skip to primary navigationskip to content

Miscellaneous Matters

Spelling and punctuation

Where alternatives exist, the most important thing is to be consistent.  Make sure that your use of accents is correct and that any transliteration system is a generally accepted one and is applied throughout; a note explaining the system may be necessary.

Underline or italicise foreign words in an English sentence except when placed within quotation marks.

Be consistent in your inclusion or omission of an s after the apostrophe in possessives of names ending in an s in the singular.  It is usual to include the second s except when the last syllable is pronounced iz: Bridges’, Moses’, but James’s Thomas’s.  It is included after names which end in a silent s, e.g. Rabelais’s.

The apostrophe is best omitted in plurals such as 1960s and N.C.O.s.


(i) Use lower case in references to books, articles, MSS papers, diaries etc.

(ii) Use lower case for titular offices: the king, sultan, monarch, pope, lord mayor, prime ministers, foreign secretary, president of the U.S.A., bishop of Durham, duke of Portland, minister of agriculture, chiefs of staff.  But upper case if ambiguities are likely to arise (the Speaker, the British Resident) or when titles immediately preface names (Pope John, King William, Duke William, Viscount Andover)

(iii) Use lower case for institutions, government agencies etc where possible: the monarchy, the cabinet, the privy council, the royal commission, the select committee on manufactures, the ministry of defence, the houses of parliament, member of parliament (but M.P.), the government, the opposition.

However, use upper case to avoid ambiguity or eccentricity (if in doubt, follow common sense): the Crown, the Church, the Union, the King’s Bench, the Bank (of England), the Royal Air Force, the Star Chamber, the Treasury, the Admiralty, the Prussian Diet, the (East India) Company, the Inner Temple.

(iv) Use upper case for political parties except where ambiguity is impossible, so whig, tory, but Conservative government, the Liberal Party, the Labour opposition.

(v) Official publications in lower case (e.g. report of the select committee on agriculture), except in footnotes when the first word should be capitalised and the whole italicised.  ‘A bill’, ‘an act’, but ‘the Act’ or ‘the Bill’ when specific (e.g. the Stamp Act).


All specific quantities and all percentages should be denoted by figures.  Other numbers up to ninety-nine should be in words: five hospitals, twenty years ago, seventy-four years old; but 105 men, 314 women.  Series of numbers should usually be in figures, e.g. ’79 sheep and 108 cows’ not ‘seventy-nine sheep and 108 cows’.  Use words rather than figures to start a sentence.

Use 0.15 not .15.

The second of a pair of numbers other than quantities should be abbreviated, except for the numbers 11-19 which retain the 1: e.g. 101-2, 130-1, but 111-12 and 1914-18.


Dates should normally appear in the form 18 September 1927, 1830s, nineteenth century (hyphenated when used as an adjective).  500 B.C. – but A.D. 500.

Say 1967-8, not 1967-68; but 1914-15.  In B.C. references the full dates must be given, e.g. 250-245 B.C., not 250-45 B.C.  Use ‘between 1971 and 1975’ and ‘from 1971 until 1975’ or just ‘1971-5’, but not ‘between 1971-5’ or ‘from 1971-5’.

If you are not using the modern calendar make this clear either in a general note or at each occurrence.


Words should be used to express simple sums of money occurring in normal prose:  ‘The manuscript was sold for eight shillings in 1865’.  Sums of money which are cumbrous to express in words, and sums occurring in statistical tables, etc., should be written in figures.

British currency prior to 1971 should be shown in the following form:  ‘The manuscript was sold for £197 12s. 6d  in 1965’.

British decimal currency should be expressed in pounds and new pence, separated by a full stop on the line or by a decimal point above the line, but not by a comma: ‘£5.00’, ‘£25·65’.  Sums below one pound should be shown thus (without a full stop after ‘p’): ‘84p’, ‘½p’ .

Abbreviations may be used for the more familiar foreign currencies where it is not appropriate to express the sums in words.  Do not use £ for lire or livres, use li.  instead.  Always make it clear what currency you are using, particularly when there may be confusion e.g.livres tournois and livres parisis, U.S.$ and Canadian $.

Abbreviations and reference conventions

The following are standard abbreviations which you may employ without having to list them or explain them to the reader:

ed., eds., edn editor, editors, edition
f., ff. following page or pages
fol. and fols folio, folios
MS and MSS manurscript(s)
qu quoted
r. recto
sig signature number
trans. translated (by)
v. verso
vol., vols. volume, volumes

Note that abbreviations are followed with a point: ch., vol., vols.

You may also give standard (or where there are no standard, invented) abbreviations for journals or materials to which you will be referring frequently in the text or notes. These abbreviations should be listed on a page at the beginning of the submission, which as stated above does not count toward the word limit. Examples are EHR (English Historical Review), MGHSS (Monumenta Germaniae Historica Scriptores).

These should be avoided in the text unless they are well known and serve a useful purpose.

No full stop is necessary where the contraction includes the first and last letter of the singular Mr, Dr, Mme, St, or an abbreviation of SI (metric) units.  The plural of m, kg, and other SI abbreviations is the same as the singular.  The stop may also be omitted in sets of initials pronounced as a word (e.g. NATO, UNESCO).

Be consistent in your use of ‘per cent’ and ‘%’: we suggest that you use ‘per cent’ in the text but ‘%’ in tables.

Stops are used in c. fol. fols. C.O. M.P.s  U.S.A. P.R.O. F.O. W.O. H. of C. B.L. but not for MS MSS v (verso) r (recto) 2nd edn.


