City style guide

Style is a core element of City branding and reputation.

Writing styles change as fast as people communicate. Citizens count on The City's services to be dependable and consistent. This guide recommends style choices that will reinforce the reliable consistency of information regarding our work and activities.

Style guide content

  • Is designed for use by City of Calgary employees and civic public services partners when communicating regarding City services and activities.
  • Enables users to make writing, spelling and punctuation style choices that reflect high City standards for communication and public service quality.
  • Builds on accepted Canadian and international rules of English grammar use and effective writing.
  • Key sources include:
    • The Canadian Press Stylebook (14th Edition).
    • Canadian Oxford Dictionary (second edition).

What's on this page?

Abbreviations and acronyms

  • Use acronyms and abbreviations as little as possible. Readers may not know what the letters stand for and may be too busy to bother finding out.
  • When used, spell out acronyms and abbreviations in full the first time they appear, followed by the abbreviated version in parentheses, eg.
    The Executive Leadership Team (ELT) changed their regular meeting date in order to meet with visiting dignitaries from China. Normally ELT meets on alternate Thursdays.
  • If the document is long, spell the word out again on every second page.
  • Names whose acronyms are common household terms in Canada, such as RCMP, CBC, NDP and NAFTA do not need to be spelled out in full on first reference unless you think your audience is unlikely to recognize them.


  • In general spell out terms such as feet, kilometres, kilograms in first reference. 
  • It is permissible to abbreviate (ft., km, kg, etc.) if in tabular matter or if used frequently, e.g. Bob weighs 87 kilograms. But Fred is 68 kg, Grant’s 66 kg and Susie’s 55 kg.

Latins Abbreviations

Abbreviation Meaning  City Style


for example

use periods and do not capitalize the letters


that is to say

use periods and do not capitalize the letters

et cetera or etcetera

unspecified similar kinds of things

spell out completely rather than using etc.

versus in contrast to or as the alternative of spell out completely rather than using vs.

Company and business abbreviations

On first reference to a company or business name, include the applicable suffixes with periods: Bros., Co., Corp., Inc. and Ltd. These suffixes are considered part of the formal legal name of a business and should not be left off or separated from the rest of the name by a comma. After the first mention, it is okay to state the name without suffixes.

Provinces and states

In copy text, abbreviate provincial names rather than using the two-letter postal abbreviations. Also avoid using postal abbreviations in regular sentences.

eg. B.C., Alta., Sask., Man., Ont., Que., P.E.I., N.S., Nfld., N.W.T., N.B.

Do not abbreviate Yukon or Nunavut.


The preferred format for the street and mailing address of The City of Calgary is:

The City of Calgary
800 Macleod Tr. S.E.
P.O. Box 2100, Station M
Calgary, AB T2P 2M5

The preferred format for a business unit and division located at this same address is:

Customer Service & Communications
Creative Services, Mail Code #8080
The City of Calgary
800 Macleod Tr. S.E.
P.O. Box 2100, Station M
Calgary, AB T2P 2M5


In regular copy:

  • Spell out Boulevard, Drive, etc. in general locations
    (e.g. I live on Sifton Boulevard).
  • Abbreviate if it’s a numbered address
    (e.g. I live at 36 Sifton Blvd).
  • Quadrants have periods: S.W., N.W., etc.
  • Spell out First through Ninth as street and avenue names
    (e.g. 37 Fifth Ave. S.W.).
  • Use th, nd, rd with addresses higher than nine
    (e.g. 1234 45th St. N.W.).
  • If there is a suite number, office number, etc., use an (en) dash
    (e.g. 28 - 1234 45th St. N.W.).


Use numbers for ages standing alone after a name. Write out the number if it is used as a compound word. Write out numbers between one and nine.

  • Drummer Bob Richards, 75, says you’re never too old to rock and roll.
  • Johnny is two years old. He is a rambunctious two-year-old.


Different City documents use different date formats for different reasons. Some formats use all numbers, while other formats combine the names of the month with numbers for day and year. For example, the City Clerk’s Office asks that documents use the format 2003 April 26 on City Council agendas, minutes and similar official documents for consistency with established City record-keeping practices. In contrast, less formal correspondence style in City stationery templates uses the more modern April 26, 2003 format. If you are uncertain which to use, check with the office for whom you are preparing documents.

