Criteris - Universitat de Barcelona

Criteris lingüístics, bibliogràfics, d'estil i convencions

Style Guide

Style Guide

Style Guide 

The University of Barcelona's Style Guide brings together different documents produced and maintained by the English Section of the Language Quality Work Group of the Vives Network of Universities, in which the University of Barcelona participates. To date, these include the Interuniversity Style Guide for Writing Institutional Texts in English (Manual d’estil interuniversitari per a la redacció de textos institucionals en anglès) and the Interuniversity Style Guide for Writing End-of-Degree Projects in English, which were both completed with the support of an Interlingua grant from the Government of Catalonia.

The Guide aims to facilitate interuniversity communication and improve the quality of the institutional and academic English-language documents our university produces. It is also intended to help our community bolster its knowledge of the English language and acquire the linguistic competence in English that is widely considered to be necessary.

Loosely modelled on existing style manuals (including the English Style Guide of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Translation and The Chicago Manual of Style), the Guide is organised into different sections addressing specific and general aspects of language style and providing examples of model documents. In line with the other resources on this website, examples of appropriate, inappropriate and incorrect language are boxed in green, yellow and red squares, respectively. Where we consider it helpful for the reader, words in the examples are also highlighted in those colours.
Further reading
“The Chicago Manual of Style Online.” The Chicago Manual of Style Online. University of Chicago, n.d. Web. 16 November 2021. <>.

“English Style Guide.” Translation and Drafting Resources. European Commission, n.d. Web. 16 November 2021. <>.

Gibaldi, J. MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. 3rd ed. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2008. Print.

“The Guardian and Observer Style Guide.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, n.d. Web. 16 November 2021. <>.

“How to Write Clearly.” Translation and Drafting Resources. European Commission, n.d. Web. 16 November 2021. <>.

Interuniversity style guide for writing institutional texts in English. Xarxa Vives d’Universitats. Grup de Treball de Qualitat Lingüística, 2017, 3a ed. <> [consulta: 16 novembre 2021].  

“IT and Communication: Yucca’s Free Information Site.” IT and Communication. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 November 2021. <>.

Lanham, R. Revising Prose. New York: Longman, 2007. Print.

“MHRA Style Guide.” The Modern Humanities Research Association. The Modern Humanities Research Association, n.d. Web. 16 November 2021. <>.

Peters, P. The Cambridge Guide to English Usage. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004. Print.

Ritter, R. M. The Oxford Style Manual. Oxford: Oxford, UP, 2003. Print.

Ritter, R. M. New Hart‘s Rules. New ed. Oxford, England: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.

Scientific Style and Format: the CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers. 7th ed. Reston, VA: Council of Science Editors in Cooperation with the Rockefeller UP, 2006. Print.

“Style Guide.” The Economist The Economist Newspaper, 27 Sept. 2011. Web. 16 November 2021. < >.

Swan, M. Practical English Usage. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.

Trask, R. L. The Penguin Guide to Punctuation. London: Penguin, 1997. Print.

Orthography and grammar 


Many questions related to spelling can be resolved simply by referring to a dictionary or using a good computer spellchecker. But there are also issues that require more careful consideration and that cannot be resolved automatically. This section provides recommendations on such issues, including the general conventions applicable to spelling, such as use of British and American variants, and the consequences of these conventions (for example, ligatures and consonant doubling). By “American” here we refer to the English written in the United States of America. There are other American Englishes in Canada and the Caribbean, and other Englishes around the world, but in regard to spelling the British and American (USA) variants are the dominant alternatives. We also refer to other considerations that are not strictly in the province of spelling but that nevertheless affect the way language is written; issues here include the use or non-use of diacritics, italics and hyphens.


As a reflection of our European geographical situation, we recommend the use of British English in most contexts, particularly for institutional documents. However, many university texts may be addressed specifically to American readers or may be for or from an academic ambit in which American English is more usual. In such cases, use common sense and discretion in deciding which variant is more suitable.

We strongly recommend, however, that only one variant of English be used within a single text or related series of texts, for reasons of coherence.

Differences in spelling between British and American English 

For most general purposes, there is little significant difference between British and American English in written texts. In practically all circumstances, any text written in standard British English will be comprehensible to an American reader, and vice versa.

British usage historically accepts both the -ise and -ize spellings, but the former is now more frequently used in a broad range of publications. Therefore, we recommend that the -ise, -yse and -isation forms be used, except where the context specifically requires American spelling.

The following summary lists the well-known and now commonly accepted distinctions between British and American spelling.

British English
American English
-ce (defence)
-se (defense)
-isation (nationalisation)
-ization (nationalization)
-ise (realise)
-ize (realize)
-our (colour)
-or (color)
-re (centre)
-er (center)
-yse (analyse)
-yze (analyze)

However, note that size and capsize are never written with –ise in British English.

Also, note that British usage has the form programme (as opposed to the American program) except when referring to computer code, in which case program is preferred.


Although the æ/œ spelling (known as a ligature, in which two or more letters are graphically combined) for forms such as œstrogen or cæsium is still in use in British English, this is now not universally the case for most other words that were traditionally written with a ligature; these words now have a single written vowel that substitutes the older æ form (medieval and encyclopedia being well-known examples). Opt for the simplified spelling for all such words.

Double consonants before suffixes 

Where consonants are doubled for monosyllabic words (basically, after a short vowel and immediately before a suffix beginning with a vowel such as -ing, -er, -est or -ed), British and American English spelling is the same.


For words of more than one syllable, however, differences between British and American usage can be complicated.

The letter l 

As an indication for when to double this final consonant in British English, we replicate the explanation given in Section 1.5 of the English Style Guide of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Translation: “In British usage, a final -l is doubled after a short vowel on adding -ing or -ed to verbs (sole exception: parallel, paralleled) and adding -er to make nouns from verbs”.

Examples would include the following:

Exemple correcte Alumni membership growth will probably level off by the end of the year.

Exemple correcte The new rector has indicated as a priority the levelling-off of expenditure.

Exemple correcte All those wishing to travel on the new grant should contact the International Office.

Exemple correcte This regulation applies to administrative staff who travelled during the first semester.

Exemple correcte Model your task on one of the following diagrams.

Exemple correcte Project modellers will need a minimum of five years’ experience.

In American English, except for multi-syllabic words ending in -al (final/finally; minimal/minimally), l is usually not doubled before a suffix.
Finally, there are certain words ending in -l in British English which double this consonant in American English:

Exemple correcte enrol–enroll; fulfil–fulfill; appal–appall

Note that the -l is accordingly doubled or not in derivatives ending in -ment:

Exemple correcte enrolment–enrollment; fulfilment–fulfillment

Other consonants 

Usage may vary considerably between British and American English in the doubling of a consonant at the end of a word other than l. If in doubt, consult a reliable English dictionary. However, the following observations generally hold for both variants. Consonants such as t or r double before -ed and -ing if the last syllable of the root word is stressed.

Exemple correcte The Department will admit students who meet the following requirements.

Exemple correcte The Dean admitted that faculty disruptions were inevitable.

Exemple correcte Students must submit their assignments in the agreed format.

Exemple correcte Applicants who are submitting their papers in June should fill in the following form.

Exemple correcte The Rector will confer an honorary doctorate on two renowned sociologists.

Exemple correcte The University has rarely conferred such degrees in this academic field.

Exemple correcte The Faculty will refer all complaints to the Dean.

Exemple correcte Reliable international research should be referred to for clarification.

In contrast to this, for two-syllable words whose first syllable is stressed, the final consonant is not doubled.


In British English the exception to this are two-syllable words ending in -p, where the final consonant is doubled even when the principal stress is on the first syllable.

Exemple correcte This groundbreaking project studies forms of primitive worship that are still prevalent.

Exemple correcte The study shows how animate and inanimate objects were worshipped indistinctly.


Diacritics are marks added above or below a letter (or sometimes within or between letters). In the Roman alphabet, they are basically used to indicate a modification in the pronunciation of the letter in question.

Although some languages make use of a large number of such marks, in those often used within our contexts, the most common diacritics are the so-called grave (`) or acute (´) accents, the cedilla (¸), the umlaut/dierisis (¨), the tilde (˜) and the circumflex (ˆ).

Unlike other European languages, modern English does not have diacritics. Some borrowed words may be written in English with their original non-English diacritic, but this rarely affects pronunciation (for exceptional cases, see Ambiguity, below). Overall, borrowed words tend to lose their diacritics over time because of processes of simplification and assimilation, and the fact that diacritics are not easily typed on an English keyboard.

  • Ambiguity

    Use diacritics when their absence could result in ambiguity. For example, exposé, resumé and rosé, when unaccented, look like different words (in this case, expose, resume and rose, respectively). When there is no possible ambiguity, you do not need to use the original diacritic (for example, facade ).

  • Names

    With names in other languages, use all the diacritics correctly and consistently, or use none at all.

    Exemple correcte Please contact Dr González Martí, assistant rector for Communication, for further information.

    Exemple correcte The plenary talk was given by Professor Johan Lübeck, a specialist in medieval German manuscripts.

    Exemple correcte Please contact Dr Gonzalez Marti, assistant rector for Communication, for further information.

    Exemple correcte The plenary talk was given by Professor Johan Lubeck, a specialist in medieval German manuscripts.

  • Other words

    When an English text uses foreign words or phrases that are not names but that have a diacritic in the original language, you should either keep all such marks or else use none at all. Be consistent. If you decide to use them, remember that they should also be used on capital letters.

    Exemple correcte The Concept of Égalité in the Recognition of Non-EU Degrees in France: A Critical Analysis


Italics are often used to draw attention to words or phrases, for instance to provide an example.

Exemple correcte Only use etc. at the end of a series of examples and never at the end of a series introduced by the words like or such as.

However, we generally recommend restricting their use to the following cases.

  • Titles of books, journals and other publications

    Unless following specific editorial guides, write the titles of books, journals and other published materials such as theses, end-of-degree projects, dictionaries and reference works in italics, to distinguish the titles from the rest of the sentence.

    Exemple correcte Recent research into the applications of microbial cyanobacteria on oil pollution has been published in the latest edition of the prestigious journal Science Today.

    Be aware, however, that conventions for indicating the title of a book or journal may vary depending on the publication or academic field. You will therefore have to bear these factors in mind, depending on the purpose of your text and where it will be published. For additional comment, see Titles in the section on capitalisation.

  • Words and expressions in other languages

    Italicise words or expressions from other languages that are not common in English (that is, words not included in a reliable English dictionary) and that may therefore not be readily understood.

    Exemple correcte The ceiling of the Faculty’s Aula Magna offers visitors a beautiful example of Catalan Modernisme.

    Other expressions of this kind are the Latin terms for academic distinction, cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude (meaning “with honour”, “with great honour” and “with highest honour”, respectively), which should be italicised.

    But note that foreign words that have now become part of normal English do not require italics.

    ad hoc
    status quo
    vice versa

    Note also that, in the event of using a non-English form for the official name of an organisation (universities, companies, governmental bodies, etc.) these names are not written in italics.

    Exemple correcte The University is currently involved in discussions with the Red Española de Supercomputación (Spanish Supercomputing Network).


The use or non-use of hyphens is a complex issue. The same words may sometimes be considered correct with or without hyphens, such as is the case with email and e-mail, although the general tendency is for less use of hyphens, above all as the result of the influence of electronic and social media, where hyphens are often considered superfluous or untidy. There are thousands of examples of recently disappearing hyphens, such as the following recommendations taken from the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

ice cream

To avoid unnecessary difficulties, we will give only certain basic guidelines.


Unless they belong to a figure (), always spell out and hyphenate fractions.

Exemple correcte The report shows that one-third of all undergraduates use campus parking facilities.


Many words beginning with a prefix are written with a hyphen (co-payment); many are not (overproduction). Confusingly, there are also cases where both forms are considered acceptable (British: pre-school / American: preschool). As can be seen from this last example, the tendency in American English is to hyphenate less than in British English. In all events, if in doubt about whether a prefix should be followed by a hyphen, consult a reliable dictionary. However, the following observations generally hold.

Words beginning with a common prefix (such as un-, dis- or re-) are often written without a hyphen.

Exemple correcte Current levels of absenteeism in many subjects are unacceptably high.

Exemple correcte Student representatives have disregarded criticism from the Rector, calling it uninformed and unfair.

Exemple correcte This initiative reaffirms the strong ties between the two universities.

In contrast, a hyphen is generally used with prefixes such as neo- and ex-.

Exemple correcte The Arts Faculty building is an outstanding example of neo-classical architecture.

Exemple correcte Dr Rovira is the ex-director of the Cancer Research Institute.

Hyphenate all words formed by a prefix and a word beginning with a capital letter.

Exemple correcte This movement is a pan-European response to failures in education.

Exemple correcte The research confirms a growing anti-British sentiment in commercial relations.

But note that transatlantic is normally written as a single word.

Compound adjectives 

Hyphenate compound adjectives before a noun.

Exemple correcte a little-discussed problem

Exemple correcte a low-prevalence phenomenon

Exemple correcte a well-meaning intervention

However, do not hyphenate compound adjectives in which the first element is an adverb ending in either -ly or in -y.

Exemple correcte a compellingly argued paper

Exemple correcte a highly detailed research proposal

Exemple correcte a very engaging argument

Similarly, do not hyphenate compound adjectives in which the first element is a comparative or superlative.

Exemple correcte the most cited research paper

Exemple correcte a less complicated suggestion

Phrasal verbs 

  • Nouns formed from phrasal verbs

    Nouns formed from phrasal verbs are often written as a single word and may or may not be hyphenated. If in doubt, consult a dictionary.

    Exemple correcte The dropout rate for this course is unusually high.

    Exemple correcte Funding problems have meant that these projects have been put on standby.

    Exemple correcte A major follow-up to this study has already been planned.

    Exemple correcte Last year’s buy-in allowed our faculty to open three new laboratories.

  • Adjectives formed from phrasal verbs

    When a phrasal verb is used as an adjective it is usually hyphenated.

    Exemple correcte Students participating in this initiative were given additional information during the signing-on phase.

    Exemple correcte During the warm-up period, there will be no assessment.

Word breaks 

Hyphens can be used to break up words into their component parts to facilitate reading.

Exemple correcte Part-time teaching staff play an increasingly important role in the MA programme.

Exemple correcte Students who do not comply with the regulations may lose the right to re-examination.

But note that certain high-frequency terms are no longer hyphenated.

Exemple correcte Cooperation among participating universities is gradually increasing.

Exemple correcte Macroeconomic factors have led to considerable modifications in research funding.

Words that are part of a name may be exceptions to this rule.

Exemple correcte The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

Compounds with the same root and different prefixes 

When a noun is preceded by more than one hyphenated prefix, write them as follows.

Exemple correcte In a pioneering study, the Department of Psychology is currently researching the pre- and post-natal effects of carbon monoxide.


Punctuation is an important aspect of any written text. Good punctuation organises or divides the text to make meaning clearer; poor punctuation will make it difficult to understand.

General guidelines 

Use common sense. Punctuation should help make written language clear to readers. If it does not, it should not be there. In line with most modern recommendations on this subject, we recommend light use of punctuation: as much as is necessary but no more.

  • Precedence

    Be careful of using two or more punctuation marks in succession. Generally speaking, use the stronger or more necessary one. For example, question and exclamation marks are stronger than commas and full stops. However, quotation marks, brackets and ellipsis points are often used next to other punctuation marks. In the first of the two examples below, the question mark is used instead of the habitual comma and precedes the closing quotation marks; and in the second, a full stop is not needed because the exclamation mark already ends the sentence.

    Exemple correcte “Have all the results been reported?” asked the researcher.

    Exemple correcte Fees must be paid by 20 December!

  • Punctuation and spacing

    Punctuation marks in English – apart from dashes, ellipsis points, slashes and opening brackets – are always next to the preceding word, without a space.

    Slashes are closed up to the preceding word and to the next word when they separate two single words.

    Exemple correcte and/or
    Exemple correcte male/female

    When a slash separates two groups of words or a group of words from a single word, insert a space before and after the slash.

    Exemple correcte This proposal has been approved / requires further consideration.

    Exemple correcte Such documents shall be signed by the rector / rector’s delegate, as applicable.

    Full stops, question marks, exclamation marks, commas, colons and semicolons are always followed by a single space.

Full stops 

Full stops or points present few problems. Use them for three main purposes: ending sentences that are not questions or exclamations, punctuating the numbers or letters used to list the elements of a summary, and separating the letters in some, but not all, abbreviations.

Indirect questions 

Use a full stop, not a question mark, after an indirect question.

Exemple correcte He asked what the requirements were.

Items in lists 

Use full stops after the numbers or letters that list the elements of a summary.

