abbreviations, acronyms and initialisms

An acronym is a name or word made up of the initial letters of a group of words, and which can itself be pronounced as a word, e.g. Nato, Unicef. Here, just use an initial capital.

Do not u se full stops, e.g. mph, km, Mrs, HIV, RSVP. group of words, where each letter is pronounced as a series of individual letters, e.g. BBC, NGO, HIV, MEP, WFP. An abbreviation is the shortening of a single word, e.g. ltd for limited or Rev for reverend.

Do not use full stops for acronyms or initialisms, e.g. mph, km, Mrs, HIV, RSVP.

Lower case initialisms that indicate speed, weight, length, time etc should follow figures immediately with no space, e.g. 11am, 15kg, 35mm, 100mph, 5km.

Some initialisms and acronyms are so well known that you don’t need to explain what the letters stand for, e.g. BBC, EU, UN, US, Unicef. But spell out less well-known ones on first mention, e.g. the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). After the first mention, you can shorten.

Use all capitals forAIDS, as this is the internationally recognised way of writing it.


No dots and space: 50AD


The standard Leprosy Mission address is The Leprosy Mission England and Wales, Goldhay Way, Orton Goldhay, Peterborough, PE2 5GZ.


Use a capital ‘A’ for the pre-Christmas season, e.g. Advent calendar. In other cases, use lower case.


As with all numbers, write one to ten in words; 11+ in numerals. Use hyphens as follows: a two-year-old girl; three ten-year-olds; four- to six-year-olds; a 50-year-old war but a girl who was 12 years old. 

Other ways of stating ages include: Sita, 38; 20-somethings; 11- to 14-year-olds;11 to 14s; the under-fives.

Avoid starting a sentence with a numeral:
Yes: Sixteen-year-old Shakti…
16-year-old Shakti…
Exception: where age is written in news style, preceded by a comma, after a name, numbers 1-10 can be written numerically, e.g. The teacher said that Rani, 9, should…


No dots or spaces - e.g. 6:00am.


Always use English spellings for words (e.g. centre not center), terms (shop not store) and verb/noun endings (mobilise and mobilisation not mobilize or mobilization.) 
Exception: the World Health Organization.


Not ‘amidst’ (old-fashioned).


not ‘amongst’ (old-fashioned).


Use and rather than '&' unless it is part of a heading or title.


It is acceptable to start sentences with these. Don’t overuse. Also avoid starting successive sentences with the same word.

any more

Two words.


Use full name on first mention, e.g. The Archbishop of Tanzania, Donald Mtetemela. Thereafter Archbishop Mtetemela.

For senior Anglican clergy the names of bishops and archbishops always follow the title of their office e.g. the Archbishop of Barchester, the Most Rev John Smith.

Exception: where the specific Bishop referred to likes to be known by their first name. After first mention, according to above guidelines, all subsequent references can adopt a first-name policy e.g. Bishop James is known for his interest in poverty.

For senior Roman Catholic clergy, on first mention, use full title: The Roman Catholic Bishop of Plymouth, the Right Rev Christopher Budd,thereafter Bishop Budd.


Use it to mean ‘while’, not ‘because’: I saw him as I walked home.