University Style Guide


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a, an
a historic or a heroic rather than an historic or an heroic


Try to avoid shortened words since they may not be understood outside the University: postgraduate certificate not PgCert

January not Jan. or Jan
UK not United Kingdom
USA not United States or US
European Union when used first, then EU

Eg, etc, ie are set in roman without full points

Do not use ampersands unless in a formal name or trade name: City & Guilds

Use per cent not % in text. Use the symbol in headlines, charts and figures

Close up unit abbreviations: 10mm, pp1012

Close up am and pm: 5pm, 10am

Use Dr, Mr, Mrs, Ms, PhD, MSc, MA without full points

Spell out Professor in full: never use Prof. or Prof

Use the appropriate article (a, an, or the) with abbreviations when you would use that article in speech: The CII is part of the Department of Biology

abbreviated negatives
Do not use contractions such as don't, can't, won't in text unless in direct quotes or chatty columns in magazines

Use these where possible except in words that have become part of English: hotel, elite. Keep when it makes a difference to the sound: café

accommodation has double c and double m

acknowledgement not acknowledgment


Write the phrase or title in full the first time it appears, followed by the acronym in brackets. After that, you can use the acronym on its own

Where the abbreviation is better known than what it stands for there is no need to spell it out in full: BBC, NATO, IRA, AIDS


  • capitals, even if the acronym is pronounced as a word: AIDS, NATO, IPUP

Do not use:

  • full stops in acronyms or put spaces between initials



Use commas when the address is on one line: University of York, York, YO10 5DD.

If the address is on different lines do not use commas:

Department of Biology
University of York
York YO105DD

There is no need to include 'Heslington' in the University's address

For department addresses, put the department name before the University

Some important details:

  • no full stops at the ends of the lines
  • no comma between the number and the street name
  • do not abbreviate Road, Street or Avenue
  • postcode should appear after the town, county or city on the same line
  • no comma between town/county and postcode


Try to avoid breaking email addresses in print if possible but not if a large amount of white space is left. In text, use lower case for University email addresses:


There is no need to include 'http://' in front of www, and do not include a final forward slash to a web address if technically possible (check to be sure). In text, try to include a web address only at the end of a sentence. Do not insert space so it moves to start the next line. If it has to run over two lines, split it at a forward slash. Make the web address bold and use a full stop (not bold) as closing punctuation

adviser not advisor

ageing not aging


Use initial capital letters in Dark Ages, Middle Ages, etc

A levels not A-Levels or A-levels

all right not alright

alumni (plural), alumnus (singular)

alot this word does not exist. A lot means a great deal

American spellings
Change to the English version when possible: Secretary of Defense to Secretary of Defence. Where there is no English equivalent, and for place names, keep the American spelling: Labor Day and Pearl Harbor

amid, among not amidst, amongst

ampersand (&)
Use the word and unless referring to an official company name: Smith & Nephew. Ampersands should not be used on University of York business cards and stationery

Ancient Greek not ancient Greek

any more two words

anyway one word



  • to denote possession in a noun: student's timetable
  • when replacing missing letters and numbers: students in the '70s

Do not use:

  • with possessive pronouns: yours not yours'
  • in plurals of numbers, letters or in acronyms: 1970s not 1970's; three As at A level, not three A's at A level; CDs not CD's

Some important uses:

Students' Union
Overseas Students' Association
Graduate Students' Association
Freshers' Week


These are sometimes used in running text to refer a reader to an important footnote. They are rarely used in marketing materials and never on the web. Use only if absolutely necessary

awol not AWOL


bachelors not bachelor's


Use with a hyphen when combined with another word to form an adjective: work-based study

benefited not benefitted

between and among

Use between with two people or things and among with three or more people or things 

Punctuation stays outside the brackets (parentheses) if the sentence is complete without the information inside. (A complete sentence that stands alone in brackets starts with a capital letter and ends with a stop.)

Britain and UK mean the same. Great Britain refers only to England, Wales and Scotland. Take care not to write Britain when you might mean only England and Wales, for example when referring to the education system. Use UK in the University of York address, not England

bullet points


Learners should identify the following organs of the human body:

  • brain
  • heart
  • lungs
  • stomach.

Note there are no initial capital letters (unless using proper nouns) and no punctuation except for a full stop at the end of the last bullet point.


