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Editorial style guide: A

Editorial guidance for terms beginning with 'A'. Use the style guide to help make your content clear, accessible, and consistent with the rest of the website.


Read about why we need an editorial style guide.


Not 'A-star'.


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 section for how to write dates.

Avoid using 'eg', 'etc' or 'ie'. Instead use 'for example', 'and so on' and 'in other words'.

Only abbreviate days of the week if you need to shorten them to fit a character limit. See Dates.

Academic terms

Always use initial capitals when referring to departments, faculties, job titles and course titles.

For example, use:

  • Department of Education
  • Faculty of Science
  • Digital Editor
  • Civil Engineering

Give forenames in full and avoid using initials.

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'


Don't forget the second 'e'. It is not 'acknowledgment'.


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 or NUS, without the full name.

Active voice

See the section about using the active voice on our guide to writing for the web.


See Email addresses, Postal addresses, or Website addresses.


Use 'adviser' for consistency, not 'advisor'.

Affect or effect

The Collins English Dictionary website gives a good definition of the difference between affect and effect.

A level

Don't write 'A Level', 'A-level' or 'A-Level'. See UCAS.


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'.

Ampersands (&)

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. You can also use an ampersand in a page title if you need to shorten it to fit the character limit.

Any more

This is always two words, except in the United States.


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

Appraise or apprise

'Appraise' is to set a value on something. 'Apprise' is to inform.

Attributing quotes

See Quotations.


Use lower case, so 'autumn'. Use ‘fall’ if you're writing specifically for American users.

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