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abbreviations, acronymsPhrases or titles abbreviated to acronyms or initials must be spelt out in full the first time they are used, with the abbreviation in brackets afterwards, for example Transport for London (TfL). Thereafter, the abbreviation can be used. Exception: where the abbreviation is better known than what it stands for (Aids, Nato, mph, CCTV, BBC).
academic years

Use a forward slash without a space to separate the two years within a single academic year, for example 2025/26

See also: dates, financial years, years


There is no need to include Surrey in any Merton address. Since 1965 Merton has been in Greater London, not in the jurisdiction of Surrey. Write: Merton Civic Centre, London Road, Morden SM4 5DX.

Do not abbreviate Street (St) or Road (Rd) – write them out in full.

adviserNot advisor.
affect, effect

Affect is the verb, meaning to have an influence on. For example, the weather affected our plans.

Effect is the noun, which means the result of a change. For example, exercise can have an effect on your mood.

agesFor ages, use hyphens where the age is used adjectivally before a noun. For example, ‘a three-year-old child’ but ‘the child was three years old.’
A levelsNo hyphen. Lower case level.
alley gateNoun: alley gate. Verb: alley-gating. Not alleygate or alleygating.
American EnglishCheck that your spell checker is set to ‘English UK’ and not ‘English United States’, or you could end up inserting misspelt words into your text like center or neighbor.
ampersands (&)Do not use. Use ‘and’ instead. Exception: companies whose formal names includes an ampersand, like Marks & Spencer.
andDo not start a sentence with the word and.
and/orAvoid using ‘and/or’ – just use ‘or’.
apostrophes (’)

Used to show possession, or to indicate that letters are missing from a word.

For example:   
Mr Jones’s house   
London Councils’ report   
It’s raining today


biannual, bimonthlyAvoid. Use ‘twice a year’ or ‘every two months’ instead.

​Use bold text sparingly for emphasis.

Large blocks of bold text should be avoided, as they can make reading harder for people with dyslexia or a visual impairment.

book, article and report titles

Should be in italics. As should all titles of plays, songs, films, exhibitions and paintings.

For example:

The Director of Public Health's report, Tackling Diabetes in Merton, has been printed.

The Wimbledon Times published an article headlined The King opens new homes for veterans in Morden.

Film Merton are screening Beethoven in Mitcham Library Arts Space.

See capital letters

boroughLower case unless used in full: ‘London Borough of Merton’.
BrexitThe withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. Upper case.
bullet pointsSee lists
Business RatesUse upper case for all names of taxes and benefits.
bylawNo hyphen. Not byelaw.


cabinetLower case except when part of a title, for example: ‘Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Schools and Adult education, Councillor Eleanor Stringer, said…’
capital letters

Only begin a word with a capital letter when absolutely necessary.

Use when a full, specific proper name is used, for example the London Borough of Merton.

Job and role titles should be capitalised when referring to a specific person, but lower case when used generically, for example, ‘the Chief Executive, Hannah Doody, met other chief executives at a conference.’

For headings, headlines and page titles, use upper case for the first letter of the first word and proper nouns only. For example ‘Better opportunities for young people in Morden’ not ‘Better Opportunities for Young People in Morden’.

Organisations, government departments and places, as well as the titles of books, reports, consultations, newspapers and magazines should all be written in title case.

Small words (such as ‘in’, ‘at’, ‘of’, ‘for’, ‘the’, ‘and’, ‘on’) are only capitalised if they’re the first word in a sentence – even in titles.

Use capital letters sparingly and don't write whole words in capital letters, which readers can perceive as SHOUTING and is hard for people with visual impairments to read. Use bold text to emphasise a word, but never underlining, as this can be mistaken for a website address.

Use lower case for the names of documents when talking about them in general, for example, ‘a penalty charge notice’, ‘temporary event notices’, ‘building regulations’. Use upper case when talking about a specific document, for example The Building Regulations 2010.

Use upper case for all names of taxes and benefits, such as Business Rates, Council Tax Support, Universal Credit.

Capitalise the full names of committees and sub-committees. For example, Planning Applications Committee, Licensing Sub-Committee.

See also: council

captionsCaptions of photographs should always highlight the names of councillors and also include their post title, if they are a member of the cabinet or the Mayor of Merton.
civic centreLower case unless used in full: Merton Civic Centre.
clichésShould be avoided like the plague.
C of ENot CofE. Spell out in full initially: Church of England.
collective nounsare generally singular. For example, the 'council is' or 'the Government has'. However, sports teams are plural.

