Applying our house style

To create consistency across all our publications and digital channels, applying our ‘house style’ is essential. This includes how we phrase, spell, capitalise and punctuate, and when acronyms are used.

Our house style plays an important part in helping make sure our communications are consistent, clear and professional. The guide below should be followed to support all written content. Examples to accompany the grammatical concepts can be found in italics.

Capital letters

Capitals should be used with discretion. Accessibility guidance states that over-use of capital letters can make texts harder to read. As a general rule, capitals should only be used at the start of sentences, including titles, or when using proper nouns (like names of organisations or streets, or book titles). ALSO, WE DO NOT USE BLOCK CAPITALS FOR LARGE AMOUNTS OF TEXT AS IT’S QUITE HARD TO READ.

View examples in the GOV.UK style guide capitalisation list.

Plain English – capital letters

Names and titles

First names and surnames should always be capitalised. For example, Dave Cotton.

Give people’s role title, first name and surname when first mentioned. On subsequent mentions, use either first name only or title (Mr, Mrs, Ms etc) and surname (unless further information is required to prevent ambiguity) – ensure consistency whichever usage you choose.

  • Dave Cotton is the Chief Executive Officer of Diverse Academies. Mr Cotton has held this position since 2020, taking over from predecessor Chris Pickering.
  • The Chief Executive Officer of Diverse Academies, Dave Cotton, said: “This is an important moment for our students.” Dave continued: “It is a fantastic opportunity”.

Capitalise a job title that comes immediately before the person’s name or is used as part of their name when addressing them. In this case, the job title is usually replacing their first name.

  • Teacher George Washington has received special recognition for his work with autistic students.
  • Promoted to Business Operations Manager was Terri Parry, who had been working as office administrator at Tuxford Primary Academy.
  • Chief Executive Officer Dave Cotton will be hosting our Star Awards next weekend.

However, where the job title comes after the person’s name, or is used instead of the person’s name, then it is generally not capitalised.

  • George Washington, teacher at Yeoman Park Academy received a special award this week.
  • Terri Parry was appointed as business operations manager following a promotion from office administrator at Tuxford Primary Academy.
  • Hosting our Star Awards next weekend will be Dave Cotton, our chief executive officer.

Names and titles in press releases

In a press release, sentence case should be used for titles. The person’s title is only capitalised when it precedes the person’s name (e.g. Chief Operating Officer Gary Corban) and is lower case after the name (e.g. Gary Corban, chief operating officer of Diverse Academies Trust).

Formal titles, such as Councillor, President, Princess are capitalised and appear before the person’s name.

Faculties and departments

Capitalise only when used as part of the title of a faculty, not when referring to a faculty without using its full name.

  • The Creative Arts Faculty is headed up by Mrs Morris. The faculty’s phone number is 0115 912 3456.

Courses and qualifications

Where the name of a subject is used as part of a formal course title it should be capitalised, but not if used in other contexts. Subject names should also be used with a capital letter when referring to the faculty or department which teaches it.

  • While studying physics, she focused on the work of Stephen Hawking.
  • An A level in history teaches you to think analytically.
  • Pearson Edexcel GCSE Design and Technology

Key stages

When referring to the national curriculum, ‘key stages’ should be spelt out in full and not abbreviated nor capitalised.

  • Students cover a broad and balanced curriculum in key stage 3.

The same applies to the early years foundation stage, which should not be capitalised.

Punctuation

Colons

A colon can be used to introduce a subclause which follows logically from the text before it, where it is not a new concept and depends logically on the clause before it.

  • Our sixth form centre is open to students from two of our partner academies: The Holgate Academy and Queen Elizabeth’s Academy.

Also see ‘Bullet points’ below.

Semicolons

Semicolons are not frequently used within our house style, as the preferred method to connect related parts of a sentence is with an en dash or a comma as appropriate (see below).

Generally, you can use a semicolon to link two related parts of a sentence, where each of which could stand alone as a grammatically complete sentence and/or neither of which depends fully on the other.

  • The students finished first in the netball tournament; our team from Retford Oaks Academy beat peers from five other academies to claim the county championship title.

