7 Tips for Detecting Canadian Business Editorial Style

by Beth McAuley

Published at 2016-11-10


Imagine you have been asked to write an article for the Rotman Management, the Magazine of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. You want the writing to be clear and concise, and you want your punctuation and spelling to be in the publication's style. Perhaps the website doesn't offer a detailed style guide, so what should you do? You can pick up a copy of the magazine and begin your editorial search. Which is what I did for the second blog in the Detecting Editorial Style series.


As a point of interest, the Fall 2016 “Disruptive Issue” of Rotman Management offers a range of articles that look at leaders inspiring innovation; how to shift from linear to exponential thinking; things that differentiate the world’s most innovative companies; how disrupting financial services opens doors for smaller, less-established banks; and how shifts in relationship structures can make disruption possible.


The text is rich in editorial style, and once again, I identified these styles by grouping them into seven categories. You can use these tips to help you identify the style of the magazine or journal you are writing for, and then list them on your style sheet. You can refer to this style sheet each time you write, and you can modify it to suit the particular style of other magazines and journals. As an extra bonus, I created a ready-to-use style sheet for you at the end of this blog. Also, in my first blog, I sleuthed the Harvard Business Review (HBR), and I point out a few differences between the styles HBR and Rotman use along the way.


Which Spelling: Canadian

Rotman Magazine uses Canadian spelling. Spelling can be confirmed quickly by tracking key words that are spelled differently from their American cousins: behaviour; endeavour; centre; labour; neighbour – as opposed to behavior, endeavor, center, labor, neighbor. To make sure your spelling is consistent, you will refer to the Oxford Canadian Dictionary.


Spelling of Key Words, Business Terms, and Acronyms

Key words, business terms, and acronyms will jump out at you: make a list of these.


Like HBR, Rotman uses the acronyms U.S. and UK. One with periods, one without.  


Unlike HBR, Rotman uses startups (not start-ups) as a noun, and towards (not toward).


I also took note of these common acronyms and business terms (list things alphabetically with numbered acronyms at top of list for quick reference):

  •  3D
  • 4D 
  • AI (artificial intelligence)
  • Airbnb
  • crowdfunding
  • crowd-sourcing
  • eBay
  • e-commerce
  • ECG
  • E-selling
  • IoT (Internet of Things)
  • iPod
  • iTunes
  • Post-it note
  • S-curve
  • startups (noun)
  • UK
  • U.S.
  • WIP (Windows Insider Program)


Remember, if you are introducing a new term that has an acronym you will use later in the article, spell out the term in full when first used with the acronym following: “He wrote his book after many years of researching artificial intelligence (AI).”


How Is Punctuation Used?

Believe it or not, readers’ eyes pick up inconsistencies in punctuation. So it is important that you follow the style in use and apply it evenly throughout your article. Here are six key styles to note.


The comma

Many business publications apply the non-serial comma usage, and this is Rotman’s choice (unlike HBR which opts for the serial comma). Remember, a non-serial comma means that the comma is not used after the second item in a list of three and more items. Consider this sentence: “This involves getting things done, through interactivity, inclusiveness and intentionality.” Or: “Leaders lay awake at night trying to figure out how their businesses can become the next Apple, Amazon or Uber.”


The dashes

If you remember from my last blog, dashes have particular uses.


A hyphen is used in a compound adjective, for example, as in “a forward-looking agenda.” At Rotman, it is also used in number ranges, such as 2016-17.


Remember, though, that the en dash can also be used in number ranges: 2015–2016, see pages 25–32 for this information. However, this is not Rotman‘s style.


Rotman does, however, use the en dash with spaces around it in the text. For example, “We must all begin preparing – now – for the emergence of the new market of intelligence.”


Often, the em dash is used to set off information in a sentence: “There are four kinds of needs—functional, emotional, life changing, and social impact—that increase customer loyalty.” Rotman does not use this style.


For more tips on em dashes and en dashes, see Barbara’s blog.


The colon

Contrary to HBR, Rotman does not capitalize the first word after a colon. For example, “Let’s find out: try answering the following statements with a simple Yes or No.”


The ellipses

This punctuation indicates an omission in your sentence, usually used with quotations. HBR closes spaces around the ellipses. For example: As Bill Ackman has put it, “Active oversight…is essential to the country’s long-term business performance.”


I did not spot any ellipses in the text. Avoid using.


The period with parenthetical comments

You will look extremely polished if you know to include the period inside the closing parenthesis. In this example, the complete sentence is within the parentheses plus the period is tucked inside the closing quotation mark:  (Some critics refer to the passive camp as “lazy investors.”)


Quotation marks

Rotman uses both single quotation marks and double quotation marks. This usage can be confusing for writers (and editors), so it helps to write out sample sentences on your style sheet. This seems to be the applied system:


Single quotation marks are used for expressions or special terms:

How do ‘weak signals’ fit into the picture?


Note also that Rotman places the punctuation outside the closing quotation mark.

 We face the very real possibility of such a ‘market for intelligence’.

The past will always ‘fight back’.


Remember to use single quotation marks inside double quotation marks:

                He told us, “That is my ‘go-to’ behaviour whenever I’m looking for new ideas.”


Double quotation marks are used with quotations from another source or when citing a direct quotation.

For example: Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking wrote: “Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history.” (Now, if you are paying attention, you will note that the period is placed inside the quotation mark when the double quotation is used.)


