APC house style guide

These language guidelines must be followed when writing and editing for APC. For easier reference you will find them in alphabetical order. Cross-referencing has been included when necessary.

1. Abbreviations, initials and acronyms

Abbreviations

No full stops for “CEO María Pérez” or “Andrea Smith MP”.

Full stops for “e.g.”, “i.e.” and “etc.”.

Initials

Full stops for “J. A. Peterson”, as well as a space between initials.

Acronyms

As a general rule, try to minimise the use of acronyms that do not add to the reader’s understanding of the text. In other words, there is no need to provide an acronym if it is not repeated later in the text.

Spell out the name or term in full the first time it appears and provide the acronym in parentheses: e.g. International Telecommunication Union (ITU), gender-based violence (GBV). After that, you can use the abbreviation only.

Well-known acronyms which are recognised internationally do not require explanation. Examples include: UNESCO, UNICEF, HIV/AIDS and LGBTIQ.

No full stops for APC, UNESCO, ITU, EU, US, etc.

Use of acronyms and organisation names in translation

When there is an official translation of the organisation name/acronym, there is no need to translate it yourself. Use the official version. Example: [Spanish] Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS) > [English] World Health Organization (WHO).

In the case of national organisations which do not have an official name in English, it is fine to simply use the name of the organisation in the original language, without italics, and its corresponding acronym in that language, when applicable. If an author has also provided an English equivalent, it can be included in parenthesis as an explanation of what the name means, but the original-language name or acronym should continue to be used in the text if it is repeated.

2. Bullets and lists

Use dots or small bullets, not 1, 2, 3, a, b, c, etc. All items in the list must begin with a capital letter. If the bullet points are full sentences or long phrases (15 words or longer), use full stops after each. If the bullet points are short (less than 15 words) and are not full sentences, do not use full stops except for the last item.

3. Capitalisation

Internet, information society

APC uses internet with a lower-case “i” and information society with lower case “i” and “s”, unless in titles or organisation names.

Shortening commonly used terms

In general, the shortened form of a phrase is capitalised but the full phrase itself should not be capitalised, e.g. “information and communications technology (ICT)” but never “Information and Communications Technology (ICT)” unless it is part of a title. Other common examples include internet service provider (ISP), free/libre and open source software (FLOSS), and economic, social and cultural rights (ESCRs). Note the unusual acronym for voice over internet protocol (VoIP) and distributed denial of services (DDoS), which each have a lower case “o” in the middle.

Job titles

Job titles should be given in lower case except when used as titles, e.g. “Chat García Ramilo, executive director of APC, said ...” but “APC Executive Director Chat García Ramilo announces new programme.” The one exception to this rule is in the case of UN Special Rapporteurs, in which we follow the standard UN format, e.g. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

State, government, ministers and ministries

Do not capitalise “state” or “government” except in titles or proper nouns. Minister is capitalised when it is used as a title (e.g., Communications Minister Jane Doe) but otherwise not, e.g. “The minister of communications is responsible for these decisions, although the minister of education is usually consulted.” Ministry is capitalised when referring to a specific ministry (almost always the case).

Titles and subtitles of publications

See the separate entry below.

4. Commas

APC does not use the serial comma, commonly known as the “Oxford comma”. In other words, do not put a comma before “and” or “or” in a series of three or more short items unless there could be potential confusion, e.g. “APC staff, members and partners participated in the event” rather than “APC staff, members, and partners”, but “The event was organised by APC members, ARTICLE 19, and Access Now.” In the second example, “The event was organised by APC members, ARTICLE 19 and Access Now” could be interpreted as meaning that ARTICLE 19 and Access Now are APC members, which is not the case.

No comma after “e.g.” and “i.e.”, but please use a comma before “etc.”.

5. Compound and hyphenated words

In cases where a compound word has not been universally accepted as a single word and various versions are used, e.g. policy makers, policy-makers, policymakers, use the version with two separate words – in this case, policy makers. Compound adjectives are hyphenated when they precede a noun (e.g. long-term goals) but are otherwise not hyphenated (e.g. in the long term). Compound adjectives in which the first word ends in –ly are not hyphenated (e.g. environmentally sustainable growth).

Online, email, website, multistakeholder and cyberspace, cybersecurity, etc. are all spelled as one word, without spaces or hyphens.

6. Contractions

APC strives to write in a style that is less formal, but contractions (e.g. don’t, I’ll, isn’t) should generally be avoided because they are not used frequently in other languages and might confuse non-native English speakers.

7. Currency

An approximate equivalent should be given in US dollars whenever a different currency amount is given. The format for US dollars is USD (not US$, or U$S or $) and is placed before the number. When citing another local currency give an approximate US dollar equivalent in parentheses, e.g. UYU 1,500 (USD 50).

