Coronavirus: Advice for your organisation 


Volunteering and coronavirus: Supporting the booster campaign and other ways you can help.

Style guide

This guide sets out our approach to written style in online and print content.

It covers:

  • points of style, such as time and numbers
  • spelling and capitalisation of terms we often use
  • common points of grammar and punctuation.

If something isn’t covered here, use the Guardian style guide.

Search the style guide

1. Press Ctrl + F (PC) or ⌘ + F (Mac)

2. Type the term you looking for



Don’t use full points in abbreviations.

  • etc, ie, eg
  • Mr, Ms, Mrs
  • Robert R Barber
  • PhD MSc BA
  • OBE, MBE, DPhil
  • P Parker, T Turner

Initialisms and acronyms

Initialisms are abbreviations that are pronounced as separate letters. You generally write them in capitals.

  • CEO
  • IT
  • OMG

Acronyms are abbreviations that are pronounced as words. Give them an initial capital only.

  • Unicef
  • Navca
  • Defra

Writing in full

If you use an abbreviation more than once, write it in full the first time you use it, with the short version in brackets.

According to the latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) there are …

If a term or organisation name is only used once, just write it in full. Don’t give the abbreviation.

Commonly used abbreviations (such as 'BBC' and 'EU') don’t need to be written in full.

act of parliament

Only use uppercase when using the full title, eg the Lobbying Act.


Not 'advisor'.


When written as a column, don’t use commas at the end of each line.

Society Building
8 All Saints Street
London N1 9RL

When written as a row, use commas to separate each part of the address, apart from town and postcode.

NCVO, Society Building, 8 All Saints Street, London N1 9RL

Never abbreviate street, avenue etc.


Not 'amongst'.

Ampersand (&)

The ampersand, or & symbol, is an abbreviation of 'and'. Only use it when it’s part of an organisation’s official name, eg Bang & Olufsen and Abercrombie & Fitch.

Otherwise, use 'and'.

Correct style

Incorrect style

The jumper was black and white.

The jumper was black & white.


Apostrophes indicate possession.

  • The consultant’s report (if it was written by one consultant)
  • The consultants’ report (if it was written by more than one consultant)

They also show that a letter has been left out.

  • It’s (it is or it has)
  • Don’t (do not)
  • The sky’s the limit (the sky is the limit)

Common mistakes

  • Plurals don’t need apostrophes: five bananas, 1980s, MPs and GPs, not five banana’s, 1980’s, MP’s and GP’s
  • 'Its' means 'belonging to it': 'the fish swam around its tank', not 'the fish swam around it’s tank'.
  • Women’s, men’s and children’s not womens’, mens’ and childrens’ – women, men and children are already plurals that don’t end in S.
  • Possessives for names that end in S usually have an apostrophe followed by another S, eg James’s house, Keats’s poems. If you pronounce the possessive S when saying the word out loud, you should write it too. If you don’t pronounce it, leave it out, eg Ned Flanders’ garden.
  • 'In one day’s time' and 'in four hours’ time', not 'one days time' and 'four hours time'.


Use an appendix to attach additional information to a print or PDF document, rather than including it in the main text.

Each appendix should start on a new page and be labelled A, B, C etc to avoid confusion if there are numbered paragraphs in the main document.

articles of association



backbench, backbencher



Lowercase, even when using a full name, eg the lobbying bill. Use capitals when it becomes an act, eg the Lobbying Act.


See numbers.

board, trustee board


Britain, UK

Short versions of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Great Britain refers only to England, Wales and Scotland.

the budget


Bulleted lists

See lists.


cabinet, shadow cabinet


the Cabinet Office

See government departments.

Capital letters

We use as few capitals as possible.

Capital letters draw the eye. An uncluttered style with few capitals is in keeping with our brand.

In most cases capitals add nothing to the meaning of a word. Our approach for capitals is to use them if they help words get across their meaning; otherwise, don’t use them.

Capitals are mainly used for proper nouns: names of people, places and organisations.

