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House style

Whatever you do at the University, your job probably involves writing – anything from a brochure right down to a quick email.

This guide will help you by setting out our basic house rules for language use. It does not define a preferred style of writing (for help with this, see The University of Manchester tone of voice guidelines); nor does it cover general rules of English spelling and grammar, though we do look at some specific instances of punctuation, capitalisation and others.

Instead, it confirms how to use certain terminology that might otherwise be open to interpretation, in order to keep our presentation consistent and our messages clear.


We have divided the guidance into eight sections:

University and academic


For the GCSE and A-level grade.

academic and job titles

Use initial capitals for individuals’ academic or job titles (‘Professor of Public History’, ‘Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell’, ‘Ms Bloggs, Admissions Officer, School of…’), but lower case for generic roles (‘contact a professor’, ‘the role of vice-chancellor at UK universities’, ‘an admissions officer will help you with your query’) or plurals (professors, vice-chancellors, admissions officers).

accredited or credited?

‘Accredited’ is used to describe courses that are recognised by an official body as meeting its standards (such as the Royal Society of Chemistry). ‘Credited’ is used to refer to a course unit that carries credits towards a student’s overall result – to avoid confusion, use ‘credit-bearing’ instead (for example ‘you can study a credit-bearing course unit in a related discipline as part of this RSC-accredited course’). 


Use ‘alumni’ for the gender-neutral plural and the male plural. For the female plural, use ‘alumnae’. The male singular is ‘alumnus’ and the female singular is ‘alumna’. 

bachelor’s degree

Lower case, with possessive apostrophe. If writing in full, use Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science and so on.


Lower case. Used to describe a 200th anniversary; the adjective is bicentennial.

blended, flexible model

Use this term to describe our teaching and learning offering. Do not substitute with ‘hybrid’ or other similar terms.

clearing and adjustment 

Can be shortened to ‘clearing’, always written in lower case.


Lower case.

courses, programmes and course units

Use ‘course’ for all undergraduate and postgraduate taught degrees. Use ‘programme’ for postgraduate research programmes. If you’re talking about a group of postgraduate qualifications that includes both research and taught degrees, use ‘programmes’.  The parts that make up our courses should always be referred to as ‘course units’ – never as modules.

degree types

BSc, MEng, PhD, DPhil, PGCert and so on are written using upper and lower case, without spaces or punctuation marks. If writing in full, write in title case: Bachelor of Science, Master of Engineering and so on.

degree classifications

First, Upper Second, Lower Second – use upper case for the initials.


Upper case initials when a discipline is part of a School title (such as the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures), research group title, course title or programme title, but lower case for general reference: ‘the geography of the world’, ‘this is the birthplace of chemical engineering’..


Lower case, one word.

e-journals, e-resources

Lower case, hyphenated. You can also use ‘online resources’, ‘electronic journals’ and so on.


One word.

Faculties, Departments, Divisions, Schools, Institutes and Centres

‘The Faculty of A’, ‘the Department or Division of B’ or ‘the School of C’, not the ‘A Faculty’, ‘B Department or Division’ or ‘C School’ (except where this is an official name, for example ‘Alliance Manchester Business School’, ‘Manchester Medical School’ and ‘Manchester Pharmacy School’). Full titles can be shortened in the copy to ‘the School’, ‘the Department’, ‘the Division’, ‘the Faculty’, ‘the Institute’ and ‘the Centre’ but, as with ‘the University’, they should take an upper case initial. Faculties, Schools, Institutes and Centres are always treated as singular nouns (‘the Faculty is…’, ‘the Institute aims’, and so on.).

halls of residence

Lower case.


Upper case initials (Single Honours, Double Honours, degree with Honours). 

Jodrell Bank

Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre should appear in upper case and be written in full in the first instance, but can be shortened to Jodrell Bank for subsequent mentions. Should your audience require more context, you can add ‘a UNESCO World Heritage Site’ in brackets.

