Public Service Commission Style Guide

Table of Contents

About this Guide

This Style Guide contains the standards for PSC documents of all types. It is divided into two sections. The first section is an alphabetical listing of common style guidelines applicable to all PSC documents. The second section describes guidelines that are specific to the following PSC documents:

  • the Annual Report;
  • audit reports;
  • the President's correspondence;
  • speeches; and
  • documents posted to the Web.

This Guide is for PSC writers, editors and consultants who contribute to PSC documents.

Related documents

The following documents supplement the guidelines given in this Guide:

  • The Canadian Style provides grammar and style guidelines for use in the public service. This PSC Guide refers to it frequently. In cases when the Guide's advice differs from that of the The Canadian Style, follow the advice in this Guide.
  • An electronic version of The Canadian Style, continuously updated, is available on the Termium Web site.
  • The Public Service Commission Lexicon is an alphabetical listing of terms commonly used in PSC documents in both English and French.

General style guidelines

This section, arranged alphabetically, provides style guidelines that apply to all PSC documents.

Acronyms, initialisms and other abbreviations

An acronym is an abbreviation whose letters form a word that is pronounced as a word, such as CIDA and NATO. An initialism is an abbreviation whose letters are pronounced as letters. PSC, DND and TBS are initialisms.

In the body of the text, spell out a name in full on its first usage, followed by the abbreviated form in parentheses. Use the short form as needed throughout the rest of the document. Do not give the short form in parentheses if it is never used again within the text.

Avoid using acronyms or initialisms in titles, headings and subheadings. If you must use one, ensure that you have spelled it out in full earlier in the text.

Although most acronyms and initialisms are not preceded by the definite article the, abbreviated names of public service organizations, functions or programs may well be. For example, we refer to the RCMP, but simply to CRA (without the article). The familiar usage in speech often dictates the preferred practice in a document.

It may be helpful to repeat the full name occasionally, at the beginning of a section or subsection, for example.

For the provinces and territories, use the following Canada Post abbreviations:

  • AB – Alberta
  • BC – British Columbia
  • MB – Manitoba
  • NB – New Brunswick
  • NL – Newfoundland and Labrador
  • NT – Northwest Territories
  • NS – Nova Scotia
  • NU – Nunavut
  • ON – Ontario
  • PE – Prince Edward Island
  • QC – Quebec
  • SK – Saskatchewan
  • YT – Yukon Territory

Pluralize abbreviations containing capital letters with a lower-case “s” alone, not an apostrophe, as in ADMs, MPs and RPPs. Abbreviations using lower case require an apostrophe, as in c.o.d.'s. The abbreviation of the word “pages”, used mainly in cross-references, is pp. (with a period). One page is p. (also with a period).

For the following abbreviations of titles of persons, include a period: Mr., Mrs., Ms. and Dr.

Put a comma before and after i.e. and e.g., unless they begin a passage or phrase in parentheses, in which case no punctuation is needed other than the two periods.


  • Please specify the type of position you are applying for (e.g. full-time, part-time or casual).

Avoid overusing these Latin abbreviations. Their use in parentheses can obstruct the flow of sentences.

Also, many readers do not know what they mean and often frequently confuse i.e. and e.g. The term e.g. stands for the Latin words exempli gratia, meaning example offered. The preferred English equivalents are for example, for instance and such as. The term i.e. stands for the Latin words id est, meaning that is. The preferred English equivalents are that is and namely. You can also simply define the term in its sentence.


Avoid using the ampersand (&) except in the following cases:

  • in tables and figures where space is at a premium;
  • in a corporate name if it is part of a company's legal designation; and
  • in common abbreviations, such as R&D (research and development) or T&L (travel and living).


Capitalization is used to signify a specific person or thing, as opposed to a general instance of it. For example, no capitals are required for prime minister in this sentence: The prime minister chooses cabinet ministers after an election. Here, we are referring to any prime minister. But we would capitalize those words in this sentence: “The Prime Minister is currently in France, attending a summit conference on international security.” In this case, Prime Minister refers specifically to the person in the office of the prime minister.

