Entries - A

a lot

Two words.

Note: See this enlightening cartoon on the subject.

grammar, spelling

a or an before H?

Use an before a silent H: an heir, an hour, an honest politician, an honorary consul; use a before an aspirated H: a hero, a hotel, a historian (but don't change a direct quote if the speaker says, for example, "an historic"). With abbreviations, be guided by pronunciation: an LSE student, a CERN student


abbreviations and acronyms

Do not use full points in abbreviations, or spaces between initials, including those in proper names:

US, eg, 4am, M&S, WE Weber, WH Smith, etc.


absolute zero

Not "the absolute zero".

-273.15°C or 0 K.

The apparatus was cooled to near absolute zero to ensure the electronics were in a superconducting state



Spell out the name at first mention, then abbreviate in brackets. Only use capital letters if it is the only machine with that name in the world.

This synchrocyclotron (SC) was built in 1957, whereas the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was completed in 2009. The SC accelerates ions…



Include all accents in French, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Irish Gaelic words. But for words that have been assimilated into English (café, résumé) follow OED.

Note that capital letters in French also take an accent so état membre becomes État membre. 



For both sexes, never actress.


Administrative Circular

Follow the style dictated by the HR website, as this is where people will find the documents. 

Capital letters, No. then a space followed by a digit, open bracket, "Rev", stop, space, digit, close brackets. See below: 

Administrative Circular No. 25 (Rev. 3)



No hyphen is normally needed between an adverb and the adjective it modifies:

a hotly contested result

a constantly evolving theory

To avoid ambiguity, a hyphen is needed after adverbs such as “ill” and “well” that have the same spelling as the corresponding adjective, as in

a well-dressed man

an ill-considered reply

No hyphen is needed if the adverbial phrase comes after the noun, as in

the man was well dressed


Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer

Not Alphamagnetic Spectrometer.

physics, spelling, style

am and pm

See time


ampersand (&)

Don't use them, even in headlines. 


  • certain company names – Smith & Jones Consulting
  • when artistic considerations dictate – on a logo, for example 
  • academic references – (Grant & Smith, 1998)
punctuation, style


An important exception to the ize rule

spelling, style


Not anti-atom. Likewise antiparticle, antihydrogen, antineutrino, etc.

See antimatter

spelling, style


Not anti-matter. Likewise antiparticle, antihydrogen, antineutrino, etc.

See particles

spelling, style


Use the full word. Preferable to "about".

Don't abbreviate to "approx.", or worse, the symbol  "~".

The luminosity of the LHC has increased by approximately 16% over the last two months.


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