior to a period or comma if there are no quotation marks. Ex: Butland’s book Best Editing Practices tells us “figuring out a citation style is a pain in the ass.” (p. 1312)

After the first use of a work, the last name of the author (either in text or in the brackets) and page number is sufficient. Ex: Butland says this looks messy (p. 161). Or: This is known to look messy (Butland, p. 161).

If multiple works by one author are used throughout the text, then a shortened version of the work title should be included in the brackets. This can replace the author’s name, if doing so would be clear from context whose work is being cited, such as when an article is discussing a single author’s corpus. Ex: “Butland disagrees with Kumar, arguing that the mystery of unexplained acronyms are what makes them so exciting (Best Editing, p. 1312).”

Fact Checking  

You should be able to find two separate sources for any ‘facts’ that are included in the article, especially if they are controversial. It is best if one source is a non-journalistic source, as news outlets tend to repeat information from each other without fact-checking where the information came from. The Guardian generally does a good job of hyperlinking to the source of any info, Vox also generally does a really good job of this.

If an interview partner says something that you’re having trouble fact-checking, or if you’re having trouble fact-checking any other info, add “according to” into your sentence. Then you’re off the hook for the information.


Most articles that we publish are between 500 and 2000 words.

Where possible, authors should use the active voice as opposed to the passive. (eg. ‘Bündnis Phil Butland have won the election’ as opposed to ‘The elections were won by Bündnis Phil Butland’)

Quotation marks

Use double quotation marks for what someone has said in this general format: eg.  “I want to become a socialist like Phil Butland,” said Merkel.  

When ending a paragraph you don’t need to close the quotation marks if the quote runs on to the next paragraph, for example:

Merkel commented: “It is so much fun. 

“I really want to try it one day.”

Also note above that after a full sentence of speech the full stop is inside the quotation marks. This is different to if it is a partial quote, e.g.: she said she wanted to be “a socialist”.

Also use double speech marks for a mini quote with ‘that’ normally: Merkel said that she wanted “a socialist state” soon. 

Use single speech marks for peculiar names or terms. Other punctuation marks (periods, commas) should be placed outside of single quotation marks, e.g.: “Butland said he wanted to eat ‘Israeli food’.”

Other Punctuation

Colons (“:”) are to be used to introduce something, such as a list or a text. The first word after a colon should only be capitalised if it is a proper noun or the beginning of a complete sentence.

Dashes are preferable to ellipses when seeking to make the reader pause. We use the em dash “—” (instead of a hyphen: -) with a space on either side. They can also be used to denote a phrase within a sentence that would normally use commas when the phrase itself has commas. Ex: “Phil Butland is said to have many skills — copyediting, writing, arguing — which made him an excellent contributing editor.” It can also be used to denote an abrupt change: “The paper publishes regularly — except in the summer months when Butland is away.”

Exclamation points should be used sparingly outside of quotations, if at all.


Try to use the full name and title of a person for clarity, at least the first time you mention them. When someone is mentioned, as much information about them as possible should be fit into the sentence, without it being clunky. Authors’ names are the minimum, as well as any relevant qualifications or key descriptor, e.g., “notable feminist Angela Davis” or “Contributing Editor Phil Butland”.


Ethnic groups or races should be capitalised as nouns, e.g., Black people, Indigenous, Palestinians.

When ethnicities, races or nations are used as adjectives, they should be capitalised, e.g., Kashmiri food, Jewish literature, German food. This is consciously different from major style guides, which would keep ethnicities and races uncapitalised, while nations would be capitalised (e.g.,  most style guides would have: kashmiri/jewish food, German food).

Regarding derivatives, we follow the Associated Press Stylebook:

“Capitalise words that are derived from a proper noun and still depend on it for their meaning: American, Christian, Christianity, English, French, Marxism, Shakespearean.

“Lowercase words that are derived from a proper noun but no longer depend on it for their meaning: french fries, herculean, manhattan [or molotov] cocktail, malapropism, pasteurise, quixotic, venetian blind.”

