Editorial Guide

Table of contents

1. Introduction

Following these guidelines will help us:

2. Our tone

When we’re writing, the tone we use expresses Malala Fund’s attitude toward our work, the girls we serve, our supporters and our world. Read what you’ve written and make sure your words convey the tone described below. Ask yourself what kind of feeling your writing provokes.


  • Girls can achieve amazing things when given the tools they need to grow.
  • When girls complete 12 years of school, the future is brighter for them, their families, communities and for all of us.
  • Malala Fund and our supporters are excited about making a difference.


  • We challenge systems, policies and practices that keep more than 130 million girls out of school.
  • The girls we serve have high goals for themselves — and we have high expectations for the leaders who can help them achieve their goals.
  • We want to provoke action, not guilt or pity.

3. Our style

While tone reflects our organisation’s attitude, style reflects how we think about our audience. We want to present our information, arguments and stories in a manner appropriate for both the readers and the purpose of the writing.

Malala Fund has an important, inspiring message — and we need to make it accessible to the widest possible audience. Constantly check and revise to make sure your writing is direct and engaging.


  • Our vision is simple: a world where all girls go to school for 12 years. And, in most cases, keeping our language simple is the smartest way to get our message across.
  • We avoid clichés, vagueness and unnecessarily complex language.
  • We use as few words as possible to express our ideas. We make every word count and remove any unnecessary text.
  • We make an impression with the strength of our arguments — not our own knowledge and brilliance. We say what we need to say, then stop writing.
  • Getting all girls into school requires complex policy change and financing. While we acknowledge complexity, we strive for straightforward language to describe the path to global girls education.


  • We want everyone — government officials to girl scouts — to feel they can participate in a breakthrough for girls around the world.
  • We don’t alienate readers with jargon and acronyms.
  • We are straightforward, optimistic and ambitious. We are not hyperbolic or hand-wringing.

4. Revision

Here are some short examples of how to revise your writing to be consistent with our tone and style.

Example 1:


The right to education is not negated by war — but the reality is that in 2015 some 80 million children aged 3-18 had their education disrupted by conflict and natural disasters; 37 million of those children are out of school.


A child does not lose her right to education because her country goes to war. But, last year, conflict and natural disasters forced 37 million children out of school.

Let’s discuss…

The original first sentence — “The right to education is not negated by war” — takes girls and young women completely out of the picture. The revised opening sentence puts the girl and her rights at the heart of the argument.

Example 2:

Next in the original text, we have three sets of numbers — 80 million children, ages 3-18 and 37 million children. We know that using too many numbers reduces reading comprehension — and we know we’ll lose readers by using three numbers inside a single paragraph. For clarity and impact, we revise down to the most relevant statistic.


Secondary education is a right and it brings huge proven returns to the children, their communities and wider society. It is a strong foundation for empowerment and sustainable development.


Girls secondary education is one of the best investments we can make. Multiple studies prove that increasing girls’ secondary education in developing countries leads to economic growth, healthier communities, respect for women’s rights and more. When girls complete 12 years of school, they are less likely to marry young and more likely to have healthy children.

Let’s discuss…

Surprise! The revised version is longer than the original. That’s not a typical outcome — but in this case we want to add evidence to back up our argument. The original version is non-specific and vague. The revised version helps us to “show not tell” and demonstrate exactly what returns secondary education provides.

5. Snapshot

Strong, smart organisations clearly define their goals — and these goals form their identity. Malala Fund’s team should be able to describe our work with clarity and confidence. Below are some blurbs you can use to describe Malala Fund where appropriate. Find longer collateral docs in the appendix.

About Malala Fund (boilerplate)

Malala Fund is working for a world where all girls can learn and lead. Malala Fund advocates for resources and policy changes needed to give all girls a secondary education, invests in local education leaders and amplifies the voices of girls fighting for change. Learn more at malala.org.

What we do

Investing in local education activists. Through our Gulmakai Network, we invest in local educators and advocates — the people who best understand girls in their communities — in regions where the most girls are missing out on secondary school.

Advocating to hold leaders accountable. We advocate — at local, national and international levels — for resources and policy changes needed to give all girls a secondary education. The girls we serve have high goals for themselves — and we have high expectations for leaders who can help them.

