University of Exeter style guide

  • Adjective - describes a noun (The pretty girl; the boy is handsome)
  • Adverb - describes a verb (He ran quickly; they walked home slowly)
  • Apostrophe - denotes possession (David’s cap; the girls' hats) or an omission of a letter (I’m fine)
  • Colon - indicates a significant pause between two closely related phrases, or indicates the start of a list (The winners are: )
  • Comma - denotes a pause in a sentence (Excuse me, are you Margaret Thatcher, or do you just look like her?) and can be used to break up items in a list (I need eggs, flour, milk, and bread)
  • Hyphen - a link which joins two words together
  • Infinitive - the ‘whole’ form of a verb, constructed in English with ‘to’ (to buy). Splitting an infinitive means breaking up ‘to’ from its verb: 'To boldly go' is a split infinitive
  • Noun - denotes a person, place or thing
  • Semicolon - indicates a pause shorter than a colon, but longer than a comma, and links two closely related complete phrases
  • Verb - denotes an action (They ran away)


Higher Education is littered with acronyms, from the degrees we award to research funding bodies and all manner of technical language. It is important not to assume that the reader will always understand what acronyms mean, especially those referring to internal departments, research centres, and systems.

The first time you use an acronym on a print or webpage, consider if it needs to be explained to the audience, and if so write out the name in full initially with the acronym in brackets afterwards: eg, Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). Thereafter, just use the acronym. The exception is where the abbreviation is better known than what it stands for eg BBC, IRA, AIDS.

Full stops should not be used with acronyms or abbreviations. This rule covers all academic awards and degrees (eg, BA, MA, MPhil, BPhil, MEng, EdD, PhD, PGDip, PGCert, etc).

Also omit the full stops in abbreviations such as eg, ie, etc, Dr, Mr, Mrs, am, pm.

Use accents on foreign words, unless the word has been anglicised. Exceptions: précis; exposé (to distinguish from expose).

No commas in addresses:

University of Exeter
Northcote House
The Queen’s Drive
Exeter EX4 4QJ

In the case of department addresses, put the department name before the University.

Adviser Not Advisor

When used as a noun (eg, the results of something) it’s always ‘effect’. ‘Affect’ is the verb, or when the noun is referring to emotion.

  • The effect was dramatic
  • The book affected me dramatically



  • A Level
  • A-level
  • A-Level

Not Alright

In general, British rather than American conventions of usage and spelling should be used. For example, -ise rather than -ize in words such as emphasise; -ogue rather than -og in words such as catalogue.

If you're unsure whether a spelling is English or American in origin, the Grammarist website is a useful resource to check.

Unless used as part of a company’s name (eg Procter & Gamble) avoid using ampersands.

Apostrophes are used to show (a) possession (The University’s halls of residence; The Students’ Guild) or (b) omissions (I’ll, They’ll) in words and phrases. 

  1. Possession
    With a singular noun, the apostrophe goes before the <s>:

    Claire’s hat 
    The cat’s blanket

    With a plural noun, the apostrophe goes after the <s>:

    The boys’ game
    Students’ Union 

    If a word already ends in <s>, then the apostrophe alone signifies possession; no <s> is needed:

    In James’ opinion 
    Their patio wasn’t as impressive as the Jones’ 
    The ladies’ room

    A word with an irregular plural still takes the <’s>:

    The children’s playground 
    The people’s votes 
    The men’s eyes

  2. Omission of a letter

    It’s okay, I’m all right
    you’re right  
    don’t worry

NB. It’s always means ‘it is’ or 'it has'. If it does not mean this in your sentence, don’t use an apostrophe.

Apostrophes are never used to denote the plural:

Apples (not Apple’s) 
Pears (not Pear’s)

Where not to use apostrophes

Don’t use an apostrophe to form a plural with numbers and letters:

  • 1990s not 1990’s
  • 3 As at A level, not 3 A’s at A level
  • CDs not CD’s


Hyphenated when combined with another word to form an adjective: ‘work-based study.’ However: ‘teaching is classroom based.’

