Example Style Guide

This style guide illustrates how to encourage clarity and consistency across communications. It provides a reference point for those people who use print or digital channels to write for different audiences. The style guide should be used in conjunction with brand guidelines to create a professional tone to all internal and external communications.

General Guidelines

Consider the audience you are addressing so that you use language appropriate for the reader. Our audiences will include students, staff, potential employers, research partners, business and industry, the media. Some key things to remember are:

  • Use plain English to get your message across. Set out information clearly and logically.
  • Keep sentences short, but not terse. Stick to one point per sentence. When writing for the web remember that readers are more likely to scan a page rather than read it in full. Here are some general guidelines:
    • use lists instead of paragraphs
    • use internal sub-headers
    • include links as part of the copy because they will stand out – but use hyperlinks not ‘click here’
  • Keep pages short and to the point.
  • Use active language instead of passive language where possible. For example, "The Students’ Union will tell you about clubs and societies" instead of "Students will be told about clubs and societies by the Students’ Union";
  • Use ‘you’ and ‘we’ rather than words like "applicants must send…" ("you must send...") ; "the University will tell applicants…" ("we will tell you...").
  • Use contracted words (you’ll, can’t, don’t) where a friendly, informal writing style is required for appropriate audiences. Contracted words should generally not be used in headers and not in copy where more serious or formal issues are being addressed.
  • Avoid jargon and do not over-use acronyms.
  • Avoid nominalizations that are formed from verbs (such as arrangement/arrange; provision/provide; completion/complete). For example, ‘failure to do this will result in…’( ‘if you fail to do this you will…’).
  • Make appropriate use of headers, paragraph breaks and bullets to help the reader understand the structure of what you are saying.
  • Avoid using exclamation marks.
  • Imagine that you are talking to the reader to check that your writing is clear, helpful and personal.
  • Always use inclusive language (and images) that promote and embrace the University’s diversity and equal opportunities policies.


Always use the full name first, and use initial subsequently. For example:

"Bailey University (BU) is the university of choice for the study of science, art and the humanities."
"The Faculty of Humanities and Law (FHL) is renowned for the study of creative writing."

Do not use e.g., i.e. and etc – use the long form instead, followed by a comma: for example, that is, and so on.

Professor should be used in full and not abbreviated to Prof. Doctor should be abbreviated to Dr (no full stop).


The ampersand (&) should not be used except when it forms part of a corporate name.

For example Marks & Spencer but Faculty of Art and Design.


Correct use: Four years’ study; six weeks’ time; one year’s study, one day’s leave. Children’s games; people’s rights.

Do not use the apostrophe in possessive pronouns: hers, its, yours. Do not use the apostrophe in year dates: the 1950s, the 1980s.

More examples:

  • Bailey University offers Master’s degrees in Education;
  • Bailey University offers a Master’s degree in Education.

Bullet Points

Punctuate items on a bulleted list by a semi-colon except when the list includes short statements or single words. Always introduce the bulleted list with a colon and end with a full stop.

For example:

1) Use of Semi-colon

The latest staff survey showed that:

  • 90% of the survey respondents felt proud to work for the University;
  • 85% felt a strong sense of loyalty to their Faculty;
  • 90% understood the University’s mission;
  • 80% felt there was equal access to training and development opportunities.

2) When Not to Use a Semi-colon

Students rated the following aspects of their experience highly:

  • academic support
  • feedback on work
  • social activities
  • environment


Generally use sentence case and reserve capitals for proper nouns and for the names of schools and departments. It is a common mistake to use capitals incorrectly. Examples of correct usage are:

When Referring to Bailey University


  • Bailey University focuses on creativity, culture and enterprise.
  • The University has several campuses and a specialist postgraduate centre.
  • There were many University staff at the carol service.

When Referring to Universities in General


  • There are two universities in Bath.
  • There is a lot of media coverage of universities (universities in general).
  • He is at university.

University departments and schools are capitalised when they form part of a title: Department of Music, Faculty of Education, Academic Board, Board of Governors.

Staff work in higher education (not Higher Education).


Job titles: the Prime Minister, the Vice-Chancellor, Jo Bloggs, Professor of English, Jane Smith, Head of Department. But do not use capitals for generic title – a lecturer, a teacher.

Titles and Forms of Address

Mr J Bloggs (no full stop).

Dr J Bloggs (no full stop).

When using the title 'Lord' or 'Lady', do not use forenames, for example Lord McAlpine’ not 'Lord Alistair McAlpine'.


Honours degree, Joint Honours degree, First Class Honours degree, Upper Second Class degree, Honorary degree, Master's degree; BA (Hons) History.

BA, BSc, PhD, MLitt, MPhil

A-level, AS-level, GCSE

When adding qualification after a person's name, they should be sorted into order according to the standard for post-nominal letters, eg:

  1. Bt/Bart or Esq;
  2. Decorations and honours (in descending order of precedence);
  3. Appointments (for example, QC for Queen's Counsel, MP for member of parliament);
  4. Higher educational qualifications, e.g. Certificates or Diplomas of Higher Education or University degrees (in ascending order starting from undergraduate);
  5. Religious institutes (for example, SSF), medical qualifications, and professional certifications;
  6. Fellowship or membership of learned societies, academies or professional institutions (for example, RA, FRCP, FRGS, FRSA);
  7. Membership of the Armed Forces (for example, RAF, RN, RMP).


