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Style guide

Government Digital Service
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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 as well as services linked to from GOV.UK.

It includes:

  • 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 you have a query about a point of style that isn’t covered here, follow the Guardian style guide.

You can search the style guide by:

  1. Selecting ‘open all’.
  2. Pressing Ctrl+f on your keyboard if you’re using a PC or ⌘+f if you’re using a Mac.
  3. Typing the word or search term that you’re looking for.


A*, A*s

The top grade in GCSEs and A levels. Use the symbol * not the word ‘star’. No apostrophe in the plural.

A level

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.

Don’t use full stops in abbreviations: BBC, not B.B.C.

Don’t use an acronym if you’re not going to use it again later in the text.

the academies programme

Lower case.


Only use upper case when referring to the name of an academy, like Mossbourne Community Academy. See also Titles.

academy converters

Lower case.

academy order

Lower case.

academy trust

Lower case.

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. Don’t use the acronym.

Accounts Office

Upper case.

Activation PIN

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.

Active voice

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.

Adoption Register

Upper case when referring to the national Adoption Register.

Lower case in subsequent mentions that don’t use the full term: the register.


Not advisor, but advisory is the correct adjective.


Don’t 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.


Not al-Qaeda’ or ‘al-Qaida.

alternative provision

Lower case.


Don’t use Americanisms. You fill in a form, not fill out a form.

Exceptions include where it’s part of a specific name: 4th Mechanized Brigade, for example.

Use the -ise rather than -ize suffix: organise not organize, for example (this isn’t actually an Americanism but is often seen as such).


Use and rather than &, unless it’s a department’s logo image.

animal health

Lower case.


No hyphen.

applied general qualifications

Lower case.

apprenticeship programme

Lower case.



armed forces

Lower case.

arm’s length body

Apostrophe, no hyphen.

assembly ministers

Lower case.

Attendance Allowance

Upper case.


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.

Banned words

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.

Bereavement Payment

Upper case.

Blind Person’s Allowance

Upper case.


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.


Don’t use bold. It can distract the user and it makes the text longer and more confusing for users of screen readers. Use headings or bullets instead if you want to emphasise particular words or sections.

borough council

Lower case even 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.”

Don’t 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.’


See Great Britain

BTEC National Diploma

Upper case.

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 don’t use more than one sentence per bullet point - use commas, dashes or semicolons to expand on an item
  • you don’t put ‘or’ or ‘and’ after the bullets
  • if you add links they appear within the text and not as the whole bullet
  • there is no full stop after the last bullet point


Use numbered steps instead of bullet points to guide a user through a process. You don’t 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.

business plan

Lower case. Don’t use upper case even in the title of a business plan publication.

business statement

Lower case.


C of E

For Church of England when referring to school names.


The cabinet is lower case.

Capital Gains Tax

Upper case.



Lower case is preferable but use capitalisation for:

  • departments (specific government departments - see below)
  • the Civil Service, with lower case for ‘the’
  • job titles, ministers’ role titles: Minister for Housing, Home Secretary
  • titles like Mr, Mrs, Dr, the Duke of Cambridge (the duke at second mention); Pope Francis, but the pope
  • Rt Hon (no full stops)
  • buildings
  • 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 publications (and within single quotes)
  • World War 1 and World War 2 (note caps and numbers)

Don’t capitalise:

  • government - never Government, even when referring to an elected administration, (so not the Afghanistan Government) unless part of a specific name, like Local Government Association
  • 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, unless referring to and using the full name of a specific budget - 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 Communities and Local Government (DCLG)
  • Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)
  • Department for Education (DfE)
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
  • Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU)
  • Department for International Development (DFID)
  • Department for International Trade (DIT)
  • Department for Transport (DfT)
  • Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • Department of Health (DH)
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)
  • HM Treasury (HMT)
  • Home Office (HO)
  • Ministry of Defence (MOD)
  • Ministry of Justice (MOJ)

care worker

Two words. Lower case.

chair of governors

Lower case.

chairman, chairwoman, chairperson

Lower case in text. Upper case in titles: Spencer Tracy, Chairman, GDS.

Change notes

See change notes in the content design manual.

CHAPS (Clearing House Automated Payment System)

The acronym should come first as it’s more widely known than the full name.

chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) materials.

