A to Z
The Government Digital Service style guide covers style, spelling and grammar conventions for all content published on GOV.UK, arranged alphabetically.
About the A to Z
These style points apply to all content published on GOV.UK.
- guidance on specific points of style, such as abbreviations and numbers
- GOV.UK style for specific words and phrases, in terms of spelling, hyphenation and capitalisation
If there’s a point of style that is not covered here, check The Guardian.
You can search the style guide by:
- Selecting ‘open all’.
- Pressing Ctrl+f on your keyboard if you’re using a PC or ⌘+f if you’re using a Mac.
- Typing the word or search term that you’re looking for.
The top grade in GCSEs and A levels. Use the symbol * not the word ‘star’. No apostrophe in the plural.
No hyphen. Lower case level.
Abbreviations and acronyms
The first time you use an abbreviation or acronym explain it in full on each page unless it’s well known, like UK, DVLA, US, EU, VAT and MP. This includes government departments or schemes. Then refer to it by initials, and use acronym Markdown so the full explanation is available as hover text.
If you think an acronym is well known, please provide evidence that 80% of the UK population will understand and commonly use it. Evidence can be from search analytics or testing of a representative sample.
Do not use full stops in abbreviations: BBC, not B.B.C.
the academies programme
Only use upper case when referring to the name of an academy, like Mossbourne Community Academy. See also Titles.
Access to Work
Upper case when referring directly to the actual programme, otherwise use lower case.
accountancy service provider
Upper case when referring to the business area covered by Money Laundering Regulations. Do not use the acronym.
Upper case. Activation PIN has been changed to Activation Code on outgoing correspondence from the Government Gateway. Until all hard-coded instances of Activation PIN have been removed from the Online Services pages, use ‘Activation Code (also known as Activation PIN)’.
act, act of Parliament
Lower case. Only use upper case when using the full title: Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, for example.
Use the active rather than passive voice. This will help us write concise, clear content.
Addressing the user
Address the user as ‘you’ where possible. Content on the site often makes a direct appeal to citizens and businesses to get involved or take action: ‘You can contact HMRC by phone and email’ or ‘Pay your car tax’, for example.
Upper case when referring to the national Adoption Register.
Lower case in subsequent mentions that do not use the full term: the register.
For example, special adviser. Not advisor, but advisory is the correct adjective.
Do not use hyphens in ages unless to avoid confusion, although it’s always best to write in a way that avoids ambiguity. For example, ‘a class of 15 16-year-old students took the A level course’ can be written as ‘15 students aged 16 took the A level course’.
Upper case when referring to the Agile Manifesto and principles and processes, otherwise use lower case.
Use allow list as the noun and allow as the verb. Do not use white list or whitelist.
Not al-Qaeda’ or ‘al-Qaida.
American and UK English
Use UK English spelling and grammar. For example, use ‘organise’ not ‘organize’, ‘modelling’ not ‘modeling’, and ‘fill in a form’, not ‘fill out a form’.
American proper nouns, like 4th Mechanized Brigade or Pearl Harbor, take American English spelling.
Use and rather than &, unless it’s a department’s logo image or a company’s name as it appears on the Companies House register.
applied general qualifications
arm’s length body
Apostrophe, no hyphen.
Bacs (Bankers Automated Clearing System)
Acronym should come first as it’s more widely known than the full name. Please note that the acronym has changed to Bacs.
Used in a technical context, not “back-end” or “back end”.
When adding bank details in content about paying a government body:
- use spaces rather than hyphens in sort codes - 60 70 80 (not 60-70-80)
- do not use spaces in account numbers - 10025634
See Words to avoid
One word, lower case.
Behavioural Insights team
Upper case if it’s a specific, named team. Always lower case for team and generic names like research team, youth offending team.
Blind Person’s Allowance
Use block list as the noun and block as the verb. Do not use black list or blacklist.
Use 2 words when referring to an article published on a blog. A ‘blog’ is the site on which a blog post is published.
Always lower case unless it’s part of a proper title: so upper case for the Judicial Executive Board, but lower case for the DFT’s management board.
Only use bold to refer to text from interfaces in technical documentation or instructions.
You can use bold to explain what field a user needs to fill in on a form, or what button they need to select. For example: “Select Continue. The Verify Certificate window opens.”
Use bold sparingly - using too much will make it difficult for users to know which parts of your content they need to pay the most attention to.
Do not use bold in other situations, for example to emphasise text.
To emphasise words or phrases, you can:
- front-load sentences
- use headings
- use bullets
Lower case except in a name: Northampton Borough Council.
Use (round brackets), not [square brackets]. The only acceptable use of square brackets is for explanatory notes in reported speech:
“Thank you [Foreign Minister] Mr Smith.”