Sentences that have been broken down into bullet points should still 'flow' throughout:

People go on holiday to:

  • have a change of scenery
  • enjoy hot weather
  • get away from editing BTEC Short Courses.

Note the colon, the lack of capitalisation and the single full stop. If the bulleted lines are very long, add a semicolon to the end of each line and end with a full stop.


Bulleted lists containing complete sentences should start with a capital letter and finish with a full stop.

Students must give examples of how this is implemented.

  • For mark band 1, one example is required of its implementation by either a care worker or the organisation.
  • For mark band 2, more than one example of either a care worker or the organisation is required.
  • For mark band 3, it is desirable that students give examples of both workers and the organisation.

There does not have to be a colon at the end of the preceding sentence.


capital letters

Also known as u/c, or upper case


  • names of people, places and organisations (proper nouns)
  • subjects at York: You don’t have to be a Music student to enjoy music.
  • names of institutions
  • King, Pope when specifically named
  • the Solar System, Sun, Moon, Earth
  • the Catalyst not The Catalyst
  • Acts of Parliament
  • British Government departments of state and agencies
  • the main words in the names of programmes and modules within text
  • months and days of the week
  • countries, rivers, lakes and mountains.

Do not capitalise:

  • the smaller words in titles such as in, at, of, the, and, on
  • generic job or occupation titles: He is the managing director of the company.
  • general subject titles: Students study all aspects of archaeology.

University: use an initial capital in specific references to York: the University. When referring to a university use lower case.

College: use an initial capital when referring to a specific college: The College is named after Lord James. When referring to colleges in general use lower case: Goodricke is the first college on Heslington East.

Avoid over-use of capitals as they make the text more difficult to read. Whole titles or chunks of text written in capitals should be avoided as it looks like YOU ARE SHOUTING at the reader. If you want to emphasise a word, use italic instead.

Accents are not needed on capital letters.

city of York not City of York when referring generally to the city; use l/c for city

City of York Council is the full name of the Council

collective nouns
Nouns such as committee, family, government take a singular verb or pronoun when thought of as a single unit, but a plural verb or pronoun when thought of as a collection of individuals: The family can trace its history back to the Middle Ages.; The family were sitting down, scratching their heads.

colons (:)

Use colons to:

  • introduce a list
  • separate statements in a sentence, when the second statement explains the first

Never follow a colon with a dash (:-) or a capital letter unless the next word is a proper noun or title

compass points

Regional phrases should be in caps as in the North, the South, the West, the South East, etc but southeast England (because it is an adjective)

Use capitals for abbreviated compass points: NE, SW

CAT scan not Cat scan


Capitalise when referring to the body of the Catholic Church, but church when referring to the building

computer/new media terms

Use the following spellings:

disk not disc
drop-down box
email not e-mail

home page
internet not Internet
online not on-line
onscreen not on-screen
a pop-up
program not programme
world wide web – the web
web page

contact details

Always provide a telephone number and an email address. Web addresses are strongly recommended. Only provide fax numbers when required

Always provide these contact details in the following order: telephone, email, web. If including a fax machine number then the order should be: telephone, fax, email, web

Telephone numbers should always follow the format: +44 (0)1904 32XXXX

There is no need to introduce contact details with the terms ‘Telephone’, ‘Email’ or ‘Web’. They are self-explanatory. If, however, it is necessary to list a fax number as well, then precede the numbers with the terms ‘Telephone’, ‘Fax’, ‘Email’ or ‘Web’ to separate the fax number from the telephone number


Avoid the use of can't, won't and so on. Other contracted words, for example you'll for you will and we'll for we will, are fine in the right context. When writing for a student/prospective student audience, contractions can help establish a friendly, informal tone. Use sparingly

course titles

Always refer to University degree courses as programmes, not courses. The right way to write a course title is BA(Honours) History or BA(Hons) History. Note there is no space between BA and (Honours). Programme is not capitalised unless it is part of a full course title

co-operate not cooperate

co-ordinate not coordinate



The en dash (also known as as en rule) is used as a dash. It is longer than a hyphen and has different functions. The en-dash can be found in most software under 'Symbol/Special characters'

database not data-base

datum (singular); data (plural)

