The house style guide establishes 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.
- Dates and times
- University terminology
Spelling and grammar
The guide is revised periodically to accommodate changes in conventions and usage. If your style query is not addressed in this guide, please contact email@example.com.
For common spelling and grammar queries, please see the Oxford English Dictionary.
Dates and times
- 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 use 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).
- Do not hyphenate 21st century, 20th century, etc. when used as a noun; do hyphenate when used as an adjective, eg 21st-century literature.
- Avoid 'from August-September'; use instead 'from August to September'.
- Avoid 'between 1910-30'; use instead 'between 1910 and 1930'.
- A hyphen may be used to say 'from... to' or 'between... and' when brevity is important. Do not put spaces around the hyphen, eg '2-4 July', not '2 - 4 July'.
- Times should be written as 4 am, 11 pm, etc. with a space before the 'pm', rather than 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.
- Use 12 noon rather than 12 pm where possible to avoid confusion.
- Avoid hyphens and en-dashes for time ranges; use 'to' instead, eg 1 pm to 3 pm.
- 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.
- Write out the words 'miles' and 'metres' in full.
- If the value is ten or below, then five pounds. If the value is above ten, then £11 or £12.50. But £4 million.
- Use £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.
- 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 first, second, third rather than firstly, secondly, thirdly.
- Use 'more than' not 'over' when referring to a number, eg 'students at Bristol come from more than 150 countries'.
- Use the percentage sign (%) in lists, charts, tables and graphics, otherwise use per cent. If you have to start a sentence or paragraph with a percentage, write it out in full, eg 'Eighty-one per cent of students responded to our survey'.
- Avoid mixing percentages and fractions in comparative data, as this can be unclear.
- Telephone 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.
- There is usually no need to include a fax number.
- Use italics, not bold or underlining, where emphasis is needed in text.
Where 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:
- opportunities for career development
- a sense of loyalty.
Where 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 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.
- Capitalise initial letter of official or statutory job titles (eg the Vice-Chancellor; Jo Bloggs, Professor of Medicine).
- Do not capitalise initial letter of generic job titles, eg:
- He works as a doctor in Bristol.
- She is an engineer for a multinational engineering consultancy.
Organisations and teams
- Do capitalise University of Bristol, the University (when referring to the University of Bristol), eg:
- The University of Bristol is one of several universities in the South West.
- The University has a reputation for groundbreaking research.
- Do not capitalise university when referring to universities in general.
- Capitalise specific departments, faculties and schools when using their full name, eg Department of Classics, Faculty of Arts, School of Biological Sciences.
- Do not capitalise the words department, faculty, school when not using their full name.
- Capitalise official names of Professional Services offices, teams and departments, eg:
- Student Funding Office
- Global Opportunities team
- Library Services
- Directorate of External Relations.
- Do not capitalise the generic words team, department or directorate where this does not form part of the official name.
- Capitalise Bristol City Council; Doctoral Training Partnerships; Centre(s) for Doctoral Training; and specific research councils, eg Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
- Do not capitalise generic categories of bodies, such as research councils, councils and higher education institutions.
Courses and degrees
- Do not capitalise degree types, eg single honours degree, joint honours degree, honorary degree, master's degree, bachelor's degree. Use capital letters when writing out in full, eg Bachelor of Arts, Master of Science.
- Do not capitalise degree classifications, eg first class honours degree, first class degree, second class degree, upper second class degree, lower second class degree (capital letters may be used for official or ceremonial purposes).
- Capitalise undergraduate and postgraduate course/programme titles, but not generic subject areas (except when referring to language courses, including English), eg:
- The first year of MSci Chemical Physics gives you a comprehensive grounding in chemistry, physics and mathematics.
- She studies medicine at a leading university.
- I am interested in studying French at degree level.
- Capitalise official unit titles, eg:
- You will take units including Organic Chemistry.
- Unit choices include Women’s Writing in Post-war Spain.