John Rylands Research Institute and Library

The John Rylands Research Institute and Library should appear in upper-case and be written in full in the first instance, but can be shortened to ‘the Rylands’ in subsequent cases. Always treat the Rylands as singular (for example, ‘the Rylands is located in Manchester city centre’).

Key Stage 1, 2, 3

Use capital initials and use numerals rather than ‘three’.

master’s degree

Lower case, with a possessive apostrophe. If writing in full, use ‘Master of Arts’, ‘Master of Science’ and so on.


MECD (Manchester Engineering Campus Development) should now be referred to as ‘the home of Engineering and Materials’. The ‘h’ is lower case, but the ‘E’ and ‘M’ are written in upper case. If referring to one of the buildings specifically, you can use ‘Engineering Building A’ or ‘Engineering Building B’.

on campus

The preferred term where people are learning in the same physical space. Do not use ‘face-to-face’ as this could apply to online activities or meetings.

other qualifications

A-level, AS-level, GCSE.


Lower case and one word without a hyphen.

remote study

This is the preferred term for study that takes place wholly off-campus. Do not use ‘online study’ in this context as all students (including those studying on campus) have some elements of online learning as part of our blended, flexible model.


Use this rather than ‘term’. When referring to a specific semester, use an upper case initial and number written as a figure (‘Semester 1’).

synchronous/asynchronous learning activities

Think about your audience if using these terms, as they may not be widely understood outside of colleagues involved with online teaching and learning. In cases where these may be unfamiliar terms, give a brief description of what they mean, or simply describe the specific activity being delivered and the medium – for example: ‘live interactive lectures delivered via Zoom’ (synchronous) or ‘pre-recorded videos you can watch at any time’ (asynchronous).


Lower case and one word without a hyphen. 


The University of Manchester always takes an upper case T, U and M. Never write ‘Manchester University’. General references to university or universities take lower case u. If referring to this institution as ‘the University,’ use upper case U (but lower case t for ‘the’). Always treat the University as singular (for example ‘The University is committed to social responsibility’). 

year or Years?

When writing about the years of our programmes, such as ‘in the first year’, and ‘first-year students’, use lower case. However, when talking about course details in Year 1, use an upper case Y for ‘Year’, followed by a figure.

Inclusive language

The way we write for and about people can help to promote equality, diversity and inclusion, and provide the same opportunities for all.

Our inclusive language (Word Doc, 60.1KB) advice should be used as a guide to avoid bias, slang or expressions that exclude certain groups based on age, race, ethnicity, religion, physical and mental health, gender or sexual orientation.


Centres for Doctoral Training

Upper case initials and written in full in the first instance, but can be shortened to CDT.

climate change

Lower case initials.


Lower case initial, followed by a hyphen and upper case initial.

knowledge transfer partnership

Lower case initials and written in full in the first instance, but can be shortened to KTP.

net zero

Two words, lower case initials.

open access

Two words, lower case initials.

open research

Two words, lower case initials.

precision medicine for all

Lower case initials.

research beacons

Lower case initials. Also applies to the names of individual research beacons, for example: advanced materials, biotechnology, cancer, energy, global inequalities.

research institutes

Lower case initials.

research platforms

Lower case initials.

research assessment exercise

Lower case initials and written in full in the first instance, but can be shortened to RAE.

research review exercise

Lower case initials and written in full in the first instance, but can be shortened to RRE.

Research Excellence Framework

Upper case initials and written in full in the first instance, but can be shortened to REF or REF2021 (one word).

Research Lifecycle Programme

Upper case initials and written in full in the first instance, but can be shortened to RLP.

statement of research expectations

Four words, no hyphens. Lower case initials.

United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

Upper case initials and written in full in the first instance, but can be shortened to UN’s SDGs or SDGs.

Punctuation and capitalisation

abbreviations and acronyms

Abbreviations and acronyms should be written out in full in the first instance, followed by the abbreviation or acronym in brackets (written in capitals, without full stops), for example ‘School of Environment, Education and Development (SEED).’

