IRA Style Guide

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D - E - F


Dale–Chall readability formula

dashes (See CMS pp. 185–188; or NYPL pp. 263–267)
1. Use an en dash (–) between words, or, more often, numbers to mean “to.”
Thus, January–June, 1997; May 4–9, 1997. (Do not use hyphen or em dash here.)
On a Mac, type option-hyphen to get an en dash. On a PC, type alt + 0150 on the numeric keypad.

a. Use an en-dash between words of equal weight in a compound adjective: adult–child interactions, teacher–student ratio, Gates–MacGinitie Reading Test.

b. An en-dash is also used in place of a hyphen to join a prefix to an open or hyphenated compound. Thus, to join the prefix pre- to the compound Civil War, one would use an en dash: “pre–Civil War.” Also, “non–English-speaking,” “non–Roman Catholic,” “post–Cold War era.” (Note addition of hyphen in “non–English-speaking.”)

c. In nonscientific running text, if words like between or from precede the words or numerals, use to, and, or similar words instead of an en dash (which might mean any of these). Examples: “Basals were used from September through June” (not from September–June). “Franklin D. Roosevelt served as president from March 1933 to April 1945” (not March 1933–April 1945). Also correct: “FDR served as president between March 1933 and April 1945.”

2. Use an em dash (—) or a pair of hyphens (--) to emphasize material set apart from the normal flow of the sentence. Thus, “Our visitor—an old friend, really—was Mrs. Rodriguez.” or “The class had a special visitor—Mrs. Rodriguez!” In dialogue, an em dash can also be used to indicate a pause. Thus, “Well,” said the stranger, “if you insist—” On a Mac, type option-shift-hyphen to get an em dash. On a PC, type alt + 0151 on numeric keypad. On a typewriter, and in certain online publications, an em dash is represented by 2 hyphens (--).

3. Standard use calls for no extra space before or after an em or en dash, though in some contexts—book covers, advertisements, and promotional material, for example—such space is sometimes added for graphic effect.

Use data are (not is). The word data is a plural noun.


1. Use commas (fore and aft) to separate the year in a complete date: “Tuesday, July 4, 1876, was an exciting day.”

2. Do not use commas if only month and year are given: “July 1996 was marked by cool weather.”

day care (noun)
day-care (adj. preceding noun)

DEAR = Drop Everything And Read

Decades expressed in numeral form do not take apostrophes: In the 1940s, a woman in her mid-30s began to study the fashions of the mid-1920s.

decision makers (This is a two-word phrase, per WNWD.)

decision-making / decision making
1. Hyphenate this compound when using it as an adjective preceding the noun it modifies. [Note: CMS 6.1 specifies that a compound adjective formed by a noun + participle is usually hyphenated.] Thus, “The decision-making process was a tedious affair.”

2. The noun form takes no hyphen [CMS 6.1: noun + gerund]. Thus, “Decision making can be a long, painful process for people who demand perfection of themselves.”


a delegate, the delegates
the (IRA) Delegates Assembly

department / Department
Capitalize as part of the formal name of a group: e.g., the Department of Chemistry. Otherwise, lowercase: e.g., a chemistry department.

dial-up (adj.)

differ from / differ with
When to differ means “to be unlike,” the standard usage is differ from. (How does a nine-iron differ from a pitching wedge?) When to differ means “to disagree,” use differ with. (Woods differed with his caddie about which club to use.)

different from / different than / different to
Different from is considered standard usage in both British and American English. Different than sometimes raises objection but is acceptable, especially when followed by a clause. Different to is almost entirely a British usage and should be avoided in most Association publications. (M-WDEU)

directionals (postal format)
1. Abbreviate directional words that appear before and after street names:
      N Bay St             E End Ave       Bay Blvd SW

      Exception: Spell out where necessary to avoid ambiguity:
            1234 S Street Rd (not S St Rd)       1234 S State Rd (not S St Rd)

      Exception: In combinations of North-South or East-West, the second word should be spelled out:
            501 N South St       6124 W East End Ave

2. Spell out directionals that are part of city names:
      West Stockbridge, MA (not W Stockbridge)       East St Louis, IL (not E St Louis)

