House style

The house style guide establishes house rules for language use, including punctuation, spelling and formatting, and aims to ensure consistency across University print and online publications.

The guidelines have been developed with the reader in mind, so that our communications are clear and appropriate to a general audience. We are unable to cover every aspect of language usage here, but we aim to clarify those areas where queries most often arise.

Spelling and grammar

The guide is revised periodically to accommodate changes in conventions and usage. For further reference, please see the Oxford English Dictionary.


All references to alumni should be standardised as follows:

  • Forenames(s) Surname (degree graduation year, next degree graduation year, etc), eg Jane Smith (BSc 1960) or Joe Bloggs (BA 1972, PhD 1976).
  • In cases where the alumnus has not completed a degree, use Forename(s) Surname (subject start year-year left), eg Jane Smith (English 1972-73).
  • Current students are referred to using the same principle as students who have not completed degrees, but with the reference to the leaving year left blank, eg Jo Bloggs (Physics 2000- ).
  • In the case of alumni or current students whose name(s) have changed, there is an option to use the previous name in brackets preceded by ‘née’ for women whose names have changed once only, and ‘formerly’ for women whose names have changed more than once and for men.
    For example:
    • For a woman with a single name change: Jane Smith (née Jones) (BA 1973)
    • For a woman with more than one name change: Janet Smythe (née Jonas, formerly Buggins) (BSc 1975)
    • For a man with a name change: Samuel Hindley-Briggs (formerly Briggs) (PhD 1991).
  • A full reference to all alumni affiliations, such as subject studied, hall and society associations, etc can be included in certain circumstances such as obituaries.


  • For singular possessive nouns, add apostrophe + s, eg:
    The University’s Accommodation Office helps students find a place to live.
  • For plural possessive nouns, add an apostrophe, eg:
    The University is committed to its students’ wellbeing.
  • For nouns already ending in s, use the apostrophe-only style, eg:
    Mr Jones’ book was well received.
  • Other examples:
    four years’ study, one year’s study, one day’s leave

Book titles/lectures

  • Books, journals, television programmes, films, ships, plays, newspapers: Use title case (ie all words capitalised except prepositions, conjunctions and articles) and write in italics. For example: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick.
  • Lectures, research projects, chapters, academic papers: Use sentence case (ie the first word and any names are capitalised) for titles of lectures or research projects. For example: 'The figure of the mother in the plays of Shakespeare'. Such titles should also be given single quotes when used in prose (as in the above example), to differentiate them from the rest of the text.


  • Use round brackets for most purposes, including brackets within brackets. Use square brackets when making an insert of your own in a quote (to indicate that they are your words, not those of the speaker).
  • If brackets open in the middle of a sentence and close before the end of the sentence, the full stop comes after the closing bracket. Where a sentence is entirely in parenthesis, the full stop comes inside the second bracket.

Bullet points

Where the bullet points comprise a list of single words or short statements, there is no need to punctuate the list (except for a full stop at the end). For example:
A positive working environment is defined by the following characteristics:

  • teamwork
  • creativity
  • trust
  • opportunities for career development
  • a sense of loyalty.

Where the bullet points comprise longer statements that are not discrete sentences, punctuate with semi-colons. For example:
On the bright side:

  • two thirds of survey respondents felt proud to work for the University;
  • two thirds felt a strong sense of loyalty to their faculty or division;
  • three quarters felt they were encouraged to use their initiative;
  • two thirds felt there was equal access to training and development opportunities.

Where the bullet points comprise discrete sentences, punctuate with full stops. For example:
The key findings of the survey are as follows:

  • The most popular reason for choosing the University is its academic reputation.
  • Nearly 90 per cent of the respondents feel they have chosen the right course or programme.
  • More than 75 per cent of respondents are satisfied with the facilities provided (office and laboratory space, computers, etc).

Whichever type of list you use, introduce it with a colon and end with a full stop.

Campus or precinct?

Although Bristol is not known as a 'campus university', the decision was made in 2013 to refer in all corporate publications to the 'campus' rather than, as was historically the case, the 'precinct'.


As a general rule, capitalisation should be reserved for proper nouns, and the official names of organisations (see also the list below).

House style for headings and subheadings, including left-hand navigation bars on the web, is sentence case, that is, an initial capital followed by all lower case (unless a proper noun appears in the heading).