Avoid where possible. In marketing copy, use spaced en dashes to indicate parentheses – as used here – instead.

When writing a complete sentence within brackets, the punctuation also goes within the brackets. (As is the case in this example.) If the text in brackets is part of a sentence (as is the case here), the punctuation goes outside the brackets.

The Business School building name.

Bullet points are used as a means of breaking text into an easily readable list. For single word or very short bullet points do not use punctuation at the end. With a list that is part of a continuous sentence, put semicolons (;) after each point and start each with a lower-case letter (unless list items are module titles for example).

Web: Try to keep punctuation to the minimum required to assist the reader’s understanding. Complex punctuation can be harder to read on screen.


  • Streatham Campus
  • St Luke’s Campus
  • Penryn Campus
  • campuses (eg, Streatham and St Luke’s campuses, Exeter campuses, Cornwall campuses)

Lower case – campus tours, NOT Campus Tours.

Be consistent and do not randomly use capitals.

  • Proper nouns (names, counties etc), official titles (books, films, job titles and so on) and programme/module titles should be written with capitals eg BA (Honours) Archaeology but students study all aspects of archaeology, or excellent research in accounting and finance
  • When referring to the University of Exeter as 'the University' use an initial capital
  • Similarly the College, the School, or the Department, but not the Campus (place, not abbreviated name of something)
  • When referring to a university, or university in general, use lower case
  • Always use Title Case (all words are capitalised) for module/programme titles, but do not capitalise small words in, at, of, the, and, on when they appear in module titles, etc. For example, Film and Literature: Textural Transformations.

Print: For headings, sub-headings etc within publications it is very important that they are treated consistently, whether using Title Case or Sentence case.

Web: In the University’s web design, the heading style is consistently sentence case – eg Visiting us, Alumni and supporters, Current students. This is not only used for all headings, but for the navigation labels (the section names in T4) too. For headings, sub-headings, etc, within webpages it is very important that they are treated consistently using sentence case. The only exception is where the heading is also a proper name, such as titles of academic units, programmes or modules, where it should be title case.

Do not capitalise words in the middle of sentences inappropriately (ie when they are not proper names) – it doesn’t make them look more important, it just jars the reader’s eye.

Never type text or headings in all capitals.

The careers department based in the Forum.

Lower case eg 19th century

See also Dates.

Not civil service.

Lower case, all one word – NOT clean room or clean-room (this is referring to specific scientific facilities, especially within Physics).

Click a button or link, not Click on. But do not use ‘Click here’ for links – see Links.

A colon indicates a substantial pause between two parts of a sentence, but suggests a close connection between them.

It is used:

  1. to introduce lists

    The following people were suspected: the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker.

  2. to make a strong contrast between ideas in a sentence

    Cannabis is illegal in the UK: the Netherlands have legalised cannabis use for some time now.

Not caps unless part of a recognised geographical or political group: the East End; North Korea; the West Country; the South West.

To complement is to make complete; 'these shoes complement my outfit perfectly'.

To compliment is to praise; a complimentary copy is free; "You look lovely today"; "Please take a complimentary newspaper"

Don’t use a comma before ‘and’ unless it’s part of a long list of items within a sentence.

Word ending in <t> + <sion> = <t> changes to <s>:

  • convert - conversion 
  • divert - diversion

Word ending in <y> + <ness> = <y> changes to <i>:

  • happy - happiness 
  • lovely - loveliness

Words ending in single vowel + single <l> = <l>  changes to <ll> before any suffix:

  • typical - typically 
  • unravel - unravelled
  • Coordinate Not Co-ordinate
  • Cooperate Not Co-operate


  • Penryn Campus
  • Truro Campus or 
  • University of Exeter, Penryn Campus / Truro Campus

Do not use

  • Cornwall Campus, Tremough
  • UEC or
  • University of Exeter in Cornwall

Coursework Not Course work

D - E

Dates are in the format 1 January 2012 or Sunday 1 January 2012.