Added 7-17-03:

directional terms
The basic rule is simple: When used to designate directions, words like west and western, north, south, eastern, etc., are lowercased. When used as part of the formal name of a place, the words are capitalized. Difficulty arises, however, when the terms are used to name regions. Use of the capitalized form in these cases presumes that the reader will understand which region is being referred to, and accelerating cultural changes make confusion increasingly possible. (If we say that Ronald Reagan was a firm believer in Western values, are we referring to the western U.S., to so-called "Western civilization," or something else?) IRA authors and editors should be wary of using the capitalized forms unless their meaning in context is very clear to the reader.

director / Director
1. Capitalize as part of formal title, especially preceding a person’s name: Director of Research and Policy Cathy Roller.

2. Lowercase as a common noun or job description: the director of a project, division directors; Cathy Roller is IRA’s director of research and policy.

disabilities (APA 2.16)
Avoid terms and expressions that may be used to stereotype or dehumanize people with disabilities. IRA writers and editors should be sensitive to these concerns.

1. Do not equate people with their disabilities. For example, instead of referring to classes of people as “the disabled,” “the physically handicapped,” or “the learning disabled,” refer to “a person with a physical handicap” or “students with learning disabilities” (see also learning disability).

2. Recognize that most “disabilities” are relative, rather than absolute. Instead of “the blind,” “the deaf,” or “the illiterate,” use phrases such as “a visually impaired student,” “children who are hard of hearing,” “adults with limited literacy,” and the like (see also illiterate).


distances and dimensions
1. To abbreviate inches and feet, use primes rather than curly quotes: 5' 11" (or mark for typesetters).

2. Use numeral with spelled-out units: 5 miles to town; a 25-mile hike; a 6-inch nail.

Ditto (This is a proper name and must be capitalized.)

division / Division
1. Capitalize as part of formal name: the Publications Division, the Division of Research and Policy.

2. Otherwise and thereafter, lowercase: this division, that division, the divisions, division directors.

DL-TA (also DLTA) = Directed Listening–Thinking Activity
a doctorate in chemistry
do’s and don’ts

Added 7-17-03:

double punctuation
Except for quotation marks and parentheses, which are often used with other punctuation marks, avoid doubling punctuation marks: ?, ?. !, !. incorrect: Reporters are taught to ask five questions: who?, what?, when?, where?, and why?. correct: Reporters are taught to ask five questions: who, what, when, where, and why.

double spaces
In the days before typing was called “keyboarding,” we were all taught to use two spaces after a period, two spaces after a colon, and two spaces between the state and the zip code in an address. Now, in the world of word processing, the rules have changed.

When preparing camera-ready copy or an item that will be set in type, do not double space after a period, after a colon, or before a zip code. Use single spaces only. If you’re given a document to edit that contains double spaces, you must convert them all to single spaces.

When you are typing a document that will not be reproduced (e.g., a single letter, a memo, or an envelope), the decision whether to double space is up to you.

drop out (verb)
dropout (noun)
DR-TA = Directed Reading–Thinking Activity
DSRA = Diamond State Reading Association (Delaware)

due to / because of
According to NYPL, use of due to as a synonym of because of is nonstandard in all cases except immediately following a form of the verb to be. Thus, “New literacy programs in Belize are succeeding because of the efforts of volunteers.” But, “The success of the projects is due to the efforts of volunteers.”

due to the fact that
Wordy. Use because.


each other / one another
“Although strict grammarians have always preferred one another to be reserved for ‘three or more’ and each other for ‘only two,’ these terms are used interchangeably by many careful writers who do not observe that distinction” (NYPL). M-WDEU calls the distinction between these phrases false, arising from etymology rather than usage, and cites Samuel Johnson and Noah Webster as authorities for ignoring the distinction. “There is no sin in its violation. It is, however, easy and painless to observe it, if you so wish” (M-WDEU).
*Note that possessive forms are each other’s and one another’s (never s’ ).

earth / Earth
Earth with a capital E is the formal name of our planet. Reserve it for contexts in which other planets are or could be named -- a discussion of astronomy, geology, or mythology, for example. In all other contexts, lowercase the e.

east / East, eastern / Eastern (see directional terms)