Do cap initial letter of:

  • official or statutory job titles (for example: the Vice-Chancellor; Jo Bloggs, Professor of Medicine)
  • degree titles as follows: Single Honours degree, Joint Honours degree, First Class Honours degree, First Class degree, Second Class degree, Upper Second Class degree, Lower Second Class degree, Honorary degree, Master's degree
  • University of Bristol, the University (when referring to Bristol University). For example:
    The University of Bristol is one of several universities in the South West.
    The University has a reputation for ground-breaking research.
  • Department of Classics, Faculty of Arts, School of Biological Sciences (when using the full title; otherwise, the department, the faculty, the school)
  • Undergraduate and postgraduate course/programme titles, but not generic subject areas (except when referring to language courses, including English). For example:
    The first year of our Chemical Physics degree gives you a comprehensive grounding in chemistry, physics and mathematics.
    Students interested in our Modern Languages courses may choose between Czech, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian.
  • specific educational qualifications, for example:
    BA, BSc, PhD, MLitt, MPhil
    A-level Mathematics, AS-level Physics, GCSE History
    Diploma in Dental Hygiene
  • Days of the week
  • Months
  • Bristol City Council (but the council)

Do not cap initial letter of:

  • generic job titles (unless official or statutory positions), for example:
    He works as a doctor in Bristol.
    She is an engineer for a multinational engineering consultancy.
  • adjectives
  • generic categories of bodies, such as research councils, higher education institutions, universities
  • seasons (eg in the autumn of 2002)
  • generic subject areas, except for languages, eg:
    She studies medicine at a leading university.
    He was a biology student.
    I am interested in studying French at degree level.
  • city (of Bristol), but the City (of London) when referring to the financial centre of London
  • the government
  • higher education
  • the UK parliament.


  • Use commas around non-defining relative clauses (that is, clauses that add extra information to the whole of the main clause), for example:

    Sir Winston Churchill, who became Chancellor of the University in 1929, died in 1965.

    Professor Eric Thomas, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol, gave the keynote speech at the conference.

    Christina Pantazis, Head of the Centre for the Study of Poverty and Social Justice and co-editor of the book, said: ‘If the Government is to succeed with its objectives, then reliable and valid research on poverty and social exclusion is needed.’

Course or programme?

  • Undergraduate course
  • Postgraduate programme


  • To type an en-rule in Word, use Ctrl + - (on the numeric keypad)
  • Use the en-rule for parenthesis with a space before and after the en-rule. Similarly, use an en-rule for a single dash with a space before and after it.
  • Beware sentences – such as this one – that dash about all over the place – commas (or even, occasionally, brackets) are often better; semicolons also have their uses.


  • bachelor's degree; bachelor's
  • master's degree; master's

Email and website addresses

  • No hyphen in email.
  • Insert a full stop at the end of an email address if it forms part of a sentence.
  • Avoid forced wordbreaks where a hyphen does not appear in the address.
  • Email addresses all in lower case.
  • For University web addresses, the word bristol should appear in full unless a word precedes it, eg or
  • In some cases, such as on University posters and in some University publications (eg the undergraduate and postgraduate print prospectuses, which contain many references to internal web addresses), it is acceptable to leave out the www. at the beginning of the url.
  • Do not omit www. from the beginning of external website addresses (unless the original address does not include it).
  • Always check links to external website addresses.


  • All whole numbers (integers) between one and ten should be written out. Numbers 11 and above should appear as figures. Numbers 1,000 and over should have a comma to denote the thousands, not a space.
  • All 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.
  • Terms such as ‘200 million’ should be used in text; when referring to cash, use £200 million. One billion is 1,000 million.
  • Use 4.5 million but eight million (not 8 million) even if they appear in the same sentence.


  • Use 18th birthday not eighteenth birthday. Ages as adjectives are hyphenated, eg 18-year-old students. With age ranges, use 16- to 18-year-olds.


  • Use 28 February 2014, not 28.2.14, 28/02/14 or 28th February 2014
  • Use 2000s or ’00s, not 2000’s, 00s or Noughties
  • Use a slash between two years when referring to one academic year, and a hyphen when referring to a period between two different years. Use the century detail in the second reference only if it differs from the first, eg 1999/2000 but 2000/01 (not 2000/2001)
  • 21st century, 20th century (nouns); 21st-century (adjective)
  • Avoid ‘from August-September’ – use instead ‘from August to September’
  • Avoid ‘between 1910-30’ – use instead ‘between 1910 and 1930’


  • The words 'miles' and 'metres' in full
  • Five-and-a-half metres, 11.5 metres


  • 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)
  • Currency symbols should always come before the figure, eg $25.