  • Do not superscript th, st – eg 1st January; 18th century not 18th century. ‘18th-century’ is hyphenated for adjective (ie, 18th-century drama), but unhyphenated for noun (eg, during the 18th century)
  • AD should come before the date: AD600; BC should come after: 300BC. Note there should be no space between the numbers and letters
  • c1500 rather than c.1500

Degree class

  • First
  • 2:1
  • 2:2
  • 3rd
  • or written out as First Class Honours degree, Upper Second Class Honours degree, Lower Second Class Honours degree, Third Class degree.

Lower case – eg, dissertation NOT Dissertation, unless the title of a module.

Ebooks or ebooks, not e-books or eBooks.

Without full stops, use a comma after: We offer Combined Honours degrees in a range of areas eg, History, English and Law.

Like ie, and et al, eg, is rarely used outside formal academic writing. In marketing copy eg can often be replaced by including or for example: We offer Combined Honours degrees in a range of areas, including History, English and Law.

Not elearning or eLearning

Not E-mail and e-mail

Addresses should be all lower case with Exeter written out in full (eg not, except where it means the address won’t work such as Do not include a full stop when the address comes at the end of a sentence.

Don’t refer to a personal email address unless that specific person has to act as the contact and agrees to do so. It is better to use a generic address (eg, so that getting a reply doesn’t depend on one individual being at work.

An en dash is longer than a hyphen. Use with spaces in the same way that you’d use brackets to indicate parentheses: The two campuses in Exeter – Streatham and St Luke’s – are just a mile apart. (Not to be confused with Em dashes — which are longer and used without spaces in American usage.) Use en dashes without spaces in place of 'to': pages 13–25, 1939–45, Monday–Friday.

Also use without spaces in place of ‘and’: cost–benefit analysis, on–off switch.

En-suite NOT ensuite or en suite

Should have no full stop after it, except at the end of a sentence, and should be preceded by a comma.

The exclamation mark should be largely avoided in professional writing. Whilst widely use in informal communication, such as Facebook statuses and email messages to friends and family, exclamation marks in formal text can come across as shouting at your audience or, as F. Scott Fitzgerald said, like laughing at your own jokes. In most cases it isn't needed as the text itself should clearly convey any appropriate force or emphasis. If you overuse these they lose their impact anyway.

You don't need to use them after a call to action - the 'call' will work for itself, and adding an exclamation mark will just irritate your audience or draw their derision.


Join us at our conference.

Join us at our conference!

F - H

Not Feed-back

Don’t hyphenate or write as one word. Likewise with field course and field trip.

First name, forename Not Christian name.

Flagship NOT flag-ship or flag ship.

Focused Not Focussed

Use with a lower case 't' for 'the', eg, the Forum.

Forum Library

No longer the Main Library.

  • Don’t use full stops in acronyms or initial letters (eg, Professor A N Other)
  • Do not add full stops to the end of sentences where the sentence ends in a web or email address
  • Do not use in headings or sub-headings
  • Only use single spaces between sentences after a full stop

In order to bring about greater consistency in the terminology used between different funding awards, the Research Faculty have approved the following guidance for naming awards:

  • Scholarship – a funding award which is usually competitive, with eligibility based on criteria other than finance eg, academic or sporting ability.
  • Bursary – a funding award for a taught programme only. Eligibility is based on financial criteria or financial criteria plus additional criteria. 
  • Progression scholarship – a funding award only available to University of Exeter undergraduates progressing directly to postgraduate study at Exeter.
  • PhD studentship – an award funded through one of the UK research councils, another external funder, or through the University, which covers the cost of fees and a research-council equivalent maintenance grant for the duration of the PhD. Students are not required to carry out any form of work in return.
  • PhD bursary – a partial funding award which may require the student to carry out work in return for the bursary payment. For example, a student may be required to undertake up to 180 hours teaching in return for the PhD bursary. A PhD bursary requiring teaching in return, is paid through Payroll in addition to Student Finance. The teaching is paid at an hourly rate through payroll; this figure is then deducted from the PhD bursary total, and the remainder is then paid by Student Finance.

If you are unsure whether you should advertise a PhD studentship or PhD bursary, please contact Student Finance on x3890.

