Whether you’re a client or a regular visitor to our online media centre, chances are pretty good that you’ve come across some pretty funky spellings and oddities in our press releases – you can thank CP Style for that.
CP Style, The Canadian Press Style, was developed as a way to improve writing and spelling consistency and uniformity between staff at The Canadian Press, Canada’s national news agency. So why do we, as non-journalists, write in CP Style? The answer is to make the lives of our journalist friends just that much easier – if our press releases are already written in the correct language, it’s simple for editors to plop the copy into a publication or broadcast minutes before deadline. (And the same can be said for non-CP Stylers, too: it’s way too easy to be left on the cutting room floor!)
Below are a few brain-busting tips and tricks when it comes to writing in CP Style. Enjoy!
The weird: dates and times – When we write specific dates, the rule of CP thumb is to abbreviate long months (Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec.), but keep short months how they are (March, April, May, June and July). Now if you’re referring to just the month (with or without a year), this rule goes out the window and you spell the month out, regardless of length. In reference to times, we never use the :00 ending (so 11 instead of 11:00) and we also tack on an “a.m.” or a “p.m.” (in lowercase with no spaces). Here are some examples:
- Terry’s set to compete in a ski race on Dec. 8, 2012.
- Brian’s only allowed to wear his ski pants to work during the month of February.
- Deirdre always changes into her base layers at quitting time, about 5 p.m.
The weirder: proper titles – In CP Style, we capitalize titles only in rare circumstances – a rule that, by far, is the one we get the greatest amount of flack about. Former titles immediately preceding a name are capitalized (Prime Minister Stephen Harper), but lowercased when standing alone (the prime minister). And, as rule of thumb, job descriptions are always lowercased. Some examples:
- The prime minister was joansing for a jelly doughnut.
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper asked to stop at Tim Hortons on the way to the meeting.
- The assistant restaurant manager searched high and low for that perfectly plump jelly doughnut.
The weirdest: numbers – Just when you think you’ve mastered the CP language, I’m here to tell you about numbers. We use “per cent” instead of “percent” (or “%”) and whole dollar figures ($5 instead of $5.00). We also like to totally blow your mind and spell out numbers one through nine, but use numerical figures for numbers 10 and up. Some examples:
- That cat is on sale for $50 – what a steal!
- I think my new cat is only working at 10 per cent brain capacity.
- They say cats have nine lives, but I think mine is verging on 27.
Do you have a question or comment about CP Style? If so, shoot us an email or drop a line.
Brian Cant is Senior Communications Coordinator with the Tartan Group, a leading public relations and communications firm in the tourism and travel industry. Passionate about his craft, Brian loves to share his love for travel (and the opportunities it creates) with anyone who'll listen – including his cat, Jez. The Tartan Group specializes in integrated marketing communications for eco-lodges and sustainable business.