Do not use round brackets to refer to something that could either be singular or plural, like ‘Check which document(s) you need to send to DVLA.’
Always use the plural instead, as this will cover each possibility: ‘Check which documents you need to send to DVLA.’
Not ‘EU Exit’.
“No-deal Brexit” rather than “No deal Brexit”.
See Great Britain
BTEC National Diploma
Bullet points and steps
You can use bullet points to make text easier to read. Make sure that:
- you always use a lead-in line
- the bullets make sense running on from the lead-in line
- you use lower case at the start of the bullet
- you do not use more than one sentence per bullet point - use commas or dashes to expand on an item
- you do not put ‘or’ or ‘and’ after the bullets
- you do not make the whole bullet a link if it’s a long phrase
- you do not put a semicolon at the end of a bullet
- there is no full stop after the last bullet point
Bullets should normally form a complete sentence following from the lead text. But it’s sometimes necessary to add a short phrase to clarify whether all or some of the points apply. For example, ‘You can only register a pension scheme that is (one of the following):’
The number and type of examples in a list may lead the user to believe the list is exhaustive. This can be dealt with by:
- checking if there are other conditions (or if the list is actually complete)
- listing the conditions which apply to the most users and removing the rest
- consider broader terms in the list which capture more scenarios (and could make the list exhaustive)
- creating a journey to specialist content to cover the remaining conditions
Use numbered steps instead of bullet points to guide a user through a process. You do not need a lead-in line and you can use links and downloads (with appropriate Markdown) in steps. Steps end in a full stop because each should be a complete sentence.
business continuity management
Lower case. Do not use upper case even in the title of a business plan publication.
C of E
For Church of England when referring to school names.
The cabinet is lower case.
Capital Gains Tax
DO NOT USE BLOCK CAPITALS FOR LARGE AMOUNTS OF TEXT AS IT’S QUITE HARD TO READ.
Always use lower case, even in page titles. The exceptions to this are proper nouns, including:
- departments (specific government departments - see below)
- the Civil Service, with lower case for ‘the’
- specific job titles
- titles like Mr, Mrs, Dr, the Duke of Cambridge (the duke at second mention); Pope Francis, but the pope
- Rt Hon (no full stops)
- place names
- brand names
- faculties, departments, institutes and schools
- names of groups, directorates and organisations: Knowledge and Innovation Group
- Parliament, the House
- titles of specific acts or bills: Housing Reform Bill (but use ‘the act’ or ‘the bill’ after the first time you use the full act or bill title)
- names of specific, named government schemes known to people outside government: Right to Buy, Queen’s Awards for Enterprise
- specific select committees: Public Administration Select Committee
- header cells in tables: Annual profits
- titles of books (and within single quotes), for example, ‘The Study Skills Handbook’
- World War 1 and World War 2 (note caps and numbers)
Do not capitalise:
- government - see government
- minister, never Minister, unless part of a specific job title, like Minister for the Cabinet Office
- department or ministry - never Department or Ministry, unless referring to a specific one: Ministry of Justice, for example
- white paper, green paper, command paper, House of Commons paper
- budget, autumn statement, spring statement, unless referring to and using the full name of a specific statement - for example, “2016 Budget”
- sections or schedules within specific named acts, regulations or orders
- director general (no hyphen), deputy director, director, unless in a specific job title
- group and directorate, unless referring to a specific group or directorate: the Commercial Directorate, for example
- departmental board, executive board, the board
- policy themes like sustainable communities, promoting economic growth, local enterprise zones
- general mention of select committees (but do cap specific ones - see above)
- the military
Capitals for government departments
Use the following conventions for government departments. A department using an ampersand in its logo image is fine but use ‘and’ when writing in full text.
- Attorney General’s Office (AGO)
- Cabinet Office (CO)
- Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)
- Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)
- Department for Education (DfE)
- Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
- Department for International Trade (DIT)
- Department for Transport (DfT)
- Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
- Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)
- Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)
- HM Treasury (HMT)
- Home Office (HO)
- Ministry of Defence (MOD)
- Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG)
- Ministry of Justice (MOJ)
Two words. Lower case.
chair of governors
chairman, chairwoman, chairperson
Lower case in text. Upper case in titles: Spencer Tracy, Chairman, GDS.
See change notes in the content design manual.
Not “change log”.
CHAPS (Clearing House Automated Payment System)
The acronym should come first as it’s more widely known than the full name.
Not “check box”.
chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) materials.
Lower case. Use upper case for the acronym.
Lower case except where it’s a title with the holder’s name, like Chief Constable Andrew Trotter.
Child Tax Credit
Upper case, but generic references to tax credits are lower case.
Children in Need
Upper case for the BBC fundraising event, lower case for children in need census.
