s

Treat collective nouns – universities, the public, companies, governments and other bodies – as singular. For example, Leeds Becket is going to… rather than, Leeds Becket are going to…

There are some exceptions:

  • Family, couple or pair, where using the singular can sound odd
  • Sports teams – although they’re singular in their role as business concerns, for example, Arsenal has declared an increase in profits
  • Rock/pop groups
  • The police, as in Police say they’re looking for three individuals – but, individual forces are singular, for example, The Metropolitan Police says there is no need to panic

Some words remain the same even as plurals, such as aircraft, cannon, sheep and fish – although you would use fishes when referring to different kinds of fish. For example, He studied freshwater fishes of the UK.

Be careful with some words that are plural but often mistakenly used as singular:

  • Criteria (criterion)
  • Bacteria (bacterium)
  • Phenomena (phenomenon)
  • While Data is strictly a plural, we follow common usage and treat it as singular
  • The same goes for agenda
  • For words ending in ‘-ium’, such as stadium, use stadiums
  • For index, use indexes for the plural – the correct word, indices, is only in a mathematical/scientific context

If in doubt, use the first version offered by the Oxford English Dictionary.

Use just one space between sentences – there should never be more than one space in succession in online text, not even after a full stop.

As a general rule, refer to the Oxford English Dictionary. Where options are given, always choose the first use. Hence, say:

  • Protester instead of "protestor"
  • Medieval instead of "mediaeval"
  • Focused/focusing instead of "focussed/focussing”

Two exceptions…

Firstly, always use "...ise" rather than "...ize" – the former is British, the latter is American. For example, recognise instead of "recognize", specialise instead of "specialize".

Secondly, never use "x" in the middle of a word where there’s an alternative spelling of "ct”. For example, inflection instead of "inflexion", reflection instead of "reflexion", connection instead of "connexion".

In the cases below, where there’s more than one spelling, use:

  • Adrenalin
  • Adviser (but advisory)
  • Burka
  • Caesarean
  • Dispatches
  • Impostor
  • Inquiry
  • Jail
  • Judgement
  • Protester
  • Tsar (rather than czar)
  • Yoghurt

A split infinitive is created by placing an adverb, or adverbial phrase, between the to and the verb. For example, to boldly go, to casually walk, to gently push.

Split infinitives have been widely condemned in school classrooms but, they're commonly used in writing of all kinds. As such, they aren’t banned.