Grammar and punctuation

Apostrophes

Use apostrophes to show possession.

 

your vehicle’s number plate (singular)

your customers’ views (plural)

a week’s time (singular)

in 2 weeks’ time (plural)

 

1990s – not 1990’s

PhDs – not PhD’s

 

Don’t use apostrophes in plural abbreviations or decades.

Use apostrophes in place of missing letters in contractions.

Ampersands (&)

Don’t use an ampersand in a sentence, unless it’s part of an organisation’s name.

Brackets

Use rounded brackets in a sentence to add comments, asides and definitions.

Capitalisation

See also Terms and spelling for capitalisation of words.

Keep capitals to a minimum.

Use initial capitals for proper nouns or titles as needed.

Capitalise any noun that an agency has identified as a proper noun in their style guide.

Headings

Use an initial capital for the first word and any proper nouns.

Government

Use initial capitals when referring to a specific government and using the full name.

Use lowercase in generic instances.

 

NSW Government has announced energy rebates.

The Ombudsman is independent of the elected government.

Find your nearest local government preschool.


Use initial capitals when referring to a specific department.

Use lowercase in generic instances.

The Department of Premier and Cabinet is a NSW Government department. The department provides strategic guidance to the public sector.

Commas

If there are too many commas in a sentence, consider shorter sentences or a bulleted list.

Use an Oxford comma if it makes a list in a sentence easier to understand.

You may need to have your eyesight tested, a medical examination, or take a test before you can renew your licence.

Contractions

Use simple contractions to create a conversational tone.

you’ll

we’ll

we’ve

you’re

you’ll

it’s


Don’t use complex or potentially confusing contractions. Avoid negative contractions like can’t and don’t as some people may misread or misunderstand them.

Dashes

Use an en dash (–) to explain, show an abrupt change, or set a phrase apart within a sentence (like brackets).

Use a space on both sides of the dash.

Exclamation marks

Don’t use exclamation marks.

Full stops

Don’t add a full stop if an email address is at the end of a sentence.

Use a full stop for other kinds of links that end sentences. The link text should form part of the sentence.

 

Don't use full stops for:

  • contractions such as Mr, Dr or Mrs

  • abbreviations

  • acronyms and initialisms.

 

Hyphens

Use hyphens when 2 or more words form an adjective.

Don’t use a hyphen if the adjectival phrase is after the subject.

full-time work – to work full time

in-depth look – to look in depth

16-year-old driver

11-digit number

 

Don’t hyphenate login or sign up.

 

Use your login to log in to your account.

You’ll need to sign up for an account.


Use a hyphen with double-up vowels to make it easier to understand and when without a hyphen it would be ambiguous.

Don’t use hyphens for well known words.

re-evaluate

re-engage

re-sign (sign again)

re-form (join up again)

coordinate

email

online

website

 

Plurals

Sparingly use brackets ‘s’ to refer to something that could be either singular or plural. Rephrase if possible.

Send your completed document(s) to the address on the form.

 

Quotation marks

Use single quotation marks, not double quotation marks.

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