We generally use

British English.

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Dates, numbers and addresses


  • Day month (full name) year - no commas!
    15 April 2014
  • Abbreviations for months - without a period:
  • In footnotes or to save space, you may also write the months numerically:

Days of the week

  • are capitalized:
    on Monday, Tuesday….
  • Three letter abbreviations without a period may be used:


  • 24-hour clock
    Office hours: Mon – Fri 12:00 – 17:00
    The lecture starts at 15:15


  • are written out as:
    200 dollars/50 euros/120 Swiss francs
  • The currency symbol (followed by a space) is placed before the amount:
    120/$ 70
  • ISO-Code is used for contracts and similar documents, i.e. the capitalized abbreviation followed by a space:
    EUR 300/USD 210

Phone numbers:

  • are in international format: +49 7531 12345

Numbers: When to write them out

Numbers up to and including 12 are usually written out, numbers from 13 upwards may be given as a number.

Commas and periods used in numbers

Important: Commas and periods in numbers are used differently in English than in German:

  • in German, the period marks the thousands place; the comma is used for decimals.
  • in English, the comma marks the thousands place; the period is used for decimals.

Example: One hundred thousand euros and 40 cents:

  • German: € 100.000,40
  • English:  € 100,000.40

Millions - billions: How to abbreviate large units?

1,000 -> thousand -> k

1,000,000 -> million -> m

1,000,000,000 -> billion -> bn


  • German umlauts and the “ß” should be split up, since these special characters are not well-known internationally and, for example, can easily be misread as a “b”.
    University of Konstanz, Universitaetsstrasse 10, 78457 Konstanz, GERMANY
  • Specific names of university institutions like the “Studentische Abteilung”, the “Personalabteilung”, etc. can be left in the original German to assure the mail can be delivered easier by our in-house mail service.


1. Quotation marks

We generally use double quotation marks: "x".

We place punctuation marks like commas and full stops outside the quotation marks.
Example: "The research results indicate that...", he said.

Exception: Question or exclamation marks at the end of a sentence.
Example: She asked: "How are you?"

2. Colon

Generally, we do not capitalize the first letter of the first word following a colon.
Example: Please submit the following: three copies of your application, a passport photo and a CV.
Exception: Names.

Complete, independent sentences following a colon may be capitalized. This also applies when a colon is followed by several sentences.
Example: Please consider the following questions: What do I want to research? Who will participate? How much will it cost?

Names and titles

Academic degrees

  • German academic degrees (e.g. Habilitation, Diplom, Magister, etc.) should be left in German, but italicised.
    Megan just earned her Habilitation.
    Diplom-Ingenieur Sebastian Heu (Dipl.-Ing. abbreviation may be used for business cards, etc.)

International degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts = BA
  • Master of Arts = MA
  • Bachelor of Science = BSc
  • Master of Science = MSc
  • Master of Business Administration = MBA
  • PhD
    Dr Sanders, PhD


  • The following are generally written lower-case:
    bachelor’s programme/a master’s degree
  • Please note: the following are capitalised if they are a proper name :
    the Master’s Programme Chemistry


  • are capitalised when written directly in front of a person’s name:
    Professor J. Lewis
  • otherwise they are written lower-case:
    J. Lewis is professor of law.
  • Only the highest title is used, and not every title (as is often the case in German):
    Professor H. Schmidt (German: Prof. Dr. H. Schmidt)
  • Important: no period is used after the abbreviated title!
    Dr Müller (NOT „Dr. Müller“)


  • are generally written lower-case:
    You can study biology at the University of Konstanz.
  • However, they are capitalised when they are used as a proper name for a course or study programme:
    The study programme Biological Sciences at the University of Konstanz...

Proper names

  • Universität Konstanz = University of Konstanz (NOT: „University of Constance“)
  • Stadt Konstanz = City of Konstanz (NOT: „City of Constance“)
  • However: the German “Bodensee”: translates as Lake Constance in English.

German names (e.g. for organisations)

  • If an official English name exists: please use it! You can usually find it on the English version of the website. After the first mention of the name, the (German) acronym can be used.
    Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft: German Research Foundation (DFG)
  • If no official English name exists (e.g. for an association, institution, society): please use the German name in italics and explain or translate the name in parenthesis. After the first mention of the name, the explanation/translation can be omitted. The Bundesministerium für Gesundheit (Federal Ministry of Health)


  • If necessary, please include an English explanation along with the first mention of the acronym.
    The SPD (the German Social Democratic Party)

Non-discriminatory language

English-speaking countries have a long tradition of using terms for positions that apply to both men and women. It is thus considered good style to use gender-equitable wording in your writing .

Reaching your audience

  • Address your readers directly, and use simple, friendly language:
    Please send your application... (instead of “The student can send his application to...“)
  • Use the plural form:
    Students can send their applications...
  • Use the singular and both genders - this is a little longer but also correct:
    The lecturer is required to teach 39 hours per week. He or she is also expected to hold office hours.

Use gender-neutral nouns

Instead ofPlease use
chairmanchairperson / chair
policemanpolice officer
firemenfire fighters

Email / correspondence: Salutations and closing a letter

Although we generally use British English, correspondence with recipients in the United States may be written according to American English standards.

A letter’s complimentary close must mirror its salutation in British English!

Addressee unknown:

Dear Sir or Madam
Yours faithfully

Formal correspondence, addressee known:

Dear Mr Smith
Yours sincerely

„Dear" + first name for friends/business friends approximately the equivalent of using a first name while continuing to use the formal German „Sie” (you):

Dear John

Yours sincerely/Best wishes/Best regards

American English Correspondence, for (close) personal contacts:

Dear John

Sincerely/Sincerely yours/Kind regards/Best regards/Best wishes

Addressing Letters and Emails

  • It is best to simply use Mr for men and Ms for women, since the latter is always correct, regardless of marital status.
  • “Mrs” is used to address a married woman. “Miss” is used for an unmarried (young) woman, the approximate of the seldom used German “Fräulein”.
  • Important: The abbreviations are used without a period in British English (Mr) and with a period in American English (Mr.).
  • Titles, like Professor, can replace Ms/Mr, if desired - however, only the highest title is used.
    Dr Stein (NOT “Ms Dr Stein”)
    Professor R. Stein

After the salutation

  • British English generally uses no punctuation after a salutation (occasionally a comma is used).
    Dear Mr Stone
    Thank you very much for your letter of 5 September 2014.
    Yours sincerely
    Peter Smith
  • American English uses a colon after a salutation.
    Dear Sir:
  • The first word of the letter’s body after the salutation is capitalised.