1. Capitalize as part of a formal title, especially when preceding a person’s name: Senior Editor Matt Freeman.

2. Lowercase as a common noun or job description: Matt Freeman is senior editor of IRA’s newspaper, Reading Today; an editor, the editors, the editors of Thinking Classroom.

education / educational
When choosing between these two adjective forms, use educational to refer to something that teaches; thus, an educational book, an educational experience, or educational methods. (Note that an educational course or book is one that people can learn from — on any topic.) Education is a more general term meaning “about teaching and learning”; thus, an education bill, education issues, education courses. (An education course or book is about education.)

e.g., / i.e.,
1. e.g., is short for the Latin exempli gratia, meaning “for example.” Do not confuse it with i.e., an abbreviation of the Latin id est, meaning “that is.”

2. Note that e.g., is not italicized, takes two periods, and is always followed by a comma. Note also that e.g., is a conjunctive adverb and should be punctuated accordingly. (See conjunctive adverbs.)

3. According to APA 3.24, these and similar Latin abbreviations (e.g., cf.) should be used only in parenthetical material. In normal text, use the English translations for example, that is, and so forth.

1. Either is usually used of two but may be used of more than two (M-WDEU). Thus, “The word group may be either a phrase or a clause.” “The word group may be either a phrase, a dependent clause, or an independent clause.”

2. When used as a subject, either should take a singular verb. Thus, “You face a choice between Scylla and Charybdis: either of the passages entails risk.” “Either of the two has what it takes to be President.”

either... or...
The word pair either . . . or . . . is a correlative conjunction and is used to join two words or word groups of equal grammatical weight: a word to a word, a clause to a clause, and so on. (See correlative conjunctions.)

elementary school (not hyphenated, even as adjective); thus, elementary school curriculum

elicit / illicit
1. Elicit is a verb meaning “to call forth, to bring out, or to evoke.” Thus, a defense attorney tries to elicit sympathy for her client by describing his troubled childhood.

2. Illicit is an adjective meaning improper or illegal. The defense attorney hoped to downplay her client’s history of illicit activities.

ELL = English-language learner or English-language learning. (See below.)

ellipsis points
1. Use ellipsis points (3 dots) to indicate material deleted from a direct quotation. To show that material between sentences has been deleted, add a fourth dot. To show that an entire sentence (or more) has been deleted, add a fourth dot. (See APA 3.38, 4.13; NYPL pp. 308–309.)

2. Do not use ellipsis points at the beginning of quoted material.

3. Although APA 4.13 and most other authorities call for a space between ellipsis points, most IRA publications currently use no spaces between ellipsis points.

e-mail as a verb?
A phrase like "e-mail me," short for "send me an e-mail" is acceptable in informal writing, but less so in formal writing. IRA editors and writers should avoid it.

e-mail / E-mail
Use E-mail (with hyphen and cap E) in list or column style only, i.e., when capitalized Phone and Fax would also be appropriate. In running text, use e-mail (with hyphen and lowercase e). Wherever possible, IRA writers and editors should avoid the closed form, email.

When the words e-mail, tel., or fax are included in an address or contact line, they should not be followed by a colon. Thus, 800 Barksdale Rd., Newark, DE 19714-8139; tel. 302-731-1600, ext. 292; fax 302-368-2449; e-mail (not tel.:, fax:, or e-mail:)

e-mail addresses
In many systems, e-mail addresses are now given entirely in lower case. However, because some systems may still be case sensitive, editors and writers should seek advice about the proper case(s) to use. If authoritative advice cannot be had, follow the addressee’s preference.

Note: Communication from America Online (7/17/97): “For email [sic] that is destined for an America Online account, convert all upper-case letters to lower-case.”

em dash
Like a pair of commas or a pair of parentheses, a pair of em dashes* can be used to set off an interrupting element in a sentence:

  • Stephen Crane—a man who never saw combat—is credited with writing one of the most powerful of all war stories, The Red Badge of Courage.
  • One of the most powerful of all war stories, The Red Badge of Courage, was written by a man (Stephen Crane) who never saw combat.
  • One of the most powerful of all war stories was written by a man who never saw combat—Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage.