day one not Day 1

No capital letter and no figure, as in: It's been happening since day one


  • Write 21 March 2009 with no comma. Leave out the day of the week and year, unless needed for clarity. Do not use st, nd and th after figures
  • Write March 2009 not March 09
  • For ranges in text use 1750 to 1780 with no dash in between
  • For the academic year use 2010/11
  • Use c1750 not c.1750 or c 1750
  • Decades are 1960s and '60s (plural) not 1960's and '60's (unless possessive)
  • Avoid using the style 25.3.09 for dates because of the different usage in the US
  • Centuries should be written as 19th century (noun) or 19th-century literature (adjective)
  • AD comes before the date: AD350; BC comes after: 350BC. The alternative abbreviations BCE and CE both go after the date. No space between numbers and letters

degree classes

First, 2:1, 2:2, 3rd. Never use 1st. Use a capital when referring to a First, but lower case initial for first-class degree. Never use first degree, as this can be confused with an undergraduate degree. She was awarded a First in biology. He was awarded a 2:1 in English. She was awarded a first-class degree in chemistry

For all University departments always use Department of not XXX Department, except for the Environment Department

Department has a capital D when it is part of the department's title: Welcome to the Department of Computer Science

When referring to the specific department use an u/c D: The staff in the Department are friendly and approachable. The same applies to specific schools: Welcome to the Management School. The School has an excellent record

If you use an acronym for your department or school, such as HYMS, always make sure you also write it out in full for the first time you use it in a text

Deputy Vice-Chancellor but Pro-Vice-Chancellor with two hyphens

disc (for recordings) but disk (for computers)

drop-down box not drop down box


eg no full stop after. Us a comma before. Only use the abbreviation where space is an issue, such as in tables: We offer part-time courses in a range of subjects, eg computing, languages and the environment

ellipsis (...)

Close up to previous word, but leave one space before following word. When used in direct quotation, it indicates a pause in speech, or where words are missing

email no hyphen. Less well-known e-words such as e-commerce and e-learning should be hyphenated

enquire and enquiry rather than inquire and inquiry

enrol, enrolled, enrolling, enrolment note which forms take a double l

eras These should be in capital letters eg Gothic, Romantic, Modernist except in wider use: He had a romantic nature

etc no full stop, preceded by a comma if there are three or more items

equal opportunities (see Sensitivity in print)

Take care when describing or addressing different groups of people in print or on the web. For example:

  • deaf people or the deaf community not the deaf
  • people with disabilities not disabled people
  • wheelchair users not people in wheelchairs
  • people with AIDS not AIDS victims
  • elderly people not the elderly or old people
  • lecturers and their partners not lecturers and their wives

et al use roman, not italic, and no full stop

examination not exam

exclamation mark (!) Do not use except in quoted speech


Fairtrade not Fair trade or Fair-trade

FAQs (frequently asked questions) not FAQS

Far East

This encompasses: China, Hong Kong, Japan, North and South Korea, Macau, Mongolia, Taiwan

feedback (noun) not feed-back
feed back
(verb) not feed-back

fewer and less

Use fewer for countable nouns/numbers and less for uncountable nouns/quantity: fewer lectures; less time

fieldwork no hyphen, not field-work or field work

flu (no apostrophe)

focused not focussed

foot-and-mouth disease should be hyphenated

foreign words

Use italics if not accepted as fully part of English: en masse, fait accompli. Et al has no italics and no full stop

for example

Only use the abbreviated eg (without full points) when space is an issue, such as in tables. Always use the full for example if possible

forgo not forego

forward slash (/)

This should only be used in web addresses. Leave off the final forward slash in a web address if technically possible (check to be sure). Do not use a forward slash for or (male/female) or to (July/August)


An hour and a half has no hyphens. Similarly, two and a half years, two thirds


Broken or incomplete sentences are picked up by your spell-check as Fragments. To correct them, rewrite your sentence, making sure it has a subject and a verb. Fragments are acceptable in some contexts, such as bullet points, entries in directory-style publications, or as a device in creative writing

full stop (.)

