This Style Guide is meant as a guide to anyone writing texts for Radboud University, primarily for the Internet but also for other forms of communication.
1. General comments
Key points of your message
Place the key points of your message at the start.
- Start with the abstract/conclusion. Readers who only want to know the key points of your message should only need to read the introduction. Readers who want to know more will read on. A useful tool are the so-called 5 W’s: in the heading and first paragraph you should answer the who-what-where-when-why questions. Sometimes the how question is also important. Select which of these questions will be answered in your header and which in the first paragraph.
- The first sentence of the paragraph is the core sentence (avoid ‘fillers’).
Use clear and concise writing. Useful tips:
- For web texts you should aim to use a maximum of 4 to 5 sentences per paragraph (sentences being an average of 15 to 20 words).
- Use clear headings as opposed to creative ones. So not ‘Lucky thirteen’ but: ‘Thirteen scientists get research grant’.
Structuring your text
Give your text structure. Ways to structure your text:
- Separate paragraphs with blank lines (especially true for web texts)
- Every 2 to 3 paragraphs you should use (meaningful) subheadings. Make sure that a reader who only skims the header and subheadings knows what the text is about and/or where he can find what information.
- Use signal words at the beginning of a sentence, like:
- First of all,
- In short
4. You can also use sequence signals:
- Step 1…, Step 2…;
- Who are we? What do we do?
5. In web texts, you should use bullets when you list points, unless you’re listing steps or a set number of points, then you should use numerations instead.
Use images and include a caption. But remember, it’s better not to use an image than to use a bad image. Please don’t use small, dark and vague images.
Use italics, bold and underline as well as CAPITALS sparingly. The same goes for exclamation marks!!
Do you need help getting starting, structuring your text or dotting your i’s? Radboud into Languages has created a toolbox (Dutch) that can help you along.
2. Good writing techniques
Avoid jargon and difficult words. Even highly educated people appreciate getting information that can be easily understood without having to dissect and study it. Therefore, the preference is to write using everyday English.
Write using the active voice, as much as possible:
- Not (passive): At noon, the meeting was declared open by the chairman. During the meeting a vote was held regarding the new contracts.
- But (active): The chairman declared the meeting open at noon. During the meeting, members voted on the new contracts.
Note the length of your sentences. Chop up long sentences and vary sentence length. Sentences in English are generally a bit longer than sentences in Dutch.
When you see a “verb a/an noun” construction, convert the noun into a verb and replace the phrase with it.
- Not: The report gave an analysis of…
- But: The report analysed…
Addressing your reader
Address the reader:
- Not: A list of tips; We offer tips; Contact; Information
- But: Here you can find tips; Do you want to know more? You can contact…
Use a variety of style elements. For example:
- Steps to choosing the right programme. Or: This is how you find your ideal programme - instead of: How to choose the right programme?
- Or: Five myths of fashion in the Netherlands – instead of: Research into Dutch fashion.
4. Writing for the web
Online readers have less patience than offline readers. If you want your texts to be read, you will have to make sure the key points can be scanned and are presented in a manner that is pleasant and simple.
What was written in the previous chapters also applies to online texts. Below, a few extra pointers:
View every page as a landing page. In other words: every page should be able to be read and understood individually.
Do not begin your list with the same word.
- Radboud University offers X when it comes to research
- Radboud University offers X when it comes to education
- The research at Radboud University…
- The education at Radboud University…
Make important words bold. (Do not underline, as it can be mistaken for a link.)
Make sure that your links are informative. Visitors often just scan the text for links.
- Not: Click here to sign up for the open day.
- But: Sign up for the open day.
Do not place important content in PDF documents that a visitor must first download to read. Visitors are required to make an extra effort which they may not be willing to do. Preferably, only use PDFs for reference materials.
Do you have a lot to say? Introduce your webpage (‘on this page you will find information on…’) and use anchors / a table of content.
You should always write firstly for our readers, and secondly for search engines. Want to know more about writing for search engines (i.e. search engine optimisation)? You can find an SEO guide in Dutch here.
4. Language issues
4.1 English style agreements
- Radboud University has access to the online Van Dale Dictionary in several languages, including DutchEnglish.