* At the beginning or end of a sentence, a single em dash will be used to set off the interrupting element.

en dash

  • Most commonly, an en dash is used like the word "to", between numerals, dates, grades, pages, etc.: Grades K-8, May 13-17
  • Less often, an en dash is used to join words of equal weight in a compound: Mason-Dixon Line, Arab-Israeli conflict, north-south axis.
  • The en dash may also be used in a unit modifier of a compound noun: pre-Civil War era.

emerita / emeritus
In Latin, emeritus refers to a masculine noun and emerita to a feminine. In American English, emeritus is commonly used of either gender and is considered standard for both. (WNWD has no listing for emerita. RH lists emerita as a legitimate modifier but presents emeritus as standard for either gender.) Our standard term is emeritus, but we can make an exception in cases in which an author or editor refers to herself as emerita.

English as a Second Language / second language
Capitalized only as the formal name of a course or program (i.e., cases in which the acronym ESL would apply). The generic form is not capitalized. Compare “Jennie is a student in the school’s English as a Second Language program” and “Jennie is learning English as a second language.”

English language arts

Modified 3/19/2004:

English-language learner, English-language learning (ELL)
1. Except in reference to a formal program with that name, the phrases "English-language learning" and "English-language learner" should not routinely be capitalized. (The fact that the acronym "ELL" is capitalized does not mean that the phrase must be capped.)

2. The hyphen in the phrase "English-language learner" makes clear that someone is learning the English language, but leaves the nationality of the learner unspecified.The hyphen in "English language-learner" designates the learner's nationality, but does not specify what language or languages are being learned. No hyphen at all leaves both questions open. Because it is our normal practice to hyphenate a unit modifier before its noun, we ought to maintain that practice in this case. However, where real ambiguity is unlikely (e.g., in an article about people learning English), an IRA editor may waive the hyphen for an author or editor who insists upon it, provided the exception is clearly noted on a style sheet accompanying the manuscript.

ensure (see assure)
equals sign (=) has space before and after (2 + 2 = 4)
e-rate = proposed rate reduction for U.S. schools to access the Internet
ERIC = Educational Resources Information Center (at NIE, OERI, Washington, DC)
ESEA = Elementary and Secondary Education Act

ESL = English as a Second Language (name of program or course of study); but She is studying English as a second language.

ESOL=English for Speakers of Other Languages
essential (see absolute adjectives)

et al.
Et al. is an abbreviation of et alia, Latin for “and others” (thus, there must be a period after al., but there is no period after et). Et al. should not be italicized or underlined, nor should it ever be used to refer to a group of less than 3 (Smith et al. = Smith and others).

1. In body copy, if a work has 6 or more authors, cite the first author et al.
"if a work has 3, 4, or 5 authors, cite surnames for all on first citation of the work; cite first author et al., on all subsequent citations" (APA 3.95).

2. Do not use a comma between an author’s name and et al.

3. In reference list, "provide the initials and surnames of the first six authors and shorten any remaining authors to et al." (APA 3.95).

Etc. is an abbreviation of et cetera, Latin for “and so forth.” Note that it ends with a period and is preceded by a comma.

1. Because its meaning already includes “and,” the phrase “and etc.” is redundant.

2. According to APA 3.24, this abbreviation should not be used in formal text copy; instead, use the English “and so forth” or “and so on.” Reserve etc. for use in parenthetical material or informal text.

3. When it appears in the middle of a sentence, the term etc. should also be followed by a comma. Thus, "Seeing you take pleasure in reading books, newspapers, magazines, etc., can help your child develop positive feelings about reading."

Euphemism involves the substitution of a safer, more innocuous word or phrase for another that might offend, shock, or inflame the reader or hearer. Because a euphemism is almost always less precise than the original word or phrase, it tends to cloud the meaning of the sentence or passage in which it occurs. Examples of euphemism include using to pass away, instead of to die; ethnic cleansing, instead of genocide; to engage in corporate downsizing, or workforce reduction, instead of to eliminate someone’s job.

Even Start

every day / everyday
1. The two-word phrase every day is an adverb meaning “each day” or “daily.” Thus, “At Toyota, we make grammatical mistakes every day in our commercials.”

