DCU House Style Guide

DCU's A-Z Copywriting Guide

Golden Rule

If there is more than one correct way of writing something, choose whichever uses least space.

 

Do not use fullstops or spaces between or after letters in abbreviations or acronyms.

  • Use USA, MSc, BA rather than U.S.A., M.Sc., or B.A.

If you plan on using an acronym, consider whether a first-time reader from outside the University would easily understand it. If the acronym is commonly used by your target audience, then there is no need to write out the name in full (for example, school leavers are highly likely to understand CAO). If the acronym is not commonly known, write out the full name followed by the acronym in parentheses.

  • The importance of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for Irish educators

See also: Latin abbreviation

Write out the academic year in full with no numerical abbreviations, and use a hyphen and not a slash to separate academic years. 

  • Use 2021-2022 rather than 2021/22 or 2021/2022

When possible, avoid using passive verbs as they result in a vague, over-formal tone.

  • Use ‘Fifty TY students visited DCU’ rather than ‘DCU was visited by 50 TY students’

Alumni are former students of the University. Please note the following:

  • alumna – female graduate, singular
  • alumnus – male graduate, singular; gender-neutral singular
  • alumni – graduates, plural

Ampersands should not be used on the University website or on printed materials for accessibility reasons. Please replace any ampersands with 'and'. The only exception are:

  • In the use of the School name Fiontar & Scoil na Gaeilge
  • In abbreviations - SS&D, L&OD
  • In headers in offline materials

Asterisks should generally* not be used on web pages or in print. Any supplemental content should immediately follow the text introducing it. If the supplemental content is too long or complicated to explain, provide a link to the text on a separate web page that explains the information further. 

*There is one exception - we use asterisks as a handy disclaimer shortcuts in print advertisements.

Do not use brackets to pluralise words. 

  • Use ‘select your course or courses’ rather than ‘select your course(s)’

In a bulleted list, each bullet point  should start with a capital letter. If your bullet point is one sentence do not use a full stop. If there are two sentences in a bullet point, end with a full stop and use proper punctuation. See the bulleted list below for example.

In general, the fewer capitals that are used in writing, the better.  Use capitals only for:

  • Proper nouns – place names, countries, languages/nationalities, names, historical periods
  • Directions are capitalised if part of a commonly used title of an area, e.g. South Africa, Western Australia but not if they are descriptors e.g. the west of Ireland
  • ‘University’ when referring to Dublin City University, e.g. the University’s focus on transforming lives and societies. Do not use it when referring to a university or universities in general.
  • Honours, Faculty, School, and Department names, and specific job titles (e.g. Director of Human Resources, Professor, Assistant Professor) should be all capitalised
  • Degrees - Master of Arts, Bachelor of Science and MA, Bsc
  • SALIS and  INTRA are always capitalised

 

Seasons – spring, summer, etc – are always lower case. 

Use title case (where the first letter of each word is capitalised, but prepositions ) for titles, subtitles and subheadings - but do not capitalise prepositions of three or fewer letters.   

  • Use ‘How to Apply’ as a subtitle or heading rather than ‘How To Apply’

The term ‘course’ is used to mean any undergraduate study. ‘Programme’ is the preferred term for postgraduate study.

Not COVID-19 or covid-19. The terms 'Covid-19', 'Covid', and 'coronavirus' can be used interchangeably.

Use en dashes (–) rather than hyphens (-) or em dashes (—) in the middle of a sentence. To quote another style guide…

A single dash can add a touch of drama – like this. But use sparingly. Beware sentences – such as this one – that dash about all over the place – commas (or even, very occasionally, brackets) are often better; semicolons also have their uses.

Hyphens should be used for hyphenated words – for example, re-enact – and for compound words, like full-time or post-primary, or compound adjectives, as in the phrases second-year student, show-stopping solo.

Em dashes (—) are only to be used for bullet points in print materials. 

— This is an example of an em dash used for a bullet point

We should use dd-month-yyyy i.e. 22 February 2020 when the year is available. We should use dd-month i.e. 22 February when the year is not available or not applicable.

Do not abbreviate day names.

  • Use Tuesday, 22 March rather than Tues 22 March. 

For a date range, write out 'to' rather than use a dash.

  • Use ‘10 March to 14 March’ rather than 10 - 14 March

Names of centuries later than the tenth century are written in numerals; e.g. the 20th century.  The 'th' after the numeral should not be in superscript as this causes accessibility issues. Century names are hyphenated when they precede a noun, e.g. 18th-century Dublin.

The correct way to spell master’s degree is with the apostrophe. The s in master’s indicates a possessive (the degree of a master), not a plural. If you’re speaking of a specific degree, you should capitalise master and avoid creating a possessive: Master of Science. The same rules apply to a bachelor’s degree.

The term 'Faculty' should only be used when referring to one of the academic Faculties. When referring to staff, use "Academic Staff" and/or “Professional Services Staff" instead. Capitalise when referring to any academic School or Faculty. The correct titles for each Faculty/School are as follows:

  • Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
    • School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies
    • School of Communications
    • Fiontar & Scoil na Gaeilge
    • School of Law and Government
    • School of English
    • School of History and Geography
    • School of Theology, Philosophy, and Music
    • Institute of Ethics
    • Irish Centre for Poetry Studies 
  • DCU Institute of Education
    • School of Arts Education and Movement
    • School of Human Development
    • School of Inclusive and Special Education
    • School of Language, Literacy and  Early Childhood Education
    • School of Policy and Practice
    • School of STEM Education, Innovation and Global Studies 
  • Faculty of Science and Health
    • School of Biotechnology
    • School of Chemical Sciences
    • School of Health and Human Performance
    • School of Mathematical Sciences
    • School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health
    • School of Physical Sciences 
    • School of Psychology
  • Faculty of Engineering and Computing
    • School of Computing
    • School of Electronic Engineering
    • School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering
  •  DCU Business School

Use the term Orientation Week in place of Freshers Week in official communications and online.

