Sports Style Guide

Brian Olmo | Spring 2023 Sports Director


  • Conference USA on the first reference, C-USA on the second reference
  • Head coach or coach is never capitalized, unless used as a title in front of a proper name
    • E.g., “Play N. Sports, head coach” v. “Head Coach Play N. Sports”
  • Halftime, postseason, semifinal, offseason, and preseason do not have a hyphen 

Conference USA Teams and their abbreviations: 

  • Alabama-Birmingham, UAB (Blazers)
  • Florida Atlantic, FAU (Owls)
  • Florida International, FIU (Panthers)
  • Louisiana Tech, LA Tech (Bulldogs, Lady Techsters)
  • Marshall, no abbreviation (never use MU) (Thundering Herd)
  • Middle Tennessee, MTSU (Blue Raiders)
  • Charlotte, no abbreviation (no UNCC, North Carolina Charlotte, Char.) (49ers)
  • North Texas, no abbreviation (Mean Green)
  • Old Dominion, ODU (Monarchs, Lady Monarchs)
  • Rice, no abbreviation (Owls)
  • Southern Mississippi, Southern Miss (Golden Eagles, Lady Eagles)
  • Texas-El Paso, UTEP (Miners)
  • Texas-San Antonio, UTSA (Roadrunners)


Common terms and their spelling

  • Air ball
  • Alley-oop
  • Backboard 
  • Backcourt
  • Baseline
  • Foul line
  • Foul shot
  • Free throw
  • Free-throw line
  • Frontcourt
  • Full-court press
  • Goaltending 
  • Half-court pass 
  • Hook shot 
  • Jump ball
  • Jump shot
  • Layup
  • Man-to-man
  • Pivotman
  • Putback
  • Tip off (Verb)
  • Tipoff (Noun, adjective) 
  • 3-pointer
  • 3-point play 
  • 3-point line

Statistics and how to represent them

  • Regular AP Style rules apply for the most part: Whole numbers one through nine are written out, 10 and above are represented numerically – “Jones had five assists / Dean grabbed 11 rebounds.”
  • However, when talking about “per” stats like the ones below, use numbers since they are averages – “Dean averages 2.5 steals per game / Jones averages 22.5 points per game.”
  • Points per game on first reference, abbreviate to PPG for future references (Same rule applies for the following stats)
  • Rebounds per game on first reference, abbreviate to RPG 
  • Assists per game on first reference, abbreviate to APG 
  • Blocks per game on first reference, abbreviate to BPG 
  • Steals per game on first reference, abbreviate to SPG
  • Turnovers per game on first reference, abbreviate to TOPG
  • Height: Represent with figures and dashes – “Jones, a 6-5 guard / Pinkney is 7 feet tall / Pinkney, a 7-footer.”
  • Weight: Always use figures and spell out pounds – “Jones, 6-5, 190 pounds, leads the team in…”
  • Scores: Separate scores with a hyphen, winning scores always go first – “The Panthers fell 80-72 in a close game against UAB.”
  • Shooting percentages: Acceptable to use a % symbol for numerals – “FIU shot 42.5% from the field.”
  • Ordinal numbers: Spell out first through ninth, use figures for 10 and above – “The team is now fifth in the conference following the win / FIU now falls to 10th in the conference after the loss on Saturday.” 

Number Exceptions

  • Made vs. Attempted – “Jones was 4-of-6 at the free-throw line.” 
  • Records – “The Panthers fell to 0-8 on the season.”
  • Games in a series – “Game 1, Game 2, Game 3.”

Important grammar rule 

  • When using the phrase “top-_____”, hyphenate it and spell out the number when used as a modifier – “The Panthers are a top-five defense.”


  • Put the year and then position – “Sophomore guard Denver Jones / Graduate forward Nick Guadarrama”

Example article


Common terms and their spelling

  • Blitz 
  • Cornerback
  • Defensive pass interference 
  • End line
  • End zone
  • Fair catch
  • Fourth-and-1 (adjective)
  • Fullback
  • Field goal 
  • First down
  • Goal line
  • Goal-line stand
  • Halfback
  • Halftime 
  • Handoff
  • Interception 
  • Kick off (Verb)
  • Kickoff (Noun, adjective)
  • Left guard
  • Linebacker
  • Lineman
  • Line of scrimmage 
  • Nickel back
  • Onside kick
  • Out of bounds (Adverb)
  • Out-of-bounds (Adjective)
  • Pick six (Noun)
  • Pick-six (Adjective)
  • Pitchout 
  • Place kicker 
  • Play off (Verb)
  • Playoff (Noun, adjective)
  • Quarterback
  • Running back
  • Split end
  • Sideline, on the sidelines 
  • Tailback
  • Tight end 
  • Touchback
  • Touchdown
  • Wideout
  • Wide receiver 


  • Use figures for yardages, scores, statistics, clock time – “1-yard line / 4 seconds before halftime / James threw 8-of-18 for 200 yards and a touchdown” 

Important grammar rules

  • Use a hyphen when a figure is used as a modifier – “James threw a 5-yard pass (modifying pass) / James threw a pass for five yards.”
  • Descriptive vs. Possessive: Panthers quarterback Grayson James, not Panthers’ quarterback Grayson James. For yard lines, FIUs 31-yard-line, not FIUs’ 31-yard-line.


