OAT writers’ style guide

This style guide has been created for all Ormiston Academies Trust staff, to ensure consistency across all OAT material, in order for the Trust to present itself in a professional, considered and consistent manner.

As English can have variations in spelling and grammar, this guide should help answer any questions about what should be used where there is more than one option. The guide also covers some common mistakes.

Your first point of reference for style should be the guide below. However if you have any questions that are not adressed below, and if no members of the marketing and communications team are available, in many cases (although not all) the OAT style follows the Guardian and Observer style guide, therefore referring to this would be a safe alternative approach.

It should be noted that academies may have their own “house styles”, which you should adopt if writing a piece on behalf of an academy, or from an academy’s point of view. However, if there is no such style, or if in doubt, you should use the OAT style.

It is fully expected that the OAT style guide will be added to over time, so if you feel that further clarification is needed for any of the definitions below, or that something is missing from the guide, please let us know via email, at [email protected].

General notes on style

Whether you are writing copy for internal or external use, always keep language clear and concise. Keep your sentences short and get to the point quickly. Always write out initialisms in full the first time you use them. Replace long words with short ones where you can. Avoid jargon and technical terms as far as possible – but if you must use them, explain them. What might be obvious to you, might not be obvious to your readers; never assume.

The OAT style guide

Style entries listed alphabetically.

#iwill and #WeWill

#iwill is all lower case, however #WeWill should have capital W’s.


not A Level, A-Level or A level.

academy or school?

There is no expectation for you to use the word academy to replace the word school in every instance (apart from where it is used as part of a name). When writing an article for example, multiple uses of the word academy can often look forced and clumsy. It is perfectly acceptable to use the word school instead, in order to vary your terminology and avoid this perceived clumsiness. For example, and in particular, you should feel free to use the word school where it forms part of an already familiar term, such as school meals, school office or school day.

academy, academies

not Academy or Academies. Should only be capitalised when used as part of an academy name. For example:

Ormiston Bolingbroke Academy opened its new library last Thursday.


The academy opened its new library last Thursday.

but not

The Academy opened its new library last Thursday.

acronyms and initialisms

Take a deep breath… here goes!

In a broad sense an acronym is effectively a word formed from the first, or first few, letters of the most important words in a name or phrase. An acronym is usually treated and pronounced as a word (NASA, NATO, scuba, Ofsted).

An initialism is most commonly an abbreviation formed from a series of initials and usually pronounced as individual letters (FBI, BBC, USA, DfE).

Both acronyms and initialisms in common use generally have their own particular rules about how they are written, whether they are all caps or a mixture of caps and lower case letters. Commonly-known acronyms and initialisms, such as those shown above, do not need to be written out in full. Indeed, some may be less well-known if they are… do you know what UNESCO stands for?

Some acronyms and initialisms often used in education are detailed in this guide.

When creating initialisms or acronyms of names or phrases that are not commonly known you should write them out in full the first time they are used, then add the abbreviation in brackets immediately after:

“Ormiston Academies Trust (OAT) is one of the largest multi-academy trusts in England.”

You can then go on to use just the abbreviation for the rest of your piece.

Importantly, many initialisms and acronyms are jargon, which is to say they are expressions used by a particular profession or group, and which may be unfamiliar to others. Education is an area where jargon is very common, so think about your audience and whether they are likely to know what you’re talking about. Just because we know what OSSMA is, doesn’t mean everyone will.

And of course, there are exceptions to every rule.


not adviser.


a 14-year-old girl; a 14-year-old; 14 years old.


An ampersand (&) should only be used in the following circumstances: to avoid ambiguity, to save characters in a tweet (but only where necessary), or where it forms part of an already-established name or phrase, such as where a company uses it in its own name, eg. P&O.

An ampersand should not be used in any other circumstance.


The apostrophe has two purposes.

for example, when contracting cannot to can’t.

for example, Ian’s book or my parents’ house.

It is incorrect to use an apostrophe to mark a plural, so: Jenny brought two apple’s to school is incorrect.

