Editorial style guide
Use the editorial style guide to make sure your content is clear, engaging and consistent with the rest of the website.
Why we need an editorial style guide
This guide is designed to promote clarity and consistency in all our writing.
While academic writing is targeted at a critical and informed audience, our general writing is aimed at a much wider range of users - students, colleagues, partners and members of the general public - so needs to be produced in such a way as to get the message across in a clear, economical and simple manner.
This style guide is for when we communicate to all our users - when they are using our services, reading our marketing messages or browsing our digital domain. We recommend the Guardian and Observer style guide for issues not covered here.
How to use the editorial style guide
The style guide is arranged in sections:
- general style preferences
- academic terms
- university references
- common mistakes
You can find different topics arranged alphabetically within each of these sections.
We would suggest using Ctrl+F (cmd+F on a Mac keyboard) to search this page for a specific item. For example, if you need to know how to refer to the Chancellor, press Ctrl+F and type 'The Chancellor' in the box which appears in your browser window. Your browser will show you all instances of the words so you can find the relevant information.
For help formatting text, such as creating links, headings or lists, see our formatting guide.
Also, read about writing for the web in our guide.
General style preferences
Abbreviations and acronyms
Avoid abbreviations, unless there is no room to spell out the words in full.
One exception is 'Dr', which should be used instead of 'Doctor', however, 'Professor' should only be abbreviated to 'Prof' when there are space issues.
Days and dates can be abbreviated to fit into headlines. See the Dates and times section for how to write dates.
Avoid using 'eg', 'etc' or 'ie'. Instead use 'for example', 'and so on' and 'in other words'.
Write names in full and include the acronym in brackets after the first mention, for example, 'The Institute for Policy Research (IPR)'. You can then use the acronym for any further mentions.
If space is an issue, as in headlines, it's okay to use an acronym instead of the full name. If you do this, be sure to write the name in full followed by the acronym the next time you mention it.
You should use well-known acronyms like BBC, NUS or HEFCE without the full name.
Always use 'and' instead of an ampersand (&) unless the ampersand is part of an official name, for example 'Faculty of Engineering & Design' or 'Marks & Spencer'.
Ampersands can also be used in navigation menus if space is limited.
Apostrophes are used for two purposes:
- to show belonging
- to shorten words (contraction)
Apostrophes to show belonging
Use ’s when something belongs to one person or thing.
If the name of the person or thing ends in 's', just use the apostrophe at the end, for example, 'Richard Hobbs’ paper' looks neater than 'Richard Hobbs’s paper'.
Likewise, when something belongs to more than one person or thing just use the apostrophe at the end, for example, 'the Students’ Union', not 'the Students’s Union'.
There are exceptions to this however. When the owner is plural and doesn’t end in 's', such as 'people', use ’s on the end.
Whatever you do, make sure you’re consistent on the page.
Here are some examples:
- the student’s work was first rate
- the Students’ Union offers help and advice (the Students’ Union belongs to many students)
- First Year students are welcome to take part in Freshers’ Week (the events of the week are for all freshers)
- the women’s loos are through the first door on the left (the loos for women)
- we don’t interrupt people’s holidays with work stuff (the holidays of a group of people)
Apostrophes to show contraction
When you use an apostrophe in a contraction it shows that a letter (or letters) is missing, for example:
- 'they’re' is short for 'they are'
- 'there’s' means 'there is' or 'there has'
- 'who’s' means 'who is' or 'who has'
- 'you’re' is short for 'you are'
- 'it’s' is short for 'it is'
Words that do not need an apostrophe include:
- 'their', meaning 'belonging to them'
- 'whose', meaning 'of whom'
- 'your', meaning 'belonging to you'
- 'students', meaning the plural of student
- 'its', indicating possession
Using bold, italic and underlined text
See our formatting guide for how to format text in the publishing platform.
Using bold text
Use bold text sparingly and for emphasis only. Do not use bold text for headings, for example, 'the final deadline is 28 May'.