Exceptions to the rule include UCAS and qualifications such as GCSE, BTEC, MA (alternatively master’s) and BSc, which are never written out in full.

You can use all capitals if an abbreviation is spoken as the individual letters, such as CEO. Use sentence case if it is an acronym pronounced as a word, such as Nato or Unicef. Use lowercase if the acronym is used as an everyday word, such as awol or pin number. 


Use to indicate a missing letter or letters, such as can’t or we’d, or a possessive, such as John’s car.


Avoid using upper case for emphasis in body copy. Capital letters disrupt the flow of text and make the reader pause.


Use between two sentences or parts of a sentence, where the second part resolves the first.

For example: The University of Manchester is living its values: knowledge, wisdom and humanity.

Can be used to introduce a quote or a list: “Professor Andrew Smith is an expert in microbiology.”

You can also use it before a quote when the quote could exist on its own as a sentence.

For example: Professor Smith said: “The University of Manchester supports my study of microscopic organisms.”


There are three types of dashes used in typesetting: the hyphen (-), the en rule/en dash (–) and the em rule/em dash (—). We do not use the em rule in University publications. Use the en rule to introduce a parenthesis – like this – or to indicate a minus symbol or an alternative to the bullet point. Also use the en rule to indicate a range of numbers (such as 6–8 June). See Hyphens for more on their use.


If indicating omitted text, use ellipsis as follows: a trio of full stops with a space either side of the furthest left and furthest right … like so.

exclamation marks

Avoid overuse of these. They are best used in informal writing, and even then only sparingly for impact.


A hyphen can be used to conjoin words in compound words where to omit one could cause ambiguity (for example, cross-question), to add a prefix (such as pre-Renaissance), to aid pronunciation (such as re-enter, co-opt), when writing a fraction (such as two-thirds) or when you need to break a long word at a line’s end.


No spaces or punctuation, for example ‘JJ Thompson’.


If the bracketed text falls within your sentence, write in sentence case, with no closing punctuation (like this). (If it falls outside, write in sentence case (note the upper case first initial) and include closing punctuation within the brackets.)

Square brackets can be used within a direct quote where a note from the writer is included to provide additional information but not spoken.


Use double quotation marks for quoted text, with single quotation marks for any quoted matter within it. If quoting a full sentence, include punctuation within the quoted matter. If not, place the punctuation outside. For example:

She added: "For anyone who’s ever thought ‘I can do that’, this interactive demonstration will be the perfect opportunity to put their skills to the test."

Use single quotation marks for words that are new or unusual within the context.

For example: The researchers have demonstrated a new technique that allows them to ‘write’ membranes directly on to a graphene surface.


After a full stop, insert one character space before starting your next sentence.

Use paragraph spacing when typing in Microsoft Word; if you prefer to type without this, insert a single line’s space between paragraphs.


A semicolon can be used to join two independent clauses that can stand alone.

For example: “I go to the University Library to study; it’s the only way I can concentrate.”

titles and roles

Titles take an upper case initial, such as Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, as do job titles when used in conjunction with an individual’s name, such as Clive Agnew, Vice-President for Teaching, Learning and Students. If you are talking about a title in generic terms, use lower case (‘two new professors were appointed today’, ‘five of our vice-presidents also hold the position of Dean in their Faculties’).

Note the use of commas in the sentences below – if there is only one person who holds the position, use commas; if there are more than one, you do not need commas. 

  • The University’s Professor of Pop Culture, Jon Savage, was formerly a music journalist. (There is only one University Professor of Pop Culture.)
  • The former music journalist, Jon Savage, has been appointed as the University’s Professor of Pop Culture. (There are many former music journalists.)

Formatting and layout

accordion (used in webpage formatting)

Not accordian.