Exemple correcte 1. Prepare the report.
2. Send copies to all members.

Exemple correcte A. Punctuate properly.
B. Write simply.

The individual items in vertical lists should only be followed by full stops when they form complete sentences (as above), not when they are simply nouns or noun phrases (as below).

Exemple correcte Bachelor’s degrees
1. Law
2. Chemistry
3. History of Art

Punctuate information contained in a list written in sentence form with a comma after each item in the list and the conjunction and or or before the last item, which is punctuated with a full stop.

Exemple correcte To qualify for the master’s programme
1. your undergraduate degree must be officially recognised,
2. you must have a CEFR B2-level command of English, and
3. you must submit official transcripts of your undergraduate studies.

If the list consists of sentences punctuated with a full stop, the phrase introducing the list must end in a colon (as in the example) or a full stop.

Exemple correcte Requirements for admission to the master’s programme:
1. Your undergraduate degree must be officially recognised.
2. You must have a CEFR B2-level command of English.
3. You must submit official transcripts of your undergraduate studies.


Do not use full stops at the end of headings. Use full stops (not colons) in run-in heads, which should be italicised or written in boldface to make them stand out.

Exemple correcte Doctoral degree requirements. Doctoral students are required to submit at least three progress reports during the first two months of the research period. The templates for these reports can be accessed online.

Sentences ending in abbreviations 

If an abbreviation that takes a final point ends a sentence, this final point functions as the full stop.

Exemple correcte The new faculty service provides updates on roundtables, forums, seminars, courses, etc.

Exemple correcte This research is the initiative of a number of companies, including Apple Inc.

Exemple correcte The tour of the Aula Magna will end at 2.30 p.m.

In the case of questions and exclamations, however, finish the sentence with the final point of the abbreviation followed by a question mark or exclamation mark.

Exemple correcte Can this department really base its future decisions on the findings of Brown et al.?

Exemple correcte This was hardly the position adopted by Washington D.C.!

Footnotes and endnotes 

End all footnotes and endnotes with a full stop.

Exemple correcte 1Smith, R.G. In “How to Write a Good Essay”, pp. 45–48.

Exemple correcte 4Mack, 111–112.


Use colons to introduce examples, explanations and specifications. In running text, a colon is preceded by a complete sentence; what follows it may or may not be a complete sentence, and may be a list or even a single word.

Exemple correcte University orientation provides a range of activities for new students: tours, workshops and social events.

Exemple correcte Research centres are facing a troubling situation: budgets are shrinking.

Exemple correcte They proposed the creation of a new post: unit coordinator.

Common mistakes 

Be careful with colons in the following situations.

  • Instead of a comma

    Do not use a colon to substitute a comma. Therefore, not

    Exemple incorrecte To complete your admission application: send the required documents by the end of the month.


    Exemple correcte To complete your admission application, send the required documents by the end of the month.

  • After a preposition

    Do not use colons between a preposition and its complement. Therefore, not

    Exemple incorrecte The Council announced cutbacks in: research funding, international cooperation and staff development.


    Exemple correcte The Council announced cutbacks in research funding, international cooperation and staff development.

  • Two or more colons in a sentence

    Never use more than one colon in a sentence. Therefore, not

    Exemple incorrecte The Council’s priorities are controversial: they have been praised and criticised by all groups: PDI, PAS and students.


    Exemple correcte The Council’s priorities are controversial. They have been praised and criticised by all groups: PDI, PAS and students.

    Note, however, that you can use a semicolon and a colon in the same sentence.

    Exemple correcte The Government cutbacks have been devastating; protests are planned by many people working in the most affected areas: education, healthcare and social services.

Other uses 

  • Separating a title from a subtitle

    When you cite the name of a book which has both a title and a subtitle, separate the two with a colon. Do this even though no colon may appear on the cover or the title page of the book itself.

    Exemple correcte Human Towers: A Catalan Tradition

  • Writing ratios

    Use colons to write ratios.

    Exemple correcte The ratio of women to men was 2:1.

    However, in more formal contexts write out ratios in words.

    Exemple correcte Women outnumbered men by two to one.


Main functions 

The semicolon is mainly used to join two complete sentences in a single sentence when (a) the two sentences are thought to be too closely related to be separated by a full stop and (b) there is no connecting word which would require a comma, such as and or but.

Exemple correcte The Governing Council agreed to the measure; the Student Council rejected it.

Alternatives to the semicolon 

  • Full stop

    A semicolon can generally be replaced by a full stop.

    Exemple correcte The Governing Council agreed to the measure. The Student Council rejected it.

    However, the semicolon suggests that the two shorter sentences are more closely related than two consecutive sentences usually are.

  • A connecting word

    A semicolon can also be replaced by a suitable connecting word (and, or, but, while, yet) with a joining comma.

    Exemple correcte The Governing Council agreed to the measure, yet the Student Council rejected it.

    However, certain connecting words must be preceded by a semicolon or full stop. The most common are consequently, hence, however, meanwhile, nevertheless, therefore and thus.

    Exemple correcte The two sides have refused to negotiate; consequently, the measure has been suspended.


Use semicolons to separate items in long or complex lists, or to make these items more conspicuous than they would be with commas.

Exemple correcte The membership of the committee was as follows: PDI, 4; PAS, 5; students, 3.


As a general rule, commas can be used to list items in a series, to join sentences and to set off parenthetical or introductory phrases (for commas in lists in sentence form, see Items in lists).

Listing items in a series 

In a list containing a series of items, separate the items with commas. However, a comma should not precede the conjunction before the final item (in other words, write a, b and c and not a, b, and c). But if a comma would make the meaning clearer, use it – especially where one of the items in the list is already joined by and.

Exemple correcte Specialist subjects include teaching, research and development, and business applications.

Joining sentences 

When you join two complete sentences into a single sentence, you can use commas but follow them with a suitable connecting word: and, or, but, while or yet.

Exemple correcte The group members had to hand in their reports last week, but some were only submitted this week.

The comma is not required if the subject of the second part of the sentence is omitted or if the conjunction used is and or or.

Exemple correcte The student had to hand in the work by Friday but didn’t make the deadline.

Exemple correcte The student had to hand in the work by Friday or the work would receive a failing mark.

Other uses of the comma 

Separate a city from a state, province, region or country with a comma.

Exemple correcte Chicago, Illinois
Exemple correcte Lisbon, Portugal

Do not use a comma between the month and the year.

Exemple incorrecte October, 2001
Exemple correcte October 2001

In most numbers of one thousand or more, use commas between groups of three digits.

Exemple correcte 62,242
Exemple correcte 1,723
Exemple correcte 1,000,000

Exceptions are degree temperatures, years, addresses, page numbers and other uses of numbers for a non-quantifying purpose (see the explanation about commas in Numbers and punctuation, in the section on numbers).

Misuse of the comma 

Do not put the comma between the subject and the verb even if the subject is very long. Therefore, in the sentence below there is no comma between the words own (the end of the long subject) and are (the first word of the verb phrase).

Exemple correcte Students who are attracted by the idea of spending a few months studying at a university in a country other than their own are often put off when they realise they will have to attend lectures in a foreign language.


A dash is similar in appearance to a hyphen but is longer and used differently. The most common version of the dash is the en dash. Use it with spaces to make a parenthetical reference.

Exemple correcte This morning’s lecture rescheduled from last week was given by Professor Mulligan.

Use it without spaces to express a connection or to indicate a date, time or number range.

Exemple correcte GironaBarcelona bus
Exemple correcte staffstudent relationship

Exemple correcte 20192022
Exemple correcte 3.157.30 p.m.
Exemple correcte 4050 students

Remember that ranges can be expressed by an en dash or by the words from and to (or between and and) but never by a combination of from (or between) and an en dash. Therefore, not

Exemple incorrecte The Arabic discussion group will meet from 3 p.m.–6.30 p.m. on Thursdays.


Exemple correcte The Arabic discussion group will meet from 3 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. on Thursdays.


Round brackets 

Round brackets are primarily used in four situations.

  • Secondary or marginal information

    Use round brackets to indicate information that is secondary or marginal to the main idea of the sentence.

    Exemple correcte The documentary was produced by Spotlight Films (a production company connected to the University’s film school).

  • Explanations or abbreviations of preceding information

    Use round brackets to expand on or explain preceding information.

    Exemple correcte EU-OSH (the European workplace safety and health agency) works to ensure that these regulations are respected.

    Exemple correcte The project was funded by the World Health Organization (WHO).

    When a passage within round brackets is at the end of a sentence, of which it is only a part, place the full stop after the closing bracket. However, when the bracketed passage is a complete sentence, place the full stop before the opening bracket and then add a second full stop before the closing bracket.

    Exemple correcte The number of students entering arts degrees is declining (according to recent reports).

    Exemple correcte The number of students entering arts degrees is declining. (According to recent reports, it has dropped by over 25% in the last nine years.)

  • Options

    Use round brackets to represent options.

    Exemple correcte Please write your surname(s) in block capitals.

    Exemple correcte The opinions of the author(s) are not shared by the publisher(s).

  • Enumerations in a body of text

    Use round brackets to enclose numerals or letters in an enumeration in the body of a text. Use roman type rather than italics for the numerals and letters.

    Exemple correcte A project proposal should include (1) a description of the project, (2) an identification of the target audience, (3) an explanation of why the project deserves funding and (4) a comparison with similar projects implemented in recent years.

    Exemple correcte The preview of your class paper should include (a) an abstract, (b) a sample of each chapter, (c) a selected bibliography and (d) details on funding.

Square brackets 

Square brackets are less common than round brackets. They are primarily used in three situations.

  • Clarifications within quoted text

    Use square brackets to set off a clarification within quoted text.

    Exemple correcte The Rector said of the coming budget debate: “Never in all my years as rector have I had to make such a difficult decision about such a useful programme [grants for young researchers] affecting so many”.

  • Optional or tentative text

    Use square brackets to indicate text that is optional or still open to discussion.

    Exemple correcte The implementation of the project will be the [joint] responsibility of the School of Education [and the Office of External Relations].

  • Brackets within brackets

    Use square brackets to indicate parenthetical elements that are already in round brackets.

    Exemple correcte A large multilateral organisation (e.g., the World Bank [WB]) has the following characteristics…

Question marks 

  • Direct questions

    Place a question mark at the end of any sentence that is a direct question.

    Exemple correcte Who wrote that report?

    If the question is a direct quotation, repeating the speaker’s exact words, a question mark is still used.

    Exemple correcte “Who wrote that report?” she asked.

  • Other types of questions

    • Indirect questions

      Do not use a question mark in an indirect question, in which the speaker’s exact words are not repeated. Use only a full stop, since the whole sentence is now a statement.

      Exemple correcte She asked who had written that report.

    • Courtesy questions

      If a request or instruction is put as a question for reasons of courtesy, do not use a question mark.

      Exemple correcte Would you please fill in and sign the attached application and submit it before the end of the month.

Quotation marks 

Use quotation marks, also called inverted commas, to indicate direct quotations and definitions.

Exemple correcte Before bestowing the award the Rector said, Dr Robinson’s efforts to oppose discrimination place him among the few who actually deserve such an honour.

Exemple correcte According to this dictionary, a methodology is a body of methods, rules and postulates employed by a discipline.

Always use double marks for a quotation and single marks for a quotation within a quotation.

Exemple correcte His office door is very unusual; it has Welcome written all over it in over thirty different languages.

Punctuation should be placed according to the meaning: if it belongs to the quotation, it is quoted; otherwise, it is not.

Exemple correcte According to the Dean, The need for structural change is paramount.”

Exemple correcte The Dean declared that the need for structural change was paramount.

Quotations of over four lines in length should be set off from the text as a block quotation, not enclosed in quotation marks, and single-spaced. Quoted matter within the block quotation is set off with double quotation marks; quotations within these quotations, with single quotation marks.

Single quotation marks can also help show the reader that a word or term is used in an unusual, colloquial or ironic way.

Exemple correcte Nature somehow ‘knows’ the best environmental course to take.

Exemple correcte The students felt ‘ripped off’ by the lecturer’s decision to hold the exam a week earlier than scheduled.

Exemple correcte That lecturer is famous for sharing her ‘wisdom’ with her students.

However, if you overuse quotation marks in these ways, they lose their effect. Also, use quotation marks for titles of chapters in books, articles in periodicals, and TV and radio programmes.

Exclamation marks 

An exclamation mark is used at the end of a short phrase or a sentence that expresses very strong feeling. It is one way of adding emphasis and in our institutional context it may be used in public announcements of certain kinds, university relations and advertising.

Exemple correcte Sign up now!
Exemple correcte More funding for research and development!

However, exclamation marks are very rare in formal English, so use them sparingly. Finally, never use more than one exclamation mark in a row.

Exemple incorrecte Join us at the presentation!!!


In general, we use apostrophes to indicate possession or contracted forms.

  • Possessive forms of nouns

    The possessive form of a singular noun is marked by an apostrophe followed by s.

    Exemple correcte the manager’s report
    Exemple correcte the lecturer’s hypothesis

    This rule applies in most cases even with a name ending in -s.

    Exemple correcte the PAS’s response
    Exemple correcte Erasmus’s success

    If a plural noun already ends in -s, the apostrophe is used alone.

    Exemple correcte the students work (several students)
    Exemple correcte the teachers room (all the teachers)

    Note that the apostrophe is also used in expressions of time.

    Exemple correcte eight weeks time
    Exemple correcte yesterdays meeting

    Degree types should be written with an apostrophe followed by s.

    Exemple correcte bachelor’s degree
    Exemple correcte master’s degree

    But note the exception doctoral degree (not doctor’s degree).

    Do not use apostrophes to indicate a decade, a plural acronym or the plurals of figures.

    Exemple incorrecte the 1990’s
    Exemple correcte the 1990s
    Exemple incorrecte URL’s
    Exemple correcte URLs
    Exemple incorrecte 747’s
    Exemple correcte 747s

  • Contractions

    Use apostrophes for contractions (you’re for you are, don’t for do not, it’s for it is or it has) but note that contractions are far less common in formal texts than they are in informal writing.

Ellipsis points 

Use ellipsis points with a space on either side to denote pauses. Use them at the end of a sentence without a space to indicate that the sentence has been left unfinished.

Exemple correcte “This morning’s lecture ... was very interesting.”

Exemple correcte The lecturer warned her students: “The reports are due next Friday. If I don’t get them...

Use ellipsis points with square brackets to denote words missing from a direct quotation.

Exemple correcte The Rector said, “Preston [...] transmitted values through his books [...] and enabled us to understand the present and look to the future.”

Do not use ellipsis points to indicate an incomplete list. Use etc. Therefore, not

Exemple incorrecte This unit deals with promotion, advertising, outreach...


Exemple correcte This unit deals with promotion, advertising, outreach, etc.


Capital letters essentially have three functions: to mark the beginning of a sentence, to indicate titles and to distinguish proper nouns from other words. It is impossible to establish absolute rules for all aspects of capitalisation because it often depends on the role of a word in a sentence, the writer’s personal taste or the house style being followed. It is largely the second and third functions mentioned above – titles, and the distinction between proper nouns and other words – that lead to discrepancies in practice: authors can apply traditional or more modern approaches to title capitalisation (that is to say, maximal and minimal capitalisation, respectively), and sometimes there are differences of opinion over exactly what constitutes a proper noun and how words derived from proper nouns should be dealt with. Whatever decisions are taken, however, writers should strive to maintain consistency.

Sentence capitals 

Beginning of a sentence 

The first letter of a word that begins a sentence, or a set of words that function as a sentence, should be capitalised.

Exemple correcte On behalf of the URV I would like to welcome you. All of you. Each and every one of you.

Also capitalise the first letter of a syntactically complete quoted sentence.

Exemple correcte According to university regulations, “All thefts of library books must be reported to the general manager.”

After a colon 

After a colon it is standard practice not to capitalise the first letter of the following text.

Exemple correcte The academic year is divided into two quite distinct periods: the first and the second semesters.

If the statement introducing a vertical list is a complete sentence, close it with a colon. Then capitalise the first letter of each item of the list. Only close each item with a full stop if it is a complete sentence.

Exemple correcte Students can pass the course only in the following circumstances:
a) They attend 80% of all the classes.
b) They hand in all the course work on time.
c) They get at least 50% in the final exam in June.

Exemple correcte Students must present the following documents:
a) The official application form
b) A motivation letter
c) A photocopy of their passport

However, if the statement introducing a vertical list is a sentence fragment, not a complete sentence, do not close it with a colon and lowercase the first letter of each item. Finish each item with a comma or a semicolon, except the last one, which should finish with a full stop.