Only use italics for book, journal and newspaper titles, for example, 'The Guardian'.
Do not underline any content as users may confuse it with links.
Colons and semicolons
Use colons to:
- introduce a list
- add to what's been said before
- introduce other sentences or questions
Here are some examples:
The Faculty of Engineering & Design has four departments:
- Architecture & Civil Engineering
- Chemical Engineering
- Electronic & Electrical Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
Images of Research: submit your photo now.
Inaugural lecture: What is wrong with knee replacement?
Use a semicolon when linking two separate ideas that are closely related. Also use them in complicated lists that already contain commas.
Here are some examples:
- all audiences should understand our content. This isn’t 'dumbing down'; this is opening up our knowledge for all
- on Harry’s desk you’ll find: The Oxford English Dictionary, for his wordy needs; the remnants of a pot plant, long-since dead; and an empty mug, crying out to be filled up with tea (milk, no sugar)
Writing phone numbers
Generally, avoid using hyphens or brackets, for example, '01225 381234'.
The exception is when the audience is clearly international. In this case, add the UK dialing code and brackets, for example, '+44 (0)1225 381234'.
Internal numbers should be given as the extension only, for example, 'ext: 1234'.
Writing email addresses
Write email addresses in lower case.
When an email address ends in a sentence, do not follow it with a full stop as it could obstruct users copying the address, for example:
- For more information, you can contact email@example.com
Writing postal addresses
Use Royal Mail's guidelines for addresses when writing a postal address.
Countries and cities
Preferred country names
United Arab Emirates - Write 'United Arab Emirates (UAE)' in full in the first instance, but use 'UAE' in subsequent mentions.
United States - Use 'United States' rather than 'United States of America', 'USA' or 'America'. Only use 'US' when hard character limits apply, such as headings or page titles. Avoid using 'USA' as this can also mean the US Army.
Here are some common mistakes:
- use 'Beijing', not 'Peking'
- use 'Colombia', not 'Columbia'
- use 'Kolkata', not 'Calcutta'
- use 'Myanmar', not 'Burma'
- use 'Mumbai', not 'Bombay'
- use 'South Korea', not 'Korea'
Dates and times
The standard format should be: day, date, month, year.
Write the date as simple digits, not as an ordinal number, for example, '14 March', not '14th March'. The day and the month should be capitalised.
You can use three-letter abbreviations such as Wed or Oct if there are spacing issues, but don't abbreviate the year.
Here are some examples:
Friday 14 March 2014
Wed 31 Oct 2014
Use the 12-hour clock followed by 'am' or 'pm' in lower case. You should write times without spaces, using a full stop to separate the minutes and hours, for example, '9.30am' or '12pm (midday)'. We add 'midday' after 12pm to distinguish between that and midnight.
If you're writing a page aimed at an international audience you'll need to consider your audience's time zone. Use the 24-hour clock in these instances, for example, 'You can visit our stand at the International Fair at the University of Nevada from 13:30 PST'.
When writing about an event that people can access online across the world, add GMT after the time. Use local time for events hosted in a specific country, for example, 'The live Q&A session will be hosted via Google Hangouts at 14:30 GMT'.
Ellipsis (dot dot dot)
You can use ellipses to show that text is missing, usually from a quotation. If a quote is too long, an ellipsis can be used instead of unnecessary words.
Spaces or brackets either side of the ellipsis aren't needed, as in the example:
- 'Speaking about the project, Dr Clegg said: "We are looking forward to working with Age UK to discover...and develop meaningful recommendations".'
Use foreign language accents in words that have become anglicised, such as 'café'. Do not italicise foreign words.
Avoid using gender-binary language. Ideally, you should address the reader directly as 'you'.
If you are writing in the third person, use 'they', 'their' and 'them' instead of 'he' or 'she', 'his' or 'hers', or 'him' or 'her'.
- Good: 'You must submit your dissertation by 13 March'
- Okay: 'Every student must submit their dissertation by 13 March'
- Bad: 'Every student must submit his dissertation by 13 March'
If you're talking about a particular person, it's fine to use pronouns that match their gender. For example, 'Laura submitted her dissertation on 13 March'.
