Style guide

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For situations that are not covered by this guide, or for further examples, please check New Hart’s Rules: The Oxford Style Guide (Waddingham, 2014).

If there is a departure from our house style, please notify the editor as this will be useful when copy-editing. The most important thing is to maintain consistency throughout the text.

UK English spelling should be used throughout. Please use -ise rather than -ize forms.


Full stops should not be used in abbreviations (UK, RAF, ie, cf). It is preferable to keep abbreviations in text to minimum and say:

‘for example’ rather than ‘eg’

‘that is’ instead of ‘ie’

‘and so on’ instead of ‘etc’

Note that people’s initials are spaced (D H Caldwell, Lawrence J F Keppie).

Abbreviated units of measurement do not have full stops and do not take a final ‘s’ in the plural (20km, 2.25ha).

See also Archaeological features and Contractions

Academic titles

No academic titles should be given on the title page, table of contents or headings. These can be included in the Acknowledgments section, if required.

Archaeological features

References to archaeological features should be consistent throughout the paper, particularly if there are multiple contributors. Capitalise those features which have been allocated a sequential numbering system:

The sherds from Vessel 52 were recovered from Sample 5002, from the basal fill, Context 124 of Cist 7.

However, features that are described generally should not be capitalised:

The sherds from one of the vessels were recovered from Sample 5002, from the basal fill, Context 124 of Cist 7.

Abbreviations may be used for common terms after the first occurrence, for example:

‘C101’ for ‘Contexts’

‘S88-101’ for ‘Samples’

‘SF101’ for ‘Small Finds’

Archaeological periods

Follow a recognised system for period designations: Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman, early medieval, medieval, post medieval, early modern, modern.

Note that archaeological periods should be capitalised, apart from medieval and modern. Exact date ranges should be given where possible.

Archaic letter forms

Archaic letter forms should be represented by the phonetic or orthographic modern equivalent in quotations from documentary sources.

Canmore IDs

Canmore IDs should be cited in reference to a site or item listed in the catalogue:

Wind-blown trees exposed a section of the fort on Craig Phadrig (Canmore ID 13486).

See also National grid references


Please keep capitals to a minimum. Aside from starting a sentence and proper names, use capitals:

  • For acronyms (HES, NMS) and eras (BC, AD and BP)
  • To distinguish the specific from the general, for example: ‘She is Professor of Anthropology at Leiden University’ but ‘She is a professor at Leiden University’
  • To indicate internal cross-references within your text: ‘See Appendix for further detail.’ Note that references to illustrations within your paper should be capitalised, while references to illustrations, figures or tables from other works should be in lower case.
  • For archaeological periods, apart from ‘medieval’ and ‘modern’
  • For archaeological features which have been allocated a sequential numbering system


A separate list of captions should be supplied for all illustrations and tables. Captions should be consistent and always credit the creator or copyright holder in parentheses:

Illus 1 The Chisholme spearhead. (Photograph by Neil McLean © National Museums Scotland)

Images/figures are referred to as ‘Illustrations’, abbreviated to ‘Illus’ in captions and within the text. All tables and illustrations should be numbered sequentially (Table 1, Table 2). Subdivided elements should be lettered (Illus 4a, Illus 4b). There is no full stop after the number and at the end of captions.

Citation style and references

Please use author–date system of referencing. This form requires a citation of the source given in text and a full bibliographic reference provided at the end of the paper.


These should take the form (Author year: pages). Please contact the Managing Editor if you wish to use a different citation style in your paper.

  • Single-authored publications: (Bradley 2009: 47–9)
  • Publications with two authors: (Henderson & Jones 2004: 179)
  • Publications with three or more authors: (Barclay et al 2002: 145)
  • Multiple citations are listed chronologically: (Collis 1984; Shepherd 1996; Barclay 1998)
  • Multiple citations by the same author: (Sabnis & Kenworthy 2008; Sabnis 2011, 2014)
  • Multiple citations by the same author in the same year are distinguished by lowercase letters: (Smith 2011a; Smith 2011b; Smith 2011c)
  • Multi-volume works: (Allen & Anderson 1903, vol 2: 311)
  • References to illustrations and tables: (Kendrick 1995: 55, illus 23)
  • Personal communication, such as private letters, emails, phone conversations and similar sources should be indicated using the abbreviation pers comm. These sources should not be included on the list of references but rather in the Acknowledgments section, if required: (Blankshein, pers comm).


Full bibliographic details of the works cited in text must be provided in a list of references at the end of the paper.

The reference list should be ordered alphabetically. Several papers by the same author should be listed in date order. Individually authored papers should come before co-authored papers, regardless of date.

Papers with three or more authors should follow in chronological order. These papers should be cited in the text as ‘Smith et al’, but all authors should be listed in the references.

Full journal titles should be used in references, except for the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, which is abbreviated to Proc Soc Antiq Scot. Please cite with the year of publication rather than the date printed on the spine of the journal.