Civil Contingencies Secretariat
Upper case because it’s the name of an organisation.
Don’t use “click” when talking about user interfaces because not all users click. Use “select”.
You can use “right-click” if the user needs to right-click to open up a list of options to progress through the user journey.
Lower case in all instances, including ‘the coalition’.
Use capital letters and a regular 2.
code of practice
Not “third-party software”. Also use “commercial” for types of software, for example “commercial word processor”.
Community Care Grant
community, voluntary and foundation schools
Lower case unless used in the full title, like the National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Social Welfare) Order 2008.
Components that control other components
In technical writing, use:
- primary for a component that controls other components
- secondary for a component that’s controlled by the primary component
Do not use master or slave.
conduct of business rules
Construction Industry Scheme
Use upper case when referring to the actual Construction Industry Scheme (CIS, not the CIS).
Construction Industry Scheme Online/CIS Online
Avoid negative contractions like can’t and don’t. Many users find them harder to read, or misread them as the opposite of what they say. Use cannot, instead of can’t.
Avoid should’ve, could’ve, would’ve, they’ve too. These can also be hard to read.
Coronavirus is the virus which causes the illness COVID-19. Coronavirus is lower case.
Corporation Tax for Agents online service
Corporation Tax Online
Use upper case Online if referring to the actual service, not if you’re describing using the service: ‘you can pay your Corporation Tax online or at the Post Office.’
Meaning “commercial-off-the-shelf software”. Not “cots” or “Cots”. Explain the acronym at first use.
Use lower case when writing about local councils in general. Use capitals for the official name of a local council, for example: Reading Borough Council.
countries and territories
critical national infrastructure
Lower case. Only use upper case when part of the title of a specific customs union: the European Union Customs Union, for example.
Two words. Lower case.
Treat as a singular noun: The data is stored on a secure server.
- use upper case for months: January, February
- do not use a comma between the month and year: 4 June 2017
- when space is an issue - in tables or publication titles, for example - you can use truncated months: Jan, Feb
- we use ‘to’ in date ranges - not hyphens, en rules or em dashes. For example:
- tax year 2011 to 2012
- Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm (put different days on a new line, do not separate with a comma)
- 10 November to 21 December
- do not use quarter for dates, use the months: ‘department expenses, Jan to Mar 2013’
- when referring to today (as in a news article) include the date: ‘The minister announced today (14 June 2012) that…’
Two words. Upper case.
dedicated schools grant
Lower case even when referring to the defence team at the MOD.
Lower case except when in the title: the Department of Health and Social Care.
Similarly, use “WebOps”.
Lower case unless part of a title like Edexcel L2 Diploma in IT.
Direct Debit Instruction
Lower case in text. Upper case in titles: Spencer Tracy, Director, GDS.
Lower case. No hyphen.
Disability Living Allowance
Not ‘the disabled’ or ‘people with disabilities’.
Discretionary Housing Payment
Lower case even in a name, like Warwick district council.
Duty Deferment Electronic Statements (DDES)
early years foundation stage (EYFS)
early years professional status
early years teacher
early years teacher status
Upper case for the Earth, Planet Earth and Earth sciences, with lower case for ‘the’.
East End (London)
A performance measure linked to GCSEs. Upper case E and B.
EC Sales List (ESL)
The acronym is ESL, not ECSL.
education, health and care plan
eg, etc and ie
eg can sometimes be read aloud as ‘egg’ by screen reading software. Instead use ‘for example’ or ‘such as’ or ‘like’ or ‘including’ - whichever works best in the specific context.
etc can usually be avoided. Try using ‘for example’ or ‘such as’ or ‘like’ or ‘including’. Never use etc at the end of a list starting with these words.
ie - used to clarify a sentence - is not always well understood. Try (re)writing sentences to avoid the need to use it. If that is not possible, use an alternative such as ‘meaning’ or ‘that is’.
electronic Binding Tariff Information (eBTI)
Upper case, but note the lower case ‘e’.
Write email addresses in full, in lower case and as active links. Do not include any other words in the link text.
Not “end point” in the context of APIs.
Leave unabbreviated to distinguish from the European Community. Write out in full at first mention, then call it the Commission.
European Economic Area (EEA)
Avoid using as it is not widely understood. Say ‘the EU, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein’.
When rules covering the EEA also cover Switzerland, say ‘the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein’.
European Union vs European Community
Use EU when you mean EU member states: EU countries, EU businesses, EU consumers, goods exported from the EU, EU VAT numbers.
EC should be used when it’s EC directives, EC Sales List.
euros, the euro
See eg, etc and ie
Upper case because Excel is a brand name.
Lower case in text. Upper case in titles: Spencer Tracy, Executive Director, GDS.