  • Use percentage sign (%) in lists, charts or tables, otherwise use per cent. If you have to start a sentence or paragraph with a percentage, write it out in full, eg ‘Ninety-nine per cent of students get drunk on Friday nights’.
  • Avoid mixing percentages and fractions in comparative data: it does not assist clarity.

Foreign words

  • Italicise foreign words if used in the text unless a proper noun. Do not put foreign words in quote marks.
  • Commonly used Latin words should be in plain type, eg de facto, pro rata.


  • Avoid American spellings. Use ‘-ise’ rather than ‘-ize’endings (recognise, liaise, organise, etc). For spellings in general, please refer to the Oxford English Dictionary.
  • Use first, second, third rather than firstly, secondly, thirdly.
  • Where possible use plurals rather than ‘he or she’.
  • Refer to an ethnic group by its accurate name if appropriate (eg Afro-Caribbean). Do not use Black as a generic word for all minority ethnic groups; ‘black and minority ethnic groups’ is an accepted term.
  • Avoid using the term ‘the disabled’, ‘the unemployed’, ‘blacks’. Use instead ‘unemployed people’, ‘disabled people’, ‘black people’, etc.


  • Minimise the use of hyphens. Use them only where it is established convention to do so or where omission would result in ambiguity or confusion. When in doubt, leave it out!
  • Two words used as an adjective are hyphenated, eg long-awaited publication, second-year student, four-year course. However, this does not apply when the first word is an adverb, eg recently published research.

The following should always be hyphenated:

  • A-levels, O-levels, AS-levels
  • best-practice initiative
  • blue-collar, white-collar (adjective)
  • co-operate
  • co-ordinate
  • cost-effective (adjective)
  • decision-making
  • director-general
  • first-year (adjective)
  • five-year-old, etc (both noun and adjective)
  • full-time (adjective); full-timers (but ‘works full time’)
  • government-funded
  • high-risk (adjective)
  • HIV-positive
  • in-house
  • long-standing
  • long-term (adjective)
  • micro-organism
  • mid- (eg mid-1993)
  • non-
  • part-time (adjective); part-timers (but ‘works part time’)
  • performance-related pay
  • policy-making (as an adjective only)
  • post-
  • pre-
  • re-examine
  • Vice-Chancellor, Pro Vice-Chancellor

The following should always be one word:

  • childcare
  • coursework
  • deregulation
  • fieldwork
  • firefighters, firefighting
  • healthcare
  • helpdesk
  • microchip; microcomputer
  • multinational
  • multiskilled, multiskilling
  • offline
  • ongoing
  • online
  • overrepresentation
  • policymaking, policymaker
  • postdoctoral
  • postgraduate
  • reorganise
  • shopfloor
  • shortlist
  • subcommittee (but sub-subcommittee)
  • subsection (but sub-subsection)
  • subparagraph
  • taxpayer
  • teamwork, teamworker, teamworking
  • uprating
  • underrepresentation
  • website
  • wellbeing
  • workplace, worksite
  • worldwide

The following should always be two words:

  • under way

Do not hyphenate:

  • early 1990s, late 1990s
  • one third, three quarters

For other spellings, please refer to the Oxford English Dictionary.


  • and not &
  • among not amongst
  • civilisation not civilization
  • first, second, third (not firstly, etc)
  • judgement
  • medieval (not Medieval or Mediaeval)
  • the South West of England, but south-west England
  • while not whilst
  • italics, not bold or underlining, for emphasis in text

How to introduce the University

Our University of Bristol profile provides a brief overview of the University and contains some key facts about the institution. The profile serves as a useful introduction to the University, and may be used, for example, to preface a presentation or to accompany other University literature intended for a general audience. The document is available to download in two versions:

New media

  • CD-ROM
  • compact disc
  • dotcom (not
  • e-learning
  • email
  • floppy disk
  • hard disk
  • homepage
  • internet, intranet
  • net (but try to avoid)
  • online
  • program (computer)
  • web
  • web page
  • website
  • World Wide Web


  • Mr J Bloggs, Dr F Rabbit (no full stop after initial and use first name in full if available).
  • ‘eg’, ‘etc’ and ‘ie’ should be preceded with a comma but contain no other punctuation
  • ‘for example’ and ‘that is’ should be followed by a comma if they are used in full
  • p42 or pp2-3 when referring to page numbers. In continuous prose use ‘the article appeared on page five’, ‘the Vice-Chancellor referred to pages 60-62 of the annual report’. Use a hyphen between number ranges.
  • Use the en-rule for parenthesis with a space before and after the en-rule. Similarly, use an en-rule for a single dash with a space before and after it.
  • Use one space after full stops in sentences.
  • Use semi-colons for listing items within text, eg ‘All the University buildings: the Wills Memorial Building; all halls of residence; The Hawthorns; and all other relevant buildings.
  • Include a full stop at the end of introductions to articles.
  • No full stop at the end of a caption, only at end of sentences within the caption.