Do not use after abbreviations (BA, Mrs), acronyms (BBC) or middle initials. Try to split long sentences into shorter ones. Shorter sentences make text easier to read

NB Leave one blank space not two after a full stop, colon or semi-colon

full-time, part-time are hyphenated

fundraising not fund raising or fund-raising


gauge is correct, not guage

Use u/c Government when referring to a specific one: 'the Government resigned last night'

Use l/c government in all adjectival contexts: a government minister, government expenditure

groundbreaking not ground-breaking or ground breaking


Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca (roman)

headings and titles

  • sentence case which has an initial capital letter only: This is a heading not This is a Heading

  • headings which are only one or two lines long

Do not use:

punctuation at the end of headings, ie do not add colons, full stops, hyphens or en rules after the final word of the heading

healthcare one word, without a hyphen

Heslington East is an extension or expansion of the campus. The original part of the campus at Heslington is known as Heslington West. They are not separate campuses

home page not homepage

the Hub not The Hub

hyphen (-)

Use hyphens to avoid ambiguity.

Do not use hyphens:

  • with no one
  • with compass points: northeast England
  • in adverbial phrases: The students were well dressed for the icy conditions
  • with fractions: one third; three quarters
  • for expressions such as step by step; up to date; whole school unless being used adjectivally: the step-by-step instructions; up-to-date technology

When there is another adjective or adverb preceding the hyphenated word, there does not need to be another hyphen: a well thought-out plan

The following words are never hyphenated:



ie no full stop afterwards. Use a comma before


Do not use initials in a name unless the person particularly wants them for clarity. Do not use full stops: John G P Barnes

internet use l/c, not Internet

-ise or -ize

Use s spelling, not z: organise not organize, organisation not organization, emphasise not emphasize, specialise not specialize, hypothesise not hypothesize, internationalise not internationalize


Use italics for:

  • foreign words that are not anglicised (with correct accents)
  • clarity: upon is often unnecessary; on will do
  • titles of books, journals, newspapers, films, television programmes and plays, poems, long musical compositions, paintings, sculptures and photographs, names of ships, exhibition titles

Do not use italics for:

  • tiles of articles, the Bible, the Qur'an, chapters, stories and articles within a book, shorter poems
  • v, eg, etc, ie, c, vice versa, et al, in vitro, in vivo, per capital, per se, status quo, ad hoc
  • Acts of parliament, hotels, theatre

it's or its


It's means it is. Its means belonging to it


jail, jailer not gaol, gaoler


Avoid using jargon, business-speak, corporate buzzwords – any terms that will only be understood by a select group. Marketing hyperbole should be avoided at all times

job titles and commas

No commas: Vice-Chancellor John Smith said...

With commas: John Smith, Vice-Chancellor, said...

judgement not judgment


Key Stage 1, 2, 3 caps and figures for Government's educational targets

kick-off (noun), but to kick off (verb)

kick-start (hyphenate, whether noun or verb)

the King’s Manor

Always use 's and l/c the: not at King's Manor or The King's Manor or Kings Manor

kilogram not kilogramme


laboratory not lab


When in common usage, there is no need to use italics, quid pro quo, QED, habeas corpus, in situ, vice versa

learned (past tense and past participle of learn); note also learned (adjective, as in scholarly)

liaise is correct, not liase

lower case

Also known as l/c or lower case; means not a capital letter


man-made not man made or manmade

masterclass one word

masters not master's

medieval not mediaeval


The media is a plural so use the plural form of the verb: the news media are not the news media is

millennium has double l and double n


Use numerals followed by the abbreviation m: £2m

minuscule not miniscule

module titles

When used in text, use u/c on all important words


Only use this when there are more than two media. No hyphen


For song titles, album titles, operas (including arias) use italics


newspapers and journals

Use italics for titles and use u/c The in the title whenever appropriate: The Times, The Sunday Times, The Economist, The Press but the Guardian, the Independent, the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph, the Observer, the Financial Times, the Daily Mirror, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the Yorkshire Post

no one not noone or no-one

noticeboard not notice board


  • Spell out numbers up to and including ten. After ten use figures except for exact measurements and charts where figures can also be used for numbers below ten
  • Use a comma to group in threes after 999: 1,000
  • Centuries above the tenth should be written as 19th century (noun) or 20th-century literature (adjective with hyphen)
  • Always use numerals to express sums of money
  • For million, use numerals followed by the abbreviation m: £2m
  • Write out the names of foreign currencies except in tables: yen, francs, dollars. No capital letters. If the dollars are other than US, state this: $HK1,000
  • Use numbers to express per cent: 5 per cent (text or caption) and 2% in table, box, list or label
  • Never start a sentence with a number – it must always be written out or, preferably, try to reword it


offline not off-line

ongoing not on-going

online not on-line

onscreen not on-screen


Open Day
Use u/c when referring to the University's Open Days. Otherwise use l/c


part-time, full-time

Hyphenated when used adjectivally as in full-time course but not in my course is full time

per cent
Write out in full as two words except in headlines. Use the symbol % in charts and figures only

