Olympic style

Writing about the Olympics? Here's your style guide.
By Megan Kaplon, editorial assistant | Published: February 10, 2014


Olympics-image-croppedThe Olympics brings with it a host of new terms and titles that many journalists don’t use regularly, and writers who don’t normally cover sports are writing athlete profiles and compiling scores. There’s sure to be a lot of flipping through the AP Stylebook and mad Googling to decide whether to hyphenate, capitalize or pluralize.

Covering the Olympics or sports in general for the first time? Make sure to give this list of style tips a read before you turn in your first article.

  •  Let’s get the big guy out of the way first. Olympics should always be capitalized, as should Olympic Games, Winter Olympics, Winter Games, Sochi 2014 and the Sochi Games, but just the games remains lowercase. Reference the games only on a second reference.
  • Mentioning an athlete or team’s coach? It’s a lowercase coach as a job description, but capitalized as a formal title. For example, Coach Katey Stone of the U.S. Women’ Hockey Team, but Katey Stone, the coach of the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team.
  • Speaking of team, and also committee, family, group and other collective nouns: Keep in mind that they always take singular verbs and pronouns. The Jamaican bobsled team had its luggage lost on the way to Russia, not “their luggage.”
  • If you get stuck covering hockey, know that the sport’s vocab is a hyphenation and spelling nightmare. Two players get ready to face off (verb), but the faceoff (noun) starts the game. A power play is hyphen free, but a power-play goal requires that extra character. Just when you thought you were all set after figuring out the difference between workout and work out…
  • While we’re thinking about hyphenation, the Russians have home-field advantage (which so far has helped them earn one gold, two silver and two bronze medals), but they’ll be playing on their home field.
  • If someone breaks a record, whether due to home-field advantage or a few well-played power plays, don’t use the phrase new record as it is redundant.
  • When referencing the security concerns make sure to capitalize Department of Homeland Security.

For sport titles:

  • Cross-country skiing is always hyphenated according to AP Style and the International Federation of Skiing. However, there seems to be some discrepancy as the official Olympics.org website chooses not to hyphenate.
  • Short track speed skating gets no hyphen. Seems contradictory to the style of cross-country skiing, but as we know it isn’t the first time exceptions to a rule have popped up.
  • Nordic combined gets a capital “N” for Nordic. It’s like French toast, but not french fries.
  • Freestyle skiing is freestyle, one word, no hyphens.
  • Slopestyle is one word.

Now that you’re officially a sports writer, make sure to refer to yourself correctly using two words, contrary to Merriam-Webster’s preference for the one-word spelling.