A-Z style guide

This is part of the content and publishing manual

A

Abbreviations and acronyms​ | Affect / Effect | And - ampersands | ­And/or​ | Apostrophes | Appendix

B

Brackets | Bullet points

C

Capital letters | Chemical formulae | Colons and semicolons | Commas | Contact details | Contractions | Compass points | Coordinate | Customer Hub

D

Dates | Double spaces

E

Eg​ | Email​ | Environment Agency​ | Etc​ | Exclamation marks

F

Fewer | Flood plain | Fly-tipping | Footnotes and endnotes | Forestry Commission | Full stops

G

Glossary | Government | Grant-in-aid

H

Headings | Highlighting | Hyphens

I

Inclusive language | Italics

J

Jargon | Job titles

L

Latin or scientific names | Legislation | Licence, License | Links | Local authority

M

Metres | Money | Months

N

Natural Resources Wales | Numbers

O

Online

P

Parliament | Percentages | Personal pronouns | Practice, Practise

Q

Quotation marks | Question marks

R

References | Reuse | Run-off

S

Seasons | Signatures | Slashes | Spacing | Spelling | Split infinitives | Subscript and superscript

T

Tables | Time | Titles

U

UK | Underlining | Units

W

Wales | We | Web page | Website | Welsh Government



Abbreviations and acronyms​

Spell out abbreviations and acronyms the first time you use them, followed by the abbreviation in brackets. After the first use, refer to them just by the abbreviation. Don't use an abbreviation if you're not going to use it frequently in the text.

Don't use acronyms in headings. Spell it out in full and introduce the abbreviation the first time it comes up in the main text.

Don't use full stops after abbreviations unless it is the end of the sentence.

If you are writing a document with an executive summary or abstract, spell out abbreviations in the summary and again the first time you use them in the main text.

Use 'a' or 'an' in front of an abbreviation or acronym in the same way as you would when reading aloud. For example, write: 'an EU Directive' or 'a BBC production'.

You do not need to spell out abbreviations that are more widely-known than the full name, for example UK or BBC.


Affect / Effect

The verb 'to affect' means 'to have an influence on'; 'to effect' means 'to cause, accomplish'. In most cases affect will be the verb, effect the noun.


And - ampersands

Use 'and' rather than '&' unless it is in an official name, for example 'HM Revenue & Customs', 'Canal & River Trust'.


And/or​

Don't use 'and/or'. Reword your sentence so that you can avoid using it. 


Apostrophes

Apostrophes have two uses:

They can show that some letters have been taken out of a word to shorten it.

  • Do not becomes don't.
  • I will becomes I'll.
  • Will not become won't.

This is used in informal writing and you should not shorten words when you're writing in a formal capacity.

Apostrophes can also show you that something belongs to or is part of something else. To show belonging you add 's. For example, 'the cat's tail' means the tail of the cat; 'the student's results' means the results gained by the student.

If the word already ends in -s then add another -s and the apostrophe goes between them. For example, 'the bus's wheels' 'St. James's Street', 'Wales's rivers'.

When the plural form of a word ends in -s, as most plurals do, you do not add an extra -s to show belonging. Instead, put the apostrophe after the -s. 'The dogs' bowls' means the bowls that belong to the dog; 'the students' results' means the results gained by the students

When not to use apostrophes

Don't use apostrophes:

  • for plurals - just add an 's', no apostrophe
  • when you use 'it' as a possessive - the 'dog wagged its tail'
  • to indicate collective dates - use 1980s, not 1980's

Appendix

Avoid using appendices wherever possible. Consider whether you need to include the information at all. Do your customers need the information? If it is important, could you include it in the main text?

There may be a need to use appendices in some of our more technical documents. If you do have an appendix, make sure you refer to it in your main text so that people realise it is relevant.

These appendices can be a home for supplementary information to provide necessary transparency, evidence of rigour or where the audience require it. 

For example, appendices could include:

  • how we worked out something
  • details or metrics of something complex
  • supporting evidence, such as that from a survey
  • glossary

Back to category A

Brackets

Avoid using brackets if you can. If they are needed, use only one set of brackets in a sentence.

Round brackets (parentheses)

Use brackets sparingly for text that is extra or explains something. It is often better to use commas rather than brackets.

Example: In the Nant Melyn (a tributary of the River Aman at Cwmgors) trout populations are increasing.

