IRA Style Guide

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J - K - L


JAAL = Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy

jargon (APA 2.07)
1. Jargon is the technical language of a specialized field of activity that may be awkward or inappropriate—or may obscure meaning—when used outside that field. Phrases such as collateral damage and friendly fire have precise meanings in the military, but when used in another field (business, for example) their meaning would be metaphorical, less precise, and sometimes euphemistic.

2. The term jargon may also be applied to the use of inflated, technical-sounding language in place of a simpler, more precise term. Examples: utilize, instead of use; on a daily basis, instead of daily.

3. Products of the trendy “noun-as-verb” phenomenon often can be classed as jargon in the second sense. Try to avoid the pretentiousness of the following examples: to conference, to dialogue, to interface, to privilege, to transition. Or the recent horror heard on the CBS series CSI in May 2007, to taxidermy.

Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy (JAAL)
Journal of Reading (JR)

journal titles

journals, issue numbers in reference lists (change effective 1-17-2008)
Effective immediately, IRA publications will include issue numbers in reference list entries for all journal articles, regardless of sequential pagination practice of the journals in question. This is contrary to APA style, but the change is being made to provide additional information to scholars using our reference lists and to match the practices of databases and software tools.

Jr., Sr., and numerical suffixes (addition effective 1-29-2008)
Apparent inconsistencies in the punctuation of Jr., Sr., and numerical suffixes have led the IRA style committee to establish the following rules:

a. In text matter, do not place a comma between a person’s surname and a generational suffix (Jr., Sr., III, IV, etc.). Thus,
   Charles J. Smith Jr. quoted an essay by James B. Jones III to prove his point.

b. In reference lists, place a comma between a person’s surname and a generational suffix (Jr., Sr., III, IV, etc.). Thus,
   Jones, J.S., III. (2007). Esoteric punctuation in children’s literature. The Reading Teacher, 60(7), 649–655.
  Smith, C.J., Jr. (2007). Do you really need to use that comma? Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 51(4), 348–352.

judgment (no “e” after the “g”)


K = kindergarten (note capitalization)

Some Kazak people object to the inclusion of the h in their country's name, claiming it is a relic of Soviet attempts to Russify the now-independent republics. Yet Kazakhstan is still the generally accepted spelling in western publications. When an author or context demands that the h be dropped, IRA writers and editors are advised to comply (making note of the fact on a style sheet). In other cases, however, they should use the more common kh spelling of the word.

Kids InSight (IRA book program. Note capitalization and spacing.)

The decision to use the lowercase spelling is a departure from previous IRA style and an outgrowth of the decision to lowercase grade numbers. Note that the abbreviation is still a capital K.

kindergartner (preferred over kindergartener)

As is the case with Kazakhstan/Kazakstan, the debate over the proper spelling of Kosovo/Kosova is divided along ethnic and political lines. As a province of Serbia, this region has long been called Kosovo; however, Kosovars of Albanian descent--who constitute a majority of the population--prefer Kosova. Because the o ending is still considered standard by most western publications, IRA authors and editors should use Kosovo unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise. If the author or political context of a particular book, article, or other work demands the a spelling, it is permissible, but the exception should be noted clearly on the style sheet.

KRA = Kansas Reading Association
KSRA = Keystone State (Pennsylvania) Reading Association

(What I know, what I want to learn; what I have learned) Strategy for increasing comprehension of expository text. The term should be credited to Donna Ogle.


the letter l / and the numeral 1
Do not use a lowercase letter “L” in place of the numeral “1”. Although in some type faces these characters are almost indistinguishable, small differences in spacing or alignment could disrupt the reader’s concentration. Note the difference: l997 / 1997

LAN = local area network
language arts (do not hyphenate, even as adjective); thus, a language arts curriculum

"-language" compounds

1. Adjective phrases ending in "language" typically follow the unit modifier rule: hyphenate if they precede the noun they modify; otherwise, leave them open. Thus, second-language instruction; English is her second language.

2. Be aware that hyphens may have to be used to clarify the relationship of words: He is an English-language learner (i.e., he is learning the English language); but She is an American language-learner spending a semester in France (i.e., she is an American student of languages).

Language Experience Approach (LEA)
language-experience (hypenate compound adj. before its noun; lowercase as generic descriptor).