However, an important exception to this is when pluralising single letters. For example,

Mind your p’s and q’s

would be almost unreadable without the apostrophes, so they are necessary in cases like this.

Do not use an apostrophe when pluralising or abbreviating years. So: the 1990s and not the 1990’s, and the 90s and not the ’90s. It is common in American English to use an apostrophe in the first example, but it is not done in British English.

bullet points

Items in a list of bullet points should have no punctuation at the end, other than a question mark where the item naturally requires one.

If the items in a list of bullet points form whole sentences in their own right, each should start with a capital letter, but still have no punctuation at the end.

If the items in a list of bullet points do not form whole sentences, each should start with a lower case letter.

For consistency and neatness, wherever possible you should avoid mixing items in a bullet point list that are both whole sentences and not whole sentences.

If you have items in a list of bullet points which form multiple sentences, you should consider rewriting. Your text might sound better written simply as paragraphs, and bullet points may be unnecessary and unwieldy.


Stop capitalising everything!

Of course, it’s almost impossible to be wholly consistent with the style of capitalisation, as there will always be exceptions. We’ve endeavoured to outline the following rules to maintain as much consistency as possible and to avoid the unnecessary and often incorrect use of capital letters. Our general advice is to stop capitalising everything! Just because you consider something to be important, doesn’t mean it should be capitalised. There are some exceptions which are detailed throughout this style guide, but you should try to adhere to the following rules, as a starting point. If you have any questions please contact a member of the marketing and communications team.

Proper nouns should always be capitalised.

Capitalisation of headings is often considered overly formal and outmoded, nowadays. It is the OAT house style not to capitalise words in headings, other than the first word and subsequent proper nouns.

School subjects should not be capitalised, except for languages. So: Alice studied art, history, French and music.

The following should be capitalised however, with the exception of articles, conjunctions and prepositions in the middle of a title or name, such as an, and, in etc.

  • names of companies, organisations, institutions, etc.
  • book and film titles, etc.
  • government departments

See also, in this style guide:

  • days, months, seasons
  • job titles
  • key stages
  • Ormiston Academies Trust
  • year groups

co-ordinate, co-ordinator

should be hyphenated, so not coordinate, coordinator.


See: Covid-19


should be hyphenated, and should always have a capital C but the rest of the term should be lower case. However, coronavirus does not need to be capitalised. We recommend the use of the term Covid-19, and not just Covid. The terms Covid-19 and coronavirus can both be used.


cyberbully(ing), cybercrime and cybersecurity are all single words, not hyphenated.

date and date ranges

Dates should be written with the number only and not with an ordinal suffix, so: 27 May rather than 27th May. When including the year, no comma is necessary, so: 27 May 2020.

Dates may also be written in short form, so: 27/05/2020. However, ensure that you use the same date format throughout a single document or article.

When expressing a date range, such as an academic year, you should try to avoid using a hyphen or a slash, and instead use an en rule. The slash character can imply “or” rather than “to”.

So use: 2020–21 or 2020–2021
but not: 2020/21 or 2020/2021

See also: hyphens and en rules
See also: time

days, months, seasons

Days of the week and months should always have capital initial letters, however seasons should never be capitalised unless they begin a sentence.

So: Monday and September, but spring and summer.

See also: capitalisation


not DFE. The f should always be written in lower case. Please also note, the full name is Department for Education, not Department of Education.

The abbreviation should not be confused with that of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which is commonly shortened to DofE.

e as a prefix

email and ebook, but e-cigarette, e-learning, e-safety etc. All should begin with a capital letter if they appear at the start of a sentence.


English baccalaureate (Ebacc); only the E is capitalised, so not EBacc or EBACC.


As of September 2021, the term NQT (newly qualified teacher) is no longer used. You should now use the term ECT (early career teacher). Please also note that the ECT period is two years.


should have a full-stop at the end, but not between the e and g.

See also: ie.


or Email at the beginning of a sentence. Do not use e-mail, e-Mail or eMail.