  • Armit, I 2005 Celtic Scotland. London: Batsford.
  • Cowan, I B, Mackay, P H R & Macquarrie, A (eds) 1983 The Knights of St John of Jerusalem in Scotland. Edinburgh: Scottish History Society.
  • Kelly, T A D 1994 ‘The Govan Collection in the context of local history’, in Ritchie, A (ed) Govan and its Early Medieval Sculpture, 95–114. Stroud: Alan Sutton.
  • Allen, J R & Anderson, J 1903 The Early Christian Monuments of Scotland, vol 1. Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
  • Brothwell, D R 1981 Digging up bones, 3rd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press/BM.

Journal papers

  • Cook, M J 2013 ‘Paradigms, assumptions, enclosure, and violence: the hillforts of Strathdon’, Journal of Conflict Archaeology 8(2): 77–105.
  • Harrison, A & Burnett, C J 2018 ‘Scottish lettering of the 16th century’, Proc Soc Antiq Scot 147: 219–41.
  • Franklin, J 2010 ‘The medieval pottery assemblage’, in Morrison, J, Oram, R & Ross, A ‘Gogar, archaeological and historical evidence for a lost medieval parish near Edinburgh’, Proc Soc Antiq Scot 139: 229–55.


  • Cook, M 2016 ‘Prehistoric Settlement Patterns in the North-east of Scotland; Excavations at Grantown Road, Forres 2002-2013’, Scottish Archaeological Internet Reports.
  • ScARF 2012 Saville, A and Wickham-Jones, C (eds) Palaeolithic & Mesolithic Panel Report, Scottish Archaeological Research Framework: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Accessed 05 February 2020.


Archival sources

  • PRO E39/81 Similar ratification of Scots. Doct. 92 (18) PRO E39/81 1502, The National Archives, Kew.
  • Shetland Museum & Archives (SMA), D5/8: Lerwick Museum and Library record of donations.

Unpublished works

  • Farrell, M 2009 ‘The Environmental Context of Later Prehistoric Human Activity in Orkney, Scotland’, unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Hull.
  • Roy, M 2005a ‘Empire Site, Dunbar: Excavation Data Structure Report’, unpublished archive report, AOC Archaeology No. 4653.

Self-published works

  • Waldie, G 1868 The History of Linlithgow. Linlithgow: self-published.
  • Nelson, J 2018 The Story of Glengorm. Glengorm: self-published.

Works with no named authors

  • Royal Commission on the Ancient Monuments of Scotland (RCAMS) 1946 Twelfth Report with an Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Orkney & Shetland, vol I, ‘Carved and Inscribed Stones. Early Christian Period’, 46- Edinburgh: His Majesty’s Stationery Office.

Compass directions

Simple compass orientations are written in full (to the north, from the south-east). Only long compounds such as north-northeast or west-southwest should be abbreviated (NNE, WSW).

A forward slash indicates alignment or axial orientation, for example:

Feature [4012], orientated north-east/south-west, was 2m wide and 0.5m deep.


Those ending with the same letter as the original word do not take a full stop, for example Mrs (not Mrs.) Mr/Dr/Ltd/eds/vols/km/AD/BC and so on.

Informal contractions (I’ve, he’s) should not be used.


Dates should be written in Arabic numerals with the full month’s name and the year in figures (17 November 1989).

Pairs of dates should be condensed to the shortest pronounceable form (1899–1901, 1900–1, 1900–10, 1910–18, 1923–4, 1989–91).

Centuries and millennia are written in numerals with no superscript (14th century, 4th century BC).

Decades should be presented as 1980s (not eighties, ‘80s, or 1980’s).

The letters bc should follow the date (91 BC) and the letters ad should precede the date (AD 413). However, when the date is spelled out then both bc and ad go at the end (1st millennium AD).

Use ad 413–28 to describe the duration of an event; and ad 413 × 427 for dates between which an historical event is thought to have occurred.

Dimensions and measurements

Always use metric units (km, cm). Abbreviated measurements do not have full stops and do not take a final ‘s’ in the plural (20km, 2.8m × 1m trench, 2.0–2.5m wide, 9.5cm-long, ±12.5m vertical).

Small finds should always be described in millimetres (L: 23mm; W: 5mm; Diam: 46mm; Th: 3mm). Commonly used abbreviations: L = length; W = width; D = depth; Diam = diameter; Th = thickness



Ellipsis, if used to conclude a quotation or to represent missing words, should be separated from the adjoining words by a space on both sides.


Emphasis should be achieved by phrasing and grammar. Using font styles like italics, bold or underline should not be necessary to show emphasis.

Foreign words and phrases

Foreign language words and phrases should be italicised and translated in sentence:

The sculpture became the central exhibit of a large Landesausstellung (national exhibition).

In German Ausstellung der ältesten Kunstwerke means ‘exhibition of the oldest works of art’.