Use page headings, subheadings and news story headlines to succinctly summarise the content that follows.
See our formatting guide for how to create headings in the publishing platform.
- Start your heading with the words your audience will be searching for: the reader will get your point from the start and search engines will be able to direct the right traffic to your site
- Headings shouldn't be longer than a few words, so make every one count – break up longer titles with colons to make them easily scannable, like, 'Controlled goods: licences, sanctions and embargoes'
- Match your heading up with the navigation in any page menus – if the relevant entry in the menu says 'Talks and tours', make sure the heading says the same
- Use sentence case rather than title case: 'New research to improve health challenges in seven day hospital care', not 'New Research to Improve Health Challenges in Seven Day Hospital Care'
- Don't use a full stop at the end of a heading or subheading
You'll need to be economical with your words when writing headings as there is limited space available in the publishing platform.
Try to keep your titles below 65 characters (including spaces) so users can read them in entirety on search results.
Use hyphens to join two words (to make a compound adjective) and qualify the next, for example, 'mid-summer ceremony'.
We also hyphenate some other words as standard to avoid confusion in a sentence, for example:
Here are some words that don't need a hyphen:
- A levels
It is vital that all content on the website is as inclusive as possible. Make sure the language you choose doesn't constitute any form of harassment or discrimination, particularly in relation to the nine protected characteristics identified in the Equality Act 2010. These characteristics are:
- gender reassignment
- marriage and civil partnerships
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion and belief
- sexual orientation and transgender
Writing about disability
Use language that conveys a positive message rather than emphasises impairment or limitations.
Use terms like:
- students with disabilities
- wheelchair users/person who uses a wheelchair
- person with epilepsy
- learning disabilities
- mental health condition
- health conditions
- physical impairments
Don't use terms like 'the disabled' or 'handicapped', as they're old-fashioned and have negative connotations. Also avoid:
- afflicted by/victim of
- mentally handicapped
- mental patient
- fits, spells, attacks
Most people with disabilities are, however, comfortable with words and phrases that are used to describe daily living. People with visual impairments can be pleased (or not) 'to see you'; people who use wheelchairs can 'go for a walk' around our beautiful campus.
Essentially, don't patronise or define people by their impairment, but don't be over-sensitive.
For more guidance on appropriate language, read this guide from the Office for Disability Issues.
When you create a link, make sure the link text is self-explanatory so users understand where the link will take them.
Your link should make sense out of context, such as 'download prospectus', rather than 'download it here'.
Where possible, you should also make your link text into a call to action (the next step you want users to take), for example, 'to see what courses are available, download the Health Undergraduate brochure'.
Avoid using a single word as your link text. The clickable area needs to be large enough for users to tap easily if they are using a touchscreen device.
Also, do not use 'click here', 'follow this link' or 'read more' as link text. These phrases won’t make sense for anyone using a screen reader or a mobile device to view your page.
See our formatting guide for how to create links in the publishing platform.
See our formatting guide for how to create numbered and bulleted lists in the publishing platform.
Using numbered lists
Only use numbered lists when you're explaining instructions that need to be performed in sequence. In all other cases use a bulleted list.
Each point in a numbered list should begin with a capital letter and end with a full stop, for example:
How to connect to the internet:
- Get a network cable - these can be purchased from the campus computer shop in the Library if you haven't brought one with you.
- Connect your PC to the network point; there are two types of network connection, a single or a double socket. If you have a single socket, you may have to plug your machine into the back of the phone in your room.
- Start up your device and open a web browser, like Internet Explorer. It will take you to the machine registration page. The registration page, resnethost.bath.ac.uk, will only be visible if you are connecting using ResNet.
- Type in your University username, like abc123, and password.
- Tick the box to accept the Terms and Conditions.
Using bulleted lists
Use bullet points when listing information that isn't in a specific order.
Do not create a bullet point with more than one sentence. Stick to one idea per bullet point.
