Spelling, Homophones and Quotes

February 14, 2017


First up, make sure you are using Australian English spelling, not American English - and make sure your spellchecker is as well. 

That means: 

Colours NOT Colors 

Honour NOT Honor 

Apologise NOT Apologize 

Particularly pay attention to the difference between Practice and Practise. In Aus English, practice is a noun and practise is a verb. In US English it’s the opposite. 

Example: A losing team needs to practise more. (verb) 

The captain spoke to media after practice. (noun) 


Homophones are words with different spellings and meanings that sound the same. 

The most obvious (and obvious when you’ve messed up) are: There, their, and they’re. 

Other common homophones that get mixed up are: 

Your - You’re 

Bare - Bear (and the phrase is ‘bear with me’ - it’s not about group nudity!) 

Compliment - Complement 

Principal - Principle 

Patience - Patients 

Stationary - Stationery 

Site - Sight - Cite 

Whether - Weather 

There's an entire list of them here. 

Along with homophones comes a list of not-quite-homophones which sound similar enough to trip people up. The most common pair you’ll see done wrong are Affect and Effect. 

In most situations these two are sorted out thus: 

Affect is a verb - it’s an action done to an object. The grass on the pitch affects the performance of spin bowlers. 

Effect is a noun - it names what happens. The effect of a green pitch is spinners are less useful. 

PRO TIP: While those two are the most common definitions, effect can also be used as a verb meaning ‘to cause’: A number of team changes were effected due to injury.

And just for completeness, affect can also be a noun describing facial expression. You will never have to worry about this definition. 

Other almost homophones that get mixed up: 

Breath and Breathe: 

Breath is a noun: He was out of breath after scoring. 

Breathe is a verb: So he had to breathe deeply. 

Then and Than - These two words are not in any way similar. 

Then is an adverb, as it describes the order verbs happen: Messi took a shot, then scored off the rebound. 

Than is a conjunction, which relates one part of a sentence to another, usually as a comparison: Messi is a better striker than Rooney. 

Could have and Could of - These two are easy: 

Never use could of, as it’s always wrong; along with should of and would of. Could have is contracted to could’ve, should have to should’ve, and would have to would’ve. 

PRO TIP: Your spell checker won’t usually pick up if you have misused a homophone, so you need to go through your work before you post it. Even better, get someone else to go through it. 


The meat of any news or analytical article. But there’re a number of things to remember when using quotes in your article. (All quotes used in this section have been made up for illustrative purposes.) 


Start a new paragraph, and tell us who is speaking - the name of the person, and their position. 

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen - note that coach isn’t capitalised, nor are words like manager, captain, operations executive, or player. There’s also no comma between the position and the name. 

In the first paragraph, it’s normal practice to use a paraphrased quote, before starting a new paragraph for a direct quote. 

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said the team was looking forward to the upcoming Samoa test. 

“The boys are really keen to bring a test match to Apia,” he said. 

It’s important that when you paraphrase something that someone said, although you don’t have to use the exact words the person did, you make sure the meaning is the same. Also, even if the speaker directly used the present tense, it should be paraphrased in the past tense. 

Once you open your quote marks, the words must be the ones the person used - with two exceptions. 

1. If the speaker diverges from the main point, you can cut the divergence, so long as you show you have made the cut, and the quote retains the meaning of what the person said 

e.g. “I’m really disappointed by the behaviour shown on Saturday, it’s personally a real letdown for me and it reflects badly on the whole sport.” 

Could easily become: “I’m really disappointed by the behaviour shown on Saturday ... It reflects badly on the whole sport.” 

The meaning of the comment stays the same. You can use an ellipsis to show the missing section, or rewrite it into two separate quotes. 

“I’m really disappointed by the behaviour shown on Saturday,” he said. 

“It reflects badly on the whole sport.” 

You don’t need another attribution if the quote follows straight on, but note the break between the two lines of speech. 

The other time it’s acceptable to not transcribe a quote directly is when the speaker has particularly poor English skills - usually because it’s not their native language. 

So if a native Spanish speaker said this in an interview: “Yes, is a very big challenge, is very difficult from here to win.” 

Rewriting the quote as: “Yes, it’s a big challenge, it will be very difficult to win from here.” would be appropriate. 

NOTE: Whether you reword a quote or not, NEVER add an accent to a quote. 

Quotes need attribution 

Did you conduct the interview? Probably not (and if you did, you need to say when and where.) So you need to indicate where the quote came from. 