Avoid using bold, italic or underlining for emphasis. Order your information so that the stress falls in the right place without the need to impose different formatting, which can clutter the page or alter the tone. If you want a sentence to stand out from the rest of the text, try setting it as a new paragraph.

headings and subheadings

Use sentence case for headings and subheadings. For example:

Contact a representative from the University

Rather than using bold, italic or underlining to distinguish your headings from the rest of your text, use the Heading 1, 2, 3 and 4 settings in Word’s style menu (if you are using the T4 content management system, the same heading options are available). As well as helping you keep your approach to headings and subheadings consistent, it will make it clear to designers and typesetters which level of heading they should use when setting your copy.


Lists, like all text, should be grammatically sound. Check that each entry follows logically and grammatically from the introductory sentence. A simple list of one-word entries following an introductory sentence ending with a colon requires no punctuation apart from a final full stop at the end. For example:

 You can get to the city centre easily by:

  • bus
  • tram
  • rail.

For lists with longer entries, there are two possibilities. Firstly, the preceding text ends with a colon and the list continues the sentence, each entry beginning with a lower-case letter and ending with a semi-colon, except the final entry, which ends with a full stop. For example: 

Our IT facilities and services include:

  • more than 3,200 student PCs accessing a huge range of software, academic data and resources from across the world;
  • 24/7 access to computers at the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons and in Owens Park halls of residence;
  • dedicated IT Service Desk support, including a 24/7 telephone helpline;
  • downloadable iManchester smartphone app for mobile devices.

Secondly, the introductory sentence ends with a full stop and each entry is composed of one or more full sentences, all beginning with a capital and ending with a full stop. For example:

Our research has contributed to a wide range of the organisation’s successes.

  • We partnered with BP on research into corrosion science and technology. We are also the hub of the company’s International Centre for Advanced Materials.
  • We collaborated with National Grid on a host of innovative developments to help them deliver the future UK energy strategy.

Do not mix these two styles. Use bullets at the first level, followed by indented bullets at the second level (as in the example above).


When referring to pages in a document, write ‘page’ in full and in lower case, and use the numeral form for the number: page 1, pages 8 to 9, and so on.

web addresses

If writing for printed publications, leave out the ‘http://’ when writing web addresses – this takes up space and isn’t necessary for the address to work.

If writing for a web page, you do not need to write out web addresses in full. Just write the name of the web page you want to direct users to and hyperlink the text to the relevant URL.

For example, rather than writing:

Read more about the University brand at


Read more about the University brand on our brand microsite.

Avoid using wording such as ‘click here for more information’ – instead, add hyperlinks to the meaningful words. For example:

News of the graphene project comes less than a month after professors Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov were awarded the freedom of the city.

Numbers, dates, times and measurements

ages of people

John Smith, 65 (not “aged 65”).

A 65 year-old man; a 65-year-old; 65 years old.

The woman was in her 20s.

When referring to age groups, such as the over-50s or under-16s, note that these groupings sometimes don’t include people who are 50 or 16. In this case saying 50 or over, or 16 and above can work better.


31 October 2007 (no punctuation and no ‘th’, ‘nd’ or ‘st’ on the number).

Friday, 31 October 2007 (the day of the week, comma after the day of the week).

Centuries: fourth century, 12th century (lower case c).

For academic and financial years, use 2015/16, 2016/17 and so on.


We use the metric system for weights and measurements, with a conversion wherever this is helpful to the reader. However, we use miles (written out in full) for distances, followed by a conversion to km.

Write metres out in full rather than using m, wherever you need to avoid confusion with the shortened version of million. For temperatures, angles and so on, use the degree symbol (°).


£500, £5,000, £5 million (space after the number, lower case ‘m’. Can be abbreviated to £5m in tables). Use the £ symbol when talking about sums of money, but the word ‘pound’ when talking about the currency.


One to ten are written as words. 

Exceptions to this rule are:

  • page numbers;
  • percentages or other measurements (for example 2%, 3cm, 5kg – no space between the figure and the unit of measurement);
  • sets of numbers where one or more of them is higher than ten;
  • numbers that include a fraction or a decimal point.

Numbers 11 and upwards are expressed in figures.

Ordinal numbers are treated the same as cardinal numbers: first, fifth, 11th, 21st and so on.