  • Spell out a player’s position on first reference. In follow-ups, mix in QB for quarterback, RB for running back, FB for fullback, WR for wide receiver, TE for tight end, DE for defensive end, DT for defensive tackle, LB for linebacker or CB for cornerback (though never just corner).

Example article


Common terms and their spelling (w/ definitions)

  • Assist – Awarded for a pass leading directly to a goal.
  • Backpass – A pass that a player makes back toward his own goal, to the goalkeeper on his team. The goalkeeper is unable to pick up the ball if the pass comes from the player’s foot.
  • Corner – A kick taken from the corner of the field by an attacking player. Awarded when the ball has passed over the goal line after last touching a defensive player. The shot is taken from the corner nearest to where the ball went out.
  • False nine – A forward player who appears to be playing as a team’s main attacker but who drops back, closer to the midfield. It leaves the defense of the opposing team with no one to mark.
  • Free kick – A kick awarded to a team if its player is fouled by an opponent anywhere on the field except for the two penalty areas near the goals.
  • Goal – Scored in soccer when the ball completely passes over the goal line, between the goalposts, and beneath the crossbar at either end of the soccer field.
  • Handball – A foul awarded when a player deliberately touches the ball with his hand or any part of his arm.
  • Offside – Occurs when a player is nearer to his opponent’s goal line than the second-to-last opponent when a ball is passed to him by a teammate. It does not apply if the player is in his half of the field. A free kick is awarded to the opposing team at the place where the offside happened.
  • Penalty – A refereeing decision awarded if a player from the defensive team fouls a player from the attacking team inside the penalty area. The attacking team chooses a player to have a free shot at goal from the penalty spot, 12 yards from the goal line. 
  • Red card – Issued to a player who commits a serious foul or who has been issued with two yellow cards in the same game. The player must leave the field and cannot be replaced.
  • Throw-in – When a player restarts play by throwing the ball back onto the pitch from its perimeter. The player must keep both feet on the ground and have both hands behind his head as he throws the ball.
  • Wall – A line of defensive players that protect the team’s goalkeeper at a free kick.
  • Yellow card –  A warning that gives  players receiving them another chance to stay on the field for the rest of the game. 
  • 4-2-3-1 formation – The typical line-up of a modern-day soccer team, with four defenders, two deep midfielders, three attacking midfielders and a lone forward. The idea is to flood the midfield zone to enable a team to keep possession of the ball better.


  • Forward – Primary objective is to score and make assists to other forwards trying to score
  • Midfielder – A player who starts and spends the majority of their game time in the middle area of the field. These players must be both good at offense and defense to meet their team’s shifting needs, but certain midfielders specialize in specific areas of the field (center, wide) as well as specific aspects of the game (attacking, defensive)
  • Defender – Outfield position whose role is to stop attacks and keep the other team from scoring.
  • Goalkeeper – Guards the goal to prevent opposition from scoring. Stays behind the line and may use hands. 

Example article

Additional Resources:


Common terms and their spelling

  • All-Star
  • All-Star Game
  • Ball club
  • Ballpark
  • Ballplayer
  • Baseman (First, second and third; never use 1st, 2nd or 3rd)
  • Batter’s box
  • BB (Abbreviation for a walk)
  • Bullpen
  • Box score
  • Center fielder
  • Curveball
  • Doubleheader
  • Double play
  • Extra-base hit
  • Fastball
  • Fly ball
  • Game-winning
  • Ground ball
  • Hitting coach (lowercase in all uses except start of sentence)
  • Home runs
  • Innings (First nine innings write out the word; for innings greater than nine, use 10th, 11th, etc.)
  • Knuckleball
  • Leadoff
  • Left fielder
  • Lineup
  • No-hitter
  • On-base percentage
  • Outfield
  • RBI (Acceptable in all references to runs batted in, for more than one run batted in, RBIs is the abbreviation)
  • Shutout
  • Strike out (verb)
  • Strikeout (Noun, adjective)
  • Teammate
  • Walk-off

Example article