Exemple correcte Students will have more chance of successfully completing the course if
a) they are given clear instructions,
b) they are regularly reminded of their obligations, and
c) they are closely supervised.

For the use of a capital letter after a colon in some administrative documents, see the information in Application in the section on model documents.

With round brackets 

When the parenthetical material is a complete sentence, the first letter of the first word should be capitalised.

Exemple correcte All aspects of the projects submitted will be analysed in detail by the department. (Please bear in mind, however, that the final decision will be in the hands of the research committee.)

If the parenthetical material is enclosed within another sentence it should not begin with a capital or end with a full stop, whether it is a full sentence or not.

Exemple correcte The debate continued (we all knew that this was inevitable) in the bar after the lecture had finished.

Exemple correcte Students should take their application forms to the Language Service (opposite the lift on the third floor).



Traditionally, the titles of documents in English are given maximal capitalisation. That is to say, capitalise the first word and all nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs. Do not capitalise articles, conjunctions or prepositions.

Exemple correcte The Strategic Plan for Teaching and Learning

However, the first word of a subtitle after a colon is generally capitalised, whatever part of speech it may be (see also Other uses in the section on punctuation).

Exemple correcte Strategic Planning: An Approach to the Future

Remember, too, that when writing individual titles you can often exercise a certain amount of personal judgement. A short title, for example, may look better if words that are often lowercased are capitalised.

Exemple correcte All About Erasmus

In the headings of document sections, however, use sentence-style capitalisation (first word and proper nouns) instead of title-style capitalisation (first word and all nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs), although the exact style will also depend on the number of levels of hierarchy. Capitalise the first letter of the first word, but lowercase the rest, including the first word after a colon (except for those words that would normally be capitalised in running text).

Exemple correcte Teaching vision

Exemple correcte Strategic goals: a necessary evil

Exemple correcte Core teaching values and the Dublin Declaration

The first element of a compound word is always capitalised in a title; the second element is also capitalised unless it is an article, a preposition or a coordinating conjunction.

Exemple correcte The Role of Computer-Assisted Translation in the Internationalisation of European Universities

Exemple correcte Greater European Integration Gets the Thumbs-up from Catalan-Speaking University Students

Second elements that are hyphenated to prefixes are capitalised only if they are proper nouns.

Exemple correcte Competencies: A Comparison between Pre- and Post-Erasmus Students

Exemple correcte Post-examination Opening Times for University Libraries


Capitalise and set in italics the titles of all sorts of published works (books, theses, audiovisual material, journals, paintings, etc.).

Exemple correcte the book Landscapes: A Guide to University Architecture

Exemple correcte the thesis Fabrication of Bulk and Interdigitated Solar Cells

Exemple correcte the film American Beauty

Exemple correcte the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon

Exemple correcte the journal Analytical Chemistry

Exemple correcte the Dalí painting The Persistence of Memory

Exemple correcte Harold Pinter’s play The Birthday Party

However, only capitalise the first word of the titles of articles, chapters and other sections of a publication, and enclose them in inverted commas.

Exemple correcte The research group wrote the article entitled “The dynamics of charge carriers.

Exemple correcte Before the next class, please read the chapter “Revising prose structure and style.

For other issues of use of italics, see the explanation about the titles of books, journals and other publications in Italics, in the section on spelling).

Proper nouns 

Titles and ranks 

Words for the titles and ranks of people are lowercased when they are used in a general sense or refer to the position held rather than the person.

Exemple correcte The principal academic and administrative officer of a university in this country is the rector.

They are capitalised when they are used directly before a name, as a form of address or as a substitute for the name of the holder of the title.

Exemple correcte In 2011, Rector Alabart was re-elected for a second four-year term of office.

Exemple correcte Only last week, Rector, you stated that there would be no further cuts in the departmental budget.

Exemple correcte Last week the Rector gave a speech to the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce.

When titles are used in apposition to a name, they do not form part of the name and are, therefore, lowercased.

Exemple correcte Dr Alabart, rector of the University, was first elected in 2007.

The general guideline, then, is that if the title or rank is a reference to a specific person and the person’s name could be used instead without affecting factual or grammatical accuracy, then a capital letter should be used.

In titles that are hyphenated compounds it used to be standard practice to capitalise only the first part of the compound. Nowadays, however, the tendency is to capitalise both parts if the compound refers to a specific person.

Exemple correcte The Vice-Rector for Academic Policy described the new reforms to the Governing Council.

Exemple correcte The vice-rector for academic policy is responsible for making large-scale changes to degree programmes.

The title is lowercased in the second example above because it is a reference to the position of vice-rector, not to a particular person.

Personal names 

Capitalise the names and initials of all real or fictitious people.

Exemple correcte William Shakespeare
Exemple correcte Joanot Martorell
Exemple correcte Silence Dogood

Many names contain articles, prepositions, conjunctions or other particles (for example, de, d', de la, the, lo, el, la, i, y, von, van, etc.). English, Catalan and Spanish names tend to lowercase these elements. Therefore:

Exemple correcte Xavier de Bofarull
Exemple correcte Walter de la Mare
Exemple correcte Alexander the Great

Exemple correcte Tirant lo Blanc
Exemple correcte Antoni Rovira i Virgili
Exemple correcte Santiago Ramón y Cajal

However, capitalise the particle when a person is referred to by the surname and the particle is in initial position.

Exemple correcte The writer D'Ors often used the pseudonym Xènius.


Capitalise the names of all countries, towns and other geographical terms commonly accepted to be the proper names of cultural, historic, tourist, geographic or economic entities.

Exemple correcte Catalonia
Exemple correcte Barcelona
Exemple correcte the Iberian Peninsula

Exemple correcte the Golden Coast
Exemple correcte the Third World
Exemple correcte the Wild West

The names of geographical features are also capitalised. The generic term (lake, sea, river, channel, etc.) is also capitalised when it is used as part of the name.

Exemple correcte the Mediterranean Sea
Exemple correcte the River Francolí
Exemple correcte Lake Banyoles

Otherwise, no capital letter is used (see Reference).

Exemple correcte the Mediterranean and the Baltic seas

Capitalise the initial article in place names, even though it is lowercased in Catalan.

Exemple correcte El Morell
Exemple correcte La Floresta
Exemple correcte L’Anoia

When you are referring to parts of cities, capitalise terms such as avinguda, carrer, carretera, passeig and plaça, even though these are lowercased in Catalan (see also Place names in the section on translation).

Exemple correcte All Erasmus Week participants should be at the station in Plaça de Catalunya at 9 a.m.

Compass directions should only be capitalised when they are part of the name of a recognised geographical or political region.

Exemple correcte The URV has established an agreement with Queen’s University, the leading university in Northern Ireland.

Exemple correcte The URV is the university of southern Catalonia.


When a reference is made to a previous mention of a capitalised proper name, the usual practice is to revert to lower case.

Exemple correcte The Erasmus students were taken to Lake Banyoles. When they arrived, the lake was calm and serene.

Exemple correcte The Spanish Civil War was fought between 17 July 1936 and 1 April 1939. The war began after a group of right-wing generals rose up against the Government of the Second Spanish Republic.

However, when the reference is simply a short form of the specific person, organisation, institution or event previously mentioned, capitals are used.

Exemple correcte The Universitat Rovira i Virgili is placing great emphasis on internationalisation. The University is fully aware of the importance of this policy.

Exemple correcte The Spanish Civil War was fought between 17 July 1936 and 1 April 1939. The Civil War became notable for the passion and political division it inspired.

Plural forms that apply one generic term to multiple names should be lowercased because the generic term is merely a descriptor and not part of the proper name.

Exemple correcte Girona and Lleida universities

In order not to repeat the name of a place, writers sometimes use synonyms (or coreferents), which should always be capitalised.

Exemple correcte the New World [America]
Exemple correcte the Big Apple [New York]
Exemple correcte the Pond [the Atlantic Ocean]

Dates, periods and events 

Capitalise all days, months, festivals, holidays, historical periods and historical events (Wednesday, August, Easter, Saint John’s Eve, the Middle Ages, the Tragic Week), but lowercase the seasons (the autumn semester, spring enrolment, winter, summer).

Movements and ideologies 

Capitalise the names of all cultural, artistic, social, political and religious movements and ideologies.

Exemple correcte Romanticism
Exemple correcte Surrealism
Exemple correcte the Slow Movement

Exemple correcte the Tea Party
Exemple correcte Catholicism

Languages and nationalities 

The names of languages and nationalities are always written with a capital letter.

Exemple correcte The working languages of the research group are Catalan, Spanish and English.

Exemple correcte The Basque universities have signed numerous agreements with their Catalan counterparts.

Official documents 

The titles of laws and official documents should be capitalised.

Exemple correcte the Single European Act

Exemple correcte the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia

Exemple correcte Royal Decree 1359/2003, of 21 October, on the Governance of TATT Activities

Exemple correcte Framework Agreement of Cooperation between the University of Lleida and Queen’s University

Descriptive titles and titles used in the plural should be lowercased.

Exemple correcte The regulation governing the administration of examinations was debated by the Senate yesterday.

Exemple correcte The statutes of the autonomous communities were first established in the early 1980s.


Subjects, courses, degrees and disciplines 

When referring to subjects, courses and degrees in general terms, use lower case.

Exemple correcte Three students failed their mathematics exam.

Exemple correcte My mother has just enrolled on a course in computer programming for senior citizens.

Exemple correcte Bernard is studying a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry.

When referring to the official titles of subjects, courses and degrees, use title-style capitalisation.

Exemple correcte Three students failed Advanced Mathematics I.

Exemple correcte The enrolment for the course Computer Programming for Beginners ends on 27 March.

Exemple correcte The Master’s Degree in Biochemistry teaches students how to use chromatographic techniques.

The names of disciplines should be lowercased.

Exemple correcte Although anthropology is easy to define, it is difficult to describe.

Exemple correcte The course provides students with training in research into oenology and biotechnology.

Chairs and knowledge areas 

The official names of all chairs and knowledge areas are capitalised. The generic term is only capitalised when it is part of the official name.

Exemple correcte The UOC’s UNESCO Chair in E-Learning is pleased to announce that its 10th international seminar will be held next November.

Exemple correcte The knowledge area of Scope Management ensures that the projects include only the work required to complete them successfully.


Grades are capitalised.

Exemple correcte Fail
Exemple correcte Pass
Exemple correcte Excellent
Exemple correcte Distinction
Exemple correcte A
Exemple correcte B

Academic periods 

Academic periods are lowercased.

Exemple correcte the academic year
Exemple correcte compulsory secondary education (ESO)
Exemple correcte the first semester
Exemple correcte the second term

Public institutions and organisations 

Capitalise all the words, including the generic terms, that are part of the official name of public institutions, organisations, societies, associations and movements.

Exemple correcte the Faculty of Chemistry

Exemple correcte the Department of Business Management

Exemple correcte the Language Service

Exemple correcte the Board of Trustees

Exemple correcte the General Directorate of Universities

When the names of organisations are in the plural or have a more general meaning, the generic terms should be lowercased.

Exemple correcte The departments of History and Psychology are piloting a new teaching methodology.

Exemple correcte One of the aims of a university language service is to prepare students to compete in a globalised society.

When the full name of the organisation is abbreviated by deleting a word or words, the capitals should be maintained (see Reference).

Exemple correcte The Department [of History] is piloting a new teaching methodology.

Exemple correcte The University [of Barcelona] is engaged in a far-reaching process of internationalisation.

Congresses, events and competitions 

Capitalise the names of congresses, conferences, symposiums, meetings, seminars, forums, festivals, competitions, etc.

Exemple correcte the Third Symposium of Sports Medicine

Exemple correcte Science Week

Exemple correcte the Seventh Competition in Creative Writing

If the generic term is not part of the name of the activity, use lowercase.

Exemple correcte the conference Euroanaesthesia 2015

Any specific title that is placed after the general title should also be capitalised.

Exemple correcte The Second MAUMIS Research Symposium: “Conflict, Discrimination and Religious Plurality”

Brand names 

Write all words that are part of brand names, models and commercial products with an initial capital.

Exemple correcte The Samsung Galaxy Tab is a line of upper mid-range Android-based tablet computers.

Exemple correcte An Excel worksheet can be embedded in a Word document.

Exemple correcte The laboratory purchased various PerkinElmer analytical instruments and a Hewlett Packard printer.


CamelCase is the term used to refer to the convention of joining several words together to form a single name. Medial capitals (capital letters in the middle of a word) are used so that each word can be clearly distinguished and the name easily read. There are two types of CamelCase: in UpperCamelCase the first letter of the name is capitalised; in lowerCamelCase it is lowercased. It has been used for centuries in the spelling of certain names.

Exemple correcte Don MacLean
Exemple correcte Paul McCartney
Exemple correcte Meindert DeJong

In the 19th century, it was used for the purpose of chemical notation.

Exemple correcte CaBr2
Exemple correcte Ac2O3
Exemple correcte Li2O

Subsequently, in the 20th century, it was used by computer programmers who needed to create terms without leaving spaces between words.

Exemple correcte EndOfFile
Exemple correcte ErrorLevel

At the end of the 20th century it spread from the world of computer programming and it is now in general use, particularly for corporate trade names. Some examples are:

Exemple correcte MasterCard
Exemple correcte Microsoft PowerPoint
Exemple correcte HarperCollins

Exemple correcte iPad
Exemple correcte iPhone
Exemple correcte PlayStation

In the world of academia, CamelCase is often used in the abbreviations of academic qualifications.

Exemple correcte BSc
Exemple correcte MSc
Exemple correcte PhD

Abbreviations and symbols 

Abbreviations and symbols provide a short reference for a longer word or a series of words. In general terms, abbreviations fall into two groups: those which are frequently used to refer to specific words or terms (Thurs., e.g., Dr) and those which accompany their longer form at least once to show us there is a shorter alternative (EHEA for European Higher Education Area, or LERU for League of European Research Universities). In this second group there are short forms for proper nouns, like EHEA or LERU above, but there are also abbreviations for common nouns (such as CPD for continuing professional development or IT for information technology), which we use when we want those common nouns to describe a generalised group, practice or field. Abbreviations are particularly important in our university context, where a large number of texts record the names of institutions and systems of different kinds; and the correct use of certain symbols in institutional texts such as informative web pages and annual reports makes those texts easier to read.

Forming abbreviations 

Forming acronyms and initialisms 

Most acronyms are formed from the first or first few letters of a series of words and are usually pronounced as words. If an acronym contains six or more letters, capitalise the initial letter and lowercase the others.

Exemple correcte Erasmus (European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students)

Exemple correcte Europol (European Police Office)

Exemple correcte NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)

Initialisms are usually formed from just the first letters of a series of words. Generally speaking, write them following the upper- or lower-case pattern of the full term. When the full term is in lower case, they are usually separated by points.

Exemple correcte MBA (Master of Business Administration)

Exemple correcte e.g. (exempli gratia)

Exemple correcte i.e. (id est)

Note, however, that the abbreviation plc (public limited company) is always written in lower case but without points.

In higher education, some initialisms representing degree studies combine upper and lower case and do not take points.

Exemple correcte BSc (Bachelor of Science)
Exemple correcte PhD (philosophiae doctor)

Note, too, that an initialism may take capital letters even when the full term does not.

Exemple correcte NGO (non-governmental organisation)
Exemple correcte PC (personal computer)

Forming contractions and truncations 

Contractions are formed by omitting the middle of a word. In line with British English, this guide recommends not putting a point after the last letter of the contraction.

Exemple correcte Attn (Attention)
Exemple correcte Dr (Doctor)
Exemple correcte Mr (Mister)

Truncations are formed by omitting the end of a word and sometimes other letters as well. They are always followed by a point.

Exemple correcte Feb. (February)
Exemple correcte Tues. (Tuesday)
Exemple correcte col. (column)

Using abbreviations 

Using acronyms and initialisms 

Terms in the title of a text should not be accompanied by their abbreviation.
If a term occurs frequently in a text, accompany it by its abbreviation on first mention and just use the abbreviation in all further references.

Exemple correcte Our faculty’s internal quality assurance system (IQAS) is modelled on the document European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESGs) and each academic year all IQAS results are subject to an external review which considers those ESGs on an individual basis.

If the term only occurs once in the text, there is usually no need to give the abbreviation at all.
However, there are texts in which you should add an abbreviation after a term even though the term only occurs once. One case is legal or administrative texts, where for the sake of precision and clarity the abbreviation is as important to include as the full term.

Exemple correcte I hereby award this diploma to the student Joan Puig Peralta for having successfully completed the examinations organised by the University School of Nursing (EUI-UB) in the programme in Palliative Care.

Exemple correcte The University of Barcelona Virtual Museum (MVUB) declines any liability resulting from the incorrect use of this website.