When expressing the date using only numbers, City style follows the international style of listing: year followed by month followed by day (YYYY/MM/DD). Use all four digits of the year e.g. April 26, 2003 translates to 2003/04/26.


  • When there’s a specific date, abbreviate the month
    (e.g. Jan. 5, 2007).
  • Do not abbreviate March, April, May, June, or July since they’re short enough on their own.
  • With no specific date, spell out the month
    (e.g. January 2007).
  • Some formal documents require year/month/day
    (e.g. 2007 June 22).
  • When describing a historical time period, do not use an apostrophe
    (e.g. The 1950s were great, but the 1960s were even better).
  • Note: Days and months should be abbreviated to first three letters when presented in tabular manner. But they don’t have periods
    (e.g. Mon Tues Wed, etc., and Jan Feb Mar Apr, etc.).

Email signature

Signature information built into emails serves the same communication purpose as sender information on paper mail. City style is to have email signature information identical to the sender's City business card information in style and content.

Maria Smith, B.Comm., MACT
Production Artist, Creative Services
Customer Service & Communications
The City of Calgary | Mail code: #5555
T 403.268.2222 | C 403.268.4444 | F 403.268.3333 |
Floor 4, Administration Building - H20, 800 Macleod Tr. S.E.
P.O. Box 2100, Station M, Calgary, AB Canada T2P 2M5

Internet addresses

When an Internet address (a URL) ends a sentence, there is no space between the last letter of the URL and the period.

Measurements and temperature


Canada uses metric rather than imperial measurements. When referring to distance, length, area, mass, volume, speed or electronic capacity, use the metric measurement terms. City style is to spell out the names of metric measurements the first time they appear in text. It's acceptable to shorten measurement names on second reference or when using them in a table or a list, for example, on a map. In these cases, use the metric symbols for the names. There are no term abbreviations in the metric system, only symbols for the terms.

Metric symbols are separated from the number by a single space and do not require an "s" to make them plural. All metric symbols appear in lower case except symbols for technology capacity, which appear in upper case. Periods follow metric symbols only when the symbol appears at the end of a sentence.

Some symbols for metric terms include:

  KB = kilobyte
MB = megabyte
GB = gigabyte
TB = terabyte

ml = millilitre
l = litre

mm = millimetre
cm = centimetre
m = metre
km = kilometre

GHz = gigaherz


Posted speed limit = 100 km/h
We drove 240 kilometres to reach our destination.

The recipe calls for 1.5 kilograms of beef. Mom’s meatloaf recipe:

1.5 kg of beef
5 ml soya sauce
5 ml HP sauce
30 ml ketchup
2 eggs
10 saltine crackers, crushed


Canadian temperature is measured in Celsius, not Fahrenheit. It is acceptable to use the abbreviation "C" when it is preceded by a number with a space between the number and the symbol.

It was a beautiful 27 C today.
The mercury dropped to -5 C last night.
It was twenty degrees at the beach yesterday.

Exceptions to using metric

There still are exceptions where imperial measurement is used due to common preferences, at least in North America. In all cases, a space is inserted between the number and the measurement name or abbreviation.

Precious metals and minerals are described in troy ounces and carats.

Common wood and tool measurements in North America include two-by-fours and quarter-inch screws, although metric tool measurements are becoming more frequent.

Page size measurements often appear as 8.5 x 11 (letter size) or 11 x 14 (legal size). City style is to leave a space on either side of the "x" that represents "by."



If a number refers to money, it can be preceded by the dollar sign, or followed by the word dollars. There is no space between the dollar sign and the numeral.

Nick Nastos owes five dollars. She won five million dollars. She won $5 million.

City style is that numbers that refer to money but lack a dollar sign should follow the rule of spelling out any number below 10.

Of the $30 budgeted, I spent nine on food and 11 on clothing.


In general, spell out the word cents. Avoid using the form $0.30 (for 30 cents) in day-to-day writing unless the amount is more than one dollar.

It cost me 30 cents. I paid $12.50 for lunch. My tip was $2.