- Do not capitalise generic subject content, eg 'you will learn the principles of organic chemistry'.
- See also degrees and other qualifications.
- autumn, winter, spring, summer
- city (of Bristol), but the City (of London) when referring to the financial centre of London
- Clearing and Adjustment (when referring to UCAS processes)
- earth, when used as a common noun referring to soil or land or when preceded by 'the' (use 'Earth' only when referring to the name of the planet)
- the government
- higher education
- home students; international students
- the UK parliament
- House style for headings and subheadings is sentence case, that is, an initial capital followed by all lower case (unless a proper noun appears in the heading). This includes left-hand navigation bars on the web.
Titles of works
- For books, journals, television programmes, films, ships, plays, newspapers and magazines: use title case (ie all words capitalised except prepositions, conjunctions and articles) and write in italics, eg:
- The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick.
- For lectures, research projects, chapters and academic papers: use sentence case (ie the first word and any names are capitalised). Such titles should also be given single quotes when used in prose, to differentiate them from the rest of the text, eg:
- He wrote an essay entitled 'The figure of the mother in the plays of Shakespeare'.
Foreign words and spellings
- Italicise foreign words unless proper nouns. 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.
- The UK (or Britain) refers to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Great Britain refers to England, Wales and Scotland.
- Use the US (not USA or America) for the place; the adjective can be US or American.
- Use south-west England, the South West, or the West Country.
- For guidance on writing for the web, see the Digital Communications SharePoint site.
- dotcom (not dot.com)
- internet, intranet
- net (but try to avoid)
- program (computer)
Email and website addresses
- Insert a full stop at the end of an email address if it forms part of a sentence.
- Write email addresses and web addresses all in lower case.
- For University web addresses, the word bristol should appear in full unless a word precedes it, eg bristol.ac.uk or iris.bris.ac.uk.
- In most cases, it is acceptable to leave out the www. at the beginning of the bristol.ac.uk 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.
- Where possible use 'they' rather than 'he or she'. Refer to our LGBT+ writing guide for further advice on pronouns.
- Refer to an ethnic group by its accurate name if appropriate (eg Afro-Caribbean). 'Black and minority ethnic groups' is an accepted term.
- Avoid using the terms 'the disabled', 'the unemployed', 'blacks'. Use instead 'unemployed people', 'disabled people', 'people of colour', etc.
- To improve inclusivity, when writing to or referring to parents, guardians or carers, use 'parents and carers' or 'parents/carers' rather than just 'parents' or 'parents and guardians'.
References to alumni should be standardised as follows:
- Forename(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).
- 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.
- Alumni is the plural; alumna is a single female graduate; alumnus is a single male graduate. Alumnae can be used for a group of female graduates.
- Use first name in full if available; if not, Mr J Bloggs, Dr F Rabbit (no full stop after initial).
- In the case of people 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)
- For a woman with more than one name change: Janet Smythe (née Jonas, formerly Buggins)
- For a man with a name change: Samuel Hindley-Briggs (formerly Briggs).
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').
- Always write 'Professor' out in full (not, for example, 'Prof O'Brien').
- 'eg', 'etc' and 'ie' should contain no full stops, but should be preceded by a comma (unless in brackets).
- Use semi-colons for listing items when one or more individual items contain commas, eg:
- The University has many historic buildings, including: the Wills Memorial Building; several halls of residence, such as Goldney Hall and Wills Hall; and the Victoria Rooms.
- Use p42 for a single page number reference, or pp2-3 when referring to multiple pages. 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.
- 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 include:
- four years' study
- one year's study
- one day's leave.
- Contractions (eg you'll, we'll, don't) may be used in most situations, except formal or ceremonial writing.
- Use round brackets (or parentheses) 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).
- Where a sentence is entirely in parenthesis, the full stop comes inside the second bracket.
- If content in brackets is in the middle of a sentence, place surrounding punctuation after the brackets, eg:
- He has a law degree (which he gained as a mature student), but his real passion is for history.