Using commas: In the Nant Melyn, a tributary of the River Aman at Cwmgors, trout populations are increasing.

Also use them to refer to numbered items mentioned in the text.

Example: These changes are predicted by the Manchester Model (section 5.6).

Square brackets

Use square brackets to show comments or explanations by someone other than the person being quoted.

Example: 'The situation [in flood defence] has never looked better'.

Punctuation in brackets

If the whole sentence is within brackets, put the full stop inside the brackets. (This goes for exclamation marks and question marks too.) If only part of the sentence is in the brackets, the punctuation marks go outside. And if you use a question mark followed by an end bracket, there's no need to add a further full stop after the end bracket


Bullet points

Keep bullet points as short and snappy as possible. This makes them easier to read and more effective. Only use bullet points where there are two or more items in a list.

A bullet point should not consist of more than two sentences. If it does, you are writing a paragraph rather than a bullet point.

Bullet points listing short phases or single words

If the bullet points are preceded by an introductory sentence, follow the sentence with a colon and start each bullet with a lower-case letter.

Do not use commas, semicolons or any other punctuation after each item. Do not include a full stop after the last bullet point - this is now standard practice for web content and avoids unnecessary clutter in other situations. Do not include 'and' or 'or' after the penultimate bullet point.

Example:

Activities covered here include:

  • newspaper printing
  • paper coating
  • waste ink disposal

Each bullet point continues the introductory sentence, and so you must be able to read each bullet point as a continuation of the sentence.

Bullet points following a heading

Start each bullet point with a capital letter and finish with a full stop.

There is no lead-in line and the bullet points follow on directly from a heading or subheading. Each bullet point:

  • starts with a capital letter
  • finishes with a full stop
  • is short (no more than one sentence)

Do not use full stops within bullet points – where possible start another bullet point or use commas, dashes or semicolons to expand.

Example:

Unloading chemicals

  • Take care not to damage any containers - use suitable lifting equipment and make sure that all staff are fully trained.
  • Transfer all chemicals to a suitable storage area.
  • Enclose your storage area in an impermeable bund.
  • Locate spill kits close to the unloading and storage areas.

Back to category B

Capital letters

Use lower case letters wherever possible.

Only use capitals:

  • for proper nouns, such as the names of people, places and organisations
  • to start a sentence
  • for days of the week and months of the year
  • for titles of publications (which should appear in italic font in a document) - you usually only need a capital letter for the start of the first word
  • for the particular, but not for the general, for example, you'd say 'the University of Aberystwyth' or 'Powys County Council' but 'we work with universities and councils to raise environmental awareness'
  • for names of our regions, such as South-West Operations, but not for areas of the country, like north-west Wales
  • for the first word of headings and titles - d not use capitals for the other words unless they are proper nouns or official titles
  • don't write in capitals to make a point as it is can be seen as shouting and can cause offence
  • always use a lower case 'g' for government and minister when they are not proper nouns - it also needs 'the' in front of it most of the time: 'we will talk to the Welsh government', not 'we will talk to Welsh government'.

Chemical formulae

The use of chemical formulae such as CO2, H2O, CH4 should normally be confined to writing for a technical audience.

Even if you think they are obvious, spell out chemical formulae in full the first time you use them (in this case, carbon dioxide, water and methane) so there is no doubt about what you mean.

Consider your audience. Would it be better to spell the words out every time? If you are writing for the web or you can't use subscript, then it may be clearer to write them in full.


Colons and semicolons

The use of these is gradually falling out of favour and they tend to clutter your writing. Consider whether they really are required before using them.

When to use a colon.

  • Before a list. There are only three ingredients: sugar, flour and coconut.
  • Before a summary. To summarise: we found the camp, set up our tent and then the bears attacked.
  • Before a quote. As the objector wrote: "The proposal would have a serious impact on my business."

Use a semicolon very sparingly.

  • To link two separate statements that could stand as separate sentences but are closely related. The children came home today; they had been away for a week.
  • In a list that already contains commas, or where the items consist of several words. Star Trek, created by Gene Roddenberry; Babylon 5, by JMS; Buffy, by Joss Whedon; and Farscape, from the Henson Company.

Commas

Use commas to separate words, or groups of words, in a sentence, to make the meaning clear. If you need a pause, you probably need a full stop.

