Most of the style entries in this guide are from the Australian Government Style Manual. The style manual is informed by global best-practice and research related to human behaviour and cognition.
Styles not covered in the style manual are noted as (Energy Safe/common style).
The Victorian Government advises use of the style manual. There's also a Victorian Government style guide informed by the style manual, with links to other recommended resources.
Adhering to the style manual allows us to craft data-driven, customer-centric content.
Style guides are living documents because styles change following research and changes to technology, screen sizes and user behaviour.
Using this guide
If your question isn't covered in the style manual, contact the Content and UX Strategy team for assistance.
Common style issues
Limit the use of abbreviations.
Abbreviations are generally not good for readability and their use should be avoided for public-facing content.
Abbreviations may be useful in a table or chart, where space is not available for the full word. In these cases, provide a note under the table or chat giving the full form of the word.
Semi-formal and informal content uses abbreviations more often. Only use abbreviations if users will understand their meanings. If there's any doubt, define the abbreviation on first use.
Acronyms (and initialisms) are common in formal content. If understood by users, they make content easier and faster to read. Only use acronyms if users will recognise and understand them.
- Choose acronyms and initialisms people will recognise (Anzac, TAFE).
- Initialisms are pronounced as letters, not a word (NDIS, GST).
- Explain acronyms and initialisms to all users.
- Avoid plural and possessive forms on first use.
- Include a list at the end of the content if it relies on many acronyms
Acts, bills and legislation
Use italics and include the year on first mention. Use regular text without the year or the short form for additional mentions.
- Use title case for the titles of Acts. Use italics for the first mention of these titles.
- Use regular type for the titles of Acts in reference lists and other long lists. Blocks of italics are hard to read.
- Include all words in the tile. If the title begins 'The', 'An' or 'A', include it.
- The year the legislation is first enacted forms part of the title. Don't put a comma before the year.
Export Control Act 2020 not Export Control Act, 2020
Italics for first mention only
- At first mention, use the short title in italics.
- After the first mention, use the short title in regular type without the year.
- After the first mention, you can also use the informal title in roman type.
"… was convicted of federal offences under the Crimes Act 1914. The Crimes Act specifies… "
"… in the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act). … Section 10 of the PGPA Act defines a Commonwealth entity as..."
Write the titles of bills in title case using regular type – don't use italics.
Refugee Protection Bill 2019 [Short title]
Always use an intitial capital for the word 'Bill when you write a specific bill. If you're writing about 2 or more bills –or about bills generally –use the lowercase 'bill'.
Write section in full but do not capitalise.
- Section 141 of the Electricity Safety Act 1998
- Section 107 of the Gas Safety Act 1997
Our address format:
Level 5, 4 Riverside Quay, Southbank VIC 3006
Level 1, Building 4, Brandon Office Park, 540 Springvale Road, Glen Waverley, VIC 3150
Phone 03 9203 9700
(Energy Safe/common style)
Avoid using them. Use 'and' instead.
Brackets and Parenthesis
Brackets are used to break up information. Sentences should be grammatically correct if the bracketed text is removed.
Use brackets sparingly for:
- non-essential information
- shortened forms
The style manual says "less is more" when it comes to capital letters.
Only use capital letters for:
- legislated titles
- organisational titles when the title precedes someone's name
- most acronyms and initialisms
Dashes and Hyphens
Proper use of hyphens and en dashes are integral to reducing friction for readers. Never use a hyphen in place of a dash.
En dash –
Spaced en dash for compound sentences
Spaced en dashes can be used to create compound sentences. The general rule for government is to use them rarely to use them effectively. We typically prefer to break sentences up into smaller sentences rather than use en dashes to create compound sentences.
Unspaced en dashes
Unspaced en dashes can be used to create coordinate nouns.
Unspaced en dashes are also used to create spans and ranges in text. For paragraphs, words are preferred for creating spans.
The workshop took place from 27 to 30 May.
Don't write this:
The workshop took place from 27–30 May.
The exceptions to this general rule are:
- financial years
- terms of office
- lifespan (birth and death).
Em dash —
Em dash is not typically used in Australian government writing. If used, do not use spaces with em dashes..
Hyphens are used for prefixes and compound words. If you're unsure of a word's hyphenation, check the Macquarie Dictionary.
Dates and time
Follow Australian conventions for dates and only use abbreviations if space is limited.
Use numerals for the day and year but spell out the month in words. Don't include a comma or any other punctuation. Don't use ordinal numbers.
- Monday 30 May 2023
Spell out the month in words if you need to leave out either the day or the year.
- The winning yacht usually reaches Hobart on 27 December.
- More than 1,700 jobs have been created since January 2018.
If you're referring to a date only, you can use an ordinal number (suffix) – don't put the suffix in superscript.
- The team leaves on the 17th.
Separate numeric dates with forward slash.
Use 'from' and 'to' in spans of years. Don't use en dashes
- From 2022 to 2024
The exceptions are:
- financial years
- information in parentheses such as terms of office and years of birth and death.
For these, use an en dash without spaces.
- The 2020–21 financial year
- John Doe (1913–1997)
Write the span of decades with an 's' on the end. Don't use an apostrophe.
1980s not 1980’s
When writing the time using numerals, use a colon and add 'am' or 'pm' in lower case with a non-breaking space after the number.
