News & Media Editorial Style
The below style guide provides some guidelines for clear, consistent and contemporary writing in the context of Latest News stories, media releases and other external communication at the University of Wollongong.
Like the English language, this guide is fluid and evolving – and sometimes comes down to one personal preference over another for the sake of consistency, so if you have any queries or comments please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
a/an, a is used before words that start with a consonant sound but an precedes words that start with a vowel sound
acronyms, too many acronyms can make your writing confusing. Use shortened words or acronyms only to avoid repetition or where space is limited (e.g. in a headline). Use 'an' before acronyms if they start with a vowel sound, for example, 'an ATAR of 99.5' but 'a UN official'. Do not place full stops between letters of acronyms. Spell out the full names of organisations in the first reference, with the acronym following in parentheses, but not if there are no subsequent references to the name.
adaptation, not adaption
adviser, not advisor
ageing, not aging
alternative means one or the other; alternate means switching between two things
alumni when referring to more than one former student; alumnus is the male singular, alumna the female singular. Consider replacing the word alumni/alumnus with alternatives like graduate or former UOW student.
am/pm, no full stops no spaces: 9.45am or 3pm.
amid rather than amidst
among rather than amongst
ATAR – Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, a number (not a mark) that allows the comparison of students who have completed different combinations of HSC courses used to rank and select school leavers for admission to tertiary courses. Replaced the UAI (Universities Admission Index) in 2009.
Australian Government is the preferred term; the term Commonwealth Government is no longer widely used.
Australian/American spelling. Australian spelling should be used for words like harbour, colour, favour, centre and metre (unless you’re referring to a parking meter) – even if your spell-checking tool says otherwise. Also see the entry on z/s words.
Bachelors degree, upper-case and no apostrophe
barbecue, not barbeque
biannual/biennual, to avoid confusion it is best to replace the words with the short phrases that describe their meanings – i.e. biannual means twice a year and biennual means once every two years.
car park, not carpark
clichés - in university stories and media releases, significant discoveries in research happen regularly but they can’t all be groundbreaking, world-class, world-first discoveries or the “holy grail” of the scientific world—make sure you can substantiate all these types of claims.
Avoid lazy writing by limiting the following terms and phrases (just write what you really mean instead, or look in a thesaurus for the clearest description of the word you’re after):
- steep learning curve
- fast track
- raise the bar
- in the pipeline
- behind closed doors
- the jury is still out
- the bottom line
- think outside the box
- alive and well
- around the clock
- push the envelope
- at the end of the day (unless you really mean at the end of a day)
continuous means 'without ceasing', continually means 'repeatedly'
convener, not convenor
cooperate, cooperative, no hyphen
coordinate, coordinator, no hyphen
dates, should be written in the below style (no ordinal numbers e.g. 1st, 2nd, 3rd)
- Wednesday, 30 March, 2010
- Wednesday, 30 March
- 30 March 2010
- March 2010
- March this year or March last year
Deputy Vice-Chancellor is always capitalised and hyphenated
disability - many people with disabilities understandably resent the impersonal terms used to describe them because these ignore their individuality and imply that a disability necessarily means general incapacity to perform many tasks and activities. We are all differently able. It is important that we avoid stereotyping and depersonalisation by focusing on the person, rather than emphasising the disability. The term people with disabilities is therefore preferred to the disabled, the handicapped, or disabled people, because it is recognised that a disability is only one characteristic of an individual and does not indicate a general lack of ability or capacity. For more information see staff.uow.edu.au/eed
disc/disk, this word has a spelling discrepancy not widely agreed upon. Generally disc is the recognised Australian/British spelling and refers to any thin, flat, circular plate, as well as musical compact discs or anatomical terms (e.g. intervertebral disc). Disk is the American spelling but is common in Australia for computer usage (for example hard disk).
disinterested means unbiased; uninterested means indifferent.
effect is used mainly as a noun, whereas affect is the verb
e.g. note full stops
email, no hyphen
enclose, rather than inclose
enrol, enrolment, enrolling and enrolled, not variations of same
etc., better to use written phrase such as 'and so on'.
face-to-face, with hyphens
faculty, capitalise when referring to a title (e.g. Faculty of Commerce), otherwise use lower case (the faculty held an awards night)
fax, not facsimile
federal government, a broad term for the Australian government, does not need to be capitalised.
