How to write for the university How to write for the university

Writing Style Guide

This guide aims to provide an overview of our house style to ensure consistency across all our printed and digital communications.

Whoever you are writing for, use ‘plain' English and keep communication simple, direct and engaging. You should talk to your audience using ‘our' and ‘you' to draw the reader in, eg ‘Our degrees offer you the opportunity….' Consider who you are writing for and make sure your writing is pitched at the right level for them. A brochure targeting senior academics will be written differently from one for prospective students.


• Use 'an' before any word or abbreviation beginning with a vowel sound, including words beginning with a silent 'h' (hour, honour, heir, honest). You use 'a' with consonant sounds (eg unicorn), including words beginning with an 'h' which are pronounced, such as history.

Abbreviations and Acronyms

• It is not necessary to use full stops in or after abbreviations where there is no likelihood of confusion: GCSE, BSc, BA, MA, PhD (unless at the end of a sentence).

• When they appear in text, &, %, ie and eg should be spelt out in full as ‘and', ‘per cent', ‘that is to say' and ‘for example'. In tables, headings, or when you need to save space, the abbreviations may be used but not with full stops.

• Use the abbreviated form of a title without explanation only if there is no chance of any misunderstanding, eg BBC. Otherwise, the first reference to a name should always appear in full, followed by the abbreviation in brackets. For example: This course is taught by staff in the Climatic Research Unit (CRU). CRU is world-renowned.

• For names with initials, we avoid full stops and spaces, so JK Rowling.


• We do not include accents in words that have passed into the English language, such as café.


• Advice (noun)

• To advise (verb)


• The film really affected me

• What is the effect on his health?

A levels

• A levels not A-levels or ‘A' levels


• Alumnus (male), alumna (female)

• Alumni/ae (plural)


• Do not use as an abbreviation for and unless they are part of an existing title, for example, Marks & Spencer. 


• Use apostrophes to show possession (the student's notes, the University's history).

• Add only an apostrophe if the things or people possessing already end in ‘s' (Students' Union, lecturers' offices).

• Do not use apostrophes for plurals unless it is to denote possession (in the 1960s, MAs, PhDs).

• Use an apostrophe to show that a letter is missing (isn't, can't, it's).

• Pronouns like his, hers, ours, yours, theirs and its don't need apostrophes.


• Biannual - twice a year

• Biennial - every two years

Bullet Points

• Long lists should be bulleted for ease of reading (if room). Do not use commas or semicolons after any of the points - only the last point should end with a full stop. Begin each bulleted point with a capital letter.

Capital Letters

Don't use capitals:

• Avoid unnecessary capitals in all headings and text.

• In headings the first word should be capitalised with remaining words capitalised only if a proper noun, name or if a specific title (eg a module title) or position is involved.

• internet not Internet

• web not Web

• Use lower case for seasons and semesters. For example: The prospectus will be updated in spring 2016.

• Use lower case for points of the compass: east, west, north, south. For example: Schools in the north east, the south of Scotland, southern Europe.

Do use capitals:

• Capitalise the names of books, films and other major works in the usual way.

• Capitalise first words and all words apart from prepositions and conjunctions of fewer than five letters.

• Use upper case for definite geographical places, regions, areas and countries: South-East Asia, The Hague, the Midlands, the Middle East.

• University (meaning the University of East Anglia). Lower case should be used when referring to universities generally.

• Vice-Chancellor (referring to our Vice-Chancellor), all others are vice-chancellors.

• Pro-Vice-Chancellor.

• Faculties (Faculty of Science), Schools (Environmental Sciences), course titles (MA Theatre and Development) and module titles (Medicine and Gender), but not when referring generally to the study subject (for example: a good background in mathematics is essential).


• 21st century, 20th century (noun); 21st-century (adjective), eg in the 21st century (noun);
but a 21st-century dilemma (adjective).


• Abbreviate simply as c (roman) followed by a space, eg c 1342.