You can also add a comma before the word 'and' at the end of a list to help clarify the meaning of a sentence when the items in a list are not single words. For instance, 'These items are available in black, white, red and yellow, and blue and green.' 


Contact details

Addresses

Use minimal punctuation:

Clare Pillman, Natural Resources Wales, Tŷ Cambria, 29 Newport Road, Cardiff, CF24 0TP

If you write the address on separate lines, remove all punctuation:
Clare Pillman
Natural Resources Wales
Ty Cambria
29 Newport Road
Cardiff
CF24 0TP

Telephone numbers

Do not use brackets around the code. Put a space between the code and the rest of the number. For mobile numbers, put a space after the fifth number.

When a number has been chosen to be memorable, group the numbers into easily remembered units, for example 03000 65 3000.

If you need to use the international dialling code, write it like this: +44 3000 65 3000.

Email addresses

Use all lower case letters.

If an email address comes at the end of a sentence, do not follow it with a full stop. This avoids any confusion about whether the full stop is part of the address.


Contractions

When you're writing informally, use simple contractions such as don't and won't to make your writing flow and sound more natural. You don't have to use contractions all the time - just use them when you feel it's appropriate.

Don't use contractions in more formal communications.

Use the full terms for complex and informal contractions – must not, should not, could have. 


Compass points

Use lower case for north, south, east and west. Use lower case and hyphenate for south-west Wales, the north-east.


Coordinate

Don't hyphenate 'coordinate' or 'coordination'.


Customer Hub

If you need to use the name, say Customer Hub in full - not customer service line, CCC (as it was known) or anything else. Alternatively, just say 'Call us on 0300 065 3000'.


Back to category C

Dates

Write dates in this format: 5 January 2017.

Example: You must respond to the consultation by 28 August 2017.

Always write dates in figures and don't use 'st', 'rd', 'th' or commas.

Write months in full wherever possible. Sometimes, for example in graphs or charts, you may need to shorten months. If you do this, write Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

Date ranges

Use a hyphen if the range only involves numbers, for example 17-20 September 2017.Use 'to' rather than a hyphen if the range includes words or a combination of words and numbers, for example:

  • 1 September to 31 December 2017
  • spring to summer 2017
  • April to August 2017

For ranges of years write 2017-2018 or 'from 2017 to 2022'. Don't write 2017/18, 2017-18 or 2017/2018. Don't mix styles, so don't write 'from 2017-2018'.

See also the section on time and the section on numbers


Double spaces

Don't put double spaces after full stops or anywhere else. Use single spacing for all text.


Back to category D

Eg

As a general rule don't use the latin eg Use 'such as' or 'for example'.

Example: 'Establishing hypotheses helps to define the evidence that is required to answer specific questions, for example those relating to the environmental impacts.'

You can use eg where it is used in brackets as an aside to the main sentence.

Example: 'Where habitats are highly mobile (eg some sandbanks), or ephemeral (eg Sabellaria reefs), monitoring studies should be interpreted with extreme caution.' 


Email

Use email not e-mail. Use a lower case 'e' unless it is the first word in a sentence.


Environment Agency

Please use the full name, Environment Agency when you refer to them. Don't use the abbreviation EA or Agency.


Etc

Don't use etc. If you need to indicate that a list continues, you could say 'and so on'.

Alternatively, if you introduce a list by saying that it 'includes' certain things, then it's clear it's not an exhaustive list.


Exclamation marks

There are very few situations when we would use exclamation marks in our writing. They should only be used in the most informal of writing, if in doubt leave it out.

Exclamation marks act as a full stop at the end of a sentence. Do not add a full stop after an exclamation mark.


Back to category E

Fewer

When to use 'fewer' or 'less':

  • use fewer when describing numbers or amounts of things for example 'there are fewer animals on the farm'
  • use 'less' when you can't count it, for example 'there is less water in the reservoir than usual for the time of year'. You can't count water, can you?

Tip: you could remember this by the phrase 'fewer coins, less money'.


Flood plain

Use flood plain and not floodplain.


Fly-tipping

Use fly-tipping and not flytipping or fly tipping.


Footnotes and endnotes

Footnotes are additional notes to the text, which are at the end of individual pages of content (at the foot of the page). Endnotes are at the end of the document.

Don't use footnotes and endnotes in documents unless you really need to.

Never use them in web content.