2. The single word everyday is an adjective meaning “common” or “ordinary.” Thus, “Most people would not consider the arrival of extraterrestrials on earth an everyday event.”

Evidence-Based Workshops
Formal title of a series of events.

ex officio (no hyphen, even as adj. preceding its noun; normally roman, not italic)
ex post facto

executive director/Executive Director
1. Capitalize as part of a formal title, especially when preceding a person’s name: IRA Executive Director Alan Farstrup.

2. Lowercase as a common noun or job description: Alan Farstrup is executive director of the International Reading Association. We spoke with the executive director of the association.

extension: correct abbreviation is “ext.” preceded by a comma: 302-731-1600, ext. 266


face-to-face (hyphenated as adj. preceding its noun; otherwise open, with no hyphens)

fairy tale
WNWD and RH list this as an open compound (two words). Authors and editors of IRA materials should use this form, rather than the closed fairytale.

FAQ = frequently asked question(s)
fast-forward (verb)

fax as a verb?
Use of fax as a verb ("Fax me the details by Friday") is acceptable in all but the most formal writing.

fax / Fax
Use the initial-capped Fax in column style only, i.e., when capitalized Phone and E-mail would also be appropriate. In running text, use fax. Do not use all capitals (FAX).

When the words e-mail, tel., or fax are included in an address or contact line, they should not be followed by a colon. Thus, 800 Barksdale Rd., Newark, DE 19714-8139; tel. 302-731-1600, ext. 292; fax 302-368-2449; e-mail (not tel.:, fax:, or e-mail:)

federal budget
federal government

feel bad / feel badly
Although some authorities disagree, most consider “to feel badly” a hypercorrect, nonstandard usage in such sentences as “I feel bad/badly about your accident.” Association authors and editors are advised to use “to feel bad” instead.

few / little
Use few to describe items that can be counted. Thus, “Few books appeared on the shelves.”
Use little to describe a mass or quantity that cannot be counted. Thus “The classroom contained little reading material.”

fewer / less
Use fewer to describe items that can be counted. Thus, “Fewer children were enrolled in the program, so fewer books were needed.”
Use less to describe a mass or quantity that cannot be counted. Thus “The classroom contained less reading material than one would expect.”

field notes
field studies
Figure 1 (as title, with numeral)
a figure, the figure on page 4 (generic)
the Figure (if only one figure appears in book, chapter, article, etc., references to it are capped)
first, second, third . . . , (not firstly, secondly . . .)

first-grade / first grade
1. As an adjective preceding the noun it modifies, first-grade is hyphenated. Thus “a first-grade student”; “a fifth-grade classroom”; “third- and fourth-grade mathematics.”

2. As a noun, first grade is not hyphenated. Thus, “She teaches first and second grade.”

first grader (noun)
As a noun equivalent of “a student in first grade,” first grader is not hyphenated: “Our sample incuded 28 second graders and 28 fourth graders.”

the First-Grade Studies
Flesch readability formula
flier (preferred over flyer)
folk art
folk dance
folk song

folk tale
WNWD lists this as an open compound. Authors and editors of IRA materials should use the open form, rather than the closed folktale.

follow up
[Note: up is not redundant but acts as a particle to give the verb phrase a special, idiomatic meaning, as “to continue toward completion.”]

follow-up (noun or adj.)

Capitalize foreword if the word is used as the name of a part of a specific book (e.g., “In her Foreword to the volume, Alvermann states . . . ”). Otherwise, lowercase (e.g., “Donna Alvermann would not contribute a foreword to a book whose methodology was suspect.”) See book parts or sections for further discussion.

formulas (not formulae)
a forum, the forum
forward (adverb)
FRA = Florida Reading Association
full time (noun or adverb): She works full time.
full-time (adjective preceding the noun): Teaching is a full-time occupation.

Use of fun as an adjective (e.g., “a fun activity”) is colloquial and should be avoided except in informal contexts.

fundraiser, fundraising
In February 2002 the Style Guide subcommittee voted to adopt the closed forms fundraiser and fundraising as standard. This change brings IRA style into conformity with the latest (2001) edition of WNWD.

FY2001, FY2002, etc.: fiscal years

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