Writing style guide

Recent changes and additions:

  • active voice
  • dashes
  • e.g.
  • hyphens
  • i.e.
  • initials
  • ministers
  • million
  • quote marks, and
  • URLs.

Commonly unknown guidelines:

  • ANU’s
  • the ANU (see ANU)
  • bullet points
  • quote marks
  • hyphens
  • capitalisation
  • numbers, and
  • Australian spelling.

The writing style guide assists staff preparing University publications to ensure consistency and clarity. If you are writing on behalf of ANU you should also read our ‘How to write on behalf of ANU’ page.

For questions not addressed here, consult:

  • Australian Oxford Dictionary, Oxford University Press 2004
  • Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers, John Wiley & Sons 2013

Can’t find what you are looking for? Contact media@anu.edu.au

Other writing guides:

 

A

abbreviations
Do not use ppl, lol or any other internet abbreviations.

Spell out million, do not use M or m.

Spell out billion, do not use BN or bn.

When listing contact details use:

T for Telephone/Phone
F for Facsimile
M for Mobile
E for Email

Aboriginal
Begins with a capital A.

Also see Indigenous.

acronyms
Acronyms (eg RSPAS, ACERH, ANU) should be spelled out with the acronym in parentheses in the first instance and all caps thereafter. First reference: “He is with the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies (RSPAS)”. Second reference: “At RSPAS he does x”. Also applies to states e.g. Australian Capital Territory (ACT), New South Wales (NSW) etc.

Also see ANU.

active voice
Use an active voice, not passive.

In an active sentence, the subject is doing the action. A straightforward example is the sentence “Steve loves Amy.” Steve is the subject, and he is doing the action: he loves Amy, the object of the sentence.

In passive voice, the target of the action gets promoted to the subject position. Instead of saying, “Steve loves Amy,” you should say, “Amy is loved by Steve.” The subject of the sentence becomes Amy, but she isn’t doing anything. Rather, she is just the recipient of Steve’s love. The focus of the sentence has changed from Steve to Amy.

adviser
As used in ‘Adviser to staff’ – not advisor, but advisory.

age

She is eight years old vs an eight year-old child.

Also see hyphens.

ageing
Spelled with an ‘e’.

alumnus
A male graduate.

alumna
A female graduate.

alumnae
A group of female only graduates.

alumni
A group of graduates, male and female.

am/pm
See time.

amounts
See numbers.

ampersand (&)
Ampersands are used in headings and table formats otherwise use ‘and’.

ANU
The official title is The Australian National University and this should be used in the first instance (followed by the acronym in parentheses); thereafter use ANU. When used as an adjective it should be preceded by ‘the’ (e.g. the ANU logo) but in all other cases ‘the’ is omitted.

In accordance with the Use of University Name and Insignia Policy, all ANU academic college names must be preceded by ANU in all external and internal written material. E.g. ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, ANU College of Law etc.

ANU’s
ANU’s should never be used. Reword the sentence or write University’s instead.

around
‘About’ is preferred to ‘around’.

Asia Pacific/Asia-Pacific
Asia Pacific, with no hyphen, is the preferred form when used as a noun, while Asia-Pacific with a hyphen is preferred when it is used as an adjective.

E.g. the students are studying the Asia-Pacific region; that island is part of the Asia Pacific.

at symbol (@)
Use only within email addresses and Twitter handles or within scientific measurements.

Do not use in titles, headings or regular text as an abbreviation for the word ‘at’.

audiovisual
One word. No hyphen, no space.

Australian spelling
Always use Australian spelling, unless the word is part of a publication or organisation name.

Use ‘re’ in ‘centre’, etc (not ‘er’), ‘s’ over ‘z’ (organisation), program (not ‘programme’) unless it is the name of a particular institution.

awards
Do not italicise.

Also see postnominals, Bachelor and Master.

B

Bachelors
When combined with  a descriptor such as  ‘award’, ‘degree’, ‘level’, ‘program’ etc. it should be ‘Bachelor’. E.g. Bachelor level, Bachelor program. When standalone, it should be ‘Bachelors’. Bachelor or Bachelors should be capitalised in any instance.

Also see postnominals.

barbecue
Not ‘BBQ’.

billion
Do not us BN or bn to signify billion. Always spell out e.g. $1 billion. In headings, abbreviated forms of large numbers are acceptable.

E.g. $1bn or $1m.

bullet points
Where the list is part of sentence (preceded by a colon), begin each point in lower case with no commas or semi-colons, putting a full-stop at the end of the last bullet point.

If the list is not part of a sentence, begin each point in upper case and use full stops at the end of each complete sentence.