  • $2 not $2.00
  • 30 cents, not $0.30
  • C$800 and US$800 to denote Canadian and U.S. dollars


For materials to be read outside The City organization, on the second and each subsequent reference to a person, use the last name, not the first.

Billy Williamson is responsible for change in the division. Williamson said he enjoys working with other staff.

When writing articles for internal employee publications (LINK, other internal newsletters, the intranet, etc.) it is acceptable to use the individual’s first name on subsequent references as long as the individual is a city employee and the reference is clear.

Jim Myers has big plans for his division. "It’s going to be fun," Jim said.


City style is to spell out numbers from one to nine and use numerals for all numbers 10 and above. Exceptions are addresses, proper names of businesses or organizations and some technical terms.

John Doe bought his car five years ago.
Mary Smith has worked for the company for 10 years.
They stopped at 7-Eleven to get a drink.
The largest union membership is in CUPE Local 38.
The newsletter is printed in eight-point type.

When dealing with large numbers (millions and higher) in text, use a digit followed by the denomination spelled out. Do not load the text with zeroes or digits unless absolute precision is required.

In 2000, Canada’s population was more than 30 million.
Alberta’s population according to the 2000 census was 2,345,432.

Spell out any number that starts a sentence.

Fifteen people were honoured this week for their volunteer efforts.

Phone numbers

When referencing City of Calgary phone numbers in internal and external documents, include the entire number - not just the local extension.


  • For internal documents: 403-268-1234
  • For external use: 403-268-1234
  • For outside area code: 1-905-428-1234
  • For design purposes it’s OK to use periods (1.905.428.1234) instead of hyphens.
    • Use hyphens in written text.


Time of day

  • For informal writing for general audiences, City style uses the 12-hour clock when indicating time.
  • When referring to an exact time at the top of the hour, do not use :00.
  • Use periods in a.m. and p.m. and use lower case letters, eg. 8 a.m., 9:15 p.m.
  • Use lower case n for noon.

Time zones

City writing style spells out word references to time zones using lowercase letters, but abbreviates time zones using all capitals without periods in between.

Today we switched back to mountain standard time, She said that 8 a.m. MST would mark the start of spring.


  • 7 p.m. not 7:00 p.m. (same for a.m.)
  • Not PM or pm
  • It’s noon, not 12 noon, or 12 p.m. (same for midnight)


City writing style does not capitalize the seasons of the year.

This applies whether the season-identifying word is used as an adjective or as a noun.

My favorite season is fall and second-favorite is spring.
The winter line of clothing already is in stores.



The most easily read and remembered sentences have one main thought and are 10 to 12 words in length. Short sentences can add emphasis or variety.

Clear sentences are unified, economical, clear, and coherent.

  • unity: Each sentence contains only one thought.
  • economy: As few words as possible to convey the thought.
  • clarity: The meaning of the thought is clear.
  • coherence: The sentence seems logical and appropriate in context of other sentences.


Preferred City style for paragraphing is left-aligned, first-line-not-indented, ragged right paragraphs, single-line spacing.

A paragraph contains one main idea. Paragraphs are short and consist of four or five sentences.

When listing more than one paragraph, preferred City style is left-aligned and hanging (all lines including the first line are indented and aligned a fixed distance from the left margin).

Bullets and lists

Bullets and lists

Short bullets with few words

Heart attack symptoms include:

  • dizziness
  • shortness of breath
  • confusion
  • chest pain

More words that could stand as a phrase or sentence
Heart attacks may be caused when:

  • Congenital heart conditions are present at birth.
  • A blood clot from elsewhere in the body breaks away and travels to the heart.
  • Drug abuse, where substances like cocaine impede blood flow in the heart.


Punctuation and symbols


When feasible and technically possible, accents and other language symbols should be used when they occur in proper names, e.g. Jean Chrétien.

Accents are not required for French Canadian names like Quebec (Québec) and Montreal (Montréal) since the unaccented versions are accepted English spellings. You may wish to consider using the accented version if your document is intended for representatives of or residents in the province of Quebec.

cliché, café


City style is for the ampersand to be used only in department names and business unit names. Do not use the ampersand as a substitute for the word "and" in text, titles, headings or sub-headings. Only use the ampersand when the symbol is part of an official or proper name, publication title or entity name.

