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 etc.
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 six sections:
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 (eg 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 (eg ‘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’.
Lower case, with possessive apostrophe. If writing in full, then write as Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science etc.
clearing, adjustment and confirmation
All 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.
BSc, MEng, PhD, DPhil, PGCert etc are written using upper and lower case, without spaces or punctuation marks. If writing in full, then write in title case: Bachelor of Science, Master of Engineering etc.
First, Upper Second, Lower Second – use upper case for the initials.
Upper case initials when a discipline is part of a School title (eg the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science), 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’ etc.
Lower case, one word.
e-journals , e-resources
Lower case, hyphenated. ‘Online resources’, ‘electronic journals’ etc are fine to use.
Faculties, Schools, Institutes and Centres
‘The Faculty of A’ or ‘the School of B’, not the ‘A Faculty’ or ‘B School’ (except Manchester Business School, Manchester Medical School and Manchester Pharmacy School). Full titles can be shortened in copy to ‘the School’, ‘the Faculty’, ‘the Institute’ and ‘the Centre’ but, as with ‘the University’, they should take an upper case S, F, I and C. Faculties, Schools, Institutes and Centres are always treated as singular nouns (‘the Faculty is…’, ‘the Institute aims’, etc).
Upper case initials (Single Honours, Double Honours, degree with Honours).
Key Stage 1, 2, 3 etc
Use capital initials and use numerals rather than ‘three’ etc.
Lower case, with a possessive apostrophe. If writing in full, then write as Master of Arts, Master of Science etc.
A-level, AS-level, GCSE.
Lower case and one word without a hyphen.
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 (eg ‘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 etc, use an upper case Y for ‘Year’, followed by a figure.
abbreviations and acronyms
Abbreviations and acronyms should be written out in full in the first instance, followed by the acronym in brackets (written in capitals, withoutfull stops), eg ‘School of Environment, Education and Development (SEED).’
Exceptions to the rule include UCAS and qualifications such as GCSE, BTEC, MA (though master’s is fine) and BSc, which are never written out in full.
Avoid using upper case for emphasis in body copy. Capital letters disrupt the flow of text and make the reader pause.
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 (eg 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.
Avoid overuse of these. They are best used in informal writing, and even then only sparingly for impact.
Use a hyphen to conjoin words in compound words where to omit one could cause ambiguity (eg cross-question), to add a prefix (eg pre-Renaissance), to aid pronunciation (eg re-enter, co-opt), when writing a fraction (eg two-thirds) or when you need to break a long word at a line’s end.
No spaces or punctuation, eg 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.)
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, then insert a single line’s space between paragraphs.
titles and roles
Titles take an upper case initial, eg Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, as do job titles when used in conjunction with an individual’s name, eg Clive Agnew, Vice-President for Teaching, Learning and Students. If you are talking about a title in generic terms, then 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, then use commas; if there are more than one, you do not need commas.
- The University’s Historian and Heritage Officer, James Hopkins, was formerly a researcher in history. (There is only one University historian and heritage officer.)
- The former researcher in history James Hopkins has been appointed as the University’s Historian and Heritage Officer. (There are many former researchers in history.)
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. 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:
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 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, etc.
If writing for printed publications, leave off 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 to and hyperlink the text to the relevant URL.
For example, rather than writing:
Read more about the University brand at www.brand.manchester.ac.uk.
Read more about the University brand on our brand microsite.
Also 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.
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 etc.
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 etc, 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 (eg 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 etc.
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.
Use commas in numbers over 1,000, before the hundred (9,500, 120,000 etc).
For millions and billions, write the full word ‘million’ preceded by a numeral, eg 2 million people. Note that a billion equates to 1,000 million, not ‘1 million million’. If space is an issue, eg in a table, use 2m, 5bn etc.
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 etc.
Not ‘telephone’. Lower case, no initial cap in 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 run of text.
Email addresses should be written in lower case: email@example.com
Avoid listing fax numbers. If anyone wants to send a fax, they can telephone to request the number.
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.
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.
As a general rule, follow the style convention that the companies themselves use. We follow the unconventional use of case, spacing etc used by the likes of easyJet, eBay and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
eg, ie, etc
Use lower case, with no punctuation.
If a name features accents, do not leave them out (eg 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 (eg Vincent van Gogh), but upper case when just the surname is given (eg Van Gogh).
Use accents where required on foreign words, except those that have been anglicized (eg cafe). If omitting the accent results in confusion (eg 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.
government bodies and statutes
British government departments and agencies take upper case initials, eg the Department for Transport; those in other countries do not (eg 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 an upper case ‘I’.
-ise or -ize?
Always use the British ‘-ise’ ending for words that can also take the US ‘-ize’.
BBC1, BBC2, BBC3, BBC4.
BBC Radio 1, 2, 3 and 4, 4 Extra, 5 Live, 6 Music.
ITV1, ITV2, ITV3, ITV4.
more than or over?
When describing an amount or number that is higher than a specific value, use ‘more than’ rather than ‘over’ (eg ‘more than 400 courses to choose from’). Likewise, use ‘fewer than’ or ‘less than’ rather than ‘under’.
But Nobel laureate.
Avoid using this where possible – we prefer to use the less technical sounding ‘a’,
eg ‘11 students a year’ rather than ‘11 students per year’.
Lower case and hyphenated where between the compass points, eg the north, the north-east of England, the west. Note that the Middle East is an exception.
Write Latin scientific names in italic with the first initial in upper case, eg Tyrannosaurus rex.
titles of works
Write the titles of books, films, songs etc in title case (ie using upper case initials for the first word of the title and for all other words except conjunctions, articles and prepositions) and in italic. A Tale of Two Cities; Eats, Shoots and Leaves etc.
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 run of text.
World War I, World War II
Title case, with Roman numerals rather than ‘1’ and ‘2’.
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 contact Neil Condron (Content Manager).