Terms and phrases

Use consistent terms and phrases to help users find what they need.


Only use abbreviations of general terms if the abbreviation is the clearer and more common form.

See also guidance on abbreviating numbers and measures.

Example of


  • Ms — instead of Miss/Mistress or Mrs/Misses
  • Mr — instead of Mister
  • Pty Ltd — instead of Proprietary Limited

Honours, awards and distinctions

Abbreviate honours, awards and distinctions without full stops.

Example of

abbreviating honours, awards and distinctions

  • AO (Officer of the Order of Australia)
  • OM (Member of the Order of Merit)
  • BA (Bachelor of Arts)
  • DipEd (Diploma of Education)
  • PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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States and territories

Use the names of states and territories in full.

Use contractions and acronyms if space is limited (for example, a table) or to avoid lengthy repetitions.

Use alphabetical order by default. There may be some cases when ordering by another factor, like population size, might be better for the user.

Example of

writing the names of states and territories

  • Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
  • New South Wales (NSW)
  • Northern Territory (NT)
  • Queensland (Qld)
  • South Australia (SA)
  • Tasmania (Tas.)
  • Victoria (Vic.)
  • Western Australia (WA)

State and territory governments

Capitalise the formal state or territory government title only.

Example of

referring to state and territory governments

  • ACT Government
  • Government of South Australia
  • Government of Victoria
  • Government of Western Australia
  • NSW Government
  • Northern Territory Government
  • Queensland Government
  • Tasmanian Government
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Acronyms and initialisms

Acronyms are terms that are comprised of initial letters that can be pronounced as a word.

  • Qantas
  • Anzac
  • TAFE

Initialisms are terms comprised of initial letters that are pronounced individually.

  • ABC
  • GST
  • NDIS

Initialisms are commonly misunderstood to be acronyms.

Writing acronyms and initialisms

Only use an acronym or initialism when:

  • you need to refer to a term more than once
  • it will make content easier to understand

When writing an acronym or initialism:

  • write the term in full the first time you use it
  • follow this with the acronym or initialism in parentheses
  • use only the acronym or initialism in subsequent mentions
Example of


Welcome to the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA). The DTA exists to make it easy for people to deal with government, by helping government transform services to be simple, clear and fast.

But you don’t need to write the full term if it is well known to an Australian audience.

  • NSW
  • ABC

If you are writing for an international audience, use the general rule for writing the term in full the first time it is used.

Don’t use full stops or spaces in acronyms or initialisms.

  • ATM — not A.T.M. or A T M

When using an acronym or initialism for the name of an organisation, check with that organisation (for example, using its website or annual report) to ensure you are using it correctly.

Acronyms that are accepted as words

Some acronyms are words in general usage. In these cases, you don’t need to write the full term.

Write these acronyms with an initial capital letter when they are proper names of things.

  • Anzac
  • Qantas

Write these acronyms in lower case when they are commonly accepted words.

  • scuba
  • radar
  • laser

Function words in acronyms and initialisms

Generally, write acronyms and initialisms without the initial letters for function words such as ‘of’, ‘and’ or ‘the’.

  • ABS
  • NGA

Sometimes initial letters for minor words are used when they make acronyms or initialisms easier to say or understand. In most cases, write these as capital letters.

  • COAG
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Australian Government

Use ‘Australian Government’ when talking about the national government of Australia. Don’t use ‘Government’, ‘Commonwealth Government’ or ‘federal government’.

Only use the ‘Commonwealth of Australia’ when talking about the legal entity established by the Constitution.

Only capitalise ‘government’, ‘group’, ‘parliament’, ‘state’ and ‘territory’ in a formal title.

Also see guidance on capitalising legislation and government publications.

Example of

referring to the Australian Government

The Australian Government welcomed the delegates.

The delegates were pleased that the government had welcomed them.

When referring to the Australian Government as part of a group of governments, set it apart.

Example of

referring to the Australian Government as part of a group of government

Like this:

Australian Government and state and territory governments.

Not this:

Australian and state and territory governments.

Legislation, acts and other publications

Use title case for titles of publications, policies, programs, books, films, photographs, TV programs, paintings, songs and albums.

Capitalise the principal words only. Exceptions are when the title begins with a, for, on, to and so on.

Example of

different kinds of titles

Government terms

Example of

other government terms

  • the Cabinet
  • the Treasury
  • Parliament House — use ‘the House’ when referring to either parliamentary chamber
  • the Budget, budget provisions, the budgetary process, successive budgets
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Use the most recent edition of the Macquarie Dictionary, and the first option listed.

Set your spell checker to Australian English.

If you are using Microsoft Word, set it to English UK rather than American English.

Use the spelling organisations use for their own names.

Example of

using US spelling for organisations

World Health Organization

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Digital terms

  • blog post
  • email
  • ezine
  • e-learning
  • HTML
  • homepage
  • internet — not the Internet
  • intranet — not the Intranet
  • online
  • PDF
  • standalone
  • sub-site
  • text message — not SMS
  • URL
  • web — not the Web or World Wide Web
  • web page
  • website
  • wi-fi — not wifi, WiFi or Wi-fi
  • world wide web
  • XML

Sign in versus log in

Consider using ‘sign in’ and ‘sign out’ (note, no hyphen) instead of ‘log in’ or ‘log out’ in text, links and buttons.

‘Sign in’ seems to be becoming a more recognisable call to action than ‘log in’. But you should test this with the user.

Guidance on buttons and labels is available in the Design System documentation.

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Government departments

Write the government department’s name in full on first mention and then as ‘the department’.

Use first-person pronouns through the rest of the text: we, us.

Example of

referring to a government departments

The Department for Communication and the Arts is the Australian Government’s leading adviser on communications.

The department is based in Canberra.

We are responsible for …

When naming other departments, use the name in full followed by the acronym in brackets.

Example of

using department acronyms

We worked closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

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Ministers, senators and MPs

Refer to ministers in the Australian Government by their full title in the first instance, and then as the Minister.

Example of

referring to Australian Government ministers

The Honourable Minister for Education, Jane Bloggs, opened the school. The Minister left after morning tea.

Refer to senators by their full title in the first instance, and then by ‘Senator’ and their surname.

Example of

referring to senators

If the senator is serving as a minister:

Senator the Honourable Jane Bloggs, Minister for Education, opened the school. Senator Bloggs left after morning tea.

If the senator has never been a minister:

Senator Jane Bloggs opened the school. Senator Bloggs left after morning tea.

For members of parliament who have never been ministers, refer to them by their full title in the first instance, and then by using Mr or Ms and their surname.

Example of

referring to members of parliament

Ms Jane Bloggs MP visited the school. Ms Bloggs left after morning tea.

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Preferred spellings


Use adviser — not advisor.

Example of

using adviser

We are an adviser to government.

Effect and affect

‘Effect’ is a generally a noun. ‘Affect’ is a verb.

Example of

effect and affect

The training has had an effect on performance. The training has started to affect the team’s performance.


Use focused — not focussed.

Example of


We are focused on user needs.


Use program — not programme.

Use programme if it is part of a proper noun, for example the title of an existing program or legislation.

New programs should use the ‘program’ spelling.

Example of

using program

  • program of events
  • South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (Privileges and Immunities) Regulations 1996
  • Corrosion Prevention and Control Program

User-centred design

Hyphenate user-centred design.

Example of

writing user-centred design in a sentence

Our focus is user-centred design.

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