At BCcampus, our mandate is to provide teaching, learning, educational technology, and open education support to post-secondary institutions throughout British Columbia. We create relevant, interesting, and engaging content for our readers, written by multiple authors with varying levels of expertise. To ensure we deliver a unified message that effectively represents BCcampus to our stakeholders, partners, media contacts, and the general public, we’ve developed this compendium to outline the preferred tone and voice for BCcampus, a style guide for web typography, and an editing guide for quick reference.
Quick tip: use the search function (usually CTRL+F) to find the keyword you’re looking for
Styles for individual web properties and publications may vary. A style manual should be produced for each web site documenting heads, sub-heads, bulleted list, caption, and body text formats. The one for BCcampus.ca can be found here.
Tone and Voice
The preferred tone for informal communications – social media, web content, articles, newsletters, and similar channels – is professional and compelling. We do not strive to be the authority on all things educational; rather, we strive to be a conduit to connect our audiences with information, expertise, and advanced approaches they can use to create a more effective educational environment.
The content we create and share should make our readers feel:
- Curious about our people and programs
- Informed; trusting that we’re sharing relevant and factual information
- Included in our decisions, activities, and programs
- Respected for their opinions, experiences, and intelligence
- Engaged in the spirit and focus of BCcampus
At BCcampus, we are:
- Collaborative – we use ‘we, us, and our’ to include the people and teams we work with
- Facilitators – we work with others. We don’t make anyone do anything
- Name–droppers – we quote our sources and share the accomplishments of the professional educators we work with to ensure they receive credit and recognition for their contribution
- Passionate – we share information about the people, resources, and methodologies that excite us, and this excitement is shared with our audience
The content we create and share is done with purpose – quality content delivered to an engaged audience. The articles you write should inform, invite, announce, and celebrate the accomplishments of BCcampus and our partners. Your excitement about the topic should come through in your writing and will invite the reader to share your enthusiasm.
Style at a Glance:
- Don’t bury the lede. The audience should know what the topic is from the initial sentence and headline
- The first sentence should draw in the reader and compel them to continue reading
- Answer “So what?” in the first sentence and throughout the document. Continually show why this information is relevant to the audience.
- Each sentence should have a purpose. If it doesn’t add value to the article, cut it
- Use clear, relevant language
The Golden Rule:
Plain language, plain language, plain language. If people don’t understand the first few lines, they won’t read any further.
|BCcampus is…||Like this.||Not this.|
|Relevant, right away.
|Ditch the lecture, flip the classroom, and forget about MOOCs, said [famous keynote speaker] at the [Conference of Awesome] BCcampus hosted last week.||BCcampus hosted a conference last week at SFU Harbour Centre in downtown Vancouver. It was well-attended by 500 people from all over Canada and the U.S.|
|Active voice||Some of our system partners might think “shared services” means “centralization” and “outsourcing.”||The shared service approach is often confused with the older methods of centralization and outsourcing.|
|Conversational and clear||We don’t work that way. Instead, we respect the expertise of each of our system partners. A “one-size-fits-all” approach doesn’t work for our clients or for us.||Where centralization may be perceived as a “one-size-fits-all” approach that doesn’t fit any one department in the organization well, and outsourcing may be perceived as a loss of self-sufficiency and expertise of the whole organization, shared services may not have similar detriments if a self-determining, consortial approach to service solutions is utilized.|
|Plain(er), jargon-free language||At BCcampus, we run shared services in collaboration with our clients who use them.||The BCcampus shared and collaborative service model is most closely aligned with the multi-campus system model.|
|Human||“Our instructors can create new simulations based on the subject,” said Bob Walker from JIBC. “If they’re training firefighters this week, they can put up a new forest fire scenario quickly. Next week it could be EMTs. Because it’s all web-based, Praxis lets our instructors be more flexible.”||As a web-based program, Praxis provides users with the flexibility to deliver immersive, interactive and scenario-based training exercises anytime, anywhere. Simulations can be customized by instructors and subject matter experts to ensure that participants are faced with situations that are realistic and relevant to their learning goals.|
BCcampus Exceptions to CP Style for Web and Print Publications
This guide is intended as a quick reference for anyone writing for BCcampus publications. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are important because they reinforce credibility and ensure a clear message. There may be times when it’s appropriate to deviate from this style guide. That said, style is subjective, and not all BCcampus publications need to be finely edited for precise grammar and punctuation before printing or posting. This guide was adapted from the guidelines shared by the province of British Columbia’s government communications department. Additional guidelines can be found here.
Here’s a rule of thumb to consider before reviewing a written piece: would paying closer attention to spelling, punctuation, and grammar add to the message we are trying to convey? If yes, then edit more closely. If not, there is no value in using a fine-toothed comb and holding up timely publication.
