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A
Abbreviations
See abbreviations and acronyms

 
Acronyms
See abbreviations and acronyms

 
Address
When addressing someone by name, for example, Dear James, sign off with ‘Yours sincerely’. 

 
When addressing someone by title or job, for example, Dear Chief Inspector, sign off with ‘Yours faithfully’.

 
Addresses should be written without punctuation, for example:

 
Luton Council
Town Hall
Upper George Street
Luton
LU1 2BQ

 
Alignment
All text should always be left justify, including headings. Indenting of paragraphs is not necessary.

 
Apostrophes
This is not really a style issue, as there are clear grammatical rules. However, incorrect use of apostrophes is probably the single most common error made in written materials.

 
Apostrophes are used to indicate one of three things:

 
1. That a letter (or letters) have been missed out. Examples include:
  • is not being shortened to isn’t I cannot being shortened to I can’t 
  • it is being shortened to it’s
2. To indicate ownership. In most cases, the apostrophe is followed by the letter ‘s’.

 
Examples include:
  • the council’s priorities
  • Luton’s population
  • the Mayor’s speech
If the word ends with the letter ‘s’, the apostrophe is added on its own at the end to indicate ownership.

 
This applies whether the word is a plural or singular.

 
Examples include:
  • the boss’ instructions
  • the senior managers’ conference
Note: if an ‘s’ is being placed after a number or abbreviation to make it a plural it does not require an apostrophe. Examples include:

 
  • The council owns thousands of PCs (not PC’s)
  • Many people enjoy watching DVDs (not DVD’s)
  • Alcohol should only be sold to over 18s (not over 18’s)
To show expressions of time: Thursday’s meeting, seven days’ notice, one week’s pay.

 
Remember, don’t use apostrophes with pronouns.

 
The council’s policies = Its policies

 
‘It’s’ with an apostrophe means ‘it is’ or ‘it has’, not ‘belonging to it’.

 
B
Brackets
  • Use brackets sparingly to add something to the sentence, for example, the resident (from number 10) asked a question. Often, commas will suffice.
  • The full stop comes outside the bracket unless what is inside is a full sentence.
  • Remember that any sentence in which you use brackets should still make sense
Bold type (see emphasis)

 
C
Capital letters
See capital letters.

 
Colons
Colons are always used to introduce any list (see ‘Lists and bullet points’ on page 10), for example:

 
Only three people turned up for the meeting: Sarah, Rachel and Jane.

 
Colons can also be used to make a break when something explanatory follows:

 
She had achieved her ambition: she was a member of the board.

 
Commas
Use commas:
  • for a breathing pause in the sentence, for example, ‘When they arrived, the meeting was over’
  • in a list, for example, ‘I went to the shop and bought bread, milk, cheese, tea and coffee’
  • in pairs, in the same way we use brackets, for example, ‘My line manager, John Smith, can help with this’
Councillors
Do not use capital letters when you write ‘councillor’ unless it forms part of a title, for example, Councillor Hazel Simmons.

 
Where you wish to use an abbreviation, use Cllr not Coun. We suggest you use the term ‘councillor’ as opposed to ‘member’, wherever possible as it is clearer for the public.

 
D
Dashes
  • Use a single dash in the same way as a colon – to mark a break.
  • Use paired dashes – but only in the middle of a sentence – in the same way you would use brackets.
  • Make sure you use a dash (–) and not a hyphen (-).
Dates
See dates and times.

 
Do as they do
When organisations use a specific style in their official title it should be adopted, even if it is contrary to council style (eg easyJet, adidas, EastEnders).

 
E
Emphasis (bold and italics)
Bold
Use bold to emphasise a word rather than capital letters or underlining. This is easier to read and avoids confusion particularly as underlined text is often used to show links to internet pages.

 
Italics
Do not use italics as they are difficult to read, as it’s hard to recognise word shapes if all the letters are set at an angle.

 
Exclamation marks
An exclamation mark is used to show strength of feeling. Use them sparingly.

 
F
Finance information
See figures and financial information.

 
Fonts
Ideally use Arial 12 point in Word documents (11 point minimum) to make text clear and easy to read.

 
Full stops
  • Do not use full stops between initials, for example MP not M.P.
  • Do not use after abbreviations such as Mr, Ms, Dr, Ltd, Cllr or for eg etc and ie.
  • One space after a full stop is sufficient.
H
Hyphens
Use hyphens to avoid confusion:

 
Mother to be asked… is not the same as Mother-to-be asked…

 
Use hyphens to distinguish between similar words, such as:
  • reform and re-form
  • resign and re-sign
Hyphens can also be used:

 
in double-barrelled adjectives, such as middle aged
in phrases, such as t-shirt, door-to-door
to avoid words with two consonants or vowels together, such as pre-empt, shell-like

 
I
Inverted commas
Use double inverted commas to show direct speech.

 
Otherwise, use single inverted commas. The full stop comes inside the inverted comma/s when what is inside is a full sentence. The full stop comes outside the inverted comma/s when what is inside is not a full sentence.

 
For example: The policeman said: “You were driving far too quickly.”