Use commas to separate thousands in numbers with four or more digits. For example 1,000.

Use a comma in a list where you could also write ‘and’ or ‘or’. For example: 'The most commonly spoken languages in Merton are English, French, Italian and Spanish.'

When using a comma to join two complete sentences into a single sentence, the comma must be followed with a suitable connecting word such as ‘and’, ‘or’, ‘but’, ‘while’ or ‘yet’. For example: ‘We must respond to the press enquiry by Tuesday, or they will publish the article without our comment.’

Use a pair of commas, like this, to mark off parts of a sentence that contain extra information.

Only use a comma before the word ‘and’ (an ‘Oxford comma’) where it is necessary to avoid ambiguity. For example, ‘Sara is pictured with her parents, the King, and the Archbishop of Canterbury’ has a different meaning to ‘Sara is pictured with her parents, the King and the Archbishop of Canterbury.’

compass pointsLower case, for example south west London, unless they are distinct geographical areas such as West Barnes or the East End.
complement and complimentComplement means to go well together and compliment means to give praise. Complimentary tickets are free of charge.
controlled parking zoneLower case. Abbreviate to CPZ on second mention.
​coronavirus (COVID-19)​Coronavirus is the virus that causes the illness COVID-19. Write 'coronavirus' in lower case. Use the full term 'coronavirus (COVID-19)' when you first mention the illness but after that use 'coronavirus'.
cost of livingHyphenate only if the phrase is used before a noun. For example: ‘cost-of-living support’, ‘Merton Cost-of-Living Fund’, but ‘get support for the cost of living’.

Capitalise 'Merton Council' and the names of other councils.

Capitalise 'Council' when writing about the decision-making body: for example 'a new Mayor of Merton has been elected by the Council'. If writing about a 'full Council' meeting, do not capitalise 'full'.

In all other instances, 'council' is lower case.

Avoid writing 'the council': use 'we', 'us', 'Merton Council' instead.

Council TaxUse upper case for all names of taxes and benefits.
councillorLower case unless used with the name of a specific councillor as a title. Write in full to begin with, for example 'Councillor Jo Bloggs', and then abbreviate on second mention to 'Cllr Bloggs'.



Our style is: 1 December 2019 (day, month, year with no commas or letters st, nd, rd, th after dates). Do not use only numbers, for example 11.10.19. Decades are written 1990s with no apostrophe.

For date ranges, all of the following are acceptable:

  • from 1 January to 28 February
  • from 1 January to 28 February 2025
  • between 1 January and 28 February
  • 1 January – 28 February (spaced en dash)
  • 1–3 January (unspaced en dash)
  • 2021–2031 (unspaced en dash)

Do not use ‘from’ or ‘between’ with a dash or hyphen, for example do not write ‘from 1–3 January’.

See also: academic years, financial years, years

disabled people

Not ‘the disabled’. Say ‘uses a wheelchair’ (not ‘wheelchair-bound’ or ‘in a wheelchair’), deaf people (not ‘the deaf’), blind people, visually impaired people, people with epilepsy.

Follow the GOV.UK guidance on inclusive language

discreet and discrete

Discreet means tactful, for example, 'the Mayor discreetly signalled to the council officer to bring over the scissors for the ribbon cutting.'

Discrete means distinct and separate, for example, 'the consultation about the air quality strategy is a discrete piece of work.'

departmentsSee capital letters
dependant, dependentA dependant is a person. Dependent means reliant on.


ebookLower case, no hyphen. ‘Ebook’ when used at the start of a sentence.
egAvoid using. Replace with ‘such as’ or ‘including’.
emailLower case with no hyphen. Email addresses may contain upper case letters before the ‘@’ sign.
enquiry, inquiry

Enquiry – small-scale, for example in a letter ‘Thank you for your enquiry.’

