House style guide
The University of Leicester’s style guide is a tool aimed at providing staff with a consistent approach when writing or editing for the University of Leicester as part of its brand guidelines.
Some of these points are generally accepted punctuation rules. Others are the University of Leicester house style, where more than one version is correct, but we want to be consistent across our communications.
Please send queries or recommendations to Mike Simpson firstname.lastname@example.org
- The ampersand (&) is used for abbreviations and company names. Avoid its use in ordinary text, including headlines.
- Do not put spaces either side of a slash (/).
- Put spaces both sides of a dash – which separates phrases – but no spaces around a hyphen, which is a word-separator.
- Put a space after, but not before, a colon (:) and a semi-colon (;)
- Use a colon to introduce lists. If the list introduction is a heading, you don’t need any punctuation. There is no such punctuation as ‘:-‘
- Never use more than one exclamation mark!!!
- An ellipsis only has three dots...
- One space after full stops. Not two.
- “Double quotes for direct speech,” he said. But single quotes for ‘other stuff’.
- No full stops in degree types - BSc, MA, PhD - and we don't put an apostrophe in Bachelors or Masters.
- There are no apostrophes in decades or plural abbreviations. CDs were introduced in the 1980s.
- In all-staff emails, there is no comma after the opening ("Dear Colleagues") and closing ("Best wishes") lines.
- Avoid writing headings as questions. People scan the left-hand end of headings so they want to see relevant words (‘Apply…’, ‘Contact…’) not a succession of 'How do I...'s and 'What is the...'s. FAQ lists are far less helpful than you think!
- Avoid using bold, italics or underlined text for headings.
- Beware of rogue Capitals. For example, the department where students study chemistry is the Department of Chemistry. The first two bold bits are just nouns, the third bold bit is a proper noun (i.e. a name or title).
- Capitalise 'the University' or 'the Department/School/Centre' when referring specifically to the University of Leicester or a part thereof, but use lower case when just using the words generically (eg. 'studying at university'; 'contact your department'). An easy test is: if you can replace the word 'university' with 'University of Leicester' then it should be capitalised.
- Headings are much easier to read if only the first word is capitalised. The same is true of titles of books, papers etc.
Abbreviations and names
- Undergraduate and postgraduate, not UG and PG (except when shortening Postgraduate Diploma/Certificate to PGDip/PGCert)
- Department, not Dept. (unless you absolutely have to, e.g. to fit neatly into a table)
- No full stops in abbreviations - USA, not U.S.A. - except lower case abbrevations such as e.g. and i.e.
- Professor John Smith, not Prof. John Smith
- Dr Mary Jones, not Doctor Mary Jones (and not Dr. Mary Jones)
- Mr JH Smith, not Mr. J.H. Smith
- University of Leicester, not Leicester University or UoL (except on purely internal pages). This can be shortened to just 'the University' or ‘Leicester’ but use the full name for the first reference on any page and be wary of situations where 'Leicester' might be misconstrued as referring to the city.
- Only one hyphen in Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Pro Vice-Chancellor.
Numbers, dates and times
- 1 June 2016, not 1st June 2016 or June 1st 2016 (and definitely not 01 June 16).
- A range of years is shown as 1939-1945, not 1939-45. Use the conventional AD and BC rather than CE and BCE.
- Refer to an academic year as 'academic year 2018/19'. Avoid just using '2018/19' as that could be misconstrued as referring to two consecutive years.
- 20th century rather than twentieth century (except at the start of a sentence).
- Always include the year in dates.
- Times are shown as 11.00am or 5.25pm – unless there is some over-riding reason to use another format (eg. train times).
- Numbers above 1,000 have a comma (except reference numbers).
- Write thousands as number and millions as words: £35,000, 18 million years ago. Never abbreviate to K or M.
- Numbers from one to ten should be written as words when used in text, as should any number that starts a sentence. This applies to both numerals (nine and ten; 11 and 12) and ordinals (ninth and tenth; 11th and 12th). If a sentence begins with a really huge number you're better off rewriting the sentence, to be honest.
- Phone numbers should have spaces between groups of digits. Include the international dialling code +44 (0)... for University of Leicester numbers.
- Capitalise Year 1, Year 2 etc but do not capitalise first year, second year etc. (NB. not 1st year, 2nd year). Likewise for semesters.
- Website not web site
- Don’t write a list of things as a paragraph if you can use bullet points. Any group of more than two things could be a bulleted or a numbered list.
- Where possible, always refer to any person or thing in the same way. For example, if some pages refer to ‘Dr Michael Smith’ and some to ‘Dr Mike Smith’, visitors will be unsure if those are two different people. Dr Smith should pick one name and stick with it.
- You don’t need to put the word ‘email’ or an 'E' before an email address or ‘tel’ or 'T' before a phone number. People know what those strings of letters and numerals after a name mean. Fax numbers should be clearly identified as such but, before you add them, think about when you last actually saw a fax.
- Don’t flag up new stuff with ‘NEW!’. Visitors only care what is relevant to them, not how long it has been on your site. Many things on the web that say ‘new’ are not new - it's just that no-one has ever taken down the 'new' flag. Much better to put the date (including year) when the new thing was launched.
- When describing a range of things, use 'from...to...' or a dash but not 'from... [dash]'. eg. 'Open from Monday to Friday' or 'Open Monday-Friday' but not 'Open from Monday-Friday'.
- -ise, not -ize. We are not American. The only exceptions should be in the titles of papers and books. (If in doubt check the spelling on sites such as Amazon or PubMed.)
- Students sit exams, not examinations.
- 'Lab' or 'laboratory': either is acceptable but the former usually reads better (eg. 'You will write up a 500-word lab report.')
- Use 'Mathematics' when referring to the Department or one of our degrees, but use 'maths' in general usage (eg. 'You should have GCSE English and Maths.')
- Our two types of student are 'UK' and 'International'. Don't use 'Home'. No-one thinks of themselves as 'a home student'.
- Degree names can be in the form 'Biology BSc' or 'BSc Biology', but the former is preferable in lists to avoid every line starting with the same word. Where there is no other course with exactly the same name, it is sometimes okay to drop the qualification altogether and just say 'Biology'.
- The thing that someone studies here for a year or more is a 'degree' or a 'course'. Try to avoid the ambiguous term 'programme'. Never refer to an individual module as a 'course'.
- In external content always use 'students and staff' rather than 'staff and students'. No-one wants to study at a university where staff are seen as more important and students an afterthought.
- 'COVID-19' can be referred to as just 'Covid', but avoid 'Covid-19'
- UN Sustainable Development Goals have a space, eg. 'SDG 12'