- He has a law degree (which he gained as a mature student), but his real passion is for history.
- Use commas around non-defining relative clauses (that is, clauses that add extra information to the whole of the main clause), eg:
- Sir Winston Churchill, who became Chancellor of the University in 1929, died in 1965.
- Professor Hugh Brady, 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.'
- 'for example' and 'that is' should be followed by a comma if they are used in full.
- Generally, do not use the Oxford comma (a comma before the final item in a list), unless its omission would cause confusion. For example, you should use an Oxford comma in the following sentence:
- You can study English, Theatre, and Film and Television.
- You can use en-dashes (or en-rules) with a space before and after for parenthesis, in place of brackets or commas.
- You can use an en-dash with a space before and after to link two parts of a sentence, in place of a colon.
- Do not use a hyphen in place of an en-dash in the above instances. To type an en-dash in Word, use Ctrl + - (on the numeric keypad) or Alt + 0150 (on any keypad). Word will also auto-correct hyphens to en-dashes in some circumstances.
- Use one space after full stops in sentences.
- Include a full stop at the end of introductions to articles.
- Do not use a full stop at the end of a caption, unless it contains one or more complete sentences.
- Two words used as an adjective are usually hyphenated when they come before a noun, eg long-awaited publication, first-year student, four-year course. However, this does not apply when the first word is an adverb, eg recently published research.
- Two words combined as a noun, or as an adjective after a noun, are usually not hyphenated, eg 'You will study chemistry in the first year', 'The book is up to date'.
- In general, minimise the use of hyphens. Use them only where it is established convention to do so (see below for examples) or where omission would result in ambiguity or confusion.
The following should always be hyphenated:
- A-levels, AS-levels
- best-practice initiative
- blue-collar, white-collar (adjective)
- cost-effective (adjective)
- first-year (adjective)
- five-year-old, etc (both noun and adjective)
- full-time (adjective); full-timers (but 'works full time')
- high-risk (adjective)
- long-term (adjective)
- mid- (eg mid-1993)
- part-time (adjective); part-timers (but 'works part time')
- performance-related pay
- policy-making (as an adjective only)
- self-catered; self-catering
- Vice-Chancellor, Pro Vice-Chancellor.
The following should always be one word:
- cooperate (but co-operative as a noun, eg housing co-operative)
- firefighters, firefighting
- microchip; microcomputer
- microeconomics; macroeconomics
- multiskilled, multiskilling
- policymaking, policymaker (noun)
- startup (but hyphenate when used as an adjective, eg start-up enterprises)
- subcommittee (but sub-subcommittee)
- subsection (but sub-subsection)
- teamwork, teamworker, teamworking
- workplace, worksite
The following should always be two words:
- offer holder
- pro rata
- skill set
- under way.
Do not hyphenate:
- early 1990s, late 1990s
- one third, three quarters.
For other spellings, please refer to the Oxford English Dictionary.
- Use single quotes, and double quotes within single quotes.
- If a quote comprises a whole sentence, use a full stop before the closing quote.
- If a quote does not comprise a whole sentence, do not use a full stop within the quotes. Punctuation of the larger sentence (eg commas, dashes or full stops) should come after the final quote mark, eg:
- The Vice-Chancellor noted that Professor Jo Bloggs has had a 'long and distinguished career'.
- Professor Jo Bloggs has had a 'long and distinguished career', according to the Vice-Chancellor.
- Direct quotes from individuals that comprise a full sentence or sentences should be preceded by a colon, eg:
- Professor Jo Bloggs said: 'This is a great day for the University.'
Accolades and rankings
The titles of commonly used rankings should be formatted as follows:
- QS World University Rankings 2020
- THE World University Rankings 2019 (or Times Higher Education)
- THE analysis of REF 2014 (or Times Higher Education)
- Guardian University Guide 2020
- Complete University Guide 2020
- Times Good University Guide 2019
- High Fliers Research 2020
- National Geographic Traveller 'Cool list' 2018.
