Should you use 10 or ten? A.M. or am? Organize or organise?
Capitalisation, punctuation, grammar and even spelling don’t always have fixed rules. Our editorial style guide provides clarity around possible alternatives. Following this guide will help you avoid the inconsistencies that can mar publications or harm our professional image.
We use Oxford English Dictionary spelling. Use UK rather than US English (eg programme, organise, aeroplane rather than program, organize, airplane). Make life easier for yourself by setting your Outlook, Word and Windows to UK rather than US English. (Use Google to find the most up-to-date instructions.)
For internal documents and internal web writing on Insite, always use Arial. When editing in Insite, make the font easier to read by increasing the size to 10 or 12.
Tone of voice
Short, sharp sentences are easier to understand than long, convoluted ones. Keep your writing crisp and to the point. Keep your tone straight-up, friendly and respectful.
Structuring your writing
Whether you’re writing an email, a report or an article, the ‘inverted pyramid’ model is a good structure to follow. (Put the most important information at the top, then the supporting information, then the least important information.)
Use active rather than passive voice to lower your word-count and make your writing more engaging.
Passive voice: The course was passed by 80 students.
Active voice: Eighty students passed the course.
Date and time
The format of the date should be 11 November 2020, rather than 11th November 2020 or November 11, 2020. Use am and pm when referring to time in the body of text: Opening hours are 11.30am to 5.30pm. (Where space is tight, am and pm may not be needed: Open Monday–Friday, 10–1 and 2–5, and Saturday 10–4.)
The format of the date should be 11 November 2020, rather than 11th November 2020 or November 11, 2020.
Use am and pm when referring to time in the body of text: Opening hours are 11.30am to 5.30pm. (Where space is tight, am and pm may not be needed: Open Monday–Friday, 10–1 and 2–5, and Saturday 10–4.)
Use sentence case (capital letter at the beginning of the first word) and use active verbs.
Not recommended: Bionic Leg Made By Computing Students
Recommended: Computing students create bionic leg
The headline of a web page should be the same as any links leading to it. Don’t call the page ‘Information for prospective students’ if the link to it is ‘How to apply’.
Use a descriptive subject-line that alerts the reader to the content and whether or not they need to follow up.
Not recommended: Customer-centric catering strategy update.
Recommended: Complete catering survey by 5pm Fri to receive a coffee voucher.
The OP email signature template is available on the Marketing and Communications Insite page.
A bachelor’s degree. A degree at bachelor’s level. All bachelors’ degrees will be awarded…Holders of bachelors’ degrees.
Use a lowercase ‘b’, unless referring to a specific degree (eg Bachelor of Arts).
Books and publications
Use italics for titles of books, newspapers, journals, or other publications.
To be treated as semi-colons in all cases. Full stop always required on last point, but not on any points prior to the last point, even if a single point contains multiple sentences. Eg
- a current curriculum vitae
- a portfolio of drawing done by the applicant. Contact the School for more information
- referees’ letters.
Note lowercase at start of each point.
Use for: Otago Polytechnic, the Polytechnic, Head of School, School of Fine Arts, subject of study at Polytechnic (but not at other institutions, and not when referring to sector, eg Tourism at Otago Polytechnic but the tourism sector), names of programmes or departments, Year One, Year Two (but not second year), Semester One, Semester Two (but not second semester), Sixth Form Certificate (but not sixth form), Prospectus (for the Otago Prospectus but not other prospectuses).
Use a lowercase ‘c’, eg Cromwell campus, Central Otago campuses (plural).
Usually followed by lowercase:
You will also need to provide: a current curriculum vitae.
But in programme details in the Prospectus (programme duration, etc) can be followed by uppercase: Duration: Three years, full-time.
Cooperate and coordinate
No hyphen used within the word. See also prerequisite, postgraduate and undergraduate below.
$NZ1234, $US1234, etc.
eg, etc, ie
No full stops required. Such abbreviations should be avoided in official documents however.
Formal document: Dr Joseph Blogg in first instance, Dr Blogg thereafter. Where no title, just Joseph Blogg, then Blogg thereafter. Informal document, eg newsletter: Dr Joseph Blogg in first instance, Joseph thereafter.
Two-year programme, cross-credit, three-year degree, 100-level, full-time programme, part-time, etc.
As abbreviation for Information Technology, no full stops required but always upper case.
Use italics for names of exhibitions, shows, fashion labels, books, magazines, boats, ships.
In Prospectus, use italics for all notes, eg Note: not all subjects may be offered in any one year. (Note: lower case letter to follow colon).
In Prospectus, for Year One, Semester One under Subject headings.
Uppercase for language school subjects eg English, French (but biology, chemistry etc lowercase).
Usage has developed to the point where the standard has become “100-level” with a hyphen, whether used adjectivally (a 100-level course) or nominally (doing a paper at 100-level).