Do not italicise or translate foreign proper names (Vogelherd Cave, Geissenklösterle) and words that are assimilated into English (ersatz, kitsch).

Lengthy passages of text in foreign language should be avoided, unless the foreign language itself is being analysed. Such text should not be italicised but displayed as a long quotation.

Gaelic names

Gaelic forms of personal names and place names can be used in papers that represent Gaelic interest. The Gaelic form should be followed by the English expression in parentheses when it first occurs in the main text but not in the title or abstract.

The parish of Geàrrloch (Gairloch) includes the village Ceann Loch Iù (Kinlochewe).

Spelling of Gaelic place names should follow Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba (Gaelic place names of Scotland). Find the database here:

Headings and subheadings

Headings should be marked with letters in angle brackets. The hierarchy should be as simple as possible with no more than three levels of subheadings.

<MH> main heading (ie title of the paper)

<A> heading (subdivision of the main heading; ie abstract, introduction)

<B> heading (subdivision of ‘A’ headings)

<C> heading (subdivision of ‘B’ headings)

Heading for a section written by a contributor should include the person’s full name.

Hyphens, en rules and em rules

Please note the difference between hyphens (-), en rules (–) and em rules (—). We have stopped using em rules in favour of spaced en rules.

Hyphens join words together to form compounds (north-west, stone-lined). Hyphenation is used mainly to form compound adjectives (19th-century building, multi-period site). Hyphens should not be used after adverbs ending in ‘ly’ (‘freely draining’ rather than ‘freely-draining').

Consult the Canmore thesaurus for hyphenation of specialist terms

En rules appear either unspaced to specify a range (1914–18, 56–7) or spaced to mark a parenthetical phrase:

All of these sites – Portmahomack, Rosemarkie, Burghead and Kinneddar – may have lain within the bounds of the powerful kingdom of Fortriu (Woolf 2006: 201).

Unspaced en rules can also be used to illustrate relationships or connections (Dover–Calais crossing, German–French excavation).


Italics should be used for foreign words, titles of journals, books, websites, plays, newspapers, films, works of art and names of ships.

Please do not use italics for surrounding punctuation, titles of poetry, names of institutions or associations, acronyms or for emphasis.


c = circa (followed by a space), infra, supra, a priori, bona fide, ad hoc, en bloc, inter alia, laissez-faire, longue durée, prima facie, terminus ante quem, terminus post quem, termini post quos, contra


eg, et al, ibid, en route, per se, raison d’être, in situ, vis-á-vis, ie, locus, cf, op cit, qv, ad infinitum, sic


Displayed lists should be numbered with Arabic numerals or bulleted. Each entry should be capitalised but only items that are complete sentences should be punctuated at the end.

National grid references

National Grid References should be provided for all archaeological sites or historic buildings which are central to the text. Please use the format ‘NGR: NO 7180 2052’.

See also Canmore IDs


Endnotes numbered in text may be used when references are predominantly to archival material. The same referencing style must be consistent throughout the paper. Footnotes should never be used.

Ibid may be used (no full stop, and no italics) to refer to the immediately preceding note. It should not be used if the preceding note has more than one reference in it.


Numbers should be given in full text where less than 11 and in numerals thereafter (five samples from each pit, 22 sherds) with the exception of centuries and millennia that are always written in numerals (19th century, 4th millennium BC).

Number ranges should be elided as far as possible (30–5, 113–14, 114–23).

Numbering system

All tables and illustrations should be numbered sequentially (Table 1, Table 2). Subdivided elements should be lettered (Illus 4a, Illus 4b). Note that there is no point after the number.


Please use an ‘s’ to indicate possession in singular nouns, including those ending with S and Z sounds (Applecross’s, Knox’s, Desprez’s).

An apostrophe alone should be used in plural nouns (fourteen days’ notice, the lords’ power).


Please use single quotes throughout, with double quotes for nested quotations:

Ritchie suggested that ‘the lower part of the body is similar to the “stopped plait” ornament on Viking-Age stones in the Isle of Man’ (Scott & Ritchie 2009: 9).

Original spellings should be used; add [sic] if necessary. Quotations of less than 30 words should be included in sentence and preceded by a comma. Longer quotations should be displayed without quotes and indented to the left. The citation of a source should appear in brackets at the end of a long quotation before the punctuation.

Radiocarbon dates

Please use ‘Conventions for Reporting Radiocarbon Determinations’ by A R Millard as a guideline. Common forms include:

OxCal v3.10



451–215 cal BC (95% probability; SUERC-1122)

Sexist usage

Use the plural ‘they’ instead of overusing ‘he and she’ if it seems appropriate. Where rewording is not possible, it is preferable to use ‘he or she’, not ‘s/he’ or ‘he/she’.

Avoid using the word ‘man’ to refer to the species or ‘fraternity’ to refer to a community. Avoid using stereotyped clichés, eg ‘he was the right man for the job’.