A hyphen (-) is a punctuation mark that’s used to join words or parts of words, for example, 20-year-old. It’s not interchangeable with other types of dashes. A dash is longer than a hyphen and is commonly used to indicate a range or a pause.

The most common types of dashes are the En dash (–) and the Em dash (—). The En dash is slightly longer than the hyphen but not as long as the Em dash. British online grammar in the 21st Century doesn’t really use the longer Em dash – you’ll generally only find mention of it in American grammar articles or in Victorian novels.

For consistency, follow these two simple rules:

  • If the words separated touch the dash or hyphen, use a hyphen
  • If there’s a gap between the separated words, use En dash

An En dash can be used instead of brackets – like this – and are considered to be easier to read online than brackets. They’re more versatile than brackets too and can be used for a closing remark – like this, ending in a full stop, where brackets need closing with ‘)’.

Also see Hyphens

Use this format:

  • Day, date, month and then year, for example, Monday 15 January 2019
  • Show times using a 24-hour clock, for example, 21:00 or 17:00

Include the day, time and venue for forthcoming events, and when advertising an event for an international audience, such as an Online Open Day, state the time zone as well as the time. For example, 14:00-16:00 (BST).

Don’t use ordinal indicators – the superscripted -st, -nd, -rd, and -th following the day number. For example, write 15 January and not 15th January.

Use an active voice when writing for the web. In active sentences:

  • The thing doing the action is the subject of the sentence
  • The thing receiving the action is the object

Most sentences are active, but it doesn’t hurt to take the time to ensure you’re using an active voice at all times. This is what the structure of an active sentence looks like (followed by examples):

 [Thing doing action]  [verb]  [thing receiving action]
 The professor  teaches the students.
 The police pursued  the criminals.
 The lions ate the trophy hunters.
Passive voice

You should only really use the passive form:

  • If you think that the thing receiving the action is more important or should be emphasised
  • If you don’t know who’s doing the action or don’t want to mention who’s doing it

In passive sentences, the thing receiving the action is the subject of the sentence and the thing doing the action is optionally included near the end of the sentence. The structure of a passive sentence looks like this (followed by passive versions of the examples above):

 [Thing receiving action]
[be + past participle of verb]
[thing doing action]
 The students are taught by the professor.
 You will be taught by the professor.*
 The criminals were pursued by the police.
The trophy hunters were eaten by the lions.

*This slight alteration of the example above shows you how passive voice can be used to make communications user-focused.

If used in a user-centric way, passive voice can make your sentences livelier, easier to read, and generally more ‘human’. It also makes you naturally use more words like ‘you’, ‘we’ and ‘our’. It also helps users understand what our university is going to do for them and what they need to do for themselves.