The first time you refer to an organization or project that uses an acronym, write out the full name and follow with the abbreviation in parentheses.
Some names are more recognizable when they are abbreviated, as with IBM and FBI. In such instances, the acronym is always acceptable and you don’t need to spell out the full name at first use.
Readers can understand a shortened name without having to think about the first reference. This also helps prevent confusion between identical or similar acronyms.
Example: Use Parks & Rec instead of PPR.
Example: Use the Act instead of Fire and Police Employee Relations Act.
Example: Use Commerce in place of Department of Commerce, rather than DOC.
Example: Use Corrections in place of Department of Corrections, rather than DOC.
Only use abbreviations without any explanation if they are in common use among the targeted readership (e.g., ZIP code, HTML, CSS PDF, URL and, in some cases, IT).
Acronyms should be capitalized. Otherwise, avoid unless they make the text easier to read.
Do not use an apostrophe to form the plural of an acronym.
See active and passive voice in our writing style guide.
When giving addresses spell out the street name entirely, but abbreviate the type of street (St., Rd., Blvd., etc).
Since some of those people living within the city might not be citizens, we prefer to use “residents” or “individuals.”
Use numbers for dates and years.
Don’t use st, nd, rd, or th.
When you use months with a date, only abbreviate the following months: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec.
Example: The Phillies’ opening day is April 8.
Example: The first day of school will be Wednesday, Sept. 9 this year.
You don’t need to use a comma if only a year and month are given.
You do need a comma when date, month, and year are given.
Capitalize days of the week and do not abbreviate unless space is limited. When space is limited, abbreviations for days of week should be used.
Example: Mayor Kenney will be speaking at the event on Thursday.
Example: M, Tu, F 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.; W, Th, Sa, Sun 7:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Emigrate means to leave one country or region to settle in another.
Immigrate means to enter another country and reside there.
See figurative language in our writing style guide.
See inclusive language in our writing style guide.
In general usage, historic refers to what is important in history.
Historical applies more broadly to whatever existed in the past, whether it was important or not.
One word when used as a noun or adjective.
Two words when used as a verb.
Use English units of measure (e.g., foot, mile, gallon and pound). Spell out units of measure, except after numbers, where abbreviations (e.g., ft., lb., m.p.g.) may be used. Avoid the use of measurement symbols (e.g., # for pound), including in tables.
Example: 23 ft. high
Example: 6 ft. 2 in.
Example: 144 sq. ft.
Example: 12 ft. x 12 ft.
Example: price per pound
Use the City government directory to find the official name of an office, department, or commission. Use that name consistently.
Example: Department of Revenue
NOT: Revenue Department
After the first reference on a page use the shortened name.
For people, on initial mention, use First Name Last Name. Subsequent mentions use only last name. If two individuals in a story have the same last name, use First Name Last Name in every instance.
Example: John Jones said that city government is the most fulfilling job he’s ever had. Jones joined his department in 1994.
John Jones and Casey Jones say their work in city government is essential. John Jones joined his department in 1994. Casey Jones began her work with the City in 2001.
Spelling out numbers one through nine; use numerals beyond that (10, 11, etc.).
Occurs at the start of a sentence.
Is a fraction used as an estimate.
Includes a decimal point.
Example: At that time, the average age for marriage was just 18.7 years old.
Is part of a percentage
Is part of a range of numbers
Always use digits to express ages.
Use a leading zero (0.05, not .05) for numbers between minus one and plus one. Use a consistent number of decimal places within a document.
Spell out and hyphenate all numbers less than one.
Separate fractions from a preceding whole number with a space.
Always use figures in measurements.
Use the dollar sign ($) for amounts given in United States Dollars (USD). For fractional amounts under $1.00 that do not occur in a chart or list, use digits for the number and spell out the word “cents.”
Project estimates are expected to exceed $289.5 million after the storm damage is assessed.
Use digits rather than spelling out the number and spell out the word “percent” (one word) when including percentages in prose writing. Use the percentage sign (%) when including percentages in charts, lists, and brief summaries.
Example: The study showed a 5 percent decrease in obesity rates among students aged 5 to 18.
Example: Late fee: 5% of the total due, plus an additional 0.5% for every month the bill is not paid.
Use parentheses and a space to separate the area code from the rest of a phone or fax number. Use a hyphen (-) between the third and fourth digits that follow the area code.
Example: Call (215) 686-0306 to find out if the building where you live is being managed by a court-appointed receiver.
Example: You can pay delinquent property taxes with a credit card by calling (877) 309-3710.
Use “to” when constructing number ranges within sentences. An en dash may be used in place of “to” outside of sentences to save space.
Example: 20 to 30 days
Example: Hours 5–8 p.m.
Do not use an apostrophe when pluralizing years.
See the “numerals” entry in AP Stylebook for complete guidance.
See active and passive voice in our writing style guide.
See plain language in our writing style guide.
See redundant phrases in our writing style guide.
“Set up” is a verb that suggests the act of putting something together.
“Setup” is the noun that represents the result or arrangement of what you have put together.