Customer Service & Communications is a City business unit.
Charlie, Susie and Tom went shopping.
The annual report of Green & Brown noted substantial profits for the year.
"The Green & Tan" and "Running & Jumping for Fun" publications sold out first.


City style is to avoid using an asterisk unless it is required in footnotes in formal documents.


With one exception, do not use the @ symbol as a substitute for the word "at." In email addresses, the symbol is an essential part of an electronic signature necessary for email to function.

You can obtain more information by emailing Sarah Gray at

Copyright and trademarks

This symbol is a sign of compliance with laws and normally appears in smaller, superscript font immediately following the end of the registered, trademarked or copyrighted word or name. Legal documents may require repeated use of the symbol, but in text for informal reading, both public and internal, City style is to avoid repeating the symbols.

City style is to use the symbol:

  • In the first prominent use, for example on banners, in document titles or Web page titles.
  • In the first use in the text of body copy.

Trade names subject to protection in Canada are normally listed in the Canadian Trade Index . Marks subject to protection in the United States appear on the site of the United States Patent & Trademark Office .

Do not follow the capitalization in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary.

Dollar sign

City writing style does not allow for a space between the dollar sign and the number.


City style is to avoid using mathematical symbols in written text unless space is at a premium, as in financial statements or tables.

Per cent (%)

The % symbol is acceptable on numerical documents where space is at a premium, such as budget documents or tables. In sentences, use the words per cent (two words). Percentage on the other hand, is one word.

The TV station said there was a 40 per cent chance of snow.
Property taxes were raised by 2.4 per cent.
The percentages were low this quarter.

Number sign

The number symbol often is used in place of the words "number" or "number of." City style is to type the words wherever possible. Exceptions might be in financial or other documents where space is limited.


  1. Apostrophe

    Apostrophes symbolize ownership or contraction — the shortening of two words into one word.

    An apostrophe plus "s" is used to form the possessive case of these nouns:

    • All singular nouns, including those ending in "s": Rachel’s car, the cat’s pajamas, Alice’s restaurant, Chris’s plants, the fox’s tail.
    • Plural nouns which do not end in "s": The People’s Court.

    An apostrophe alone is used to form the possessive case of these nouns:

    • Plural nouns ending in "s": the Jones’ house, the foxes’ tails.
    • Singular nouns that would sound awkward with another "s" added: Ulysses’ adventures, Borges’ novels.

    If two or more nouns own something, only the last noun in the list gets the apostrophe: Homer and Marge’s party. If the two nouns own separate things, however, they each take an apostrophe: We’ll go in Robert’s and Neil’s cars.

    In hyphenated words, only the last word takes an apostrophe: my brother-in-law’s boat.

    Do not use an apostrophe followed by an "s" to create the plural of acronyms (pronounceable abbreviations such as APTEA and URL) and other abbreviations.

    Mary got four As on her last report card.
    The GMs met last week. The URLs noted in the document were hard to find.
    The URLs noted in the document were hard to find.

    Possessive personal and interrogative pronouns such as yours and whose do not include apostrophes, but possessive indefinite pronouns such as anyone’s and each other’s do.

    Apostrophes indicate two words condensed into one.

    How’ve you been lately?
    I’m doing just fine.
    I’ll be going now.

    Apostrophes indicate a short form of a word plus the words "not," "is" or "has."

    Why can’t we drive down this road?
    He hadn’t remembered an umbrella.
    She’s decided to run for office this year.

    Apostrophes also are used to indicate missing letters in a word where space is limited.

    Int’l phone number: 2890-3655-3215.
    Gov’t contacts are listed above.

  2. Colon

    A colon causes a reader to come to a full stop in reading. City style is to use a colon before a series of items that need to be perceived as a group or are related to one another.

    The grocery list included: milk, eggs, butter and ham.

    Agenda items for today’s meeting will cover:

    • Starting times for regular meetings.
    • What attendees should bring to the meeting.
    • How often meetings are needed.

    The shopping list included:

    • green eggs
    • ham
    • milk

    It is preferrable to lower case the word following a colon.

