1. Figures_ Numbers_ and Amounts

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					               CAP Style-checking
CAP Section, OCHA

1.   FIGURES, NUMBERS, AND AMOUNTS ............................................................................................... 1
2.   PUNCTUATION, DATES, FOOTNOTES, CAPITALISATION, AND LISTS ..................................... 1
3.   UNITED NATIONS LANGUAGE ............................................................................................................. 5
4.   ACRONYMS AND ABBREVIATIONS IN TEXTS ................................................................................. 5

1.1   Spell out numbers from zero to ten. Use digits for numbers 11 and greater. When
      there is one of each, for instance two to twelve, use digit numbers i.e. 2-12 (in
      spreadsheet) or 2 to 12 (in text). If a sentence begins with a number, you can spell it
      out even if it‘s greater than ten (e.g. ―Twelve sectors are presented in this CAP‖) – but
      use judgement if the number doesn‘t look right spelled out (e.g. ―Ten million, five
      hundred and ninety-nine thousand, two hundred and seventy-two refugees have been
      registered‖ ).

1.2   3,000 is the correct way to write numbers. 3‘000, 3 000, 3.000 or 3000 are wrong.

1.3   Decimals are separated with a dot, like this: 2,450.55 or 24.7%.

1.4   Million or billion should be spelled out: 24.7 million. They are always singular.

1.5   Re dollar signs: US$13,000 the first time (followed by the standard footnote) and then
      $3,000 (i.e. dollar sign without ―US‖) everywhere else in the document. The standard
      footnote is:
      1All dollar signs in this document denote United States dollars. Funding for this appeal should be reported to the
      Financial Tracking Service (FTS,, which will display its requirements and funding on the current
      appeals page.

Use the ―find and replace‖ function to change ―USD‖, ―dollars‖, ―3,000$‖ or ―US$‖ to ―$‖.

1.6   When reviewing the doc, highlight in yellow any amount denoted in currencies other
      than US dollars. FTS reviewers will convert the figure to $ equivalent.

1.7   Percentages should always be in digit figures (i.e. 5%, not five percent or five %).
      There is no space between the figure and % (5%). Use find and replace to eliminate
      the spaces.


2.1   Headings and sub-headings have no punctuation at the end (no period or colon). For
      all headings, use normal sentence case (only capitalise first letter of first word, plus
      proper nouns). Some of our heading styles use ALL CAPS or SMALL CAPS, but that is
      a font command, so you still need to impose the sentence case (OTHERWISE IT LOOKS

2.2   Two spaces after a period (full stop). Like this. Not like this. (You can change all
      single spaces after periods to double spaces by using the ―find & replace‖ function,
      but afterwards you need to check for things like 23. 47% or two spaces after i. e., e.
      g. and etc. Also, after finding & replacing one space with two, be sure to find &
      replace three spaces with two.)

2.3   There is never a space before a colon or semi-colon. (Use ‗find and replace‘ to
      eliminate all such spaces.)

2.4   In normal text, a colon joins two separate complete sentences into one. Therefore,
      the word that follows a colon should not be capitalised (unless it is a proper noun or
      acronym). However, in UN writing, fragmentary phrases followed by a colon are often
      used as headings, or to introduce a list. In these cases, you can follow the colon with
      a capital letter if it starts a complete sentence. For example –

Water-sanitation activities: The wat-san sector will undertake a broad variety of actions to
ensure access to potable water. The first priority will be drilling boreholes…

2.5    If the colon introduces a list, it‘s better not to capitalise if the items on the list are
       sentence fragments rather than complete phrases. Example—

The following are main issues in the health sector:
       teenagers using intravenous drugs;
       TB vaccinations for adolescents;
       polio risk in some parts of the highlands;
       gender-based violence.

