Acronyms

Avoid acronyms where possible. If you do have to use one, spell it out in full the first time and include the acronym in brackets – eg “… your no claims discount (NCD)”.

Acts

Use title case for acts – eg Road Traffic Act.

Advise/advised

Use sparingly

Ampersands

Avoid using ampersands (&) in text, unless it’s as part of a brand name, eg Marks & Spencer. You can use them sparingly on web buttons or other places where space is really tight.

Apostrophes

Use an apostrophe to show possession, before the s if the subject is singular, or after if plural (“your vehicle’s details”, “both vehicles’ details”). Don’t use an apostrophe to show that there is more than one of something (two vehicle’s, 1990’s).

Bold

Use bold for: headings, sub-headings.

Brackets

If a whole sentence begins and ends within the brackets, the final full stop should also fall inside. (Like this.)

But if only part of the sentence is within the brackets, the punctuation should fall outside (like this).

Bullet points

For short bullet points, introduce them with a colon:

  • not a dash

  • or a comma

  • or a colon and a dash

  • start with capitals

  • don’t use full stops

  • except for on the final one.

For longer bullet points made of full sentences, again introduce them with a colon:

  • Start each line with a capital letter.

  • And end each line with a full stop.

Capital letters

Use capital letters only for names of towns, people, companies, brands and legal acts.

Don’t capitalise industry words, or Words you think are Important.

In general, don’t capitalise job titles. The exception to this rule is when they’re functioning as part of the name, rather than as a descriptive phrase.

For example: “Prime Minister Theresa May” – but “Theresa May, the prime minister”.

The same goes for company departments. Generally, use lower case, and add the word “team” or “department” if clarity is needed.

For example: “Please speak to the customer relations department”.

NEVER USE BLOCK CAPITALS.

Write headings in sentence case – ie capitalise the first letter of the first word only. (Don’t use title case, where you capitalise the first letter of all the principal words.)

Clichés

At the end of the day, when all’s said and done, we’re all capable of thinking outside of the box – so we shouldn’t use any of these expressions. Avoid clichés at all costs. Our writing will be fresher and more personable if we find new ways of saying things.

Companies

Refer to companies as singular, rather than plural. So “your bank has told us” rather than “your bank have told us”.

Contractions

If you’re going for a conversational, informal tone, it’s OK to use can’t, won’t, shouldn’t, we’re, they’re, you’re, haven’t, couldn’t, you’ve, we’ll, there’s, rather than their longer equivalents.

Conjunctions

At school we were taught never to start a sentence with and, but, so or because. But they were wrong. Starting some sentences with conjunctions can give your writing a punchy, modern feel. Because that’s how people speak. So don’t be put off. (But don’t overdo it.)

Dashes

Where you use dashes – like this – make sure they are actually dashes, not hyphens (-). Hold down alt and key in 0150.

Dates

Use the format dd mm yyyy, or write it out as 17 December 2018.

Focused and focusing

One s – not focussed and focussing.

Font

Calibri.

Font size

Use size 11 for: body text, headings in letters, sub-headings in documents.

Use size 14 for: main headings in documents.

Going forward

Avoid – use ‘in future’ or ‘from now on’.

Greetings and sign-offs

For letters, use ‘Dear Mr Smith’ and ‘Yours sincerely’.

For emails, it depends how well you know the person. Perhaps start with a ‘Dear’ and move to a ‘Hi’. End with ‘Kind regards’ or ‘Best wishes’.

Headings

Bold, aligned left, no underlining.

Hyperlinks

Leave off the http and the www. Where a hyperlink falls at the end of a sentence, include the full stop – eg hastingseditor.com.

Hyphens

Hyphenate only when you need to for clarity. For example, ‘a black cab driver’ vs ‘a black-cab driver’.

Justification

In letters and emails, align all text to the left, including headings.

In reports, centre the main heading, but align everything else to the left.

Licence and license

Licence is the noun and license is the verb, so “please present your driving licence”, but “you must be licensed to drive”.

Make sure

Use instead of ensure where appropriate

Numbers

Spell out numbers one to nine, and use digits for 10 upwards.

If it’s a round number, don’t include the ‘.00’ in running copy. For example: “We’ll charge you a £25 fee for this” rather than “We’ll charge you a £25.00 fee for this”.

However, if there are other non-round numbers in the doc, include the “.00” for consistency. For example:

Your premium: £267.95
Your set-up fee: £25.00
Your other thingies: £23.65

OK

Not ok, okay or O.K.

Percentages

Write 10%, using the symbol, rather than 10 per cent or 10 percent.

Practice and practise

Practice is the noun and practise is the verb. So “you need more practice” but “you need to keep practising”.

Quote marks

Use double marks “like this” for actual quotations, and single marks ‘like this’ for words, phrases and concepts.

Spaces

Use a single space between sentences, not a double. Modern fonts are designed for single spaces.

Split infinitives

Go ahead – if Captain Kirk can boldly go, so can you.

That

Often unnecessary, delete where possible

Times

Write 4pm and 4.30pm rather than 16.00 and 16.30. Use a full stop not a colon in the middle.

UK/US English

Use British spellings rather than American. So organise, analyse, centre, colour, not organize, analyze, center, color.

Unfortunately

Depressing and unaccountable. Avoid where possible.

Verbs

Use verbs rather than nominalised nouns whenever possible.

  • “We investigated”, not “we undertook an investigation”.

  • “Please consider”, not “please take into consideration”.

  • “We have cancelled your policy”, not “Confirmation of cancellation”.

We

In general, refer to your organisation as “we”, rather than by its name

Who/whom

Strictly, “who” operates in a sentence like “I” or “he” (the subject), while “whom” is the equivalent of “me” or “him” (the object).

But practically, if your sentence calls for a “whom”, it’s in the wrong tone. Simplify, shorten, and split into separate sentences if necessary.

wifi

Lower case, no hyphen. Not Wi-Fi, wi-fi, WiFi.