Only number points when you will be referring back to them or if the order of the points is important.

C

capitalisation
ANU style is for minimal capitalisation; that is, only the first letter of the heading or title is capitalised, along with any proper nouns.  Only people’s names, position titles, names of workgroups, organisational units, degree titles (e.g. Bachelor of Art) and publications should be capitalised. Almost everything else should be in sentence case.

characterise
No z (also organise, recognise etc).

Clark (Manning Clark)
No ‘e’.

E.g. Manning Clark Lecture Theatre.

chancelry
Note one ‘l’, no ‘e’ry.

colleges
In accordance with the Use of University Name and Insignia Policy , all ANU academic college names must be preceded by ANU in all external and internal written material. E.g. ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, ANU College of Law etc.

colour
Always with a ‘u’.

Also see Australian spelling.

convener
With an ‘e’ at the end not an ‘o’.

counselled, counselling
Two ‘l’s.

See also Australian spelling.

contact details
See abbreviations.

coursework
One word. No hyphen, no space.

cooperation
One word. No hyphen, no space.

coordination
One word. No hyphen, no space. Also: coordinator and coordinating.

currency
See money.

cutting edge
Two words, no hyphen. Unless using as an adjective.

E.g. He works at the cutting edge of science vs cutting-edge research.

D

dates
Thursday 17 March 1917 (no commas). Use 12 May, unless directly quoting someone saying “May 12″. Do not say 12th of May.

dashes
In writing there are two types of dashes. A hyphen is NOT a dash. A hyphen is used to join words only. See also hyphens.

The first type is an en dash (which is twice the length of a hyphen) and the second is an em dash which is twice as long as an en dash. In modern writing the two can be used interchangeably.

In ANU writing use an en dash (–). It can be used for three main purposes:

  1. To separate a range of dates or numbers. In this use the dash should NOT have spaces either side e.g. 7–8 pm
  2. A single dash can be used to introduce an explanation or expansion of what comes before it e.g. But when the firestorm of January 2003 ravaged the nation’s capital, much of the two-storey brick home was destroyed – seemingly beyond repair.
  3. A pair of dashes can be used to indicate asides and parentheses, forming a more distinct break than commas would e.g. Helen has only seen her father once in her adult life and – and until her flight from Sydney – had never met her brother.

degree
Lower case, no capital ‘d’.

Also see master and bachelor.

dollars
See money.

Deputy Vice-Chancellors
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)

driver’s licence
Not drivers or driver. ‘Licence’ not ‘license’.

Also see Australian spelling.

E

eastern Europe
Small ‘e’ in ‘eastern’.

e.g.
With full stops.

enquiry, enquiries
Not inquiry, unless it is an official investigation into something.

enrolled, enrolling, enrol, enrolment
Note the number of ls.

email
See abbreviations.

estimations
See around.

Evans
In formal documents, referred to as Professor the Hon Gareth Evans AC, QC, Chancellor. When using postnominals: Professor the Hon Gareth Evans AC, QC, BA LLB(Hons) Melb, MA Oxf, Hon LLD Melb, Syd, Carleton, Queen’s Ont, FASSA.

Exclamation points
An exclamation point (which should be used sparingly to be effective) marks an outcry or an emphatic or ironic comment. If in doubt, don’t use it. And don’t ever use it more than once in a single communication.

F

face to face
When used as an adjective to describe a noun use hyphen.

E.g. a face-to-face meeting.

In other situations no hyphens.

E.g. to come face to face with.

federal
Lowercase except Federal Government, Federal Parliament.

Also see Government and Ministers.

fieldwork
One word. No hyphen, no space.

first class
Not hyphenated, except when used as an adjective.

E.g. he went to his first class, where a first-class professor was presenting.

first-rate
As an adjective, hyphenated.

focus
Focused, focuses, focusing.

Also see Australian spelling.

full-time
Hyphenated.

G

Government
The word government should be capitalised as part of a formal title or abbreviated specific title, but lower case is generally appropriate elsewhere. E.g. The Australian Government is responsible for… and The government proposes to….

Also see Federal and Ministers.

Government departments
Spell out in full in the first instance then acronym thereafter.

Also see acronyms.

gender-specific references
Avoid gender-specific references where possible i.e. ‘chair’, not ‘chairman/woman/person’.

gaol
With a ‘g’.

Also see Australian spelling.

graduate
Alumnus is a male graduate. Alumna is a female graduate. Alumnae is a group of female only graduates. Alumni is a group of graduates, male and female.

Also use instead of postgraduate e.g. graduate student not postgraduate student.