Extended Project Qualification
FAQs (frequently asked questions)
Do not use FAQs on GOV.UK. If you write content by starting with user needs, you will not need to use FAQs.
finance and procurement
Use ‘fine’ instead of ‘financial penalty’.
For example, “You’ll pay a £50 fine.”
For other types of sanction, say what will happen to the user - you’ll get points on your licence, go to court and so on. Only say ‘civil penalty’ if there’s evidence users are searching for the term.
Describe what the user might need to do, rather than what government calls a thing.
fire and rescue service
foot and mouth disease
foundation stage / foundation subjects
Lower case unless the full name of the foundation trust is being used: Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust.
the free schools programme
free school meals
Freedom of Information
You can make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, but not a request under the FOI Act.
Not “front-end” or “front end”.
Full Payment Submission
further education (FE)
No full stops between the initials. No apostrophe in the plural.
Lower case, but upper case if referring to a specific election. For example, the 2019 General Election.
Geography and regions
Use lower case for north, south, east and west, except when they’re part of a name or recognised region.
So, the south-west (compass direction), but the South West (administrative region).
Use lower case for the north, the south of England, the south-west, north-east Scotland, south Wales, the west, western Europe, the far east, south-east Asia.
Use upper case for East End, West End (London), Middle East, Central America, South America.
Always write out the full name of the area the first time you use it. You can use a capital for a shortened version of a specific area or region if it’s commonly known by that name, like the Pole for the North Pole.
The governing body is meeting today. It will decide who to appoint.
Lower case unless it’s a full title. For example: ‘UK government’, but ‘Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’.
Also ‘Welsh Government’, as it’s the full title.
government procurement card
Lower case unless part of a school name: The Manchester Grammar School.
Refers only to England, Scotland and Wales excluding Northern Ireland.
If you’re telling users about multiple areas, use (for example) ‘England, Scotland and Wales’.
Use UK and United Kingdom in preference to Britain and British (UK business, UK foreign policy, ambassador and high commissioner). But British embassy, not UK embassy.
Upper case because it’s the name of a programme, but note that it’s Green Deal programme, Green Deal team, Green Deal assessment.
Upper case for names of groups, directorates and organisations: Knowledge and Innovation Group.
Lower case when a group has a very generic title like working group or research team.
Lower case: national recovery guidance.
Upper case because Gypsies are recognised as an ethnic group under the Race Relations Act.
Lower case unless part of a proper noun: Cardiff Harbour Authority.
hazardous waste registration
One word. You can use head if the context is clear.
health protection unit
Lower case unless it’s the title of an organisation: North East and Central London Health Protection Unit.
Not “help desk”.
higher education (HE)
Upper case. No need to explain the acronym if it’s used in content for a technical audience.
Upper case for named hurricanes: Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy.
- re- words starting with e, like re-evaluate
Do not hyphenate:
Do not use a hyphen unless it’s confusing without it, for example, a little used-car is different from a little-used car. You can also refer to The Guardian style guide for advice on hyphenation.
Stands for “Infrastructure as a Service”. Explain the acronym at first use.
In technical writing, don’t write ‘identification’ or ‘identifier’, unless it’s part of a standard abbreviation. For example, ‘unique identifier (UID)’.
See eg, etc and ie
Import Control System
Always lower case.
All names of benefits are upper case.
Names of taxes are upper case, except input tax.
independent schools adjudicator
individual education plan
individual schools budget
initial teacher training
instrument of government
Intrastat Supplementary Declaration
When used in the technical context (for example ‘internet protocol’), there’s no need to explain the acronym.
Do not use italics. Use ‘single quotation marks’ if referring to a document, scheme or initiative.
Specific job titles and ministers’ role titles are upper case: Minister for Housing, Home Secretary.
Generic job titles and ministers’ role titles are lower case: director, minister.
See also Shadow job titles
Upper case when referring to The Kanban Method, otherwise lower case.
Lower case and numeral: key stage 4.
Lower case even when it’s ‘the law’.
Legal content can still be written in plain English. It’s important that users understand content and that we present complicated information simply.
If you have to publish legal jargon, it will be a publication so write a plain English summary.
Where evidence shows there’s a clear user need for including a legal term (like bona vacantia), always explain it in plain English.
legislative competence order
Upper case if used as the full title: the National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Social Welfare) Order 2008.
Lower case otherwise: the legislative competence orders (LCOs) are approved, rejected or withdrawn.
Not “lifecycle” or “life-cycle”.
Front-load your link text with the relevant terms and make them active and specific. Always link to online services first. Offer offline alternatives afterwards, when possible.
Lists should be bulleted to make them easier to read. See bullets and steps.
Very long lists can be written as a paragraph with a lead-in sentence if it looks better: ‘The following countries are in the EU: Spain, France, Italy…’
Lower case. Do not use LA.
