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House style

Overview and general guidelines

This style sheet covers essential points relating to:

For more detailed style guidance on points not covered here, please consult either the Chicago Manual of Style or New Hart’s Rules.

When editing a text, please make sure that any comments you insert in the document also adhere to this style sheet.


For UK spelling, please use the first spelling listed in the Oxford English Dictionary (, but do not use the suffix -ize (use -ise instead):

  • organisation [not organization]

  • analyse [not analyze]



Use a point after truncations:

  • Art., Ch., Fig.

  • e.g., i.e.

Do not use a point after contractions:

  • Col, Dr, Mr, No


Do not use a serial comma:

  • The committee considered sugar, beef and milk products. 

Except where needed for clarity:

  • The use of X is forbidden in beef, ham or processed meat, and milk products.

But always use a comma before etc. in a series:

  • sugar, beef, milk products, etc.

Commas also divide adjectives in series:

  • moderate, stable prices [note that this could be rephrased as “moderate and stable prices”]

But not if the adjectives do not form a series:

  • stable agricultural prices [note that this cannot be rephrased as “stable and agricultural prices”]


Use an en-dash (–) surrounded by a space on either side to punctuate a sentence or link complex ranges:

  • The traffic – a perpetual source of frustration – made us question our life choices.

  • January 1917 – May 1918

Use an en-dash (–) without surrounding spaces to link concepts or ranges:

  • 2000–2024

  • pp. 1–11

  • London–Paris train

  • Ukraine–Russia conflict

Do not use em dashes (—).

Quotation marks

Use curly quotation marks (66–99), with double quotes followed by single quotes:

  • “… ‘…’ …” 

Place punctuation outside closing quotation marks, unless the punctuation is part of the quote:

  • The American government favours “a two-way street in arms procurement”.

  • Has the Commission published “A European Strategy for Encouraging Local Development and Employment Initiatives”?

Note Please avoid the simultaneous use of italics and quotation marks.

Note As a rule, please avoid using quotation marks for purposes other than quotation (e.g. avoid scare quotes).


For hyphens in compound words, follow the Oxford English Dictionary (

Use hyphens on a case-by-case basis to clarify sense:

  • user-friendly software

  • crime-fighting unit

  • long-term effects

Do not use a hyphen when the adverb ends in -ly:

  • occupationally exposed worker

Vertical lists

Either use no punctuation at the end of bullet points or numbered list items or include a full stop. As a rule, do not use commas or semicolons.

Treatment of text


Initial capitals are often overused. When in doubt, use lowercase. The presence of an acronym or initialism does not require initial capitals when writing out the full expression (unless it is a proper noun):

  • unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) [not Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)] [general term]

  • Global Positioning System (GPS) [not global positioning system (GPS)] [proper noun]


Do not use a final point in captions:

  • Source: Associated Press

Foreign words

Use italics for uncommon foreign words.


Use sentence case for primary headings and subheadings that follow a colon:

  • Key concepts: An in-depth exploration


Use the following options for lists:

  • Roman numerals (I, II, III, IV, etc.),

  • Capital letters (A, B, C, D, etc.),

  • Arabic numerals with or without a point (1, 2, 3, 4, etc. or 1., 2., 3., 4., etc. or (1), (2), (3), (4), etc.)

  • Lower-case letters in parentheses (a), (b), (c), (d), etc.

  • Lower-case Roman numerals in parentheses (i), (ii), (iii), (iv), etc.

Mention and emphasis

If possible, use italics when mentioning words (i.e. referring to them as lexical units) or emphasising:

  • Always use the word that rather than which to introduce a defining clause.

  • I would never do that.

Note Where italics cannot be used for technical reasons, use other formatting options. If necessary, use double quotation marks (reserving single quotation marks only for quotes within quotes). However, please be aware that using quotation marks for emphasis and related purposes (such as scare quotes) can confuse readers.