Use initial capital when referring to a specific one: the British Government resigned last night.

Use lower case for all adjectival contexts: a government minister, government expenditure.


Use Sentence case rather than Title Case, unless the heading is a proper name:

  • Eg, Our research excellence, not Our Research Excellence
  • Staff facilities and activities, not Staff Facilities and Activities


  • Research Services (the name of the service)
  • The Business School (name of an academic unit of the University)


Style: The style for all headings and subheadings in the University website uses Sentence case rather than Title Case, unless the heading is a proper name:

  • Eg, Our research excellence, not Our Research Excellence
  • Staff facilities and activities, not Staff Facilities and Activities


  • Research Services (the name of the service)
  • The Business School (name of an academic unit of the University)

Structure: Headings and subheadings on webpages should be marked up using the correct logical structure. The main heading for your page needs to be marked as Heading 1, with subheadings for it marked as Heading 2, subheadings of Heading 2 as Heading 3 and so on. 

In the University’s web content management system, some content templates have a ‘Heading’ field for the main page heading and will automatically output it as Heading 1. For Headings 2-6 in the main body of your page, you need to highlight your heading text and select the appropriate heading level from the drop-down formatting menu at the top left of the toolbar. If you need to use a template without the separate Heading 1 field, then you will also need to use the formatting menu to select Heading 1 for your main heading at the top of the page.

Head start Not headstart.

Healthcare NOT health-care or health care.

Help Desk Not Helpdesk or Help-desk.

Never use ‘here’ as link text. It is particularly bad practice to use it many times on a page to link to different webpages.

Link text should describe the target of the link:

  • Eg, For information on how to get to any of our campuses, visit our Maps and directions pages
  • not Maps and directions for all our campuses can be found here

higher education Not Higher Education.

Be aware of:

  • licence (noun); license (verb) - a driving licence; a licensed driver
  • affect (to produce an effect on); effect (to bring about, to accomplish) - She affected illness/affectation; to have an effect on/effective
  • stationery (paper, pens etc); stationary (not moving)
  • your (possessive); you’re (you are)
  • our (possessive); are (being - we are)
  • their (possessive); they’re (they are)

Use a hyphen when two or more words are used as one adjective (ie, to describe a noun):

  • broad-based training
  • rapidly-expanding business
  • a one-to-two year programme
  • up-to-date facilities
  • state-of-the-art laboratories
  • cutting-edge research
  • world-class teaching

I - N

ie, NOT i.e.

Interdisciplinary NOT inter-disciplinary or inter disciplinary.

Use the British -ise rather than the American -ize in words such as organise, specialise and finalise. NB some rare exceptions: capsize, synthesizer

Abbreviation for Information Technology. Not I.T.

  • It’s means it is or it has.
  • Its means belonging to it, as in his, hers or its.
  • Never use an apostrophe when ‘its’ is used in the possessive sense: ‘The University is conveniently located; its main campus is within 10 minutes of the town centre.’

Lemon Grove Not Lemongrove.

Use ‘license’ for a verb, but ‘licence’ for a noun – eg, ‘we will license this software’, but ‘the cost of the licence is £100’.

On webpages it is best practice to use a short self-explanatory phrase as a link rather than to show a URL – eg, ‘Find out more about the Marketing team’ rather than ‘see’. This helps both users and your search engine rankings, since you are using the key words users and search engine robots are looking for in your link text instead of URLs.

Make your link text clearly describe where clicking the link will take you, eg, ‘Go back to the home page’, ‘Visit our virtual tours site’ or ‘Find out more about our services for students’.

Avoid vague link text that doesn’t make sense out of context, eg, ‘Read more’, ‘Find out more’, ‘Click here’, or worst of all ‘here’. These may confuse people using screen-reading software, which can be set to just speak the link text on a page, and can also be difficult for those scanning a page for relevant onward links.

If there is a hierarchy or logical order in the list then it should be followed, if not then items should be in alphabetical order.

Use ‘log in’ for a verb, and ‘login’ for a noun or adjective – eg, ‘to log in, enter your password’, but ‘your login name is...’ and ‘after the last successful login’.