Websites should be cited in roman without angle brackets:

Although some authorities now counsel that there is no need to give the date of access to a site, the DNB and other important historical sources recommend it in view of frequent updating, and so you should include it, adapting the following form as appropriate:

John Morrill, ‘Cromwell, Oliver (1599-1658)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, May 2006 [, accessed 15 June 2007].

However, you should avoid citing websites where unnecessary, e.g. where a manuscript or source is readily available in print.


 To cite an interview that you have conducted, give the name of the person interviewed (unless the interviewee has asked to remain anonymous), the kind of interview (e.g. Personal interview, Telephone interview), and the date, for example:

1 Gordon Brown. Personal Interview. 25 December 2009.

The interview should also be listed in the bibliography, where it may be suitable to provide more detail on the nature and circumstances of the interview (for example venue and duration).


It is recommended that you do not use more than three types of heading within a chapter.


Short quotations should be enclosed in single inverted commas, except for quotations within quotations which have double inverted commas, and should run on with the main text in double-spacing.  However, quotations extending to more than five lines of typescript ought to be distinguished from the rest of the text and do not need inverted commas (except for quotations within quotations).  Start each such quotation on a fresh line and indent the whole quotation (say five spaces from the margin) and type in single-spacing; the first line of any new paragraphs after the beginning of the quotation should be indented a further five spaces.

1.1.1       Footnotes

The purpose of footnotes is primarily to refer the reader to the sources upon which statements are made.  It is essential that the reader should be able to identify quickly the particular sources for particular statements.  If it is convenient to gather together the evidence for sequences of statements, or a sequence of examples illustrating a statement, it is perfectly proper to put these into a single note.  However, in such cases the sequence in the notes must follow the sequence in the text precisely. If there is any risk that a reader will not be able immediately to identify a particular source for each statement, then separate notes should be given.  If in doubt, use more rather than fewer separate notes.

There are two alternative systems of inserting references.  You cannot mix them for published references, but must choose one or the other and stick to it. You would do well to acclimatize yourself early to whichever sort of system is used by the journals in which you might hope eventually to publish some of your conclusions.  The Historical Journal, for example, uses traditional footnotes.

Traditional footnote system

The traditional method is that the first reference to a document or work in each chapter should be punctuated, spelt out and capitalised as in the following examples: 

Cardwell to Russell, 3 Nov. 1865, London, National Archives (N.A.), Russell Papers, 30/22/1466, f. 23.

John Morley, The life of William Ewart Gladstone (2 vols., London, 1988 edn.), I, 42, 121-34.

M. Cowling, 1867: Disraeli, Gladstone and revolution: the passing of the second Reform Bill (Cambridge, 1967),  pp.41-5, 140-7, 151-62.

C.M. Williams, ‘The political career of Henry Marten’ (unpublished D.Phil. dissertation, University of Oxford, 1954).

W.G. Hynes, ‘British mercantile attitudes towards imperial expansion’, Historical Journal, XIX, 4 (1976), 969-76.

Select committee on manufactures, commerce and shipping (Parl. Papers, 1833, VI), Q3326.

and that the second and later references should be given in the appropriate abbreviated form (see below).

Since you should already have full description of your sources in the bibliography, you may, if you wish, use abbreviated versions for all your footnotes, except for manuscript references, which must appear in full.  You must be consistent and avoid ambiguity.  Add volume (if more than one).  It is usual to include ‘p.’ (or ‘pp.’ if more than one page) before page numbers, but only if there is no volume number.  It is also usual to shorten the second number (except those between 11 and 19) in a pair of page numbers, e.g. pp. 508-9, 512-16.

The references should be punctuated as in the following examples:

Hazel, The growth of the cotton trade, III, 2.

Carr, ‘Uncertainty and monetary theory’, p. 82.

Do not use op. cit. and loc. cit. but only your standardised abbreviated form of reference.  Use ibid to indicate that you are referring to the same item as that mentioned last, but remember that you may need another page reference.

When referring to a foliated work, use ‘fol.’, ‘fols.’ or ‘f.’, ‘ff.’ for folios; ‘r’ and ‘v’ for ‘recto’ and ‘verso’ should not be raised or underlined.

Check your footnotes against the bibliography because it will confuse and irritate the reader if the details given are not the same.  Use as few capitals as possible in book, journal and article titles, and be consistent.

Provide at the beginning of the thesis a list of any abbreviations used in the footnotes or in the bibliography and any special symbols that you have employed.

Footnotes must appear at the foot of the page to which they refer, in single-spaced typescript.

Author-date system

This can be used either in brackets in the text or in the ordinary way in footnotes: the use in text is normally only suitable for some fields of social and economic history.

The normal form is ‘Darcy 1920. pp. 131-8’ – author’s name, date and reference; if the references are in the text, they are in brackets ‘(Darcy 1920, pp.131-8)’.  Possible alternatives include ‘Darcy (1920), pp.131-8)’. or ‘Darcy 1920: 131-8’ omitting the ‘pp.’.

If the references are in the text another variant can occur: ‘the analysis of straw hat manufacture at Gamlingay by Darcy (1920, pp.131-8)’.  If the author published two or more works in one year, these are labelled ‘1920a’ etc.

Manuscript References must appear in full as in the Traditional Footnote system.

When explanatory notes are needed they must appear at the foot of the page, not in brackets in the text.

The names of two joint authors are always given.  Three and four joint authors are always given in full the first time and thereafter et al. may be used.  Five or more names can be given as et al. from the start.

Where several references are cited together in the text they may be placed in alphabetical or chronological order, or in order of importance, but the same system should be used throughout.