Items Not Covered Elsewhere

Editorial Style

Country & Geographical Names

As a general rule, use the “official” UN spelling of Member States’ names (see Member States of the United Nations). In particular, note the following:

  • Côte D’Ivoire (not Ivory Coast)
  • Republic of Korea (not Korea or South Korea)
  • Timor-Leste (not East Timor)
  • Viet Nam (not Vietnam)
  • Chinese Taipei or Taiwan, Province of China (not Taiwan or Republic of China)

Courses & Degree Programmes

Write official course or programme titles with initial capitals and without quotation marks or italics. Use all-lowercase form for shortened or unofficial course/programme names.

  • Apply by 23 July for the MSc in Environmental Governance with Specialisation in Biodiversity Programme.
  • The Postgraduate Course in Climate, Energy and Food Security is an elective of the UNU-IAS MSc programme.
  • The food security course is an elective of the Master of Science in Sustainability, Development and Peace Programme.


Monetary amounts can be written in one of three styles:

  • ISO code — write as code + space + amount: for example, EUR 3,000; USD 5.4 million.
  • Symbol — write as symbol + amount (no space): for example, $150 million, ¥3,800, €150.
  • Name — write as amount + space + name (lowercase): for example, 500 euros, twenty dollars, 6 million yen

Any of these style may be selected, but usage should be consistent within a publication.

Order within a list

Within a sentence or a bullet point list, always arrange the items (such as countries or organisations) in alphabetical order, unless it is evident from the context that another sequence is being used (for example, largest to smallest, or most to least important, or chronological order).


Whenever possible, avoid the use of “spring”, “summer”, “autumn” (“fall), and “winter”, since these seasons occur at different times of the year in the northern and southern hemispheres. If it is relevant to mention a season, use lowercase (“spring 2014” not “Spring 2014”).


On first mention of a person, give a individuals’s title, forename and surname. On subsequent mentions, use either surname only (preferred) or title and surname:

  • Dr John Smith and Professor Susan Jones attended the ceremony, but Smith left early.
  • Dr John Smith and Professor Susan Jones presented their joint research paper. Dr Smith said that it will be published as a book next month.

Publication Titles

Use italics for the names of periodicals, book titles, and film/play titles. Use quotations marks for the titles of articles and book chapters.

For publication titles (and for top-level headlines), use initial capitals for all words except “a”, “and”, “at”, “for”, “from”, “in”, “of”, “on”, “the”, and “to”. But, also use an initial capital for any of those if it is in the first word or follows a colon.


UNU does not specify a style for references, but stresses that authors use one style consistently (e.g., Modern Language Association, American Psychological Association, Chicago, etc.).
Additional recommendations:

  • Use arabic numerals for footnotes and endotes.
  • For bibliographies, the “Lastname, Firstname” form for authors is easier to alphabetise/follow than the “Firstname, Lastname” form.

“A” or “An”?

Is it “a” or “an” before a word starting with “h”? Let pronunciation be your guide:

  • Use “an” if the “h” is silent: an hour, an honour, an heir
  • Use “a” if the “h” is aspirated: a hotel, a horse, a historic event

For other words, follow a similar rule: if the word (or acronym) begins with a consonant sound, use “a”; if it begins with a vowel sound, use “an”: for example, “a one-track mind”, “an open grave”, “an MBA”, “a united effort”, “an unfortunate incident”, “a UNESCO report”.

A Final Word

Items to be published on the website (and other documents, upon request) are checked by the Office of Communications (OC) editorial team for both (i) linguistic matters (such as to rectify spelling and grammatical mistakes, and to clarify any imprecision or inconsistency of expression) and (ii) presentational aspects (that is, to ensure compliance with UNU typographical/web rules and conventions).

Note, however, that the OC editors attempt to remain “impartial” with regard to the content and the author’s intentions; that is, they will not revise the text beyond the level required to ensure readability and coherence. The editors may query an assertion if it seems dubious, but authors bear sole responsibility for the substance and veracity of their text.

Other Resources

For grammatical and usage question not covered in here, see the Guardian and Observer Style Guide and the Content Style Guide.

For questions about spelling, see the Concise Oxford English Dictionary or the Oxford Dictionaries website.

For additional guidance, see Writing for the Web on the website: in particular, check the “Front-loadings”, “Titles”, and “7 golden rules for writing for the web” sections of that page.