Capitalize Internet, Web (alone or as Web site and Web page), but not intranet.

Do not capitalize spelled-out titles of individuals in the plural or those preceded by indefinite articles (a and an). Consult The Canadian Style, Section 4.08 (d).


  • The three members from Alberta disagreed on the need for the amendment. A prime minister appoints Cabinet ministers.

Capitalize short forms of document and organizational names when they stand for the full title and are intended to carry its full force.


  • The Department (when substituted for a specific department, such as the Department of Finance)
  • The Annual Report (when choosing to not refer to its full title)
  • This Guide (short for the PSC Style Guide)

Do not capitalize the following plural nouns: governments, departments, divisions, and so on. As plurals, these are not specific names. Avoid overcapitalizing nouns unless they are part of titles or headings, including commonly used words such as the program, the conference, and so on.

In major headings, capitalize only the first letter of major words. Articles, such as a, an and the, and prepositions should not be capitalized unless they appear as the first word in the heading. Capitalize both words in hyphenated compound expressions when they appear in titles. Capitalize only the first word of subheadings.


  • Notes on a User-Friendly Intranet
  • Short-Term Goals for the PSC

When the heading is centred, capitalize the first letter of each major word.


Always use a colon to introduce a vertical list, either bulleted or numbered.


Service to the public includes the following:

  • enquiries answered;
  • brochures sent out; and
  • complaints investigated.

Do not use a colon to introduce an in-line list unless the lead-in wording to the list is a complete sentence.


  • Incorrect: The policy affects: staffing, contracts and travel expenses.
  • Correct: The policy affects staffing, contracts and travel expenses. The policy affects the following: staffing, contracts and travel expenses.


Do not use a comma before the final 'and' in a sequence unless one or more of the items also includes and, or unless clarification is necessary.

If a date appears within a sentence, use commas as follows:

  • month and year: no commas;
  • month and day: no commas;
  • month, day and year: the year is preceded and followed by a comma; and
  • day of the week, month, day and year: the day of the week is followed by a comma; the year is preceded and followed by a comma.


  • I travelled to France in January 2006.
  • I will be unable to attend the session on March 24 as previously agreed to.
  • On March 24, 2006, the new corporate strategy took effect.
  • Our meeting was held on Friday, March 24, in the main board room.

Contact information

Position titles only, not the personal names of public servants, should be used in contact information. When names must be included, avoid using titles (including Dr., Mr., Mrs., Ms., etc.); their usage could be sexist or inconsistent.

Check with addressees for the correct spelling and preferred form of their name. Use the following order and style for contact information: name (if using), title, organization, room or suite or floor, building, street address, post office box and station, city, province or territory, postal code and country (if the document is for an international audience).


Manager, Writing and Editing Unit
Communications and Parliamentary Affairs
Public Service Commission
L'Espanade Laurier, West Tower
300 Laurier Street West, 22nd floor, B2215
Ottawa ON  K1A 0M7

Make sure the city, province or territory, and postal code are on one line, with no comma after the city and two spaces between the provincial or territorial abbreviation and the postal code.

Write telephone and fax numbers as shown in the following examples.


  • Telephone: 613-995-8900
  • Cell phone: 705-995-8901
  • Fax: 819-952-9620
  • Toll-free: 1-800-234-5678


Guidelines for use

An em dash (—) sets off a word or phrase that interrupts the flow of a sentence, such as an example, a clarification or an afterthought. The em dash is a very strong type of punctuation and should not be overused. It is PSC editorial policy to set the em dash off with spaces for ease of reading, as in this sentence: Managers — unless otherwise notified — must attend the meeting.

An en dash (–) is a connector that joins words or other terms into single units, as in November 16–27 and pages 17–31. It conveys the sense of the word through, often used therefore in expressions denoting a series, like both examples above. In PSC documents, do not insert spaces on either side of the en dash.

