IRA Style Guide

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Bachelor of Arts
bachelor's degree
back up (verb)
back-up (adj. preceding its noun)
backup (noun)

bad / badly
In standard usage, bad is an adjective and badly is an adverb. Although there is some support for the common use of badly as an adjective after a copulative verb (e.g., "I feel badly about your accident"), the International Reading Association considers this a nonstandard usage that should be avoided in IRA written materials. Use "I feel bad" instead.


"-based" compounds
Adjectives consisting of a noun plus based follow the general rule for noun + participle compounds: When they precede the noun they modify, they are hyphenated. When they follow the noun they modify, they are normally not hyphenated. Thus, "text-based resources," but "The resources were text based."

Basotho (adjective form of Lesotho)

best + participle or adjective
IRA style follows CMS 6.1*, according to which compound adjectives consisting of best plus an adjective or participle are hyphenated before the noun they modify (thus, "a best-selling novel").

*Note, however, that this usage is contra APA 3.11.

best-selling (adj.)
bestseller (noun)

better + participle or adjective
IRA style follows CMS 6.1*, according to which compound adjectives consisting of better plus an adjective or participle are hyphenated before the noun, open after the noun, and open if preceded by an adverb (thus, "a better-made widget"; "This widget is better made"; "These are much better made widgets than those.").

*Note, however, that this usage is contra APA 3.11.

between / among
Some authorities teach that between refers to precisely two objects and among to more than two: "The discussion was between Julie and me." "The discussion was among Julie, Yolanda, and me." However, NYPL and WDEU both defend the use of between to describe the relation of one thing and two or more surrounding things, "severally and individually; among expressing a relation to them collectively and vaguely" (WDEU 1989, p. 180). Thus, "The women spoke among themselves," but "We had to decide between going to the library, going to the mall, and just staying home."

between . . . and . . .
1. This phrase functions as a compound preposition and requires a pair of objects in the objective case: "The nominating committee had to decide between her and me" (not "she and I"). "Between you and me there can be no animosity" (not "you and I").
2. Notice also that the coordinating conjunction and requires grammatical parallelism (see correlative conjunctions):
  • incorrect: Nathan had to decide between majoring in engineering and psychology.
  • better: Nathan had to decide between majoring in engineering and majoring in psychology.
  • best: In choosing his college major, Nathan had to decide between engineering and psychology.

Compounds formed with the prefix bi- are normally closed:
biannual, binary, biennial, binomial, bilingual, bisyllabic

This word is commonly used to mean "occurring every 2 years," but it is also commonly used to mean "Occurring twice a year." To avoid ambiguity, it's probably best to avoid biannual. Instead use biennial for "every 2 years" and semiannual for "twice a year."

bias-free usage
IRA publications should be free of both obvious and subtle forms of biased language. Obvious forms include epithets, stereotypes, and the like. Subtle forms might imply, for example, that every society aspires to be like the North Americans. When in doubt, err on the side of caution—bias-free language is worth minor sacrifices in stylistic elegance. Use common sense, however: bias-free usage can and should be achieved without using contorted or unfamiliar terms or constructions. See inclusive language.

Added 7-17-03:

The capitalized Bible refers to the collections of writings (scriptures) recognized as sacred by Jewish or Christian religious traditions. Authors who wish to distance themselves from those traditions sometimes choose the lowercase form, bible, which refers more generally to any book held to be authoritative on its topic. This option should be negotiated with the author on a case-by-case basis


bibliographic style

Big Books
As a technical term in the field of education, Big Book refers to a type of book (rather than just the book's dimensions) and is capitalized. In generic or nontechnical use, it is lowercase.


black / white
Although these words are frequently capitalized* when used as informal designations of race (cf. African American, European American), they are not considered proper nouns, and therefore should not be routinely capitalized.

* Note that in preferring the use of lowercase for these words, IRA style differs from APA style.

Board / board
1. Capitalize as part of formal name: the Board of Directors of IRA.
2 Capitalize in material intended for an IRA audience, such as periodicals, letters, memos, marketing materials: the Board of Directors, the Board, a Board member, a member of the Board, a Board meeting.
3. Otherwise, lowercase: "the company's board of directors."

Board members, members of the Board

Board of Directors, Officers 2002-2003
Anders, Patricia L.
Bean, Rita M.
Block, Cathy Collins
Flood, James
Johns, Jerry L.
Morrow, Lesley Mandel
Olness, Rebecca L.
Rasinski, Timothy
Risko, Victoria J.
Selin, Ann-Sofie
Vogt, MaryEllen
Walker-Dalhouse, Doris

BOCES = Board of Cooperative Educational Service
boldface type

Book Club
1. Capitalize as part of formal title: the International Reading Association Book Club. Otherwise, lowercase: the book club.

2. Marketing and promotional materials may require different style: the (IRA) Book Club.

3. Book Club (classroom program associated with T. Raphael): Book Club is capitalized as the name of this particular classroom program.


Books on Tape
This is a registered trademark and should not be used as a common noun. Instead, refer to books recorded on audiotape, audio books, or something similar. See trade names.


book parts or sections (Approved by the IRA Style Guide Committee on February 28, 2008, the following rules vary in some points from those in APA 3.15 and take precedence over them.)

a.  Treat the names or designations of individual parts of a book as proper nouns: “In the Introduction the author raises issues that she does not address in detail until Part 2, Chapters 23 and 24.” Other examples:
   Chapter 1   Part 2   Figure 3   Table 1   the Introduction     the Preface    Appendix A    Chapters 4–6

   Exception: The word page is treated as a common noun, even if followed by a numeral.

b.  Terms like chapter, section, figure, table, and part (i.e., those parts of which there are commonly several in one book) are considered common nouns if they appear without a number or if they are introduced by a limiting or identifying modifier. “Most introductions do not raise issues that are not developed in subsequent chapters.” Examples:

   some parts   a table   poorly drawn figures   an appendix   the first few chapters

c.  Terms like introduction, foreword, preface, and bibliography (i.e., those parts of which there is commonly only one in a book) function as proper nouns when referring to parts of a particular book under discussion (“I loved the author’s Introduction, but the Foreword, contributed by her dissertation advisor, left me cold”). When these terms are used more generally, to refer to multiple books, to a hypothetical book, or to books in general, they normally function as common nouns (“Elaine Pagels’s introductions are usually less formal in style and tone than her inner chapters, but her Introduction to The Gnostic Gospels is a marvelous example of classical rhetoric”).

For additional detail see individual entries for chapter, foreword, introduction, page, part numbers, and preface.

book review
bookstore, online bookstore
book talks, a book talk

both. . . and . . .
As a correlative conjunction, this word pair joins elements of equal grammatical weight: a word to a word, phrase to a phrase, and so on (see correlative conjunctions).

  • incorrect: A phonics package should provide both practice with letter-sound relationships and give children opportunities to read and write for authentic purposes.
  • correct: A phonics package should provide children both practice with letter-sound relationships and opportunities to read and write for authentic purposes.

Braille (cap.)
breakout (use closed form as noun or adjective: breakout session)

British spellings
IRA style prefers American spelling ("honor," "color," "toward") over British ("honour," "colour," "towards"). (At the editor's discretion, exceptions may made for British or Commonwealth authors of books, essays, or articles who use British spellings consistently throughout the work. Such exceptions should be clearly indicated on a style sheet.)

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