Updates to our style guide

Published on: 9 May 2023

Introduction

We regularly update our style guide to reflect changes in language. On this page, we have listed all the changes and the month and year they were made.

If you have any questions about the guide, or on anything to do with language, style or grammar, please get in touch with our editorial team.

July 2024

Updates

Added “call on” to “Words to use with care”

  • We have updated our guidance to show that we can’t demand an organisation, force or service to improve. We don’t have regulatory power. Use “urge” instead.

June 2024

Updates

Updated guidance on “Cross-references”

  • We have added guidance to show that we should use the full name of the report at first mention, and shorthand thereafter.
  • We have added an example of an external report to make it clear that the guidance applies to all publications (not just our own reports).
  • We have updated our guidance on how to refer to chapters or sections.

Added an example under “Figurative language”

  • We have added another example of figurative language that is commonly used in our reports.

Updated guidance under “Lists”

  • We have included more information on how to use the third style of bullets.

Added “seek” to “Words to use with care”

  • We have updated our guidance to suggest “ask for”, “plans to” or “intends to” as alternatives.

Added guidance on punctuating quotes that form part of a sentence

  • We have updated our guidance on “Quotation marks” under “Punctuation” to show how to punctuate quotes that don’t form a full sentence.

Added “like” to Words to use with care”

  • We have added “like” to “Words to use with care” to show how it should be avoided when giving examples.

May 2024

Updates

Added guidance on “Figurative language”

  • We have added guidance to show why we should avoid using figurative language in our reports.

April 2024

Updates

Updated guidance on “Footnotes and endnotes”

  • We have updated our guidance to remove example citations because we shouldn’t use them in our reports.

Updated “Words to use with care”

  • We have referenced the GOV.UK style guide’s list of words to avoid.
  • We have added “drive” and suggested “create”, “cause” or “encourage” as alternatives.
  • We have added “perform” and suggested using “carry out” (unless talking about how well a force, service or person is doing something).
  • We have updated “staff” to show that we don’t need to include ‘police’ before every reference to an officer, member of staff or personnel.
  • We have added “undertake” and suggested “do” or “carry out’’ as alternatives.

Updated guidance on areas for improvement, causes of concern and recommendations

  • We have updated our guidance on “Areas for improvement” and “Causes of concern” to show that we describe them as ‘closed’ instead of ‘discharged’, where relevant.
  • We have updated our guidance on “Recommendations” to show that we describe them as ‘completed’ instead of ‘discharged’, where relevant.

Updated guidance on referring to publications under “Capital letters”, “Cross-references”, “Quotations” and “Italics”

  • We have updated our guidance on how we refer to the title of other publications by full name and shorthand reference – we no longer use italics.

Updated guidance on innovative and promising practice

  • We have updated our guidance on “Hyperlinking” to make it clear that examples of innovative and promising practice should be treated as standalone.
  • We have updated our guidance on “Innovative and promising practice” to make it clear that these examples don’t need to be repeated in the main body of the report.

Updated guidance on “Lists”

  • We have updated our guidance on “Lists” to make it clear that an entire paragraph shouldn’t be punctuated with a bullet.

Updated guidance on “Numbers and measurements”

  • We have updated our guidance on “Numbers” to show that percentages should be written in numerals.

Updated guidance on third-person references

  • We have updated our guidance under “HMICFRS” to show that we should use ‘we’ instead of ‘our inspection team’.

March 2024

Updates

Updated guidance on “Landing pages”

  • We have updated our guidance on “Landing pages” to explain when it is acceptable to link to a PDF.

December 2023

Updates

Updated example on “Initial capitals” under “Capitalisation”

  • We have moved “Taser” under “Initial capitals” to recognise that it is a trademarked name.

Renamed “Acronyms” to “Acronyms, abbreviations and initialisms” and restructured/updated guidance in this section

  • We have renamed this section to “Acronyms, abbreviations and initialisms”.
  • We have introduced subheadings to make it clear when you should and shouldn’t use abbreviations.
  • We have updated “Abbreviations in headings”.

Updated example under “Brackets”

  • We have updated the example for square brackets to align with our guidance on inclusive language.

Updated guidance on “Hyperlinking”

  • We have updated the example hyperlinks to make sure it is clear where the reader will go and what they will find.
  • Hyperlinks should be included in areas for improvement, causes of concern, recommendations and case studies, even when previously defined, so they can be understood as standalone.

Moved guidance on “Initials and titles”

  • We have moved our guidance on “Initials and titles” (originally under “Abbreviations”) to “Names, courtesy titles, ranks and honours”.

Updated guidance on “Quotation marks”

  • We have updated our guidance to make it clear that we can make minor changes to unpublished quotes to meet our house style.
  • We shouldn’t add glossary hyperlinks to quotations from other organisations.

Added spelling guidance under “Other conventions”

  • We have added “night-time”.

Updated guidance on including a source under “Tables, graphs and charts”

  • We have updated this section to make it clear that all figures need a source and it should be as specific as possible.

