DO NOT USE BLOCK CAPITALS FOR LARGE AMOUNTS OF TEXT AS IT’S QUITE HARD TO READ.
Always use lower case, even in page titles. The exceptions to this are:
- proper nouns
- the titles of organisations
- the names of directorates or programmes (for example: ‘Clinical Triage Platform’)
- trade names
- the first letter of a page or section title in a document (but not the following words unless they take a capital for other reasons)
- religious holidays (‘Christmas’ or ‘Easter’) but use lower case for seasons (‘summer’ and ‘autumn’)
- the titles of publications (for example, books, films and papers)
Capitalise all of the words in the first part of the title (for example: ‘Statistics on NHS Stop Smoking Services in England’). Supplementary parts of a title should use lower case (‘Quarterly Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Data Set Reports – Summary statistics and related information’). Prepositions (for example, ‘on’), articles (‘the’) and conjunctions (‘and’) of fewer than four letters should not be put in capitals.
See also quotation marks on the use of single quotes rather than italics when referring to a publication.
- job titles (but not descriptions of job roles)
Capitalise when using a specific job title (for example: ‘Melanie White, Director of Finance at Company XYZ’ or ‘Stanley Black, Non-Executive Director, NHS Digital’).
Use lower case when talking about a role rather than a job title (for example: ‘the finance director of company XYZ’ or ‘NHS Digital’s non-executive directors’).
- the names of political parties
Use lower case when referring to government (for example: ‘the government policy on trees’ or ‘the government has passed legislation on public benches’). Only capitalise if using the full title of a government (for example: ‘Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’).
Capitalise ‘House of Lords’, ‘House of Commons’, ‘Parliament’ and ‘Civil Service’, but use lower case when talking about civil servants or parliamentary procedure.
Use lower case for white papers, the opposition, the minister, the cabinet or the secretary of state. However, capitalise when talking about to a specific department (‘The Department of Health and Social Care’), a specific body’s name (‘The Public Administration Select Committee’) or a specific job title (‘The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care’).
Clichés bore people and get in the way of communication.
A survey by the Plain English Campaign found the most annoying cliché in the English language was ‘at the end of the day’, followed closely by phrases like ‘ballpark figure’, ‘blue sky thinking’, ‘bottom line’, and ‘value-added’.
As William Safire said: “Last, but not least, avoid clichés like the plague”.
A colon is used:
- at the end of a lead-in line before a list or bullet points
- directly before a direct quote (do not use a comma)
- after a complete sentence to connect to a second clause or sentence that explains or follows from it (for example: ‘She got what she deserved: a promotion’)
Only capitalise the first word after a colon if it is a proper noun, the start of a complete sentence or the start of a quote.
Do not use a colon when introducing a quote within a quote, use a comma and single quotes.
Commas help guide readers through the meaning of a sentence.
They can be used to mark out clauses or phrases that are not integral to the meaning of the rest of the sentence. Note the difference between the meanings of ‘NHS Digital staff who do not read our stylebook should not be communicating in public’ and ‘NHS Digital staff, who do not read our stylebook, should not be communicating in public’.
They can also separate adjectives qualifying a noun (for example: ‘a small, profitable company’). Don’t use a comma if the last adjective before a noun is an integral part of an established noun phrase: ‘a cheap personal computer’.
Finally, commas are often used to separate elements in a series: ‘Our systems are fast, resilient and secure’. It is not always necessary to put commas before the final ‘and’ in a list, but you should do this if it makes your meaning clearer (for example, ‘Whitby is famous for vampires, Captain Cook, fish and chips, and jet’).
Don’t use too many commas. If a sentence is getting weighed down, consider using dashes.
See dashes and hyphens.
A contraction is a short form of a word or combination of words.
We use contractions such as ‘you’re’, ‘we’ll’ and ‘we’re’.
- negative contractions like can't and don't - many users find them harder to read, or misread them as the opposite of what they say
- should’ve, could’ve, would’ve, they’ve - these can be hard to read
Write 'coronavirus' in lower case.
We use the full term 'coronavirus' (COVID-19)' when we first mention the illness. After that, we use 'coronavirus' as that is what most people call it and search for.
In some contexts, you may need to use language more precisely: ‘COVID-19’ is the infectious disease caused by ‘SARS-CoV-2’, which is a type of ‘coronavirus’.