You can find the latest rankings on the Rankings and reputation page.
Campus or precinct?
Refer to the 'campus' rather than the 'precinct' (although Bristol is not known as a 'campus university').
Please note that there are multiple campuses:
- Clifton campus
- Langford campus
- Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus.
Course or programme?
In general, use:
- Undergraduate course (or degree)
- Postgraduate programme (or degree)
- International Foundation Programme.
'Course' is used in communications directed at prospective undergraduate students as this is consistent with UCAS and resonates more strongly with this audience. Note, however, that 'programme' is used for both undergraduate and postgraduate levels in certain relevant policies and in the programme catalogue.
- Master's degree and bachelor's degree take an apostrophe before the final 's'.
- No hyphen is required in degree classifications, eg first class degree, lower second class degree.
- For capitalisation of degree titles, see Courses and degrees.
- Degree awards should be abbreviated as follows:
- BA, BDS, BEng, BSc, BVSc, LLB, MB ChB, MArts, MEng, MLibArts, MSci
- DEdPsy, DDS, EdD, EngD, LLM, MA, MD, MLitt, MMus, MPhil, MRes, MSc, MSc by research, PGCE, PhD.
- Generally, the term 'graduation ceremony' is preferred, rather than 'degree ceremony' or 'degree congregation'.
Module or unit?
Use 'unit' rather than 'module' to refer to the building blocks that make up a course or programme.
Qualifications should be formatted as follows:
- A-level Mathematics, AS-level Physics, GCSE History
- International Baccalaureate diploma or IB diploma
- Welsh Baccalaureate
- Cambridge Pre-U
- Scottish Highers, Advanced Highers, Highers
- UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test, no longer UKCAT)
- CertHE, Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip), Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert), Diploma in Dental Hygiene.
Semester or term?
'Term' is preferred; 'semester' is more common in US and some other overseas institutions so can be used when referring to Study Abroad.
- Life Sciences Building
- Queen's Building
- Richmond Building
- Merchant Venturers Building
- Wills Memorial Building
University naming convention
- The institution's name is the University of Bristol, not Bristol University (which was a university in California).
- 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' before a silent 'h', eg 'an honorary degree'. Use 'a' before an aspirated 'h', eg 'a historian'. For abbreviations, be guided by pronunciation, eg 'an MSc'.
- Avoid using an ampersand (&) to replace 'and', unless it forms part of a formal name (eg Procter & Gamble, Marks & Spencer).
- Use the following:
- among not amongst
- civilisation not civilization
- medieval (not Medieval or Mediaeval)
- while not whilst.
Singular and plural nouns
- All organisations and institutions are singular, and should be referred to as 'it', not 'they'.
- Nouns such as 'range', 'list' and 'variety' are singular and should be used with singular verbs such as 'is', not 'are', eg 'Our range of courses is diverse'.
Words commonly misused
- advice (noun), to advise (verb)
- adviser (but advisory)
- affect (verb = to have an effect on), also see effect
- AIDS (not Aids)
- autumn, spring, summer, winter
- balloted (not ballotted)
- 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
- continual, continually = recurring frequently or regularly
- continuous, continuously = happening non-stop without ceasing
- criterion (singular); criteria (plural)
- dependent (adjective); dependant (noun)
- disinterested (adjective = impartial; not influenced by private feelings or considerations), also see uninterested
- effect (noun = an outcome; verb = to bring about), also see affect
- enquiry (informal); inquiry (formal)
- farther (physical distance); further (metaphorical distance)
- 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
- less (uncountable nouns); fewer (countable nouns)
- licence (noun), to license (verb)
- practice (noun), to practise (verb)
- principal (adjective = main); principle (noun = concept, etc)
- program (computer)
- programme (an outline of proceedings/plan, etc)
- targeted not targetted
- uninterested (adjective = not personally concerned; not taking an interest), also see disinterested
For other spellings, please refer to the Oxford English Dictionary.