USSC Editorial Style Guide

For style, the United States Studies Centre follows, with a few modifications, the Style manual: for authors, editors and printers (6th Ed.) published by the Commonwealth of Australia. The following is a general guide.


Do not use a full stop in contractions, e.g. Dr Mr NSW NY or in acronyms or abbreviations using only capital letters, e.g. MP.

No apostrophe in plural forms such as MPs, 1980s.

United States is spelled out as a noun, but it is spelled US as an adjective, e.g. The United States is the only country… and The US representative said…

American should only be used when referencing nationality.

Avoid abbreviated negatives in formal writing. For example, use do not and will not, not don’t and won’t. However, it is appropriate in informal writing.


Commonly known acronyms can be used after spelling out the name in full at the first mention, with the acronym following in brackets, e.g., "The United States Studies Centre (USSC)". Don't use acronyms if they are obscure and won't be referenced again.

It is preferable to use a generic, descriptive term after the first mention of the name, e.g. "the Centre".

Use 'an' before acronyms if they start with a vowel sound. For example, "an OECD report".

Ampersand (&)

Ampersands should not be used in body text, except when citing official (registered) company names (e.g. "H&M") and with the names of joint authors in citations for books or journal papers (e.g. "Brown, S. & Simpson, D.").

Apostrophe (')

Apostrophes are used in possessives (e.g. the Centre's experts) and to denote an omission (e.g. rock 'n' roll music). Plural nouns that end with ‘s’ have an apostrophe added after the ‘s’ (e.g. the researchers’ findings). It should be the United States’ influence, not the United States’s influence.


Capitals are used when referring to proper names of people and places; specific formal titles or titles of important offices; and specific institutions. Lower case is used when referring generally to institutions, officials and titles.

Government, prime minister, parliament, president and congress should be lower case except when used as proper nouns in unique titles, for example:

  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison … AND the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, said…
  • President Donald Trump… AND the US president, Donald Trump, said
  • Last year, the Parliament [Congress]…

Use Australian Government and US Government not Australian government, Federal Government or Commonwealth Government.

Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps are capitalised when referring to a specific army/navy. But they should be referred to as: the Army…

Names that designate a group of nations geographically or politically are always capitalised, e.g. Southeast Asia.

When purely descriptive, names for geographical entities usually do not need capitalisation, e.g. northern Australia.

Headings within research publications should be uncapitalised, e.g. US strategy and challenges, not US Strategy and Challenges.

Commas (,)

Use commas as an aid to understanding and to enhance phrasing.

In a list of three or more items, the Oxford comma should only be employed if it’s needed to prevent confusion, e.g. The University has departments of French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

Dashes (—)

Long dashes or em rule (—) are used to enclose parenthetical statements, but not more than one pair per sentence, and ideally not more than one pair per paragraph. Generally they are used to introduce an explanation, amplification, paraphrase, particularisation, or correction of what immediately precedes them. A space precedes and follows an em dash. They should not be used in place of commas, e.g. National policies may change the decision-making environment ­— water licensing reform is an example — or provide guidance on suitable areas for government investment.


Date format is always Australian format, DAY MONTH YEAR e.g. 15 October 2019.

However, there are exceptions when the date itself is a proper noun e.g. September 11 or 9/11.

The names of centuries can be written either in words or in a mixture of words and numerals, e.g. the eighteenth century or the 18th century (please do not use superscript).

Year periods are written 2011-12, except for financial years e.g. 2001/02.

Second World War, not World War II.

Hyphens (-)

Hyphens are used if the same vowel is at the end of the prefix and the start of the word, e.g. pre-emptive.

When a single-syllable prefix ends with a vowel and the word that follows begins with the same vowel, a hyphen prevents misreading e.g. de-emphasise not deemphasise.

This practice is less crucial if a word is well known. As confirmed by the Macquarie Dictionary, cooperate and coordinate, for example, are no longer hyphenated.

When using single-syllable prefixes, the combination of two different vowels do not usually require a hyphen e.g. prearrange and reallocate. However, an exception applies in the case of single-syllable words beginning with a vowel e.g. de-ice not deice.