So while you'd capitalise Gloria Hunniford, Burton upon Trent and the Bank of England, there’s no need to capitalise the names of our teams or departments – this would add nothing to their meaning.

There are exceptions, so always check specific entries for guidance (or just use lowercase).

central London

chair, chairwoman, chairman, chairperson

Lowercase; 'chair' is preferable.

chancellor of the exchequer


the Charity Commission

civil servant, civil service


coalition government

Not 'the Coalition'. Avoid this term: 'previous government' or '2010–15 government' are fine, unless you need to draw a distinction.

See government.


Demonstrating and expanding

A colon shows that the sentence which follows it explains, demonstrates or expands on the sentence before it.

Unfortunately the research found that rates of participation are higher among young people from more affluent families: 49% in the most affluent and 38% in the least.

Introducing lists

A colon can introduce a list of items in running text, or a bulleted or numbered vertical list.

I need four things from the supermarket: apples, dog food, porridge and bleach.

I went to the supermarket to buy:

  • apples
  • dog food
  • porridge
  • bleach.


A comma can’t join two independent clauses (ie clauses that stand alone as sentences). You’ll need to use a full stop, semicolon or conjunction (eg and, but, so).

So you can’t say:

A comma can’t join two independent clauses, you’ll need to use full stop, semicolon or coordinating conjunction.

But you can say:

A comma can’t join two independent clauses. You could use full stop.

A comma can’t join two independent clauses; you could use a semicolon.

A comma can’t join two independent clauses, but you could use a conjunction.

the Commons, the House of Commons

And 'the house', not 'the House'.

community interest company

Lowercase. CIC at second mention.

Conservative party

Contact information

When presenting our details in print, use the format below. Even if you don’t include all the details, always follow this order.

Society Building
8 All Saints Street
London N1 9RL
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
020 7713 6161

Registered charity number 225922

On the web it’s better to present contact details in a table. Remember to add links to email address and telephone numbers.


This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


020 7713 6161


020 7713 6300


Capitals for the place name only: Camden council, Manchester city council, Warwick district council, London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.

crowdfunding, crowdsourcing



Full version is 'council for voluntary service' (lowercase).



There are two types of dash: the en dash (–) and the em dash (—). The en dash is the standard British style for a dash.



Use a dash to join two words or numbers that form a range, replacing 'from' and 'to', and 'between' and 'and'.

The shop is open Monday–Friday, 09.30–17.30.

Replacing 'to' or 'and'

A dash replaces 'to' or 'and' between words of equal importance.

Patient–doctor confidentiality/Doctor–patient confidentiality


London–Edinburgh train/Edinburgh–London train

Setting off and separating

You can also use dashes to separate a word, phrase or clause from the main clause, in the same way as commas and parentheses.

Mandated work placements have been very controversial in the past – and will continue to be so.


There are two issues – aside from the financial viability of the contract – that you should consider.

Confusion with hyphens

A hyphen (-) should not be used in any of the following examples.


London-Edinburgh train

There are two issues - aside from the financial viability of the contract - that you should consider.

Setting up a keyboard shortcut

Although Microsoft Word sometimes automatically turns hyphens into en dashes, take control of your dash use by setting up a keyboard shortcut.

In Word:

  1. select the insert tab on the ribbon menu at the top
  2. select symbol (right-hand side of the ribbon) then more symbols
  3. select the special characters tab
  4. select the en dash and click shortcut
  5. press your chosen key combination for the shortcut (alt+n is a good one – it probably isn’t assigned to anything already)
  6. click assign.



Correct style

Incorrect style


1 January 2018

1st January 2018

1 January, 2018

January 1 2018


1990s, 80s, mid-60s

1990’s, 80’s, mid 60s


21st century

21st century

Periods of time

2006–8, 1983–91



2006 – 2008


Financial years



Departments and teams

Always write team and department names in lowercase.

The digital and communications team is in the planning and resources department.


We aim to use positive language when talking about disability, avoiding outdated terms that stereotype or stigmatise.

