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a or an before h?
use an only if the h is silent: an hour, an heir, an honourable man, an honest woman; but a hero, a hotel, a historian

abbreviations
Do not use full points in abbreviations, or spaces between initials: US, mph, eg, 4am, lbw, No 10, PJ O'Rourke, WH Smith, etc

Spell out less well-known abbreviations on first mention; it is not necessary to spell out well-known ones, such as EU, UN, US, BBC.

Use all caps only if the abbreviation is pronounced as the individual letters; otherwise spell the word out: the BBC, ICI, VAT, but Isa, Nato

Beware of overusing less well-known acronyms and abbreviations; they can look clunky and clutter up text, especially those explained in brackets but then only referred to once or twice again. It is usually simpler to use another word, or even to write out the name in full a second time

Contractions such as can't, I'm, it's, there's and what's should be used in moderation and only in text communicating in a particularly familiar manner. They might make a piece more colloquial or easier to read, but they can be an irritant and a distraction, and make the serious sound frivolous.

acknowledgment
not acknowledgement

acronyms
take initial cap: Aids, Isa, Mori, Nato

acting
always lower case: acting committee chair, etc

actor
male and female; avoid actress except when in name of award (eg Oscar for best actress)

adaptation
not adaption

addendum
plural addendums not addenda

addresses
101 Deane Road, Bolton, BL3 5AB

T: 01204 900600 E: enquiries@bolton.ac.uk

W: www.bolton.ac.uk

Adidas
initial cap

adverbs
do not use hyphens after adverbs ending in -ly, eg a constantly evolving campus, genetically modified food, etc; but hyphens are needed with short and common adverbs, eg ill-prepared report, hard-won pay rise

adviser
not advisor

aeroplane
not airplane

affect/effect
exhortations in the style guide had no effect (noun) on the number of mistakes; the level of mistakes was not affected (verb) by exhortations in the style guide; we hope to effect (verb) a change in this

African-Caribbean
not Afro-Caribbean

ageing

ages
Nigel Hill, 21, not aged 21; little Johnny, four; the woman was in her 20s (but twentysomething, fortysomething). There is no apostrophe in 20s (eg 20's) as we are talking about a decade, not a single year.

aggravate
to make worse, not to annoy

AGM

ahead of
avoid: use before or in advance of

Aids
acquired immune deficiency syndrome, but normally no need to spell out

Don't use such terms as 'Aids victims' or someone 'suffering from Aids'

al-
(note lc and hyphen) before an Arabic name means 'the' so try to avoid writing "the al- ..." where possible

A-levels
hyphen

alibi
being somewhere else; not synonymous with excuse

Allah
Arabic for "the God". Both words refer to the same concept, there is no major difference between God in the Old Testament and Allah in Islam. Therefore it makes sense to talk about "God" in an Islamic context and to use "Allah" in quotations or for literary effect

all right
is right; "alright" is not all right

All Souls College
Oxford: no apostrophe

alternative
strictly, a choice between two courses of action; if there are more than two, option or choice may be preferred

alumnus
plural alumni

Alzheimer's disease

American universities
take care: 'University of X' is not the same as 'X University'; most states have two large public universities, eg University of Kentucky and Kentucky State University, University of Illinois/Illinois State University, etc
do not call Johns Hopkins University 'John Hopkins' or Stanford University 'Stamford'

amid
not amidst

amok
not amuck

among
not amongst

ampersand
use in company names when the company does: Marks & Spencer, P&O but not to indicate the word 'and'

analysis
plural analyses

annex
verb

annexe
noun

Ansaphone
Is a trademark; use answering machine or answerphone

antenna, antennae, antennas
antenna (insect), plural antennae
antenna (radio), plural antennas

anti-war
but antisocial

any more
two words

apex
plural apexes


apostrophes
Some plural nouns have no 's', eg children. These take an apostrophe and 's' in the possessive, eg children's games, gentlemen's clubs

The possessive in words and names ending in s normally takes an apostrophe followed by a second s (Jones's, James's), but be guided by pronunciation and use the plural apostrophe where it helps: Mephistopheles' rather than Mephistopheles's

Use apostrophes in phrases such as in two days' time, 12 years' imprisonment and six weeks' holiday, where the time period (two days) modifies a noun (time), but not in nine months pregnant or three weeks old, where the time period is adverbial (modifying an adjective such as pregnant or old) - if in doubt, test with a singular such as one day's time, one month pregnant

appal, appalling

appendix
plural appendices

appraise
to estimate worth

apprise
to inform

armed forces, armed services, the army
the British army, the navy, but Royal Navy, Royal Air Force (RAF is OK)

artefact

artist
not artiste (except, possibly, in a historical context)

Arts Council

Ashura
a day of voluntary fasting for Muslims: Shia Muslims also commemorate the martyrdom of Hussein, a grandson of the prophet. For their community, therefore, it is not a festival but a day of deep mourning

Asperger's syndrome

aspirin

astrologer
not astrologist

auger
used to make holes

augur
predict or presage

au pair

Autocue
Trademark; teleprompter is a generic alternative

autumn

avant garde
no hyphen

awards, prizes, medals
generally lower case, eg Nobel peace prize, Fields medal (exceptions: the Academy Awards, Victoria Cross); note that categories are lower case, eg 'he took the best actor Oscar at the awards'

axis
plural axes

 



 
 

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