Creating dashes in Word

To create an em dash in Word automatically as you are drafting, type two hyphens without spaces between the words surrounding the dash. Then insert the spaces manually in accordance with PSC editorial policy.

To create an en dash in Word, type two hyphens with spaces as your draft. Then remove the spaces manually in accordance with PSC editorial policy.


Separate consecutive years with a hyphen rather than an oblique (/), with no spaces before or after the hyphen. Repeat the first two digits in the second year that follows the hyphen, as in 2005-2006.

The preferred format for writing dates is the common mixed format, as in March 15, 2006. Do not write the months in abbreviated form, or split a date over two lines.

We often use numeric dates in briefing notes, files or forms. In these cases, use the ISO 8601 standard, that is, the year, the month and then the day to avoid confusion over the day and the month. Separate the numbers with a hyphen.

Email and Web site addresses


Most Web browsers will accept URLs without the “http://” signifiers, so it is not always necessary to include them. If, however, there is potential for confusion, add them. Do not assume “www” is superfluous in a URL; sometimes two otherwise identical addresses — one with “www” and one without — point to two different servers. Always verify the correct URL.

Many Web sites are set up with several aliases that all end up at the same site; however, only one official URL of a site should be marketed consistently in all media. If a Web site has a bilingual splash page, use its English URL in English texts and its French URL in French texts, if available.


Format email and Web site addresses as hyperlinks, such as underlined blue or black type, in both print and electronic documents. No other formatting, such as bold or italics, is required. Names of Web sites that resemble URLs require no special formatting.

In the President's correspondence, however, write URLs and email addresses in bold. Place hyperlinks only in email messages from the President, not paper correspondence.

Surrounding punctuation

If an email or Web site address appears in the middle of a sentence, you may want to put it in parentheses, depending on the sentence structure. Any punctuation marks following an email address or URL should be readily perceived as being part of the surrounding text.

Line breaks

Avoid splitting an email or Web site address so that part of it winds up on the next line.

If you must split it, do not use a hyphen as you would with a word. Make the break between elements: after a colon, a slash, a double slash or the @ symbol, but before a period or other punctuation mark. To avoid confusion, an email address or URL that contains a hyphen should never be broken at the hyphen.

Groups and levels

Following advice received from the Translation Bureau, when writing groups and levels of public service jobs, do not include a zero in English or in French.


  • AS-2
  • EX-3
  • PM-5


Since hyphenation is one of the most controversial points of editorial style, consistency is key. Make the Gage Canadian Dictionary your basic guide. For terms that do not appear in the dictionary, follow the rules for compounding and word division in The Canadian Style, Chapter 2.

It is PSC editorial policy to hyphenate the following words:

  • e-business, e-commerce, e-book;
  • on-line;
  • co-operate;
  • co-ordinate;
  • co-operative; and
  • off-line.

The term 'small and medium-sized enterprises' does not need a suspending hyphen after 'small', since you would write 'small enterprises' not 'small-sized enterprises'. But numerical descriptions such as 'a $4-million project' and 'a six-month delay' require a hyphen. Terms such as 'acid rain threat', 'private sector participation' and 'high technology conference' do not need hyphens, since the meaning is immediately clear without them.

Some terms will be hyphenated in one context, but not in another. It depends on whether the term is used as a noun or an adjective.


  • In the short term, we will see some changes in our monitoring tools. (noun)
  • Expect some short-term changes in our monitoring tools. (adjective)


Italic type is used to set off words and phrases, call attention to them or indicate their special status.

Italicize the following:

  • titles of books, pamphlets, published reports and studies, films, most works of art, newspapers, magazines and other periodicals;
  • the complete names of policies, court cases, statutes and acts, as in the Food and Drugs Act; and
  • French or foreign words that have not been anglicized.

In Web publications, only the above items can be italicized. The Canadian Style, Chapter 6, details other uses for italics that are acceptable in print publications.

As well, in print publications, you can use italics to emphasize a word, but do so sparingly. In Web publications, use bold instead. In print publications, you can also use italics to show different levels of headings. In Web publications, this should be avoided.