Terms to avoid

Preferred terms

'the disabled'

Disabled people

'the deaf'

Deaf people

wheelchair-bound, in a wheelchair

wheelchair user, uses a wheelchair

victim of, suffering from, afflicted by

person who has or person with



See geography and regions.


No full points.

Avoid when writing for the web, as it can be pronounced as ‘egg’ by screen readers. Use 'for example', 'such as', or any similar terms that fits.


Use an ellipsis (…) to show that you’ve left out some text. Leave a space before and after it.

This report identifies and explains forces and trends … that are likely to have an impact on the future of voluntary organisations.

Make sure you’ve not changed the meaning of a quote by leaving out text.


The word 'email' is lowercase and not hyphenated.

Email addresses are always lowercase.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

On webpages and in digital documents, make sure that email addresses are hyperlinked.

In print, always remove the underline from an email address by right clicking it and choosing 'remove hyperlink'.

employer supported volunteering

European commission

Don’t abbreviate to 'EC'. Say 'the commission' after first mention.

Exclamation marks

Make you look like you’re shouting! Or overexcited!

Avoid them. Impact should be expressed in the writing itself; if you need to use an exclamation mark, you should probably rewrite the text.



Noun. 'Feed back' is a verb.

fill in (a form)

Not 'fill out', which is American English.

focus, focused, focusing

Not 'focussed' and 'focussing'.

Footnotes and endnotes

Footnotes and endnotes are only used in print and PDF publications, such as reports. Use them when the text has a lot of references.


In most cases footnote and endnote indicators (like this1) should follow all punctuation apart from dashes and brackets.

… protecting the most vulnerable in society and creating a system that incentivises work.1

foreign secretary


freedom of information

But 'Freedom of Information Act'.

Full stops

Only one space between the full stop at the end of a sentence and the start of a new sentence. Like this.  But not like this.

Funding Central




Use 'they', 'them' and 'their' as singular pronouns when you don’t know someone’s gender or you’re referring to someone who doesn’t identify as either male or female.

If you speak to a member on the phone, you should check their details on CRM. If they’re not on there, you should add them.

Never use 'he', 'him' or 'his' as generic pronouns when you don’t know a person’s gender. Avoid 'he or she' and 'she or he', which look clunky and awkward.

Where possible, reword your sentence so that it doesn’t need a singular pronoun.

Check members’ details on CRM when you speak to them on the phone.

Use of man

Don’t use the word 'man' generically, eg manpower or mankind. Replace with non-gendered words such as 'workforce' or 'humankind'.

Avoid using 'man' as a verb, eg manning the office. Use an alternative such as 'staffing the office'.

Avoid use of 'man' in job titles such as 'chairman', which should be replaced with 'chair'.

Mrs, Mr, Miss, Ms

If someone hasn’t expressed a preference, use Mr and Ms.

general election


Geography and regions

  • north, south, east, west
  • south-east, north-west, north-north-east
  • the south-west, the north
  • south-west England, east London, north Wales
  • the East End, the Middle East, Central America, South America


Always lowercase: the government, the UK government, the French government.

Refer to our current government as 'the government', not 'the Conservative government', unless you need to draw a distinction.

government departments

Government departments usually take the in front of their name (eg the Cabinet Office, the Treasury, the Home Office).

Leave out 'the' when using abbreviations (eg in letters to key ministers at BIS, DWP and DCLG, NCVO draws attention to …), but don’t use acronyms that may be unclear (eg CO for the Cabinet Office and HO for the Home Office).

First mention

Abbreviation after first mention

the Cabinet Office

None – always use in full

the Home Office

None – always use in full

the Foreign Office

None – always use in full

the Treasury 

None – always use in full

the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills


the Department for Communities and Local Government

the DCLG

the Department for Education

the DfE

the Department of Energy and Climate Change


the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs


the Department for International Development


the Department for Transport

the DfT

the Department for Work and Pensions

the DWP

the Department of Health

the DH

the Ministry of Defence

the MoD

the Ministry of Justice

the MoJ


So 'grassroots organisations', not 'grass-roots organisations'.