8. Dashes

Use a short dash (–), also known as an en-dash or n-dash, with a space on each side. Note the difference between a short dash (–), a long dash (—) and a hyphen (-). In LibreOffice and OpenOffice, you can achieve the en-dash by typing a space, then two consecutive hyphens and then another space.

9. Dates

Days: “1 July 1989” (not July 1, 1989, nor 1st, 15th or 23rd). Decades: “throughout the 1960s and 1970s” (not the 60s and 70s). Centuries: “the 19th century” (no capitals).

10. Footnotes and endnotes

The superscript number used to indicate the placement of a footnote comes after any punctuation marks, including commas, full stops and quotation marks. The only exception is when the punctuation mark is a dash, e.g. “The new website3 – launched in 2014 – provides a wide range of resources.”

When writing for the website, use numbers in square brackets, i.e. [1], for any references or notes that need to come at the end of the text (in other words, when it isn't possible to simply use a hyperlink), rather than traditional footnotes or endnotes.

11. Italics

Use italics for sub-subtitles within a publication and the names of publications, but not for titles of instruments, plans of actions or declarations. Italics can also be used to give special emphasis to a word, phrase or key quotation. Italics are also used for non-English words; see Language and spelling below.

12. Language and spelling

APC uses what is commonly known as British or UK spelling, which is also the official standard in numerous countries around the world, particularly in Africa and Asia.

Exceptions: If an organisation has an official name in English, use the official spelling, even if it does not comply with APC spelling rules, e.g. World Health Organization.

In direct quotations, use the spelling that is used in the original source, whether it complies with APC rules or not.

When using local terms that do not exist in English, please italicise the non-English term the first time it is used and write a definition or explanation in parentheses after it. If the term is repeated there is no need to continue using italics.

Non-English words (including Latin) do not need to be italicised if they have been absorbed into English, so no italics for “coup d’état”, “fait accompli”, “de facto”, etc. For Latin terms that are not commonly used in daily language, please use italics, e.g. inter alia.

13. Numbers

In running text, write out the numbers one through nine and use figures for numbers larger than nine, e.g. one, five, nine, 10, 21, 156, 216,000. In fact charts use only figures.

Thousands should be rendered using a comma: 10,000 and 427,971 (but not in the case of years: 2006).

For large round numbers in running text use words if possible: one million, three million, but 375 million.

One billion = 1,000,000,000, i.e., one thousand million, not one million million.

Decimals are indicated by a point with a zero preceding: 0.75.

A number at the beginning of a sentence should be spelled out: “Fifty-four workers were fired as a result of the strike.” But the sentence can usually be reorganised so that the number is not at the start: “The strike resulted in 54 workers being fired.”

For percentages, write the figure followed by percentage symbol, e.g. 4%, 63%. There should be no space between the number and the percentage symbol.

14. Quotation marks

Double quotation marks are used for direct quotations, mini-quotations (i.e. a word or phrase as opposed to a full sentence) and to imply a word or phrase is being used ironically.

Use single quotation marks only for a quote within a quote. For example, “The authorities told us they would look into the matter ‘immediately’ but we have still received no reply,” said the activist.

Commas and periods are positioned before the closing quotation mark when used for quoting speech, e.g. “This programme,” she said, “will greatly increase computer literacy.”

However, when quotation marks are used to set off or quote a word or short phrase, the comma or period is positioned after, e.g. The stated goals of the programme included “computer literacy”, among others.

In print publications, longer quotations (over three lines) should be separated and indented, with no quotation marks used. In online texts, try not to quote as much as three lines in a row. If you need to quote more, do so interspersed by other context text.

15. References

For full details, see the separate APC reference guide, available here.

In references, translation is not necessary (except for names of cities for the place of publication, etc.) and only the name of the document in the source language should be provided, unless an English version of the same document exists, in which case the English version should be referenced.

16. Time

Use the 12-hour clock: 9:00 a.m., 8:30 p.m.

Span of years: write “between 1995 and 1999”, not “between 1995-1999”.

17. Titles and subtitles

For the titles of books, capitalise all main words, e.g. The ICT Policy Handbook.

For the titles of shorter publications such as reports, issue papers and articles, and for all subtitles, capitalise only the first word and any other word that is capitalised in its own right, plus the first letter of any word that follows a colon within a title.

18. Weights and measures

Use metric system only.

Notes

[1] While there are numerous versions of LGBT+ acronyms, this is the standard acronym used by APC. However, if an external author (of a blog post, for example) chooses to use a different acronym, that choice is respected.

 

The original APC house style guide was adapted from the Social Watch House Style Guide. Permission was kindly provided by ITeM (host of the Social Watch international secretariat) to APC to adapt it to our own purposes. It has gone through several revisions since then, and was last updated on 14 February 2019.

 

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