    Please note: it's easy to slip on ice in the winter.

  3. Comma

    Like a colon, a comma causes a reader to pause, but more briefly than a colon. City style is to use a comma whenever the writer thinks it makes sense for the reader to pause in order to improve understanding:

    Yesterday I walked, ran and jumped for exercise. Although running seemed like a good idea at the time, I ended up with sore feet, stiff ankles and a throbbing big toe.

    Comma use in series: City style does not use a comma before the word "and" in a series of items:

    Tomorrow I plan on exercising, cooking, doing the laundry and resting. Yesterday we played cards, rode bikes, hiked and played tennis.

    Comma use in quotations: The comma that sets off a quotation from the rest of the sentence should precede and where needed, close the quotation:

    She wanted to say, "Yesterday I jogged a mile, played tennis and continued work on my project," but before she could complete the sentence, the bell rang.

    The closing punctuation in a quotation, such as commas, periods or question marks, should precede the last quotation mark, without a space in between the mark and the last quotation symbol:

    He suggested, "You may want to work on this project first," and then continued, "And if you encounter problems, give me a phone call."

  4. Dashes

    Long dash (—)

    A long dash is used to reflect enthusiasm, emphasize subsequent content or suggest a pause. It can make a complicated thought more easily understood. City style leaves a space before and after a long dash for ease in reading.

    I began my speech — but everyone was napping!

    If a less emphatic tone is appropriate, evaluate whether other punctuation such as a comma, or two separate sentences, would better reflect the intended spirit of the sentence.

    Hyphen (–)

    City style does not insert a space before and after a hyphen. Hyphens are short horizontal dashes. They are used to link two parts of a word together or to form a compound word from two different words. They are also used to clarify meaning:

    high-tech; service-oriented; hide-and-seek; used-car salesman (a salesman of used cars); one-of-a-kind

  5. Exclamation mark

    City style is to use exclamation points rarely in public City communication materials. The preferred tone for City public information is neutral, reliable and accurate rather than emotional or promotional. Because exclamation points suggest a subjective feeling (urgency, emotion) their use doesn't reflect City style. In particular, avoided using an exclamation mark when writing for online readers.

    For internal communication, use the symbol in moderation if urgency or enthusiasm is important to an informal message you are trying to convey. Overuse can create the impression that the writer is imposing their opinion of what is important on readers.

  6. Period
    City style is to keep sentences short — 10 or 12 words maximum. A period causes a reader to come to a full stop. Short sentences support clear expression, faster reading and easier understanding.
  7. Quotation marks

    Use full quotation marks (") to start and end all quotations. Only use half quotation marks (‘) when a quote appears within another quote.

    The comma that sets off a quotation from the rest of the sentence should precede and follow the quotation. The closing punctuation in a quotation, such as periods or question marks, should precede the last quotation mark.

    When asked what his favourite quotation was, John F. Kennedy replied, "I think ‘Play it again, Sam!’ has a nice ring to it."
    "I want a new bike," said Betty. "Should I hold my breath until I get one?"

  8. Semicolon
    A semicolon ties together two related thoughts or a series of related phrases. City style avoids semicolons wherever possible because they tend to create overly long sentences. Writers improve readability by using two separate sentences, instead of stringing items together with a semicolon.

  9. Slash

    Use a slash to separate alternatives, such as "and/or" or "neither/nor," but use a hyphen between separate but related elements, such as "secretary-treasurer" or "comedy-tragedy." A slash also can replace the word "per" in measurements and can separate the numerator and denominator of a fraction.

    As per the request of the secretary-treasurer, members ordered 1/2 of their uniforms from Sears/J.C. Penney's.


    • Don't use a space on either side of the slash
      (e.g. dog/cat not dog / cat).

Font types

Font types

Bold type

Use bold type sparingly for emphasis in text headings or sub-headings. Avoid peppering paragraphs with words bolded for emphasis because it slows down reading speed.

Overuse of bolding also implies that the writer does not think readers are intelligent enough to determine for themselves what is important.

This is especially important when writing for online use, where readers try to scan quickly rather than read normally.