Great Britain

Only refers to England, Scotland and Wales, not Northern Ireland.

green paper


Green party



Whether you’re writing for the web or print, headings give your content structure. An outline of your content using just its headings should give a clear idea of what it’s about.

They make it easier to scan – not only with the eye, but also for search engines (like Google) and assistive tools such as screen readers.

Choosing carefully worded subheadings is important. Search engines treat words in headings, particularly in your primary heading (heading 1), as being more significant.


All headings and subheadings should have initial capitals only for the:

  • first word
  • proper nouns
  • first word after a colon.

Creating structure

Headings are organised into levels: heading 1, heading 2, heading 3 etc.

Think of your document or webpage as a book. You should use:

  • heading 1 as the title of your book
  • heading 2 to split your document up into chapters or sub-sections
  • heading 3 to sub-divide your chapters, and so on.

This is an example of using headings to create a document’s structure:

[H1] Cheese

   [H2] Hard cheese

        [H3] Cheddar

        [H3] Parmesan

    [H2]  Soft cheese

        [H3] Camembert

        [H3] Brie


Not hyphenated.

Home Office

home secretary



Adjectives made up of more than one word

Use a hyphen to join two or more words serving as a single adjective before a noun (known as a compound adjective).

  • The well-known politician
  • An up-to-date guide
  • User-generated content

When the compound adjective is after the noun, you don’t need to hyphenate it.

  • The politician was well known.
  • The guide is up to date.
  • The content is user generated.

If the first word in a compound adjective is an adverb ending in ly, it doesn’t need a hyphen: so a 'harshly worded letter', not a 'harshly-worded letter'.

Nouns made up of more than one word

Generally, when two or more words serve as a single noun, they aren’t hyphenated.

  • Decision making happens in January.
  • In the long term we’ll be changing our plan.
  • How can we take part in policy making?


Hyphens are used in many words that begin with prefixes, such as 'ex-minister' and 're-enter'.

Some words that once included hyphens no longer do (eg reorganise), so check a dictionary if you’re not sure.


Use hyphens in spelt-out numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine.



No full points.

Used to clarify meaning, but not always well understood. Try to use alternatives (such as 'that is') or reword the sentence so you don’t need it.

Inclusive language

Our writing must always be non-discriminatory and show sensitivity to the people that we’re talking to.

Inclusive language does not exclude, stereotype or trivialise people because of disability, ethnic background, gender, race or sexuality.

Language is constantly evolving as society's attitudes and practices change, so be aware of new ways of describing our diverse society in non-discriminatory ways.

See disability, gender, race and ethnicity, and sexuality.

Institute for Volunteering Research

'For' not 'of'. IVR at second mention.



Investing in Volunteers

IiV at second mention (not IIV).

Investing in Volunteers for Employers

IiVE at second mention (not IIVE).


In print, italics are used for many different reasons, including writing book titles and foreign words.

Avoid them when writing for the web, as italic text is less clear on a screen.


Job titles

When used with a person’s name and place of work to form a title (eg in an email signature or a delegate list for an event), initial capitals should be used. The order is name, job title, place of work.

Greg Lamyman 
Brand and Content Officer, NCVO

In running text, don’t use capitals.

NCVO’s brand and content officer is Greg Lamyman.

Jobcentre Plus

jobseeker's allowance





King’s Cross

With an apostrophe.

Kings Place

No apostrophe.


Labour party

Liberal Democrats


Noun. 'License' is the verb.



When a link is at the end of a full sentence, but is not the whole sentence, use a full stop after it. The full stop shouldn’t be part of the link.

If the link is a full sentence, don’t use a full stop.

Correct style

Incorrect style

Read more about it in my blog.

Read more about it in my blog.

Read more about it in my blog

Read more about it in my blog.

Link text

Link text should be meaningful and tell the user where they’ll be taken when they click it. Never use meaningless link text such as 'click here'.

Correct style

Incorrect style

Learn about board evaluations in the governance section of our Knowhow website.

Learn more about board evaluations here.


If a link leads to a download, put the file format and size in brackets after it, without making it part of the linked text. Use a comma after the file format.