Inquiry – large scale, for example ‘conducting a public inquiry’.

etcShould be avoided. Replace with ‘including’ or ‘includes’. For example, replace ‘The course covers maths, English, science, geography, etc’ with ‘The course includes maths, English, science, and geography.’
exclamation marks (!)Use sparingly, and never more than one.


financial yearsWrite as 2019-20. These are for budget purposes and run from 1 April to 31 March. Do not confuse with calendar years, which run from January to December or municipal years, which run between the Annual Council Meetings each May.
fixed penalty noticeLower case. May be abbreviated to FPN.
fluNot ’flu.
focus, focused, focusingOne ‘s’.


genderOnly refer to someone's gender when necessary. Do not use ‘he’ or ‘his’ as a generic pronoun for all people. If a person's gender is not known say ‘they’ rather than ‘he or she’, for example, ‘If you pull a face at your baby, they will copy you’. Use ‘the chair of the meeting’, ‘council spokesperson’, ‘actor’, ‘firefighter’.
general electionLower case, but upper case if referring to a specific election. For example, the 2019 General Election.
governmentUse upper case when referring to ‘the Government’, but lower case when talking adjectivally (government officials, central government funding). Also use lower case when talking about local government.
governor (school)Lower case.
Greater London Authority, GLAMade up of the Mayor of London and the members of the London Assembly. It is acceptable to use the abbreviation after spelling out on first mention.


half term 
headingsSee capital letters
headteacherOne word.

People are appointed CBE, OBE and MBE (they stand for Commander, Officer and Member of the Order of the British Empire).

For example, Councillor Edith Macauley MBE.

A person can be made a peer, baronet or knight or receive or be awarded a peerage or a knighthood.

hospitalFor the name of a hospital, only use capitals for the place name. For example St Helier hospital or Nelson hospital.

Hyphenate compound nouns such as ‘a build-up of leaves’, but not verbs such as ‘to build up your confidence’.

​Use hyphens to form compound adjectives such as ‘blue-chip company’. Be aware that the adverb could be mistaken for an adjective: a ‘little used car’ is not the same as a ‘little-used car’.

Do not use hyphens after adverbs ending in ‘ly’, for example, ‘a constantly evolving process’.

If two adjectives only make sense together then they need to be hyphenated. For example: ‘the strategy was discussed with borough-based, community-led organisations’.


immigrate, emigrateTo immigrate is to arrive in a country. To emigrate is to leave.
imply, inferTo imply is to suggest, to infer is to conclude.
initialsDo not use any spaces or full stops in initials, whether they are business or personal, for example WH Smith or JK Rowling.
inquiry, enquiry

Inquiry is large scale, for example a public inquiry.

Enquiry is small scale, for example a press enquiry.

intoOne word, but write ‘on to’ as two words.
-iseUse ‘-ise’, not ‘-ize’, at end of words, for example ‘organise’, ‘maximise’.

Use when quoting book, article or report titles. See book, article and report titles.

Use sparingly for emphasis or clarity.

Large blocks of italics should be avoided, as they can make reading harder for people with dyslexia or a visual impairment.


jargonAvoid jargon – always write in plain English.


kStands for 1,000. For example £149k is £149,000.
key performance indicatorsLower case, but KPIs when abbreviating.
Key Stage 1, 2, 3Capitalise and use numerals for government education targets.


LBMDo not use. Write Merton Council or the London Borough of Merton as appropriate.
LeaderAlways capitalise when talking about Merton Council's Leader – for example ‘the Leader of the council, Councillor Ross Garrod’. Use lower case when talking about council leaders in general. See capital letters.
licence, license

Licence is the noun, for example driving licence or off licence.

License is the verb, for example you can license a café to sell alcohol.

links​See web addresses

You can use bullets or numbered lists to make text easier to read.

  • Each list item may consist of one or more complete sentences, ending in a full stop, or the whole list may make up one continuous sentence. Don't mix the two kinds in one list.
  • If every item in the list consists of complete sentences, each point should start with an upper-case letter and end with a full stop.
  • Only use numbered lists when you are describing steps in a process, or a list of priorities in order. Otherwise use bullet points.

If the bullet points are complete sentences, consider whether the bullet points are really appropriate or whether you are simply writing a series of punchy sentences.

