a or an before h?

  • Use ‘a’ for words that do not have a silent ‘h’, eg a hospital, a historic agreement.
  • Use ‘an’ for words that have a silent ‘h’, eg an hour, an honest opinion.

ableist language


  • Include hyphen

abbreviations and acronyms

  • Don’t use full stops between the letters of any abbreviation, eg GCSE (or GCSEs), NHS, LEA, CV. (See also Contractions.)
  • Write out the word in full first time, with the short version in brackets, then use the short version, eg We provide a wide range of continuing professional development (CPD) courses.
  • For external facing communications, don’t use ‘eg’, ‘ie’ and ‘etc’; instead use for instance, such as, for example. (See Eg, ie and etc for further details.)


  • When an abbreviation is written out in full, it is lower case, eg CPD becomes continuing professional development.
  • When an abbreviation is a proper name, each main letter is upper case, eg DfE becomes Department for Education.
  • Abbreviations and acronyms in common use, such as UCAS and NHS, don’t have to be written out in full.
  • If the name or term occurs once, write it out in full - there’s no need to abbreviate it.
  • For plurals, add an ‘s’ to acronyms, without any apostrophe, eg LEAs.
  • Where individual organisations use an acronym, follow the style that they use on their websites, eg HEFCE (all caps), Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education)
  • Subsequent references to a specific institution take lower case, eg the school, the department, the government.

Common abbreviations and acronyms and their meanings

  • APQO - Academic Policy and Quality Office
  • BIS - Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (now disbanded)
  • CPD - continuing professional development
  • DBS checks - Disclosure and Barring Service checks (replaced CRB checks)
  • DfE - Department for Education
  • HEFCE - Higher Education Funding Council for England
  • JHBB - John Henry Brookes Building
  • NMAS - Nursing and Midwifery Admissions Service (now disbanded)
  • TEF - Teaching Excellence Framework
  • The CIM - The Chartered Institute of Marketing
  • DipHE - diploma of higher education
  • PGCE - postgraduate certificate in education
  • PGCert - postgraduate certificate
  • PGDip - postgraduate diploma
  • PhD - doctorate

academic title


academic references


Oxford Brookes has a legal responsibility to make sure the University's website is accessible in accordance with the Special Education Needs and Disability Act (2001) and the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) and the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 .

  • Our copy needs to be accessible and easy to read, even if the reader is scanning the text quickly. As a guide, aim for an Automated Readability Index (ARI) score of 5-8 when writing for a non-academic audience.
  • Check the ARI for your copy using hemingwayapp.com by copying your text and pasting into into the HemingwayApp page. The tool will then display an ARI score (top-right.)
  • Avoid capitalising whole sentences where possible to increase readability for people with dyslexia.
  • Use italics sparingly as it also affects readability. For further guidance on style, see this guide from the British Dyslexia Association.
  • For guidance on terms to avoid when writing about disability, see also Discriminatory language.


postal addresses

Only include commas when written as a sentence. So:

Headington Campus, Headington, Oxford OX3 OBP, UK


Headington Campus

NB. The current Headington Campus address is as above; no mention of Gipsy Lane.

See also Campuses

email addresses

  • Use generic subject addresses rather than those of individuals who may move or leave. languages@brookes.ac.uk rather than joe.bloggs@brookes.ac.uk
  • You don’t need to prefix the address with ‘Email’, eg admissions@brookes.ac.uk rather than ‘Email: admissions@brookes.ac.uk’

website addresses

  • Leave out ‘http://’ or ‘https://’. Instead start with ‘www’ only if this is part of the usual form of the address: www.brookes.ac.uk
  • If the URL doesn’t have a ‘www’, (some of our department sites don’t) then do include: http://example.brookes.ac.uk
  • If the URL ends in a ‘/’, remove this.
  • If a web address comes at the end of a paragraph, don’t use punctuation after it, eg For an up-to-date insight into the lives of Oxford Brookes students, visit our Student Blog www.brookesstudents.blogspot.co.uk
  • Check all web addresses work - and go to the intended place - before they're published. You can use the Google Transparency Report tool, to check that third-party websites are safe.
  • Remove hyperlink underscores in printed publications.


Long URLs (these may appear in references)

  • Use a shorter alias where possible.
  • If a URL stretches over 2 lines, don't insert an extra hyphen at the line break. Doing so could be confusing, as it is common for URLs to contain hyphens.
  • Instead, find a natural break like a slash, number sign, or other symbol, or if you must, in the middle of a long string of letters or numbers. Use common sense: don't break a URL right after a full stop or readers might think the full stop marks the end of the sentence.

ageist terms

Avoid ageist terms such as ‘the old’, ‘the elderly’. Instead use older people, elderly people.

ampersands (&)

  • Names of academic faculties and departments within Oxford Brookes take ‘and’, not an ampersand, eg School of Arts and Humanities.
  • Only use ‘&’ when it is part of a proper name, such as a department’s logo image or a company’s name, eg Marks & Spencer. You can quickly check this using the Companies House register (a simple online search resource).


  • Park & Ride - not Park and Ride.
  • Where appropriate, an ampersand can be used as part of subject area headings, eg Education, Early Years & Teacher Training is a main heading for a subject area in the prospectus. Do be consistent in applying across all subject area headings if you use.



  • When showing a possessive, for singular nouns the apostrophe comes before the ‘s’, eg the student’s chair, one year’s study.
  • When showing a possessive, for plural nouns the apostrophe comes after the ‘s, eg the students’ workspace, four years’ study.
  • When describing students from Brookes, there is no need to add an apostrophe as the University does not ‘own’ the students: Brookes students (not Brookes’ students).
  • When referring to something that the University does possess, such as a reputation, the apostrophe should appear after the ‘s’ and does not require the addition of a further ‘s’: Brookes’ reputation (not Brookes’s reputation).
  • Its is a possessive meaning ‘belonging to’; it’s means ‘it is’ or ‘it has’.
  • If the item is plural but the word ends in a letter other than ‘s’, the apostrophe goes before the ‘s’, eg the children’s teacher.
  • If the item is plural and ends in an ‘s’, you do not need to add another ‘s’, eg all the companies’ results.


  • Use contractions like you’ll and we’re as long as they don’t interfere with clarity, but avoid should’ve, could’ve, would’ve, they’ve - as these can be hard to read.
  • Think about tone when using contractions - a good rule to follow is to use the full term first, then the contraction after: At Oxford Brookes we are doing x, y, z and we’re also planning to….


See Footnotes

  • Avoid using asterisked footnotes on webpages as they can be confusing. If the information is important, include it in the body text. If it’s not, leave it out.
  • On webpages, asterisks should be avoided for marking required fields. If the field is required, include explanatory text on your form in the field label, eg First name (required).