See also: e as a prefix

email addresses

When writing out an email address (within a document for example) it should always be written entirely in lower case. Email address syntax is not case-sensitive so capital letters make no difference, and look untidy.

Please also note, you must still place a full stop at the end of a sentence that ends with an email address, but take care not to include the full stop as part of the hyperlink.

See also: web addresses


is one word, so not extra-curricular or extra curricular.


should be hyphenated, so not full time.

See also: part-time.

hyphens and en rules

Hyphens should be used for hyphenation only, and never to express a range. Ranges should be expressed using the word to or by using an en rule (also called an en dash). An en rule is longer than a hyphen.

Sugar-free is correct (hyphen)
2020–21 is correct (en rule)
2020 to 21 is correct


2020-21 is incorrect (hyphen)


should have a full-stop at the end, but not between the i and e.

See also: eg.

job titles

Other than for the exceptions stated below, all roles and job titles should be written in lower case, whether the post-holder is mentioned or not. So:

The chief operating officer, Jean Westwood, addressed the conference…

The exceptions to this are political job titles where the post-holder is named alongside their post, and for titles such as the Queen, the Pope, the Archbishop of X, etc. Where a political job title is used without the post-holder’s name attached to it, it should be written in lower case. So:

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, outlined the government’s plans for…


The prime minister outlined the government’s plans for…

See also: capitalisation

key stages

When referring to a particular key stage or range of key stages the phrase should be capitalised. You may also abbreviate to KS when referring to a particular key stage. However, when referring to key stages more generally the phrase should be lower case. So:

Key Stage 3
Key Stages 3 and 4


The initiative is being rolled out to all key stages.

See also: year groups

master’s (degree)

should begin with a lower case m and requires an apostrophe as shown. So:

Astrid is currently studying for her master’s in ancient history.

national curriculum

should be lower case.


See ECT.


Spell out all numbers under 10 as words but use numerals for 10 onwards.

Never start a sentence with a numeral. If spelling out a number at the start of a sentence seems too long and unwieldy, consider rewording.

Commas should always be used for thousand-separators. Spell out large numbers if necessary; eg. one million instead of 1,000,000.


not OFSTED. Always use a capital O, but the rest of the word should be lower case.

Ofsted ratings

should not begin with an initial capital letter and should not be placed within inverted commas or quotation marks. For emphasis, should it be required, consider using italic or bold text instead.

So: The academy was rated outstanding by Ofsted in 2019.


not 1-2-1, 1:1 or 1–1 etc.

Ormiston Academies Trust

The company name is not Ormiston Academy Trust; note that “Academies” is plural.

The word “the” should not precede Ormiston Academies Trust when referring to the name of the Trust, so the company is not the Ormiston Academies Trust. However, it may be referred to as “the Trust” (note the capital T) following full mention previously in the same document, and by extension the phrase “Trust-wide” should also have a capital T when referring to OAT.

If Ormiston Trust and Ormiston Academies Trust are both referred to in the same article or document, do not use “the Trust” but refer to them both in full, to avoid confusion.

Ormiston Academies Trust may be referred to as “OAT” following full mention previously in the same document.

Also note: companies, academies, organisations, teams etc. are singular.

So: “Ormiston Academies Trust is pleased to announce its best set of results…”, and not: “Ormiston Academies Trust are pleased to announce their best set of results…”

And: “The DfE has published new guidance…”, and not: “The DfE have published new guidance…”

Oxford comma

Do not use the Oxford comma unless it is absolutely necessary to avoid ambiguity or misinterpretation.


should be hyphenated, so not part time.

See also: full-time.


Use the % symbol when writing a percentage:

“Across the network, 32% of pupils bring a packed lunch.”

The only exception to this is when the percentage figure starts a sentence. Because a sentence should never begin with a numeral (see numbers), the percentage figure should be written out in full:

“Thirty-two per cent of pupils across the network bring a packed lunch.”


should be hyphenated, so not post 16.


is the preferred past participle of prove, rather than proven. Exceptions to this are common idioms such as, “she has a proven track record…”

pupils or students?