Before you use them, think about whether your reader needs the information. If the information is that important, you should probably incorporate it into the main text instead. It is usually easier to read a document if you don't have to jump about to read footnotes or endnotes.

If you can't avoid footnotes or endnotes:

  • put them at the bottom of the page and left align the text
  • number footnotes from 1 on each page, unless there is a particular reason to number continuously through chapters or sections of a document
  • make sure you are consistent, for example if you use footnotes in one section as references, do the same in all the other sections of the document

Forestry Commission

Use the full name, Forestry Commission when you refer to them. Don't use the abbreviation FC.


Full stops

Only use full stops at the end of sentences. Do not use them at the end of headings or subheadings, and do not use them in abbreviations to separate the letters.


Back to category F

Glossary

Words, phrases or acronyms that are part of your everyday vocabulary may well be new to your readers. You must explain them the first time you use them. If you are writing a long document, you could put these explanations in a glossary (as well as explaining them the first time) to help your readers. This is normally only required in technical documents or lengthy reports.


Government

Always use a lower case 'g' for government, unless it is the first word in the sentence or the first word in a heading or part of a name such as 'the Welsh Government' or the 'Welsh Local Government Association'.


Grant-in-aid

Use lower case initial letters and hyphenate grant-in-aid (GIA). Use the acronym, GIA, all in capitals in line with the guidance for acronyms above.


Back to category G

­Headings

Use headings and subheadings to break up your text and help people to scan the document.

Make sure every heading is clear, meaningful and descriptive.

After editing a document recheck every heading and make sure they still relate to the content beneath them.

Don't use jargon - make your headings short and snappy.

Only use a capital letter for the first word of a heading or title (unless it includes a proper noun).

Don't put a full stop at the end of headings or subheadings.


­Highlighting

Do not use highlighting to show changes in documents. Highlighting does not comply with accessibility standards and may be difficult or even impossible for some people to follow. If there are important changes you should list them at the start of a document.


­Hyphens

Use hyphens to help to clarify the meaning of a sentence or if they help to avoid confusion.

There are lots of times when we use hyphens unnecessarily. For example, you do not need to hyphenate reuse, reorder, reopen, coordinate or proactive.

Use hyphens to join together two words to form an adjective before a noun. This avoids confusion in expressions such as black-cab driver, for example:

  • a blue collared shirt might not be the same as a blue-collared shirt
  • a French bible salesman might not be the same as a French-bible salesman
  • a red wine bottle might not be the same as a red-wine bottle

Do not use hyphens when the combination of words includes an adverb, for example 'a highly regarded person'.

You do need to use hyphens in words that would look odd without them:

  • re-elect
  • re-enter
  • kiln-dry

And you need to use hyphens where the meaning of a word would be different without them:

  • resort or re-sort
  • recount or re-count
  • reform or re-form

You need to use them for some prefixes such as 'pre-formulated' or 'non-hazardous'.

Be consistent. If you decide that a word needs a hyphen, make sure you hyphenate it throughout your writing.


Back to category H

Inclusive language

Avoid gender-specific words where possible. For example, use humanity, rather than mankind, author rather than authoress. However don't go to extremes – workmanlike is fine.

Get more advice on inclusive language in NHS Digital's content style guide


­Italics

​Do not use italics to emphasise content. Partially-sighted people can find italics difficult to read, so using bold copy or a strong colour to add emphasis is a good alternative.

You should only use italics for titles of publications and for Latin or scientific names for species of plants or animals.

See also the section on Latin or scientific names


Back to category I

Jargon

Do not use jargon and technical terms unless they are absolutely necessary and you are confident that your audience will be familiar with them. Explain any jargon that you use the first time you use it. Do this as briefly as possible, and link to other information sources when necessary.


Job titles

Use capitals for specific job titles, for example, 'Helen is a Technical Officer in Evidence, Policy and Permitting Directorate'. Use lower case when you are talking more generally, for example, 'we have 8 advisors in the Customer Hub'.


Back to category J

Latin or scientific names

For most writing refer to species by their common names. Use scientific species names only where it is appropriate for the type of writing and audience. In general terms, they will be off-putting for non-specialists. If you do use them, Latin names should appear in italics.

Avoid Latin words and abbreviations in other circumstances. Use 'for example' or 'such as' not 'eg'. Use 'that is' instead of 'ie'. 