Amplifying girls’ voices. We believe girls should speak for themselves and tell leaders what they need to learn and achieve their potential. We amplify girls’ voices and share their stories through Assembly, our digital publication and newsletter.


Malala Fund’s key initiative — the Gulmakai Network — supports the work of education champions in developing countries and speeds up progress towards girls’ secondary education around the world.

Education activists like Malala and Ziauddin present the strongest challenge to barriers that keep girls out of school. Threats to girls’ education — like poverty, war and gender discrimination — differ between countries and communities. Local educators and activists understand challenges in their communities and are best placed to identify, innovate and advocate for policy and programmatic solutions. Over the next several years, we expect the work of these remarkable women and men will result in substantial gains for girls’ education.

The Gulmakai Network currently supports education activists in Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and the Syrian region (Lebanon and Turkey).

Why girls’ education?

Secondary education for girls can transform communities, countries and our world. It is an investment in economic growth, a healthier workforce, lasting peace and the future of our planet.

  • Girls’ education strengthens economies and creates jobs. Millions of educated girls means more working women with the potential to add up to $12 trillion to global growth.
  • Educated girls are healthier citizens who raise healthier families. Educated girls are less likely to marry young or contract HIV — and more likely to havehealthy, educated children. Each additional year of school a girl completes cuts both infant mortality and child marriage rates.
  • Communities are more stable and can recover faster after conflict when girls are educated. When a country gives all its children secondary education, it cuts its risk of war in half. Education is vital for security around the world because extremism grows alongside inequality.
  • Investing in girls’ education is good for our planet. The Brookings Institution calls secondary schooling for girls the most cost-effective and best investment against climate change. Research also suggests that girls’ education reduces a country’svulnerability to natural disasters.

Our leadership — biographies and headshots

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is co-founder and board member of Malala Fund. Malala began her campaign for education at age 11 when she anonymously blogged for the BBC about life under the Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. Inspired by her father’s activism, Malala soon began advocating publicly for girls’ education — attracting international media attention and awards. At age 15, she was shot by the Taliban for speaking out. Malala recovered in the United Kingdom and continued her fight for girls. In 2013 she founded Malala Fund with her father, Ziauddin. A year later, Malala received the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her efforts to see every girl complete 12 years of free, safe, quality education.

Malala is currently a student at Oxford University pursuing adegree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.

Ziauddin Yousafzai

Ziauddin Yousafzai is a co-founder and board member of Malala Fund and Malala’s father. For many years, Ziauddin served as a teacher and school administrator in his home country of Pakistan.

When the Taliban invaded their home in Swat Valley, Ziauddin peacefully resisted their efforts to limit personal freedoms. Speaking out put Ziauddin at risk, but he feared remaining silent would be far worse. Inspired by her father’s example, Malala began publicly campaigning for girls to go to school.

In October 2009, The New York Times filmed a short documentary about Ziauddin and Malala’s fight to protect girls’ education in Swat. Due to her increased prominence, Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban two years later. Malala survived and was transported to the United Kingdom for treatment. Ziauddin, his wife, Toor Pekai and their two sons joined Malala in Birmingham.

Determined to continue their campaign, Ziauddin and Malala founded Malala Fund in 2013. Together they champion every girl’s right to 12 years of free, safe, quality education.

6. Fundamentals

Some grammar and usage questions come up a lot. Here are some of the most common mistakes – and how to fix them!

Malala Fund

not: The Malala Fund, the Fund or MF (These are fine for internal messages or legal docs, but not in public-facing communications.)

Drop “www” before web addresses.


Not www.malala.org

Never (never!) use passive voice.

In passive voice, the target of the action gets promoted to the subject position. Passive voice weakens the clarity of your writing.

Here’s a formula for identifying passive voice:

form of “to be” + past participle = passive voice

Passive: Talia had been attending school until her parents were unable to pay the tuition. Active: Talia attended school until the tuition proved too expensive for her parents.

Passive: When her family was forced to flee, Nayir wondered where she would go to school.

Active: When fighting in Mosul forced her family to flee their home, Nayir wondered where she would go to school.

Passive: A number of insights are indicated by these results.Better: These results indicate a number of insights.Better: Our analysis yielded a number of insights.