             He was quick to say: “This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about                    capitalism.”

“The idea gradually dawned on me,” he once said, “that what we were doing was starting to make photography an everyday affair.”


What about Compound Adjectives?

These are tricky and building a list of compound adjectives is a timesaver for writers and editors. Here is a short list from Rotman:

  •  billion-dollar buyout
  • hard-working routine
  • high-level view
  • video-game arcade
  • low-paid job
  • wage-earning population


How Are Numbers Used?

How numbers are used can be tricky too. If there are numbers in your article, you want to be consistent in how you express them. I did notice an inconsistent use in Rotman of per cent: for the most part, numbers read 24 per cent; however, in one article, they read 15%. Be sure to use the dominant style unless instructed to do otherwise.


Rotman follows the style of spelling out numbers from zero to nine, and use digits from 10 and up. For example: “Who might be your fastest growing customers in 10 or 15 years?”



  • 1.2 million employees
  • 200-times stronger
  • 15 per cent (HBR uses 15%)
  • Figure One (Note the number is spelled out, not Figure 1)
  • 24-month period



  • $50,000
  • $3 billion
  • $1.09 trillion
  • US$ 24 billion (note space between US$ and 24)



  •  November 10, 2016
  • 1960s
  • 2015-16 (note use of hyphen)
  • 20th century (note use of superscript; HBR does not use superscript)
  •                  But: 20th-century (use non-superscript in compound adjective)
  • 74-year-old executive 


How Are Possessives Used?

This is a good one, and the more samples you can find and list, the more confident you’ll be in using possessives. The most common error, of course, is the mistake made between it’s (for it is) and the possessive form its: The company has its annual convention in May; it’s an extravagant affair.


Here are a few other examples from Rotman:

Personal name: Joshua Gans’ book is now published.

                Avoid using: Gans’s book

The consumer’s needs (singular) / The consumers’ needs (plural)

Our employees’ capabilities (plural) / The employee’s capabilities (singular)

The organizations’ innovative applications (plural) / The organization’s innovative application (singular)


How Are Titles Treated?

These should be easy to spot and most business publications follow the general style of italicizing titles. For example: the New York Times, U.S. News & World Report, U.S.A. Today, Harvard Business Review. Note that the acronym for Harvard Business Review, HBR, is not italicized.


Book titles are italicized, as are titles of films and titles of TV series such as ABC News.


Rotman uses italics to emphasize words — alternating with the single quotation treatment. I noticed a fair use of italics in the text. This would signal to you, as the writer, that you can use italics liberally for emphasis and for identifying key words. Here is an example using both in one sentence:


As organizations move past the concepts of top, bottom, and lateral disruption to a more liberating and empowering mindset of transformation, they will find that the ‘unknowns’ will become their greatest assets.


Create Your Style Sheet

Now you are ready to create your style sheet. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to develop a habit of creating and referring to your style sheet. Here is a good sample to get started with. Remember to check your work a few times to catch any inconsistencies, and feel free to jot down notes about any special styles the publication uses so that you have it on record for next time.




Style Sheet

Rotman Magazine

November 2016


Note: Rotman uses a mix of single and double quotation marks. Follow style carefully.

Note: Figure numbers are spelled out: Figure One, Figure Two

Note: Rotman doesn’t seem to use ellipses; avoid using for now


Canadian spelling; Oxford Canadian Dictionary



Non-serial comma

En dash between words: like – this

Hyphen with number ranges: 195-196; 2015-2016

Single quotation marks for special terms; punctuation outside

Double quotation marks for quotations from people or published materials; punctuation inside

Single quotations marks within double quotation marks

After a colon, lower case first word: it goes like this: no work, no pay.

No comma after i.e.: the recommendation, i.e. the tension model of creativity,



Titles of books, magazine, newspapers

Use for emphasis, to identify special terms (okay to alternate with single quotation marks)



Spell out from zero to nine, then 10, 11+

Figure One, Figure Two

1.2 million employees

200-times stronger

15 per cent

Figure One

24-month period


$3 billion

$1.09 trillion

US$ 24 billion (note space between US$ and 24)

November 10, 2016


2015-16 (note use of hyphen)

20th century (note use of superscript; HBR does not use superscript)

                 But: 20th-century (use non-superscript in compound adjective)

74-year-old executive 


 HBR usage:


24/7 workplace

38 years in business


21st (note that “st” is not superscript)

18-year-olds (noun)

10,000 U.S. consumers

 50% of respondents

 $235 million in revenue



Acronyms & Business Terms



AI (artificial intelligence)








IoT (Internet of Things)



Post-it note


startups (noun)



WIP (Windows Insider Program)


From HBR and would be the same for Rotman:

ATM fees

B2B customers



I&A (insights and analytics)


PA (Pacific-Asian)



 Compound Adjectives

billion-dollar buyout

hard-working routine

high-level view

low-paid job

video-game arcade

wage-earning population


These were used in HBR, and would apply to Rotman as well:

brick-and-mortar business

buyer-seller transactions

country-by-country basis

forward-looking orientation

hit-or-miss endeavour

life-changing element

lower-grade products

non-U.S. companies

one-on-one interview

TED-style talks


Word Spellings

(add as many words as you would like; the more the better)


 every day (noun)

 everyday (adj.)


 judgment (if this spelling is used, assume it is acknowledgment)