You can use semicolons in place of commas in a complicated list or sentence if it will improve clarity, particularly if list items already include commas. However, consider the use of a bulleted list as an alternative to a long sentence.

  • We strive for excellence at the academy, especially as we improve our practices in teaching and learning; with pastoral support; and our enrichment opportunities for students.

Commas

Use a pair of commas to surround descriptive information which can be removed (non-defining clause) without losing the meaning of the sentence – note that only ‘which’ or ‘who’ can be used in this type of clause, not ‘that’.

  • Mr Ritchie, who joined the academy in 1967, unveiled a plaque in his honour as he retired.

Commas should not be used to surround information which cannot be removed without losing the meaning of the sentence (defining clause) – note that ‘which’ or ‘who’ can be replaced by ‘that’ in this type of clause.

Use commas to surround a non-defining word or phrase (which adds information but could be omitted without changing the sense of the sentence), and follow the non-defining word/phrase with a single comma if it is at the start of the sentence.

  • Mr Ritchie, the academy caretaker, celebrated his retirement by unveiling a plaque

Do not use a comma where defining information is used at the start of a sentence.

  • Celebrating his retirement was Mr Ritchie. (Correct)
  • Celebrating his retirement, was Mr Ritchie. (Incorrect)

En dash and hyphens

En dashes can be used in a variety of ways to support understanding and to help make content flow in the correct manner.

  • They should be used in a pair in place of round brackets or commas, surrounded by spaces.
    (It was – as far as I could tell – the only example of its kind.)
  • Use singly and surrounded by spaces to link two parts of a sentence, in place of a colon or semicolon.
    (The bus was late today – we nearly missed the start of class.)
  • Use to link concepts or ranges of numbers, with no spaces either side.
    (Students from Hucknall Sixth Form Centre are aged 16-18)

Plain English – using hyphens

Quotation marks

  • A pair of quotation marks or double quotation (“) should be used to enclose a direct speech i.e. a repetition of someone’s exact words. Anything which is not part of the exact words must be placed outside the quotation marks.
  • Use a single quotation marks (‘) for titles that are not whole publications such as short poems, short stories, songs, chapters in books or articles in periodicals.
  • When using quotation marks, ensure that the full stop sits inside the closing mark.
    (“I’m delighted to have been given the role as Diverse Academies’ new CEO.”)

Ampersands (&)

Ampersands should only be used if they are part of official titles or names. Otherwise, spell out ‘and’.

Apostrophes

Generally, there are two reasons for the use of an apostrophe – to indicate possession or to indicate that letters have been omitted (contractions).

Possession

Use ’s after singular nouns, plural nouns which do not end in s and indefinite pronouns.

  • Dave’s report
  • anybody’s guess
  • The children’s playground is next to the year 5 classroom.

Use just ’ after plural nouns ending in s.

  • Strong tea is sometimes called builders’ tea.

If a name already ends in s or z and would be difficult to pronounce if ’s were added to the end, consider rearranging the sentence to avoid the difficulty.

  • ‘Lucas’s methods were very popular with his peers’ could be changed to ‘The methods used by Lucas were popular with his peers.’

In compound nouns and where multiple nouns are linked to make one concept, place the apostrophe at the end of the final part (and match it to that noun).

  • the teacher’s pen
  • my mother-in-law’s dog
  • his step-brothers’ cars
  • Eva and Freddie’s story

Use apostrophes with noun phrases denoting periods of time (use an apostrophe if you can replace the apostrophe with ‘of’).

  • took a week’s holiday (holiday of a week)
  • You must give three months’ notice (notice of three months)

But do not use an apostrophe in adjectival phrases.

  • She was eight months pregnant when she went on maternity leave.

Contractions

Use an apostrophe in the position the omitted letters would have occupied, not where the space was between the original words.

  • I don’t like the colour blue.
  • He wouldn’t do that.

Do not use an apostrophe before contractions accepted as words in their own right.

  • He is on the phone.
  • He had swine flu.

Do not use an apostrophe to make a plural, even with a word/phrase that is not usually written in the plural or which appears clunky. To clarify something which will look odd if an s is added, consider italicising it or placing it in single quotation marks.

