Grammar and punctuation

How we use apostrophes, capitals, hyphens, quotation marks, em dashes, plurals, numbers and abbreviations.


We use:

  • for example or such as, not eg or e.g.
  • that is, not i.e
  • and so on, not etc.


We use acronyms only after the name is spelt out in full on the page.

Example: 'Ministry of Justice (MOJ) is one of our partner agencies.'

Some exceptions are those with high or common usage e.g. NGOs.

We don’t use 'OT', always 'Oranga Tamariki'.


Avoid using bold text. Too much bold makes it difficult for users to know which content they need to pay the most attention to.

To emphasise words or phrases:

  • put key information at the start of sentences
  • use headings
  • use bullets.

Capital letters

We use:

  • sentence case for headings - the first letter of the first word of each sentence is capped and the rest are lower case
  • capital letters sparingly - only for proper nouns and names of our projects and programmes.

Examples of when we use capital letters:

  • Annual Report 2018/19
  • Care Standards
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

Examples of when we don’t use capital letters:

  • youth justice
  • family group conferences (also referred to as FGC)
  • care and protection

Em dash

Oranga Tamariki—Ministry for Children uses an ‘Em dash’ for the hyphen between the two words.

The Em dash is created by using the keys ‘Alt+0151’ – hold down the Alt key then type 0,1,5,1. There are no spaces.

We do not use Em dashes in any other instances.


We sometimes hyphenate words to make sure their meaning is clear.


'8 year old children' could mean children who are all aged 8, or 8 children who are 1 year old.

'8-year-old children' means children who are all aged 8.


Generally, we use numerals from 1 onwards. However, we spell out numbers at the start of a sentence.

Example: 'Ten people have enrolled in the course.'

The exception to this is when writing headings. Always use numerals whatever the number as these are much more likely to be picked up by Google. 


Don’t use brackets or ‘/s’ to refer to something that could be either singular or plural, like ‘Send your completed document(s) to us’.

Instead, use the plural, as this covers both possibilities: ‘Send your completed documents to Inland Revenue’.

Punctuation we don’t use

We don't use:

  • exclamation marks
  • semi-colons.

Quotation marks

We use single quotation marks for:

  • short quotations from research or practice guidance
  • direct speech - for example, in news stories.

We don't use quotation marks for titles of documents or publications, but we sometimes use italics.

We use double quotation marks for a quote within a quote.


‘The caregiver told us, “That was useful”, which was good to hear.’

Published: February 25, 2022