H

half-year
Do not use 0.5 year when describing half a year or six months. Use one half-year with a hyphen.

healthcare
One word. No hyphen, no space.

Higher Degree Research
Higher Degree Research should be capitalised.

high-pitched 

Hyphenated.

high-profile
Hyphenated.

high-quality
Hyphenated.

high-tech
Hyphenated.

historic
‘A historic’, never ‘an’.

honorifics
Always use Mr, Mrs, Ms in official documents.  Always check with the person on their preferred use of Mrs, Ms or Miss. Always use ‘Dr’ not ‘Dr.’

Always spell out Professor, Associate Professor, but not Doctor.

Also see ministers.

honour
Always with a ‘u’.

No apostrophe, no capitals when referring to “he has an honours degree”. When listing a person’s qualifications, BA(Hons).

http://
See URLs.

hyphens (-)
Using a hyphen depends on the context of the sentence.

If you are using adjectives that belong together for their meaning before a noun you usually need a hyphen e.g. a first-year student vs a student in their first year. A world-class university vs our university is world class.

Tip 1: If you don’t know if you should hyphenate read each adjective with the noun separately and see if the meaning still stands. E.g. A first-year student is NOT a first student or a year student they are a first-year student.

Tip 2: If the adjectives come after the noun or at the end of the sentence you probably don’t need to hyphenate.

Also see dashes.

I

i.e.
Use full stops.

initials
No full stops, no spaces e.g. AD Hope, HC Coombs, etc.

Internet
Capital ‘I’

Indigenous/indigenous
Always capitalised when it refers to the original inhabitants of Australia (e.g. “Indigenous Australians” and “Indigenous communities”).

Lower case when used to refer to the original inhabitants of other countries.

See page 57 of the Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers for more detailed terminology recommended by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.

inquiry
Official investigation only (see enquiry).

-ise
Always use the Australian form ‘-ise’.

E.g. maximise, capitalise, etc. Never use ‘-ize’.

Also see Australian spelling.

J

jail
Never use jail unless part of a publication title. Always use gaol.

Also see Australian spelling.

K

No entries.

L

lifestyle
One word. No hyphen, no space.

like
Do not use the word ‘like’ for comparing things, instead use ‘such as’ or ‘including’ (if it belongs to a group).

lists
See bullet points.

long-standing
Hyphenated.

M

Manning Clark
Not ‘Clarke’.

Masters
When combined with  a descriptor such as  ‘award’, ‘degree’, ‘level’, ‘program’ etc. it should be ‘Master’. E.g. Master degree, Master award, Master program. When standalone, it should be ‘Masters’. Master or Masters should be capitalised in any instance.

mature-age
Hyphenated.

measurements
Also see abbreviations, money, time and dates.

Middle East(ern)
Never hyphenated.

ministers
When referring to ministers or members of parliament in news articles and feature stories address them by their role. E.g.

In the first instance: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Then Mr Rudd.

and

In the first instance: Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Penny Wong. Then Senator Wong.

and

In the first instance: Member for Canberra, Gai Brodtmann. Then Ms Brodtmann.

If the minister is a member of the Senate they are referred to as Senator.

Members of the House of Representatives always have the postnominal MP after their name.

More formal modes of address are used in correspondence.

All correspondence, including invitations, to members of federal, state and territory parliaments should be sent through SCAPA.

For more detailed modes of address refer to the Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers, John Wiley & Sons 2013 or contact SCAPA.

million
Do not use M to signify million. Always spell out e.g. $1 million. In headings, abbreviated forms of large numbers are acceptable, e.g. $1bn or $1m.

money
Use the dollar symbol followed by the figure ($1,000). Use a comma when referring to thousands or bigger numbers.

Use country abbreviation followed by currency symbol to denote currencies (A$1,000, US$1,000, NZ$1,000).

Note that country abbreviation/symbol to use with Australian dollars is ‘A not ‘AUD.

In headings, abbreviated forms of large numbers are acceptable, for example: $1bn or $1m

more than
Use “more than” instead of “over” when referring to numbers e.g. there were more than 100 ducks.

multidisciplinary
One word. No hyphen, no space. Also multilingual, multifaceted.

Muslim
Capitalise.

N

numbers
Within regular prose, numbers one to nine should be spelt out and 10 and above should be numerals.

Commas should be used to mark thousands rather than spaces, for example: 1,000.

If starting a sentence with a number cannot be avoided, write the numbers as words, for example: use “Twenty-nine people attended the launch” instead of “29 people attended the launch”.

Numeral form is acceptable when used together with a unit of measurement (weight, distance, date, time etc), in tables, in a series of numbers provided for comparison (e.g. 5 of 500 people), and in mathematical and scientific contexts.

