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Common usage

Acronyms and abbreviations

General usage

Only use acronyms without any explanation if they are in common use among the targeted readership (e.g., ZIP code, HTML, PDF, and URL).

Always capitalize acronyms.

  • Example:

    ZIP is an acronym for Zone Improvement Plan.

Don’t use an apostrophe to form the plural of an acronym.

  • Example:

    Did you receive the PDFs?

Don’t use acronyms too often. Only include acronyms when they make your writing easier to read.

First references

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.

  • Example:

    The General Services Administration (GSA) oversees the business of the U.S. Federal Government.

Some names are more recognizable when they’re 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.

Later references

If possible, use a shortened version of the name, and not the acronym, in your second reference.

Readers can understand a shortened name without having to think about the first reference. This also helps prevent confusion between identical or similar acronyms.

  • Examples:

    Use Parks & Rec instead of PPR.

    Use the Act instead of Fire and Police Employee Relations Act.

    Use Commerce, not DOC, in place of Department of Commerce.

    Use Corrections, not DOC, in place of Department of Corrections.

“Active vs. passive voice”

See active and passive voice in our writing style guide.

Addresses

When giving addresses spell out the street name entirely, but abbreviate the type of street (St., Rd., Blvd., etc).

  • Example:

    1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd.

Citizen

Some people living within the city are not citizens. We prefer to use “residents” or “individuals.”

Dates

Use numbers for dates and years.

Don’t use st, nd, rd, or th after a number.

When you use months with a date, only abbreviate the following months: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec.

  • Examples:

    The Phillies’ opening day is April 8.

    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.

  • Example:

    I began my job in December 2017.

You do need a comma when date, month, and year are given.

  • Example:

    Philadelphia was founded on Oct. 27, 1682.

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.

  • Examples:

    Mayor Kenney will be speaking at the event on Thursday.

    M, Tu, F 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.; W, Th, Sa, Sun 7:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.

“Emigrate from / immigrate to”

Emigrate means to leave one country or region to settle in another.

  • Example:

    In 1900, my grandfather emigrated from Russia.

Immigrate means to enter another country and reside there.

  • Example:

    Many people immigrate to the United States to find work.

Figurative language

See figurative language in our writing style guide.

Inclusive language

See inclusive language in our writing style guide.

“Historic / historical”

In general usage, historic refers to what is important in history.

  • Example:

    A historic summit meeting between the prime ministers

Historical applies more broadly to whatever existed in the past, whether it was important or not.

  • Example:

    The City eliminated the Department of Horse and Buggies, a historical department, in 1909.

“Login / log in”

One word when used as a noun or adjective.

  • Example:

    What’s your login name?

Two words when used as a verb.

  • Example:

    Hurry up and log in!

Measurements

Use English units of measure (e.g., foot, mile, gallon, and pound). Spell out units of measure, except after numbers, where you can use abbreviations (e.g., ft., lb., mpg). Avoid the use of measurement symbols (e.g., # for pound), including in tables.

  • Examples:

    23 ft. high

    6 ft. 2 in.

    144 sq. ft.

    12 ft. x 12 ft.

    price per pound

Names

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.

  • Example:

    File your City taxes with the Department of Revenue. If you have trouble paying your taxes, Revenue has a variety of assistance programs.

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.

  • Examples: John Jones said that working in 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.

Numbers

Spell out numbers one through nine. Use numerals for numbers 10 and higher (10, 11, etc.).

Spell out a number when it:

Occurs at the start of a sentence.

  • Example:

    Twenty minutes later, the last cyclist crossed the finish line.

Is a fraction used as an estimate.

  • Example:

    one-half, two-thirds, three-quarters

Use digits instead of spelling out a number when it:

Includes a decimal point.

  • Example:

    At that time, the average age for marriage was just 18.7 years old.

Is part of a percentage.

  • Example:

    19 percent of registered voters

Is part of a range of numbers.

  • Example:

    the coveted 18–34 demographic; working 9 to 5

Ages

Always use digits to express ages.