Legislation

Avoid using legal terms and don't copy text directly from regulations. Don't include the titles of legislation in your writing unless it is absolutely necessary.

There is no need to use the words "as amended" after legislation unless you are making specific observations about two different versions of it. It isn't necessary as it will naturally be assumed that you are referring to the latest version.

When referring to a piece of legislation do not put the date in brackets. Welsh legislation usually has 'Wales' in brackets before the word 'Act'. If you are unsure go to the Act itself and check. Examples:

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

Environment (Wales) Act 2016

Be careful when referring to sections and schedules. Don't get them mixed up. Also, Bills have clauses. They are not referred to as sections until it becomes and Act. Regulations have paragraphs.


Licence, License

Licence is the noun: He has a licence to operate a chain saw. NRW has a species licencing team.

License is the verb: He is licensed to operate a chain saw. We consulted the licensing authority.


Web links

Don't duplicate information. If it exists elsewhere on our website or can be better supplied by another organisation, link to it instead.

Put in only essential links - the more you put in, the higher the chance that one will break. For your users' sake, don't link too much. If you have a forest of links in your writing, it can become difficult to know what to click on, what may be behind a link, or why it's even there.

Make sure that links are clearly visible, but that they don't obscure your text. Single words such as 'report', 'water' and 'reasons' are too easy to overlook so link text of two to five words.

Choose linking text carefully. When writing a link, make it descriptive and front-load it with relevant terms – don't use something generic like 'click here' or 'more' as these don't make sense out of context or tell users where a link will take them. They're also not accessible for visually impaired people using screen readers, who might use links to navigate a page.

Avoid stacking links tightly in a sentence for example, "The report for Llanrwst flooding 2015…"

Ideally if you are linking to a web or intranet page use link text that is the same or similar to the name of the page you are linking to. But make sure your text is descriptive. If the title of the page you are linking to is poor, don't use it for your link.

If you are linking to an external website, write your links in the format: Name of organisation: name or description of the page, for example, National Farmers Union: Guidance on crop spraying.

Link to pages that are likely to be more long-term. Avoid linking to anything that might go away such as; short-term project websites that may disappear, draft versions of documents or press releases.

Link to landing pages, and avoid "deep linking". Long URLs more likely to change, and by using them you could accidently breech copyright and paywall rules.

Whenever possible, link to pages rather than PDFs as these can be renamed or move around on websites. They can also be updated, potentially invalidating the reason for your original link, yet this won't necessarily be indicated to you or your users. If you do choose to link directly to a PDF, it can be helpful to signal this to users: "The new report into the 2015 floods in Llanrwst (PDF)"

When you link to email address, write it out in full.

Always check that your links are working after publication. 

Writing links in documents

This includes writing links in Word documents, PDFs, Excel documents and presentations.

When you write a link in a document, embed it in the paragraph or sentence of text. This is known as an inline link.

For example: 

To find out about how we buy timber, read our timber purchasing policy (naturalresources.wales/about-us/corporate-information/procurement/timber-purchasing-policy). Just underlining 'policy' isn't enough. 

You need to include the important words in the link - timber, purchasing, and policy.

Make sure it is clear you're writing a link and that the text is descriptive. Begin your link text with a verb that tells your reader what they need to do, for example read, register, find out, visit or take a look.

If you are writing a document that could be printed out, you must spell out the web address in round brackets after the hyperlink. You don't need to include the 'http://'.

Further examples:

Register online for our flood warnings service (www.naturalresources.wales/flooding/sign-up-to-receive-flood-warnings).

Don't forget you can keep up to date with our flood alerts on Twitter (www.twitter.com/natreswales).

Do not link directly to PDF documents. Whenever possible, link to the web page that hosts the document. This has the benefit of keeping the linkup to date if the document is changed.

If you have no other option but to link directly to a PDF, always make sure your link text tells people they are going to download something and tell them how big it is.

You can set up shortcut or 'friendly' web addresses. These have the advantage that if you move your guidance you can reassign a different page to the shortcut address. You can email the digital team to set up a friendly web address.


Local authority

Use 'local council' wherever possible. If you do need to use 'local authority', remember to use lower case.

If you are referring to particular functions of a local council, such as highway authority or planning authority, these should also be in lower case. 


Back to category L

Metres

Spell out metres in full, to avoid any confusion. Only use 'm' as an abbreviation if you've got lots of measurements in a technical document, and make sure there is no possibility of misunderstanding.