Write out state names when not preceded by a city name. Use AP Stylebook abbreviations when following a city name. Set off on both sides with a comma if in the middle of a sentence. Never use postal abbreviations except when writing out a complete postal address.
Do not capitalize as part of a proper noun or title unless “the” is part of the trademarked or copyrighted name.
Example: New York City is also called the Big Apple.
Example: An article in The New York Times quoted the mayor.
Example: Listed as one of the Fortune 500, Acme was a great place to work.
Third-party (adjective) vs. third party (noun)
Always hyphenate the adjective, but never the noun.
The preferred structure for conveying event information in text is time-date-place. Use of the day of the week is optional. If the day is included, it should be spelled out.
Example: The press conference will be held at 2 p.m., Jan. 25 at the Municipal Services Building.
Example: The press conference will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 25 at the Municipal Services Building.
Use numbers to state exact times.
Use a.m. and p.m. for morning and afternoon.
Use noon and midnight to avoid confusion about 12 a.m. and 12 p.m.
Use a colon to separate hours and minutes, but don’t use a colon for something that occurs on the hour.
Example: The conference will start at 4 p.m.
Example: We pick up the mail at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m
Example: Lunch is at noon.
Example: Parking is legal until midnight.
Example: Parking rules are in effect from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
In general, capitalize job titles when they precede the individual’s name. Do NOT capitalize when they follow the individual’s name in a sentence.
Example: Senior Vice President of Marketing, Jim Smith, is a member.
Example: John Doe, vice president of operations, has been with Acme for 10 years.
See also, capitalization.
Italicize names of magazines, newspapers, books, newsletters and movies.
Generally avoid underlining.
Put names of reports and articles in quotation marks.
United States is a noun. U.S. is an adjective.
Example: Clams Casino is the most renowned dish in the United States.
Example: The company’s U.S. client base is extensive.
Avoid the word “user” in favor of more appropriate words, like “resident” or “individual.”
Example: Over 14,000 residents have signed up for the service.
Example: The Mayor estimates that some 36,000 individuals will be involved.
Hyphenate only when it is used as an adjective.
Example: A year-and-a-half assignment.
Example: A year and a half on the management team.
Capitalize. ZIP is an acronym for “Zone Improvement Plan.”
Use block quotes when you want to highlight a single sentence or phrase from within the body of your writing. Block quotes use text format and placement to highlight a particular issue so readers who scan can get the most important nugget from the story. Use block quotes sparingly to create the biggest impact.
“We are changing the way the City website serves our residents” - Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation
Unnecessary capitalization can come off as overly formal and unapproachable. We follow these capitalization guidelines:
Don’t use all capital letters. IT’S HARD TO READ AND CAN SEEM LIKE “SHOUTING.”
Example: Working for the federal commission was very rewarding.
Example: City government makes important decisions.
Example: Write to Chief Technical Officer, Jane Doe.
Example: Write to the chief technical officer.
Example: The City will announce pool openings on Friday.
Example: There are several City employees at the event.
In Headlines, page titles, subheadings, follow sentence capitalization rules.
When a heading includes a proper noun, that word should be capitalized, even if it does not appear at the beginning of the heading.
In titles, do not capitalize coordinate conjunctions (for example, “and,” “but,” “or”); or prepositions with four or fewer letters.
Use common contractions like it’s, can’t, shouldn’t, and you’ll. Contractions are part of everyday conversation, so readers find them easy to understand.
Too many uses of it is, cannot, and should not can seem archaic and formal. We can move away from this without compromising the reliable and professional tone of information coming from government.
Bold calls attention to key information.
Italics are used under specific conditions, such as to indicate the title of a book. Avoid using italics to emphasize an idea or to create a sarcastic tone.
Underlining should not be used in web communications, as this can be reserved to indicate a link.
Links are most effective when they are specific and descriptive. When you create a link, highlight text that will give users a clear idea of what they will see if they follow the link. This is especially useful for people with vision impairments who use screen readers, and will often skip from one link to another as a way of skimming content.
Example: To be ready for the unexpected, you and your family need to make an emergency plan.
NOT: To be ready for the unexpected, you can find out how to create an emergency plan here.
Do not use “click here” as the label for any link. Since “click here” is not descriptive, it’s harder for people to find the linked content through a search engine. It’s also becoming an outdated term, since mobile devices involve tapping, not clicking.
When you create a link, think about where you are sending the user and why. Check to make sure that you have picked the most relevant and authoritative destination so users will get the best information available as quickly as possible. For example, if the Department of Public Health issues a statement that you are citing, link to the Health statement, rather than to an outside news story that quotes the statement.
You should also be consistent when determining what will happen when someone follows a link. Phila.gov follows these guidelines for opening new tabs or windows in a user’s browser:
Do not set a link to open a new browser tab or window. This applies to any web page link, whether the link goes to another phila.gov page or to an external website.
If the link will begin a new process (for example, starting a registration process for a license, paying a bill, or ordering something), do set the link to open in a new tab. This allows people to complete that new process while still referencing the original page.
When linking to a form or document, link to the document page that houses that form, rather than directly to the form. Document pages provide important context for files, group related forms together, and are regularly reviewed and updated.
