New guidelines in Caps and Spelling say to include description as “a U.S.-based white nationalist movement.”

By H.G. Watson, Associate Editor

The Canadian Press issued new guidelines for using the term “alt-right” on Nov. 29—and it doesn’t mince words.

The update to Caps and Spellings states that alt-right or alternative right should be used “sparingly, with modifiers (“self-proclaimed,” “so-called”) and include description in copy: “a U.S.-based white nationalist movement” or, if space permits, “a U.S.-based offshoot of conservatism that combines elements of racism, white nationalism and populism.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League, the term “alt-right” originates with Richard Spencer, the president of the National Policy Institute, a “white supremacy think tank.”

There has been a growing call since the U.S. election to clearly identify what the alt-right is when using the term, rather than using it as a boilerplate. On NPR’s Code Switch, Ian Haney Lopez, a law professor at UC Berkeley noted that the term is “clearly a strategy designed to obfuscate the central tenets of the movement in a way that will hopefully allow that movement to enter mainstream discourse.”

Sylvia Stead, the Globe and Mail’s public editor, recently called for journalists to describe alt-right as what it is: “fascist, racist, white supremacist.”

“In my view, the term should be avoided whenever possible; if there is no way around using it – for example, in a quote – it should always be explained in the most transparent and blunt terms,” she wrote.

The Associated Press recently changed its own guidelines around usage, explaining on the AP blog ‘The Definitive Source’ that it should be modified to include “self-described” or “so-called alt-right,” or the term should be used in quotes itself. It should not be used in isolation without a definition of what the movement is, advised John Daniszewski, AP vice president for standards

“We should not limit ourselves to letting such groups define themselves, and instead should report their actions, associations, history and positions to reveal their actual beliefs and philosophy, as well as how others see them,” wrote Daniszweski.

H.G. Watson can be reached at or on Twitter.

H.G. Watson was J-Source's managing editor from 2015 to 2018. She is a journalist based in Toronto. You can learn more about her at