The shopping facility in the Forum. Don't capitalise 'the' before it, eg, the Market Place.

Masters Not Master’s

Micro-organisms NOT micro organisms or microorganisms.

Write out million in full with a space before it, and abbreviate to 'm' only for headlines: £4.3 million, or in a headline ‘University wins grant of £4.3m.’

Titles of modules should be in Title Case and separated by semi-colons when in a list. Module titles should be formatted in italics when included in body text but not in titles/headings.

Module Not unit.

Multidisciplinary NOT multi-disciplinary or multi disciplinary.

In student recruitment publications, where staff are listed by name, give the full first name (eg, Professor Abel Other NOT Professor A N Other).

Navigation labels on the new University website design use Sentence case rather than Title Case, unless the label is a proper name:


  • Visit the University
    • Where to stay
  • How to find us
  • Our beautiful campuses
  • Campus facilities
  • Exeter and the South West

Navigation labels for sites built and managed in the content management system are automatically generated from the names given to sections within the system, so you must ensure these are consistently sentence case unless they are a formal title of an academic unit, programme, module or similar.

Use italics for titles and use The in the title if appropriate: The TimesThe Sunday TimesThe GuardianThe IndependentThe Daily TelegraphThe Sunday TelegraphThe ObserverThe Times Higher Education Supplement.

NB exceptions: Financial TimesDaily MirrorDaily MailDaily ExpressExpress and EchoWestern Morning News.

Always use figures for percentages, currency, and measurements.

Otherwise one to nine should be spelt out; any number from 10 upwards should be in figures. But spell out numbers that begin a sentence, regardless of any inconsistency this may create. (One hundred and ten men and 103 women will graduate this year.) With numbers of four or more digits, use commas after every three digits, eg, 1,000; 10,000,000.

For ordinal numerals use 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and so on in headlines, bulleted lists, and when referring to the University's positioning in league tables and other rankings. In general body text when not referring to league tables or rankings use first, second, third, fourth and so on from first to ninth; from 10th upwards should be in figures. ('In the third year of the programme there is an option to study abroad.' 'The College of Humanities is 65th in the world.')

O - R 

Use initial capital letters when referring to the University’s Offer-Holder Visit Days.

Use a hyphen in 'Offer-Holder'.

Online Not on-line

Use initial capital letters when referring to the University’s specific Open Days – otherwise use lowercase.

The page titles for webpages within the content management system are generated automatically from the section names assigned within T4. These page titles have the format ‘Section name – College/Department/Service/etc – University of Exeter’. The first part of the page title is generated by the section name, the second and third components are coded into central styles.

You should ensure that the section names you choose are clear labels for the content of the relevant page containing priority key words users are likely to be looking for. This helps make the page easier for both people and search engine robots to find.

Be aware the section names also display as the navigation label for the page, so need to serve both purposes effectively.

Palaeobotany Not paleobotany.

The University's main campus in Cornwall is the Penryn Campus, not the Cornwall Campus, Tremough, UEC or the University of Exeter in Cornwall.

See C for information about the campuses in Cornwall and how to refer to them.

Write out in full as two words except in headlines when % can be used.

% should always be used in headings and lists.

Personal tutor NOT Personal Tutor; this is not a proper noun and therefore shouldn’t have initial capital letters.

Certain words change their spelling when pluralised:

potato - potatoes 
tomato - tomatoes

Some have odd, or irregular spellings in the plural:

ox - oxen 
child - children 
woman - women

Words ending in <y> normally drop the <y>and add <ies>:


Words ending in <vowel + y> take the usual <s>:

trolley - trolleys

One word, not hyphenated.

Adding a prefix to a word does not alter its basic spelling:

  • dis / appear
  • dis / organised (not unorganised)
  • pro / claim
  • un / necessary

Program for computers; Programme otherwise. We refer to our individual degrees as programmes (of study).

Make sure the full stop comes inside the closing speech marks: “We’re very excited about this new area of research.”

Use double quotation marks for reported speech.