If the file size is in kilobytes, round it to the nearest 10; if it’s in megabytes, round it to one decimal place.

Correct style

Incorrect style

Download our Road Ahead report (pdf, 30KB)

Download our Road Ahead report (pdf 27KB)

Phone numbers

All phone numbers should be linked as this make it easier for people to call us when viewing our contact details on a mobile device.

Add a phone number link the same way you’d add a link to a webpage. A phone link has the format tel:02077136161, just as a website has the format


Information is clearer, easier to scan and more memorable when it’s presented in a vertical list.

Bulleted lists

Use a bulleted list when the order of the items doesn’t matter.

I went to the supermarket to buy:

  • apples
  • dog food
  • porridge
  • bleach.

The list above is not in alphabetical order – this shows that the sequence isn’t important. You could also group different types of thing in a list together (eg food items and non-food items). For a list in marketing copy, you’ll probably put the most important benefits or features first.

Whatever you choose, make sure there’s a reason for the order.

Numbered lists

Use a numbered list when the items have a sequence, such as steps in a process.

To make tea you need to:

  1. put the teabag in a mug
  2. add boiling water to the mug
  3. take out the teabag after five minutes
  4. add a splash of milk.

Punctuation and capitalisation

If the items in your list continue lead-in statement, use lowercase for the first letter in each point, with a full stop after the final item.

I went to the supermarket to buy:

  • apples
  • dog food
  • porridge
  • bleach.

If the items in your list are fragments (so not full sentences) that don’t continue a lead-in sentence, use uppercase for the first letter in each point, with no full stops after any items.

I bought the following things at the supermarket.

  • Apples
  • Dog food
  • Porridge
  • Bleach

This rule would also apply when the list directly follows a heading.

Things I bought in the supermarket

  • Apples
  • Dog food
  • Porridge
  • Bleach

If the items in your list are full sentences that don’t continue a lead-in sentence, use uppercase for the first letter in each point, with full stops at the end of each item.

I like to make tea in the following way.

  1. I put the teabag in a mug.
  2. I add boiling water to the mug.
  3. I leave the tea to brew for five minutes.
  4. I add a splash of milk.

living wage

But the 'Living Wage Foundation'.

local authority


log in, log on, log out, log off

Verbs. 'Login' is a noun.

So you 'log in to the website' with your 'user login'.

Lords, House of Lords

lottery, national lottery

But the 'Big Lottery Fund'.



Lowercase, even when talking about the NCVO manifesto.


Abbreviate commonly known units when used with numerals. Never spell out the numbers, even if this breaks the numbers rule.

Don’t use a space between the number and abbreviation.

Correct style

Incorrect style


Four kilograms


6 kilometres

6ft 2in

6 foot 2 inches

6’ 2”


10 MB

member, NCVO member

membership, NCVO membership

But 'Membership Extra' and 'Community Membership'.

members’ area

A part of the NCVO website that only members can access. Not 'member’s area' or 'members area'.

Members’ Assembly


memorandum of understanding



See time.


See numbers.

minister, ministers


Midlands, east Midlands

But West Midlands.


Lowercase if you spell it out: member of parliament.


  • Use £ and p, not pounds and pence
  • £1, not £1.00 (unless appearing in same context as other fractional amounts, eg £2.50, £3.25)­
  • 99p, not £0.99
  • £1.50
  • Commas in thousands: £1,000
  • Abbreviate millions to m and billions to bn, eg £10m (not £10,000,000 or ten million pounds) and £3.2bn.
  • Use lowercase when writing a currency in full, eg euro, pound, dollar.
  • Write non-English currencies in full in body text (eg yen) but use symbols in tables or captions (eg ¥)
  • Dollars are assumed to be US unless otherwise stated (eg NZ$10)




Organisation names are singular: 'Guide Dogs has launched', not 'Guide Dogs have launched'.

Use the name that the organisation itself uses, so refer to 'the City Bridge Trust', not 'The City Bridge Trust' (unless it starts a sentence). Check its website if you’re not sure.