For place names, we also follow the AP Stylebook:

“Capitalise common nouns when they form an integral part of a proper name, but lowercase them when they stand alone: Pennsylvania Avenue, the avenue; the Philippine Islands, the islands[…]”

For time periods, we also follow the AP Stylebook:

“Capitalise the names of widely recognized epochs in anthropology, archeology, geology and history: the Bronze Age, the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, the Pliocene Epoch.

“Capitalise also widely recognized popular names for the periods and events: the Atomic Age [etc…]

“Capitalise only the proper nouns or adjectives in general descriptions of a period: ancient Greece, classical Rome, the Victorian era, the fall of Rome.”

Ethical questions

While we are open to publishing a wide array of left-wing opinions, including opinions that our editors may disagree with, as an editorial board we reserve the right to decide what constitutes a legitimate left-wing opinion. In practice so far, this has meant we do not publish Zionist or TERF perspectives. Other potentially problematic views which could be considered relevant to this policy are SWERFs, pro-Assadists, racist views, or neo-liberal tendencies. The specificities of each of these views should also be taken into account.

There is a lack of clarity, however, about what to do when an author or group holds politics which falls into these categories, but are not directly relevant to the article at hand. Decisions regarding this should be made by the editorial board on a case-by-case basis, but we recommend the following questions to help guide the decision:

  1. How explicit is the position in question? Is it a matter of someone having written something that could be interpreted to fall into these categories, or having written for a publication which falls into one of these categories, or are they an open proponent of them? 
  2. How central is the position in question to the article at hand? A direct connection could be considered a Zionist writing an article about antisemitism in Germany, as the problematic political position is likely to be directly related to how they interpret the subject of the article. On the other hand, if the same person is writing about housing rights in Berlin, it would not be particularly relevant.
  3. Would the inclusion of such a viewpoint cause explicit harm to a part of our readership?
  4. Would we be critiqued for platforming this person, and how legitimate would this critique be?

Common Usage

When referring to our own publication, it is written The Left Berlin, not theleftberlin.

German political parties can be abbreviated from first usage.

For German parties without common abbreviations, they should be referred to as Die Linke (not The Left or Die LINKE) or Die Grünen. Parties such as Freie Wähler or Volt can also follow this practice, but are not commonly known and should be explained when first mentioned.

Quoting swear words in news articles is fine. If speaking from a journalistic perspective it should be otherwise avoided. When writing creative pieces, swearing is fine. For opinion pieces, it should usually be avoided on stylistic grounds, but can be used.

Derogatory or racist terms should generally be avoided. There are two potential cases when they may be appropriate. The first is in a direct quote which is absolutely necessary to the story, in which case it can be used with lowercase letters and an editor’s note. The second is in cases of when an author from the affected group is using the term for emphasis or dramatic effect in an opinion or creative piece. 

BIPOC and POC should be used in limited circumstances, and instead the specific group being discussed should be mentioned. If there is no specific group being discussed, “racialized people/women/applicants/etc” is preferred. 

We use “antisemitism” not “Anti-Semitism”, the latter implying that there is such a thing as a semitic race.

“Middle East” is acceptable as short-hand for describing a region. SWANA is also acceptable, although should usually be written in full upon first usage as the word is not as well known. These terms can be used at the author’s discretion, although editors should push for the use of more specific language where appropriate, such as “the Levant”, “the Maghreb”, “Palestine”, etc. “Near East”, while still common in German as naher Osten, is not to be used in English.

“Arab world” is acceptable, but only in specific contexts relating to the linguistic community or the dominant culture within Arab-majority countries. “Arab world” is not a synonym for “Middle East”.

People’s preferred pronouns should be used. In cases when the subject has changed pronouns after the time being described by the author, updated pronouns should be applied retroactively. For example, although Chelsea Manning only publicly announced that she was a woman in 2013, when describing her leaking of documents to Wikileaks in 2010, Manning should still be referred to with the pronouns she/her.

Condescending language such as (but not limited to) white saviourism can often be edited out, rather than cancelling the entire article. Sometimes it just means making the author’s experience with the relevant subject clear, or being more specific in a reference. Ex: “British people are sad.” vs., “Speaking to Phil Butland, he told me…”