Italic type

For clarity in text, use italics for titles of City documents, or compositions, including books, movies and songs. Do not use quotation marks around such titles. Do not use italics or quotation marks around names of newspapers, magazines, reference books, catalogues or the Bible.

Underlined type

Avoid underlining type because it makes text harder to read. Reading eye movement stops at any horizontal line.

As well, in online text underlined words usually signify a hyperlink, so do not underline for emphasis.

Footers - external and internal

Public/external correspondence

City style for public/external correspondence is to begin numbering correspondence that has more than one page, starting on the second page. Second and subsequent pages should have headers or footers that identify:

At left: The name of the recipient.
Centre: Page number.
At right: Date of correspondence.

For reasons of information security and professional appearance, internal file location information is not appropriate information for use on public correspondence or documents.

Footer content for multi-page public documents, such as reports, should at minimum identify:

At left: The name of the document.
Centre: Page number of # pages.
At right: Date of publication.

Footers - internal documents

To support ease in tracking versions of changing internal documents, City style is to include certain information on the bottom of each page, in the footer. Including the electronic file name or additional information that supports tracking and document location, is optional. Using the Microsoft "Find" function to locate a document helps avoid cluttering page footers with lengthy file location addresses.

Internal document footers should contain at least the following information in eight-point Arial or Helvetica type:

At bottom left:
First line: Date and time.
Second line: File name and path.

At bottom right:
First line: Author name.
Second line: Page x of y.

Footers - reports and special documents

Footer requirements for reports and special documents may vary with the nature of the content. If you are uncertain of format, please check with the office for whom you are preparing the document.

Writing in City Style


City style is to avoid unnecessary capitalization. This helps create a more friendly and informal tone of communication.

In body copy, headlines, subheads, etc., the first letter of the initial word is capitalized (or upper case), followed by lower case.

Write: Council plans three key initiatives.
Do not write: Council Plans Three Key Initiatives or COUNCIL PLANS THREE KEY INITIATIVES

There will be obvious exceptions where proper names, proper program names, etc., are uppercase (e.g. Calgary Police Service tips for safe driving).

  1. City names

    Municipal government's formal and legal name


    • The formal legal name of Calgary’s municipal government ("The Corporation of The City of Calgary") - in first reference in formal or legal documents.
    • The City of Calgary or The City or The Corporation in second reference or in informal use.
    • The city (lower case) when referring to the community.
      (e.g. I work for The City. I moved to the city in 1981.)
    • The corporation (lower case) when referring to Calgary's local government as a generic entity or to corporation/organizations other than Calgary's municipal government.
      (e.g. The City of Calgary is one of many Canadian municipal corporations.)

    City Council and Administration

    When referring to:

    • The body of elected officials of Calgary’s local government or another municipality’s governing group, use only Council (capitalized).
      • Use lower case when referring to the term city council in a generic sense.
    • The civic administrative group, use only Administration (capitalized).

    City departments, business units and divisions

    Capitalize the names of one-of-a-kind City groups.

    Calgary Transit is a business unit in the Transportation department.

    Do not capitalize the words "department," "division" or "business unit" unless they begin a sentence, title, heading or sub-heading.

  2. Government terms

    The words provinceprovincialfederal and government are used when referring to government agencies.

    Use upper case only when they form part of a formal title.

    Last year we promoted Province of Alberta Millenium bonds.

    Use lower case when the words appear as adjectives describing an administrative level of government or a geographical area.

    The report outlined provincial bond regulations in Alberta.
    We vacationed this year in the province of Alberta and hope to visit the province of Ontario next summer.

  3. Headings and titles
    • In general, use upper and lower case for words that form a sentence (e.g. Council plans three initiatives).
    • It’s permissible to upper case the first letters of words, proper nouns, official programs, etc., when used as a title (e.g. Winter/Fall/Activities).
    • Use all capitals sparingly (e.g. WINTER/FALL/ACTIVITIES).
      Note: we do capitalize all letters when we use The City’s name as a word mark: THE CITY OF CALGARY.

    City publications

    Capitalize only the first letter of the first word and any proper nouns used in the title. This includes books, reports, brochures, posters, newspaper and magazine articles. 