Do not italicize the following:

  • short forms of the names of acts, statutes and court cases, such as “the Act”
  • proposed or hypothetical laws, such as “price-control bill”;
  • names of Web sites;
  • legal terms (this is a departure from The Canadian Style); and
  • French, Latin or foreign words that have been anglicized (consult the Gage Canadian Dictionary for a list of Latin words written in italics).


Sums of money are usually expressed in figures, except where they refer to round or indefinite amounts or are used in a formal, literary or legal context.

Use a comma in sums of money of four figures or more.


  • $3,500
  • $35,000
  • $350,000

When the currency is understood to be Canadian dollars, do not identify it as such. When you cite other currencies in the same document, identify them.


  • C$20 Canadian dollars (when other currencies are used in the document)
  • US$20 American dollars
  • A$20 Australian dollars
  • £20 British pounds (or simply 20 pounds)
  • ¥20 Japanese yen (or simply 20 yen)

Names (companies and associations)

Confirm all company and association names cited in your texts. The best way is to consult the organization itself or check its official Web site.

Use abbreviations such as 'Ltd.' and 'Inc.', but avoid 'Bros.', 'Assoc.', 'Co.' and 'Corp.', especially in the main body of the text.

Spell out 'Ltd.' and 'Inc.' only when the full legal name of the firm must be shown. When a company is commonly known by an acronym or initials, use its full name on first reference, followed by the acronym in parentheses. You can then use the acronym as needed.

Use the corporate name in the style preferred by the company, including variations in capitalization and spacing.


  • TransCanada Pipelines
  • QuickMail Systems

Use an ampersand (&) or other unusual typographical symbol only if it is part of the company's legal name.

Where official English versions of French corporate names exist, use them accordingly. If there is no English version, use the French name without translation and without any special treatment such as italics or quotation marks. If you include an unofficial translation with the French name, put it in parentheses and do not capitalize it; this will indicate that it is not a legally recognized company name.

Names (geographical)

The Geographical Names Board of Canada (GNBC) develops standard policies for geographical naming in Canada and maintains the national database of officially recognized geographical names to be used on federal government maps. In general, use these name forms in PSC documents.

The 'Topos sur le Web' data bank of the Commission de toponymie du Québec provides information on place names in Quebec, including many origins and meanings. (Search feature available in French only.)

While French place names in Canada generally retain their accents in English texts, there are some legitimate exceptions. These are the 81 names of pan-Canadian significance as recognized by the GNBC and Treasury Board Secretariat, and they are listed in The Canadian Style, Chapter 15. With very few exceptions, the names of Canadian cities are not translated.

A few items to note are the following:

  • Quebec, the province, does not take an accent.
  • Québec, the city, does.
  • Montréal always has an accent.
  • Write Trois-Rivières, not Three Rivers.

Names (departments and agencies, PSC branches and directorates)

Be sure to verify the names of the government departments and agencies you mention in your texts.

Many departments have both an official (legal) name and an applied name – Department of Industry and Industry Canada, for example. Applied names are preferred in most PSC documents.

The easiest way to confirm federal department and agency names is on their individual Web sites. All are accessible through the Canada website.


Spell out numbers between one and nine, and write as figures all numbers 10 and above. An exception to this practice is a reference to a chapter, as in Chapter 7.

Do not begin sentences with a figure; break the guideline and write as words all numbers that begin sentences.


  • Incorrect: 11 departments are already complying with the new legislation.
  • Correct: Eleven departments are already complying with the new legislation.

If numbers in a series are both lower and higher than nine, write them all as figures, as in this example: The above three departments have reported 5, 9 and 10 amendments to the draft policy, respectively.

Use a no-break space in numbers of four figures or more, except in the case of monetary units.


  • 25 000
  • $25,000


When writing a percentage, use a figure, as in “The study found that 35% of employees favour the new approach.”

Use only the percentage sign (%), not the words 'per cent' or 'percent'. This is in accord with current usage, and saves space in print documents.