Use local council instead of local authority where possible.
Local Authority Trading Standards Services
Upper case as long as it’s a specific named organisation, not trading standards services in general.
Use local council, instead of local authority where possible.
See sign in or log in.
Always use the National Lottery if that’s what you mean.
Machine Games Duty (MGD)
Machine Games Duty for Agents online service
maintained schools, maintained nursery schools
mark scheme, mark sheet
Use a minus sign for negative numbers: –6
Ratios have no space either side of the colon: 5:12
One space each side of symbols: +, –, ×, ÷ and = (so: 2 + 2 = 4)
Use the minus sign for subtraction. Use the correct symbol for the multiplication sign (×), not the letter x.
Write out and hyphenate fractions: two-thirds, three-quarters.
Write out decimal fractions as numerals. Use the same number format for a sequence: 0.75 and 0.45
Used in a technical context there’s no need to explain the acronym.
Use numerals and spell out measurements at first mention.
Do not use a space between the numeral and abbreviated measurement: 3,500kg not 3,500 kg.
Contact us if you need to follow different conventions, for example you’re writing just for scientists or engineers.
Abbreviating kilograms to kg is fine - you do not need to spell it out.
If the measurement is more than one word, like kilometres per hour, then spell it out the first time it’s used with the abbreviation. From then on, abbreviate. If it’s only mentioned once, do not abbreviate.
Use Celsius for temperature: 37°C
member states of the EU
memorandum of understanding
Not “meta data”.
See words to avoid
middle-deemed primary school, middle-deemed secondary school
When talking about software, not “migrate over”.
Mileage Allowance Payments
Always use million in money (and billion): £138 million.
Use millions in phrases: millions of people.
But do not use £0.xx million for amounts less than £1 million.
Do not abbreviate million to m.
Use upper case for the full title, like Minister for Overseas Development, or when used with a name, as a title, like Health Minister Norman Lamb.
When used without the name, shortened titles are lower case: The health minister welcomed the research team.
Note the spelling.
modern foreign languages
Use the £ symbol: £75
Do not use decimals unless pence are included: £75.50 but not £75.00
Do not use ‘£0.xx million’ for amounts less than £1 million.
Write out pence in full: calls will cost 4 pence per minute from a landline.
Currencies are lower case.
Lower case when referring to the activity not the regulation.
Do not use Member of Parliament, just MP.
Separate with a slash. Only use in tables.
Upper case. Subsequent references would be the assembly. Lower case is also used for the second assembly, the third assembly.
national curriculum tests
Do not call them SATs.
National Insurance card
National Insurance contributions
National Insurance number
Upper case. Not NINO.
National Living Wage
National Minimum Wage
national occupational standards
national pupil database
national scholarship fund
For the programming language, not “.net” or “.Net”.
New Computerised Transit System (NCTS)
New Export System (NES)
newly qualified teacher
Lower case in text, upper case in titles: Spencer Tracy, Non-executive Director, GDS.
the north, the north of England
Lower case, hyphenated.
Northern Ireland Civil Service
Not a specific region of the UK.
Nuclear Decommissioning Authority
Use ‘one’ unless you’re talking about a step, a point in a list or another situation where using the numeral makes more sense: ‘in point 1 of the design instructions’, for example. Or this:
You’ll be shown 14 clips that feature everyday road scenes.
There will be:
- 1 developing hazard in 13 clips
- 2 developing hazards in the other clip
Write all other numbers in numerals (including 2 to 9) except where it’s part of a common expression like ‘one or two of them’ where numerals would look strange.
If a number starts a sentence, write it out in full (Thirty-four, for example) except where it starts a title or subheading.
For numerals over 999 - insert a comma for clarity: 9,000
Spell out common fractions like one-half.
Use a % sign for percentages: 50%
Use a 0 where there’s no digit before the decimal point.
Use ‘500 to 900’ and not ‘500-900’ (except in tables).
Use MB for anything over 1MB: 4MB not 4096KB.
Use KB for anything under 1MB: 569KB not 0.55MB.
Keep it as accurate as possible and up to 2 decimal places: 4.03MB.
Addresses: use ‘to’ in address ranges: 49 to 53 Cherry Street.
Spell out first to ninth. After that use 10th, 11th and so on.
In tables, use numerals throughout.
Lower case. This term covers both company and public sector pension schemes. Only use this term if explaining tax rules that are specific to occupational pension schemes.
Lower case and not in inverted commas: Westminster School was judged outstanding in its latest Ofsted inspection.
There are 4 Ofsted grades:
- outstanding (or grade 1)
- good (or grade 2)
- requires improvement (or grade 3)
- inadequate (or grade 4)
If used adjectivally, hyphenate and use one rather than 1.