fewer/less, use fewer when referring to numbers of individuals or individual items, less for quantities (for example "fewer than 20 people attended" but "the queue stretched for less than 100 metres")
focus, focused, focusing
fundraising, one word
government, Australian Government is the preferred term; federal government does not need to be capitalised. Capitalise when referring to the official titles but use lower case for generic and plural references e.g. “the Australian Government has announced that...” but “the government proposes to...”). Similarly, government bodies (e.g. departments/parliaments) should be capitalised when using the official name, otherwise use lower case. Use lower case when referring to more than one body.
groundbreaking, always one word. Can be used in the context of research breaking new ground (see clichés entry for further information) or for a ceremony where soil is broken to signify the start of building/construction.
headings/headlines, capitalise the first word only unless using titles or proper nouns, just like in a normal sentence, e.g. Outstanding contributors to teaching honoured; or Australian Government awards $11.4m funding for UOW.
health care, rather than healthcare
HECS-HELP, part of the federal government's Higher Education Loan Program
home page, rather than home-page or homepage
honorifics, Dr, Cr, Mr, Mrs, St (for Saint) are the only honorifics we shorten, so spell out Professor and Associate Professor in full. Use full title of Associate Professor or Emeritus Professor in the first instance, but shorten to Professor in subsequent instances.
hyphen/dash, an easy to remember rule is that hyphens join and dashes separate. Hyphens are used to join compound nouns and adjectives, for example two-year-old or face-to-face. The dash can also be called an en rule ( – ). En rules in sentences always have spaces before and after them. En rules are also used between ranges of numbers or dates. Use en rules with no spaces around them when joining entities that are the same, eg: 9–11 August. But use spaced en rules when joining complex entities, eg: 31 May – 1 June
i.e. note full stops
indigenous, no caps for generic use (as in 'indigenous to the area') but always capitalise when referring to Indigenous Australians.
initials, no spaces between initials and no full stops: CS Lewis.
international students, use lower-case 'i'
its, possessive e.g. the faculty is holding its annual prize night
it's, a shortened version of it is e.g. it’s going to rain (a good rule to remember the difference between its and it’s is to check if you can replace the apostrophe with an i – i.e. it is)
literally, this means something really happened. Be careful not to misuse, for example it is doubtful that you literally laughed your head off.
Masters degree, upper-case and no apostrophe
numbers, generally the numbers one to nine are spelled out, 10 and above are in numerals: six men, eight boats, 35 kilometres. But use: tens of thousands, a thousand-to-one chance, I’ve told you a hundred times. And always spell out a number if it begins a sentence: Forty days and 40 nights.
organisation (see z/s), unless referring to a proper name, such as the World Health Organization
per cent, two words, only use % in tables, headlines etc.
plain language, the best writing uses short, plain language rather than unnecessary long-winded words. Some examples are:
in excess of
in the event of
postgraduate, one word
Pro Vice-Chancellor is always capitalised and hyphenated
program, in all instances, rather than programme
quotation marks, use double quotation marks (“) not single ones (‘). Only use single quotation marks when you need to quote inside a quote e.g. “I told him ‘Don’t worry’,” Mr Philips said.
said, always use the word said rather than says when quoting in a media release or news story – because you should be writing in the past tense. Also avoid using words like explained, argued, exclaimed etc - said is the most neutral expression. Said comes after a person’s name i.e. “This is very important research,” Professor Wallace said, not “This is very important research,” said Professor Wallace.
semesters, UOW has sessions, Autumn Session and Spring Session
school leaver, two words
specialty, not speciality unless talking about a cook’s finest dishes
titles/positions, university staff have a number of sometimes-lengthy titles. There are many styles you can follow but you should always aim for clarity and brevity. In most cases this means listing a person’s position before you list their name e.g. Faculty of Education Dean Professor Paul Chandler, or Faculty of Law lecturer Ms Jane Smith, or communications lecturer Dr John Smith.
unique, limit the use of this word to cases that are truly unique, that is, they are one of a kind and there is nothing comparable to them. There are also no degrees of uniqueness – something can’t be the “most unique” or “very unique”. Consider substituting words like rare or distinctive.
University of Wollongong – we are always the University of Wollongong or UOW, never Wollongong University or UoW.
university, capitalised when referring to UOW (the University is developing new research in nanobionics) or another specific university, but lower-case for universities in general (Josh was excited to be starting university this year).
Vice-Chancellor is always capitalised and hyphenated
while, rather than whilst
world-class (although this should be avoided where possible – see clichés)
X-ray (capital x)
z/s, Australian English uses S not Z for words like organise, customise, capitalise, symbolise etc. However there are some words, like capsize or resize that always have the Z.
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