Money

For amounts less than £1 use digits for the number followed by a space and the word 'pence'.

For amounts of £1 or more, use the pound sign followed by all digits. For large amounts (millions or billions of pounds), use digits and words.

Examples:

  • 27 pence
  • £2.79
  • £125
  • £1.2 million
  • £3 billion

Months

Always spell out months in full - don't abbreviate them.

The only exception to this rule is in tables or graphs if there really isn't space to write them in full. In this case, write Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec.


Back to category M

Natural Resources Wales

When you write about NRW you can use either Natural Resources Wales or NRW but remember to explain 'NRW' as you would any other acronym you first use it.

'Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has offices at…'

NRW should be referred to as a single body, not as a collective term:

'NRW is' not 'NRW are'. However, you can say 'At NRW, we…' which is a way of including the name but also the friendliness of the personal pronoun. 


Numbers

As a general rule, spell out from one to nine; then use numerals from 10 to 999,999, for instance three rabbits, 15 rabbits, 561 rabbits. In titles or headlines you can use the number for brevity. Only use digits for:

  • percentages, for example 5%
  • measurements, for example 3 centimetres
  • if you are using figures in a table
  • numbered sections in a document, such as appendix 1 or section 4

But for sums of money and units of measurement (for example centimetres, kilograms, tonnes, miles per hour) always use numerals, for example 6 tonnes, 3 metres, 0.3 kilograms and 7%.

Spell out million, billion and trillion in full, but in headlines use m, bn or tn, for example 'US stock market loses $5bn overnight'.

If using a number at the start of a sentence, spell it out in full, for example 'Eighteen staff attended the training course.'

In a headline where the number starts the sentence, use the figure, for example '18 arrested in town centre.' Avoid using numbers larger than 20 at the beginning of a sentence.

For numbers of 1,000 and above insert a comma, for example 2,300; 153,261; 1,072,578.

Decimals

Use digits, such as 4.25, or 3.5%.

Fractions (less than one)

Spell out and hyphenate, for example two-thirds.

Fractions (greater than one)

Use digits and decimals, for example 2.5 hours, 6.4.

Ordinal numbers

These are numbers we use when we put things in order, so first, second, third and so on. Spell them out in full up to and including ninth. Use numbers from 10th onwards and don't use superscript.

Numerical lists

Only use numbered lists for sequential lists where it is essential that someone follows certain steps in order. If the order is not important, you should use a bulleted list instead.

See also the section on dates, the section on money, the section on time, the section on percentages, and the section on contact details

Ranges of numbers

For ranges use a dash, and don't put spaces, for example 20-30, 10,000-13,000, 250,000-300,000, 1.5-2 million, 5-6%.


Back to category N

­Online

Use online not on line or on-line.


Back to category O

Parliament

Use a lower case 'p' for parliament, unless it is the start of a sentence.


Percentages

Use digits followed by the percent sign (%). For example, '95% of rivers in south-west England' or '4% of bathing waters'.

Take care when you are talking about percentage change. Double check your figures: do you really mean that something has increased by 10%, or has it increased by 10 percentage points?

See also the section on numbers


Personal pronouns

Use personal pronouns - you, we, our, us, for example - to make your writing more lively, more direct and more reader-focused.

A note of caution though, refer to 'the environment' not 'our environment', and for example, 'rivers' not 'our rivers'.


Practice, Practise

Another word pair that is commonly confused.

Practice is the noun: We found plenty of examples of good practice.

Practise is the verb: We practise a policy of sustainability.


Back to category P

Quotation marks

Use double quotation marks.

If you have a quote within a quote, you should use single quotation marks.

If you insert any words into a quotation you must put them in square brackets [] to show that they are not part of the quote.


Question marks

Question marks act as a full stop at the end of a sentence. Do not add a full stop after a question mark.

Don't add a full stop after the end bracket if there's a question mark within the bracket.


Back to category Q

References

A reference tells your audience where you have got information from, such as data or a quote.

How you use references will depend on your audience and the type of writing. You must be consistent with your chosen style of referencing.

Unless you are writing a scientific document, you can probably include all the information about a reference in your main text.

If you are writing a formal report or scientific document, and your audience is academic, you should use the Harvard system for referencing. This is also known as the author-date system. Nottingham University has an online tool which provides examples of how to use the Harvard system for different source materials.

