RCoA Style Guide: A

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Quick reference guide

Abbreviations and acronyms




Always explain abbreviations in the first instance. For example: ‘Anaesthesia Clinical Services Accreditation (ACSA)’. Once you’ve done this, you can use the abbreviation on its own and your reader will understand what you are referring to.

There is no need to spell out well known abbreviations such as UK, BBC, and NHS.

Some abbreviations, such as FRCA, OSCE and SOE, will be well known to anaesthetists. For RCoA publications aimed at fellows and members, there is no need to spell these abbreviations out.

Don’t use an acronym if you’re not going to use it again later in the text.

After its first mention, try not to repeat the abbreviation too often to avoid covering the page with capital letters. Frequently used abbreviations and acronyms can be found here .

Try not to use too many abbreviations or acronyms in the same paragraph or sentence to avoid confusing your audience.

Written in this format: 35 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4SG.

Advice and advise are often confused.
Advise: a verb meaning “to give counsel to; offer an opinion or suggestion as worth following.”
Advice: a noun meaning “an opinion or recommendation offered as a guide to action, conduct

The spellings adviser and advisor are both correct but College style has been changed to reflect common usage and now requires using an ‘or’ eg clinical quality advisor.

Active voice
Use the active rather than passive voice. ‘John painted the house’ describes the event more concisely than ‘the house was painted by John’. This will help us write clear and concise content.

John Smith, 50 - not “aged 50”.

Also acceptable: a 62-year-old man; 62 years old.

The woman was in her 20s. Also acceptable: twentysomething, thirtysomething, etc. Please note, this is one word and not hyphenated.

All together, altogether

All together indicates one united body: “We are all in it together”.

Altogether refers to everything or everyone in total: "He married several times and had forty-six children altogether".

Ampersand (&)
Only use the ampersand when referring to a company’s name eg Marks & Spencer, as it appears on the Companies House register.

Ampersands are acceptable for use in social media posts to save on characters.

Use British rather than American spellings and grammar, ie 'organise' not 'organize', 'colour' not 'color'. Use American spellings only in quoted material or company names.

An should be used before a word beginning with a vowel sound (an egg, an umbrella, an MP) or an h if, and only if, the h is silent (an honorary degree).

But note: a European, a university, a U-turn, a hospital, a hotel.

Anaesthetist in training
Refrain from using the terms ‘trainee’ or ‘junior doctor’. The College instead refers to this group as ‘anaesthetists in training’. We and our fellows and members find this title to be more reflective of their role and maturity.

Avoid using ‘and/or’ in text. Decide on using one or the other – whichever is more appropriate. The same applies to the phrase “if and when”.

First anniversary, 25th anniversary etc; not one-year anniversary, 25-year anniversary.

Anniversary can be capitalised where referring to a title that denotes a programme of celebrations ie the College’s 25th Anniversary.


  • the apostrophe has three main uses: contractions, plurals, and possessives
  • contractions (eg let’s, don’t, couldn’t, it’s, she’s) should be avoided in formal communications
  • plural nouns take a singular apostrophe (writer’s cramp, old folk's home)
  • the possessive in words and names ending in s normally takes an apostrophe followed by a second s (Chris’s, James’s)  
  • use apostrophes when writing 'two years' experience', '20 hours' work', 'three months' training'
  • do not use apostrophes for the plurals of abbreviations (ie CDs not CD's)
  • use apostrophes in phrases such as two days’ time, 12 years’ imprisonment and six weeks’ holiday, where the time period (12 years) modifies a noun (imprisonment), but not in nine months pregnant or three weeks old, where the time period is adjectival (modifying an adjective such as pregnant or old) – if in doubt, test with a singular such as one day’s time, one month pregnant.

Appraise means to evaluate. Apprise means inform.

Assisted dying
Preferred term is “assisted suicide”.

Intro | A B C D E F G H I J, K, L M N, O P Q, R S T U V, W, X, Y, Z 

Quick reference guide

Abbreviations and acronyms