Make sure that you:

  • use more than one bullet
  • don’t make the whole bullet a link if it’s a long phrase

If you use a lead-in line (like this):

  • end the lead-in line with a colon
  • use lower case at the start of each bullet
  • each bullet should make sense running on from the lead-in line
  • don’t put ‘or’ or ‘and’ after the bullets
  • don’t put a semicolon at the end of a bullet
  • don’t use more than one sentence per bullet – use commas or dashes to expand on an item
  • don’t put a full stop after the last bullet

It’s sometimes necessary to clarify whether all or some of the points apply. For example, ‘You can apply for a disabled parking bay if all of the following conditions are met:’, ‘You can provide any one of the following documents as proof of address:’.

listed buildingsThe grades are I, II* and II. For example, the New Wimbledon Theatre is a Grade II listed building
localOnly use when necessary, such as referring to a particular geographic area of Merton. As a council, all of our activity will focus on the local area. Do not use ‘local residents’, as all our residents are local – use ‘Merton residents’ or ‘our residents’.
local education authorityLower case, but LEA when abbreviating.
local electionLower case.
log in, loginLog in is a verb. Login is a noun or adjective.
London boroughsThere are 32 London boroughs and the City of London, which is not a borough. Alternatively, you could say 33 London local authorities.
looked-after childrenHyphenate.


magistrates' courtThe apostrophe comes after the 's'. Capitalise the full name of the court, for example Wimbledon Magistrates' Court.
mayorAlways capitalise when referring to the Mayor of Merton, but use lower case when talking about mayors in general.
Member of ParliamentCapitalise. MP is preferable. After first mention refer to ‘Mr Hammond’, ‘Ms McDonagh’ or just ‘the MP’. For example, ‘Teenagers from Merton met Morden and Mitcham MP Siobhain McDonagh on Saturday. The MP congratulated them on their achievement.’
membersDo not refer to councillors as members when writing in reports or publications. Always use the term councillors, except in the titles of cabinet members, for example 'Cabinet Member for Women and Equalities, Councillor Laxmi Attawar'.
MEPMember of the European Parliament or Euro-MP.
Merton Council, or the London Borough of MertonMerton Council is a single organisation. Use ‘Merton Council is’, not ‘Merton Council are’.

Since October 1995, public sector organisations have had to use the metric system for weights and measures. Failure to do so can result in legal challenges to our claims.

Exceptions are the pint (for beer and milk) and the mile (including miles per hour and miles per gallon). Mile, yard, foot and inch are also allowed for road traffic signs and for related distance and speed measurements.

Metropolitan PoliceCapitalise specific force names, but use lower case when talking about police officers or the police. The Metropolitan Police are plural, but the Met is singular, so: the Metropolitan Police are investigating, but the Met is investigating.
minister (political)Lower case unless part of a specific job title whether in the Cabinet or not, for example ‘Minister for the Cabinet Office, Oliver Dowden’. Give name and full title on first mention, thereafter give their name or just ‘the minister’.


namesPeople aged under 18 should be referred to by their first names, while an adult's full name should be used initially, for example, Jane Jones or Mike Smith, with subsequent mentions as Ms Jones or Mr Smith.
new yearLower case (for example new year resolutions) but New Year's Day, New Year's Eve.

Write from one to ten as words and use numerals for 11 and over. Numbers between 9,999 and 999,999 should include commas. Spell out millions and billions, but use m and bn for sums of money (five million people, £5m, 11 billion grains of sand). Include a space before million and billion, but not before m or bn.

Always use numerals for percentages – for example 4% – and for weights and measures where the unit is abbreviated – for example 4.5km, 6kg, 7st 5lbs or £7m.

A sentence should never begin with digits.

Fractions are written as words, for example two thirds.


onlineLower case, no hyphen.
overUse 'more than'. For example, 'more than two thousand people attended the event'.
​Oxford comma​See commas


penalty charge noticeLower case. May be abbreviated to 'PCN'.
perAvoid using per, except in miles per hour. Instead, write 'six times a year'.
percentage pointsIf the crime rate rises from eight per cent to ten per cent, it does not rise by two per cent but by two percentage points (it actually rises by 25 per cent).
political partiesHave capital letters. For example, the Labour Party voted against the amendment put forward by the Conservatives.
postcodeNot post code, nor post-code.
pothole​One word, no hyphen.
practice or practiseThe noun is practice. The verb is practise. For example, the players hold a practice every Monday. They practise for two hours.
pre-election periodThe period of time immediately before elections or referendums when specific restrictions on communications activity are in place.
principal or principlePrincipal means first in order of importance or a school headteacher. A principle is a rule or belief governing someone's personal behaviour.


quotation marks

Double quotation marks should only be used to indicate that someone is being quoted. Put the name of the speaker directly before the start of the quote. For example:

Councillor Ross Garrod said: “I enjoyed meeting members of the chamber of commerce at the meeting.”