Lower case if the service name starts with a verb - write the sentence so the user knows what action they can take. For example: You can visit someone in prison by booking online.
Only use upper case if the name of the service you’re referring to contains named thing. For example: You can apply for Marriage Allowance.
open source software
Not “Open Source software” or “OS software”.
Lower case even for the opposition and opposition leader.
Do not use slashes instead of “or”. For example, “Do this 3/4 times”.
Lower case unless used as the full title: Standing Order 22
Use the singular verb form when referring to organisations by name. Use ‘they’ when replacing an organisation name with a pronoun.
For example: ‘HMPO is the sole issuer of UK passports. They will send your new passport within 3 weeks’
The definite article can be used when referring to the organisation by its full name, but should not be used with the organisation’s acronym: ‘You should contact the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency if…’ but ‘You should contact DVSA if…’
Use local council, instead of local authority, where possible.
Lower case. Hyphenated.
Stands for “Platform as a Service”. Explain the acronym at first use.
In national curriculum tests.
Lower case even when naming a specific council: Bloxham parish council.
Parliamentary is upper case and committees is in lower case.
Parliamentary is upper case and report is in lower case.
When referring to the product/relief/regime, then say the Patent Box. Occasionally the definite article will be dropped, for example in calculations, where we use ‘Patent Box deduction’ and when using phrases like ‘Answers to your Patent Box questions’.
PAYE/CIS for Agents online service
PAYE Coding Notice
PAYE Online for employers
This can be abbreviated to PAYE Online within the PAYE Online for employers area of the website.
PAYE Settlement Agreements (PSAs)
Upper case. No need to explain the acronym.
See the entry for ‘fine’.
Lower case. Not pension payer.
Pension Schemes for administrators
Lower case on administrators.
Pension Schemes for practitioners
Lower case on practitioners.
Use per cent not percent. Percentage is one word. Always use % with a number.
Personal Independence Payment
physical education or PE
You can write in full or use the initials.
Lower case plain and upper case English unless in a title: the Plain English Campaign.
Lower case, even when referring to ‘the police’.
Lower case. Note that police force is usually avoided.
Upper case because PowerPoint is a brand name.
Primary Care Trust (PCT)
Upper case because it’s the name of an organisation.
Use Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Prime Minister.
priority school building programme
Private Member’s Bill
probate/grant of probate
Lower case unless in a title: Hampshire Probation Trust.
Do not use proforma - say what it is in plain English: a template or form, for example. Be specific about what to do with it.
Lower case: Troubled Families programme, Sure Start programme.
Progress 8 measure
Upper case P, lower case m.
Lowercase, the same as GitHub does in its documentation. GitLab uses the term “merge request”.
pupil referral unit
qualified teacher status
Quotes and speech marks
In long passages of speech, open quotes for every new paragraph, but close quotes only at the end of the final paragraph.
Use single quotes:
- in headlines
- for unusual terms
- when referring to words
- when referring to publications
- when referring to notifications such as emails or alerts
For example: Download the publication ‘Understanding Capital Gains Tax’ (PDF, 360KB).
Use double quotes in body text for direct quotations.
Use the block quote Markdown for quotes longer than a few sentences.
Real Time Information and RTI
This is an HMRC programme and should only appear either with initial capitals or as an acronym when referring to the programme itself.
When describing customer processes, use common language phrases like ‘send your payroll information to HMRC’ or ‘operate your payroll in real time’. Do not say ‘send your payroll under RTI’ or use the acronym, for example ‘in RTI’ or ‘under RTI’.
When using real time information in any other sense, it should be lower case.
Rebated Oils Enquiry Service
Reduced Earnings Allowance
References should be easy to understand by anyone, not just specialists.
They should follow the style guide. When writing a reference:
- do not use italics
- use single quote marks around titles
- write out abbreviations in full: page not p, Nutrition Journal not Nutr J.
- use plain English, for example use ‘and others’ not ‘et al’
- do not use full stops after initials or at the end of the reference
If the reference is available online, make the title a link and include the date you accessed the online version:
Corallo AN and others. ‘A systematic review of medical practice variation in OECD countries’ Health Policy 2014: volume 114, pages 5-14 (viewed on 18 November 2014)
regional resilience team
Registered Dealers in Controlled Oils (RDCO)
Upper case in the full title: Licensing of Animal Dealers (Scotland) Regulations 2009. (No comma before the date.) Lower case when referring to them: the licensing of animal dealers regulations.
In the context of APIs, not “restful” or “Restful”.
the Royal Household
Upper case when referring to the departments that, collectively, support the British Royal Family.
No full stops.
Stands for “Software as a Service”. Explain the acronym at first use.