Lower case. Use upper case for the acronym.

chief constable

Lower case except where it’s a title with the holder’s name, like Chief Constable Andrew Trotter.

Child Benefit

Upper case.

Child Tax Credit

Upper case, but generic references to tax credits are lower case.


Lower case.

Childcare Grant

Upper case.

childminder, childminding

One word.

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.

Civil Service

Upper case.

civil servants

Lower case.


One word.


Lower case in all instances, including ‘the coalition’.


Use capital letters and a regular 2.


Lower case.

code of practice

Lower case.

command paper

Lower case.

commercial software

Not third-party software.

Community Care Grant

Upper case.

community resilience

Lower case.

community, voluntary and foundation schools

Lower case.

competence order

Lower case unless used in the full title, like the National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Social Welfare) Order 2008.

conduct of business rules

Lower case.

Construction Industry Scheme

Use upper case when referring to the actual Construction Industry Scheme (CIS, not the CIS).

Construction Industry Scheme Online/CIS Online

Upper case.

consultation responses

Lower case.

continuous improvement

Lower case.


Use contractions like you’re and we’ll. Avoid should’ve, could’ve, would’ve, they’ve - these can be hard to read.

Read more about contractions.



core standards

Lower case.

Corporation Tax

Upper case.

Corporation Tax for Agents online service

Upper case.

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.’


Lower case even in a name: Wandsworth council.

Council Tax

Upper case.


One word.

credit unions

Lower case.

critical national infrastructure

Lower case.

cross-curricular learning



Not curricula.

Customs Duty

Upper case.

cyber bullying

Two words. Lower case.



  • use upper case for months: January, February
  • don’t use a comma between the month and year: 14 June 2012
  • 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, don’t separate with a comma)
    • 10 November to 21 December
  • don’t 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…’

Read more about dates.

Daycare Trust

Two words. Upper case.

dedicated schools grant

Lower case.


Lower case even when referring to the defence team at the MOD.

defence team

Lower case.


Lower case except when in the title: the Department of Health.

devolved administrations

Lower case.


Lower case unless part of a title like Edexcel L2 Diploma in IT.​

Direct Debit

Upper case.

Direct Debit Instruction

Upper case.


Lower case in text. Upper case in titles: Spencer Tracy, Director, GDS.

director general

Lower case. No hyphen.

Disability Living Allowance

Upper case.


Lower case.

Discretionary Housing Payment

Upper case.

district council

Lower case even in a name, like Warwick district council.

Duty Deferment Electronic Statements (DDES)

Upper case.


early years

Lower case.

early years foundation stage (EYFS)

Lower case.

early years professional status

Lower case.

early years teacher

Lower case.

early years teacher status

Lower case.

the Earth

Upper case for the Earth, Planet Earth and Earth sciences, with lower case for ‘the’.

East End (London)

Upper case.


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

Lower case.

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 - isn’t always well understood. Try (re)writing sentences to avoid the need to use it. If that isn’t possible, use an alternative such as ‘meaning’ or ‘that is’.

electronic Binding Tariff Information (eBTI)

Upper case, but note the lower case ‘e’.


One word.

Email addresses

Write email addresses in full, in lower case and as active links. Don’t have any other words in the link, including labels like this:


emergency plan

Lower case.


Lower case.


Lower case.


Lower case.

European Commission

Leave unabbreviated to distinguish from the European Community. Write out in full at first mention, then call it the Commission.

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

Lower case.


See eg, etc and ie

Excel spreadsheet

Upper case because Excel is a brand name.

executive director

Lower case in text. Upper case in titles: Spencer Tracy, Executive Director, GDS.

Extended Project Qualification

Upper case.




FAQs (frequently asked questions)

Don’t use FAQs on GOV.UK. If you write content by starting with user needs, you won’t need to use FAQs.

Read more about FAQs.

finance and procurement

Lower case.

fire and rescue service

Lower case.

fixed-period exclusions


foot and mouth disease

Lower case.

foundation degrees

Lower case.

foundation schools

Lower case.

foundation stage / foundation subjects

Lower case.

foundation trust

Lower case unless the full name of the foundation trust is being used: Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust.

free school

Lower case.

the free schools programme

Lower case.

free school meals

Lower case.

Freedom of Information

You can make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, but not a request under the FOI Act.

Full Payment Submission

Upper case.

funding agreement

Lower case.

further education (FE)

Lower case.



