House style guide

House style is a set of rules every business can use to make sure their written work is consistent and accurate. The InvestorComs guide sets out some standard conventions and common errors as well as a list of difficult spellings and definitions.


Write out in full at the first mention with the abbreviation in parentheses, as in European Central Bank (ECB), the Federal Reserve (the Fed) and earnings per share (eps).

Use % rather than per cent, as in 50%.

Do not use informal contractions, such as it’s, we’re or can’t, in formal writing. Write out in full – it is, we are and cannot.

Do not use etc, eg or ie. Write out in full – and so on, for example and that is.

Capital letters

Unnecessary capital letters interrupt the reader’s eye. Use sentence case for all headings and subheadings.

Do not use capitals for asset classes (as in equities and fixed income), currencies (as in dollar, euro, sterling and yen), financial terms (as in earnings per share) or seasons (spring, summer, autumn and winter).

US Treasuries and German Bunds take a capital letter but UK gilts are lower case.


Write out dates in full, as in 7 September 2014.


Spell out in full the numbers one to nine and use numerals for 10 and over.

Use million, billion and trillion in currency amounts, as in £10 million, £1.5 billion and £1.2 trillion.

Do not use negative numbers when describing a fall so write “profits fell 5%” not “profits fell -5%”.


No full stops or colons at the end of page headings, subheadings or chart headings.

Use hyphens in adjectives formed from two or more words, as in “long-term objective”or “first-quarter results”. (But “in the long term” does not need a hyphen.)

Do not use apostrophes in plurals of dates or abbreviations, as in 1990s or IPOs.

Regulatory compliance

Avoid promissory statements, such as “interest rates will rise later this year”. Instead write “interest rates are likely to rise” or “we believe interest rates will rise”.

Singular or plural?

Use the singular form for companies and organisations. For example, write “Vodafone has increased its profits” not “Vodafone have increased their profits”.

Superfluous words

Avoid vague or unnecessary words, such as currently; despite the fact that (try “even though” or “although”); general consensus (just “consensus”); going forward; hence; indeed; news flow (just “news”); negative returns (try “unprofitable”); and really.


Use the active voice over the passive voice. For example, write “The Bank of England has cut the base rate” rather than “The base rate has been cut by the Bank of England”.


Use one space only between sentences.

Do not use ampersands except where they occur in names, as in Procter & Gamble.


Difficult spellings and definitions

adviser (not advisor)

affect, effect (as verbs, to affect means to influence; to effect means to accomplish)

among (not amongst)

anticipate, expect (to anticipate something is to look ahead and prepare for it; to expect something is merely to look ahead to it)

before (not prior to)

benefited, benefiting

centre on (not in or around)

compare to, compare with (compare to should be used to liken things; compare with to consider their similarities and differences)

complement, compliment (complement means to fill out or make whole; compliment means to praise)

comprise, composed (write “the G10 comprises the world’s 10 largest economies” or “the G10 is composed of the world’s 10 largest economies”)

continual, continuous (continual refers to things that happen repeatedly but not constantly; continuous indicates an unbroken sequence)

discreet, discrete (discreet means inconspicuous or tactful; discrete means distinct or separate)

due diligence

euro area (not eurozone or Euroland)

fewer, less (use less with singular nouns and fewer with plural nouns)

focused, focusing

growth (growth indicates expansion so if an economy is shrinking or standing still, growth is not the word to describe it; do not write “growth will remain stagnant” or “negative growth”)

historic, historical (a defining event in history is historic but use historical if referring to a past event)


inflation (if the rate of inflation was 4% last month and 3% this month, it does not mean that prices are falling; it means they are rising at a slower rate)

“ise”, “ize” (use the “ise” ending for words such as privatise and specialise)

licence, license (licence is a noun; license is a verb)

macroeconomic, microeconomic

modelled, modelling

per cent, percentage point (if interest rates are 2% and then rise to 3%, they have risen by one percentage point or 100 basis points)

principal, principle (principle means fundamental and is a noun; principal can be a noun meaning chief or of first importance or an adjective with the same meaning)

Southeast Asia



Warren Buffett

while (not whilst)