This can be in the initial paraphrased paragraph e.g: All Blacks coach Steve Hansen told Tony Veitch on Radio Sport that the team was looking forward to the upcoming Samoa test. 

Or in the tag after a direct quote e.g: “I’m really disappointed by the behaviour shown on Saturday,” he said to the Sydney Morning Herald. 

The exception to this is if the quotes are in a media release. Then, while a release is sometimes credited, the credit can be left out - however it can’t be treated as though it was said directly or exclusively to you. Often journalists will include the fact the statement is from a media release as a way of saying the team or organisation wouldn’t front up for an actual interview. 

Citing and attribution 

Carrying on from that; when you have information, you need to cite your sources. 

Written material: If you use material directly from another source, that source must be named clearly in the text and unless it’s not online, you also need to provide a hyperlink to where the material came from. 

A link at the bottom of the article isn’t enough. If someone else has done the work you need their name and who they wrote for.
e.g: As reported by Robert Johnson for The Daily Telegraph: 

Statistics: If you use stats beyond the ones you can find on Wikipedia, you need to credit who worked them out, and link to the source. This may be one particular person, or it may be an analytics firm, but they have proprietary rights to them. Citing the source also enhances the credibility of those statistics. 

Allegations and rumours: Cite, cite, cite. Where something is contentious, or rumoured, or spread about through social media, you NEED to show where you found out. And you must show your source is reliable - a tweet is not a reliable source, nor is a fansite. Don’t say something is definite until you have an official source confirming it - this can be second hand (i.e. reported to another reliable source.) 

Personal experience: When your source of information is your own experience, detail this experience. If it’s an event - describe the event. If you’re positioning yourself as an authority, say what makes you an authority. Be careful though - being a long-time fan with a writing platform doesn’t make you more of an authority than any other long-time fan. 

There’s a saying that everyone is entitled to their opinion, and while it’s true, some people are more entitled than others. You’ll have more authority on - for example - the laws of cricket, if you’ve taken an umpiring course, than if you’ve merely watched a lot of cricket matches. 

Names and pronouns 

For people:
Normal writing convention is the first time a person is mentioned, use their first and last name. Then if they are mentioned again use only their surname, with no title. When you’re writing a less serious piece, it’s acceptable to use a well-known nickname or the person’s first name. 


In a headline, most of the time just use the player’s surname. Nicknames and (less commonly) just first names are okay sometimes, mainly due to space considerations. 

Second-person pronouns:
Pronouns in most sports stories are easy - use he or she. If you’re writing about someone whose gender isn’t known, or the gender of the person is irrelevant, singular ‘they’ is fine. 

PRO TIP: If you are writing about a transgender athlete, such as former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner, or MMA fighter Fallon Fox - always use the person’s chosen name and pronouns. Those are their “real” name and pronouns. Both Fox and Jenner would be referred to as she.

For Teams:
Like people, teams are usually referred to in full the first time, and then by any nicknames they might have. When using a shortened nickname, there’s no need to use an apostrophe unless the nickname is particularly uncommon.
E.g: The Hurricanes are fine as the Canes, Magpies as Pies, and Bulldogs as Dogs. Note the nickname still takes a capital letter. 

Team pronouns:
Here’s where it gets tricky. In general, a team is a singular collective noun, and thus takes the singular pronoun ‘it’, and following from there, the singular verb. 

Here’s an easy example - the Australian cricket team is referred to as Australia. So the pronoun and verb are singular: “Australia has the upper hand, as it isn’t carrying any injured players.” 

However, most team names are plurals, which means the name takes the plural pronoun ‘they’ and of course, the plural verb. And just to make it really confusing, many teams have two-part names, made up of a collective noun and a singular noun. 

...Let’s have an example: The State of Origin league team from New South Wales is commonly known as both NSW and the Blues. Blues - Plural noun NSW - Singular collective noun So a sentence describing the team as fired up uses a different pronoun and verb depending on which name is used. 

The Blues are fired up as they go into this week’s match. 

Opposed to 

NSW is fired up as it goes into this week’s match. 

Clear as mud? The thing to remember is a team is a singular entity, so it takes a singular pronoun and verb, unless the team name is a plural. 

PRO TIP: When referring to one member of a plurally named team, remember to keep the plural.
e.g: Bulldogs halfback NOT Bulldog halfback. 

The only common exception to this is the All Blacks, who are often described without the s. Both forms are correct.
e.g: All Blacks halfback OR All Black halfback.

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