Another case is a text in which the full term is not as useful to the reader as the abbreviation. In some institutions, for example, writers often translate the full names of organisations to help non-native readers but those translations are not used by other institutions. In such cases, the original-language abbreviation becomes particularly important for the reader as an identifier, as in the example of the Centre de Recerca d’Alta Muntanya (CRAM) below.

Exemple correcte The Centre for Mountain Research (CRAM) is a leading institute that promotes practical and theoretical research into the natural environment of the Pyrenees in aquatic systems and in records of environmental fluctuation and biodiversity.

A further case is a text in which the full term is not as reliable as the abbreviation. On the web, for example, a research organisation called the Centre de Recursos de Biodiversitat Animal is variously rendered as the Animal Biodiversity Resource Centre, the Resource Centre for Animal Biodiversity and the Centre for Resources in Animal Biodiversity. In such cases, add the full term’s official abbreviation (in this case, CRBA) even after an isolated reference.

Finally, however, do not use abbreviations simply because they make a text look more official and without considering whether the reader really benefits by them.

Exemple incorrecte I would like to express my gratitude to you and your colleagues for having invited our institution to the Third International Exhibition and Conference on Higher Education (IECHE 2012).

Using contractions and truncations 

  • Truncated forms as codes or symbols

    Truncated forms used as codes or symbols do not take points.

    Exemple correcte EN (English)
    Exemple correcte kg (kilogram)

  • Contractions and truncations in Latin

    Latin forms that are full words do not take a point; Latin forms that are not full words do take a point.

    Exemple correcte sic (meaning as was written in the original)

    Exemple correcte et al. (short for et alii meaning and others)

    Exemple correcte no. (short for numero meaning number, with a point in this case to avoid confusion with the word no)

  • Abbreviating people’s names

    Abbreviate people’s first names with a single letter only, followed by a point and a space.

    Philippe Junot
    P. Junot
    Theodore Roosevelt
    T. Roosevelt

    Write multiple initials with points and spaces.

    Elwyn Brooks White
    E. B. White

    Represent compound first names by both initials.

    Joan Manuel Serrat
    J. M. Serrat
    Jean-Paul Sartre
    J.-P. Sartre

    Note, however, that in formal institutional texts like contracts or certificates you should avoid abbreviating people’s first names. For example, M. or M.a should be written out as Maria or María, while J. Ramon should be written out as Joan Ramon or Josep Ramon (for further details, see People in the section on translation).

  • Lower-case abbreviations

    Some common abbreviations are never written in upper case, even at the beginning of a footnote.

    Exemple correcte c. (circa)
    Exemple correcte e.g. (for example)
    Exemple correcte i.e. (that is)

    Exemple correcte l., ll. (line, lines)
    Exemple correcte p., pp. (page, pages)

  • Use of Article

    Note that the word Article may be abbreviated to Art. in footnotes or tables, but should not be abbreviated in running text.

  • Use of etc.

    Only use etc. at the end of a series of examples and never at the end of a series introduced by the words like, for example or such as.

Abbreviations and grammar 

Abbreviations and articles 

Acronyms that abbreviate the names (proper nouns) of organisations and systems do not take the definite article the even if their full forms do.

Exemple correcte OPEC (the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries)

Exemple correcte UNTERM (the United Nations Multilingual Terminology Database)

But when they abbreviate common nouns, they take the or a(n) as necessary.

Exemple correcte the MD (managing director)

Exemple correcte a CMS (content management system)

Initialisms generally take the definite article if the full form does.

Exemple correcte the ERA (the European Research Area)

Exemple correcte the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development)

This rule can be applied to the abbreviations of the names of Catalan-speaking universities because the full forms always begin with the definite article la (la Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, la Universitat Rovira i Virgili, la Universitat de València).

Exemple correcte the UPC
Exemple correcte the URV
Exemple correcte the UV

Universities may establish other norms, however. For example, the University of Vic – Central University of Catalonia is known as UVic–UCC (without the) in its English abbreviated form. In English, many universities prefer this usage.

Exemple correcte USC is the University of Southern California.

Finally, remember that the article is not necessary when the full term is hardly ever used (HIV, for human immunodeficiency virus), when it describes a general notion (VET, for vocational education and training) or when we consider the abbreviation to be a name in its own right (IBM, for International Business Machines Corporation).

To choose between a or an, apply the rule “a before a consonant sound, an before a vowel sound” (as if the abbreviation following the article were being spoken).

Exemple correcte a LERU decision
Exemple correcte a PAS representative
Exemple correcte a UJI student
Exemple correcte an Erasmus grant
Exemple correcte an EHEA guideline
Exemple correcte an NBA player

Abbreviations and plurals 

Plurals of abbreviations are formed in the same way as the regular plurals of common nouns: simply by adding the letter s. Note that there is no apostrophe before s, which is written in lower case.

Exemple correcte FAQs (frequently asked questions)

Exemple correcte SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises)

Exemple correcte VLEs (virtual learning environments)

When the singular form of the abbreviation ends in -s, that form can also be used to refer to a plural group. This avoids the uncomfortable effect of seeing an s repeated.

Exemple correcte SDS (safety data sheet)

Exemple correcte SDS (safety data sheets)

Abbreviations as adjectives 

As indicated in the examples in Abbreviations and articles, abbreviations can also be used as adjectives, in either a simple or compound form.

Exemple correcte PDI salaries

Exemple correcte R&D contracts

Exemple correcte UAB-specific degree courses

Exemple correcte EHEA-recognised qualifications

Abbreviations in a multilingual context 

Criteria for translating into English is the subject of the section on translation but there are two important points to be made about using abbreviations in our multilingual institutional context.

First, if you need to provide English versions of the full names of university offices or government institutions, do not translate their abbreviations. For example, the English name of a university office called the Oficina de Programes Internacionals (OPI) would be the Office for International Programmes (OPI). And the English names of the Diari Oficial de la Generalitat de Catalunya, the Diari Oficial de la Generalitat Valenciana and the Boletín Oficial del Estado would be the Official Journal of the Government of Catalonia (DOGC), the Official Journal of the Government of Valencia (DOGV) and the Official Gazette of the Government of Spain (BOE), respectively.

Second, a number of very frequent abbreviations in Catalan-speaking universities come from common noun phrases that have no official English equivalent (PAS from personal d’administració i serveis, PDI from personal docent i investigador, SED from secretaria d’estudiants i docència and PAT from pla d’acció tutorial). We recommend explaining or paraphrasing the full term the first time it occurs in a text and then using only the Catalan abbreviation for the rest of the text. This way, English-language readers can be more effectively helped to understand their non-English institutional environment.

Exemple correcte Last year, our university’s administrative and service staff (personal d’administració i serveis, or PAS) took advantage of the Erasmus programme to travel to over 20 different European destinations. A number of PAS members also completed courses in the US and in Canada.


This subsection provides guidelines for the symbols most commonly used in institutional writing. It also considers the use of abbreviations for units of measurement. For details on symbols expressing sequences, ranges and yearly periods, see the section on numbers.


In our university context, the ampersand is mainly found in the formal names of institutions (e.g., Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Overton & Meyer Award), where it should not be replaced with the word and. The ampersand, and not the plus sign, should be used to abbreviate the phrase research and development.

Exemple correcte Is today’s R&D model failing to meet the needs of developing countries?

We recommend not using the ampersand as a substitute for the word and, as this use is generally a feature of informal writing.

Capitalisation and lowercasing 

Use capital letters for the first letter of symbols that come from people’s names.

Exemple correcte Bq (becquerel)
Exemple correcte Hz (hertz)
Exemple correcte K (kelvin)
Exemple correcte N (newton)

Symbols that come from common nouns are generally written in lower case and are the same for singular and plural.

Exemple correcte cd (candela)
Exemple correcte g (gram)
Exemple correcte kb (kilobit)
Exemple correcte kg (kilogram)
Exemple correcte lm (lumen)
Exemple correcte lx (lux)

Multiplication signs 

The multiplication sign (×) is similar to the lower case x but should not be confused with it.

Percent signs 

Use per cent where the number is also spelt out; when it is not, always close up the percent sign to the value.

Exemple correcte Forty-nine per cent

Exemple correcte 65%

Finally, note the difference between per cent and percentage point: an increase from 5% to 7% would be an increase of two percentage points (or an increase of 40%), not an increase of two per cent.

Abbreviating units of measurement 

Units of measurement are often abbreviated. The abridged forms are normally written without points and do not have plurals.

Exemple correcte 4 ha (hectares)
Exemple correcte 9 m (metres)
Exemple correcte 60 km (kilometres)
Exemple correcte
200 g (grams)
Exemple correcte 5 kg (kilograms)

Note that proper nouns that form part of units of measurement retain their initial capital.

Exemple correcte 10 degrees Celsius


With most abbreviated units of measurement, insert a non-breaking space between the number and the unit.

Exemple correcte 5 cm
Exemple correcte 20 kg
Exemple correcte 960 Hz
Exemple correcte
40 km
Exemple correcte 5.5 g

However, with percentages and temperatures, we recommend not putting space between the number and the symbol.

Exemple correcte 55%
Exemple correcte 4.6%
Exemple correcte 33°C
Exemple correcte 91.4°F


The symbol for the euro and other currencies comes before the number, not after it.

Exemple correcte 250
Exemple correcte £900

Place the abbreviation for a currency before the amount and insert a non-breaking space.

Exemple correcte EUR 3,600

Exemple correcte GBP 571


This section covers numbers, particularly the question of when they should be written out and what to do if they appear in combination with units of measurement, other numbers and punctuation marks. Although approaches to these issues differ depending on the type of document, these guidelines are intended for institutional rather than technical texts. They also give precedence to British usage, although explanations on American usage are given when necessary. For details of using numbers with currencies, see Currencies in the section on abbreviations and symbols.

Writing out numbers 

  • Cardinal numbers

    Spell out cardinal numbers from zero to nine and use numerals from 10 upwards, but maintain consistency in the immediate context.

    Exemple correcte Every three sessions, the students will be organised in new groups of five.

    Exemple correcte The Board will be reviewing a total of 10 new master’s degrees and 12 new doctoral degrees.

    Exemple correcte The presentations should last between five and ten minutes.

  • Ordinal numbers

    Spell out ordinal numbers from zero to nine and use numerals from 10 upwards, but maintain consistency in the immediate context. Avoid superscript type.

    Exemple correcte The Second International Conference on Fluid Dynamics was held in Vic.

    Exemple correcte The oldest European university was founded in the 12th century.

    Exemple correcte In this year’s ranking table, the research groups Pattern Analysis and Sonar Imaging occupied third and eleventh position, respectively.

  • Roman numerals

    Use Roman numerals for course names.

    Exemple correcte Mathematics II

  • Fractions

    Spell out simple fractions and hyphenate them.

    Exemple correcte Two-thirds of the students were in agreement.

    Exemple correcte The lecturer has covered three-quarters of the course so far.

  • Numbers at the beginning of a sentence

    Spell out numbers (including years) at the beginning of a sentence, although it is better to rewrite the sentence so that it does not start with a numeral.

    Exemple correcte Nineteen forty-five was the year the UN was founded.

    Exemple correcte The UN was founded in 1945.

  • Plural numbers

    Add an s to form the plural of a numeral. Do not add an apostrophe.

    Exemple correcte Among the scores were four 94s and two 99s.

Numbers and punctuation 

  • Decimal points

    Use a point, not a comma, before a decimal.

    Exemple correcte 0.25
    Exemple correcte 5.5

  • Commas

    In numbers of one thousand or more, use commas between groups of three digits.

    Exemple correcte 2,436
    Exemple correcte 32,548
    Exemple correcte 83,200,000

    Do not use commas in serial numbers such as page numbers, street numbers and years.

    Exemple correcte This idea receives further comment on page 1056 of the report.

    Exemple correcte All further enquiries should be made at our office at 1558 Brunswick Avenue, New York City.

    Exemple correcte The University of Bologna is the world’s oldest university; it was founded in 1088.

  • Hyphens

    Hyphenate compound numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine.

    Exemple correcte Three hundred and forty-six students are enrolled in the School of Fine Art.

    Spell out numbers that are joined to a word by a hyphen, except in the case of set phrases such as 24-hour clock.

    Exemple correcte A five-year period

    Exemple correcte A one-week holiday

    When two numbers appear side by side, spell one of them out. If one of them occurs alongside a unit of measurement, make that one a numeral.

    Exemple correcte four 6-week periods

    Exemple correcte thirty-six 20-cent coins

Numbers and units of measurement 

Spell out the number if the unit of measurement is written out and use a numeral when the unit of measurement is abbreviated.

Exemple correcte The surface area of the School’s premises is five hundred square metres.

Exemple correcte The conference hall is 2 km from here.

Do not use points or plurals with abbreviated units of measurement. Insert a non-breaking space between the numeral and the unit.

Exemple correcte 2 m
Exemple correcte 6 km
Exemple correcte 10 min

Numbers and ranges 

Use numerals for ranges.

  • Full numbers

    In ranges, always write numbers in full to avoid ambiguity.

    Exemple incorrecte between 18 and 20,000 people

    Exemple correcte between 18,000 and 20,000 people

    Exemple incorrecte pages 123–5

    Exemple correcte pages 123–125

  • En dashes

    Use a closed-up en dash to indicate a range.

    Exemple correcte groups of 5–10 students

  • Symbols

    In ranges, repeat those symbols and units that are joined to a numeral.

    between 100°C and 150°C
    20–30 cm
    from 20 to 30 cm

For advice on spacing, see Spacing in the section on abbreviations and symbols.

Time of day 

Use numerals for times of day, but spell out the number with the expression o’clock, which is used to designate exact hours only.

If you use the 12-hour clock, write a.m. and p.m. with points and a space between the time and the abbreviation. Use a point to separate hours from minutes.

Exemple correcte The library closes at 8 p.m.

Exemple correcte The lecture starts at 9.45 a.m.

Exemple correcte The secretary’s office hours are from 8.30 a.m. till 2 p.m.

Exemple correcte The Rector’s speech will begin at four o’clock.

Use noon (or 12 noon) and midnight, rather than 12 p.m. and 12 a.m.

Exemple correcte The tutorial, which was due to begin at noon, began at 1.15 p.m.

Exemple correcte The campus copy shop closes at 12 noon.

Exemple correcte The faculty bar will serve coffee until midnight.

If you use the 24-hour clock, use a point to separate hours from minutes. Do not use the symbol h.

Exemple correcte The meeting is at 18.00.

When using a.m. or p.m., avoid a leading zero.

Exemple incorrecte 08.30 a.m.

Exemple correcte 8.30 a.m.


Do not use the endings -st, -nd, -rd or -th with a figure in a date. Note that, in British English, dates are written in the order day–month–year, without internal punctuation.

Exemple correcte 16 July 2010

In British English, the numeric form of the date above is, therefore:

Exemple correcte 16/07/10

Note that, in American English, dates are written in the order month–day–year, with a comma between the day and the year.

Exemple correcte July 16, 2010

In American English, the numeric form of the date above is, therefore:

Exemple correcte 07/16/10

  • Days of the week

    Do not use a comma after the day of the week when it precedes a date.

    Exemple correcte Tuesday 6 July 2010

  • Years

    In running text, use all four digits when referring to a year.

    Exemple incorrecte ’71

    Exemple correcte 1971

  • Academic years

    Write academic years in one of the following two ways, but be consistent. Use a hyphen and not an en dash.

    Exemple correcte the 2014-2015 academic year

    Exemple correcte the academic year 2014-2015

  • Decades

    Use numbers to refer to decades rather than writing them out. Do not add an apostrophe before the plural  s.

    Exemple correcte We were all born in the mid-1920s.

    To refer to decades in the period from 2000 to 2020, use a circumlocution such as the first decade of the 21st century or the second decade of the 21st century.

  • Centuries

    Do not use Roman numerals for centuries. Instead, either spell out the century or use the ordinal number.

    Exemple incorrecte the XX century

    Exemple correcte the twentieth century

    Exemple incorrecte the XIX century

    Exemple correcte the 19th century

  • Festivals and historic events

    If a date refers to a festival or historic event, spell out the number.

    Exemple correcte the Fourth of July celebrations

    Exemple correcte the Hundred Years’ War

    Exemple correcte the First of May demonstration

  • Laws

    In citing pieces of legislation, arrange the dates as shown in the examples below.

    Exemple correcte Spanish Personal Data Protection Law 15/1999, of 13 December

    Exemple correcte Organic Law 4/2007, of 12 April, amended by Organic Law 6/2001, of 21 December, on Universities

Use of billion 

The term billion is now used to indicate 1,000,000,000 or 109 in most, if not all, English-speaking contexts.