No full stops between the initials. No apostrophe in the plural.

general election

Lower case.

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, Latin 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.

governing body

Singular noun.

The governing body is meeting today. It will decide who to appoint.


Lower case even when specific: Afghanistan government, UK government.

government offices

Lower case.

government procurement card

Lower case.


Lower case.

grammar school

Lower case unless part of a school name: The Manchester Grammar School.

Great Britain

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.

Green Deal

Upper case because it’s the name of a programme, but note that it’s Green Deal programme, Green Deal team, Green Deal assessment.

green paper

Lower case.


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.

Guardian’s Allowance

Upper case.


Lower case: national recovery guidance.


Upper case because Gypsies are recognised as an ethnic group under the Race Relations Act.


harbour authority

Lower case unless part of a proper noun: Cardiff Harbour Authority.

harbour master

Lower case.

hazardous waste registration

Lower case.


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.

high-attaining pupils


higher education (HE)

Lower case.


Upper case.

home-school agreement



Lower case.

human resources

Lower case.


Upper case for named hurricanes: Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy.



  • re- words starting with e, like re-evaluate
  • co-ordinate
  • co-operate

Don’t hyphenate:

  • reuse
  • reinvent
  • reorder
  • reopen
  • email

Don’t use a hyphen unless it’s confusing without it, for example, a little used-car is different from a little-used car. If in doubt, check the Oxford English Dictionary for Writers and Editors.

Use ‘to’ for time and date ranges, not hyphens.



See eg, etc and ie

Import Control System

Upper case.

inclusion statement

Lower case.

Income Support

All names of benefits are upper case.

Income Tax

Names of taxes are upper case, except input tax.

independent schools adjudicator

Lower case.

individual education plan

Lower case.

individual schools budget

Lower case.

initial teacher training

Lower case.

input tax

Lower case.

inset day

Lower case.

instrument of government

Lower case.

International Baccalaureate

Upper case.


Lower case.

Intrastat Supplementary Declaration

Upper case.


Don’t use italics. Use ‘single quotation marks’ if referring to a document, scheme or initiative.


Job titles

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

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Upper case.



Upper case when referring to The Kanban Method, otherwise lower case.

key stage

Lower case and numeral: key stage 4.



Lower case even when it’s ‘the law’.

Lower case.

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.

Read more about writing legal content

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.

liaison officers

Lower case.

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…’

local authority

Lower case. Don’t 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.

local council

Lower case.

Use local council, instead of local authority where possible.

log book

Two words.

log in

See sign in vs log in.

looked-after children



Always use the National Lottery if that’s what you mean.


One word.


Machine Games Duty (MGD)

Upper case.

Machine Games Duty for Agents online service

Upper case.

mainstream schools

Lower case.

maintained schools, maintained nursery schools

Lower case.

mark scheme, mark sheet

Lower case.

Maths content

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


Use numerals and spell out measurements at first mention.

Don’t 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 don’t 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, don’t abbreviate.

Use Celsius for temperature: 37°C

member states of the EU

Lower case.

memorandum of understanding

Lower case.


See words to avoid

Middle East

Upper case.

middle-deemed primary school, middle-deemed secondary school


Mileage Allowance Payments

Upper case.


Lower case.


Always use million in money (and billion): £138 million.

Use millions in phrases: millions of people.

But don’t use £0.xx million for amounts less than £1 million.

Don’t 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.

mixed-age class


mixed-sex schools


modern foreign languages

Lower case.


Use the £ symbol: £75

Don’t use decimals unless pence are included: £75.50 but not £75.00

Don’t 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.

money laundering

Lower case when referring to the activity not the regulation.


See Dates.


Don’t use Member of Parliament, just MP.

multi-academy trust






multi-year funding



One word.


National Assembly

Upper case. Subsequent references would be the assembly. Lower case is also used for the second assembly, the third assembly.

national curriculum

Lower case.

national curriculum tests

Don’t call them SATs.

National Insurance card

Upper case.

National Insurance contributions

Upper case.

National Insurance number

Upper case. Not NINO.

National Living Wage

Upper case.

National Minimum Wage

Upper case.

national occupational standards

Lower case.

national pupil database

Lower case.

national scholarship fund

Lower case.

New Computerised Transit System (NCTS)

Upper case.

