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Spelling and punctuation quick guide

This page contains common errors and questions of spelling and punctuation.

Follow the Australian Government Style Manual. It has useful guidance on:

Use the Macquarie Dictionary for spelling, hyphenation and capitalisation. 

  • The VGLS provides a Macquarie Dictionary online subscription to all DPC employees.

    To access the subscription, you first need to register for a VGLS account.

    1. Go to the Victorian Government Library Service website and click on the DPC link.
    2. Click Register/My account in the top right and fill out the form. You'll receive a confirmation email with your numerical username.
    3. Once you've logged in, click to go to the DPC Gateway.
    4. In the centre of the page, you'll see a heading 'Key Resource Links'.
    5. Click the dropdown and select Macquarie Dictionary and click the Go button.
    6. After you're taken to the Macquarie site, bookmark this URL!

    It's useful to have the 'Did you mean' checkbox ticked as search results are wider.

Capitalisation

Use sentence case in headings (a capital letter on the first word only, unless later words are proper nouns) but title case for legislation.

Avoid using ALL CAPS as it's bad for accessibility.

Italics

Avoid using italics. Use title case for acts (legislation) and other publications.

Lists (bullets)

No end punctuation on list items that are fragments (the new Style Manual includes a full stop on the last item).

List items that are full sentences should have sentence punctuation.

Numbers

Use numerals (NOT words) for numbers in text (most of the time) because it's easier to read on a screen.

  • Exceptions:
    • Always use words for one and zero as the numerals 0 and 1 may be confused for letters.
    • Don't use a numeral at the start of a sentence.
    • Use words for ordinal numbers up to ninth, then numerals.
    • Use words for fractions.
  • Examples: 19th century; 2 or 3 of them; 1.5 million; a quarter; 1,234,567. 

No space between a number and abbreviated units of measurement (eg 100km, 10cm)

Times: 2pm, 2:30pm, 12 noon, 12 midnight 

No punctuation in dates; dates should be ordered day, month, year (eg Monday 1 January 2020).

Phone numbers: 03 9600 1234 (hyperlink using the code "tel:0396001234" with no spaces).

Punctuation

Single quotes (NOT double quotes)

Dashes can affect readability when used in a span. In general text, it's better to use phrases (eg I want to go away for 2 to 3 days.)

Spaced ellipses ( ... )

Don't use ampersand in sentences unless part of an organisation's name. Limit their use in headings (page titles and table headings are sometimes OK).

Spelling

Check any spelling you are unsure of with the Macquarie Dictionary.  


Here are some commonly misspelled words/terms:

adviser

behaviour

centre

child care

decision-making (n & adj)

focused

inquiries

modelling

start-up

statewide (adj)

subcommittee

subsite

the state

time frame (2 words)

Victorian public sector

wi-fi

whole-of-government (adj)

Reviewed 09 June 2021

Vic Gov digital guide

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