Words, Phrases and Spellings
Think of writing web content as having a conversation. Internet language is more informal than the equivalent content for hard copy. If you wouldn’t use a word or phrase in everyday conversation, think twice before using it online.
Here are examples of the kind of phrase not to use:
accordingly / in a position to / in accordance with / in excess of / in respect of / in the event that / assist / in the majority of cases / in view of the fact that / in light of the fact that / due to the fact that
- Don't use: in the majority of cases
- Do use: in most cases
can seem rather formal. Other options include: so and therefore – or nothing.
- Do use: The course includes a research element but is mainly classroombased, so is considered to be a taught programme.
- Don't use: The course includes a research element but is mainly classroom-based; accordingly, it is considered to be a taught programme.
means to give advice.
Don’t use it when you mean inform or tell.
- Don't use: Please be advised that our plagiarism rules stipulate that . . .
- Do use: Please note that under our plagiarism rules . . .
do not use adviser.
amidst, amid and amongst
should be replaced with among.
is sometimes necessary in a legal context. Otherwise, try to avoid it as it can be confusing for the reader.
- Don't use: You should send your name and address and/or your student number.
- Do use: You should send either your student number or your name and address.
is best replaced by since or, in the future, from.
- Do use: Since 4 October 2011, the library has been open daily.
- Do use: From next month, the library will be open daily.
- Don't use: As of last week, the library is open daily.
is formal, so use help.
- Do use: We regret that we cannot help students who do not submit the required details.
- Don't use: We regret that we cannot be of assistance to students who do not submit the required details.
is two words and in lower case.
means twice a year, while biennial means every two years. Avoid, because customers may misunderstand them. Use twice-yearly or two-yearly.
is one thousand million, not one million million. Use billion for sums of money, quantities or inanimate objects – so it's €2.5 billion, 3 billion litres, etc. For people or animals, spell out billion.
CD, CDs and CD-rom
chair or chairperson
replaces chairman or chairwoman, unless the person involved prefers otherwise.
co-author, co-organiser but coordinator
describe groups of people or animals – a flock of birds, an orchestra, a committee. Whether they're singular or plural (‘the committee’ is or ‘the 29 committee are’?) depends on what we're saying about them – is it the committee as a unit, or the committee as a group of individuals?
- The committee meets once a month. (because we're talking about the committee as a unit)
- The committee are all graduates of UCC. (where we're talking about the group as a collection of individuals)
Other collective nouns include: the board, majority, the public, the staff, the team, the crowd, the firm and the company.
is too formal – use begin.
Don't use it – be specific: write, phone, email or tell.
- Dont use: The provisional exam results will be communicated two weeks before the end of the semester.
- Do use: You can view the provisional exam results at www.ucc.ie/xxxx/ two weeks before the end of the semester. complete or finish is better than finalise.
is rather formal – use consist of, include or contain.
- The research group consists of six people.
considering, owing to the fact that
are too formal and awkward; use as, since, because.
- Do use: Since the Postgraduate Application Centre does not accept personal cheques or postal orders
- Do not use: Owing to the fact that the Postgraduate Application Centre does not accept personal cheques or postal orders …
co-operate, co-operation, co-operative
coordinate and coordination
(not City) and county (not County)
when abbreviated should be written as Co., e.g. Co. Roscommon.
is best replaced with now, if anything.
due to the fact that, in view of the fact that, in light of the fact that
Use because or since.
(use the full stops) means 'for example'. In lists beginning with e.g., don't end with etc, as etc is not giving an example.
- Research events take place regularly – e.g. conferences, workshops and seminars.
is acceptable if used occasionally, but people aged over 65 prefer the term older person, according to Age Action.
doesn't have a hyphen.
is too formal, use try.
should be avoided, use result.
enquire or inquire, enquiry or inquiry?
Both are correct.
Inquiry tends to be used now for formal investigations, as distinct from a once-off enquiry.
A full stop is not needed. Don’t use etc after a list preceded by e.g.
is okay for girlfriend, husband, etc, but not for job titles.
or apart from, rather than excepting.
is too heavy a word in most cases.
- Do use: There is a solution.
- Don't use: A solution exists.
expect or anticipate?
To anticipate is to forestall or be ready to act to avoid something, while to expect is to await or look forward to.
- Do use: Since we anticipate a large number of applications, we have assigned extra members of staff to work on the project.
- Do use: We expect that the new course will start in the next academic year.
- Don't use: We anticipate that the new course will commence next year.
the fact that
is clumsy. Use simply that, or rephrase the sentence.
- Don't use: We regret the fact that the course has had to be cancelled.
- Do use: We regret that the course has had to be cancelled.
- Don't use: The fact that you have accepted a place on this course does not mean that you will not be considered for your other course choices.
- Do use: Accepting a place on this course does not mean you will not be considered for your other programme choices.
farther or further?
It is simplest to use further all the time, as this is now common usage. Strictly, farther is for distance.
is a technological word.
Use a word that tells the reader what you really want – suggestions, views, thoughts, ideas, comments, evaluation or criticism.
fewer or less?
Fewer means a smaller number and is used for things you can count – seven students, three exams, six projects.
Less means a smaller quantity and is used for things you cannot count – activity, commitment, trouble.
- Fewer applicants now make errors when completing the form.
- This had led to less pressure on the students.
is spelled with an ‘s’ but is best avoided. Alternatives include: complete, finish, conclude.
is correct, Christian name is not.
as in a first-year student
firstly, secondly, thirdly
use first, second and third.
If you make a point using the word first, you must have at least one following point, and you must start it with the word second.
is not as good as after or since.
- Do use: Since the introduction of the new system, you can submit your application online.
- Don't use: Following the introduction of the new system, you can submit your application online.
is better than for the purposes of.
- She now has a full-time job in a major company.
can be too colloquial. Choose a more specific word such as obtain, receive, earn. Don't use gotten, which is an Americanism.
should have a capital letter when referring to the Republic of Ireland, as in in the Government.
grandmother, grandfather, grand-aunt, grand-uncle
is written like this, with the full stops; it means ‘that is’.
- We have had no post for a week, i.e. not one letter.
in accordance with
use by or under instead
- Do use: Under the regulations . . .
- Don't use: In accordance with the regulations . . .
in a position to
use able to instead
is not as good as show, tell or highlight.
in excess of
is too wordy, use more than.
do not need spaces or full points – e.g. Mrs R Mulcahy, Mr FSL Lyons.
is not as good as begin or start.
in the event that
should be avoided; use if …
inquire or enquire, inquiry or enquiry?
Both are correct. Inquiry tends to be used now for formal investigations, as distinct from a once-off enquiry.
in respect of
is not as good as regarding or about. Or rephrase:
- Don't use: Thank you for submitting an application form in respect of the new course.
- Do use: Thank you for applying for the new course.
in view of the fact that, in light of the fact that, due to the fact that
are not as good as because or since.
-ise or -ize?
We prefer to use the -ise endings as in analyse, centralise, organise and realise.
it's or its?
It's is a shorter version of it is or it has. The apostrophe shows there is a letter missing.
- It’s important to read the plagiarism guidelines.
Its, with no apostrophe, says something belongs to something or someone.
- Do use: UCC is proud of the achievements of its graduates.
- Do not use: No liability is accepted by UCC or any of it’s officers, servants or agents.