Latino/Latina (see note at Hispanic)

lay / lie

Few words in English cause more confusion than these two related but distinct verbs.
The difference between them relates to their grammatical function within a sentence:

1. The verb to lay is transitive; that is, it requires a direct object. Its meaning is similar to that of the verb to place:

  • present tense: Under normal circumstances, one should not lay one’s clothing in the mud.
  • past tense: Sir Walter Raleigh laid his cloak in the mud for the queen to walk upon, and he received a knighthood.
  • past participle: I have laid my jacket in the mud many times, but I’ve never received so much as a thank-you.
  • present participle: Laying one’s clothing in the mud is no longer considered an act of chivalry.
    These days, laying one’s clothes in the mud is thought an act of lunacy.

2. The verb to lie is intransitive; that is, it is used without a direct object. Its meaning is similar to that of the verb to recline:

  • present tense: At sea, Raleigh would lie in his hammock and look at the stars.
  • past tense: In later years, he lay in a prison cell, awaiting the queen’s pardon.
  • past participle: “I have lain in this cell for 20 years,” he complained.
  • pres participle: “But I’d rather be lying in my grave than apologize.”

3. Rule of thumb:
If the verb will have a direct object (i.e., something that will be laid), choose a form of to lay.
If the verb will not have a direct object (i.e., nothing that will be laid), choose a form of to lie.

LEA = Language Experience Approach
LEAs = local education agencies (compare SEAs, state education agencies)
leadership academy

learning disability
The term learning disability is controversial. Many in the literacy field believe that many students are incorrectly labeled as learning disabled because of reading problems that could be corrected with remedial teaching. The learning disabled label carries a stigma because learning disability is sometimes attributed to some sort of neurological problem. In general, it may be safer to say that a person or group is having difficulty learning to read or mastering specific skills than to call them learning disabled. Never say a person is learning disabled simply because he or she has trouble reading.

Lectura y Vida (LyV)
LEP = Limited English Proficient

less / fewer
Use less for amounts that cannot be counted: Jane reads less than Sophia.
Use fewer for amounts that can be counted: Jane reads fewer books than Sophia.

In keeping with the general rule that compound adjectives are hyphenated before the nouns they modify, the Style Guide subcommittee has elected to hyphenate compound modifiers ending with level. Thus, “upper-level course” is preferred over “upper level course.”


like / as
1. Like other prepositions, like introduces a prepositional phrase, which always includes an object and almost never includes a verb. As other subordinating conjunctions do, as introduces a subordinate clause, which always includes a verb. Thus, in deciding whether to use like or as, base your decision on the presence or absence of a verb in the word group that follows:

  • An hour spent reading a good book is (like) an hour in paradise. (prepositional phrase)
  • She teaches passionately, (as) all great teachers must. (subordinate clause)

2. As a preposition, like requires an object, which must be in the objective case. Thus:

  • incorrect: No one loves to read like my daughter and I.
  • correct: No one loves to read like my daughter and me.

limited English proficiency (LEP)
limited English proficient (LEP)

line breaks (see word division)


list styles (see series and lists)

Literal refers to the use of words in their ordinary sense, as opposed to their metaphorical or symbolic sense. The current fashion of using literally as an emphatic element frequently results in absurd statements (“The film was so funny that I literally died laughing.” “I’m so hungry that I could literally eat a horse”). Rule of thumb: Never use literally as a synonym for really, truly, virtually, almost, nearly, or similar terms.

(An adjective phrase formed by a noun + participle is hyphenated before the noun it modifies, otherwise not.)

little / few (see few / little)

log in, log on, and related terms
As verbs, log in and log on are open two-word phrases (a space between the words and no hyphens). As nouns or adjectives the phrases are closed: login and logon. Thus, "After you log in to the system a dialogue box appears that asks you for your logon name (username) and password."

long-range (adj. preceding noun)
longstanding (adj.) This usage is advocated by RH; note that WNWD prefers the hyphenated form.
long-term (adj. preceding noun)
longtime (adj.) RH allows hyphenated form, but the closed form is preferred by RH and WNWD.
lowercase (adj., noun, or verb)
LSAT = Law School Admission Test
LVA = Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc.

-ly endings
(APA 3.11, Table 2; CMS 6.1)
An adverb ending in -ly followed by a participle or adjective forms an open (not hyphenated) compound. Thus, “highly motivated,” not “highly-motivated”; “a recently discovered element,” not “recently-discovered.”

LyV = Lectura y Vida

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