Two-syllable prefixes ending in a vowel other than o and followed by another vowel are hyphenated e.g. anti-aircraft vs. antisocial.

The exception applies, however, with two-syllable prefixes that end with o e.g. macroeconomics and macrobiotics.

If a common prefix is attached to a word a hyphen is used e.g. mid-nineteenth century, pre-trial, and post-crisis.

Imprecise non-decimal fractions are hyphenated (unless preceded by a or an), e.g. two-thirds. Adverb-adjective (e.g. greatly reduced) and adverb-participle (e.g. recently burnt) constructions are not hyphenated, e.g. the principle is well established. A hyphen may be needed to avoid ambiguity if the construction is used adjectivally, e.g. the ill-equipped regiment.

Decision-maker and decision-making have hyphens, but high-profile and long-term only have hyphens when used as adjectives, e.g. high-profile diplomat and long-term plan vs. the diplomat has a high profile and it worked well in the long term. Please refer to the Macquarie English Dictionary for further clarity.

A hyphen is used between numbers, and where equal weight to both parties is implied, e.g. the 1939-1945 war, the North-South divide, Sino-Soviet relations, and Indo-Pacific region.

Other examples: think tank not think-tank; second-largest not second largest; 22 year-old.


Italicise titles of books, journals, newspapers and reports. Italics can also be used for foreign words and phrases that are not in common English usage/in English dictionaries. As such, their use should be minimal.

Foreign words and phrases which have passed into regular English usage should not be italicised, e.g. ad hoc, vice versa, vis-à-vis, avant-garde, par excellence.


In documents of a general kind — where descriptive or narrative text is predominant and numbers are not a significant focus — use words for numbers up to ten e.g. The Subcommittee will be preparing three separate reports over the next 15 months.

In addition, when starting a sentence with a number, use words.

However, exceptions apply in the following cases:

  • Measurements, mathematical contexts, decimal fractions, in tables and in related series of numbers provided for comparison.
  • Spans of numerals: Using the hyphen rule, numeral ranges can be linked e.g. 9-12, 40-1 and 45-50.

When using numbers of five digits or more (in any of the exceptional cases above), use commas. For example, 45,000.

When writing a time, it is 11am or 2.30pm. Do not include a space between the time and "am" or "pm". Use a full stop between hours and minutes, not a colon. If the time is on the hour, do not include minutes.

Millions/billions (4 million, 8 billion), but $4m or $8b for website headings and other contexts where space is limited.

Money ($9 or $1.28). When you need to distinguish between Australian and other currencies, use the format A$100, US$45.

Quotation marks

Use double quotation marks for quotations, and single quotation marks for a quote within a quote. Punctuation should be inside quotation marks, e.g. “China is not a threat.”

Quotes of three lines or more are to be displayed as indented quotes.

Do not overuse; double quotation marks are only used for actual quotes.


Whenever possible, run the prefix on to the word it qualifies, e.g. rework, except when the word after re- begins with an e, e.g. re-election, or except when there could be serious ambiguity in compounds such as re-creation/recreation. Refer to the Macquarie English Dictionary.


References should appear as endnotes in Chicago 16A style. The following are examples for commonly used documents:

  • Book:
    First use: Author's First and Last Names, Title of Book: Subtitle of Book (Place of Publication: Publisher's Name, Date of Publication), page number(s)
    Subsequent use: Author's Last Names, Title of Book, page number(s)
  • Edited book:
    First use: Editor's First and Last Names, ed., Title of Book: Subtitle of Book (Place of Publication: Publisher's Name, Date of Publication), page number(s)
    Subsequent use: Editor’s Last Names, Title of Book, page number(s)
  • Chapter in an edited book:
    First use: Chapter Author's First and Last Names, "Chapter Title," in Title of Book: Subtitle of Book, ed. First and Last Names (Place of Publication: Publisher's Name, Date of Publication), page number(s)
    Subsequent use: Author's Last Names, “Chapter Title,” page number(s)
  • Journal articles:
    First use: Author's First and Last Names, "Article Title," Title of Publication Vol no, issue no (Date of Publication): page number(s)
    Subsequent use: Author's Last Names, “Chapter Title,” page number(s)
  • Reports and working papers:
    First use: Author's First and Last Names, " Title," Report number (Publisher's Name, date of publication), page number(s)
    Subsequent use: Author's Last Names, “Title,” page number(s)

Semi-colons (;)

Semi-colons can be used to link two independent clauses that have a close logical link, e.g. we expect the ministerial approval next week; the work can then start immediately.

