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Spelling and punctuation quick guide

This page contains common errors and questions of spelling and punctuation.

Follow the Australian Government Style ManualExternal Link . It has useful guidance on:

Use the Macquarie Dictionary for spelling, hyphenation and capitalisation decisions.

Update August 2022: times and measurements take a non-breaking space between the numeral and am/pm or the unit of measurement, as per the Style Manual.
  • The VGLS provides a Macquarie Dictionary online subscription to all employees.

    To access the subscription, you will need to register for a VGLS account.

    1. Go to the Victorian Government Library Service websiteExternal Link and register as a new user.
    2. Return to the homepage and look for the heading 'Key Resource Links' in the middle column of the page.
    3. Click the dropdown and select Macquarie Dictionary and click the Go button.
    4. After you're taken to the Macquarie Dictionary website, bookmark this URL.

    It's useful to have the 'Did you mean' checkbox ticked to make your search results wider.


Use sentence case in headings (a capital letter on the first word only, unless later words are proper nouns) but title case for legislation.

Avoid using ALL CAPS as it's bad for accessibility.


Avoid using italics. Use title case for acts (legislation) and other publications.

Lists (bullets)

No end punctuation on list items that are fragments (the new Style Manual includes a full stop on the last item).

List items that are full sentences should have sentence punctuation.


Use numerals (NOT words) for numbers in text (most of the time) because it's easier to read on a screen.

  • Exceptions:
    • Always use words for one and zero as the numerals 0 and 1 may be confused for letters.
    • Don't use a numeral at the start of a sentence.
    • Use words for ordinal numbers up to ninth, then numerals.
    • Use words for fractions.
  • Examples: 19th century; 2 or 3 of them; 1.5 million; a quarter; 1,234,567.

Use a non-breaking space between a number and abbreviated units of measurementExternal Link (eg 100 km, 10 cm)

TimesExternal Link : 2 pm, 2:30 pm, 12 noon, 12 midnight (ideally use a non-breaking space)

No punctuation in dates; dates should be ordered day, month, year (eg Monday 1 January 2020).

Phone numbers: 03 9600 1234 (hyperlink using the code "tel:0396001234" with no spaces).


Single quotesExternal Link (NOT double quotes)

Dashes can affect readability when used in a span. In general text, it's better to use phrases (eg I want to go away for 2 to 3 days.)

Spaced ellipses ( ... )

Don't use ampersand in sentences unless part of an organisation's name. Limit their use in headings (page titles and table headings are sometimes OK).


Check any spelling you are unsure of with the Macquarie Dictionary.

Here are some commonly misspelled words/terms:




child care

decision-making (n & adj)





statewide (adj)



the state

time frame (2 words)

Victorian public sector


whole-of-government (adj)

Reviewed 22 August 2022

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