 
Use single quotation marks when a quotation appears within a quotation:
She said: “Don’t say ‘I know what you mean,’ you have no idea.”

 
Use single inverted commas when quoting from a report, quoting a title of a book, play or film or when referring to a particular letter:
  • I have just finished reading ‘Catch 22’.
  • ‘Star Wars’ was great.
  • The letter ‘m’ refers to meeting.
Italics (see emphasis)

 
L
Lists and bullet points
Lists and/or bullet points can break down information into manageable chunks. Don't use full stops or semi-colons to punctuate your list.

 
Aim for a maximum of five bullet points as a guide. Use numbered lists if there is a priority to the order.

 
Start the lead-in line with a capital letter and then use lower case, following the example below.

 
You can use bullet points to make text easier to read. Make sure that:
  • the bullets make sense running on from the lead-in line
  • you use lower case at the start of each bullet
  • you don’t use more than once sentence per bullet point – use commas or dashes to expand an item
  • you don’t put ‘or’ or ‘and’ after a bullet
  • if you add links in an online document they appear within the bullet text and not as the entire bullet
Don't use a full stop at the end of the last bullet, there is no need.

 
Numbered lists and bullet points
Try to avoid. However, a numbered list can be useful when guiding a reader through a process.

 
The style is as follows:
  1. etc
And if needed:
Luton Council
Use initial capitals for the full name Luton Council, and when shortened it is ‘the council’.

 
Do not describe the council as ‘the authority’ or ‘the Local Authority’. 

 
Wherever possible refer to us, we and our (see also style and tone of voice).

 
Use Luton Council for all purposes, apart from constitutional or legal matters eg democratic services, agendas, HR, contracts. In these instances, use Luton Borough Council.

 
N
Numbers - see figures and financial information

 
Numbered lists - see fists and bullet points

 
Q
Question marks
Question marks are only used at the end of a direct question:

 
How are you going to tackle the problem?

 
They are not used at the end of indirect questions or polite requests:

 
The director has asked how we are going to tackle the problem.

 
R
Religious festivals
All religious festivals, of any denomination, should be used with upper case (eg: Christmas, Diwali, Easter, Eid, Hola Mohalla).

 
S
Semi-colons
The semi-colon acts as a weak full stop or a strong comma, to separate two very closely related sentences:
  • We have studied this problem for several days; there are no easy answers.
  • I drive an old car; Steve drives a new one.
Speech marks - see inverted commas

 
Subject verb agreement
Nouns denoting a single group of people, for example, council, government, team, public, use a singular verb, for example: the team is organising…; the public needs information.

 
If you prefer the plural form of a group noun, write ‘members of’ or personalise in some other way, for example: members of the team are organising; members of the public need information.

 
T
Tables
Please bear in mind our online readers and try to avoid using tables in documents which will end up online, they can be difficult to navigate on a tablet or mobile device.

 
Telephone numbers
In a sentence or email signature, use the word ‘telephone’ (lower case ‘t’), for example, telephone 01582 546000.

 
For internal documents where you include an extension number, write ‘x3263’ not ext 3263’. For Luton telephone numbers write the area code first, leave one character space, and write the remaining digits eg 
01582 546000.

 
The same applies to mobile numbers, for example, 07890 123456.

 
For London telephone numbers write the area code first, leave one character space, write the next four digits, leave another character space and then write the last four digits, for example, 020 7527 2000.

 
Times
When writing about the time:
  • use the 12-hour clock instead of the 24-hour clock, for example, 7.30pm not 19:30hrs
  • use a full stop to separate hours and minutes instead of a colon, for example, 9.15pm not 9:15pm
  • use am and pm with hours in numbers only
  • not spelt out, for example, 9am not nine am, but nine o’clock
  • do not include zero minutes with hours unless necessary, for example, 9am not 9.00am, but 9.15am
  • write 12 noon or 12 midnight (with a space) not 12pm or 12am
  • for time ranges use 9am to 4pm (do not use a dash, eg 9am-4pm)
V
Verbs - active and passive voice
  • The clearest order is subject, verb, object.
  • Use the active voice whenever possible, subject before verb, for example, the manager called a meeting.
  • Avoid the passive voice (subject after the verb) as this is very unfriendly, for example, the meeting was called by the manager.
  • Only use the passive voice if there is no subject, for example, penalties will be applied.
W
Weights and measures
  • Use decimal and metric systems.
  • Use abbreviations with figures and no spaces, such as 4mm, 10.2cm, 100m, 90km, 250gm, 5.5kg. Note, singular not plural eg not 4mms or 10.2cms etc.
Web addresses
Style is simply www.luton.gov.uk/etc when written in text.

 
When working online:
  • don’t display the link in full – use a hyperlink
  • never just say ‘click here’ – the linked text must describe what it will link to for, example: Find out your bin collection days
  • external links should open in a new window, internal links should open in the same window
  • link to external sites with caution, as we can’t govern the quality or accuracy of content
Download a copy of our style guide
© 2022 Luton Council, Town Hall, Luton LU1 2BQ