New Export System (NES)

Upper case.

newly qualified teacher

Lower case.

non-executive director

Lower case in text, upper case in titles: Spencer Tracy, Non-executive Director, GDS.

the north, the north of England

Lower case.

north-east, north-west

Lower case, hyphenated.

Northern Ireland Civil Service

Upper case.

north Wales

Not a specific region of the UK.

Nuclear Decommissioning Authority

Upper case.


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.

Ordinal numbers

Spell out first to ninth. After that use 10th, 11th and so on.

In tables, use numerals throughout.

nursery school

Lower case.


occupational pension

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.

Ofsted judgements

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.


One word.

online services

Lower case unless part of a proper noun. HMRC Online Services should be upper case when referred to in full. Equally if you want to refer to a named service, it should be upper case: Submit your Company Tax Return using Corporation Tax Online.


Lower case even for the opposition and opposition leader.


Lower case unless used as the full title: Standing Order 22

Ordinary Statutory Paternity Pay

Upper case.


All organisations are singular: The government has decided to sell assets.

The definite article can be used when referring to the organisation by its full name, but shouldn’t be used with the organisation’s acronym: ‘You should contact the Driving Standards Agency if…’ but ‘You should contact DSA if…’

Use local council, instead of local authority, where possible.

overseas-trained teacher

Lower case. Hyphenated.


Paper B

In national curriculum tests.

parish council

Lower case even when naming a specific council: Bloxham parish council.


Upper case.

Parliamentary committees

Parliamentary is upper case and committees is in lower case.

Patent Box

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’.


Lower case.


Lower case.

PAYE/CIS for Agents online service

Upper case.

PAYE Coding Notice

Upper case.

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.

pension provider

Lower case. Not pension payer.

Pension Schemes for administrators

Lower case on administrators.

Pension Schemes for practitioners

Lower case on practitioners.

Per cent

Use per cent not percent. Percentage is one word. Always use % with a number.

performance management

Lower case.

performance tables

Lower case.


Personal Independence Payment

Upper case

physical education or PE

You can write in full or use the initials.

plain English

Lower case plain and upper case English unless in a title: the Plain English Campaign.

All content on GOV.UK should be written in plain English. You should also make sure you use language your audience will understand - check which words you should avoid.

Planet Earth

Upper case.


Lower case, even when referring to ‘the police’.

police service

Lower case. Note that police force is usually avoided.

policy note

Lower case.

policy statement

Lower case.

PowerPoint presentation

Upper case because PowerPoint is a brand name.



Primary Care Trust (PCT)

Upper case because it’s the name of an organisation.

Prime Minister

Use Prime Minister Theresa May and the Prime Minister.

priority school building programme

Lower case.

Private Member’s Bill

Upper case.

probate/grant of probate

Lower case.

probation trust

Lower case unless in a title: Hampshire Probation Trust.


Don’t 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.

public health

Lower case.

pupil premium

Lower case.

pupil referral unit

Lower case.


qualified teacher status

Lower case.

The Queen

Upper case.

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.

Single quotes

Use single quotes:

  • in headlines
  • for unusual terms
  • when referring to words or publications, for example: ‘Download the publication ‘Understanding Capital Gains Tax’ (PDF, 360KB)’

Double quotes

Use double quotes in body text for direct quotations.

Block quotes

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’. Don’t 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

Upper case.

recovery structures

Lower case.

Reduced Earnings Allowance

Upper case.


References should be easy to understand by anyone, not just specialists.

They should follow the style guide. When writing a reference:

  • don’t 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’
  • don’t 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)

reform plan

Lower case.

regional resilience team

Lower case.

Registered Dealers in Controlled Oils (RDCO)

Upper case.


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.

religious education

Lower case.


Lower case.

resilience plans

Lower case.

risk assessment

Lower case.

risk management

Lower case.

the Royal Household

Upper case when referring to the departments that, collectively, support the British Royal Family.

Rt Hon

No full stops.


same-sex schools


sat nav

Two words, lowercase.


See national curriculum tests.

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

Lower case.

school improvement plan

Lower case.

school subjects

Lower case for all except languages and initialisations.

schools workforce

No apostrophe as it’s an attributive noun.


One word.

science and technical advice cell

Lower case.

Scientific names

Capitalise the first letter of the first part of the scientific name. Don’t 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.

section 2

As in part of an act or a strategy.

sector resilience plans

Lower case.