In turn, semi-colons can be used to separate items in a series or list in a sentence if they contain internal commas, e.g. Participants came from Benalla, Victoria; Wellington, New South Wales; and Langford, Tasmania.


Use a single space after each full stop.


Use Australian spelling. Refer to the Macquarie English Dictionary.

Use S not Z in words ending in ISE, ISATION etc. For example, organise, organisation, except in proper names, e.g. World Trade Organization.

Preferred spellings

acknowledgement, not acknowledgment

adaptation, rather than adaption

alternative means one or the other; alternate means switching between two things

among, rather than amongst

artefact, rather than artifact

backup, rather than back-up

benefited, rather than benefitted

complementary refers to a thing that completes or supplements; complimentary means free or flattering

continuous means without interruption; continually means repeatedly

disinterested, means unbiased; uninterested means indifferent

email, not e-mail

emigrant is a person who has left their home country; immigrant is a new arrival in a country

enquire/inquire, both are acceptable, though enquire tends to be used in less formal settings

enquiry refers to an informal query; use inquiry to describe a formal investigation only

face-to-face, include hyphens only when using this term as an adjective (e.g. "a face-to-face meeting")

FAQs, all caps except the 's'


focused, focusing, with one 's'

full time, include hyphen only when using this term as an adjective (e.g. "a full-time course" but "many students study full time")

homepage, rather than home-page or home page

internet, not capitalised

judgement, rather than judgment

language other than English is preferred; avoid the term 'non-English-speaking background'

licence is a noun (e.g. "driving licence"); license is a verb (e.g. "to license the work")

log in to a website or system, using your login details (username or password)

long-term, include hyphen only when using this term as an adjective (e.g. "a long-term investment")

means-test with hyphen; also means-testing


part time, include hyphen only when using this term as an adjective (e.g. "a part-time course" but "this degree is offered part time over two years")

per cent, not percent; only use % in tables

practice is a noun (e.g. "the practice of law"); practise is a verb (e.g. "she needs to practise the violin")

principal means the most important thing, a sum of money invested, or the most senior person in an organisation

principle refers to rules of conduct or a fundamental concept, belief or law

pro rata

program, rather than programme

specialty refers to a skill; speciality is a cook’s finest dish



symposiums, not symposia

that/which In general, 'that' is used to define something (e.g. "This is the house that Jack built" or "This house, which Jack built, is falling down"). Note that you can remove 'that' from the above phrases and they still make sense. The same is not true if you remove 'which'.

towards, rather than toward

up to date, include hyphens only when using this term as an adjective (e.g. "up-to-date information")





while, rather than whilst

who/whom, 'who' refers to the subject of a sentence (the person who is doing something); 'whom' is the object (the person something is happening to). Examples: "Who moved my sandwich?" "Who is coming to the party?" "Whom did the prize go to?" "To whom it may concern."


Tables, figures, maps and photos

Authors are responsible for providing all tables, maps, photos, or other visual aids in suitable, high-resolution, electronic form, as specified below. If assistance is required, please contact the Centre early in the process.

Graphs and charts should be prepared using Illustrator or Excel, and the original Excel file (including the data) should be provided.

Tables should be prepared using Microsoft Word’s table function.

Maps, photos, and other illustrations must be high resolution (at least 300ppi). Acceptable file types: PNG, JPEG, PDF, PSD, EPS.

Tables, figures, maps, and photos must fit the text area of the report page (A4), while still being legible. Anything larger will run onto an additional page.

Please note, do not copy images from the web and paste them into your document:

  • The images are generally too low in resolution to be acceptable
  • The images likely do not belong to you


When including URLs (website addresses) in print, use the shortest URL you can that will be useful to your reader. If the URL appears at the end of a paragraph, do not include a full stop, as the reader might think it is part of the URL. (Note: this rule only applies to print.)

Always check that URLs work before you sign off on the content.