Phase 1 (Heslington East) not phase 1 or phase one

phone number

Use the full international code when giving a University phone number in marketing material with the following spacing: +44 (0)1904 320000

place names
Use the English convention but be aware of official changes: Mumbai not Bombay. If in doubt, put the old names in brackets following the new name

policymaker one word, without a hyphen

postgraduate one word, without a hyphen

practice (noun) but practise (verb)

programme (for courses) but program (for computer programs)

programme titles

When used in text, use u/c on all important words

prophecy (noun) but prophesy (verb)

Pro-Vice-Chancellor with two hyphens but Deputy Vice-Chancellor


Use italics and u/c on major words for names of books and journals: The War of the Worlds, The Plant Journal. Use single quotation marks for journal articles


No full stops or commas to separate each qualification but use a comma between the surname and the first qualification: Andy Smith, MSc PhD

quotation marks

Use "double" quotation marks for speech and quotations from articles and books; and 'single' for a quotation within speech (See Use of English)

Make sure the full stop comes inside the closing speech marks if the quote is a complete sentence: "We're very excited about this new area of research."

Qur'an not Koran



Capitalise formal racial distinctions: Asian, Native American, but use l/c for less-formal references: black, white

ranges (numerical)

children aged 1216 or children aged from 12 to 16; not children aged from 1216

the Ron Cooke Hub not The Ron Cooke Hub



The seasons are l/c, but use Spring Term, the Summer Term

semi-colon (;)

Use to mark a pause longer than a comma but shorter than a full stop. It separates:

  • two related ideas
  • items in a list

siege but seize



only one space after end punctuation (full stops, exclamations points, question marks) and after colons and semicolons

Do not use a space before:

  • am or pm: The lecture starts at 5pm.
  • an abbreviated unit: 5g, 3km



  • ise spelling instead of ize: organise not organize; emphasise not emphasize
  • -ed for past participles, not t: learned not learnt

Do not use:

  • -st for prepositions: amid not amidst; while not whilst; among not amongst


telephone numbers

Give as an international number with the following spacing: +44 (0)1904 430000


Should be styled Spring Term, Summer Term, Year 1, Term 4

Theatre, Film and Television not Theatre Film and Television


Use am and pm, not the 24 hour clock. Use full stops not colons eg 9.30am not 09:30. There is no space between the number and the abbreviation to avoid confusion with the word am. Use 12 noon or 12 midnight to distinguish between night and day


Use Professor not Prof. or Prof

Use Dr not Doctor

Avoid using Mr, Mrs or Ms in publications unless it is requested

Vice-Chancellor is hyphenated, as is Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Lord-Lieutenant


undergraduate one word without a hyphen

under way two words


Always refer to York as the University of York not York University (which is in Canada). Use an initial capital in specific references to York: the University. When referring to university in general use l/c: a university


Vice-Chancellor two words, hyphenated


the web but a web address

web addresses

  • For simplification, leave out the http:// unless the address contains no www
  • It is acceptable to split a web address over two lines, but preferable not to
  • Give web addresses at the ends of sentences only and end the sentence with a roman full stop
  • Give web addresses in bold
  • When citing specific departmental web addresses there is often no need to finish with a forward slash (check to be sure):

web page two words

website is one word, not web site or web-site. The w is lower case unless at the beginning of a sentence

well-being not well being or wellbeing

while not whilst

wifi not Wi-Fi


We meet people and speak to people, not meet with people and speak with people

World Wide Web initial caps on all words


X-ray is u/c


Year in Industry not year in industry

York Ambassadors Scheme no apostrophe


ize or ise?

Use s spelling, not z: organise not organize, organisation not organization, emphasise not emphasize, specialise not specialize, hypothesise not hypothesize, internationalise not internationalize





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