Two words, lower case.
School Admissions Code
Upper case. After the first mention you can refer to it in lower case: the admissions code or the code.
school and college performance tables
school improvement plan
Lower case for all except languages and initialisations.
No apostrophe as it’s an attributive noun.
science and technical advice cell
Capitalise the first letter of the first part of the scientific name. Do not use italics.
Upper case when referring to the framework and method for developing products, otherwise use lower case.
spring, summer, autumn, winter are lower case.
Secretary of State for XXX
The Secretary of State for XXX is upper case whether or not it’s used with the holder’s name because there is only one. Use common sense to capitalise shortened versions of the SoS titles such as Health Secretary. The rule for ministers is different because there is more than one.
As in part of an act or a strategy.
sector resilience plans
Official, Secret, Top Secret
Upper case when referring to government security classifications, otherwise lower case.
If it’s not clear from the context, you may need to clarify that it’s a classification not a general description: ‘information classified as Official’ rather than ‘Official information’.
This compound noun should be hyphenated, unless it’s an HMRC title.
Self Assessment for Agents online service
Self Assessment Online
Self Assessment Online for partnerships
Self Assessment Online for trusts
Self Assessment tax return
See tax returns.
Hyphenate this noun.
Do not use semicolons as they are often mis-read. Long sentences using semicolons should be broken up into separate sentences instead.
Do not use long sentences. Check sentences with more than 25 words to see if you can split them to make them clearer.
serious case review
Lower case when written in full.
Recognised term for children whose parents serve in the armed forces.
Lower case, even when referring to the armed forces services or the services.
A settler of trusts.
Shadow job titles
The Shadow Secretary of State for XXX is upper case whether or not it’s used with the holder’s name because there is only one. Use common sense to capitalise shortened versions of the Secretary of State titles: the Shadow Health Secretary.
See also Job titles
sign in or log in
Use sign in rather than log in (verb) for calls-to-action where users enter their details to access a service.
Do not use login as a noun - say what the user actually needs to enter (like username, password, National Insurance number).
16 to 19 Bursary Fund
Upper case. After the first mention you can refer to it in lower case: the fund.
Hyphenated. Lower case.
This acronym means small and medium-sized enterprises. Use SME for the singular.
south, the south of England
Lower case, hyphenated.
One space after a full stop, not 2.
special educational needs/special educational needs and disabilities (SEN/D)
Lower case, but use upper case for the acronym.
Special Educational Needs Code of Practice
Upper case. When not using the full title in subsequent mentions, refer to it in lower case: the code of practice or the code.
Upper case for the 5-year view of the government’s spending plans. Lower case in other contexts: we are conducting a spending review.
Stamp Taxes for Agents online service
Stamp Taxes Online
standards of conduct
Lower case unless used as the full title: Standing Order 22.
statement of SEND
statistical first release
Read Style.ONS to find out how to write about statistics. This has been produced by the Office for National Statistics for all members of the Government Statistical Service.
Upper case National Statistics for the official statistics quality mark. Lower case for anything else, including statistics that are national in scope.
Statutory Adoption Pay
Statutory Maternity Pay
Statutory Sick Pay
strategic national framework on XXX
Not a title.
Lower case. Do not capitalise a named strategy: national health and welfare strategy.
Not “sub domain” or “sub-domain”.
- be 140 characters or less
- end with a full stop
- not repeat the title or body text
- be clear and specific
summary of consultation responses
All lower case.
Sure Start programme
Upper case because it’s the name of a programme, but programme is lower case.
No hyphen. Lower case level.
Lower case and plural. Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit are specific benefits, so are upper case and singular.
Upper case when referring to proper titles for the first time: Company Tax Return, Partnership Tax Return, Employer Annual Return.
Use Self Assessment tax return at first mention, as it’s not a proper title.
After that refer to them in full, or if it’s clear what you’re referring to, simply as a return. General references to tax returns are lower case.
When referring to the legal requirement we use deliver or file the return. Online, we say submit the return. For Self Assessment (paper or online) use send or file the return. Send is better.
the teachers’ standards
Lower case: youth offending team, Behavioural Insights team.
Lower case. One word.
Lower case. The name given to the occupational qualifications endorsed by employers and trade associations.
technical level qualifications
A performance measure of level 3 vocational qualifications.
Use technical terms where you need to. They’re not jargon. You just need to explain what they mean the first time you use them.
Use Telephone: 011 111 111 or Mobile: - not Mob:.
Use spaces between city and local exchange. Here are the different formats to use:
01273 800 900
020 7450 4000
0800 890 567
07771 900 900
077718 300 300
+44 (0)20 7450 4000
+39 1 33 45 70 90
When a number is memorable, group the numbers into easily remembered units: 0800 80 70 60.