  • Use single quotes, and double quotes within single quotes.
  • If a quote comprises a whole sentence, the full stop should come before the closing quote. If the quote is part of a sentence, the full stop comes after the closing quote. A comma performs a similar function.
  • Direct quotes from individuals that comprise a full sentence or sentences should be preceded by a colon, for example: Professor Jo Bloggs said: 'This is a great day for the University.'

Singular nouns

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

Telephone numbers

  • Telephone and fax numbers should be given in international format in external publications, eg tel: +44 (0)117 928 7777.
  • Otherwise they should be presented as: tel 0117 928 7777; tel: 01272 633244, etc


  • Times should be written as 4 am, 11 pm, etc., NOT 16:00 or 23:00
  • When not a full hour, the hour and minute should be separated by a colon, not a full stop, eg 4:30 pm, NOT 4.30 pm
  • 12 noon where possible to avoid confusion
  • Avoid hyphens and en-rules for time ranges; use ‘to’ instead, eg:
    1 pm to 3 pm

Titles and forms of address

  • When using the title 'Lord' or 'Lady', never use forenames, eg 'Lady Merrison', not 'Lady Maureen Merrison'; 'Lord Sainsbury', not 'Lord David Sainsbury'. 
  • When using the title 'Sir', use the full name in the first instance, eg 'Sir David Attenborough', and subsequently the forename, eg 'Sir David' (NOT 'Sir Attenborough'). 

University buildings (naming convention)

  • Life Sciences Building
  • Queen's Building
  • Richmond Building
  • Wills Memorial Building

University of Bristol (naming convention)

Use the form 'University of Bristol' in the first instance; thereafter, it is acceptable to continue to refer to the University of Bristol, or to use 'Bristol' or 'the University'. Use an initial capital whenever the word University is used to refer to the University of Bristol, even when used as an adjective, eg 'This applies to all University publications and announcements.'

University of Bristol profile

Our University of Bristol profile provides a brief overview of the University and contains some key facts about the institution. The profile serves as a useful introduction to the University, and may be used, for example, to preface a presentation or to accompany other University literature intended for a general audience. The document is available to download in two versions:

Words commonly misused

  • advice (noun), to advise (verb)
  • adviser (or advisor) but advisory
  • affect (see effect)
  • ageing
  • AIDS (not Aids)
  • autumn, spring, summer, winter
  • balloted (not ballotted)
  • benefited
  • budgeted
  • budget (company, etc) but the Budget (UK, each April)
  • competence (plural competences) = National Vocational Qualifications; functional skills
  • competency (plural competencies) = behavioural traits; functional and behavioural skills combined
  • complement (noun) = that which completes or fills up
  • compliment (noun) = expression of admiration
  • crèche
  • criterion (singular); criteria (plural)
  • data are plural, datum is singular
  • dependent (adjective); dependant (noun)
  • disinterested (adjective = impartial; not influenced by private feelings or considerations). See 'uninterested'
  • effect (noun = an outcome; verb = to bring about); affect (verb = to have an effect on)
  • enquiry (informal); inquiry (formal)
  • focused
  • forgo (to do without); forego (to go before)
  • forward = near or at the front
  • foreword = a preface
  • grams not grammes
  • Green Paper, White Paper
  • led (past tense of to lead), not lead
  • licence (noun), to license (verb)
  • minimum/maximum (singular), minima/maxima (plural)
  • practice (noun), to practise (verb)
  • principal (adjective = main); principle (noun = concept, etc)
  • program (computer)
  • programme (an outline of proceedings/plan, etc)
  • supervisor
  • targeted not targetted
  • underway and under way are interchangeable, but our style is to use under way
  • uninterested (adjective = not personally concerned; not taking an interest). See 'disinterested'
  • work–life balance (en dash, not a hyphen)

For other spellings, please refer to the Oxford English Dictionary.

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