If the quoted material is a complete sentence or question, punctuation should fall inside the closing quotation mark, as in the example above.

If the quoted material is a single word or phrase, put the punctuation outside the closing quotation mark. For example:

Too many post-16 learners felt they had made ‘false starts’.

Use a colon to introduce a longer quotation, or a comma to introduce a short sentence or phrase.

If the sentence continues after the quote, there should be a comma within the closing quotation mark. For example:

“The reduction in fly-tipping is encouraging,” she said.

If a quote continues for more than one paragraph, add the open quote marks at the start of each new paragraph. Close the whole quote with one set of double quote marks.

Do not use single quote marks around the titles of reports or articles, as these should be written in italics.


refuse (noun)Avoid. Use 'recycling' or 'rubbish'.
resident permitLower case.
​riversLower case – for example 'river Wandle', 'river Thames'.
Royal Family

Use His Majesty The King on first mention only, and the King from then on.

Use Queen Camilla on first mention, and in later references the Queen.

Use the Prince of Wales on first mention, thereafter Prince William or the prince.

Use Catherine, Princess of Wales on first mention, thereafter the princess.

Use His Royal Highness or Her Royal Highness (HRH) for other members of the Royal Family.



Abbreviate to St (no point), for names of towns, schools, churches, and so on, for example:

  • St John Fisher School
  • St Mark's Church
  • St Helier hospital
schoolsCapitalise full title, for example Merton Park Primary School.
schoolchildrenOne word.
school governor, governorLower case.
seasonsAlways lower case when standing alone (spring, summer, autumn, winter). Note also: summertime, wintertime, springtime, but British Summer Time (BST).
semicolons (;)Avoid. They are difficult to read on screen.
sixth formLower case and no hyphen.
slashes (/)Do not use instead of 'or'.
SLLPNot SLLp (South London Legal Partnership).
spacesOne space after a full stop, not two.
​stationUse lower case for Underground and National Rail stations, for example Morden station, Mitcham Junction station.


telephone numbersFor landlines in London write three groups of figures, in the format: 020 8545 4654, not: 0208 545 4654. Outside London, the format is 01234 567890 or 0121 222 3344. For mobile numbers, use 07779 123456.
terrace houseNot 'terraced house'.
Three Kings PieceNo apostrophe.
timeUse midnight or midday and the 12-hour clock. For example 1.20am, 4am, 5pm or 9.30pm. Use a full stop as a separator, not a colon. Do not use the 24-hour clock or insert extra zeros, for example 10.00am. Avoid relative times such as ‘last year’, ‘this year’, ‘next year’, as these can make your content go out of date – except where the date of publication is prominently displayed, such as on a news release.
titlesSee capital letters, and book, article and report titles
trademarksAvoid where possible and use a generic alternative.
TubeCapitalise. Use the Tube or London Underground. Capitalise the various lines, for example the District Line and the Northern Line.
​TwitterTwitter users send tweets, also known as tweeting. Don't hyphenate 'retweet'.


underliningDo not use underlining for emphasis or headings as it could be mistaken for a hyperlink, website or an email address.
Universal CreditUse upper case for all names of taxes and benefits.
URLsSee web addresses


web addresses

If a web address comes at the end of a sentence you should not follow it with a full stop, but try to avoid it coming at the end of a sentence in the first place. This avoids any confusion about whether the full stop is part of the address.

Merton's web address must appear on all documents.

Use a specific ‘friendly’ address where possible, such as merton.gov.uk/jobs

Omit ‘http://’, ‘https://’ and, if possible, ‘www.’

Always check that a web address works before including it.

websiteOne word.
weights and measuresSee metric
wellbeingOne word.
which, that

'That' defines, while 'which' gives extra information.

'This is the book that Chris wrote. The illustrations, which Jane drew, are in colour.'

White Paper, Green PaperCapitalise only when they are issued by the Government. Papers issued by the Opposition are lower case.
wifiNot Wi-Fi.
Wimbledon ChampionshipsFormally known as The Championships, Wimbledon. Use capitals for the Centre Court, No 1 Court, No 14 Court.



Use 'Year 1', 'Year 3', 'Year 12', 'Reception Year', 'Nursery' when referring to school years, but 'nursery' when referring to a nursery setting.

See also: dates, academic years, financial years