There are two types of bulleted list, each with different styling. Neither uses full stops.
Using a bulleted list immediately after a heading
Start each bullet point with an upper case letter, for example:
Priorities for the University in 2014
- Build a research network
- Extend our education network
- Project the University internationally
Using a bulleted list after an introductory sentence
Start each bullet point with a lower-case letter (unless it starts with a proper noun, such as 'Wessex House', 'Richard Hobbs' or 'A level'), for example:
Priorities for the University in 2014
Following consultation, the University has defined our priorities for 2014 as:
- building a research network
- extending our education network
- projecting the University internationally
Writing about Campus locations
When referring to buildings by name, the number should be stated first, followed by a space, followed by the name starting with a capital letter, for example, 'The International Relations Office is located in 6 West' or 'Attend the lecture in 8 West, room 3.22'.
Write named buildings in initial caps, such as 'The Chancellors' Building', and 'Wessex House'.
If you are referring to a specific room, spell out the location in full, for example, 'attend the lecture in 8 West, room 3.22'.
However, if you are working on a map, use the number and just the first letter with no space, for example:
Writing about compass points
For directions and positions use lower case, for example, 'the accommodation is located to the south-west of campus'.
However, use capitals when you write about a geographical region, for example, 'The University is located in the South West of England'.
Measurements and ranges
- Miles (mi) for long distances
- Metres (m) and centimetres (cm) for shorter distances
- Kilograms (kg) for weight
- Celsius (°C) for temperature
If you’re using the measurement in a sentence, write it as a full word, for example, 'the University is 2.1 miles from Bath Spa rail station'.
If the measurement is part of a specification, use the abbreviation, for example, swimming pool dimensions: '50m x 20m'.
When giving ranges use either 'from' and 'to' or 'between' and 'and', for example:
- 'from 18 to 20°C'
- 'between 18 and 20°C'
Do not mix and match, such as 'between 18 to 20°C'. Also, don't use hyphens, such as '18 - 20°C' or '18-20°C'.
Use words for one to ten and numerals for 11 upwards, plus percentages and money of any amount.
If the figure is in millions, use the word 'million'. If the figure is in billions, use 'billion'. Round numbers up to one decimal place unless there is a particular need to be more exact.
Here are some examples of correct number use:
- four Team Bath athletes won medals in Brazil
- 87% of students voted the University of Bath best for student experience
- Gabby also netted the prize fund worth £1,500 in sporting equipment (note the comma in '£1,500')
- 40 million people in the world are blind
- the world population is projected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050
Writing about money
When writing about money in a sentence:
- only include a pence value if it is something other than 0
- write values under £1 in pence, for example, '45p'
- write values of £1 or more which don't have additional pence as whole numbers with no decimal point, for example, '£1', '£10'
In tabular data, all values should be written in pounds (or the relevant currency) and include both the pound and pence value, no matter the size, for example: '£1.40'; '£750.00'; '£0.45'; '£1,000.57'
Here are some examples of correct usage:
- Fresh sells plastic bags for 5p
- replacement laundry cards cost £5
- a standard wash costs £2.30
- scientists from the Department of Chemistry have been awarded a £1.2 million grant ('£1.2m' is permissible in headlines)
Use single quotation marks to quote speech and text in every content type except Announcements. In Announcements, use double quotation marks.
Include punctuation belonging to the quote inside the quotation marks. Place any punctuation that doesn't belong to the quote outside the quotation marks.
Also use single quotation marks to:
- describe a thing defined by text (such as: please note the 'keep off the grass' sign)
- refer to published articles (not books or newspapers, which should be in italics)
Do not use quotation marks, single or double, for emphasis.
A quote within a quote
When writing a quote within a quote, use double quotation marks. For example:
Professor Jamal said: 'Anyone who says "I understand quantum physics" doesn't understand it at all.'
When writing an Announcement, use single quotation marks for a quote within a quote.
