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Style guide

Welcome to the University of Exeter’s style guide. The guide is made up of two sections: the house style and the word list.

In the house style, we have provided guidance on how to use and present:

  • commonly used document elements
  • notoriously confusing issues of punctuation and grammar
  • sector-specific language and conventions.

In the word list, you will find guidance on words, phrases and expressions that can be written in different ways. In some cases, the guidance will be a matter of convention, i.e. where there is only one ‘correct’ way to express the item, or where the form chosen is based on one or more external sources (see ‘References’, overleaf). In other cases, we will have chosen a particular form for the university’s style.

Accessibility + clarity + consistency = confidence

The purpose of this guide is to make our written communications more accessible to staff and students, and to members of our community for whom English is an additional language, or who experience language-based learning difficulties.

It is therefore important that all our communications are written with clarity. Finally, this guide is designed to ensure a greater level of consistency across all communications and platforms: this is crucial to inspire confidence in our messaging, and therefore the institution as a whole.

How you can help

We know that language and our reactions to it change over time. We also know that this guide doesn’t (and couldn’t!) cover every word or phrase, or every type of writing we use. Therefore, if you have a suggestion, a correction, or a question, please contact

Below is a list of sources used to help compile this guide.

The Guardian and Observer style guide

New Hart’s rules (2014) 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

New Oxford dictionary for writers and editors (2014) 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

New Oxford spelling dictionary (2014) 3rd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pears, R. and Shields, G. (2016) Cite them right: the essential referencing guide. 10th edn. London: PALGRAVE.

Plain English Campaign (no date) How to write in plain English

Plain English Campaign (2001) The A to Z of alternative words

Thomas, C. and Saffrey, A. (2018) Your house style. 3rd edn. London: Society for Editors and Proofreaders.

The Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT), UK Nations & Regions

Stonewall’s Glossary of Terms