- Radboud into Languages offers a NL-Eng translation of the most common academic terms.
Corporate Communication uses British spelling. So:
- organisation / analysing / recognise
- behavioural / labour
- centre / metre
- enrol / enrols (but enrolling / enrolled)
- programme (unless it involves computers, then it’s program)
Exception: we deviate from the British spelling in the spelling of official names of places, organisations, buildings, etc from other English speaking countries. (Pearl Harbor, US Department of Defense, Australian Labor Party, World Trade Center, World Health Organization).
Tip: set your spellchecker to ‘English (UK)’.
Below a few words that are often used and that can be correctly spelled in different ways (and which are not connected to the British-American forms). We advise you use the bold spelling. But whatever option you choose, please be consistent in its usage per article/folder/web page.
- interdisciplinary / inter-disciplinary
- interuniversity / inter-university
- multidisciplinary / multi-disciplinary
- cross disciplinary / cross-disciplinary
- policymaker / policy maker / policy-maker
- policymaking / policy making / policy-making
- think tank / think-tank
- well being / well-being
- in depth/ in-depth
- problem solving / problem-solving
- well known / well-known
1. Write the official name of a faculty, programme, course, group or department with a capital:
- the Department of Education
- the Psychology Department
- the Faculty of Arts
- Professor of Political Science
- Master’s programme in Economics
2. The main words in the name of a programme are written with a capital:
- the Master’s programme in Biomedical Science
- the Master’s specialisation in Chemistry for Life
- Anthropology and Development Studies
- (Please note: don’t forget the word in before the name of the specialisation/programme)
3. The following names should be capitalised as follows:
- University, University of Applied Sciences, HBO
- HBO minor
- a pre-Master’s in
4. Only the first word of a (sub) heading is capitalised, unless a word is always written with a capital.
- Cultural and ethical context
- Why study Mathematics at Radboud University?
5. Lists in English begin with a capital letter at the beginning of the line.
The goals of the course are to:
- Try and discover the values and views that lie within such texts.
- Compare the views within such texts with the general contemporary views.
Master’s, Master’s programme, Master’s specialisation, Bachelor’s
- The main programme (linked directly to a Croho code) is called a Master’s programme in or a Bachelor’s programme in. You may also (to optimise findability of web texts) use the words Master’s, Bachelor’s, programme and degree in the body of your text.
- A Master’s specialisation in is used when referring to a specialisation/direction/programme/track within a main programme. It is therefore a Master’s specialisation in Practical Theology. In the body of your text you may interchange Master’s specialisation with specialisation and (to optimise findability) also the term degree and programme.
As of 1 September 2014 we use the name Radboud University.
NB: We do this with retroactive effect, meaning:
- Not: In 1990, she graduated from, as it was known at the time, the Catholic University Nijmegen.
- But: In 1990 she graduated from Radboud University.
We use these specific names for the following locations:
- Station: Station Nijmegen Heyendaal
- Street: Heyendaalseweg
- Campus Heyendaal
- Castle and grounds: Huize Heyendael
- Neighbourhood: Heijendaal
Quotes and emphasis
In English, you use “double quotation marks” for speech in the body of a text and ‘single quotation marks’ for a quote in a header. ‘Single quotation marks’ are also used for a quote within a quote or for words that require ‘emphasis’ or ‘explanation’.
Names, academic titles and job titles
- If you want to mention a person’s academic title, then only use it, together with the person’s full name, the first time you mention them. Afterwards, refer to them only by their surname.
- Preferably state a person’s first name, rather than initials.
- In English, only someone’s highest title is mentioned. Therefore the Dutch prof. dr. Arjan Kroneman becomes Prof. Arjan Kroneman in English. The titles only known in the Netherlands, as drs., ir. and mr. are not added in English texts.
- Titles in English are always written with a capital letter. The addition of a full stop depends on the word.
prof.= Prof. X or Professor X.
dr. = Dr X (note: without the full stop)
- It’s not necessary to mention gender titles. This can often go wrong with women’s names, as a woman’s marital status is not always known and therefore if Mrs, Miss or Ms is needed. If you must add this title, then please note that they are spelled without a full stop.