October 2023

Updates

Updated guidance on numbering figures under “Tables, graphs and charts”

  • We have updated this section to make it clear that a single continuous system of numbering should be used for figures, including any figures in an annex/appendix.

Updated guidance on “Tenses”

  • We have updated this section to make sure it is clear that our guidance also applies to fire and rescue services as well as officers and staff.

September 2023

Updates

Updated guidance on “Innovative and promising practice”

Updated our guidance on inclusive language

  • We have updated our section on inclusive language.

Added “conducted” under “Words to use with care”

  • We have updated our guidance to suggest the plain English alternative “carried out”.

Added guidance on date format for “Causes of concern”

  • We have updated our guidance to make it clear that the date needs to be at the start of the sentence if the cause of concern has a time frame.

Added “abstraction” under “Words to use with care”

  • The public might not understand that this means time spent by neighbourhood officers doing non-neighbourhood work. A plain English alternative should be used, such as ‘diverted away from their main duties’.

Updated “partner” under “Words to use with care”

  • We have updated our guidance to make it clear that we should explain what sort of organisation we mean for all emergency services, not just the police.

August 2023

Updates

Added guidance on “HM Chief Inspector”

  • We have added guidance on how to refer to HM Chief Inspector.

Updated guidance on “Hyperlinking”

  • We have added guidance to make it clear that hyperlinks shouldn’t be used in headings.

Added “drift” under “Words to use with care”

  • Avoid using “drift” when describing how an investigation has taken longer than expected. Consider using ‘continue for extended periods’ instead.

July 2023

Updates

Added guidance on areas for improvement, causes of concern and recommendations

  • We have added separate sections on the style that should be followed for areas for improvement, causes of concern and recommendations.

Added guidance on “Infographics” under “Tables, graphs and charts”

  • We have added guidance about the use of infographics in our reports to make it clear that no “Figure: X” captions or source are needed.

Removed “police officers and staff” under “Words to use with care” and replaced with “staff”

  • We have updated our guidance to make it clear that, in the context of our policing reports, “staff” should only be used to describe civilian policing staff.
  • “Police officers and staff” or “police personnel” should be used when referring to both police officers and staff.

June 2023

Updates

Moved guidance on “Referring to organisations, forces and services”

  • We have moved guidance on how to refer to organisations, forces and services (originally under “R”) to be listed under “O” (now found under “Organisations, forces and services”).

May 2023

Updates

Updated guidance on “Definitions and interpretations”

  • We have removed guidance on when to include a hyperlink and added this to the “Hyperlinking” section to avoid duplication.

Updated guidance on “Hyperlinking”

  • We have updated our guidance on what makes a good hyperlink. This includes when they should be used and how they should be embedded.

Updated guidance on “Data”

  • We have added guidance on using time periods to help explain and quantify standards and targets.

Replaced “Definitions and interpretations” with “Glossary”

  • We have amended all references to what was previously known as our “definitions and interpretations” to “glossary” as a result of updates to our website.

Updated guidance on “Tables, graphs and charts”

  • We have updated the section on how to refer to a source in a table, graph or chat to align with the guidance set out by the Government Analysis Function.

April 2023

Updates

Updated guidance on “Confusing words”

  • We have added more information about the use of inquiry/enquiry.
  • Use ‘inquiry’ to describe a formal investigation.
  • Use ‘enquiry’ to discuss the process of asking people something to gather information (“lines of enquiry”).

Updated guidance on “Abbreviations”

  • We have added “HR” to familiar abbreviations that don’t need to be defined.

Added guidance on “Innovative and promising practice”

  • We have added guidance on how examples of innovative and promising practice should appear in our reports.

Updated “Words to use with care”

Updated guidance on “Capitalisation”

  • We have added guidance on capitalisation for graded judgments in our reports.

Updated guidance on writing about ethnicity

March 2023

Updates

Updated guidance on abbreviations

  • We have updated guidance on “Abbreviations in headings” to make it clear that they can be used if previously defined in the text.
  • We have updated guidance to include case studies as standalone sections (“Abbreviations in areas for improvement, causes of concern, recommendations and case studies”).

Moved guidance on bullets

  • We have moved guidance on bullets (originally under “B”) to be listed under ”L” (now found under “Lists”).

Added a section under “Inclusive language”

  • We have added guidance on how to discuss suicide in our reports.

Updated spelling guidance under “Other conventions”

  • We have added “counter-corruption” and “counter-terrorism”.
  • We have moved guidance on the spelling of ‘judgment’ to this section.

Removed “Words to use with care”

  • baseline
  • bottom up
  • build the narrative
  • champion
  • deprivation
  • engaging users
  • funding stream
  • identify
  • structured around
  • win-win situation.

Updated guidance on “Words to use with care”

  • agree – this shouldn’t be used if it’s a matter of a person or organisation approving something.
  • mechanisms – use ways, systems or processes instead.
  • national – be explicit as to whether you mean England, Wales, England and Wales, another part of the UK, or the UK as a whole.

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HMICFRS style guide