The first time someone is introduced by name, make sure that their title or position is clear.

Greg Lamyman, brand and content officer at NCVO, commented that …

Avoid initials and middle initials unless the person is best known by them.

Titles and honours

In most cases, use a person’s full name without a prefix, eg John Johnson, not Mr John Johnson. However, where necessary use Mr or Ms (not Miss or Mrs, unless someone has preference for either of these).

You should abbreviate common titles, eg Mr, Ms and Dr, but Professor and Reverend should be written in full. Do not use punctuation with abbreviated titles.

If someone uses a particular title or honour with their name (eg prefixes such as Dr, Professor, Lord and Dame, or suffixes such as OBE and CBE) make sure that you use it too.

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO, said …


Never use 'the' in front of NCVO and always treat it as singular.

Correct style

Incorrect style

NCVO has launched …

The NCVO has launched …

NCVO believes that …

NCVO believe that …

Full name

NCVO stands for National Council for Voluntary Organisations, not National Council of Voluntary Organisations.

Use the acronym whenever possible. Most of the time we’re talking to people who already know who we are and what we do, so the full name isn’t needed.

NCVO Charities Evaluation Services

NCVO consultancy

NCVO Knowhow 

Not 'KnowHow'.

Sections on NCVO Knowhow

  • how-to, how-tos
  • knowledge bank

NCVO Mentoring and Befriending

NCVO quality standards

NCVO training


See geography and regions.


  • Spell out numbers from one to nine (the exception is measurements). Use numerals from 10 to 999,999.
  • Use m (million) or bn (billion) for sums of money, quantities or objects (eg £10m, 5bn tonnes of coal, 30m doses of vaccine). However, use million or billion for people or animals (eg one million people).
  • Where a number starts a sentence, write it in full.
  • Use commas in numbers from 1,000 to 999,999.
  • Hyphenate fractions (eg two-thirds).
  • If two sets of figures come together and you cannot rephrase the sentence, spell out the first figure (eg twenty 14-year-olds).
  • 'First, second and third', not 'firstly, secondly and thirdly'.


Oxford comma

See serial comma.


parliament, parliamentary

But 'Houses of Parliament'.

payroll giving



Use % rather than writing 'per cent' in full (eg 75% not 75 per cent).

Be careful when calculating percentages: an increase from 3% to 5% is a two percentage point increase or a two-point increase, not a 2% increase. If a political party’s support drops from 50% to 40% in an opinion poll, it has lost 10 percentage points or 20% of its support.

Phone numbers

Put a space between the area code and the local number (treat mobile numbers as having five-digit area codes). Break up longer local numbers with a space to make them easier to read.

  • 020 7123 4567
  • 023 1234 5678
  • 01635 123456
  • 07912 345678
  • +44 (0)20 7520 3165

plain English

But the 'Plain English Campaign'.


Only use the acronym. While it originally stood for 'Practical Quality Assurance System for Small Organisations', the standard is now applicable to organisations of all sizes.

prime minister




The words in a quote must always be the same as the source; they don’t need to follow our house style. However, you can leave words out – see ellipsis.

Quote marks

Use single quotes at the start and end of quoted text, with double quotes for quoted words within that text.

Correct style

Incorrect style

The blog outlines the ‘complex needs’ of ...

The blog outlines the “complex needs” of ...

‘The blog outlines the “complex needs” of ...’

‘The blog outlines the ‘complex needs’ of ...’


If you’re quoting a full sentence, full stops and commas go inside the quote marks. If not, the full stop goes outside.

Greg said: ‘Updating the house style was great fun,’ and then later added: ‘It was a real headache.’

 Greg said that updating the house style ‘was a real headache’.

Long passages

If you’re quoting a longer piece of text (more than a couple of sentences) put it in a separate, indented block of text without quote marks. This is called a block quote.

If the quote reads as the continuation of a lead-in sentence, introduce it with a colon.

Lord Porter, chair of the Local Government Association, said that:

even if councils stopped filling in potholes, maintaining parks, closed all children’s centres, libraries, museums, leisure centres and turned off every street light they will not have saved enough money to plug the financial black hole they face by 2020.

