Our preferred style
English is a complex language. There are often several equally correct ways to spell, write, punctuate or format text. In some cases, these may be different from your personal preferences, but it’s important that all of our written material is consistent.
Can't find what you need?
If you can’t find the answer you are looking for here, refer to the Macquarie Dictionary or the Australian Government’s Style manual for authors, editors and printers.
An abbreviation is a shortened version of a word. Abbreviations normally end in a full stop, but this can be left out for commonly used abbreviations
|✔||et al.||✔||p. / pp.|
Contractions are shortened version of words in which the last letter of the original word is present. They don’t need a full stop.
Unless it is commonly understood, define the acronym the first time you use it.
- You may be eligible for the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP).
When you use an acronym in a sentence, say it out loud to see if you should use ‘a’ or ‘an’. If the sound of the acronym starts with a vowel, use ‘an’.
- an ABC documentary
- a UNESCO program
Our style is to use minimal capitalisation. Headings are written in sentence case, not initial caps or upper case (except for proper nouns).
|✔||Welcome from the Vice-Chancellor|
|✖||Course Fees and Charges|
|✖||RESOURCES AND DOCUMENTS|
Initial capitals are used for specific titles, not general descriptions.
|✔||Associate Dean Gavin Robertson will chair the meeting.|
|✔||Meetings will be chaired by one of the associate deans.|
|✔||In Semester 2, our main topics will be …|
|✔||Next semester, our main topics will be …|
Avoid using lots of uppercase letters. Bold or italic formatting is a more effective way to emphasise words.
If the items in your list are complete sentences, start each one with a capital letter and finish each with a full stop.
There are two distinct cultural protocols:
If the items in your list are not complete sentences, start each item with a lower-case letter. Don’t use commas or semicolons at the end of each item. Don’t use ‘and’ on the second-last item. Do use a full stop after the final item.
The Welcome to Country always occurs at the start of an event. Such events include but are not limited to:
All items in a list must follow the same grammatical structure. You can check this by reading the introductory phrase and then each item to see if it makes sense.
Successful students are:
Write the numbers one to nine as words. Write 10+ as numerals, except at the start of a sentence (or, even better, rearrange the sentence).
|✔||Twenty-three students responded to the survey.|
|✔||The survey had 23 responses from students.|
|✔||The class runs for seven weeks.|
|✖||23 students responded to the survey.|
Use commas to separate thousands.
|✔||FedUni has more than 5,000 students.|
Use the words ‘per cent’ not the % symbol (% can be used in tables and diagrams to save space).
|✔||More than 83 per cent of students prefer us to contact them by email.|
Separate spans of numbers, including years and times, with an en-dash’.
Our date format is 8 May 2014. Months may be abbreviated for space.
|✔||7 February 2015|
|✔||7 Feb 2015|
|✖||February 7th 2015|
|✖||7th Feb ’15|
Our time format is 4.30 pm. Use full stops, not colons, and put a space before ‘am’ or ‘pm’.
Our style is to use minimal punctuation. That means removing unnecessary punctuation, as long as it doesn’t change your meaning.
Apostrophes indicate contractions or possessives.
|✔||She’s not in class today.|
|✔||The library’s opening hours have changed.|
Apostrophes are not used to indicate plurals...
|✖||The library now has hundred's of new video's and DVD's available for loan.|
… except when abbreviations or letters are used as nouns.
|✔||I gave them four A's and six B's.|
Colons and semicolons
|✔||FedUni has campuses in three regional areas: Ballarat, Gippsland and the Wimmera.|
Semicolons link two related but independent clauses. Both halves of the sentence must make sense on their own. If they don’t, don’t use a semicolon.
|✔||Summer is bushfire season; be very careful when using naked flames.|
|✖||Summer is bushfire season; hot and dry.|
Semicolons are also used to separate items in a list if commas would make it confusing, for example, when one or more items in the list need their own commas for clarity.
|✔||The prize winners were Selma Lee, Ballarat; Peter Campbell, Churchill; and Dac Nguyen, Berwick.|
|✖||The prize winners were Selma Lee, Ballarat, Peter Campbell, Churchill, and Dac Nguyen, Berwick.|
Note that there is a semicolon before the last item in the list.