9 am or 9:15 am
Department and government
Department doesn't need a capital unless it's written in full.
- "... the department advises..."
- Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF)
Use Victorian Government, not State Government.
Use Australian Government, not Federal Government or Commonwealth Government.
Limit the use of forward slash. Use the word 'and' or 'or' if possible.
Don't put spaces before or after a forward slash unless it's for:
- official dual place names
- lines of poetry in running text.
Limit use of italics. The different letter shape contrasts with surrounding text and can cause issues for those with reading difficulties.
Don’t use italics for:
- large blocks of text
- Latin shortened forms
- material that would normally be in italics but is set apart (such as a list of titles under a heading)
- names or words from First Nations languages
- aggregation pages (such as a page listing legislation).
Do use italics for:
- stand-alone works
- legal cases
- setting off most foreign words and phrases
- mathematical theorems and formulas
- official names of vehicles
- scientific names
- Acts; use italics for primary legislation and legal cases but not for delegated legislation or bills.
Latin shortened forms
Use English rather than Latin shortened forms in most cases.
and so forth
Only use Latin forms when:
- there's limited space, such as in tables
- writing for technical and specialist publications that use them.
The Australian Government Style Manual identifies 3 types of lists to use:
- sentence lists
- fragment lists
- stand-alone lists.
The current government style calls for minimal punctuation. Don't use:
- semicolons (;) or commas (,) at the end of list items
- 'and' or 'or' after list items.
Sentence lists are used for a series of complete sentences.
Rules for sentence lists
- Follow normal sentence structure in each list item.
- Start each list item with a capital letter and end it with a full stop.
- Align run-over lines with the text, not the bullet or number.
Example sentence list
During the emergency
- Don’t stay in a house or building that is inundated by flood water when the power is connected.
- Don’t use an electrical appliance, sink or bath if you feel a shock or tingling sensation from any metal or plumbing. Avoid these appliances or objects and contact your distribution company to report the problem as soon as you can.
- Don’t leave your vehicle if powerlines have fallen across it unless you are in immediate danger. Stay inside and call 000 for help.
- If travelling by boat in flood waters, don’t try to raise or move any powerlines you find. Don’t try to travel under the powerlines either as the rising waters will put you closer to them.
- Stay well clear of electricity poles, substations, fallen powerlines and any objects in contact with them. If the electricity poles and wires are covered in flood waters, then stay at least 150 metres away and call your electricity distributor to report it.
Fragment lists are used for a series of incomplete sentences.
Rules for fragment lists
- Use lower case for the first letter of each fragment, unless it’s a proper noun.
- Add a full stop to the last list item only.
- Use a grammatically parallel structure for each list item.
- Make sure each fragment can complete a phrase lead-in.
Example fragment list
Energy Safe writing should be edited for:
- brand voice and tone
- search engine optimisation.
Stand-alone lists are used for items under a heading.
Rules for stand-alone lists:
- Use a heading, not a lead-in.
- Start each list item with a capital letter.
- Don’t add full stops to the end of any of the list items (even the last item).
- Indent each list item if it helps people scan the content.
Example stand-alone list
- Sparkling mineral water
- Organic cucumbers
- Chicken and leek terrine
- Raw cacao powder
Follow the best-practice UX writing approach of placing most hyperlinks at the end of a sentence.
When linking to non-HTML documents and files, provide users with:
- document title (not the file name)
- the file type
- the file size in kB or MB.
To learn more about bushfire safety, read Bushfire Report 2022 [PDF 2.2MB].
Download our report to learn more about bushfire safety.
Names and terms
Check official sources for correct names and terms. Use consistent capitalisation and punctuation. Detailed information, by topic, can be found in the 'further reading' link below.
- Use numbers for '2' and above.
- Write numbers 'zero' and 'one' in words.
Exceptions – use words for numbers when:
- starting a sentence
- writing a fraction
- writing a proper noun that includes a number written as a word
- writing a publication title that includes a number written as a word
- quoting a figure of speech
- writing government content that follows journalistic conventions (for example, media releases).
Exceptions – use numerals for all numbers:
- in units of measurements
- to show mathematical relationships
- when comparing numbers
- in tables and charts
- for dates and times
- in a series of numbers
- in specific contexts such as steps, age, school years
- in scientific content.
Spell out ordinal numbers from 'first' to 'ninth'. Use numerals for ordinals from '10th' onwards.
Do not write suffixes in superscript. Superscript may not be accessible to people who use screen readers.
Use 'per cent' in text. Use % (the percentage symbol) in tables.
Use numerals with the percentage symbol and don't add a space between the numerals and the symbol.
Use single quote marks for everything, including direct speech. Use double quote marks when you need to write a quote within a quote.
- Items marked as 'financial assets' are included.
- 'I don't agree with his "assessment",' he said.
Titles and honorifics
Energy Safe follows common Australian English use of the full stop in titles and honorifics.
Don't use a full stop after:
- between post-nominal letters (for example, Gwynne Brennan AFSM).
(Energy Safe/common style)
Date: 05/03/2024 12:01
The currency and accuracy of this information cannot be guaranteed once printed or saved to a storage device. If in doubt, please check the Energy Safe Victoria website for the current version.
Reviewed 26 November 2023