Single quotes should be used to introduce a new idea or concept. They should only be used the first time the word appears: Universities are increasingly called upon to develop ‘third leg’ activities.

Singles quotes should also be used when giving an example that is not a direct quotation.

ResNet Not 'Resnet', 'resnet', 'Res Net', etc

Role-play NOT roleplay or role play.

S - T 

spring, summer, autumn, winter

NOT Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter

Screenwriting NOT screen-writing or screen writing.

Indicates a pause shorter than a colon, but longer than a comma.

It splits phrases that are grammatically complete (ie they can stand alone as a sentence) but which are very close in meaning:

This is a very isolated place; I get quite lonely.

Use semi-colons to distinguish phrases listed after a colon if commas will not do the job clearly. Do not use at the end of bullet-pointed sentences.

The first word in a title is in upper case, as in an ordinary sentence, and the others are lower case. There is no need to use initial capital letters for any words other than the first word and any proper nouns.

For example: An experience for life.

This is as opposed to Title Case, where each word has a capital letter.

Student Information Desk. Located physically in the Forum and accessible online and via the phone, it is the way students access front line services from the Student Services Centre. 

Not SID desk (this is a tautology because the D already stands for desk).

There should only be a single space after full stops, colons, etc. Only use single line spacing.

Please ensure that you run a spell check and grammar check on all documents before submitting them to Marketing and to the Design Studio.

Web: You can run a spell check in T4 Site Manager from the editing toolbar and preview your webpages to proofread them before publishing to the website.

State-of-the-art NOT state of the art.

Facility based in the Forum. Incorporates Career Zone plus other front line services including:

  • Student Fees
  • Accommodation
  • Study Skills Support
  • Disability Support
  • International Student Support
  • Multi-Faith Chaplaincy
  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Exams
  • Graduation

< - ly> - This suffix creates an adverb. It is straightforward and added to most words:

freely; lively; quickly

< - ing> - This is added straight onto the ends of words, except those which end in <e>. Words that end in <e> + <-ing> = drop the <e>

moving; diving; placing

If a word ends in a consonant and the suffix begins with a vowel, the consonant is doubled:

fit - fitting; occur - occurred; big - bigger

These suffixes all double a consonant: <-ing, -er, -est, -ed>.

Take away NOT take-away or takeaway

Teamwork NOT team-work.

Use the international format of +44 (0) 1392 72xxxx.

Term time Not term-time or termtime.

When indicating the time or duration of an event, use the 24-hour clock and the format as follows:


For durations of time, use:

09:00 to 11:30.

All the words in a title are capitalised, except for small words inatoftheandon etc; for example, Film and Literature: Textural Transformations. This is as opposed to Sentence case whereby only the first word is in upper case.

U - Z

One word, not hyphenated.

Web: On webpages, do not use underlining to emphasise a word or phrase – use bold or italic instead, although be sparing with this. Underlining on webpages means hypertext links and if it isn’t a link it can confuse webpage readers.

When conveying quantities of units, such as kilometres or kilograms, the unit itself should be abbreviated, if appropriate, and positioned directly adjacent to the quantity, ie 20km, 3kg. If not abbreviating the unit, a space should be left between the quantity and the unit, ie 4 miles.

University of Exeter Not Exeter University


with hyphens.

Username Not User name.

Print NOT Only include http:// if the address does not contain www. Note that ‘exeter’ should be written in full except where it means the URL won’t work, eg  NOT Do not add a full stop when the web address comes at the end of a sentence.


Web addresses on websites are always linked to the relevant site. Using text for your links is better for both users and search engines. Supply proper text which clearly and accurately describes the destination of the link. Avoid using web addresses themselves as link text in web content unless you really have to, in which case follow the advice for print above.

All lower case unless at the start of a sentence.

Note website not web site, and webpage not web page

Weekday NOT week day or week-day

One word, not hyphenated.

West Country Not Westcountry

wifi Not WiFi, wi-fi

If used as an adjective (to describe a noun - probably the University of Exeter or one of our departments) then use as two words joined with a hyphen.

See hyphens.

One word, not hyphenated.