Commas are used to separate clauses in a sentence, or items within a list. Our style is to not use a comma before the final item of a list, unless it is needed for clarity.
She took a photograph of her parents, the king, and the queen. [The photograph was of four people.]
She took a photograph of her parents, the king and the queen. [The photograph was of two people: her parents who are also the king and queen.]
Hyphens and dashes
Hyphens, en dashes and em dashes all have different uses.
Hyphens are used to join two words that work together to make an adjective, or where a prefix makes a word confusing.
|✔||We are all ready for a well-earned break.|
|✔||Please tell us if you have any pre-existing injuries.|
En dashes (–) with a space on either side isolate an explanation or phrase within a sentence. Our style is to use spaced en dashes.
|✔||The library – like all shared spaces – should be a comfortable and pleasant place for everyone to work in.|
Em dashes (—) are used to signal an abrupt interruption. They are rarely used outside fiction writing.
Our style is to use single quotation marks (‘ ’), not double (“ ”). Use quotation marks for:
- direct quotes
- the titles of lectures, speeches, conferences and songs
- the titles of chapters or articles in books or other publications (but not the publication title)
- the first mention of an unfamiliar term, before you define it
- words used in an unusual way, or colloquial terms.
For quotes within quotes, use double quotations marks.
Our official name is Federation University Australia. Always use this official name for the first mention. After that, you can use FedUni.
|✔||Federation University Australia|
When discussing Federation University Australia specifically, University has an initial cap. When the word ‘university’ is used in a general context, it is lowercase.
|✔||Further historical information on the University is available through the Geoffrey Blainey Research Centre.|
|✔||The University seeks to provide a learning and working environment that promotes and values diversity and offers equality of access and opportunity to all.|
|✔||We are Australia’s first regional, multi-sector university.|
|✖||Many of you may be the first in your family to attend University.|
When discussing a campus, the word campus is always in uppercase.
|✔||Federation University Australia’s Mt Helen Campus|
|✔||FedUni’s Mt Helen Campus|
|✔||the Mt Helen Campus|
|✔||Mt Helen and SMB campuses|
|✖||Mt Helen campus|
We use Australian spelling, which is often different to American or British. Some common examples are listed here, but if you are unsure check the Macquarie Dictionary.
|✔||~ise: e.g. recognise, finalise, organise|
|~ize: e.g. recognize, finalize, organize|
|✔||~our: e.g. colour, labour|
|✖||~or: color, labor|
|✔||~ement: judgement, acknowledgement|
|✖||~ment: judgment, acknowledgment|
Check your spellcheck.
|TIP||You may need to set the language in Microsoft Word to English (Australian) to stop it automatically changing your words to US spelling.|
If you are referring to a specific organisation or publication, or using a direct quote, always use the original spelling.
|✔||World Health Organization|
|✖||World Health Organisation|
URLs can be long and confusing when written out in full. Always consider whether you really need to provide the full URL. If your message is delivered digitally, use hyperlinks and descriptive text to make it clear where the link goes.
Avoid terms like ‘click here’. It’s better to describe what the reader can do, or what will happen, when they go to that page of the website.
|✔||Read our interview with Magda.|
|✖||Click this link to read our interview with Magda on Tumblr: http://resmedia2015.tumblr.com/|
If a link will automatically download a document, make that clear and state the file size.
|✔||Download an open day program (pdf, 167Kb)|
|✖||Download an open day program at https://federation.edu.au/future-students/ open-day/program.pdf|
Most people will be able to navigate through a website to find what they need. In a printed document, it is often enough to direct them to the home page, with some guidance about which section of the website has the information you are referring to.
If the URL has a ‘www’ at the start or you can indicate it with formatting, such as underlining, there’s no need to include ‘http://'.
|✔||Search federation.edu.au for ‘bookshop hours’.|
|✖||Bookshop opening hours can be found on our website at https://federation.edu.au/current- students/life-on-campus/services-on-campus/ book-shop.|