  4. Job and position titles

    Capitalize the position titles of individuals when a job title precedes a person’s name.

    Customer Service Representative John Doe . . .
    Mary became known as Alderman Brown when she joined Council seven years ago.

    Use lower case when a job title follows the name or is used without an individual's name.

    John Doe, customer service representative . . .
    Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty, both vice presidents, stayed on the board.
    Mary Brown is a Calgary alderman.

    Capitalize honourific terms of protocol.

    Your Highness . . . His Worship . . . Her Honour . . .

    Capitalize titles that use acting or designate.

    Acting Board Chairman Al Smith was a planner before joining the company.
    He was met by Prime Minister-designate John Smith.

  5. Proper names

    Capitalize all proper names, trade names, names of government departments and agencies, association names, companies, clubs, religions, languages, nations, races, places. Otherwise, use lower case whenever a reasonable option exists.

    Capitalize common nouns (e.g. ocean, base, drive, church, department) only when they are part of a formal name (e.g. Atlantic Ocean, Catholic Church). Use lower case for the common nouns in plural uses (e.g. Atlantic and Pacific oceans).


Honourary terms

In general public writing, the terms Right Honourable and Honourable are not normally used unless they appear in a direct quotation or as a proper title. However, these honourary titles may be used as signs of respect on official City of Calgary proclamations, letters and other formal documents.

Academic titles

Titles of academic degrees and academic institutions often are abbreviated and may use both capitals and lower case letters.

e.g. PhD., B.Comm., B.Sc., M.Sc., B.Nursing, M. Nursing, BA, MA, MBA, MACT, PhD., OBE, SJ, VC, P.Eng.

Courtesy titles

In general, avoid using courtesy titles such as Mrs., Ms. and Mr. in written materials. The reason for this is that, historically, such titles referred to a person’s marital status. Changing times have made this less relevant.

Such titles in speeches, opening remarks and letters may be used as a sign of courtesy.


City style uses the Canadian Oxford Dictionary (second edition) and the Canadian Press Caps and Spelling (17th edition) as its primary spelling sources. The Oxford takes precedence if sources conflict.

General Rules

Use the Canadian-British "-our" spellings for words having more than one syllable.

rumour, neighbour, endeavour, honour, favour, behaviour, humour, colour

City style is to hyphenate words that have double vowels.

co-ordinate, co-operate, re-emerge

Use the "-re" spelling for words that are not part of a proper name.

centre, kilometre, Rockefeller Center

Choosing the right tone and style

Written and verbal City communications are important parts of how we engage citizens. Our style and tone should be appropriate to the type of conversation we’re having and with whom we’re having it. It helps to remember that we’re communicating with citizens, not at them.

There are some cases — public notices, for example — when legal requirements dictate a very formal style of writing. However, most City communication is information-based and is not bound to a legalistic, impersonal messaging style. Writing in plain language builds clarity and understanding of messages.

Using the identity matrix tool to plan your writing will save you time and help make sure your intended message is received. While all City communication must convey a sense of professionalism and responsibility, some simple style and tone guidelines can help make communication more friendly and local government seem more approachable.

Pretend you are the reader/viewer

Picture how your messages look and sound to your audiences. Communicate about what’s of most interest and significance to them. Frame all messages in terms of how citizens may be affected by City activities and services.

Simplify and focus messages and language

Although effective writing techniques vary somewhat from one medium to another, one technique applies to all: make it as easy as possible for your readers/viewers/listeners to get your message. They shouldn’t have to work — or think — very hard to understand it! Visuals — from photos to the use of type and white space - as well as copy, should direct the audience to the core message about the subject at hand.

Limit the number of main thoughts in any paragraph to one per paragraph. And make sure there is a focus, a key message, on every "page" or unit of communications, be it on the Web, in a brochure, a radio message or a newspaper ad.

"We" are speaking with "you"

Write and speak from the first person plural — (we) are having a conversation with the second person (you and your neighbours).

For example:

At The City of Calgary, we’re introducing a new program to help you recycle your old computer terminals.

It’s much friendlier, more inclusive, more direct and compelling than saying the same thing in the third person:

The City of Calgary is introducing a new program to help citizens recycle old computer terminals.