- Please be aware of the capitalisation of Dutch surnames with a surname prefix. When mentioning the surname with first name or initials, the surname prefix is not capitalised (Janet van Hell), and when only stating the surname, the prefix is capitalised (That’s something Van Hell doesn’t agree with).
- Job titles (like full professor, PhD candidate, assistant professor and postdoc) are capatalised when they come immediately before or immediately after someone’s name. Note: it is not capitalised if the word “the” precedes it. (Jenny Smith, Chairman,… / Jenny Smith, the chairman,…)
- Avoid abbreviations, although etc. and i.e. are permitted.
- Abbreviations of weight and distance may be used: m/ km, g/kg. If applicable, write miles in full to avoid confusion.
- Abbreviations of academic titles may be used (for more details on this see subheading ‘Academic titles and names’above).
- Write names of organisations, institutes and such in full, followed by their abbreviation in parentheses, the first time you mention them. After that, you should use only the abbreviation. If you mention the name only once, do not add the abbreviation. Use the abbreviation that the organisation uses, so Radboudumc and not RadboudUMC. And for SEO purposes, always add the link to the organisation’s website to the full name and not the abbreviation.
- Please note: Radboud University is not abbreviated to RU.
Contractions are preferred, like it’s and you’ll, if it helps the text flow better.
Yes: 5 November 2014
No: November 5th, 2014
Always avoid the 05/11/2014 formatting because in the US this means 11 May 2014
For time referencing, use am/pm (so lowercase, without full stops) and not the 24-hour clock.
- The Master’s evening will start at 5 pm.
- Opening hours are from 8.30 am to 4 pm.
In English, write telephone numbers in the following format:
+31 24 361 12 55
Radboud University has chosen British spelling, meaning that you should try and use the British vernacular as much possible. Tips from the BBC website:
We say: meet (not ‘meet with’), consult (not ‘consult with’), talk to (not ‘talk with’), protest against a decision (not ‘protest a decision’), appeal against a verdict (not ‘appeal a verdict’). We say car rather than ‘automobile’, town centre rather than ‘downtown’, shopping centre rather than ‘shopping mall’, dustbin rather than ‘trash can’, lorry driver rather than ‘trucker’, producer rather than ‘showrunner’, mortuary rather than ‘morgue’, power cut rather than ‘outage’.
We tend not to convert nouns into verbs (avoid ‘to hospitalise’, ‘to scapegoat’, ‘to rubbish’, ‘to debut’). Our sports teams do not ‘post’ a total (eg of runs) - they score it. News agencies might report that protesters have been throwing rocks - we would use stones. Beware words that have different meanings for US and UK audiences eg: ‘slated’, ‘suspenders’, ‘pants’ etc.
4.2 Avoid Dunglish
To emphasise a word in English, italicise it. So, never use a grave or acute accent. (In English, these are used to indicate acoustics or articulation).
Remember that English usage of full stops and commas in numbers is the opposite to Dutch.
- One thousand = 1,000 (not 1.000)
- One euro and 50 cent = €1.50 (not €1,50)
- Forty-five Euros = €45 or €45.00 (not €45,- )
Do not apply Dutch rules of forming plurals with apostrophes to English words.
- babies (not baby’s)
- CEOs (not CEO’s)
English writers don’t use abbreviations in texts as like the Dutch do. Don’t invent your own abbreviations. Here are a few examples:
- e.a. = and others
- o.a. = among others
- d.w.z. = i.e.
Possessives in English are indicated with apostrophes.
- Jeroen’s car
- Burns’s poem
- My mother’s house
- My parents’ house (apostrophe after the s because there is more than one parent)
Unlike in Dutch, in well-written English sentences the emphasis is placed at the end of a sentence. What this means is that less important (or known) information is placed at the beginning of the sentence and the most important part of the message (or new information) is placed at the end.
Avoid frontal overload
Putting new information or too much information at the beginning of the sentence is called frontal overload and is a common weakness in texts written by advanced learners. The overload can be relieved either by placing the important information at the end of the sentence or by reducing the amount of new information in the sentence.
- Not: Working with students is what attracts me most in this position.
- But: What attracts me most in this position is working with students.