Omitting text

See ellipsis.


Always reference the source of a quote.

See references.


Race and ethnicity

Only refer to a person’s race or ethnic background if it’s relevant. Always be as specific as possible: avoid generic terms such as Asian, which groups together various ethnicities. For example, use Ugandan instead of African.

Remember that race and ethnicity are different: race usually refers to physical attributes such as skin colour, whereas ethnicity refers to nationality, culture, ancestry and language.


On the web

Incorporate references into the text and link to the source.

Don’t use italics or quote marks for titles of books or reports.

The Young Trustees Guide, a report published by CAF in August, found that only 8% of trustees are non-white and just over one-third are women.

In print

If your publication has lots of references, put them in footnotes or endnotes using the reference style below. Otherwise, incorporate the reference into the text.

Books and reports

Smith, X. (2012) My Very First Book. London: NCVO.

Books and reports with more than one author

Smith X. and Jones A. B. (2010) Another Book. London: NCVO.

Edited books

Smith X. (ed.) (2010) My First Reader. London: NCVO.

Journal articles

Smith, X. (2011) ‘My first article in a journal or magazine’, Journal of First Works, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 37–54.

Specific articles or chapters in a book

Jones, A. B. ‘Thoughts and musings’, in Smith X. (ed.) (2013) My First Reader. London: NCVO.


Smith, X. ‘My latest blog’. (accessed December 2016)

Always remove http://.


An adjective, eg roundtable discussions. The noun is 'round table', eg they held a round table.

Rt Hon

No punctuation.



Lowercase: spring, summer, autumn, winter.


Separating main clauses

You can use a semicolon to separate two main clauses (ie clauses that can stand alone as sentences) that are closely connected and of more or less equal importance.

We’ve studied the problem for several days; more work is needed.

You could also use a full stop and make two separate sentences if you don’t want to emphasise a connection between them. You can’t separate them with a comma.

Correct style

Incorrect style

We’ve studied the problem for several days. More work is needed.

We’ve studied the problem for several days, more work is needed.


Separating list items

Semicolons should be used when separating list items that contain commas.

The plenary speakers at NCVO’s Evolve conference were Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO; Martyn Lewis CBE, chair of NCVO; Kevin Maguire, associate editor of The Daily Mirror; and Andrew Pierce, consultant editor at The Daily Mail.

Don’t use semicolons to separate items in simple lists – commas will do.

Correct style

Incorrect style

The plenary speakers were Sir Stuart Etherington, Sir Martyn Lewis CBE, Kevin Maguire and Andrew Pierce.

The plenary speakers were Sir Stuart Etherington; Sir Martyn Lewis CBE; Kevin Maguire; and Andrew Pierce.

Serial comma

A serial comma (also known as an Oxford comma) comes before the final and in a list.

It should be used to avoid confusion in a sentence.

Compare this:

For lunch I had fish, chips, bread and butter, and mushy peas.

To this:

For lunch I had fish, chips, bread and butter and mushy peas.

Sometimes it’s essential to the meaning of the sentence.

Compare this:

I’d like to dedicate this award to my parents, Cher and Elton John.

To this:

I dedicate this book to my parents, Cher, and Elton John.

In simple lists it isn’t needed and shouldn’t be used: we drank wine, beer and gin, not we drank wine, beer, and gin.


Use neutral terms such as 'partner' rather than presuming that a woman has a boyfriend or a husband, and a man has a girlfriend or a wife.

Use the term 'sexual orientation', not sexual 'preference'. 'Homosexual' is outdated and clinical and shouldn’t be used.

'Gay' should be used as an adjective rather than a noun, for example 'lesbians and gay men' not 'lesbians and gays'. Avoid using 'gay' as an umbrella term to describe a broad community; 'LGBT' might be more appropriate. When relevant, be specific: bisexual woman, gay man, lesbian etc.


See geography and regions.

sustainable funding




Use the 24-hour clock. Separate hours from minutes with a full stop, not a colon.