Telephone numbers 

Telephone numbers are typically composed of an international call prefix, a country calling code and the local telephone number. To aid legibility, they are split into groups, using spaces and not dashes or points. In the Catalan-speaking territories, the numbers after the country calling code tend to be grouped in threes.

Exemple correcte 00 34 934 016 186

Note that the international call prefix (00) used to dial out of a country is generally replaced with a plus sign. This is joined to the country calling code, which is used to dial into a country.

Exemple correcte +34 934 016 186

Telephone extensions are written at the end of the number, after a space, in brackets.

Exemple correcte +34 934 016 186 (182)

Singular and plural 

Because English is a language with very heterogeneous origins, many English words derived from French, Greek or Latin have irregular plurals or even two different plurals, depending on usage. Some words which may appear plural are in fact singular, as in the various names of areas of knowledge. Furthermore, the use of collective nouns and partitive expressions often affects whether the related verb is singular or plural. Finally, despite some notable exceptions, nouns used as adjectives normally revert to their singular form.

Words with unusual plural forms 

Some frequent examples in our institutional context are campus, curriculum, practicum and thesis, which take the plural forms campuses, curricula, practicums and theses, respectively. Because the standard English plural -s is becoming increasingly widespread, in those cases where you can choose between two plural forms this guide recommends the -s form (for example, syllabuses rather than syllabi). For a longer list of unusual plural forms, see Appendix II: Unusual plural forms.

Common problems with singular and plural 

  • The word data

    The word data can be singular or plural. However, in common usage we recommend using the singular; in research, convention favours the plural.

    Exemple correcte Much of this data is useless because the file has been corrupted.

    Exemple correcte The data show a 15% increase in bronchial diseases in four of the five cohorts examined.

  • Areas of knowledge

    Many names of academic and scientific disciplines appear to be plural. These include economics, electronics, physics, statistics and telecommunications, which are usually singular in Catalan (economia, electrònica, física, estadística and telecomunicació, respectively). However, when treated as the name of a field of knowledge or as a subject of study, they are considered collective nouns and take a singular verb.

    Exemple correcte Economics is commonly regarded as a soft science.

    A common but informal version of the term mathematics is maths (British English) or math (American English). In most documents, only the full version of the word is appropriate.

Collective nouns and the number of the verb 

  • Words denoting groups

    In collective nouns applying to groups of people, you can use either singular or plural verbs. If you wish to imply unanimity or unity, use a singular verb; if you want to talk about varied opinions or only one part of the group, use the plural.

    Exemple correcte The University’s Governing Council is considering the matter.

    Exemple correcte The Committee were divided over tuition fees.

  • Geographical areas and organisations

    Countries, regions and organisations take a singular verb even when they have a plural name.

    Exemple correcte The Balearic Islands is a self-governing region of Spain.

    Exemple correcte The United Nations is charged with the maintenance of international peace.

    However, if there is some reason to stress the individual parts, use a plural verb.

    Exemple correcte The Balearic Islands are made up of four main islands.

Partitive expressions 

The expressions half of and none (of) may take either a singular or a plural verb when the noun they modify is countable. Otherwise, the verb must be singular.

Exemple correcte None of our graduates has had problems getting a grant for further studies.

Exemple correcte None of our graduates have had problems getting a grant for further studies.

The expression the majority (of) takes a plural verb if the following noun is a collection of individuals.

Exemple correcte The majority of our graduates have had no problem getting a grant for further studies.

When a number (of) means several, it takes a plural verb.

Exemple correcte A number of applications are still to come.

Meanwhile, the number (of) takes a singular verb.

Exemple correcte The number of applications is small.

Nouns used as adjectives 

  • Normal use

    Nouns used as adjectives are rarely used in their plural form.

    Exemple correcte Mr Martorell presented the guidelines for mobility programmes.

    Exemple correcte Mr Martorell presented the mobility programme guidelines.

    However, there are some noteworthy exceptions, such as admissions office, materials science, genomics data, sports ground and accounts office.

  • Areas of knowledge as adjectives

    When the plural names of disciplines are used as adjectives, they maintain their plural form. Therefore, economic and economics used as an adjective have two different meanings.

    Exemple correcte The Department is beginning a series of CPD courses for its economics lecturers.

    Exemple correcte Attaining sufficient economic support is a vital aspect of university governance.


Languages often use two kinds of gender: natural gender, referring to living things of different sexes; and grammatical gender, relating to inanimate objects and concepts which are categorised as feminine, masculine or even neuter. English only uses natural gender, and often makes no distinction between male and female where other languages would (for example, in most professional categories). Nonetheless, gender can be a complex issue that requires care, particularly in the use of they or he or she, professional categories which do distinguish gender, married women’s names, titles and problematic words.

Third-person pronouns 

Personal pronouns 

English pronouns are not gender-specific, with the exception of he and she (subjects), him and her (objects) and his and hers (possessive). When you are describing groups of people of different sexes or individuals whose gender is unknown, avoid expressions like he/she, him/her, his/hers and himself/herself. Where possible, use a plural pronoun (they, their, etc.).

Exemple correcte When students have no certificate, the University will ask them to take an exam.

Exemple correcte Researchers have to be completely objective in their findings.

Use of he or she 

You can occasionally use he or she, him or her and his or her as an alternative to pluralising the subject and verb, but overuse can seem pedantic. Therefore, not

Exemple inadequat The average student is worried about his or her marks.

Exemple inadequat The applicant must demonstrate his or her ability to work independently.


Exemple correcte Students are worried about their marks.

Exemple correcte Applicants must demonstrate their ability to work independently.

In some instances, the pronoun adds nothing. Simply remove it or use an article.

Exemple correcte The average student is worried about marks.

Exemple correcte The applicant must demonstrate an ability to work independently.

Indefinite pronouns 

When you use all ⁓s, each ⁓, every ⁓ , everyone/body, anyone/body, someone/body, whoever or a relative clause like those who, you must pair these with they, them and their. All take a singular verb, except all ⁓s and those who.

Exemple correcte All candidates are requested to include a cover letter and their CV in their applications.

Exemple correcte Every candidate has to include references for work experience they have had over the past two years.

Use of you 

In some texts, especially less formal documents such as manuals, guides or instructions, the second person (you) or the imperative (no pronoun) is often more appropriate than the third person. This is especially convenient, as you, your, yourself and yourselves are not gender-specific. Therefore, not

Exemple inadequat The students should first turn on their computers.


Exemple correcte You should first turn on your computer.

Exemple correcte First, turn on your computer.

Gender-neutral titles 

Gender-neutral forms for referring to men and women 

English is largely gender-neutral, so most professional categories do not distinguish between men and women. Furthermore, when you are referring to a particular person, there is no need to avoid gender-marked language.

Exemple correcte Chairwoman Vázquez apologised for her absence.

However, in situations where no sex should predominate – for example, when referring to the position rather than the person occupying it – always use the neutral version(s).

Exemple correcte A new chairperson must be elected before the Senate’s inaugural session.

Exemple correcte A new chair must be elected before the Senate’s inaugural session.

Many professions which previously had only gender-specific names now have a neutral form. For example, ombudsman and ombudswoman should become ombuds officer where possible.

Take care when using both gender-neutral titles and they, their, or themselves. In the example below, their absence could refer to either the chairperson or other committee members.

Exemple inadequat The chairperson apologised for their absence.

Best practice is to avoid this construction, as below.

Exemple correcte The chairperson apologised for not being able to attend.

Avoid the few gender-marked words in English (for example, fireman, air hostess) by using one of the many neutral synonyms available (fire fighter, flight attendant).


Re-gendering means adding gender markers to words which are neutral and could describe persons of different sexes. This guide recommends that you avoid re-gendering neutral words (especially those which are more vulnerable to re-gendering because they are perceived, for one reason or another, as feminine). Therefore, not

Exemple inadequat Male nurses constitute 35% of this year’s nursing graduates.


Exemple correcte Men constitute 35% of this year’s nursing graduates.

Where it is necessary to show that a group includes both men and women, use distributive expressions.

Exemple correcte The survey obtained similar results among both male and female students.

Avoid the suffix -ess and never use the prefix she- or the formula lady + job title. Therefore manager and not manageress, she-mayor or lady-mayor.

Plural nouns 

In English, plural nouns behave just like singular ones: only those which are gender-specific in the singular are likewise marked in the plural.

Exemple correcte Graduates should arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the ceremony.

Exemple correcte Chairwomen Vázquez and Puig will offer a short press conference.

When describing mixed-sex groups, use inclusive expressions where possible. In the examples below, chairmen and mankind have been avoided.

Exemple correcte Mr Ferrer and Ms Vázquez served as chairpersons at the meeting.

Exemple correcte In the last 20 years humankind has made more scientific progress than in the previous century.

Impersonal expressions 

It is especially important to use gender-neutral expressions (for example, person or party) in templates for very common official documents where the text is aimed at a single person but will be reused for individuals of different sexes. These should be followed by they, not he or she.

Exemple correcte For whatever purposes it may serve and at the request of the person concerned, I issue this certificate.

Exemple correcte Each party must ratify the pact before it can take effect. They will then publish the text in their region’s official gazette in the space of six months.

Use of Mr, Mrs and Ms 

  • Use of Ms and Mrs

    Because Mrs implies a woman is married, using it in formal contexts seems presumptuous. Use Ms (but see below).

  • Mr, Mrs or Ms versus other titles

    Do not combine titles and ranks such as professor, doctor, etc. with Mr or Ms. If the title is somehow separated from the name, use Mr or Ms + surname or the full name.

    Exemple correcte Chairwoman Isabel Sales asked the rector, Mr Torrelló, to speak.

    Use lady only for the ceremonial title used in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries, and as part of the expression ladies and gentlemen.

  • Salutations

    A problem occurs in the opening salutation of letters written to unnamed individuals. Avoid translating senyor, senyora, Sr./Sra. or En/Na as Mr or Ms, and instead write Dear student, Dear faculty member or Dear colleague. If the recipients have no relationship with the university, use Dear Sir or Madam.

Gender and problematic words 

  • Words containing man but including reference to women

    A few words that include reference to both men and women are intrinsically masculine, and can often be replaced with gender-neutral terms. These include mankind (humankind, humanity), manpower (staff), manmade (artificial) and the verb to man (to staff), Englishmen (the English) and Englishman (an English person).

  • Use of bachelor, master, alumni and fellow

    Although generally considered gender-neutral, bachelor, master, alumni and fellow have, or have had, gender-specific meanings. The word bachelor may also refer to a single man, and master can refer to a young man or a male teacher (feminine mistress). The Latin alumnus is properly masculine-only (fem. singular, alumna; masc. plural, alumni; fem. plural, alumnae). Meanwhile, fellow is sometimes considered to refer primarily to men. In present-day use, none of these words retain any real masculine connotations, and bachelor of science, master of arts, alumni and fellow are all perfectly applicable to both men and women. Nonetheless, you can often use more common terms: alumni can be replaced by graduates or former students; and fellow is often better expressed as colleague, peer or member of faculty.


On many occasions translators face difficult decisions as to what requires translation or further explanation. Many cultural aspects are specific to a given setting and the guidelines in this section aim to provide support with the issues this can lead to. The intention is not to lay down the law, but to provide a point of reference to help you make decisions when you are faced with these complex questions. If your particular issue is not answered here, we recommend you use the Oxford English Dictionary to guide your decision.



Maintain the accents in people’s names (for example, Sílvia). Write out the abbreviations M. and M.a in full as Maria or María. Respect the way people write their names. For example, if they use an i to connect their first and second surnames, do not translate it, remove it or replace it with a hyphen. Likewise, if they do not use a connecting i, do not add one.

Public figures 

Generally speaking, do not translate the names of public figures. For example, royalty should be referred to in the original language.

Exemple incorrecte King Philip VI
Exemple correcte King Felipe VI

However, there are some exceptions. Popes should be referred to by the English equivalent of their papal names. Likewise, transliteration of names in non-Latin scripts can cause problems (a notable example being Gaddafi).

Well-known Catalan figures are often referred to in English-language media by the Spanish version of their first name. Use the Catalan version, unless there is a clear and well-founded tradition otherwise. Thus, Pau Casals, but José Carreras.

Historical figures 

Only translate the names of famous figures from history when there is a well-established English translation.

Exemple correcte Alexander the Great
Exemple correcte Catherine of Aragon
Exemple correcte Wilfred the Hairy

Place names 

When there is a well-established English version of a place name, use it.

Exemple correcte the Balearic Islands
Exemple correcte Catalonia
Exemple correcte Majorca

Exemple correcte Minorca
Exemple correcte Moscow
Exemple correcte Munich

When there is no well-established English translation, use the name in the local language.

Exemple correcte Arezzo
Exemple correcte Castelló de la Plana
Exemple correcte Girona

When a Catalan place name may not be as familiar to the reader as the Spanish, French or Italian equivalent, you may decide to add this version in brackets after the Catalan name.

Exemple correcte Alacant (Alicante)
Exemple correcte L'Alguer (Alghero)
Exemple correcte Eivissa (Ibiza)

Exemple correcte Elx (Elche)
Exemple correcte Perpinyà (Perpignan)

Avoid the use of demonyms (words used to describe inhabitants) for towns and cities. Use the inhabitants of Barcelona or the people of Barcelona, rather than Barcelonans. Note that the demonym for Catalonia is Catalan (not Catalonian).

Do not translate addresses, but if they can be made more understandable or easier to read for an English-speaking audience, then this is advisable. For example, transcribe the first letter of lower-case Catalan terms such as avinguda, carrer, carretera, passeig and plaça in upper case for English-speaking audiences (so Carrer de Sant Pau, Avinguda Diagonal, etc.).

Write out the full address rather than using abbreviations (so for pl. de Catalunya, write Plaça de Catalunya).

Floor and door numbers should be expressed in cardinal rather than ordinal numbers (for example, Carrer de Provença, 66, 1, 2).

  • Rivers and lakes

    Do not translate the names of rivers and lakes (River Sec, not the Dry River) unless there is a well-established English version (River Danube).

  • Seas

    Translate the names of seas when there is a well-established English translation. For example, use the Bay of Biscay (rather than the Cantabrian Sea, unless you are referring strictly to the southern part of the bay).

  • Islands

    Translate the names of islands when there is a well-established English translation.

    Exemple correcte Corsica
    Exemple correcte Sardinia
    Exemple correcte Sicily

  • Mountain ranges

    Translate the names of mountain ranges when there is a well-established English translation.

    Exemple correcte the Alps
    Exemple correcte the Pyrenees

    Do not translate them when there is not.

    Exemple correcte the Picos de Europa
    Exemple correcte the Serra de Tramuntana

  • Landmarks, buildings, rooms and halls

    Generally speaking, do not translate the names of landmarks, buildings, rooms and halls. However, there are some exceptions such as the Catalan Parliament building or the Great Wall of China. Likewise, descriptive translations may be used to make references clearer: for example, the Les Àligues building at the University of Girona or the Camp Nou stadium. In the case of generic names, such as Sala de juntes (in Catalan), we recommend writing Sala de Juntes (boardroom) in English.

Public institutions 

Generally speaking, translate the names of public institutions. If the original is required, use it on first mention with a descriptive translation in brackets. Use the translation on subsequent mention. Examples include Generalitat Valenciana (Valencian government) and Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalan police force). Organisations with abbreviations should be translated but the abbreviation should be maintained and used on subsequent mention: Spanish Royal Academy (RAE) or European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). As can be seen above, use lower case for descriptive translations into English, but maintain capitals when you are translating proper names word for word or using established English versions.


Translate the names of universities, unless otherwise stipulated by the university in question itself. Below is a list of the names of Vives Network universities to be used when writing in English.

Universitat Abat Oliba CEU
Abat Oliba CEU University
Universitat d’Alacant
University of Alacant
Universitat d’Andorra
Universitat d’Andorra
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Universitat de Barcelona
University of Barcelona
Universitat de Girona
University of Girona
Universitat de les Illes Balears
University of the Balearic Islands
Universitat de Perpinyà Via Domitia
University of Perpignan Via Domitia
Universitat de Sàsser
University of Sassari
Universitat Internacional de Catalunya
Universitat Internacional de Catalunya
Universitat Internacional Valenciana
Valencian International University
Universitat Jaume I
Universitat Jaume I
Universitat de Lleida
University of Lleida
Universitat Miguel Hernández d’Elx
Miguel Hernández University of Elche
Universitat Oberta de Catalunya
Universitat Oberta de Catalunya
Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya
Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya
Universitat Politècnica de València
Universitat Politècnica de València
Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Pompeu Fabra University
Universitat Ramon Llull
Ramon Llull University
Universitat Rovira i Virgili
Universitat Rovira i Virgili
Universitat de València
Universitat de València
Universitat de Vic - Universitat Central de Catalunya
University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia

University names that incorporate a proper noun should include the definite article in running text whether they are translated or not.

