NACLA Style Guide

Tone: In order to capture “hearts and minds” and build a strong base of readers genuinely interested in critical progressive perspectives, we aim for the following:

  • To offer sturdy, persuasive analysis; we don’t “yell.”
  • To avoid unwarranted, ad hominem attacks.
  • To illuminate the “system”: the broader set of dynamics that create suffering (poverty, inequality, criminal violence, prejudice, and their many overlaps) in Latin American and the Latinx United States.
  • To avoid clichéd writing. For example, we avoid explaining the history of the word “backyard” in U.S. foreign policy, unless using it ironically, deliberately, or critically.
  • We avoid idealization, unless using it ironically, deliberately, or critically. For example, we wouldn’t believe that the movements, activists, or governments we generally support have no flaws, or don’t perpetuate forms of violence within the ranks.

Political specificity:

  • NACLA houses a variety of progressive opinions. We avoid party lines and sectarian battles, and instead encourage debate among writers.
  • U.S. hegemony: Contention around the many ways to describe the origins and influence of U.S. hegemony in Latin America abounds. The writer must make a coherent argument backed up with evidence, but as long as it offers a fresh, progressive perspective, we look forward to publishing it.


NACLA is an interface between activism and journalism with the grounding of academic rigor. Please avoid:

  • The self-referential overstatement of the argument (e.g., “In this article I will talk about X, Y, Z…”) The storyline should speak for itself.
  • Extended discussions of the theoretical and methodological issues particular to your field. Focus instead on the matter at hand.
  • Much prolegomena. A single “nut graph” usually does the trick—move onto the storyline as quickly as possible. 
  • The telling rather than the showing. We don’t talk about the “courageous miners,” but we do paint a picture of their courage by describing displays of solidarity with one another amidst adversity, dangerous working conditions, union busting, and so on.
  • Passive voice
  • Repetition

If you are less familiar with non-academic or journalistic writing, you may find it helpful to refer to this news writing resource as a helpful guideline.

Grammar and Form:

We use the serial or “oxford” comma, which is the comma before the “and” in a string of words: “Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua currently have left-of-center governments.”

An m-dash can be used to separate clauses in a sentence when a comma seems too weak. It is the width of an m and takes up the entire space between two words: “Jefe Diego—that rascally right winger—may well have staged his own kidnapping.” (For most computers, type opt+shift+- to create the full m-dash. For Windows Word type [Ctrl]+[Alt]+- or type two short dashes followed by a letter.

We use single spaces between sentences.

Compound adjectives (ten-foot ruler) take a hyphen when their meaning can be confused without the hyphen, i.e. “fifty odd pages” could mean approximately 50 pages or 50 pages that are strange. The hyphen in fifty-odd makes the meaning clear. Never use the hyphen when the first word ends in “ly” i.e. “highly motivated speaker.”

We (like Chicago) use the “down style” of usage, meaning we capitalize as little as possible: President Fernández, but Cristina Fernández is the president of Argentina.

We don’t capitalize “state” when referring to the general apparatus that controls the public sector. “The state owns the oil until it leaves the subsoil.”

We use Communist (upper case) for a member or attribute of a formally named communist party. We use communist (lower case) for an attribute or adherent of a political philosophy.

The general terms “the left” and “the right:”

-When collective, capitalized (i.e “the Left”)

-When individual, not capitalized; also not capitalized when used to reference positionality (eg. he is on the left; she is ideologically to his political right).

The terms left-wing and right-wing are hyphenated.

When used in a geo-political manner, the North, the South, the West, and the East should be capitalized. Likewise, we capitalize Western civilization. Otherwise they are lower case: “Hugo Chávez was an eloquent spokesman for the South.” But “Silvia was determined to look for work in the north.”

Use an apostrophe after “s” for singular names that end in “s” (for eg. “Morales’ ; Honduras’) - It ends up looking odd on the printed page if you use ‘s (eg. Morales’s)

Avoid the use of parentheses whenever possible.

Time: Should be stated either in words or symbols, i.e. 10 AM or “ten in the morning.” AM/PM should be capitalized.

We don’t use the phrasing, “told NACLA,” to refer to quotes. Instead we use a more general “he/she/they said” or “according to…”

Avoid and eliminate passive voice when possible.