• Use lowercase initials in words that succeed the colon unless the word is a proper noun.

Compare To/With

• Compare to - liken to

• Compare with - make a comparison


• Complement - that which completes something

• Compliment - expression of admiration


• Use short dashes (ens) when there are no
spaces between words, ie 2000-2005, 5,000-word dissertation, and long dashes (ems) when there
are spaces between words, ie the module – British Cinema.


• Friday 10 August 2007 (no ‘th' or comma)

• 2007-08 not 2007-2008 or 2007/08

• Decades should be expressed as 1960s (not 1960's or '60s)

• AD goes before the date (AD 64), BC goes after (300 BC)


• Capitalise the full degree title and module titles
but use lower case when referring to subject areas. For example: The School of Biological Sciences offers courses in ecology, biology and conservation.To study for the Master of Mathematics programme, you should have studied mathematics to at least A level.

• First, 2:1, 2:2, 3rd. Never use 1st. Use a capital when referring to a First, but lower case initial for first-class degree. He was awarded a 2:1 in English.


• I am dependent on him

• She is my dependant

Double Spacing

• Once used in the days of mechanical typewriters, double spacing is now not necessary. Always use a single space after a comma and full stop.


• E-learning or e-learning not Elearning, elearning or E-Learning


• Email and email not E-mail and e-mail


• The University has four Faculties: the Faculty of Science, the Faculty of Health.....but use lower case when referring to faculty members.

Fewer, Less

• For countable nouns use ‘fewer': There were fewer boys than girls.

• For non-countable nouns use ‘less': There was less wine than water.


• The Government takes a cap if it refers to the present British Government; but a previous government takes a lower case initial. If used adjectivally, government takes a lower case.

Historical Periods

• Capitalise names of widely recognised epochs 
in anthropology, archaeology, geology and history:
the Bronze Age, the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages,
the Renaissance, the Victorian era, the Enlightenment, the Third Reich; or periods named after specific dynasties or people: the Tudors, Elizabethan.
But lower case medieval, baroque and early modern.


• Use a capital letter when describing a specific degree course, BA Honours French or BA Hons French, otherwise – you will need a good honours degree.


• Required for compound adjectives, eg she is in her first year at university, her brother is a first-year undergraduate or the referee has a full-time job, he blew the whistle for full time. Other examples:

It is an award-winning, world-class department.

The course has broad-based modules.

The School offers cutting-edge research.

• Do not though use a hyphen when the combination of words includes an adverb (words ending in –ly), eg strongly worded letter.

• Use where same letters meet in adjacent word, eg film-maker.


• Use no space or full stops between personal initials: AM Smith or JK Rowling.


• internet not Internet


• Refer to international not overseas students

International Telephone Style

• Tel +44 (0)1603 456161

Inverted Commas (Quotation Marks)

• Use single inverted commas, reserving double inverted commas for a quotation within a quotation and for direct speech.


• Use italics for titles of published books, periodicals, plays, films, paintings, newspapers and genus and species names in Latin.

• Titles of articles and features in periodicals etc are set in Roman type enclosed in single quotation marks.

• Use italics for foreign words, which have not become part of the English language.

Job Titles

Use lower case for all job titles, eg ‘he is the chairman of Microsoft', editor of the Guardian.


The noun is licence with a ‘c', eg driving licence. The verb is to license with an ‘s', eg licensed to kill.


• Refer to Master's degree not Masters degree, masters' degree or masters degree.

• Referring to a generic Master's: I did my Master's at UEA.

• Referring to a specific degree: Jo studied for a Master's in Creative Writing.

Newspaper Titles

• Generally in italics and with lower case ‘the': the Guardian. Exceptions to this are The Times and The Economist.

Norwich Research Park

Don't use the abbreviation NRP – you can refer to Research Park or Park after the first mention.


• Write out in full all numbers at the beginning of a sentence, all numbers up to 10 and all numbers if any in the sentence is spelt out (between nine and fifteen, not between nine and 15).

