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Mini style guide

When it comes to writing, there are some conventions that just about everyone follows, others that are particular to individual organisations or groups.

Whatever the case, it’s important that your writing, formatting and editing is consistent; not only does this help to clearly communicate your message, it also looks professional.

We can provide guidance on good writing style, or adopt your in-house style. It’s your choice.

Common writing practices

These are just a few examples of ways you can improve your work. They’re common to most style guides…

Use the active voice – it’s more interesting, and it’s more like how we speak to each other, e.g. active – ‘CEO Jane Bloggs announced the company’s dividend today’; passive – ‘The company’s dividend was announced today by its CEO Jane Bloggs’.

Use plain English. Convoluted, jargon-laden language is harder to read. It also narrows your readership.

If your audience is Australian, use Australian English (e.g. ‘colour’ not ‘color’). The Macquarie Dictionary is a handy guide.

Numbers – When they’re in text, the numbers one to ten are spelled out; for 11 and up, numerals are used. (The exception is where a number starts a sentence; in such cases the number is always spelled out.)

Abbreviations like ‘Dr’ and ‘Mrs’ don’t need full stops after them.

Beware stray apostrophes! It’s DVDs, not DVD’s, and 1990s, not 1990’s.

The first mention of a piece of legislation is italicised, and the legislation’s full title is used; in subsequent mentions neither is necessary. So, it’s Irrigation Act 2009 (first use), then after that you can say ‘the Irrigation Act’, or just ‘the Act’.

Get your nouns and proper nouns right. Common nouns don’t need capitals – e.g. it’s ‘the third tier of government is local government’, and it’s ‘the judges aren’t happy about plans for weekend sittings’. Proper nouns do need capitals – so, it’s ‘the Local Government Association’, and ‘Judge Sam Smart’.

It’s okay to use acronyms, but explain them first. So: ‘Council of Australian Governments (COAG)’, on first mention, then ‘COAG’ after that.

And like we said – be consistent! Don’t chop and change your font size and type, and if you use ‘%’ rather than ‘per cent’, stick to that!

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