Titles of works

Capitalise principal words and use italics for book titles, newspapers and titles of artworks cited in body text:

  • How to Do Things with Words by J. L. Austin

Use quotation marks and roman type for the titles of articles and book chapters, TV and radio programmes, etc.:

  • the final chapter, “Classes of Illocutionary Force”, will knock your socks off

For non-English titles, capitalise only the words that would be capitalised in the original language:

  • Tammsaare’s novel Tõde ja õigus

English translations of foreign titles may be provided in roman type within round brackets after the original (for both published and ad hoc translations):

  • Tammsaare’s novel Tõde ja õigus (Truth and Justice, 1926–1933)


If possible, avoid abbreviations (especially acronyms and initialisms) that are ad hoc or likely unfamiliar to the reader:

  • Ministry of Education and Research [not MoER]

Use shortened names rather than abbreviations when referring back to a previously mentioned full name:

  • the Ministry agreed [not MoER agreed]

Spell out the full name at first mention, adding the abbreviation in round brackets:

  • the United Nations (UN)

Note Abbreviations should be used as a convenience for the reader, not for the writer. In works intended for a general audience, avoid abbreviations and symbols in running text unless concision is vital or terms are repeated often.

Do not italicise common Latin abbreviations such as: 

  • ca, e.g., i.e., cf. 

Avoid Latin abbreviations in the main text, except when used within parentheses, and in such cases, do not follow them with a comma:

  • The team made many errors (e.g. spelling mistakes). [not The team made many errors, e.g., spelling mistakes.]

Numbers and dates

Format numbers as follows:

  • 10.5 [not 10,5]

  • 1,000

  • 1,000,000

  • 1,555.5

  • p. 1555 [not p. 1,555]

Dates in body text should always be given in their full form (month written out):

  • 1 January 2024 [not 1st of January 2024 or January 1st, 2024]

  • 1 January [if the year has already been mentioned in the text]

Short form may be used in citations, captions and references. Write short dates without leading zeros and with the year in full:

  • 1.1.2024 [not 01.01.2024 or 1.1.24]

Use words:

  • one to ten

  • Eleven countries agreed. [not 11 countries agreed.] [at the beginning of a sentence]

  • the second meeting of the day

Use figures:

  • 11… 999,999

  • 9 to 11 [not nine to 11] [ranges]

  • dates and times: 1 January 2024, 9:00, 21:00

  • numbers with decimal places, ratios (e.g. 0.5, 1:1)

  • percentages, degrees (e.g. 5%; 5 per cent; 5 degrees)

  • dimensions, weights and measures (e.g. 3 km)

  • statistics (e.g. 3 new officials were appointed in 2015 and 6 in 2016)

  • ranges denoted by a dash (e.g. 3–5)

  • page/paragraph/section numbers and other serial numbers (Chapter 5, Article 9, page 5)

Large numbers may be expressed as follows:

  • 300 or three hundred [not 3 hundred]

  • 3,000 or three thousand [not 3 thousand]

  • 3 million or 3,000,000

  • 3.5 million or 3,500,000

  • 3.51 million but 3,512,000

  • 3,512,345 [use only figures when expressing large numbers exactly]

Units and symbols

Please minimise the use of signs or symbols in body text, especially superscripts, unless there are many of them:

  • 100 metres [not 100 m]

  • 20 degrees Celsius [not 20° Celsius or 20° C]

  • 10 square kilometres [not 10 sq. km or 10 km2]

Units of measurement do not take points and are preceded by a space:

  • 10 kg

  • 9 mm

  • 24 h

  • 5,000 ha

The per cent sign (%) is not preceded by a space:

  • 10% [not 10 %]

Mathematical symbols are not surrounded by spaces:

  • 2+2=4 [not 2 + 2 = 4]

Names of currencies (e.g. euro, pound, dollar) are written in lowercase with no initial capital:

  • This book costs ten euros and fifty cents.

Use codes/symbols (e.g. EUR, GBP, USD, €, £, $) and abbreviations (e.g. m, bn) only where space is limited:

  • EUR 1,000.50

  • USD 2 million

  • €230,000 m

  • $370,000

  • £490 m

Citations and references

Follow the Chicago Manual of Style (if your brief doesn't say otherwise):

Adjust spelling, punctuation and treatment of text according to the client’s or author's preferences (i.e. you do not need to use US spelling just because the Chicago Manual does so).

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