Exemple correcte The Miguel Hernández University of Elche is a public university.

Exemple correcte The Universitat Rovira i Virgili announced yesterday that admissions had increased for the third year in a row.

Courses and subjects 

Translate the names of courses and subjects.

Exemple correcte English Studies
Exemple correcte Roman Law II

Public lectures 

The titles of public lectures should be left in the original language. However, they may be accompanied by a descriptive translation in brackets where deemed appropriate. Do not italicise this descriptive title.

Exemple correcte “Educació, aprenentatge i tecnologia a la societat del coneixement” (Education, learning and technology in the knowledge society)

Books, music and art 

In general, do not translate the names of books, musical and art works unless there is a well-established English version. Nonetheless, make sure you avoid any possible confusion about which version of the work is being referred to.

Exemple correcte Cervantes’s Don Quijote (Don Quixote)

Exemple correcte Verdaguer’s A Barcelona (To Barcelona)

Exemple correcte Mallo’s Muller con cabra

Exemple correcte Miró’s Pla de l’Os

Exemple correcte Casals’s Song of the Birds


Translate the names of awards. Examples include the Max Theatre Awards or the Catalan government’s Saint George’s Cross.


Translate the names of museums, but refer to them on subsequent mention by their abbreviation if they have one: for example, the Catalan National Museum of Art (MNAC).

Political parties and unions 

Translate the names of political parties and unions in brackets on first mention. If the original name has an abbreviation, use this on subsequent mention; if it does not, use the original name.

Exemple correcte the Partido Popular (People’s Party, PP)

Exemple correcte the Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya (Socialist Party of Catalonia, PSC)

Exemple correcte the Unión General de Trabajadores (General Workers’ Union, UGT)

Exemple correcte Podemos (We Can)

Official journals and gazettes 

Translate the names of the governmental journals and gazettes, accompanied by their original abbreviation.

Exemple correcte Official Journal of the Government of Catalonia (DOGC)

Exemple correcte Official Gazette of the Government of Spain (BOE)

Exemple correcte Official Journal of the Government of Valencia (DOGV)


Do not translate company names, although a descriptive translation in brackets may be deemed useful.

Exemple correcte Som Energia (a renewable energies cooperative)

Exemple correcte Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (a railway vehicle manufacturing company)

Trade fairs and conferences 

Translate the names of trade fairs and conferences. That said, if the trade fair or conference is referred to by its original abbreviation, this should be maintained in the translation. For example, CONSTRUMAT (International Construction Exhibition) and simply CONSTRUMAT on subsequent mention.

Forms of address 

Translate common forms of address such as senyor or doctora. Omit any other forms of address used with high-ranking officials such as politicians or the heads of universities. Thus, for example, do not include or translate Excel·lentíssima i Magnífica in Excel·lentíssima i Magnífica Rectora unless specifically requested to do so.

Currencies and measures 

Do not translate figures in euros into sterling or US dollars. Likewise, do not translate measures given in metric units into imperial units.

The word web versus the word internet 

The words web and internet are not synonymous. The internet is the infrastructure of connections, whereas the web is the information stored on and transmitted over this network. The web cannot exist without the internet. With this in mind, we recommend translating xarxa as web, unless you are sure that it refers to the internet infrastructure.


Avoid the use of Latin terms where there is a perfectly acceptable English equivalent. Examples include a posteriori (acceptable equivalents would be subsequently or in hindsight), a priori (beforehand or in theory), in situ (in the original place, on site) and viva voce (oral examination). For a more complete list, see Appendix III: Latin terms with English equivalents.

Varieties of English 

Be consistent and use a single variety of English. Other things being equal, we recommend standard British English (e.g., centre, colour, defence, etc.). On occasion, however, texts written in British English will include references to programmes, organisations or other concepts that use a different system of spelling (US, Oxford, etc.). We recommend conserving these different spellings. Thus, the words program in White House Internship Program and organization in International Maritime Organization should not be changed to programme and organisation, respectively.

Terms that have no established translation 

Terms that have no established translation, such as vegueria (proposed territorial division for Catalonia), should be left in the original Catalan with a descriptive translation in brackets on first mention. Other examples include comarca (territorial division between a municipality and a province), diputació (provincial government) and protecció civil (civil defence).

Writing and model documents 

Writing in English 

Writing well in English – or any other language for that matter – involves somewhat more than avoiding errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling. Good writing is not just correct; it responds to the interests or needs of the intended readers. It must be planned, structured and designed with a particular audience and a particular purpose in mind. For maximum effectiveness, writers need to take decisions at a variety of levels, ranging from the overall structure of the document, through the organisation of sentences within paragraphs, to the placing of certain words at certain points in sentences. They should be aware that the writing process is full of challenges. Unlike speech, writing cannot rely on intonation or gesture, or exploit immediate feedback to put communication back on track. Likewise, unlike speakers, writers have to make certain assumptions about their intended – and often anonymous – audience, and they have to understand that communication is primarily their responsibility: they know full well what they want to say, but their audience may not; and it is up to them to bridge the gap.

This section aims to make you aware of the issues to be considered if you are to rise to these challenges, convey your message efficiently and produce readily understandable texts.


The main point of writing institutional texts is to convey information to readers. If texts are not well structured, readers will struggle to follow what you are trying to say. The first step towards an effective, coherent document, then, is proper structuring. Ensure that your texts have clearly defined sections preceded by short headings which typographically stand out from the surrounding text. Use a numbering system to highlight the hierarchy of sections (1) and subsections (1.1). Organise your texts in paragraphs that are not too long (readers welcome white space).


  • Types of sentence

    There are three main types of sentence in English: simple, compound and complex.


    Exemple correcte Registration begins on 14 September.


    Exemple correcte Registration begins on 14 September but courses do not start until 1 October.


    Exemple correcte Although registration starts on 14 September, courses do not start until 1 October.

  • Sentence variety

    Well-written texts will contain sentences not only of the three types mentioned above – simple, compound and complex – but also of different lengths. Although short sentences are more understandable than long ones, avoid a telegraphic style by writing short, medium and (sometimes) long sentences. Aim for an average sentence length of between 15 and 20 words and beware of excessively long sentences with too many subordinations and parenthetical elements.

    For further variety, begin your sentences in different ways. You can, of course, begin with the subject followed by the verb, but there are other options: for example, a short prepositional phrase (During the meeting this morning...), a transition word (However,...), an infinitive phrase (To register correctly, you must first...) or a participle phrase (On arriving at their host university, mobility students should...).

  • End weight

    Texts can be processed more efficiently when short and simple sequences come before long and complex ones. Therefore, put heavier sequences after the verb, towards the end of the sentence. This is the principle of end weight.

    Therefore, not

    Exemple incorrecte The fact that many mobility students arrived in September and had to return home almost immediately because their papers were not in order is unfortunate.


    Exemple correcte It is unfortunate that many mobility students arrived in September and had to return home almost immediately because their papers were not in order.

  • End focus

    The principle of end focus states that the new information – that is, the information that the writer is giving the reader for the first time – should be placed at the end of clauses and sentences.

    Therefore, not

    Exemple incorrecte The ability to communicate ideas to others is the single most important skill that undergraduate students must acquire.


    Exemple correcte The single most important skill that undergraduate students must acquire is the ability to communicate ideas to others.

Subjects and characters 

At its most basic level, a sentence is about people or things (characters) that do certain actions or have certain actions done to them. As such, the subject of a sentence should refer clearly to the character and the verb of the sentence should describe the important action. If possible, characters should be short and concrete. Often, however, you are obliged to use abstractions (unemployment, legislation, etc.) as characters of your texts. This is not a problem as long as your readers are familiar with the abstractions that are central to your text. For example, in a text entitled ‘First-year students and the registration process’, the following sentence uses an abstraction in subject position that is not a character.

Exemple inadequat Complaints by first-year students about the clarity of information on the website were frequent.

In this sentence, the subject is long (13 words), abstract and not a main character (the focus of the text is not the word complaints). The following sentence is an improvement.

Exemple correcte First-year students frequently complained about the clarity of information on the website.

To sum up, then, readers will find your texts easier to follow if the subjects of your verbs are short and concrete (or familiar abstractions), and refer to the main characters.

Verbs and actions 

After the subject, readers seek a verb that expresses the action. The sooner they find a strong verb (not a weak one like is or has), the more easily they will understand the sentence. Compare the verbs in bold in the two sentences below.

Exemple inadequat Full payment of all outstanding fees must be carried out before issuance of degree certificates to students.

Exemple correcte All outstanding fees must be paid before degree certificates can be issued.

The only verb in the first sentence (carried out) is empty. It expresses no real action. On the other hand, the verbs in the second sentence (paid and issued) directly express the actions that are done. In the first sentence, the actions of paying and issuing are expressed in the form of the abstract nouns payment and issuance. The technical term for expressing actions in the form of nouns is nominalisation. When you nominalise your texts, they will often sound abstract and dense because you use weak verbs instead of strong ones, you place abstractions in subject position and you need more articles and prepositions.

Sometimes nominalisations are little more than minor inconveniences.

Exemple inadequat The Governing Council took the decision to reduce funding.

Exemple correcte The Governing Council decided to reduce funding.

However, they can also lead to unwieldy and cumbersome text, and make understanding more difficult.

Therefore, not

Exemple inadequat Despite her knowledge of the department’s need for more money, her veto of the decision to request a bigger budget aimed at giving encouragement to the department for an improvement in efficiency.


Exemple correcte Although she knew that the department needed more money, she decided not to request a bigger budget to encourage the department to be more efficient.

We recommend that you use verbs to express actions. Do not conceal them in nominalisations.


In general terms, English traditionally prefers placing the verb towards the beginning of the sentence. The sentence below uses an excessively long introductory phrase, includes non-essential information, has a long subject and places information between the subject and the verb.

Exemple inadequat According to recent research carried out by members of the Communication and News research group from Oxford University, led by the well-known expert in the subject, Dr James White, many administrative workers from all sorts of public and private institutions, because they have never studied communication in any of its forms, have great difficulty in writing clear texts.

The sentence below shortens the introductory phrase and the subject, removes unnecessary information and keeps the subject and the verb together.

Exemple correcte According to recent research from Oxford University, many administrative workers have great difficulty in writing clear texts because they have never studied communication in any of its forms.


Readers should be able to perceive that paragraphs are not just sets of individual sentences, but units in which ideas progress logically and flow from sentence to sentence. Writing in such a way is said to be cohesive.

One way in which you can make your texts cohesive is to begin your sentences with information that is known – either because it is straightforward and familiar, or because it has just been mentioned – and end them with information that is new or surprising. Beginning sentences with familiar information provides a context that allows readers to focus on the important information at the end, which has not been mentioned previously in the text and which requires the readers’ attention (this is known as end-focus). In the example below, the new information presented at the end of the first sentence is immediately taken up and used as the contextual information at the beginning of the second.

Exemple correcte Dr James Watson will give a seminar on the Human Genome Project. The project began in 1990 and is considered to be of such importance that funding has just been approved for the next 15 years.

Another way to make your paragraphs cohesive is to give them a clear focus by structuring them around a consistent topic string. That is to say, several of the sentences in the paragraph can have the same subject. Do not be afraid of repetition. It helps to reinforce the focus on particular ideas and concepts, and gives a passage greater unity.

Exemple correcte The module of the Jean Monnet programme on European integration will be taught in February. Registration is now open to university members and professionals working in the field. The module will be taught in seminar room 3 and is organised by lecturers from the Department of Public Law. It analyses recent legislation and the transformation of European law over the last 15 years.

In the example above, three of the four sentences have the same subject, although in the first sentence the subject is used in its full form (the module of the Jean Monnet programme on European integration), in the second it is used in a reduced form (the module) and in the third it is used in its pronominal form (it).

One final way to make your writing cohesive is transitional metadiscourse, which guides readers through a passage and clarifies the relationships between ideas. Examples are moreover, on the other hand, however, first, second, finally and therefore.


Parallelism refers to giving each element in a list the same grammatical category (noun phrases, verb clauses, infinitives, etc.). The similarity of the grammatical form makes it easier for readers to perceive a similarity in content and function. The sentence below is not parallel.

Exemple inadequat The students’ objections were the injustice of the measures and that they were unconstitutional.

The first element of the list (the injustice of the measures) is a noun phrase while the second (they were unconstitutional) is a verb clause. The sentence would be more readily understandable if it were rewritten. The sentence below contains a verb instead of the nominalisation objections and then has a verb clause that contains a list of two elements, both of which are adjectives.

Exemple correcte The students objected that the measures were unjust and unconstitutional.

In any series of items, then, make sure that each element of the series is in exactly the same form as all of the others. In the example below, the list has three elements: the first two are noun phrases while the last one is a verb clause. Therefore, not

Exemple inadequat The master’s students will acquire the personality, the contacts and have the knowledge to succeed in almost any business venture.


Exemple correcte The master’s students will acquire the personality, the contacts and the knowledge to succeed in almost any business venture.

This general guideline can affect even the smallest, and seemingly trivial, of words. Therefore, not

Exemple inadequat The Erasmus students will talk of their experiences in Paris, in Athens and Moscow.


Exemple correcte The Erasmus students will talk of their experiences in Paris, Athens and Moscow.

The principle of parallelism should also be respected in vertical lists. Therefore, not

Exemple inadequat Students must
a) present the official application form,
b) their personal academic certificate, and
c) proof of payment.


Exemple correcte Students must present
a) the official application form,
b) their personal academic certificate, and
c) proof of payment.

Take particular care when you use such structures as not only ... but also. Therefore, not

Exemple inadequat Master’s degrees not only prepare professionals but also researchers.


Exemple correcte Master’s degrees prepare not only professionals but also researchers.

The unofficial style 

In his book Revising Prose (Longman, 2006), Richard Lanham coined the term the official style to refer to the obscure, dense prose so characteristic of many textbooks, business reports, academic papers and institutional documents. According to Lanham, this style is characterised by sentences full of nouns cluttered up by long strings of prepositional phrases and typically linked by some form of the verb be, such as in the sentence below.

Exemple inadequat In the light of the constant lack of places on the courses provided by the Language Service, employing another teacher would be a big advantage for the students and lecturers of the university community.

This sentence could be more economically and clearly expressed in the following way.

Exemple correcte The understaffed Language Service needs to employ another teacher.

The official style is often unclear because it consists of too many elements of the same grammatical type. Consider the following sentence.

Exemple inadequat The aim of the project is to encourage relations between different universities in Europe in an attempt to foster new approaches to administrative procedures to improve efficiency and cut the costs of the production of academic courses by the organisation of interuniversity programmes to be taught at several institutions at any one time.

The sentence is long and complex. It has 53 words but only one weak verb (is). It is full of prepositional phrases (11) and infinitive clauses (4). Prepositional phrases are important because they provide necessary detail about time, manner and place but, in excess, they obstruct the reader’s progress by providing too much information. After the word procedures the sentence provides many diverse details. Likewise, the use of several infinitives of purpose clouds the issue. What is the real purpose of the project? The text could be improved by a shorter introductory sentence focusing on the purpose of the project (see below) and then clarification of how this purpose is to be achieved in subsequent sentences.

Exemple correcte This European project aims to improve the efficiency of administrative procedures and cut the costs of academic courses. It plans to do this by organising interuniversity courses that can be taught simultaneously at various universities.

So, if you want your texts to be clear and readily understandable, avoid the official style. Do not write long sentences full of nouns and strings of prepositional phrases linked only by the verb be. Be unofficial: write shorter, more dynamic, verb-centred sentences and do not use long strings of similar grammatical elements.


Texts are said to be concise if they communicate a message clearly using few words. Concise texts are generally effective because they make information easier to understand but they are by no means easy to write. In fact, they often take considerably longer to write because they require lots of revision. It is impossible to identify all the ways in which authors inflate their texts but below you will find some strategies for reducing the length of your texts without removing necessary information.

Reduce clauses 

Reduce clauses to simpler, shorter constructions. Therefore, not

Exemple inadequat The URV, which was founded in 1994, is the university of southern Catalonia.


Exemple correcte Founded in 1994, the URV is the university of southern Catalonia.

Delete superfluous words and phrases 

Delete all phrases and words that add nothing to the meaning or provide excessive detail. Therefore, not

Exemple inadequat The effect of the application of the new economic measures can be seen in last month’s figures, and it goes without saying that the University is aware of the new policy on tax deduction and that it has every intention of complying with the regulations.


Exemple correcte The effect of the new economic measures can be seen in last month’s figures, and the University intends to comply with the new regulations on tax deduction.

