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Editorial preferences

The editorial preferences below should be applied across all printed and digital collateral. These will help with proof reading and ensuring we have consistency. 


Abbreviations/acronyms should be spelt out in full with the abbreviation in brackets after – from then on use the abbreviation only, eg

  • Business-to-government (B2G) / then B2G not “B2G” or ‘B2G’

  • Chief Operating Officer (COO) / then COO

  • Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) / then ESG

  • Full-time equivalent (FTE) / then FTE

Where the full name is given at the beginning of a lengthy document and not used again until significantly later, use discretion as to whether it needs to be spelt out in full once more as a reminder

  • No need to spell out first where the abbreviation is common use internationally: UK, US, UN, IT etc

  • Don’t use apostrophes in plural forms of abbreviations (MPs, not MP’s), but do use them in possessive forms (eg ‘the UK’s economic growth’)

  • Except where part of a company name (eg Marks & Spencer) do not use ‘&’ instead of ‘and’ - also can be used for the UK & Europe divison and Justice & Immigration sector.

  • No full stops after initials (US, UN, UK), titles (Mr, Mrs, Dr, Prof) or abbreviations (ie, eg, etc)

Bulleted lists

If each entry in the list reads as if following on from an introductory statement (ending with a colon), each line starts with lower case.

For example, this is:

  • line one and ends with a semicolon;
  • the penultimate line which ends with a semi-colon; and
  • the last line ends with a full stop.

If each item is a statement in its own right, it’s different:

  • Start each bulleted item with a cap.
  • End each one with a full stop.
  • Close last item with a full stop.

If the list is in a diagram or table:

  • Start each bulleted item with a cap
  • No need to finish with a full stop
  • No full stop required at the end of list

If more than one sentence within a bullet point, punctuate as normal, eg

  • There’s a whole sentence. And another comment.
  • £m or £bn (not £ million)
  • Sterling/£45m
  • US Dollar/$45bn
  • Canadian Dollar C$
  • Australian Dollar A$
  • Euro/€45bn
  • Except lowercase ‘p’ for pence, 'c' for cent
  • £nil
  • 450g
  • miles
  • 12.30pm
  • Use 'per cent' in copy and % tables/graphics, with ranges as 10%–20% or 10% to 20%
  • When describing non-financial quantities, the full use of million or billion is appropriate, e.g. 5 million people.

If using an abbreviation for units of measurement, use a number for the amount rather than spell it out:

  • 3km,  12 km
Date/year/time style
  • 26 January 2017 (Americas can use January 26 2022)
  • Tuesday 26 January 2017 (no comma after day)
  • 2020/21 (consequtive years)
  • For Financial Years, use FY e.g. FY20 or FY21
  • 2017, 2016, etc for financial table headers
  • previous year style: (2021: £3.5m)
  • 5.30pm, or 24 hour option can be used 17:30 if preferred. Whichever is used we should consistently.
  • in body copy: spell out one – nine in words and 10 upwards in digits
  • but use digits for tables/charts
  • for page reference always in digits: pages 1 to 10
  • A comma should be used in 1,000, e.g. £5,000
  • avoid fractions – use decimals instead
  • phone numbers: include the international code – eg +44 (0) xxxxx xxxxxx, +1, +33 depending on country

Use commas to separate items in a list, with no comma after penultimate item (so no Oxford comma):

tables, chairs and desks

Use commas to separate clauses containing ‘and’ where there are several of these and/or these can be misleading or cause confusion, such as in this hypothetical example:

The information on the Company’s annual turnover, and costs and relocation expenses, and the directors’ and shareholders’ remuneration and review dates, can be found on page 29.

Capital/lower case letters

Seasons (non-generic use): use initial caps (eg ‘The committee re-formed in Spring 2014.’)