When you are linking to a website outside of phila.gov check the box that indicates that this website is not part of phila.gov. This helps users know they’ll be going to a new website, not a different page on phila.gov. For more information visit technical details on linking.
Because we use a .gov domain, it is important not to imply that the City endorses or favors any specific private-sector supplier. To avoid this perception, ensure that links to third parties meet a clear user need. Never include a link in return for cash or services. This includes requests for reciprocal linking.
Excessive linking can be confusing and overwhelming. If a resource, topic, or organization is referenced multiple times on one page you only need to link to it the first time. For example, if you refer to the Office of Property Assessment three times in a content item, link to it the first time but not the second or third times.
There are two types of lists: bulleted and numbered. Bulleted lists are known as “unordered” on the web, and numbered lists are known as “ordered.” Most lists should be unordered. Only use an ordered list if the order or number of items matters, as in a list of steps.
Bulleted lists Capitalize the first word of every bullet. Include a period only if the bullet point makes a complete sentence following the introductory phrase.
Example: When you go to the store, please buy:
Use apostrophe + s to form plurals of lowercase letters.
What about plural of uppercase letters, like acronyms? There is no need for apostrophes indicating a plural on capitalized letters, numbers and symbols.
Usability expert Jakob Nielsen explains that PDFs are good for distributing documents and forms that need to be printed. However, PDFs have several limitations.
Hard to read on computer and mobile screens.
Not always accessible to people with disabilities.
Not easily shared on social media.
For these reasons, avoid using PDFs for content you want people to read online.
Whenever possible, use lots of white space.
White space, or negative space, refers to the unmarked parts of a page, including the space between lines, columns, and images.
Break up walls of text and keep paragraphs at four sentences or less to ensure sufficient white space.
Unless it is part of an official name or title, spell out “and” when writing for the web.
Brackets are used to indicate that the writer has replaced the original word in quoted text with a different word to clarify the speaker’s intended meaning.
Example: She attended [graduate] school.
Example: He sat in on [several courses] during his day visiting the university.
Capitalize the first word after a colon only if what follows is a complete sentence.
Example: I have several favorite foods: apples, bananas, and pita chips.
Example: I have several favorite foods: Apples were my first favorite snack, but pita chips are a rising star in my life.
We prefer the serial comma (sometimes called the Oxford comma). In a list of three or more, include a comma before the conjunction.
Different types of dashes are used in different situations.
An em dash is a long dash. Use an Em dash to set off a phrase. Don’t use a single hyphen in place of an em dash.
To make an Em-Dash
Mac: Option + shift + hyphen
Windows: Alt + 151 (#pad)
WordPress: Three consecutive hyphens
An en dash is shorter than an em dash. Use an en dash to convey a range. The en dash is also used in to show connected items. Don’t use a single hyphen in place of an en dash.
Example: The program is open to children ages 10-12.
Example: He referred to the Sarbanes–Oxley Act.
To make an En-Dash
Mac: Option + hyphen
Windows: Alt + 150 (#pad)
WordPress: Two consecutive hyphens
See also “hyphen.”
Ellipses indicate things left unsaid. They are often used to shorten quoted material, removing irrelevant words without changing the meaning. Unless used to shorten a quote, write around them as much as possible. If they are absolutely necessary, they should be treated as a word, with spaces before and after.
The hyphen indicates conjunction and has several uses:
Use a hyphen when the letters brought together:
Are the same
Form an uncommon word
May be misread
Use a hanging hyphen when two compound adjectives are separated
Hyphenate two-word numbers from 21 to 99 when presented as words
Do not hyphenate other multi-word numbers
See also “Dashes” which are more often used than hyphens.
Parentheses are used to set off nonessential information in a sentence.
Parentheses are also used to set off area codes in phone numbers. Type one space after the area code in parentheses.
Do not separate acronyms with periods or blank spaces.
Examples: GOP, NASA, OBE, GmbH
Many periods and spaces that were traditionally required have now dropped out of usage.
Truncated (“Hon.” for “Honorable”), compressed (“cmte.” for “committee”) and contracted (“Dr.” for “Doctor”) abbreviations may or may not be closed with a period.
Type only one space after a period.
Below are examples of correctly punctuated quotations:
“Would you like a banana?” he asked.
“I hate bananas,” she said. “You know I hate bananas.”
He paused before saying, “Bananas are not something people should hate.”
Quotation marks should NOT be used to indicate emphasis or emotion, nor should they be used to set off proper names.
Example: Get ready for hurricane season.
NOT: Get ready for “hurricane season.”
Example: We are currently understaffed but we will do our best to get to your concern in a timely manner.
NOT: We are currently understaffed but we will “do our best” to get to your concern in a timely manner.
Example: Joe Johnson became the head of the Department of Human Affairs in June 1999.
NOT: Joe Johnson became the head of the “Department of Human Affairs” in June 1999.
You can use semicolons at the end of bullet points. If you choose to punctuate your bulleted list this way, do not capitalize the first letter in each bullet point unless it is a proper noun. Place a coordinating conjunction after the semicolon of the penultimate bullet point.
Example: Acceptable forms of identification include:
birth certificate; or
Social Security card.