Common mistakes:

  • FAQs (not FAQ’s)
  • 2000s (not 2000’s)
  • CDs (not CD’s)
  • its (in the possessive, e.g. the house has lost its windows)
  • it’s (contraction, e.g. it’s on Retford Road)

Plain English – using apostrophes

Full stops

We do not use full stops after abbreviations, for example Mr (not Mr.), St (for saint not St.) with the exception of ‘e.g.’ and ‘i.e’.

Generally, full stops are not used on signs. However, you should use a full stop at the end of a sentence on signage if punctuation has been included in the sentence and/or it is a long sentence.

Plain English – punctuating sentences

Bullet points

Do not punctuate the end of bullet points which are a list of items.

GCSE options block two:

  • history
  • geography
  • sociology
  • psychology

If the bullet points form a complete sentence, add a full stop to the end of each bullet point. A full stop should also be applied to the end of the proceeding sentence.

The teacher stated three things that students must remember when using academy computer equipment.

  • Do not eat or drink near the IT equipment.
  • Users must only use their personal login.
  • All equipment must be treated with care and respect.

A list of very short points can either be formatted with a full stop on the preceding sentence or with a colon and punctuation. Note initial capitals are only used in the first example.

Select one subject for block two of your GCSE options.

  • History
  • Geography
  • Sociology

OR

When choosing your block two GCSE options, you must select one of the following subjects:

  • history
  • geography, or
  • sociology.

If text inside the bullet point is a complete sentence in its own right, add a semicolon to the end of each point, ‘or’ or ‘and’ (depending on the sense of your sentence) to the end of the penultimate point, and a full stop to the end of the last one.

The following will be considered appropriate reasons for missing the final student council meeting of the year:

  • you are absent as a result of illness;
  • you are unable to attend because of problems with public transport;
  • you have been selected to represent the academy in a sporting fixture; or
  • you have obtained a ticket to see Les Misérables at the theatre.

Plain English – punctuating bulleted lists

Spacing between sentences

We only include one space between the end of a sentence and the start of the next.

Acronyms

We explain an abbreviation or acronym in full on its first use unless it’s well known, like UK or NHS. Then we refer to it by initials.

Numbers, dates, times and money

Numbers and money

Spell out whole-number words for one to ten. Use figures for numbers above ten.

  • one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten
  • 11, 12, 13…

Always use figures and symbols for percentages, measurements and currency. Use commas to punctuate large numbers.

  • Question 12 is worth 10% of the available marks.
  • 20 per cent of commuters use their cars.
  • The average height of a woman in the UK is 1.61m.
  • The cost, at £5.99, was less than their overall budget of £50.
  • The population of New York City is estimated to be 8,008,278.
  • The population of New York City is estimated to be over 8 million.

Time

We use the 12-hour clock only, placing a full stop between the hours and minutes and either am/pm at the end.

  • The lesson starts at 11.30am and ends at 1pm.
  • Monday sports club: 3.15-5pm

Use ‘noon’ or ‘midnight’ instead of ‘12’, ‘12 noon’ or ‘12 midnight.’

  • The closing date for applications is noon on 31 December 2022.

Don’t use additional ‘.00’ for times on the hour, and close up space between the number and the ‘am’ or ‘pm’.

  • The academy day starts at 9am.
  • The history lesson starts at 11.30am and ends at 1pm.

Dates

Always put the date before the month.

  • Easter this year is on 18 April.

We don’t use ordinal indicators e.g. ‘th’, ‘rd’, ‘st’ etc with dates – just the number and month – and never precede the number with ‘the’. Include day and year for clarity where needed.

  • The open event will be held on Thursday 29 September 2022.
  • Our annual sports day will take place on 13 July.

When working with dates and times, the date comes first, followed by the time.

  • Primary science – considering curriculum
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Spellings

We useRather than
A levelA Level or A-level or A-Level
extra-curricularextracurricular
phonetelephone
programmeuse when referring to a set of related measures or activities
programonly use when referring to computing
mathsmathematics
SENDCOSendco / Senco / SENCO / SENCo
wellbeingwell-being