Countries/areas (non-generic use): use initial caps – South Korea, Northwest England, US East Coast. Note: Northwest, Southeast etc one word, not hyphenated

Compass points: North, South, East, West

…but directions/locations: lower case – south of London, the site faces north

  • full name on first mention, then first name only (eg Rupert Soames, then Rupert)
  • unless the person has a title, in which case include that subsequently
  • confusingly, with the first name for eg Sir John Everett (and then Sir John)
  • but with the surname for eg Dr Edward Halpin (and then Dr Halpin)
Job titles/positions/company structures



Chairman, Group Chief Executive, Americas Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Company Secretary, Director, Executive Director, Senior Independent Director, Non-Executive Director, Contract Director, HR Director


Chairman’s Statement, Financial Review, Divisional Reviews, Corporate Governance Report, Chief Executive’s Review, Strategic Report, Corporate Responsibility Report, Group Risk Committee Report, Nomination Committee Report


Audit Committee, Remuneration Committee, Nomination Committee, Executive Committee, Group Risk Committee, Corporate Responsibility Committee, Investment Committee, Approvals and Allotment Committee

Company, Group, Division and Board

Company, Group, Division, Board, Parent Company

Retain uppercasing in compound constructions eg Company-wide, Board-approved, Group-level, Division-led, Parent Company-initiated

Non-Executive Director when referring to roles outside Serco


Lower case for directors, divisions, boards etc when used to refer to more than one or when referring to companies other than Serco, eg The contract directors held a conference in June.

Punctuation preferences
  • en (longer than a hyphen) dash: when used in a span, eg 12–25 km or 2008–2009, do not put a space before or after. When used grammatically – should have a space each side.
  • do not over-use brackets and en dashes as parentheses but they can be useful for emphasis
  • semi-colons useful to break/pace a lengthy sentence and reduce confusion if lots of commas are the alternative
Spelling preferences including hyphenated/non-hyphenated terms

Hyphenated words

Hyphenate words if they are being used as compound adjectives: eg ‘long-term profits’ but ‘profits in the long term’.

  • cash-generating (but Cash Generating Units)
  • day-to-day
  • decision-making
  • half-life
  • in-house
  • know-how
  • Any instances of the word 'non' as a separate word should be hyphenated with whichever word it relates to (e.g. non-current, non-taxable etc). 
  • phase-in
  • policy-making
  • post-retirement
  • pre-emptive
  • pre-tax
  • re-elect
  • re-engineer
  • re-emerge
  • re-bid
  • UK-wide (but nationwide/worldwide/countrywide)
  • well-established (when adjectival – but ‘the market was well established’)
  • well-developed (as above)
  • write-off
  • write-down
  • year-on-year
  • year-end

Non-hyphenated words

  • cooperate
  • coordinate
  • misstatement
  • email
  • reappoint
  • reorganise
  • restate
  • restructured
  • whistleblower/ing

Preferred spellings/usages

  • adviser/advisers
  • ageing
  • all right
  • amid (not ‘amidst’)
  • among (not ‘amongst’)
  • while (not 'whilst')
  • cash flow
  • deductible
  • fulfil
  • life cycle
  • practice (except when used as verb, when it’s ‘practise’)
  • producible
  • program (computer)/programme (schedule)
  • judgement (general use)/judgment (legal application only and US)
  • standalone
  • focused
  • benefiting
  • the Middle East
  • FTSE 250, IAS 19, IFRS 13
  • notes and pages – 1 and 2 or 1 to 5
  • 10%–20%, 20% to 10%
  • Qualification: eg Ministry of Justice (MoJ) no quotes
  • Use single quotes for all quoted material except direct speech: enclose speech in double quotes, with single quotes inside double where needed.
  • Use single quote marks, not double, for ‘scare quotes’ around eg unfamiliar terms  – eg ‘Back in 2014 commentators started talking about ‘Brexit’ and gradually…’
  • If words in quotes are part of a sentence the full stop goes ‘outside’. ‘If the whole sentence is quoted, the full stop goes inside the quotes.’
  • If books/publications/sources are referred to in the text, use italics not quotes.
  • Within parentheses ("the Company")
Note style
See note 3 on page 7 – use lowercase on both ‘note’ and ‘page’