Generally, the more long-lasting or important the publication (i.e. research paper, strategic plan, splash page on a web site), the more closely it needs to be edited. The more informal or shorter-duration (i.e. blog post, social media conversation) pieces have more latitude.
- Our name is BCcampus, not BC Campus, BC campus, B.C. Campus, or B.C. campus.
- Our province is abbreviated B.C., not BC, except where it occurs as part of a proper noun or brand (BCCAT, CoursesBC).
- One space between sentences
- Avoid using italics, especially for web writing. Italics are welcome in other relevant uses (book titles, etc.)
- Try not to use quotations, italics, or boldface for emphasis. Rewrite the content to provide the emphasis you need
- Phone numbers. At BCcampus we use a hyphen (e.g., 123-456-7890)
- Avoid the word “initiative.” It means personal drive or a formal Elections BC process akin to a referendum or recall. Refer instead to projects, plans, actions, or measures.
BCcampus-Specific Words and Usage
- Online Program Development Fund (OPDF) (“the fund” after first reference)
- Educational Technology Users Group (ETUG)
- EdTech Online Community
- online and distance education/learning (note online is one word)
Elements of Indigenous Style
Please refer to Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples to ensure you are using Indigenous terminology appropriately.
Capitalize according to Indigenous preference, not to standard resources.
Avoid possessives before groups (e.g., Canada’s Indigenous Peoples).
Always refer to the three major groups of Indigenous Peoples in the same order: First Nations, Métis, Inuit. (Where Urban Indigenous people are included in the list, it follows Inuit.)
Use Indigenous Peoples as a term specifically referring to groups of people — i.e., peoples. Use Indigenous people as a more generic term referring more to the people than to the groups — e.g., when Indigenous people move to urban centres.
Use the term settlers (noun) instead of colonizers, Europeans, newcomers, and so on; use settler (adjective) instead of colonial, European, Euro-Canadian, and so on.
Use terms such as settler perspectives, settler governments, settler policies, settler laws, but use Western when referring to larger systems, such as Western knowledge system, Western educational systems, and Western-dominated systems.
For authors, instructors, Elders, etc., add which Nation they are from after their name in parenthesis, unless this has been explicitly shared in the sentence itself. Some examples:
- Bradley Dick (Lekwungen First Nation)
- Mi’kmaq educator Marie Battiste
- Elder Albert Marshall from the Eskasoni Mi’kmaq First Nation describes Etuaptmumk, the approach of “two-eyed seeing”
Do not use “the” or “people” with “Inuit.”
We strive to adhere to CP Style, but have defined spellings for the following words and phrases:
- 20th century
- Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN)
- adviser (BCcampus style guide)
- among (not amongst)
- C. (except in wordmarks)
- benefited, benefitting
- Chinook Jargon
- coexist (CanOx)
- decision making (n; CanOx but contra CP Style, which doesn’t speak to similar constructions like problem solving, information gathering, capacity building, so we have left all open in the noun form)
- enroll, enrolment
- fundraise (v)
- Green Report
- holism/holistic (except Michelle Pidgeon uses “wholistic” for her Indigenous wholistic framework in the Front-Line Workers Guide)
- Hudson’s Bay Company
- Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement
- Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS)
- Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous people
- Indigenize, Indigenization (but indigenous in relation to plants, animals, etc.)
- International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)
- K–12 (use en-dash)
- Kwak’wala language
- Lik’wala language
- massive open online course (MOOC)
- Medicine Wheel
- Métis, Métis citizens
- Métis Nation British Columbia
- Métis Nation Homeland, historic Métis Nation Homeland
- Métis National Council (MNC)
- Michif (use this spelling for Métis language)
- Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training
- Mi’kmaq and Maliseet First Nations
- multi-faceted (CanOx)
- Nation (when referring to First Nation)
- ‘Namgis (straight apostrophe)
- non-Indigenous people
- North West Company
- northwest coast
- per cent (in running text, two words, BCcampus style)
- Reconciliation Canada website
- Royal Proclamation, 1763 (rom)
- Sixties Scoop or ’60s Scoop
- TCPS2 (Tri-Council Council Policy Statement, version 2)
- TELŦIN TŦE WILNEW
- terra nullius (ital)
- toward (not towards)
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC)
- UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Voyageur sash
- website (not web site)
- Western and the West (when referring to European culture/knowledge in contrast to Indigenous culture/knowledge)
- worldview (contra CanOx)
Preferred word usage
- Adviser, not advisor
- Alternative (one or the other); alternate (one after the other)
- Clean up (verb), cleanup (noun)
- Set up (verb), setup (noun)
- Defence (not defense, no matter what your spell-checker says) but defensive
- Use inquiry, not enquiry, except when referring to Enquiry BC
- Fulfil (not fulfill), fulfilled, fulfilling, fulfilment
- Historic (important or outstanding in history), historical (about history). A, not an, historical site
- It’s (it is), its (possessive)
- Judgment, not judgement
- Lend, lent (verb), loan (noun)
- Licence (noun), license (verb). (Easy test: substitute the words “advice” or “advise” to determine which part of speech it is.) – Also, licensed, licensing, licensee
- Lock out (verb), lockout (noun), lock up (verb), lockup (noun)
- Metre (metric), meter (gauge)
- New Westminster (not New Westminister)
- Northeast, northwest (one word). Northwestern B.C., not northwest B.C.