If a quote runs to more than one paragraph, use single quotation marks at the beginning of the quote, the start of each paragraph and the end of the quote, not at the end of each paragraph. For example:
Professor Brown made the following points: 'The 20th century has been rightly called the century of physics.
'But the 21st century will be the century of biology.'
When using forward slashes to show choices, you don't include spaces between the words and the slash, for example, use 'students/graduates', not 'students / graduates'.
Book and journal titles should be italicised to meet Harvard referencing standards.
Put article titles in roman (not italics) with single inverted commas and use caps and italics where appropriate, for example:
- The Book of Daniel by E L Doctorow
- 'The Problem of the Italian South'; History Today, 1999
- The Guardian
Web addresses should be embedded into link text rather than written in full (see the 'Links' section in this guide), but where they need to be spelled out, start them with 'www.'.
Omit 'http://' unless the address contains no 'www.', in which case write it in full.
Here are some examples of correct usage:
Always use initial capitals when referring to departments, faculties, job titles and course titles. Give forenames in full and avoid using initials.
Instead of using 'alumni', use 'graduate' or 'graduates' where possible. This is easier to understand for all our audiences, particularly international ones.
If you need to use 'alumni' remember that:
- 'alumnus' means a male in the singular
- 'alumna' means a female in the singular
- 'alumni' means a mixed or all-male group
- 'alumnae' means an all-female group
When referring specifically to the University department, put an initial cap on 'Alumni'.
Departments and faculties
Use title case when describing specific departments or faculties, for example:
- Faculty of Engineering & Design (note the ampersand)
- Department of Education
- School of Management
- Department for Health
- Office of Policy and Planning
Always use lower case when talking about 'professional services' or 'professional service departments'.
Always refer to departments by their proper names. For example, 'We arrange access to the Managed Print Service (MPS) for staff and PhD students', not 'We arrange for managed print access for staff and PhD students'.
People and job titles
Use capital letters when referring to a specific individual and lower case when generalising or describing a role. Hyphens should be used when appropriate, for example:
- the head of science (note that this is not a title, just a description)
- the group of vice-chancellors met President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell
Writing about the Chancellor
When referring to the Chancellor (the Prince Edward) in full, use 'His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex'. The shorter alternatives are:
- the Prince Edward
- His Royal Highness
- the Chancellor
- the Earl of Wessex
Writing about the Vice-Chancellor
When referring to the Vice-Chancellor in body copy, use 'the President and Vice-Chancellor' in the first instance. In any following instances, use a shorter alternative, like 'the Vice-Chancellor' or 'Dame Glynis'.
Where there is a character limit, like in a page title, image caption or tweet, use 'the Vice-Chancellor'. However, if the tweet is targeting an international audience, you should call her 'the President'.
When labelling images on Flickr or out of context you should use 'President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell'.
Writing about other job titles
- Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Jonathan Knight
- Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Note no hyphen between 'Deputy' and 'Vice')
Subjects, programmes and qualifications
Writing about subjects
A subject is an area of study. It's the umbrella term for all the different types of programmes that come under it.
Academic subjects are lower case when referring to the academic discipline and upper case when referring to a full departmental name, for example:
- 'She had been interested in chemistry since an early age and so decided to study at the University of Bath's Department of Chemistry.'
Writing about courses
The correct way to write a course title is 'BSc (Honours) Chemistry' or 'BSc (Hons) Chemistry'. Note there is a space between 'BSc' and '(Honours)'.
Note that we use the term 'courses' for external marketing purposes. However, we can use the word 'programmes' when writing content for internal-only audiences.
Writing about academic years
Use the format '2014/15'. Follow it with 'academic year', unless space is limited. For example:
- 'tuition fees for the 2015/16 academic year'
Follow the same rule for tax years and financial years. For example:
- 'the deadline for claiming travel expenses in the 2014/15 financial year is 30 August 2015'
For any other spans of years, write them out in full. For example:
- 'she held the post from 2011 to 2014'
Writing about qualifications
You should use the lowercase and an apostrophe when speaking generally, and a capital when naming a specific qualification. For example:
- A student earns their bachelor’s/master's degree
- A student holds a Bachelor/Master of Arts from Bath
Referring to different qualifications
- BA (Honours)
- BEng (Honours)
Writing about undergraduate degree classifications
Writing about Erasmus+ programmes
Use 'Erasmus+ programmes' in all instances, not 'Erasmus programmes' without the plus sign.