Avoid nominalisations 

Use verbs to express actions, not nominalisations. Therefore, not

Exemple inadequat This report is dedicated to the discussion of the new economic measures.


Exemple correcte This report discusses the new economic measures.

Avoid overuse of it is and there is 

Expressions that combine it or there with the verb be can be effectively used for emphasis at times but overuse can create unnecessarily lengthy prose. Use them sparingly. Therefore, not

Exemple inadequat It is the Rector who will have the last word on this issue.


Exemple correcte The Rector will have the last word on this issue.

Do not make vague attributions 

Authors often try to justify their statements by suggesting they have acquired the information from an authoritative source. If you wish to refer to a source, however, do not do so vaguely as in the following example. A straightforward statement is preferable to a vague attribution. Therefore, not

Exemple inadequat Student registrations have been observed to be increasing in some subjects that were previously determined to be unfashionable.


Exemple correcte Student registrations have been increasing in some previously unfashionable subjects.

and not

Exemple inadequat It has been shown that visiting lecturers have been using this new resource.


Exemple correcte Visiting lecturers have been using this new resource.

Make direct statements 

Do not feel obliged to provide a brief introduction to every statement you make. Often, no introduction is necessary. Therefore, not

Exemple inadequat With regard to good students, their most important characteristic is the ability to work hard.


Exemple correcte The most important characteristic of good students is the ability to work hard.

Do not hedge excessively 

When you write, you are often not certain of the facts and are obliged to hedge (that is to say, introduce elements of doubt and uncertainty into your texts). If you need to hedge, though, do so just once. Therefore, not

Exemple inadequat It could be possible that economic factors and the decline in immigration may be affecting student numbers.


Exemple correcte Economic factors and the decline in immigration may be affecting student numbers.


One of the main problems of writing clearly and effectively is that there will always be a gap between what you want to say and what your readers may understand. The principles outlined in this section will help you overcome this. Remember that they are only guidelines, not inflexible rules, but they will give you a general idea about how most university texts should be written. In a nutshell, the principles of clear writing are the following:

  1. Give your documents a clearly defined structure. The sections and subsections and their corresponding headings should guide readers towards meaning.

  2. Write sentences of different types and lengths. This will give your texts variety. But beware of excessively long sentences!

  3. Make the important characters of your text the subjects of your sentences.

  4. Express actions not as abstract nouns (nominalisations) but as verbs.

  5. Make sure that the main verb is towards the beginning of the sentence by avoiding long introductory phrases, keeping your subjects short and not separating the subject from the verb.

  6. Begin sentences with information that you believe is familiar to readers and end sentences with what you believe is new or unfamiliar. Make sure that your most important characters occupy the subject position as often as possible.

  7. Ensure that all the elements of a list are expressed in the same grammatical form.

  8. Avoid long strings of prepositional phrases and sentences that only have weak verbs.

  9. Once you have completed your text, revise it for concision (among other things).

Tools for text production 

In today’s world, most administrative texts are produced on a word processor. Within this context, those who work with text need to be able to exploit the full potential of digital text processing, a field that goes far beyond the textual and linguistic issues that are dealt with in other sections of this guide. Much of what could be said is applicable to all languages but in this section, as far as possible, we will restrict the discussion to aspects that affect texts in English.

Popular word processors, such as the broadly equivalent Microsoft Word (commercial software that is a registered trademark of Microsoft), and LibreOffice (open-source software), are sophisticated configurable programs with many tools to improve productivity, that is, to work faster and achieve higher quality. These programs are installed with a series of default settings and while some affect the creation of texts in all languages, certain settings can specifically affect English. An example is the language setting for the text, which establishes the spellcheck dictionary to be used, among other things. If you are typing in English but the spellchecker is checking for words in Catalan, productivity goes down rather than up. Default settings for new documents can be established by creating a template document and saving your preferred settings into it. Precisely how to do that will depend on the program and the version you are using .

There are various kinds of language tools. Not all of these are installed with the word processor itself but usually the relevant files for English will be. In general, different varieties of English are available, so you need to check that the variety chosen is the one you want to use.

Language tools not distributed with the version of Microsoft Word you have can be acquired subsequently or set up from the original installation CD or downloaded from the web. Extra language tool files for LibreOffice can be downloaded from the web.


Spellcheckers are perhaps the most useful of the language tools on offer. Impossible spellings are automatically detected. You can set up the checker so that it detects spelling mistakes as you type or you can turn it off and activate it later.

It is easy enough to use the wrong word, however, typing for example sight instead of site. In such cases your spellchecker will not detect any error, so you still need to check your work carefully after typing it.

Another potential problem is that you may disagree with the established criteria of the spellchecker. For example, does your institution prefer cooperate or co-operate? This is largely a matter of taste. In such cases you can add what you consider to be exceptions to a local dictionary so these spellings will be accepted in the future, but only for documents edited on the same computer.

Grammar checkers, thesauruses and translation dictionaries 

Word processors offer users grammar checkers and thesauruses but non-native users should bear in mind that these are not always as useful as other similar tools available online. For example, while grammar checkers can detect a lack of verb concord or suggest the punctuation of long sentences to improve readability, they can also mark a sentence as unacceptable when there is really nothing wrong with it. And while thesauruses can suggest synonyms of selected words, they are not always very complete and do not include guidance on differences between matched words. For this reason, if you are writing in English but it is not your first language, you will need to find other tools and resources to support your word processor’s grammar checker and thesaurus.

Microsoft Word also includes a tool for translating selected words or text, but its usefulness in text creation is limited. It might help you understand an unknown word but it certainly would not help you write correct English. Since the appearance of Microsoft Word 2007, this tool uses online translation (through the Translate button on the Review ribbon), so it will only work if you have an internet connection. Like all generic automatic translation, it is rather unreliable.

While most authors have no need for this kind of tool, in our context the administrative texts that need to be created in English are often based on already existing texts in Catalan, if not on close translations of these. In such cases an automatic translation into English may be a viable first draft for rephrasing. This process for text production in English is discussed in Online word processors and other online tools.

Automatic correction tools 

Both Microsoft Word and LibreOffice include the automatic correction tool Autocorrect, which automatically replaces certain typed sequences of characters with other characters. Autocorrect is language specific so, if you use it, make sure it is correctly configured. Otherwise, you may find yourself unable to enter a correct sequence at all, because the program will unhelpfully change what you type.

Automatic substitution of characters may be a useful option, if set up in accordance with the way you want to work. It can include the following:
  1. Correction of common typing errors (such as teh to the or abotu to about)

  2. Automatic suggested completion of long words

  3. Expansion of abbreviated forms

  4. Substitution of character sequences to access special characters, such as a double hyphen replaced by an em dash or 1/4 replaced by ¼

  5. Replacement of unlikely sequences, such as double capital letters at the beginning of a sentence replaced by a single capital letter

  6. Automatic formatting of lists

Configuring language tools in your word processor 

Configuring language tools is important because, if you are using a local version of Microsoft Word, the default settings for your document may not be for English, even though your document is in that language. In this section we outline how to configure the tools in your word processor and establish suitable default settings for an administrative document in British English. The following guidelines focus on the use of the Catalan version of Microsoft Word.

To create a template with suitable default settings, create a new Microsoft Word document and then follow the steps below.
  1. Maximise the Estils panel on the Inici ribbon to visualise it. Position the pointer over the Normal style and an arrow for a drop-down menu will appear. Right-click on the style to open this menu. Choose Modifica and a dialogue box will open.

  2. Click on the Format button and then on the first item, Tipus de lletra, in the drop-down menu. Here you can choose the default font, its size and colour, among other things. Confirm any changes you make with the Dacord button.

  3. Select Paràgraf from the same drop-down menu. Click the first tab to establish the line spacing, the paragraph spacing, the indentation, the justification and the tabulation positions. Click on the second tab to avoid single final lines at the top or bottom of a page, and to insert a page break before each paragraph with this style. Confirm all the changes.

  4. Select Llengua, choose anglès (Regne Unit) from the list and make sure the box No revisis l’ortografia ni la gramàtica is unchecked. Confirm those changes. (The spellchecker will only work if it has been installed. If in doubt about this, contact the computer service responsible for your hardware and software maintenance.)

  5. Click on the Anomena i desa icon (a diskette with a pencil). A dialogue box will appear, in which you can give your document a name, such as admin-en-template1. Then open the drop-down menu for Tipus de fitxer and choose Plantilla de Word (*.dotx).

Your document format preferences are now saved in your template. To create a new empty document based on these settings, double-click on the template file in a Windows Explorer window, or create a new document based on your template through the Nou document dialogue box. (Templates for many kinds of documents are also available online. Such templates tend to focus on complicated formats, such as tri-fold brochures. For simpler documents with a single flow of text, it is preferable to create your own template, as we describe here.)

To view the spellchecker and grammar checker settings, click on the blue Fitxer tab at the top on the left and choose Opcions to open the corresponding dialogue box. Then choose Correcció from the menu on the left-hand side. On the right-hand side of the box you can establish settings for document proofing. To turn off as-you-write spell checking, uncheck Revisa l’ortografia a mesura que escric. To turn off grammar checking, uncheck Marca els errors gramaticals a mesura que escric. To choose what kinds of error the activated grammar checker will identify, open the Estil d’escriptura dialogue box by clicking on the Configuració button. Uncheck boxes for items that you do not want the program to automatically correct. Do not forget the Format automàtic a mesura que escric tab, where you can set up the automatic treatment of quotation marks, among other things. When you finish, save your changes and exit the dialogue box. These autocorrect settings are not saved into your template but are associated with your profile as a user on that specific computer.

You can establish various other general settings through the Visualització and Avançades dialogue boxes in the Opcions del Word window.

Special characters 

Some characters are particularly problematic for electronic media.

For example, the older type-setting tradition of curly apostrophes (’) and curly quotation marks (“ ”) corresponds to print media. They are not available on mechanical typewriters at all and are not immediately available on computer keyboards either. (They need to be looked up in character tables.) Like straight apostrophes (') and straight quotation marks (" ") they are available on word processors, but curly quotation marks are often misinterpreted by web servers and incorrectly displayed on web pages.

Problems tend to arise when authors use Microsoft Windows programs, including Microsoft Word, to edit texts for the web (in HTML code), because Windows uses non-standard codes for these special characters and they may appear as meaningless symbols on web pages.

These are other characters that Microsoft Windows may code idiosyncratically:

  • Curly apostrophes

  • Curly quotation marks

  • Double dashes re-interpreted as an em dash

  • Ellipsis points

  • The geminate l in Catalan (l·l).

To sum up, if you know that you are editing for Windows programs or print media, then you can use these special characters without risk of them being corrupted and appearing incorrectly in the final document. On the other hand, if you are editing for HTML documents or for a variety of output media, turn off all these special characters and the autocorrect options that introduce them automatically into documents.

The raised dot or interpunct of the geminate l is generally too large if you are using obsolete Windows character tables, leading to l•l instead of l·l. Using Unicode (UTF-8) character encoding, available in all current software, should solve this problem (see Team projects and revision of texts).

Word wrap and word division 

The difference between print and web text editing traditions is not merely confined to character selection. Text justification may also be an issue.

Texts for print media such as letters, books, magazines and newspapers are usually fully justified (left and right). Web media, in contrast, tend to be left-justified because they are viewed at different page widths on different screens, and large horizontal gaps may appear between words if full justification is used and the text is viewed in a narrow window. This problem can be solved in word processing documents if the right dictionaries are installed (if not, words may be divided in the wrong place) and automatic word division is activated. The program will then split long words at the end of lines to reduce the appearance of long spaces between words when total justification is used.

Word wrap is the feature that automatically carries down any word that does not fit at the end of a line. Although it is a fundamental feature of word processors, it can lead to problems when items that should be on the same line are split over two lines. To avoid this, use non-breaking spaces, for instance between an honorific and the following name, and non-breaking hyphens, for instance as a separator between numbers.

Exemple correcte Mr Charles Smith

Exemple correcte 2013 3476 24 4700000418 (a bank account number)

In Microsoft Word the following key combinations may be used to insert these characters: Control+Shift+Space for a non-breaking space; Control+Shift+Hyphen for a non-breaking hyphen.

Character sets and encoding 

Generally speaking, when texts are saved in word processors, the fonts used are not saved as part of the file. If an unusual font has been used and is not available on other computers where the document is viewed, it will be substituted, with rather unpredictable results.

Most modern word processors use Unicode (UTF-8) encoding by default. This is a great improvement on previous systems because with Unicode many alphabets are available with the same encoding system. Now, with UTF-8, gone are the days when Cyrillic characters would not show up correctly in a document that for the most part used the Roman alphabet, to take just one example.

Some programs still use old encoding systems by default. If you are importing text from one of these programs, you will typically be shown a file conversion dialogue box. Always convert to UTF-8 if given the opportunity.

Team projects and revision of texts 

Generally speaking, texts for publication pass through various hands during the stages of creation, editing, proofreading, etc. This chain is fragile when using desktop software such as locally installed word processors because the most recent version of the project file is held by only one person at a time (and stored in only one place). Users must take turns working on the document and send the project file on to the next member of the team when they finish.

This can slow work down and lead to problems of traceability, meaning that it is difficult (or impossible) to know which versions a document has gone through and who has introduced which changes.

This issue is addressed by the Control de canvis tool in word processors, but as with all digital tools, it is vital to make best use of the instrument provided. (Hidden revisions can be inadvertently distributed in a final version, to the potential embarrassment of all concerned.)

The following guidelines focus on the use of Control de canvis in the Catalan version of Microsoft Word 2010.

To turn Track changes on and off, go to Revisió > Seguiment > Control de canvis or use the key combination Control+Shift+E to toggle Control de canvis on and off.

You can see if you are currently tracking changes by looking for Control de canvis on the status bar (the bottom border of the Microsoft Word window). If this control is not visible, activate it by right clicking on the status bar itself and selecting the corresponding option on the menu that appears.

To control how tracked changes are displayed in your document, use the drop-down menu controls in the Revisió > Seguiment group. You can modify how changes appear by clicking on the bottom half of the large Control de canvis button and selecting Canvia les opcions de seguiment from the drop-down menu.

Once changes are accepted or rejected (and the file is saved and closed), they can no longer be displayed or tracked. To accept or reject them, use the Revisió > Canvis controls.

If a document has passed through various reviewers with Control de canvis turned on, the proposed modifications will be marked with an identifier for each person. If you click on Revisió > Seguiment > Subfinestra de revisió, you will see this identifier beside each change. When you hold the pointer over a change, a pop-up text also shows this information. Each author’s suggestions can be colour-coded in the Canvia les opcions de seguiment dialogue; changes proposed by just one reviewer, for example, can be shown using the Mostra l’etiquetatge > Revisors dialogue.

Control de canvis can be combined with the insertion of comments (on the same Revisió ribbon) to create an effective process for proofreading by teams of reviewers, but circulating a document leads to problems of downtime, where team members are held up by sluggish work from their colleagues.

If you are the manager of a group of document reviewers, there are a number of issues to bear in mind, most of which concern actions to be avoided. The most important of these are outlined below.

  • Base your document on a template that includes styles for all the paragraphs and headings you will need. Do not introduce any manual paragraph formatting into the document. Use your template styles instead.

  • Never use the Enter key to create extra vertical spacing. If necessary, adjust your template paragraph styles.

  • Never use the font and font-size controls to change the appearance of text manually. Incorporate font features into your style definitions instead.

  • Never apply italic and bold styling to a whole paragraph to make it look like a heading. Use a real heading style instead.

  • Never use the space bar repeatedly to create horizontal space or to centre your text. Make sure your tabulation positions are defined in your template styles and use the tab key to position text. If text needs to be aligned, this should be part of the paragraph style definition.

  • Never type a manual number to create the effect of a numbered list or heading. Incorporate automatic numbering into the paragraph style instead.

  • Never create a page number, a table of contents, an index, a cross-reference, or other calculable items manually. These items should be created using automatic fields so that they are updated automatically when the document is modified.

  • Use inline images (instead of floating images) to prevent unpredictable movement of text.

Some of these problems, and many others, may be detected and corrected by skilful use of the Cerca i substitució command. For instance, many touch typists leave double spaces between words unintentionally every time they are momentarily distracted. Such extra spaces may be eliminated by searching for double spaces and replacing them with single spaces throughout the whole document. The same trick may be used to eliminate extra empty paragraphs.

The items listed above are guidelines to avoid frequent text-formatting errors. Once you start to use the built-in features of the word processor to create the desired effects in a reproducible and configurable way, you will find it much more effective than manual formatting.

Current versions of Microsoft Word offer another method of working with a document that has been circulated among various editors: Compara, which is available on the Revisió ribbon. This function allows you to see all the differences between versions of a document and who has proposed each change.