  • Example:

    5 years old

Decimal points

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.

Fractions

Spell out and hyphenate all numbers less than one.

  • Example:

    one-half, two-thirds

Separate fractions from a preceding whole number with a space.

  • Example:

    5 ½

Measurement

Always use figures in measurements.

  • Example:

    5 feet by 20 feet

Money

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.”

  • Examples:

    Project estimates are expected to exceed $289.5 million after the storm damage is assessed.

    In 2014, the cost of producing a penny dropped to 1.7 cents, down from 2.4 cents in 2011.

Percentages

Use digits and a percentage sign (%) with no space between them.

  • Examples:

    The study showed a 5% decrease in obesity rates among students aged 5 to 18.

    Late fee: 5% of the total due, plus an additional 0.5% for every month the bill is not paid.

Phone and fax numbers

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.

  • Examples:

    Call (215) 686-0306 to find out if the building where you live is being managed by a court-appointed receiver.

    You can pay delinquent property taxes with a credit card by calling (877) 309-3710.

Ranges

Use “to” when constructing number ranges within sentences. An en dash may be used in place of “to” outside of sentences to save space.

  • Examples:

    20 to 30 days

    Hours 5–8 p.m.

Years

Do not use an apostrophe when pluralizing years.

  • Example:

    1900s

See the “numerals” entry in AP Stylebook for complete guidance.

Online/offline

Write both online and offline as single words without hyphens.

Onsite/offsite

Write both onsite and offsite as single words without hyphens.

Passive voice

See active and passive voice in our writing style guide.

Plain Language

See plain language in our writing style guide.

Redundant phrases

See redundant phrases in our writing style guide.

“Set up / setup”

“Set up” is a verb that suggests the act of putting something together.

  • Example:

    He set up the meeting room.

“Setup” is the noun that represents the result or arrangement of what you have put together.

  • Example:

    We all agreed the new setup was an improvement.

State name abbreviations

In most cases, write out state names. Use AP Stylebook abbreviations when referring to a state in a dateline, list, captions, tables, or political party affiliation. Set the state name 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.

  • Example:

    Our headquarters are in Philadelphia, Pa., but we serve the world.

The

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.

    An article in The New York Times quoted the mayor.

    Listed as one of the Fortune 500, Acme was a great place to work.

“Third-party”

Third-party (adjective) vs. third party (noun)

Hyphenate the adjective, but never the noun.

“Time-date-place”

Use a time-date-place structure for conveying event information in text. The day of the week is optional. If the day is included, it should be spelled out.

  • Examples:

    The press conference will be held at 2 p.m., Jan. 25 at the Municipal Services Building.

    The press conference will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 25 at the Municipal Services Building.

Times

  • 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.

  • Examples:

    We pick up the mail at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m

    Lunch is at noon.

    Parking is legal until midnight.

    Parking rules are in effect from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Titles, job

In general, capitalize job titles when they come before the person’s name. Do NOT capitalize when they follow the person’s name in a sentence.

  • Examples: Senior Vice President of Marketing, Jim Smith, is a member.

    John Doe, vice president of operations, has been with Acme for 10 years.

See also, capitalization.

Titles, media

Italicize names of magazines, newspapers, books, newsletters and movies.

  • Generally avoid underlining.

  • Put names of reports and articles in quotation marks.

United States / U.S.

United States is a noun. U.S. is an adjective.

  • Examples:

    Clams Casino is the most renowned dish in the United States.

    The company’s U.S. client base is extensive.

User

Avoid the word “user” in most cases. Words like “resident” or “individual” are often more appropriate.

  • Examples:

    Over 14,000 residents have signed up for the service.

    The Mayor estimates that some 36,000 individuals will be involved.

Year and a half / year-and-a-half

Hyphenate only when it is used as an adjective.

  • Examples:

    A year-and-a-half assignment.

    A year and a half on the management team.

ZIP code

Capitalize. ZIP is an acronym for “Zone Improvement Plan.”