- Offence, offensive
- m., p.m. (periods and lower case). Noon, not 12 noon, which is redundant. 1 p.m., not 1:00 p.m.
- Practice (noun or adjective), practise (verb)
- Spin off (verb), spinoff (noun and adjective)
- Underway (one word)
- Upcoming (use coming)
- Assist (use help)
“Capitalize all proper names, the names of departments and agencies of national and provincial governments, trade names, names of associations, companies, clubs, religions, languages, races, places, addresses. Otherwise, lowercase is favoured where a reasonable option exists.” (page 4 CP Caps and Spelling)
|Universities, colleges, and institutes – e.g., University of Victoria, BCIT||Departments – e.g., faculty of education
Degrees – e.g., bachelor of science (unless abbreviated BSc, BA)
|Names of ministries – e.g., Ministry of Health Services, the Health Services Ministry||Generic reference to ‘the ministry’ or ‘ministries’ (plural)|
|Mayor and Coun. (for councillor) are uppercase before names only||Lowercase job titles for everybody
Lowercase titles preceded by “former” or “acting”
|Full names of acts (Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act), at all times||Use lowercase when writing “the act will…” DO NOT italicize the names of acts|
|Uppercase Aboriginal and Indigenous at all times|
|West Coast, the West, the Interior, the Island, Lower Mainland, the North, the Northeast (regions)||west coast of Vancouver Island, the B.C. coast|
|Use all caps for abbreviations and acronyms like HTML, CD-ROM, RAM and URL||website, webmaster, web page, webcast, etc.|
*Please note: The Canadian Press Stylebook changed in 2017 regarding the capitalization of internet – it should not be capitalized
Title or sentence case
Excerpted from the Government Communications & Public Engagement web style guide
Use title case for H1 and H2 headings. Capitalize all words except:
- Prepositions and articles (a, by, or, an, for, the, and, in, to, at, of, up, but, on)
- Coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or) of less than four letters
Use sentence case for H3 and H4 headings unless headings are three words or less and linked.
Capitalize the first word and proper nouns.
- [H1] Aboriginal Justice
- [H2] Justice B.C. Services
- [H3] Custody, sentencing and corrections support
- [H3] Adult offender corrections support
- [H4] How do you apply for support?
- [H2] Justice B.C. Services
If the heading contains a hyphenated word, only capitalize the first part.
When citing your content, please refer to the citation and style guides shared by Simon Fraser University to find out the right citation style for your article or web page.
Numbers one through nine are spelled out (except when saying No. 1 or number 1 priority). Use numerals for 10 and higher (except when starting a sentence with a number) and for decimals (4.5 per cent – and note: per cent is two words). Also Phase 1, Section 1, Grade 1, page 1, line 9.
- Grade 7, grades 7 and 8, seventh grade
Geographical locations take periods. Therefore, B.C. stands for British Columbia; BC stands for Before Christ. Some organizations think because their logo doesn’t use periods, their name shouldn’t have them either. Not true. A logo is a visual thing, a graphic device, and just because the artist didn’t want dots messing up the design doesn’t change the fact that B.C. takes periods.
HOWEVER, CP also says that in a proper name (a company, for instance), if they insist on odd spellings etc., it’s the company’s name, so go with their version. For example, BCcampus, BC Ferries, BC Hydro.
Months: In dates, abbreviate when followed by day, except March, April, May, June and July. Thus we write Jan. 13, 2003, April 2, 2003. But January 2003 (no comma).
Days of week: don’t abbreviate, except in a table if you need to save space.
If a quote continues from one paragraph to the next, do not put closing quotation marks at the end of the previous paragraph, but do put open quotation marks at the beginning of the new paragraph, as follows:
- “Our strategy is simple…
- “We speak in bureaucratese like ‘initiatives’ and ‘strategy,’ and no one can understand a word we say…
Please don’t start a quote with “I am pleased…”. It’s generic and banal. (“I am pleased by this pleasing strategic initiative that pleases me.”)