In headings, abbreviated forms of large numbers are acceptable e.g. $1bn or $1m.

non
As a prefix, use with hyphen.

not-for-profit
Hyphenated.

O

online
One word. No hyphen, no space.

organise
No ‘z’, also characterise, recognise etc.

Also see Australian spellings.

P

part-time
Hyphenated.

per cent
Two words spelt out. Only use symbol (%) in tables etc.

percentage
One word. No hyphen, no space.

policymaker
One word, similarly policyholder.

postgraduate
Use graduate.

postnominals
Should be attributed in formal publications as follows: John Citizen, BSc (Hons) ANU, PhD Oxf. University in italics.

Refer to Young for the Vice-Chancellor’s postnominals.

postwar
One word. No hyphen, no space.

Pro Vice-Chancellor
Only one hyphen.

Professor
Spell out in full, never ‘Prof’.

Also see titles.

program
Not programme.

purpose-built
Hyphenated.

Q

quote marks
Double quotes are only used for speech e.g. “The University is world class,” said Mr Blah.

Single quote marks are used for:

  1. Emphasising in text e.g. The ‘real’ story behind the fire was…
  2. Quoting something inside a quote e.g. “Annabel said ‘The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain’ but she didn’t say why,” explained Mr Blah.

Where the quote-within-a-quote ends the quote, put single quotes before full stop and double quotes after e.g. “When I asked him about the rain in Spain, Mr Blah said, ‘It falls mainly on the plain’.”

Quote marks always come after the punctuation e.g. “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain,” Mr Blah said. Unless the quote is not a full sentence e.g. Mr Blah said the rain in Spain “falls mainly on the plain”.

R

real-life
Hyphenated when used as an adjective.

E.g. real-life situation.

recognise
No ‘z’. See Australian spelling.

S

says vs said
Present tense (i.e. ‘says’) is used in ANU Reporter features and when paraphrasing. ‘Said’ is used for direct quotes in all other instances.

southeast
One word. No hyphen, no space. Capitalise where part of name e.g. Southeast Asia.

specialise
No ‘z’.

Also see Australian spelling.

spelling
See Australian spelling.

state-of-the-art
Hyphenated.

superfast
One word. No hyphen, no space. As in ‘new generation of superfast computers’.

symbols
See money, per cent and ampersand.

T

targeting, targeted
One ‘t’.

E.g. not targetted.

three-dimensional or 3D
Hyphenated.

time
Preferred style for listing time. 10am and 2pm, not 10.00am and 2.00pm. 10.30am not 10:30am. 2–4pm not 2 – 4 pm etc. Use an en dash to show duration, not “to” (that is, 2–4pm not 2 to 4pm).

Also see dashes.

titles
Publications, plays, movies, conferences, album titles all in italics. Band names in ordinary type. Do not italicise awards.

Also see honorifics for Mr, Mrs etc.

trade-off
Hyphenated.

U

undergraduate
One word. No hyphen, no space. No capital.

update
One word. No hyphen, no space.

University
Capital “U” when referring to ANU, small “u” when talking about universities generally.

up-to-date
Hyphenated.

URLs
When including links on a webpage or in an email always hyperlink text that represents the meaningful action/name of the link destination instead of writing out the URL. An exception to this rule is when you have a short promotional URL you would like people to remember.

http:// should not be included in front of URLs in print. URLs without them take you to the same place, and so they are extraneous characters.

V

Vice-Chancellor
Hyphenated.

Also see Young.

W

world wars
Use First World War, Second World War (not World War I or II).

world-class
Hyphenated.

worldwide
One word. No hyphen, no space.

web-based
Hyphenated.

webpage
One word. No hyphen, no space.

website
One word. No hyphen, no space. No capital. Also webpage.

well-known
Hyphenated.

www

See URLs.

X

X-chromosome
Capital ‘X’, small c, hyphen.

Y

Y-chromosome
Capital ‘Y’, small ‘c’, hyphen.

years old
Eight years old, but an eight year-old child.

Also see hyphens.

Young, Ian
Vice-Chancellor (2011-present). In formal documents, refer to as Professor Ian Young, Vice-Chancellor and President.

When using postnominals: Professor Ian Young AO BE (Hons), MEngSc, PhD, FIEAust, FTSE

Also see postnominals.

Z

No entries

http://news.anu.edu.au/how-to/storytelling-writing-and-media/writing-style-guide/#C

Updated:  17 December 2014/ Responsible Officer:  Director, SCAPA/ Page Contact:  Director, SCAPA