Avoid starting a sentence with a number. If you can’t avoid it, write the number as words. For example: ‘Twenty-five Nobel Prize winners have worked or studied here’. This can become unsightly with longer numbers, so try to rewrite your sentence to get around it, such as ‘The University has been home to 25 Nobel Prize winners’.

Use commas in numbers over 1,000, before the hundred (9,500, 120,000).

For millions and billions, write the full word ‘million’ preceded by a numeral, such as 2 million people. Note that a billion equates to 1,000 million, not ‘1 million million’. If space is an issue, such as in a table, use 2m, 5bn and so on.


Use am and pm with no space after the number. 7.30am, 4pm, 4.15pm.

Where it helps to avoid confusion, use 'noon' rather than 12pm and 'midnight' in place of 12am.


Use the % sign rather than ‘per cent’ or ‘percent’.

years (academic and financial)

Write as follows: 2013/14, 2014/15 and so on.

Contact details


When writing out an address, use the following format: (name of building/company/institution/number) The University of Manchester, (street name) Oxford Road, (city) Manchester (post code) M13 9PL, (region/country – dependent on what’s more relevant) United Kingdom.

For international addresses it is sometime necessary to list road numbers and blocks. This can look like the below:

39 (3rd floor), 17A, E, Banani, Dhaka 1213, Bangladesh


Not ‘telephone’ when listing contact details. Otherwise use the full word in lower case with no initial capital in the run of text. Use the international format, unless you know you are addressing a completely local audience:

tel +44 (0)161 275 XXXX


Write as ‘email’ – no hyphen, lower case, no initial cap in the run of text.

Email addresses should be written in lower case:

fax numbers

Avoid listing fax numbers. If anyone wants to send a fax, they can telephone to request the number.

Everything else


Not ‘amongst’.


For example, changes to the exam guidelines had no effect (noun) on the number of mistakes made during marking; the number of mistakes was not affected (verb) by changes to the exam guidelines; we hope to effect (verb) a change to resolve this issue. 


Don’t use ‘&’. Write ‘and’..

Britain, UK or Great Britain?

Britain, or the UK, comprises England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Great Britain comprises England, Wales and Scotland only. Choose the relevant one for your purpose.

collective nouns

Team, group, family, committee: whether you treat these as singular or plural depends on the context: are you referring to a single entity or a collection of individuals? For example:

The University Challenge team is in training ahead of the new series. The team are each excellent quizzers with remarkable personal records; however, they are working on getting to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

The University, Faculties, Schools, Institutes, Centres and external organisations are always treated as singular.

company names

As a general rule, follow the style convention that the companies themselves use. We follow the unconventional use of case, spacing and so on used by the likes of easyJet, eBay and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

use of contractions

When deciding whether to use a contraction (‘we’re’, ‘couldn’t’ and ‘you’re’), consider the style, tone of voice and audience of the content you are writing. In a webpage for students, contractions can help to create a relaxed, conversational and straight-talking style.

For example, “We’re excited to have you join us for our first undergraduate open day of 2022.”

For a formal printed publication, such as a research report or legal document, we are more likely to write words out in full. In some cases, contractions can detract from the seriousness of a piece.

Learn more about how to write in the University’s tone of voice guide.


The virus is called Sars-CoV-2 and this causes the disease COVID-19. For ease of communication, we are following the same practice as the World Health Organization (WHO) and using ‘COVID-19’ (all upper case with a hyphen) to refer to both the virus and the disease.

It can also continue to be referred to as the coronavirus (all lower case), used interchangeably with COVID-19.

eg, ie, etc

While these are common and useful abbreviations, they are not helpful for all readers, particularly those using assistive technologies to access content.

‘eg’ can sometimes be read aloud as ‘egg’ by screen reading software. Instead use ‘for example’, ‘such as’ or ‘including’, depending on what works best in the specific context.

‘etc’ can usually be avoided. Try using ‘for example’, ‘such as’ or ‘including’. Never use ‘etc’ at the end of a list starting with these words.