We always use accent marks as stated in the original language. This usage must be consistent throughout.

Numbers and Symbols:

We write out numbers one through nine. Numbers ten and above are written as numerals. So are single-digit numbers that carry decimals: 6.354.

The word “million” is written out and preceded by numerals: “The city is home to 4 million people.”

We never start a sentence with numerals.

We write out the word percent.

The symbol $ always refers to U.S. dollars unless explicitly stated otherwise. We don’t use US$ unless absolutely necessary to avoid confusion.


Italics should be used for all foreign words and phrases that have not been incorporated into the English language. This is frequently a judgment call: We do not italicize “campesino,” but we do italicize “compañero.”

Spanish words are italicized on first use only. For words in languages other than Spanish or English, we continue italicizing throughout.

We do not italicize party names in foreign languages.

For digital news sources, we do not italicize the title. For books and print sources, we do italicize.

Facts and References:

Every specific fact must be verified with a hyperlink on the web, and each specific fact must be fact-checked for the print edition. This is important to avoid making errors that lessen our credibility. Unless we want to draw attention to the source, it is not necessary to add “according to the New York Times,” when adding in a hyperlink. For print, when hyperlinks cannot be used, we do want to say “according to the New York Times,” so the reader can search for it and so the claim can be backed up.

Hyperlinks should not be longer than a single sentence.

A Note on Anonymity: We prefer to use full names of sources whenever possible. However, in some cases our sources will face repercussions if their identities are known. We need to be aware and sensitive in these cases and ensure full permission has been granted to publish names. In the cases identity is not given, we use pseudonyms and note we are doing so either in text or in an editor’s note. We also use the phrasing, “…who wished to remain anonymous.”

We also avoid using photographs of identifiable children unless we have received explicit permission.

Abbreviations and Terminology:

We use United States when referring to the country in noun form, but U.S. (with periods) when it’s an adjective: “He told me that half the population of his town in Puebla now lives in the United States.” “The U.S. military has a growing presence in Honduras.” Sometimes, when referring to state-level policies or actions, “Washington” can be substituted for United States.

Commonly used institutional initials don’t take periods and don’t need to be identified by their full name: CIA, FBI, AFL-CIO, USSR (yes, even still), etc. This can also be a judgment call.

We use the term African American, but Afro-Cuban, Afro-Peruvian, etc.

The term “LGBTQ” is widely recognized now and can be used without further identification, unless someone is talking about movement/group/law that only seems to identify the LGBT.

We capitalize the term Indigenous

We use Latinx, to refer to Latinos and Latinas and gender nonconforming persons.

For names of organizations or political parties, write out name followed by abbreviations in parentheses for the first mention of the organization. I.e. United States Agency for International Development (USAID), or Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH), with discretion.

If the name of the organization or political party is in Spanish or another foreign language, first put in foreign language, followed by the English translation in parentheses, abbreviation (if available).

I.e. Partido do Movimento Democrático do Brasil (Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement, PMDB). For each subsequent use, simply use the acronym. This sometimes seems distracting, but it is important to use the Spanish name for respect to the original language, and so that readers from Latin America and the United States will be more likely to recognize the group or party. However, use discretion. This is sometimes also a judgment call. If there are too many acronyms or odd translations, it does appear distracting.

For translations of organizations or political parties, adhere to the official translation or translation used by major publications. If there is no consensus on a translation, use your judgment. Here are some common political party translations and acronyms:


Cambiemos (Let’s Change) coalition

Partido Justicialista (more commonly known as Peronism)

Unión Cívica Radical (Radicalism)


Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers’ Party, PT)

Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (Brazilian Social Democracy Party, PSDB),

Partido do Movimento Democrático do Brasil (Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement, PMDB)

Partido Socialismo e Liberdade (Socialism and Liberty Party, PSOL)


Movimiento al Socialismo (Movement Towards Socialism, MAS)


Partido Acción Nacional (PAN)

Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) - we don’t always translate this

Movimiento Regeneración Nacional (National Regeneration Movement, MORENA)


Frente Amplio (Broad Front)


Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (United Socialist Party of Venezuela, PSUV)

Other Common Abbreviations— spell out on first mention

Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)

Common Market of the South (Mercosur)

Organization of American States (OAS)

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our Americas (ALBA)

Union of South American Nations (UNASUR)

United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)