All headings should be Capitalised, but not placed into Title Case. The only exception is when the heading also references a commonly used acronym, eg: Post Graduate Certificate in Education.


Government, Council: use capital ‘G’ or ‘C’ when referring specifically to ‘the Government’, ‘the Council’, but not when referring to government or council in general (for example, local government initiatives).

Course Names

When naming a course use upper case: he studies History; she is a Biology student. But if speaking of the subject in a generic sense, use lower case: the study of history leads to many careers; the art and design sector employs many graduates.

Dates and Times

Please use the format day/month/year with no punctuation. For example: 1 January 2012.

These uses are incorrect: 1st January 2012, January 1 2012, 01/01/2012. However it is permissible to write "On the 12th the students visited..."

If the day is included, it becomes: Monday, 1 January 2012.

Do not insert a space when writing times. They should be written as follows: 9am, 10.30am, 6–7pm, 16:00h.


Whole numbers between one and ten should be written out. Numbers 11 and above should appear as figures. This rule applies even if both forms appear in the same sentence.

Numbers 1,000 and over should have a comma to denote the thousands, not a space. For example 2,500, not 2 500

Numbers starting a new sentence or paragraph should be spelt out in full; if the number is large it is better to rewrite the sentence to avoid starting with it.

Spell out common fractions. For example:

  • There were six students in the first group and 20 in the second group;
  • Fifteen students arrived on time;
  • There were 15 students in the group;
  • A total population of 30 million;
  • He donated £30 million;
  • The survey showed that two-thirds of respondents agreed.


Minimise the use of hyphens. Two words used as an adjective are hyphenated, for example long-awaited publication, second-year student, four-year course.

However hyphens can avoid confusion: two year-old children and two-year-old children.

The following should always be hyphenated:

  • A-levels, AS-levels
  • co-operate
  • co-ordinate
  • decision-making
  • e-learning
  • full-time (adjective); full-timers (but ‘works full time’)
  • government-funded
  • high-risk (adjective)
  • in-house
  • long-term (adjective)
  • mid- (eg mid-1993)
  • non- (eh non-negotiable)
  • part-time (adjective); part-timers (but ‘works part time’)
  • performance-related pay
  • policy-making (as an adjective only)
  • post-
  • pre-
  • re-examine.

The following should always be one word:

  • childcare
  • coursework
  • email
  • fieldwork
  • healthcare
  • homepage
  • multinational
  • multiskilled, multiskilling
  • offline
  • ongoing
  • online
  • postgraduate
  • reorganise
  • teamwork
  • website
  • wellbeing
  • workplace
  • worldwide.


Use italics for names of books, newspapers, plays, songs, theatre productions and artworks, for example Guardian, A Tale of Two Cities.

Titles of chapters within a book, journal articles, songs and poems should be in single quotation marks, not italics.

Use italics, not bold or underlining, for emphasis in text – but sparingly.


If the value is ten or below, then five pounds. If the value is above ten, then £11 or £12.50. But £4 million.

£3.50 or £0.75 or 75 pence, not £0.75p. Do not use ‘.00’ for prices in whole pounds (eg £11, not £11.00).


Use percentage sign (%) in lists, charts or tables, otherwise use per cent. For example:

"The survey indicated that 50 per cent of students left early."


Use double quotation marks for quotes and single quotation marks for quotes within a quote.

If a quote comprises a whole sentence, the full stop should come before the closing quote marks. Direct quotes from individuals that comprise a full sentence or sentences should be preceded by a colon, and the full stop or final comma should be inside the quote marks.

When you have quotes within a quote, use double and then single quote marks.

For example: Professor Smith said: “This is a remarkable achievement.

He had a real passion for the subject, and once said I should ‘go and find out more about it’, although he knew I wasn’t interested,” said John.

Use double quotation marks where there is a partial quote. For example: Students described the lecture as “a brilliant experience” and “the best lecture so far.

Singular Nouns

All organisations and institutions are singular, and should be referred to as ‘it’, not ‘they’.

For example: The Faculty of Education is… It places emphasis on…


Please refer to the writing copy page.

Words Commonly Misused

  • and (not &)
  • advice (noun), to advise (verb)
  • adviser (or advisor) but advisory
  • affect (see effect)
  • ageing
  • among (not amongst )
  • any more (two words)
  • budgeted
  • complement (noun) = that which completes or fills up
  • compliment (noun) = expression of admiration
  • criterion (singular); criteria (plural)
  • data are plural, datum is singular
  • dependent (adjective); dependant (noun)
  • disabled people (not ‘the disabled’)
  • effect (noun = an outcome; verb = to bring about); affect (verb = to have an effect on)
  • every day (noun and adverb: it happens every day)
  • everyday (adjective: an everyday mistake )
  • first, second, third (not secondly)
  • focused
  • forward = near or at the front
  • foreword = a preface
  • led (past tense of to lead), not lead
  • licence (noun), to license (verb)
  • practice (noun), to practise (verb)
  • principal (adjective = main); principle (noun = concept, etc)
  • while not whilst


The Plain English Campaign website www.plainenglish.co.uk/free-guides.html

Updated: 18 December 2016