Nonetheless, circulating a document to different members of a team is a cumbersome process. This problem may be addressed by resort to online tools, which is the subject of the following subsection.

Online word processors and other online tools 

Desktop word processors are powerful programs that can be adapted to users’ preferred ways of working, but they have their limitations, particularly when document editors are working as a team.

Many of the tools available in desktop word processors are now available online and in some cases these tools are more powerful. This is the case for online dictionaries such as Word Reference [<>], and also for automatic translators, such as Google Translate [<>] and Microsoft Translator [<>].

Teamwork can be enhanced by synchronising desktop files to a shared online copy, as with the service offered by DropBox [<>].

The most radical option is to do away with the desktop word processing environment altogether, at least in the initial stages of text creation. Basic online word processors are a viable alternative to desktop software. Popular options are GoogleDocs (recently rebranded as Google Drive) [<>], Zoho [<>] and Microsoft Office 365 [<>]. On the other hand, if you want an alternative to Google, there are a number of possibilities, including Synqion [<>], Nextcloud [<>] or Tresorit [<>]. (For a useful website listing these and other possibilities, see Pixel Privacy [<>]).    

The word processing environment in these online editors is more rudimentary but they offer advantages over desktop word processors:

  • File storage is more secure online than on a local hard disk.

  • All previous versions are stored and the editing of each version can be traced.

  • Since all editors work on the same version, there is never any conflict between versions from different sources.

  • There is enhanced integration with other online resources, such as automatic translation and dictionary look-up.

Online systems also facilitate the use of shared translation memories and terminology databases. Together with the use of specialised automatic translation systems, these hold much promise for the future as a viable method of fast, cheap, approximate translation and for the preparation of first drafts of foreign language texts, which need limited post-editing to be converted into quality publications.

Authors can experiment with this kind of system for free with Google Translator Toolkit [<>]or Wordfast Anywhere [<>]. The use of online word processing and translation tools is bound to increase in the future.

Finally, however, be aware that your own organisation may well have created university-specific tools for online collaboration. In some cases, there may be institutional preferences or requirements for the exclusive use of such dedicated tools and you should get acquainted with both these tools and whatever guidance or instructions are provided on their use.


All too often, users are asked to create and edit texts without any thought to the issues raised in this section, as if the effective use of these programs were common knowledge or intuitive. To some extent, word processing programs themselves encourage this perception by making it so easy to edit and print your first texts and also by allowing users to manually format texts without regard to best practice. Given the variety and power of the tools available, it is vital that users exploit the full potential of word processors, configuring the tools appropriately and fully exploiting their potential. In this section we hope to have indicated some of the resources and pitfalls, particularly with a view to the edition of texts in English in a Catalan-speaking context.

Types of document 

Administrative documents 

This section provides practical advice on writing different types of document: the application, resolution and notification; the certificate and internal certificate; correspondence (the letter and e-mail); and the agreement. (Note that in the menu on the left, the documents have been listed separately, in alphabetical order.)

Each subsection offers model texts that are versions of similar original documents. Their purpose is to facilitate and standardise the institutional production of such documents in English, making them readily comprehensible to international readers. Their structure may vary from corresponding Catalan and Spanish documents.

These models may not cover all eventualities, but they will provide helpful guidelines and some useful language. When combined with advice from the other sections, they are a good start to creating your own institutional documents.


An agreement is a written document in which two or more parties establish mutual obligations for the conduct of a shared project.


  • Title. The title identifies the type of agreement and can also name the parties and state the main objective of the agreement.

  • Participants. This section identifies the parties signing the agreement by their full name, position and institution. It also makes reference to their power to represent their institution or act individually. Introduce it with the expression by and between, centred in bold, capital letters. Each party should be given a separate paragraph.

    Exemple correcte


    The first party, Joan Garcia Romaní, rector of the UB, acting for said university; and

    The second party, Sònia Capdevila Tena, rector of the UdG, acting for said university.

    Close this section with a sentence confirming that all the parties signing the agreement acknowledge the others’ ability to enter the agreement.

    Exemple correcte The parties, acting in their aforementioned capacities, declare that they have sufficient legal capacity to enter into this Agreement, and

  • Recitals. This section sets out, in separate and numbered paragraphs, the precedents, the willingness of the signatories, the legal framework and everything that needs to be taken into consideration. Introduce it with the word state, centred in bold, capital letters, and start each of the following paragraphs with the word That.

    Exemple correcte


    1. That the UB and the UdG signed an Agreement for…

    2. That Spanish Royal Decree 1393 of 29 October 2007…

    Close this section with a sentence confirming that all the parties agree to the clauses in the next section.

    Exemple correcte Therefore, the parties agree to the following

  • Clauses. This section includes the specific clauses agreed to by the parties. Use the word clauses, centred in bold, capital letters as the title of the section and a numbered heading for each clause.

    Exemple correcte


    1. Object

    The object of this Agreement is to…

    2. Liability

    The signatory universities hereby state that…

  • Close. Close the document with a sentence acknowledging where and when the agreement was signed.

    Exemple correcte In witness whereof, the parties hereto sign two (2) identical and equally valid counterparts of this document in Barcelona on 30 April 2021.

  • Signatures. This section should include the signature, name, position and institution for each of the parties signing the agreement.

    Exemple correcte [signature]

    Joan Garcia Romaní
    University of Barcelona





An application is a formal request to a competent body.


  • Applicant’s personal details. Provide your name, family name, identity document type and number, and postal address. If relevant, provide further information such as telephone number, e-mail address, and date and place of birth, etc. If you are making the application on behalf of another person, include both your personal details and those of the person you are representing.

  • Declaration. In this section, give the reasons for the application. Introduce it with the expression I declare in bold, capital letters and followed by a colon, and write each statement on a new line beginning with a capital letter and ending with a full stop. If there are two statements or more, number them.

    Exemple correcte I DECLARE:

    1. I am a student on an Erasmus programme.

    2. I registered on a course and paid the full course fee.

    3. I was informed that I am entitled to free language tuition.

  • Request. This section states the object of the application. Begin with the expression I request in bold, capital letters and followed by a colon, and write any following statements on a new line beginning with a capital letter and ending with a full stop. If there are two statements or more, number them.

    Exemple correcte I REQUEST:

    1. The cancellation of my registration.

    2. A refund of the course fee.

  • Supporting documents. If any documentary evidence is required, or it is in your interests to include it, list the documents you attach.

    Exemple correcte SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS

    1. Photocopy of passport

    2. Photocopy of Erasmus learning agreement

    3. Photocopy of Language Service registration form

  • Signature. Sign the document. There is no need to print your name and surname because they have already been provided at the beginning.

  • Place and date. After the signature, write the name of the town or city in which the application has been made and the date.

    Exemple correcte Barcelona, 15 October 2021

  • Recipient. At the foot of the page, put the name of the unit and institution to which the application is addressed.





A certificate attests to a broad range of facts such as course attendance, the attainment of an academic level or qualification, or the exercising of a specific function. It is issued by a person or organisation with the recognised authority to validate the facts attested to.


  • Date. Write the date in the top right-hand corner of the page rather than at the bottom. Omit the place name that typically appears on certificates in Catalan.

    Exemple correcte 13 February 2021

  • Generic salutation. The final recipient of a certificate is not generally known, so the text begins with the generic salutation To whom it may concern, which should be left-justified and followed by a comma.

    Exemple correcte To whom it may concern,

  • Body. Begin with This is to certify that. Then state the information that is being attested to. This section of the certificate is justified.

    Exemple correcte This is to certify that

  • Signature. Include the signature of the person issuing the document and left-justify it.

  • Certifier’s name and position. Give this information on two lines, left-justified and without full stops.

    Exemple correcte Maria Josep Puig i Torres
    Director of the Department of Greek

  • Organisation. The specific level of organisation (service, school, faculty, area, university, etc.) indicated in the text may depend on the type of certificate. Indicate the highest level of organisation as the final item. Where two or more levels are identified, place them on separate lines with no full stop. This information is left-justified.

    Exemple correcte Faculty of Philology
    University of Barcelona





An e-mail is a form of written communication sent by electronic means which may require a response.

  • Subject line. Keep the subject line short and provide specific information about the content of the message. Use sentence-style capitalisation (first word and proper nouns).

  • Salutation. Tailor the salutation to the person you are writing to. The salutation generally starts with Dear followed by a name or position and ends with a comma.

    Exemple correcte Dear Marina,
    Dear Mr Davies,

    Exemple correcte Dear Head of Department,
    Dear Coordinator,

    Less formal e-mails can also start with Hi or Hello, followed by a comma.

  • Opening sentence. The opening sentence is commonly used to explain why you are writing.

    Exemple correcte I am writing to inform you that… [formal beginning]

    Exemple correcte I am writing to let you know that… [informal beginning]

  • Body. Formal e-mails are very similar to formal letters. Therefore, the body of a formal e-mail should convey the information in a direct style and be paragraphed appropriately.

    The following phrases may be useful in both e-mails and letters.

    In reply to…
    With reference to…
    I am writing to enquire about…
    I am writing to inform you of…
    I was happy to learn that…
    I was sorry to hear that…
    I would be grateful if…
    I would appreciate it if…
    I am pleased to announce that…
    You will be happy to learn that…
    I regret to inform you that…
    I am sorry to say that…
    You are advised to…
    You are requested to…
    Please do not hesitate to…
    Please feel free to…
    I look forward to…
    I am looking forward to…

  • Closing sentence. The closing sentence is commonly used to offer thanks or to state what kind of response you expect.

    Exemple correcte I look forward to your response. [formal closing sentence]

    Exemple correcte I look forward to hearing from you. [informal closing sentence]

  • Close. To close, use the formal Sincerely or the informal Kind regards, followed by a comma.

  • Signature line. Write your first name or your full name, depending on the level of formality.

Model 1: giving information

Model 1PDF


Model 2: asking information

Model 2PDF


Internal certificate 

An internal certificate attests to an ongoing or completed administrative procedure. It is equivalent to the Catalan diligència, informally known as a faig constar.


  • Date. Write the date in the top right-hand corner of the page rather than at the bottom. Omit the place name that typically appears in certificates in Catalan.

    Exemple correcte 10 June 2021

  • Generic salutation. The final recipient of an internal certificate is not generally known, so the text begins with the generic salutation To whom it may concern, which should be left-justified and followed by a comma.

    Exemple correcte To whom it may concern,

  • Body. In the body, state the information that is being attested to. This section is justified.

  • Signature. Include the signature of the person issuing the document and left-justify it.

  • Signatory’s position. Put the person’s name below the signature, followed by their position on the next line. Left-justify the text and do not use full stops.

    Exemple correcte Department Director





A letter is a hand-written, typed or printed communication which may require a response.

  • Sender’s address. Write the sender’s address in the top right-hand corner of the page.

  • Recipient’s name, position and address. If you include the recipient’s address, write this on the left-hand side of the page. The first line should be level with the last line of the sender’s address. Use any professional title the recipient has used in previous correspondence. Otherwise, write the recipient’s full name without Mr or Ms.

    Exemple correcte Janice Farrell
    The Organising Committee
    Centre for Educational Research
    The Fairborn Exchange
    M13 4XL

  • Date. Write the date on the right-hand side of the page below the sender’s address. Do not write the name of the town or city from which the letter is sent.

    Exemple correcte 17 November 2021

  • Salutation. Salutations most frequently begin with Dear and end with a comma.

    • When the letter is informal, follow Dear by a first name.

      Exemple correcte Dear Mark,
      Dear Lucy,

    • When the letter is formal, follow Dear by Mr or Ms and the recipient’s family name.

      Exemple correcte Dear Mr Jones,
      Dear Ms Benway,

      When you do not know the recipient’s name, use the phrase Dear Sir or Madam followed by a comma.

    • When the letter is addressed to a group of people, follow Dear by a common noun.

      Exemple correcte Dear student,
      Dear colleague,

    • You can follow Dear by a capitalised noun to denote the recipient’s position.

      Exemple correcte Dear Coordinator,
      Dear Head of Studies,

  • Body. The body of the letter should convey the information in a direct style and be paragraphed appropriately.

    The following phrases may be useful in both letters and e-mails.

    In reply to…
    With reference to…
    I am writing to enquire about…
    I am writing to inform you of…
    I was happy to learn that…
    I was sorry to hear that…
    I would be grateful if…
    I would appreciate it if…
    I am pleased to announce that…
    You will be happy to learn that…
    I regret to inform you that…
    I am sorry to say that…
    You are advised to…
    You are requested to…
    Please do not hesitate to…
    Please feel free to…
    I look forward to…
    I am looking forward to…

  • Close. The close is a formulaic way of ending a letter. Capitalise the first word and follow the last word with a comma. Leave some extra space above and below the close.

    Exemple correcte Sincerely, [formal close]

    Exemple correcte Kind regards, [informal close]

  • Signature line. The signature line consists of the signature followed by the sender’s printed name. If appropriate, write the sender’s position below the printed name.

    Exemple correcte Imatge sense text alternatiu definit

    Laverne Forner
    Staff Week Coordinator

Model 1: giving information

Model 1Word


Model 2: asking for information

Model 2Word



A notification informs the interested party of a resolution that has been adopted by a competent authority.

  • Recipient’s details. Identify the person to whom the notification is to be sent in the top left-hand corner under the heading. Include their name and family name, address, post code, and town or city.

  • Introductory formula. State the date on which the resolution was adopted and by whom.

    Exemple correcte On 29 October 2021 the coordinator of the Language Services of this university issued the following resolution.

  • Text of the resolution. Reproduce the full text of the resolution below the introductory formula. If it is particularly long, attach it to the notification as a separate document.

  • Appeals. State whether an appeal can be made, to whom and within what time frame.

    Exemple correcte APPEALS

    This resolution does not exhaust the right of appeal through administrative channels. If you wish to appeal, present an application for further review by the rector within one month from the day after receiving this notification.

  • Signature. In this section, include the signature, the full name and position of the person issuing the notification.

    Exemple correcte Imatge sense text alternatiu definit

    Jaume Serra i Alemany
    Head of the Secretary’s Office
    Language Services

  • Place and date. End the notification with the name of the town or city where the document will be signed and the date.

    Exemple correcte Barcelona, 1 November 2021





A resolution records a decision. It generally responds to an application and may end a particular administrative procedure.


  • Identification of the document. Identify the document with a reference number. If the resolution is especially long or complex, it may be appropriate to add a short title by way of summary.

  • Background. List the facts and the various steps that have been taken since the beginning of the process and any regulations that might affect the decision. Introduce them with the expression considering in bold, capital letters followed by a colon, and write each statement on a new line. If there are two statements or more, number them.

    Exemple correcte CONSIDERING:

    1. On 15 October, Anita Smith sent an application asking to be refunded the sum of €225.

    2. From the documents provided, it is clear that Ms Smith made the payment as stated.

    3. Mobility students are entitled to free tuition in Catalan, in accordance with the official list of fees.

  • Resolution. Introduce this section with the formula I resolve in bold, capital letters and followed by a colon, and briefly state the decision taken, in full sentences.

    Exemple correcte I RESOLVE:

    Ms Smith is to be refunded the sum of €225.

  • Signature. This section includes the signature, full name and position of the signatory, in this order.

    Exemple correcte Imatge sense text alternatiu definit

    Maria Sales Llopis
    Coordinator of the Language Services

  • Place and date. End the resolution with the name of the town or city where the document will be signed and the date.

    Exemple correcte Barcelona, 29 October 2021





Appendix I: Common abbreviations 

Abbreviated form
Full form
circa (around)
confer (compare)
electronic mail
et al.
et alii (and others)
exempli gratia (for example)
et cetera (and so forth)
ibidem (in the same place)
id est (that is)
sic erat scriptum (thus was it written)
translator, translation, translated by
versus (against)
wireless local area network

Appendix II: Unusual plural forms 

alumnus, alumna
indexes, indices
media, mediums

Appendix III: Latin terms with English equivalents 

Latin term
English equivalent
a posteriori
subsequently, with hindsight
a priori
beforehand, in theory
bona fide
in good faith
et alii
and others
the same
in absentia
not present
in camera
in secret
in memoriam
in memory
in situ
in the original place
inter alia
among other things
intra muros
nota bene (NB)
note well
per annum
per year
per diem
per day
sine qua non
sui generis
terra firma
dry land
viva voce
oral examination

Universitat de Barcelona. Serveis Lingüístics
Darrera actualització: 17-11-2021
Recommended citation:
«Style Guide» [en línia]. A: Criteris de la Universitat de Barcelona (CUB). Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona. Serveis Lingüístics. <> [consulta: 7 desembre 2021].