Punctuation and spacing

Follow these general tips regarding punctuation and spacing:

  • Use only one space, not two, after these full stops: period, colon, exclamation mark and question mark.
  • Put one space before and one space after an em dash, as in “Managers — unless otherwise notified — must implement these guidelines.”
  • Do not put any spaces before or after an en dash, as in “The Annual Report for 2005–2006 discusses the following initiatives”.
  • Do not put a space before or after an oblique (/) when it is used between individual words, letters or symbols.
  • Put one space before and one space after an oblique if one of the elements contains spacing between its words, as in 'decision maker / manager'. No spaces are required if there is no other internal spacing, as in 'supervisors/managers'.

See also the guidelines on specific punctuation marks, organized alphabetically in this Guide. For more detailed information on proper punctuation, consult The Canadian Style, Chapter 7.

Quotations and quotation marks

For detailed information on proper treatment of quotations and use of quotation marks, consult The Canadian Style, Chapter 8. Below are some PSC exceptions to The Canadian Style, as well as some quotation mark issues that are recurrent in PSC documents.

Put quotation marks around the titles of the following:

  • articles from newspapers, magazines and other periodicals;
  • chapters of books;
  • lectures, papers, dissertations and theses;
  • unpublished manuscripts;
  • songs, short stories, short musical compositions and short poems; and
  • radio and television programs.

You can also use quotation marks to set off definitions, words used in an ironic or special sense and slang or technical terms, but do so sparingly.

Do not put quotation marks around the names of Web sites.

Put commas and periods within closing quotation marks unless a high degree of accuracy is required (such as in legal documents).


For more detailed information on proper use of semicolons, consult The Canadian Style, Chapter 7.

Use semicolons in lists if the elements in the list are long and complicated, or if they contain internal punctuation. You can use semicolons this way in vertical lists, but you may want to consider eliminating them for ease of reading, especially in Web documents.

You can use the semicolon between two independent clauses (two separate sentences) instead of a period to emphasize the logical connection between the ideas.


  • The investigation report was timely; legislation on the same issue had just been passed.
  • The audit team presented its findings to the clients; the response was positive, although they had asked many questions.

Overuse of the semicolon to connect independent clauses will make the document look academic or even archaic. This use is less common in current business writing.

Titles of office or rank

Consult The Canadian Style, Chapter 4.08, for details on capitalizing titles of office or rank. On first reference in a text, give the person's full name and title. On subsequent references, you may use a convenient short form.

The title “the Honourable” is sometimes used in federal government documents for high-ranking officials such as Members of the Canadian Privy Council, lieutenant-governors, judges of the Supreme, Federal and Tax courts, the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Commons. Its usage is somewhat flexible.

The Prime Minister, the Governor General and the Chief Justice of Canada are all referred to as “the Right Honourable”. Since “the Honourable” and “the Right Honourable” are signs of respect, no person uses such a title to refer to himself/herself (as in, for example, a signature block).

For more information on styles of address, see the Canadian Heritage Web site.

For a listing of the current Canadian Ministry, visit the Privy Council Office Web site and the Parliament of Canada Web site.

Guidelines on specific PSC documents

This section provides style guidelines for the following PSC documents: the Annual Report, audit reports, the President's correspondence, speeches and documents posted to the Web.

Unless otherwise specified, the general guidelines in the previous section apply also to these documents.

Annual Report

Focus on your key messages

While drafting text, bear in mind key messages the report should implicitly convey.

Provide specifics in draft submissions

For draft submissions, indicate what data your text is based on, and use the information as follows:

  • Focus on results, rather than process or operations.
  • Focus on the health of the system.
  • Avoid empty or blatant promotion of the PSC, but do not hide PSC achievements.
  • Do not duplicate the content of the Departmental Performance Report (DPR) or the Report on Plans and Priorities (RPP).
  • Make ample use of numbers and statistics.
  • Use charts and diagrams rather than lengthy text, where possible.
  • Report on issues flagged in last year's Annual Report, especially where the need for further progress, either by departments or by the PSC, was noted.