‘ie’ is not always well understood. Try (re)writing sentences to avoid the need to use it. If that’s not possible, use an alternative such as ‘meaning’ or ‘that is’.

foreign names

If a name features accents, do not leave them out (for example, Louis de Bernières).

The ‘de’ and ‘le’ in French names and ‘van’ in Dutch names take a lower case initial when the name is written in full (for example, Vincent van Gogh), but upper case when just the surname is given (such as Van Gogh).

foreign words

Use accents where required on foreign words, except those that have been anglicised (such as cafe). If omitting the accent results in confusion (such as the differing pronunciations of résumé/resume), retain it. For non-anglicised words, use italic. For example:

If you’re interested in studying French at The University of Manchester, be sure to come to our open day to say bonjour.

If a translation is required, include it after the word/phrase in roman type, in brackets. For example:

The manuscript on display is a translation of De Casibus Virorum Illustrium (The Fates of Famous Men).

forms of address

Don’t use full stops in Dr, Mr and Mrs.


One word.


Lower-case initial.

government bodies and statutes

British government departments and agencies take upper case initials, such as the Department for Transport; those in other countries do not (such as the US department of the treasury). Bills are lower case, but Acts take upper case initials. Write the name of reports, inquiries and committees in lower case.


Takes a lower case ‘i’. For references to its formal invention see ‘World Wide Web’.

-ise or -ize?

Always use the British ‘-ise’ ending for words that can also take the US ‘-ize’. 

less or fewer?

Less indicates something is smaller in quantity; fewer means something is smaller in number.

For example: There is less money for the leaving gift than expected.

Or: Fewer people contributed to the leaving gift than we anticipated.

levelling up (as a civic university)

No need for quotation marks or a hyphen.


One word, all lower case.



BBC Radio 1, 2, 3 and 4, 4 Extra, 5 Live, 6 Music.


more than or over?

When describing an amount or number that is higher than a specific value, use ‘more than’ rather than ‘over’ (for example ‘more than 400 courses to choose from’). Likewise, use ‘fewer than’ or ‘less than’ rather than ‘under’.

people/notable figures

Well-known figures can just be named, with their function/title at second mention (for example, Madonna, the Grammy Award-winning pop singer). Where it is necessary to explain who someone is, write their name and function at first mention (for example, music producer Stuart Price).

Nobel Prize

A person or organisation awarded the Nobel Prize is known as Nobel laureate. 


Avoid using this where possible – we prefer to use the less technical sounding ‘a’,

For example ‘11 students a year’ rather than ‘11 students per year’.


Lower case and hyphenated where between the compass points, such as the north, the north-east of England, the west. Note that the Middle East is an exception.

For regions like ‘South East Asia’, format as separate words. 

scientific names

Write Latin scientific names in italics with the first initial in upper case, such as Tyrannosaurus rex.

social media

Social media channel Twitter is now known as X.

titles of works

Write the titles of books, films, songs and so on in title case (by using upper case initials for the first word of the title and for all other words except conjunctions, articles and prepositions) and in italics. A Tale of Two Cities; Eats, Shoots and Leaves and so on.

the US

Not the USA, the United States of America, or America (though American(s) is fine).


One word, no hyphen. Lower case, no initial cap in the run of text.


One word.


Not whilst.


Upper case initials, no hyphen.

will and testament

Lower case, can be shortened to 'will'. 

World War I, World War II

Title case, with Roman numerals rather than ‘1’ and ‘2’.

World Wide Web

When referring to the network invented by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, each word takes an upper-case letter, but ‘web’ should be written in lower case when referring to a website or group of websites.

Beyond this style guide

There are style guides that are far more comprehensive than this and it’s worth having one to hand if writing or editing is a big part of your role at the University.

The Oxford Style Manual is a valuable companion, while the Guardian has a handy online style guide that keeps pace with changes in the English language. This guide is indebted to both of them.

If you have any questions about the house style, please email