Cut out adverbs.

Adverbs add clutter and reduce clarity in your writing. Try to take them out and use a stronger verb. Tip: most adverbs end in “-ly” like “expertly,” “incredibly” and “literally.” When you see an adverb, delete it and rewrite the sentence if needed.

Bad: Barry ran really fast to catch the train.

Good: Barry sprinted to catch the train.

Spell out numbers one through nine; use numerals for numbers above 10. Malala Fund pushed for the Sustainable Development Goals to increase from nine to 12 years of education for all children.

There are exceptions to this rule — like ages of people, addresses and a few others. But generally, numbers below 10 are spelled out.

People’s ages are given in numbers.

Hannah Orenstein, 25, is a published recipe writer. Muzoon, a 17-year-old Syrian refugee, spoke at the London Conference.

If the age is used as an adjective or as a substitute for a noun, then it should be hyphenated. Don’t use apostrophes when describing an age range.

A 21-year-old student.

The student is 21 years old.

The girl, 8, has a brother, 11.

The contest is for 18-year-olds.

He is in his 20s.

In giving ages for inanimate objects or other things, spell out through nine and use figures for higher numbers.

In Syria, the five-year conflict is displacing millions of children. The Global Partnership for Education is 20 years old.

Use “nearly” when you want to magnify an amount. Nearly $1,000,000.

Use “less than” to minimise the sum. Less than $1,000,000.

A more neutral approach is “about.” About $1,000,000.

Use “more than” not “over.”

More than 130 million girls are out of school around the world.

Use “12 years of free, safe, quality education” not “12 years of safe, quality, free education” or “12 years of free, safe and quality education” or any variation of that.

Malala Fund is working for a world where every girl receives 12 years of free, safe, quality education.

Use “girls’ education” not “girls education.”

Malala Fund supports girls’ education around the world.

“Amount” applies to things that cannot be counted.

Hamza prepared a large amount of soup, in a great number of bowls.

Use “like” not “such as.”

We use tools like videos and petitions to engage supporters on social media.

Avoid split infinitives.

Bad: Lebanon’s spending on the refugee crisis demonstrates the country’s commitment clearly to helping Syrians.

Better: Lebanon’s spending on the refugee crisis clearly demonstrates the country’s commitment to helping Syrians.

Don’t be afraid to start sentences with “and” and “but” when it makes your writing less stilted and more accessible.

Don’t use the Oxford comma or serial comma.

While many distinguished and beloved teachers may have taught you the opposite, now is the time to break the habit! To give a more rapid feel and better flow to the text, modern writers omit the serial comma, except in cases where it is needed for clarity.

Fun fact: Not even Oxford uses the Oxford comma anymore! Check out the University of Oxford style guide (pages 12 and 13) for comprehensive comma-related advice.

Don’t overuse capital letters.

Caps are harder to read. When titling documents or sections, take out caps except for proper nouns.

Bad: A Funding Overview of Humanitarian Assistance to Education for Syrian Refugees

Good: A funding overview of humanitarian assistance to education for Syrian refugees

Look out for word repetition. With the exception of proper nouns (names, titles, etc), try to avoid using the same word in a paragraph. Use a synonym or rewrite the sentence to avoid repeating words.

Avoid buzzwords and overused words. Some words are used so much that they become meaningless. Readers gloss over these words because they’ve seen them so many times.

Some examples of words Comms team will edit out of your writing: empower, groundbreaking, cutting edge, utilise (just say “use”).

Know the difference between an em dash, an en dash and a hyphen.

An em dash is a versatile punctuation mark. A single em dash can replace a semicolon. A pair of em dashes can be used to replace commas or parentheses, enhancing readability.

An en dash is between a span of numbers a span of numbers.

An em dash, an en dash and a hyphen are not interchangeable.

— This is an em dash.

The heads Commonwealth nations — including Pakistan, India and Nigeria — agreed to provide a full 12 years of quality education for all children.

–         This is an en dash.

I just finished chapters 2–7 of Matilda.

- This is a hyphen.

There are more than 130 million out-of-school girls.

Most editors — and all that follow AP style — insert a space before and after the em dash. Read more about the differences between an em dash, en dash and hyphen here.

After a period (or any other punctuation mark to end a sentence), use only one space, not two.