• 10 upwards as figures, so 10 not ten, 29 not twenty-nine.

• Spell out any number that begins a sentence,
eg One hundred and ten people graduated this year.

• Use commas for numbers of four or more digits: 1,000 not 1000.

• £100 million or £100m not £100 m.

• £10,000 not £10k, although £10k acceptable in internal documents.

• Fractions are hyphenated as adjectives (one-third full), but not as nouns (one third of the population). The course runs for two years but it is a two-year course.

• Spell out ordinal numbers in text: first, second, third (not 1st, 2nd, 3rd, except for in a table). 


• Our house style is to say ‘more than', rather than ‘over'. There are more than 10,000 international students not - there are over 10,000....


• Use % rather than per cent.


• She practises the piano every day or he is a practising lawyer (verb).

• He set up practice as a lawyer (noun).


• It's against my principles.

• She is the college's new principal. 

• It's the principal meaning.


• As in part-time degree programme, but a computer program.


• A levels not A-levels or ‘A' levels

• GCSE, BSc, BA, MA, PhD not G.C.S.E. etc

Schools of Study

• When referring to the University's Schools (because of the possible confusion with secondary schools) capital S for School of Study or Schools of Study.

Spelling - Some commonly misspelt words

• Accommodation

• Acknowledgements

• A lot, not alot

• Anymore (two words)

• Benefited

• Compliment (praise); complement (make complete)

• Dependant (person); dependent (adjective)

• Enrol, enrolling, enrolment, enrolled

• Focused

• Fulfil, fulfilled, fulfilment

• Fundraising

• Groundbreaking

• Install, instalment, installed

• Interdisciplinary

• Interprofessional

• Liaison/liaise

• Licence (noun), licensing; licensed; to license (verb)

• Millennium

• Occur; occurred

• Practice (noun); practise (verb)

• Program (computer context); otherwise programme

• Stationary (standing still); stationery (paper, etc)

• Supersede

• Targeted

ise / ize

• Our house style is to use –ise

• civilised not civilized

• organised not organized

We use the following:

• Adviser not advisor

• A levels, O levels – no hyphen

• Childcare not child care

• Continental Europe not continental Europe

• Co-ordinator not coordinator

• Co-operation not cooperation

• Coursework not course work

• Courtroom not court room

• En suite not ensuite or en-suite

• Field trip not fieldtrip

• Field work not fieldwork

• Film-making not filmmaking

• Flatmate not flat mate

• Focuses not focusses

• You take a full-time course but you study full time (same for part-time/part time).

• Healthcare not health care

• Judgement not judgment

• Masterclasses

• Medieval

• Modelling not modeling

• Multimedia

• Multinational

• Online not on-line

• Policymakers

• Postgraduate/undergraduate not post-graduate or under-graduate

• Problem-based learning

• Problem-solving

• Signalling not signaling

• Skilful not skillful

• Skillset not skill set

• Supervisor not superviser

• Teamworking not team-working

• Transferable not transferrable

• Under way not underway

• US for United States, not USA

• Website not web site

• Worldwide not world-wide

• Year 2, year 3 not year two etc.


• 5.30pm not 5.30 pm or 17.30


• Mr/Mrs not Mr. or Mrs.

• Dr not Doctor

• Prof not Prof.


Omit http:// unless the URL does not begin with ‘www' and omit any trailing slash at the end of the url, unless the url does not work without it – always double check.


• Website not web-site (no http in website address)

Which or That?

The general rule is: 'that' is used in defining clauses and 'which' for non-defining clauses. Defining clauses have no punctuation, while non-defining clauses must be between commas. This punctuation distinction is crucial. 'Which' is usually an acceptable substitute for 'that', and can be used without loss of clarity, but caution needs to be exercised in substituting 'which' with 'that'. Examples:
The house that Jack built is now falling down. The house, which Jack built, is falling down.


• 2005-06 not 2005-2006 or 2005/06