Correct style

Incorrect style

07.00, 17.45

7am, 7.00, 17:45, 5.45pm


12.00, noon, 12 noon, 12pm


00.00, 12.00am

09.00–14.00 (using a dash)

09.00-14.00 (not a hyphen)

Be specific about time periods – avoid vague phrases like 'last year' and 'this summer'.

Titles of content and publications


Capitals for first word, proper nouns and first word after a colon.

  • Can voluntary organisations improve government policy making?
  • Lobbying bill: Where now and what next?


Main title: capitals for all words except minor ones, eg as, at, by, for, in, of, the (unless minor word is the first word in the title).

Subtitle: capitals for first word, proper nouns and first word after a colon

  • The Good Trustee Guide
  • Tools for Tomorrow: A practical guide to strategic planning for voluntary organisations

Conferences and events

Main title: capitals for all words except minor ones, eg as, at, by, for, in, of, the (unless minor word is the first word in the title).

Subtitle: capitals for first word, proper nouns and first word after a colon.

  • NCVO Funding Conference 2016
  • Evolve 2015: The annual event for the voluntary sector

Press releases

Capitals for first word, proper nouns and first word after a colon.

  • NCVO in ‘Christmas appeal’ to peers on lobbying bill
  • Volunteering programme creates employability boost for hard-to-help


Main title: capitals for all words except minor ones, eg as, at, by, for, in, of, the (unless minor word is the first word in the title).

Subtitle: capitals for first word, proper nouns and first word after a colon.

  • Payment by Results Contracts: A legal analysis of terms and process
  • The Value of Giving a Little Time: Understanding the potential of micro-volunteering


Capitals for first word, proper nouns and first word after a colon.

  • Changing lives, changing society
  • Modernising government: The impact on the voluntary sector

Training courses

Capitals for first word, proper nouns and first word after a colon.

  • Developing a winning strategy for your campaign
  • Charity trustees: Induction and refresher training


Capitals for first word, proper nouns and first word after a colon.

  • Practical support
  • Find a Volunteer Centre


Capitals for first word, proper nouns and first word after a colon.

  • Developing leadership
  • Strategy and income diversity: Developing a sustainable funding strategy

Trusted Supplier, NCVO Trusted Supplier

trustee, trustee board



Lowercase as a noun and a verb.



See Britain, UK.


Always lowercase. Delete http://.

For print, always remove the underline from website address by right clicking it and choosing remove hyperlink.

Correct style

Incorrect style




Voluntary sector terms

These are broad, general terms to use when talking about the voluntary sector and volunteering. When talking about a specific type of organisation, you can use more precise terms (eg social enterprise, infrastructure organisation, charitable trust).

Voluntary sector/voluntary organisation

'Voluntary sector' is our shorthand for organisations that exist to make a difference to society rather than make financial profits.

'Voluntary organisation' is our shorthand for any organisation that is in the voluntary sector.

These are the terms that are most widely understood by people inside and outside the voluntary sector.


When speaking to the general public, 'charities' and 'charity' are preferable to 'voluntary sector' and 'voluntary organisation' as they’re more commonly understood.


We define volunteering as ‘any activity that involves spending time, unpaid, doing something that aims to benefit the environment or someone (individuals or groups) other than, or in addition to, close relatives’. Volunteers are the people that do this.

Voluntary action

A term for the collective activity of voluntary organisations, and people who volunteer both inside and outside the voluntary sector.

Terms we don’t use

  • Not-for-profit sector
  • Non-profit sector
  • Third sector
  • Voluntary and community sector (VCS)
  • Voluntary, community and social enterprise sector (VCSE)

Volunteer Centre

Uppercase. Some organisations have a 'volunteer centre service' (often when a volunteer centre and CVS are integrated).

Volunteer Centre Quality Accreditation

VCQA at second mention.

Volunteers’ Week


webpage, website


No hyphen.


See geography and regions.


Not 'whilst'.

white paper




Work Programme




'North Yorkshire', 'South Yorkshire' and 'West Yorkshire', but 'east Yorkshire'.


Site by Clickingmad