Writing about postdoctoral research
'Postdoctoral' is one word. It isn't 'post-doctoral' or 'post doctoral'.
The University and its entities
Always use initial capitals when referring to faculties, departments and the 'University'.
Don't use 'Bath University' or 'UoB'. We can, however, refer to 'studying at Bath', rather than having to write it out in full every time, for example, 'He’s gone to university this year. He’s studying at the University of Bath'.
'We','us' and 'you'
Use names for faculties and departments. However, don't keep on repeating the name on a single page. Think about using 'we', 'our', 'us' or even just 'the department' depending on the context.
It is fine to use 'we' on a top-level page to refer to the University as a whole and then refer to a faculty by name.
It's also fine to use 'we' on a department page to refer to that department, as it should be clear to the reader from the context.
When talking to the reader, use 'you' and 'your' to make your text more engaging and friendly.
Always refer to the website section students use to register with the University as 'Registration', not by its former name of Registration On-Line (ROL).
Also, always use the term 'registration' instead of 'enrolment' when referring to the process all students have to complete.
In the first instance, use 'Students' Union (SU)', then 'SU' for every subsequent reference.
'Team Bath' is written as two words with a space in between.
All athletes, whether they're students, graduates or just using the facilities, should be referred to as 'Bath-based athletes'.
Athletes who perform at a high level, such as Olympic standard, can be referred to as 'performance athletes'.
Usernames and email addresses
When writing about someone's main University username, describe it as 'your University username, like abc123'. Do not call them 'Computing Services usernames' or 'BUCS usernames'.
When writing about someone's University email address, describe it as 'your University email, like firstname.lastname@example.org'. Do not call them 'Computing Services email addresses' or 'BUCS email addresses'.
This will make it clear to all users, including new students, which username or email address you are referring to.
Some words can cause confusion when creating content, so check this list to avoid common mistakes.
Don't forget the second 'e'. It is not 'acknowledgment'.
Affect or effect
The Oxford dictionaries blog gives a good definition of the difference between affect and effect.
This is always two words, except in the United States.
Appraise or apprise
'Appraise' is to set a value on something. 'Apprise' is to inform.
This can mean twice a year or once every two years. 'Biennial' means once every two years. Best to spell out which one you mean.
Comprise, compose or constitute
'Comprise' means to contain or embrace ('The University comprises four faculties and schools'); do not use is 'comprised of'. 'Compose' and 'constitute' are used in the opposite way, for the parts that make up the whole ('The University is composed of four faculties and schools'; 'Four faculties and schools constitute the university').
Continual or continuous
'Continual' means over and over; 'continuous' means without interruption ('We come to work continually every day'; 'She spoke continuously for an hour')
Dependant or dependent
A dependant (noun) is a person who is dependent (adjective) on someone else.
A dilemma is a choice between undesirable alternatives. It is not a synonym for 'problem'.
Disinterested or uninterested
A disinterested person is impartial; an uninterested person is indifferent.
Fewer is used of numbers; less is used of quantity ('Fewer men require less food').
Its or it’s
'Its' is a possessive pronoun ('Every dog will have its day'). 'It’s' is a contraction of 'it is' ('It’s' time to go home).
That or which
'That' defines and 'which' gives extra information, often in a clause with commas around it ('This is the study that Miranda managed'; 'This study, which Miranda managed, has suggested a link between drinking and heart attacks').
'Who's' is the contracted form of 'who is'. 'Whose' is the possessive form of 'who'. If you're unsure which to use, try the full-length version, 'who is', in the sentence. If this makes sense in the context, then you can use 'who's'. If it doesn't, then the right spelling is 'whose'.