The smallest mistake can undermine the biggest (and most important) of messages. Those writing for uSwitch should ensure they follow these style rules that cover everything from headlines to hyphens, and numbers to names.
For names of companies or organisations, if an abbreviation is more familiar than the full form (e.g. BBC, IBM) use that. If not, write the name in full the first time you mention it, followed by the abbreviation in brackets. The next time you refer to it, use only the abbreviation.
Write out in first use, noting the acronym in brackets; then use just the acronym going forward. Familiar acronyms such as WiFi, HTML, HMRC and BT are exempt from this rule.
The TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) has warned that the campaigns being led by lobbies could lead to higher household bills. Matthew Sinclair, director of the TPA ...
Do not use the “&” symbol unless it is part of a company or product name.
Avoid common misuse of apostrophes:
Use the British ‘s’ in words such as ‘realise’, and ‘specialise’, rather than the American ‘z’.
Bullet points are a good way to make web copy easier to scan for readers. Bullet points should always be round, and limit bullets to six or fewer. Make sure they are grammatically logical.
Never use all capital letters. Headlines follow usual sentence structure, with only the first word and proper nouns utilising capitals.
Company names and references
Follow punctuation and capitalisation of company names and products as they are branded.
E.ON, iPhone, iSaver
When referencing a company in a news or guide, remember to always keep them in the singular.
BT is launching a new ... (not BT are launching a new ...)
Our tone of voice is friendly and familiar, so it’s fine to use contractions like ‘they’ll’, ‘it’ll’, ‘isn’t’.
Dashes and hyphens
If you use a dash within a sentence to create emphasis, then use a long em dash – rather than a hyphen (-). Compound adjectives before a noun generally use a hyphen (e.g. ‘the well-organised energy provider’). After a noun, they should be separated (e.g. ‘the energy provider was well organised’).
Always write out the date, using day, month, year format in news and guides:
9 December 2013. When using dates in tables, this may be shortened for space reasons to 9/12/13
In forms when asking for a date we always use the DD/MM/YYYY format.
Use sparingly, never in headers or intro copy, best suited for marketing/promotional material or news/blogs.
Don’t use full stops at the end of headlines.
Do not capitalise unless starting a sentence. The abbreviated Gov’t can be used in headlines and desk heads/straplines.
Legals, disclaimers and caveats
Superscript numbering should be used when there is more than one caveat, however, when there is only one caveat in a communication, an asterisk (*) should be used.
Less vs. Fewer
Use “less” when the subject is something that cannot be counted
She wants to have less clutter on her desk.
Use “fewer” when the subject is something that can be counted
He sent fewer texts after getting a £100 phone bill.
Not Ok or okay.
Always use the “%” symbol; only use “per cent” at the start of a sentence. Always use numerals when talking about percentages (54%), unless it starts a sentence. We never use abbreviation “pc” when talking about percentages.
Fifty-five per cent of the population own an iPhone.
Of those surveyed, 55% said they had been denied a credit card.
Plans vs tariffs
Plans is the preferred term, only switch to use of tariff when trying to avoid repetition within one email or guide.
Always use double quotation marks (“) when placing a direct quote in body copy.
Use single quote marks (‘) in headlines, standfirsts/dek heads and when quoting within a quote:
Super-fast broadband uptake ‘reaches 20% in UK’
“Super-fast broadband will be the engine for growth for the broadband future of Britain," he said.
Titles and Names
Professional titles are not capitalised unless it directly precedes a name:
Director of Consumer Policy Jane Smith said that the news was a shock.
Jane Smith, director of consumer policy at the company, said the news came as a shock.
On first reference, use the person’s first and last name. On subsequent references, last name only is used.
Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms is never used.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey was on-hand to field questions about the news. Davey arrived late, citing a long-running meeting.
Not wifi, WIFI, WiFi, etc.
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