2.6   Items in a bulleted list should end with a semi-colon (except the last, which always
        ends with a dot), and start with a lower-case letter (except proper nouns and
        acronyms), IF the items are sentence fragments, as in the example above. Another

The Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) is responsible for the coordination of all humanitarian
action, with OCHA serving as the coordination secretariat. Primary activities are:
     maintaining a dialogue with the Government to ensure an effective framework of
      cooperation, in particular concerning operational modalities;
     ensuring that UN agencies enhance and coordinate advocacy, contingency planning,
      needs assessments, and programme design, implementation, monitoring, and
      evaluation; and
     fostering greater engagement by organisations already in-country and the arrival of
      additional organisations, in particular NGOs.

However, if each bullet point contains one or more complete sentences (as often happens in
CAP writing), it is awkward to have the point end in a semi-colon. Just use a period instead,
and capitalise in normal sentence mode. Example—

The Special Envoy made the following points:
    Humanitarian action is essential. Moreover, it needs to be fully funded, and to have
     complete access.
    Political action is almost as important. All Security Council members should press for
     a political settlement.
    When the reconstruction period begins, programmes will have to be revised.

2.7   When one of the points of an enumeration contains another enumeration in it, convert
       the second enumeration into a continuous phrase instead using of sub-bullets. For
       example, do not allow the following:

      Fruits;
      Vegetables, including:
                             Cauliflowers;
                             Carrots;
                             Aubergines.

Instead, change to this:

      fruits;
      vegetables, including cauliflowers, carrots and aubergines.

2.8    DATE FORMAT: ―May 1‖ or ―1 May 2004‖ or ―1-10 May 2004‖ (for tables), or ―from 1
        to 10 May‖ (to use in the body of the text). Never ―1.5.04‖ or ―24th July.‖

DATE ORDER: Putting the number first and the month name second is not very elegant in
English; it sounds mechanical or bureaucratic. But its purpose is to avoid the repetitive
commas which are necessitated when the year is included. For example, this is what we
want to avoid: ―After the ceasefire which started on May 24, 2009, IDPs started returning.‖
The sentence flows better without the extra comma: ―After the ceasefire which started on 24
May 2009, IDPs started returning.‖ But when there is no year mentioned, and therefore no
need for a second comma, let‘s use the more elegant form of month and then date: ―The IDP
returns reached their peak on May 31, just a week after the ceasefire.‖

Days and years are written in figures; months are spelled out with the first letter capitalized.

2.9     Remarks or footnotes referring to a table or box should sit immediately below the
        table concerned. Do not insert a footnote using Word‘s footnote function.     For

              The following are main findings of nutrition assessment:*

              (a) One million young children chronically malnourished;
              (b) 40,000 young children acutely malnourished.

             *The Government -UNICEF-WFP, May 2004.

2.10    Footnote references should follow the sentence‘s period (full stop) without a space, or
        if in the middle of the sentence, follow the last letter of the word without a space. Like
        this.1 Not like this2.

2.11    The words ―government‖, ―ministry‖, ―president‖, ―republic‖ begin with a capital letter if
        they are used to qualify a specific person or a recognised government. Hence, like
        this: President Karzai; the Liberian Government. But: ―a strong government is not
        necessarily the most democratic‖.

2.12 Put a capital ―C‖ and ―A‖ on the words ―consolidated appeal‖ only if they refer to a
specific publication: for example – ―The Burundi Consolidated Appeal 2007 is the best yet…‖
But also: ―The country team decided to do a consolidated appeal for the following year.‖

2.13    Seasons: winter, spring, summer, fall are generally not capitalized.

2.14 Compass points: north, south, east and west are not capitalised unless they form a
proper place name. Hence, this would be correct: ―The worst-affected populations are in the
north of the country, especially in North Kivu Province and Equatorial Province.‖
Combinations of compass points should be hyphenated: for example, north-east, south-

2.15 Foreign words should be in italics, unless it is a person‘s or place‘s name. (Thus:
―The Cruz Vermelha do Timor-Leste, in its annual meeting in Baucau Province, made an ad
hoc decision to appoint Mr. Gastão its chairman.‖)

2.16 Metre (and kilometre): a metre is a length of measure. A meter is an instrument
(like thermometer). Spell out metre in running text or for nonspecific use. Ex.: ―The nearest
water supply is several kilometres away.‖ In tables or limited space, use abbreviation and
numerals (including 1 to 9), no space separating – i.e., ―12km; a 3m-high fence.‖

2.17 The style checker must spell-check each document as a rule. To make sure the
spellcheck is turned on, click select all, click tools – languages – set language, set all to
English U.K., and make sure the box for ―do not check spelling or grammar‖ is NOT checked.