It is our house style not to use these terms interchangeably.

When talking about the young people across our network, we use the word pupils. This is our preferred, collective term when referring to young people across all ages and key stages.

The word pupil(s) should also be used when referring to children of primary age.

The word student(s) should be used when referring only to young people at secondary or sixth form level. The word student(s) should not be used to refer to only children of primary age.

quotation marks

Always use double quotation marks when an individual is being quoted. Single quotation marks should be used for a nested quote (a quote within a quote).

When a quotation contains more than one paragraph, use an opening quotation mark at the start of each paragraph, but only using a closing quotation mark at the end of the final paragraph, not after each.


OAT regions should not be capitalised. So, OAT’s north region, not OAT’s North region. The exception to this is the OAT London region. You should use the terms north, east etc. when referring to the OAT regions, and not northern, eastern etc.

school (use of the word)

See: academy or school?


When referring to special educational needs and disabilities it is the OAT house style to use the term SEND not SEN, but SENCo not SENDCo or SENDCO. This is the convention currently used by the DfE.


Avoid using a slash character when writing copy, where a word such as or could be used instead. Using a slash in this way is unnecessary and will interrupt the flow when your piece is being read. Imagine reading your copy aloud, and what you would say when you encounter a slash. If you would naturally and without thinking replace it with the word or, you should write the word or. So:

Please refer to bus or train timetables…

and not

Please refer to bus/train timetables…

split infinitives

You should not generally split an infinitive, however if the alternative sounds awkward or clumsy it is acceptible to do so.


Static, not moving.


Pens, pencils, notepads etc. Items bought from a stationer.


Note the hyphenation and the lower case ‘o’. Can be shortened to Stoke. Should not be written as Stoke on Trent, without the hyphens.

students (use of the word)

See: pupils or students?


Refer to the Microsoft communications platform as Teams, not TEAMS.

telephone numbers

All landline telephone numbers should include the local area code.

There should be a space after the local area code, and the rest of the number should be separated into blocks of three and four digits where there are seven digits in total, or three and three when there are six. This makes numbers easier to recite and remember. When writing mobile phone numbers the first five digits should be treated as the area code, and so separated from the rest of the number.

0121 236 5100
01502 574 474
07854 013 376

Do not include international dialling codes or prefixes unless they are necessary.


You can use either 12- or 24-hour clock when expressing times, but do not use both formats in the same document or article.

When using 12-hour clock you should include a colon between the hours and minutes, and am or pm should follow the time directly with no space before.

For example: 2:30pm, 11:15am, but not 2:30 pm.

When expressing a time that is on the hour, you can optionally omit the minutes, so both 10:00am and 10am are acceptible. You may also use 10 o’clock, but not 10:00 o’clock. You should however ensure that the format is consistent throughout a single document or article, and does not vary.

If using 24-hour clock you should include a colon between the hours and minutes. Times before 10:00 should include a leading zero, so: 09:45, not 9:45. You should never use am or pm when using 24-hour clock. So: 09:45 or 14:30 but never 09:45am or 14:30pm, for example.

See also: date and date ranges


not upmost.

web addresses

When writing out a web address in a document, do not include the http:// or https:// prefixes unless the address does not contain www.

For example, write:

but do not write:

Please also note, you must still place a full stop at the end of a sentence that ends with a web address, but take care not to include the full stop as part of the hyperlink.

See also: email addresses


one word, not hyphenated.


not wi-fi or wifi. The term Wi-Fi is a trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance, so it is our style to retain the capitalised format used by the organisation itself.

year groups

When referring to a particular year group or range of year groups, the word “Year” should be capitalised. So:

We will be holding an open day for parents of pupils in Year 6.
The competition is open to pupils in Years 4 to 6.

However, when referring to year groups more generally, the phrase should be written in lower case. So:

The competition is open to all year groups.

See also: key stages