Security classifications

Official, Secret, Top Secret

Upper case when referring to government security classifications, otherwise lower case.

If it isn’t 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

Upper case.

Self Assessment Online

Upper case.

Self Assessment Online for partnerships

Upper case.

Self Assessment Online for trusts

Upper case.

Self Assessment tax return

See tax returns.


Hyphenate this noun.

Sentence length

Don’t use long sentences. Check sentences with more than 25 words to see if you can split them to make them clearer.

Read more about short sentences.

serious case review

Lower case when written in full.

service children

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

Shadow Cabinet

Upper case.

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.

Don’t 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.

sixth former

Not hyphenated.

sixth-form college

Hyphenated. Lower case.


This acronym means small and medium-sized enterprises. Use SME for the singular.

south, the south of England

Lower case.

south-east, south-west

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.

special measures

Lower case.

Speech marks

See ‘Quotes and speech marks’

Spending Review

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

Upper case.

Stamp Taxes Online

Upper case.

standards of conduct

Lower case.

standing order

Lower case unless used as the full title: Standing Order 22.

State Pension

Upper case.

statement of SEND

Lower case.

statistical first release

Lower case.


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

Upper case.

Statutory Maternity Pay

Upper case.

Statutory Sick Pay

Upper case.


See Bullet points and steps

strategic national framework on XXX

Lower case.

strategic partners

Not a title.


Lower case. Don’t capitalise a named strategy: national health and welfare strategy.

studio school

Lower case.

study programme

Lower case.


Summaries should:

  • 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.

summer school

Lower case.

Sure Start programme

Upper case because it’s the name of a programme, but programme is lower case.


tax credits

Lower case and plural. Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit are specific benefits, so are upper case and singular.

tax returns

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.

teaching school

Lower case.


Lower case: youth offending team, Behavioural Insights team.


Lower case. One word.

tech levels

Lower case. The name given to the occupational qualifications endorsed by employers and trade associations.

technical level qualifications

Lower case.


A performance measure of level 3 vocational qualifications.

technical terms

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.

Read more about writing for specialists.

Telephone numbers

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

threshold assessment

Lower case.


  • 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

Upper case.


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

town council

Lower case, even when part of a name: Swanage town council.

Trade marks

Avoid using trademarked names where possible - so tablet not iPAD.

Trade mark is 2 words but trademarked is one word.

Trading Standards

Upper case.

training schools

Lower case.


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.

trust school

Lower case.

Twitter account

Upper case. Twitter is a trademarked name.


UK government

Never HM government.

umbrella trust

Lower case.


One word.


One word.



unique pupil number

Lower case.

Universal Credit

Upper case.

university technical college

Lower case.

User ID


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

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

Upper case.

VAT registration threshold

Lower case.

VAT Return

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)

Upper case.

voluntary-aided schools, voluntary-controlled schools

Hyphenated. Lower case.



One word. Not ‘web chat’.


One word.

Welsh Assembly

Subsequent references would be the assembly. Lower case is also used for the second assembly, the third assembly.

Welsh exotic animal disease contingency plan

Lower case. This isn’t a proper title.

the west, western Europe

Lower case.

West End (London)

Upper case.

white paper

Lower case.

Widowed Parent’s Allowance

Upper case.


Upper case and hyphenated (trade mark).

Word document

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)
  • advancing
  • collaborate (use working with)
  • combating
  • commit/pledge (we need to be more specific - we’re either doing something or we’re not)
  • countering
  • 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)
  • empower
  • facilitate (instead, say something specific about how you’re helping)
  • focusing
  • foster (unless it’s children)
  • impact (don’t use this as a synonym for have an effect on, or influence)
  • initiate
  • key (unless it unlocks something. A subject/thing isn’t key - it’s probably important)
  • land (as a verb only use if you’re talking about aircraft)
  • leverage (unless in the financial sense)
  • liaise
  • overarching
  • progress (as a verb - what are you actually doing?)
  • promote (unless you’re talking about an ad campaign or some other marketing promotion)
  • robust
  • slimming down (processes don’t diet)
  • streamline
  • 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?)
  • utilise

Avoid using metaphors – they don’t 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 - don’t 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.

Read more about plain English and words to avoid.

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

Lower case.


year 1, year 2

Lower case.