See also the section on links and the section on titles


Reuse

Use reuse not re-use.


Run-off

Use run-off not runoff or run off. For example, 'Collect surface water run-off to irrigate crops'. Only use 'run off' as separate words when you are using them as a verb, for example 'Water that runs off your roof could be contaminated'.


Back to category R

­Seasons

Always use lower case letters for seasons: spring, summer, autumn, winter.


Signatures

Keep your email signature simple, following the standard template. Include your name, job title, contact details and normal working hours. You shouldn't list your qualifications.


Slashes

Try to avoid using the slash (/), or solidus as it is properly known. The slash is used to denote alternatives and generally means 'or'.

However, this symbol is sometimes misinterpreted as meaning 'and' rather than 'or'. Spell out the alternatives in full to avoid confusing the reader.

For example, use 'rules or regulations' rather than 'rules/regulations'.


Spacing

Use single spacing for all text - don't put double spaces after full stops or anywhere else.


Spelling

In general use UK English spellings rather than US spellings.

For example, use organise rather than organize, colour rather than color, liaise rather than liase, metres rather than meters, and programme rather than program. For words ending in '-isation', use an 's' not a 'z'. For example, organisation, centralisation.

Always spell check your work but be aware that the spell checker in Word is not always correct.


Split infinitives

When you write an adverb between 'to' and the verb, this is called a split infinitive. The most famous example is 'to boldly go'. The adverb 'boldly' splits the infinitive of the verb 'to go'.

Although we use split infinitives all the time in spoken language, it's a good idea to avoid using them in formal writing, unless the alternative seems very awkward.


Subscript and superscript

Avoid using subscript and superscript unless they are absolutely necessary, as they can be hard to read, especially on a screen.


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Tables

Only use tables to display data. Tables will need a heading and clear titles for each row and column.


Time

Use digits and am or pm to write times. Don't use o'clock. Write time spans in full, as you would say them. Use full stops between the hours and minutes, not colons. For example, the workshop will run from 10am to 5.30pm, the meeting is at 3pm.

Only use the 24 hour clock if there is a possibility of confusion. For example, 'the council's planning meeting is on 3 September 2012 at 20.30'. Remember you don't need to write am or pm if you are using the 24 hour clock.

Make sure you are consistent with your style throughout any single document.

Spell out midnight, don't use 00.00.

See also the section on dates, the section on numbers, and the section on months


Titles

Write titles, headings and subheadings using only a capital letter for the start of the first word. You don't need to use capital letters for each word. Do not put a full stop at the end of a title.

If you are referring to the title of a publication in a document, remember you need to put it in italics. Follow the original publication in terms of capitals. For example, 'A summary of the State of Natural Resources Report: An assessment of the sustainable management of natural resources is the first of its kind for Wales.'


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UK

You don't need to spell out United Kingdom in full, just use UK.


Underlining

Do not underline text to emphasise it, and do not underline headings. Only use underlining to show links in downloadable documents.


Units

Use the recognised International System of Units. For more detailed information see the UK Metric Association measurement guide.

Use lower case for km, kg, and other measures.

Some measures, such as kilo-Watts (kW), are capitalised because they are named after a person.

Do not follow units with a full stop unless it is the end of a sentence.

Don't put an 's' to make units plural.

Leave a space between the number and the unit, for example 6 mm, 3 km, 10 kg.


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Wales

Wales, in the possessive, is always Wales', not Wales's.


We

Refer to Natural Resources Wales as 'we' or 'us' after the first occurrence. If you are talking about more than one organisation, specify who you are talking about. It may not always be as obvious as you think it is. For example, 'we are working with Welsh Government to produce guidance for farmers'.

If there is any possibility of confusion, spell out our name in full.

Remember that Natural Resources Wales is singular – 'Natural Resources Wales is working with the Welsh Government'


Web page

Use web page and not webpage or web-page. Use a lower case 'w' unless it is the start of a sentence.


Website

Use website and not web site or web-site. Use a lower case 'w' unless it is the start of a sentence.


Welsh Government

The Welsh Government consists of the First Minister, the Welsh Minister, the Counsel General, deputy Ministers and the civil servants who work across devolved areas that include key areas of public life such as health, education and the environment.

Refer to Welsh Government in full. Avoid using WG as an abbreviation.


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