Also, do not use quotations to emphasize a word or phrase. Rewrite the sentence to show the appropriate emphasis without relying on cheap gimmicks. The exception is to indicate sarcasm. BCcampus does not use sarcasm in any communications.
Some exceptions to the following guidelines may be appropriate in specific disciplines. Please check with your project manager or copy editor.
As per CP Style, the ampersand (&)should only be used when it forms part of a corporate name
Do not use periods in abbreviations, acronyms, and initialisms, except as noted in a spelling list (e.g., et al., etc., i.e. are the most common that retain the periods).
We love Oxford commas (also known as the serial comma). We have done a 180-turnaround on this one since 2011. Put commas between the elements of a series and before the final and, or nor.
- men, women, children, and pets
- the ministries of Health, Labour, and Forests
In a sentence made of two distinct clauses, put a comma before the and so each clause can stand alone.
- Wally presented his budget and walked out of the house.
- Wally presented his budget, and he walked out of the house.
Use commas in numerals over 999 (e.g., 1,000; 45,000).
Do NOT capitalize the first letter of the first word after a colon unless the colon introduces two or more sentences.
Emphasizing words with punctuation
Sometimes an author will want to stress or emphasize a word or phrase. While acceptable, this practise should be kept to a minimum. In most cases, the word(s) should be written in a way that the stress or importance of a word or term is clear in context. Follow these guidelines:
- Do not use boldface or quotation marks for emphasis
- Use italics for words used as words (e.g., The term vocal cords is often misspelled. What do you mean by nexus?)
- Words that are meant to alert the reader that a term or word is used in a non-standard, ironic, or other special sense should be marked off with quotation marks (e.g., “Child protection” sometimes fails to protect).
- Words that are common expressions and figures of speech should NOT be set off in any way.
Hyphens and dashes
- The $50-million project vs. cost of the project is $50 million. (A simple test – do you hear an “s” on dollar when said out loud? If not, then hyphenate). The 25-seat arena. The arena has 25 seats. She is 12 years old. The 12-year-old.
- Bylaw, byelection (no hyphen).
- Child care (standing alone) but child-care centre, child-care grant (compound modifiers).
- Co-operate, co-ordinate (hyphenate when a prefix brings two identical vowels together). Also hyphenate if you end up with three of the same consonants in a row.
- Fundraise, fundraiser, fundraising – no hyphen.
- Nationwide, provincewide (no hyphens). But Canada-wide.
Do not hyphenate Latin phrases used adjectivally (e.g., ad hoc proposal, post hoc analysis).
For hanging hyphen constructions (15- to 19-year-olds), do not hyphenate after “to.”
Em dashes ( — )
- The em dash is the standard for breaking a sentence or setting off parenthetical statements
- With em dashes, insert a space on either side
En dashes (-)
- Use an en dash when expressing a range of numbers, such as the years of a person’s life, e.g., 1955-2001
- There should be no space on either side of the en dash
In displayed lists, always start items with a capital letter. Use end punctuation, such as a period, with full sentences only.
Use the North American system for quotation marks: periods and commas always go inside quotation marks; semicolons and colons go outside.
Use double quotation marks for all quoted matters. Single quotation marks should be reserved to enclose quotes within quotes (e.g., Mark exclaimed, “You have driven a stake into my heart! Now I truly understand Caesar’s words, ‘Et tu Brute?’ How could you treat me so?”).
Do not use quotation marks with so-called. (e.g., Her so-called friend left her standing in the rain.)
Use only one space after a period (i.e., between sentences) and after a colon (:)
Canada is metric and so is Canadian Press. This applies to distance, height, weight, and area. Here’s a conversion website for quick reference.
Exception: historical contexts. The speed limit on the Lions Gate Bridge when it opened in 1938 was 15 miles per hour.
That and which
As a conjunction, that should be omitted if no confusion results (e.g., Linden said (that) he would go). When choosing between that and which, that is used to introduce an essential clause, and there’s no comma before it. Which introduces a non-essential clause, and it does take a comma.
- He cited the case that changed Canadian law.
- He cited the Kilroy case, which changed Canadian law.
Do not post raw URLs (e.g. http://www.bccampus.ca). Embedded links are preferred for all online distribution, using appropriate anchor text. For printed content or hardcopy materials, make the link usable if typed as plain text into the address line of a browser (e.g., bccampus.ca).
Uppercase street, road, etc. with names unless two or more are referred to (Howe Street, but Howe and Seymour streets) and abbreviate in addresses when the number is used – 645 Fort St.