2.18   HYPHENATION: Hyphens serve to link a noun and a gerund, or an adjective/adverb
       and a noun, into an adjectival expression. The same two words are not hyphenated if
       they are not jointly serving as an adjective. Hence, ―CAP Section‘s long-term office
       space plan is to eject AO completely, but in the short term, we will be content to
       merely reclaim the third floor.‖

Hyphens also remove ambiguity. Compare:
      The minister’s one man attempts to overthrow the government...
      The minister’s one-man attempts to overthrow the government...

A compound formed of two nouns is usually not hyphenated. For example: food insecurity;
aid dependence. (But, if the second word is an adjective not a noun, it should be
hyphenated: food-insecure people, aid-dependent people.)

Common expressions that should always be hyphenated:
    mid-year; mid-October; mid-anything;
    life-saving;
    cyclone-affected people, or drought-affected areas, or conflict-affected people;
    child-headed;
    child-friendly;
    capacity-building (as either a noun or an adjectival phrase);
    self-reliance;
    food-insecure (but, the compound noun form is without hyphen: food insecurity);
    age- and gender-disaggregated percentage;
    psycho-social (often misspelled as psychosocial)
    income-generating (but, the compound noun form is without hyphen: income

TIP: you can use find & replace to correct a recurring phrase in a document, like replacing
―drought affected‖ to ―drought-affected.‖

Do not hyphenate after -ly adverbs: “a firmly established rule.” Do not hyphenate
prepositional verbs: “OCHA set up a task force.”

2.19 Double-check removal of tracked changes. In the final document, tracked changes
should be removed (Attention: RR and EU).

2.20   Project summaries (if we ever still use the old Word format)

 Appealing Agency              FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION (FAO)
 Project Title                 Xxxxxxx
 Project Code                  xxxx

    Sector                   Xxxxxxx
    Objective                Xxxxxx
    Beneficiaries            TOTAL:        persons
                             Children:              Women:
                             Other group (specify):
    Implementing Partners    xxxxxx
    Project Duration         xxxxxxx
    Total Project Budget     $xxxxxxxxx
    Funds Requested for 2009 $xxxxxx
    Contact e-mail

        Appealing Agency(ies) names are always written in CAPITAL LETTERS and are
         always followed by their acronyms if they have one.
        ―Agency‖, ―Sector‖, ―Objective‖ and ―Implementing Partner‖ should be put in the plural
         if there are several of them or singular if only one.
        Ensure that the total of beneficiaries is followed by persons (i.e. ―Total: 2,000


3.1      Country names: use full country name on first reference (e.g., the United Republic of
         Tanzania); short form thereafter, where applicable. Formal names (e.g., the Great
         Socialist People‘s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) are rarely required in everyday reporting.
         Follow rules on abbreviation for countries or territories commonly abbreviated – e.g.,
         DPRK, DRC, OPT; UK and US may be used as adjectives. When listing several
         countries in running text, order alphabetically.

3.2      ERC: Emergency Relief Coordinator, head of the IASC, involving key UN and non-
         UN Humanitarian partners. ERC is the appropriate title for the head of OCHA in his
         broad role in the international humanitarian community. See: USG.

3.3      OCHA: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. OCHA is the preferred
         acronym, no UNOCHA, UN OCHA, or UN OCHA.

3.4      Ton: Ton not tonne (even for metric tons).

3.5      UK English: CAPs should conform to UK English spelling: e.g. -re (theatre, centre); -
         our (coloured, neighbour); double L (travelled, cancelled), etc. Always use “yse” not
         “yze”, e.g. catalyse, paralyse, analyse. With ―-ize / -ise‖, use “ize” or “ization” e.g.
         “organize,” “organization,” “memorization.” These are now accepted in UK
         English. (The exception is ―advertise,‖ which is never spelled with a z. Also, respect
         the official spelling of organization names that may choose to use z or s.)