Full-time is hyphenated when adjectival. For example:

I want to study for a full-time degree.

I want to study for a degree full time.

 

Not ground-breaking.

Use title case (where the first letter of each word is capitalised) for titles, subtitles and subheadings - but do not capitalise prepositions of three or fewer letters. 

Capital H, lowercase d. Avoid using 'Hons' – always write out in full.

Public bodies in Ireland have a duty to ensure that any information in writing sent to the public in general, or to a class of the public in general, is in Irish only or in English and Irish.

As such, DCU has various responsibilities for signage, announcements and websites. You can read our Irish language policy in full here.

In body copy, use italics for all book titles, plays, journal and newspaper titles. Italics are also used for unfamiliar “foreign” phrases such as ad hoc, ab-initio.

In headlines and on social media, avoid using italics, even for titles mentioned above. Online and on social media where there is no option for the use of italics, use single quotes if needed.

Try to avoid Latin abbreviations (c, ie or eg) where possible as they are not accessible to all users. Use 'for example' rather than eg and use 'that is' rather than ie. If you need to use them, don’t use full stops - make it ie rather than i.e.

The text of links (known as anchor text) must be meaningful and descriptive. Generic text such as ‘click here’ or 'find out more' must never be used. These kinds of links can be confusing when a screen reader reads them out of context. Instead, link a full sentence, as in the examples below.

  • You can register and find out more information here. 
  • Campus maps and orientation schedules are available here.

Lists of items should be presented in bulleted or numbered form. See also: Bullet points.

Online, please use lists over lengthy paragraphs of text - it is easier to read when using a mobile device.

 

Lowercase (€12 million). Try to avoid abbreviations - online and on social media where space is at a premium, you can use million at first mention and m thereafter.

Spell out as words for one to ten. Use numerals for numbers 11 and above and for decimals (for example, 4.52). If a sentence starts with a number, it should always be written out in full. If a sentence contains a mixture of numbers above and below ten, use numerals for all.

Part-time is hyphenated when adjectival. For example:

I want to study a part-time course.

I want to study a course part time.

 

Use % in all references.

Should not be capitalised unless at the start of a sentence or in a publication name. Should not be abbreviated to PG or pg other than in URLs and formal documents like Regulations and other official policy documents.

 

Not post-doctorate, post-doc or postdoc.

Our style is to use name followed by title in all copy, using Dublin City University if first mention and thereafter DCU, as below.

 

  • Responding to the news, Professor Daire Keogh, President of Dublin City University said:
  • Adding to his comments, Deputy President of DCU, Professor Anne Sinnott, said:

Should only be used when referring to a computer program. Otherwise, use programme. For example:

  • The DCU Access programme
  • We’ve launched 10 new student programmes
  • In this course, students learn how to program in Python, one of the most popular programming languages in the world

When quoting direct speech, always use double quotes. 

Use a colon - never a comma -  to indicate attribution at the beginning:

  • Daire Keogh said: "The data from the FUSE programme show that education is key to helping children and young people recognise, respond to and report bullying and online safety issues."

When there are further quotes or figures of speech within the quoted speech, use single quotes. Place ending punctuation inside the quotes for a complete quoted sentence; otherwise the punctuation comes outside.

  • “Anna said: ‘Your style guide needs updating,’ and I said: ‘I agree.’” but: “Anna said updating the guide was ‘a difficult and time-consuming task’.”

For quotes that cross two paragraphs, do not close the quotation marks until the end where you should place the attribution - and reopen the quote marks at the beginning of each paragraph.

  • "It is with great pleasure that we bring Charles J. Haughey's papers into the public domain. It is 30 years since he left office, and the impact of his political career and life over the previous four decades will be clear from the breadth of the collection he left behind. 
     
  • "We will begin releasing the papers for consultation in phases from this autumn, and where possible online. We would also like to take the opportunity to thank the Haughey family for additional support in the ongoing management of this project of national and international interest,' said Jane Smith, DCU’s head librarian. 

Figures of speech or words quoted for explanation should be in single quotes – not italics.

 

Should always be hyphenated. 

 

Use Semester 1 rather than 'Semester one' and Semester 2 rather than 'Semester two' or 'Spring semester'.

Watch out for American English spelling, which can creep in after using certain spell checkers.

  • Use suffix -ise; -isation; -yse; -ysation rather than -ize; -ization; -yze; -yzation

Note the apostrophe -  for example, all students of DCU are automatically members of the DCU Students’ Union.

 

Time should be expressed as the twelve hour clock, as in 1am or 1pm.

We use the twelve-hour clock for time, for instance 1pm (or 1.23pm), the event starts at 12 noon etc. in a sentence.

 

Use Professor at first mention (Professor Joe Bloggs) followed by the abbreviation (Prof Bloggs). Use Dr throughout, including at first mention. 

 

No hyphen. Do not capitalise unless at the start of a title or sentence or used in a publication title such as the Undergraduate Prospectus.

On second mention, DCU can be referred to simply as the University (capitalised). Use ‘university’ to refer to a university in general. 

 

Should not be capitalised - first year, second year, etc.