Use British English when spelling. Common words we use that are spelled differently in British English:

  • utilise
  • organisation, organise
  • programme
  • enrolment, enrol (however, British English uses enrolled and enrolling)
  • centre
  • analyse
  • travelled, travelling, traveller
  • labour
  • empathise
  • Note: use "practice" when used as a noun and "practise' when used a verb. Dr. De Soto has a dental practice for animals.  I practised Spanish ahead of the exam.

For a report requiring citations, endnotes are placed at the end of the sentence or at the end of the clause they are referring to. They should be placed after punctuation marks. The number should be in superscript.


Today only 46.6% of women participate in the labour market, compared to 76.1% of men.6

Two years ago, the G20 committed to a 25% reduction in the gap in participation rates between men and women by 2025,7 a commitment restated by Chancellor Merkel at this year’s Women 20.8

The endnotes citations appear collectively at the end of a paper, starting on a separate page and labeled as “Endnotes.” If two notes for the same source follow one right after the other, you may use the abbreviation "Ibid." for the corresponding note.

Digital reports

1. Publishing organisation (YEAR) Title of Resource. Link to resource


1. UNESCO (2016) Global Education Monitoring Report 2016. Education for People and Planet: Creating Sustainable Futures for All. http://unesdoc. unesco.org/images/0024/002457/245752e.pdf

2. Ibid.


1. Author last name, first name (YEAR) “Chapter title” in Book title. Place of Publication: Publisher.


1. Schultz, T. Paul (1993) “Returns to Women’s Schooling” in Women’s Education in Developing Countries: Barriers, Benefits, and Policy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Use U.S. or U.K. in text (with periods) and US or UK in headlines (without periods).

When writing a static that involves a percentage, use the % sign.

Today only 46.6% of women participate in the labour market, compared to 76.1% of men.

When referring to money, use numerals. For cents or amounts of $1 million or more, spell the words cents, million, billion, trillion etc. There is no need to include the word “dollar” as you already used the dollar symbol.

$26.52, $100,200, $8 million, 6 cents.

Use quotation marks around the titles of books, songs, television shows, plays, computer games, poems, lectures, speeches and works of art.

Taylor Swift sang “All Too Well” at the concert. Do not italicize, underline or use quotations around the names of magazine, newspapers or books that are catalogues of reference materials.

The Washington Post first reported the story.

When translating Malala Fund content into other languages, keep “Malala Fund” in English for brand consistency.

7. Using photos

Choosing the right image is a big decision! We want our images to match the girls that we serve: strong, empowered and deserving of voice in global decisions that impact their lives.

Malala Fund images are:

  • Real - we only use photos of girls who are impacted by our programs, who have signed a release form allowing us to use their photo. (For minors, parents will sign the photo release.)
  • Engaging - we use photos that are empowering, inspiring and surprising.
  • Dignified - we use photos that preserve the dignity of the young women portrayed.

Crediting photos

All Malala Fund photos need credits. Usually this information will be included in the file where you find the photos — or in the photo information itself (right-click or control-click to find this).

Most photos should be credited with photographer’s name and organization name, like this:

Tess Thomas / Malala Fund

Some photos need to include additional information:

Malin Fezehai / HUMAN / Malala Fund

If you are sharing photos with partners or journalists — or anyone else — for public use, make sure you send them the proper caption info and make sure they use it.

8. Resources

You will find a lot of helpful writing and grammar tools online. Here are some of our favorites:

Hemingway Editor

This site makes your writing bolder and more clear by highlighting unnecessary words, identifying phrases with a simpler alternative and more!

University of Oxford Style Guide

This is a helpful guide, particularly for Americans in need of help with British spellings.

New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, 5th Edition

I have this open in iBooks on my laptop all day for quick reference. Updated every year, this manual is a comprehensive reference guide that deals with both perennial and modern style and grammar issues. (It’s $13 well-spent!)

Reuters style guide

Another good one — free, online and searchable.

Ideal lengths of everything online

A handy guide to word and character lengths for online writing.

9. Appendix

Coming soon.

About Malala Fund

Malala Fund is working for a world where all girls can choose their own future. Learn more about our work to ensure every girl has access to 12 years of safe, quality education at malala.org.

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