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Style Guide

BoatBeat follows the Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law (AP Stylebook) to guide grammar style, such as capitalization, abbreviation, spelling and usage. Exception, BoatBeat uses an Oxford comma. A comma is used after the final item in a list of three or more items, before ‘and’ or ‘or’ (e.g. a life jacket, EPIRB, and VHF radio are essential boating gear). Following are frequently used words or phrases for quick reference, including phrases specific to boating.


affect, effect 

Affect, as a verb, means to influence: The game will affect the standings. 

Effect, as a verb, means to cause: He will effect many changes in the company. 

Effect, as a noun, means result: The effect was overwhelming. 


afterward, backward, toward 

Not afterwards, backwards, towards.


a.m., p.m. or A.M., P.M. 

Please note the periods.



Pick one. Avoid the use of slashes whenever possible.


annual conference 

Only capitalize when full title of conference is used (e.g., 2017 Annual ABCD Conference or ABCD’s 50th Annual Conference).



Only capitalize when the full title (National Association of State Boating Law Administrators) is used.


Bimonthly, biweekly 

One word.



Only capitalize when full title is used.


boating law administrator 

Abbreviations: BLA (singular), BLAs (plural)





One word.


Capsize, or sunk, or swamped

Capsize means overturning of a vessel.

Sunk means losing enough buoyancy to settle below the surface of the water.

Swamped means a boat filling with water.


City, State 

The conference will take place in Lexington, Ky., next spring. (Note the placement of commas after both city and state.)


complimentary, complementary

Complimentary means something is done free of charge, courtesy or in praise, such as receive complimentary fruits and flowers, or a complimentary remark.

Complementary means to form a complement or addition, such as a suit with a complementary tie.



Use an em dash (two hyphens or ALT-0151) in place of commas when you want to give particular attention to a phrase that would otherwise be set off by commas. Generally, we do not put spaces before and after em dashes. En dashes (longer than a hyphen, shorter than an em dash (ctrl- on number pad) are generally used between a range of numbers. This includes time ranges (8:30 a.m.–10:30 a.m.)


  • Everyone involved in boating safety education—especially instructors—should attend this important breakout session.
  • Make no mistake—this is one workshop everyone should attend.
  • The conference will take place February 4–6.
  • The exhibit hall is open 8 a.m.–5 p.m.


dates within text 

(comma placement)


  • This year’s conference, to be held April 24–28, 2017, is a professional development opportunity you won’t want to miss.
  • June 2009 has been declared National Safety Month.
  • Our next meeting on Tuesday, August 1, 2017, will be held in D.C.


decision-maker, decision-making 

Use hyphen.


District of Columbia 

Abbreviate D.C.


drunk, drunken 

Drunk is the spelling of the adjective used after a form of the verb to be: He was drunk.

Drunken is the spelling of the adjective used before nouns: a drunken driver, drunken driving.

DUI, driving under the influence; DWI, driving while intoxicated; follow official state usage.


e- as a prefix for new terms in the tech and business worlds Use hyphenated e- for generic terms such as e-commerce and e-strategies. One exception:

email (no hyphen, which reflects majority of usage). For company names, use their preference: eBay.



No hyphen. Only capitalize when it begins a sentence or on forms where all equivalent items (i.e., Address, Fax, Telephone) are capitalized. Addresses are not case-sensitive.


ensure, insure, assure 

Use ensure to mean guarantee; use insure for references to insurance; use assure to promise.



(n. and adj.) Use two words (no hyphen) in verb form.




fundraising, fundraiser 

One word in all cases.



(adj.) Hyphenated.





kickoff (n. and adj.) kick off (v.)


life jacket 

Two words.


lie, lay

Lie means to recline; lay means to put or place. The confusion is the past tense of lie is lay; past tense for lay is laid or lain (past participle).


login, logon, logoff (n.) log in, log on, log off (v.)



One word.



One word as a modifier: There was onboard entertainment. But: he jumped on board the boat.



One word.



One word.



For numbers and multiple letters, add s. For example: She knows her ABCs. I polled the BLAs. The organization was established in the 1960s. 


policymaker, policymaking 

One word.


professional titles 

Only capitalize professional titles when they directly precede the person’s name, and the title and name are not separated by a comma. If the title comes after the name, do not capitalize. Examples:

  • National Association of State Boating Law Administrators Executive Director John Johnson
  • Rachel Johnson, executive director, National Safe Boating Council




road map

Two words.


sentence spacing 

Use a single space between sentences.


set up (v.) setup (n. and adj.)


Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund “Safety” is not part of the title


Sunk, or swamped, or capsize

Sunk means losing enough buoyancy to settle below the surface of the water.

Swamped means a boat filling with water.

Capsize means overturning of a vessel.


telephone numbers 

Use the form: 123-456-7896



that, which, who 

Use that to introduce essential clauses: The course that was referenced in the article was approved by NASBLA. 

Use which to introduce nonessential clauses: The four breakout sessions, which were held on Tuesday, were popular among conference attendees. 

Use “who” when referring to persons: Joan is the one who set up the meeting space and accommodations. 



One word in all uses.


United States Power Squadrons 



Can be case-sensitive.


U.S. Coast Guard 

Capitalize when referring to this branch of the U.S. armed forces, a part of the Department of Homeland Security: the U.S. Coast Guard, the Coast Guard, Coast Guard policy. Coast Guard should be used on second reference. Do not use the abbreviation USCG, except in quotes.

Use lowercase for similar forces of other nations.

This approach has been adopted for consistency, because many foreign nations do not use coast guard as the proper name.


U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary 


user friendly 

Avoid if possible because most often something is not truly user friendly.

For example: The system is easy to use, not the system is user friendly. 

Exception, when used as an adjective. It has a user-friendly design.



One word.


water-ski (verb) water ski (noun)


water sports 



One word.



Hyphenate as a compound modifier. Examples: well-being, well-known, well-connected. She is well-informed. It’s good for his well-being. They’re a well-connected company.


More Information

Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law