Apply plain language guidelines

Use plain language, keeping the following guidelines in mind:

  • Consider the external audience, for example, a Member of Parliament who does not have your expertise.
  • Use easily understood terms as much as possible.
  • Define technical terms if you must use them.
  • Minimize the use of acronyms, and spell them out in full at the beginning of each chapter with the acronym in parentheses following it.
  • Use short sentences of 15-20 words or two lines of text.
  • Avoid unnecessary fillers, bureaucratese and circuitous sentences.
  • Use short paragraphs of five to six sentences.
  • Use active voice, as in “The PSC has delegated to departments”, not “Departments have been delegated”.
  • Use an authoritative tone.

Format the Report according to standards

The following formatting standards apply to the Annual Report:

  • In titles, use a 16-point font in mixed case, not all caps.
  • In subtitles, use a 14-point font in mixed case, not all caps.
  • Number the paragraphs to help the Report's authors synthesize their thoughts and focus on the main idea.
  • Prepare all body texts in Word using Arial 12 point, on 8 ½" x 11" page, single spaced, 1-inch margins and ragged right, that is, the right-hand margin unjustified.
  • In appendices, use numbers, not letters, to label appendices, as in Appendix 1: Executive Appointments.
  • Use boxes to highlight key messages. They should be plain, without colours, shading or border fill.
  • Do not insert headers or footers. The graphic designer will do this at the layout stage.
  • Number pages consecutively using Word's automatic pagination feature.
  • Use the full numeral format to show the date. The order is day-month-year, as in 27-03-2006 (March 27, 2006).

Audit Reports

The reputation and credibility of the Public Service Commission as a whole depend to a great extent on the quality of our audit reports. The reports are a major part of what Parliament, the audited entities, the media and the public see of the work of the PSC. Consequently, the reports have to meet the highest attainable standards for content and presentation.


In preparing its audit report, the audit team should keep in mind the end uses of the report, including the:

  • assurance to Parliament that appointments to and within the federal public service respect the fundamental values of merit and non-partisanship and the appointment values of fairness, access and transparency; and
  • use made by parliamentarians in their scrutiny of the federal public service appointment process.

Stylistic guidelines

The purpose of an audit report is to provide assurance, as well as to achieve positive change when necessary. These purposes can be more easily achieved if the report:

  • is clear, precise and written in plain language to ensure that the reader will understand what the report is trying to communicate;
  • is convincing;
  • highlights the important areas for the reader;
  • is fair and presented in an unbiased tone, noting where management has taken actions to correct the deficiencies and pointing out exemplary performance; and
  • only deals with matters of significance.

President's correspondence

The President's correspondence is relatively straightforward — plain language and concise sentences. In addition, the President has the following preferences:

  • keep sentences short (approximately 15-20 words or two lines of text);
  • break very long sentences into two or three shorter sentences;
  • type one space after a period (in both languages);
  • avoid adjectives that are exaggerated and emphatic phrases such as “I am very happy…”, etc.; and
  • avoid excessive use of coordinating conjunctions (e.g. and, but, yet) and phrases such as “You may be interested to know …” or “I am very pleased to inform you that …”.

For the content, use your judgement, always keeping in mind the intended audience.


General instructions for all types of speeches

  • Margins: 2.54 cm (normal)
  • Cover page only
    • Font: Arial
    • Font size: 14 points
    • Line spacing: 2
  • Two spaces after a period (to increase readability)
  • No indents
  • Text left-aligned
  • No widows or orphans (ensure that a sentence does not start on one page and end on the next)
  • Do not provide instructions, messages or filler words.
  • Everything that the President says must be documented. Generalizations should be avoided.
  • In the French portion of the text, do not feminize nouns.

Bilingual version (podium version)

  • Font: Arial
  • Font size: 20 points
  • Line spacing: 2
  • Single-sided printing
  • Leave three blank lines at the bottom of each page
  • Fairly long passages in English and in French must be inserted
    • Do not alternate between short passages in one official language and then in the other. The President prefers to speak for some time in one language before switching to the other.