Use Celsius: 37°C
- use ‘to’ in time ranges, not hyphens, en rules or em dashes: 10am to 11am (not 10-11am)
- 5:30pm (not 1730hrs)
- midnight (not 00:00)
- midday (not 12 noon, noon or 12pm)
- 6 hours 30 minutes
Midnight is the first minute of the day, not the last. You should consider using “11:59pm” to avoid confusion about a single, specific time.
For example, “You must register by 11:59pm on Tuesday 14 June.” can only be read one way, but “You must register by midnight on Tuesday 14 June” can be read in two ways (the end of Monday 13, or end of Tuesday 14).
Tied Oils Enquiry Service
Page titles should:
- be 65 characters or less
- be unique, clear and descriptive
- be front-loaded and optimised for search
- use a colon to break up longer titles
- not contain dashes or slashes
- not have a full stop at the end
- not use acronyms unless they are well-known, like EU
Lower case, even when part of a name: Swanage town council.
Avoid using trademarked names where possible - so tablet not iPAD.
Trade mark is 2 words but trademarked is one word.
The period of time between 1 February and 31 December 2020 during which the UK and EU are negotiating their future relationship. Not ‘transition phase’, ‘implementation phase’ or ‘implementation period’.
Upper case because Irish Travellers are recognised as an ethnic group under the Race Relations Act. New age travellers is lower case.
Trust or Company Service Provider
When used to refer to the business area covered by Money Laundering Regulations.
Upper case. Twitter is a trademarked name.
Shorten as “2FA”. Do not confuse with “multi-factor authentication”.
Never HM government.
unique pupil number
university technical college
Upper case. No need to explain the acronym.
Lower case ‘user’.
Not “user name”.
VAT for Agents online service
VAT EC Sales List (ECSL)
VAT EU Refunds
VAT EU Refunds for Agents online service
VAT on e-Services
VAT online services
Used when referring to all the online services for VAT.
Hyphenated when used as a compound adjective: VAT-registered business.
VAT registration number
Lower case, except when it refers to a field within a form.
VAT Registration Online
VAT registration threshold
Always use VAT Return unless it’s very clear from the context which return you’re referring to (as in ‘How to submit your return’ within a guide on VAT Returns).
VAT Reverse Charge Sales List (RCSL)
voluntary-aided schools, voluntary-controlled schools
Hyphenated. Lower case.
Upper case. No need to explain the acronym. When describing a VPN that is always on, write it like this: ‘always-on’ VPN. Note the single quotes and hyphen.
When it’s the daily check that lorry and bus drivers do, it’s one word - a vehicle walkaround.
One word. Not ‘web chat’.
Subsequent references would be the assembly. Lower case is also used for the second assembly, the third assembly.
Title case because it’s the full, official title.
Welsh exotic animal disease contingency plan
Lower case. This is not a proper title.
the west, western Europe
West End (London)
Widowed Parent’s Allowance
Lower case, no hyphen.
Upper case, because it’s a brand name.
Words to avoid
Plain English is mandatory for all of GOV.UK so please avoid using these words:
- agenda (unless it’s for a meeting)
- collaborate (use working with)
- commit/pledge (we need to be more specific - we’re either doing something or we’re not)
- deliver (pizzas, post and services are delivered - not abstract concepts like improvements or priorities)
- deploy (unless it’s military or software)
- dialogue (we speak to people)
- disincentivise (and incentivise)
- facilitate (instead, say something specific about how you’re helping)
- foster (unless it’s children)
- impact (do not use this as a synonym for have an effect on, or influence)
- key (unless it unlocks something. A subject/thing is not key - it’s probably important)
- land (as a verb only use if you’re talking about aircraft)
- leverage (unless in the financial sense)
- progress (as a verb - what are you actually doing?)
- promote (unless you’re talking about an ad campaign or some other marketing promotion)
- slimming down (processes do not diet)
- strengthening (unless it’s strengthening bridges or other structures)
- tackling (unless it’s rugby, football or some other sport)
- transforming (what are you actually doing to change it?)
Avoid using metaphors – they do not say what you actually mean and lead to slower comprehension of your content. For example:
- drive (you can only drive vehicles, not schemes or people)
- drive out (unless it’s cattle)
- going forward (it’s unlikely we are giving travel directions)
- in order to (superfluous - do not use it)
- one-stop shop (we are government, not a retail outlet)
- ring fencing
With all of these words you can generally replace them by breaking the term into what you’re actually doing. Be open and specific.
Working Tax Credit
Upper case, but generic references to tax credits are lower case.
World War 1, World War 2
Upper case and numbers.
written ministerial statement, written statement
year 1, year 2
Not “zero-hour contract” or “zero hours contract”.