3.6      USG: The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs is the head of OCHA
         and leader of the Executive Committee on Humanitarian Affairs. USG is the
         appropriate title for the head of OCHA when referring to matters within the context of
         the UN Secretariat. See: ERC.


4.1      Acronyms should be spelled out the first time, and then used as acronyms onward.
         For example, “World Food Programme (WFP).” The exception is that in the

      Executive Summary: because it must be fluent and persuasive, the style checker may
      use judgment in leaving well-known acronyms like UNICEF, especially where they
      appear in a string, so as not to make the summary too wordy and chopped up with

      Here is an example that should be avoided: ―An inter-agency Humanitarian
      Coordination Group (HCG) which includes members of the United Nations Country
      Team (UNCT), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations
      Children‘s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), World Food
      Programme (WFP), World Health Organization (WHO), International Organization for
      Migration (IOM), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and
      international and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Cooperative
      for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE), Caritas, Christian Children‘s Fund
      (CCF), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Cruz Vermelha do Timor-Leste /Timor-Leste
      Red Cross (CVTL), and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent
      Societies (IFRC), OXFAM, Plan International, and World Vision, was established to
      plan and coordinate humanitarian assistance activities.‖

      That‘s one sentence!

4.2   There is no point in using acronyms when a phrase appears only once or twice in the
      whole document.

4.3   Treat UN like any other acronym: spell out United Nations (UN) during the first
      instance (except the executive summary, if the text flows better with the acronym),
      then UN throughout.

4.4   Also, use judgment about changing a sentence that has too many acronyms: ―The
      MoH and MDM collaborated on a PSEA and PEP programme for victims of SGBV at
      risk of STIs like HIV/AIDS.‖

4.5   Use English acronyms for documents written in English. Be aware of documents in
      French-speaking countries because WHO may be written as OMS and UNDP as
      PNUD, etc.

4.6   When there is an official translation, put the full original-language name in italics
      followed by the translation and acronym in brackets like this: Plan National de
      Désarmement, de Démobilisation et de Réinsertion/Réhabilitation Communautaire
      (The National Programme for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Rehabilitation -
      PNDDR). Don‘t bother to provide a translation if it‘s obvious (like Plan National du

4.7   Acronyms of words in plural forms should be put in plural when necessary: one
      sexually transmitted infection (STI) but many sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
      There should be no apostrophe for plurals of acronyms (i.e. STIs, not STI‘s). You can
      use an apostrophe for the possessive of an acronym (e.g. ―This NGO‘s speciality is
      water and sanitation.‖)

4.8   Capitalise the first letter of each word in an acronym ONLY for proper nouns (i.e.
      Names of Persons, Place, Programme, Organization, etc). Do not capitalize generic
      organization types.

For example:
     Bulungu Women‘s Health Association (BWHA);
     But, community-based organisations (CBOs) and not Community-Based
      Organisations (CBOs).

Also, commonly repeated phrases may merit an acronym but usually not capitalisation:
sexually transmitted infection (STI) rather than Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI); acute
respiratory infection (ARI) rather than Acute Respiratory Infection; geographic information
system (GIS); information and communications technology (ICT); information management
(IM), etc.

4.9    It is not necessary to spell out certain well-known acronyms (e.g. NGO, HIV/AIDS,
       UK, USA, etc). They should however be present in the acronyms list.

4.10   Avoid unnecessary two-letter acronyms (e.g. HH – households, HR – human

5.     OTHER

5.1    ‗Persons‘ is not a word. In English, the plural of person is ‗people.‘ Replace all.

The style checker‘s role is to ensure that the above rules are fully implemented. Should s/he
have other improvements to suggest for a specific document s/he works on, s/he will
highlight the concerned document part and propose a change, without deleting the original
sentence. Also, should s/he find issues that are beyond style checking, s/he should
highlight those and inform the team captain accordingly. The style checker should refrain
from making any changes beyond the present guide, unless specifically asked to do so by
his/her team captain, or the Section Chief.

CAP Section
Monday, 11 October 2010