Writing for the Web

Web reading differs from paper reading. Unlike the audience of conventional paper documents, the visitors to Web pages do not read in a linear fashion. Instead, they exhibit the following habits:

  • often read sporadically rather than consecutively, scanning for desired information;
  • rarely spend a long time reading any given segment before either printing it or viewing another page;
  • expect a high degree of document “layering” or modularity in the information on a page, preferring “chunks” of text rather than extended passages; and
  • are accustomed to descending into ever greater amounts of detail or specificity as they drill down from one level to the next.

Related to the unique reading habits of Web users are some structural differences. A “page” or “document” does not exist on the Web as it does on paper. Consider these guidelines when writing any document destined for the Web:

  • Use as few words as possible, following guidelines for plain language.
  • Place sentences in short paragraphs for easy scanning.
  • Where possible, use bulleted lists for quick reading.
  • Write meaningful, content-related headings for quick access.
  • When referencing other parts of the document, don't use words such as “above”, “below”, or “page”, since these directions may not be meaningful when the document migrates to the Web.
  • As much as possible, make sections and paragraphs stand alone. They may be segmented on the Web.

Guidelines for non-sexist language

Non-sexist language is free of sexual stereotyping and treats men and women equally. The following guidelines should be taken into consideration.

Use occupation and position titles that are gender-neutral. Avoid words or expressions formed with “man” or “woman” or the ending “ess”. For example:

  • reporter not newsman
  • police officer not policewoman
  • manager not manageress
  • representative or spokesperson not spokesman
  • chair or chairperson not chairman

In some cases, official titles such as “alderman” cannot be changed without formal agreement. Avoid terms with the word “man” that refer to people in general:

  • human nature not the nature of man
  • the average person not the man in the street
  • person-year not man-year

The masculine form should not be used to represent both masculine and feminine. Never place a statement at the beginning of a text declaring that the masculine throughout refers also to the feminine. Instead, use the plural as in “All employees should hand in their reports by Friday” rather than “Every employee should hand in his report by Friday”.

Use an article such as “A successful manager knows the organization” instead of “A successful manager knows his organization.”

Repeat the noun by saying “The Branch will provide each new employee with training on the equipment. If the employee is already familiar with the equipment, training will be optional.” rather than “…If he is already familiar with the equipment, training will be optional”.

Reword the sentence as in “The editor should work alone to verify all details” rather than “The editor should work on his own to verify all details”.

As a last resort, use “he or she”, “his or her” or “him or her” as in “Put each employee's evaluation in his or her personal file” instead of “Put each employee's evaluation in his personal file”. Try to use this construction sparingly.

Do not use parentheses or a slash. Avoid “he (or she)”, “(s)he” or “he/she”. When referring to men and women, apply principles of equality. When a man and a woman are mentioned together use parallel language, as in:

  • Sheila Patterson and Peter Black rather than Mrs. Patterson and Peter Black
  • Mr. and Mrs. Beaudry rather than Mr. and Mrs. Paul Beaudry

Avoid gratuitous adjectives or qualifiers that create an unnecessary distinction between sexes. For example, “Carl Lee, the head of policy and Anne King, the chief of research, co-chaired the meetings” is preferable to “Carl Lee, the head of policy and Anne King, the vivacious chief of research, co-chaired the meetings”. Vary the position gender-based references in a text. Do not consistently refer to men first and women second, or vice versa.

List people in alphabetical or hierarchical order (the President, the Vice President, etc). In regular correspondence, use equal forms of salutation for men and women. Do not make assumptions regarding the sex or marital status of the addressee. When the first name or initial is not known and the preference of the addressee cannot be ascertained, use “Dear Mr. or Ms. Tremblay” or “Dear Madam or Sir”, not “Dear Sir”.

For ministerial correspondence, use “Dear Minister” or “Dear Minister Masse”.

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