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Style Manual

Organisation names

Spell and punctuate organisation names correctly. This helps people to understand your content.

Write the name as the organisation writes it

Organisations determine how their names should be spelt and punctuated. This does not always follow the usual rules.

Write the name of the organisation the same way the organisation writes it. This rule applies except in rare cases when the organisation name is in all lower case. Use an initial capital for these names in general text. This helps people identify the name as a proper noun.

Some names start with a lower case letter but have a medial capital (for example, ‘eBay’). Write the name the same way, including to begin a sentence. A medial capital is enough to identify the name as a proper noun.

Example

eSafety keeps tips on its website topical and up to date.

Pay attention to the use of capital letters, punctuation (such as apostrophes) and logograms (such as ‘&’). Make sure to include all words in the name. Don’t add additional words.

Example

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [Note the lack of apostrophe for ‘Nations’ and the variant spelling of ‘Organization’.]

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) [The ampersand is part of the initialism but not the spelt-out form.]

State Library Victoria [The name is not the ‘State Library of Victoria’. It does not include a preposition.]

Meat & Livestock Australia [The ampersand is part of the name.]

Check the correct name of an organisation

The names of organisations can change. The most efficient way to confirm an organisation’s name is to check its website, annual report or letterhead.

Other reliable sources include:

  • For Australian Government entities, use the government online directory. It includes the Australian Government organisations register and the directories of state and territory governments. There are also website directories for some local governments.
  • Libraries subscribe to directories that list organisations, such as the Directory of Australian associations and Margaret Gee’s media guide.
  • Name searches are useful for company and business names, especially the Australian Business Register's ABN lookupAustralian Securities and Investments Commission registers and the Australian Securities Exchange’s listed companies.
Example

Before September 2013, the Department of Social Services was called the ‘Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs’.

If you cite a source written by an organisation that has since changed its name, use the name that was published in the source. This may be the organisation’s past name.

Shortened forms of the name

Use the organisation’s shortened form only if the organisation regularly uses it in its own content.

For example, the Department of Home Affairs uses ‘Home Affairs’ as the shortened form. It would be inappropriate to use ‘DHA’ to refer to Home Affairs. However, Defence Housing Australia does use the initialism ‘DHA’, so using it to refer to that organisation would be appropriate.

Spell out the shortened form the first time, unless the organisation’s name is known only by the shortened form.

Write this

Zoning laws allowed IKEA to lease the land.

Defence Housing Australia (DHA) provides housing for Defence members and their families. DHA also provides other related services.

Not this

Zoning laws allowed Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd (IKEA) to lease the land.

DHA provides housing for Defence members and their families.

Shortened forms as part of the name

Some organisations use shortened forms such as ‘Ltd’, ‘Pty Ltd’, ‘Co’ and ‘Inc’ as part of their legal name. Others use the spelt-out forms.

Example

Apple Inc

Woodside Petroleum Ltd

Perpetual Limited

Use the organisation’s full title on first mention in a publication. On subsequent mentions in print documents, you can omit words like ‘proprietary’ and ‘limited’ and the corresponding shortened forms.

Capitalise organisations’ names in 2 situations

Use initial capitals for:

  • all words capitalised in the full, official names of organisations
  • the first mention of an organisation.

Don’t use an initial capital for:

  • generic terms – such as ‘the department’ or ‘the agency’ – even if the organisation being referenced capitalises the generic term in its content
  • mentions of several organisations with the same generic name.
Example

Australian Academy of the Humanities – the academy

Department of Finance – the department

the departments of Health and Finance – the departments

Western Sydney University – the university

Australian Ballet Company – the company

Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry – the royal commission

Gundagai Shire Council – the shire council/the council

Regional Australia Summit – the summit

In general text, use lower case for the definite article in the names of organisations

Some organisations use the definite article ‘The’ in their name with an initial capital. Use the full name, including ‘The’, in 2 situations:

  • in emails and letters 
  • if the name appears in an alphabetical list (arrange by ‘The’ as the first word in the name).

Always use lower case ‘the’ in general text. This follows the practice of most organisations.

Example

The University of Sydney [Correct name, not ‘University of Sydney’]

Next year the University of Sydney will renovate its science buildings. [General text uses lower case for ‘the’]

If organisations omit the definite article from their name, don’t use it in emails and letters. In general text, ‘the’ appears before the correct name or isn’t needed at all.

Example

Charles Sturt University [Correct name, not ‘The Charles Sturt University’]

Research at Charles Sturt University examined whether early Australian wheat varieties caused allergic reactions. [General text does not use ‘the’]

Put a possessive apostrophe in a name if the organisation does

Use an apostrophe only when it forms part of the official name of an organisation.

Example

Actors and Entertainers Benevolent Fund Qld

In all other cases for organisation names, don’t use possessive apostrophes.

The apostrophe is disappearing from many organisational names, particularly from those that contain plural nouns ending in ‘s’. In these cases, the plural noun is descriptive rather than possessive.

Example

Australian Securities and Investments Commission

Libraries Board of South Australia

Minerals Council of Australia

Chief Government Geologists Conference

Australian Workers Union

Use the singular verb with organisation names

While it is grammatically correct to use a plural or singular verb with the names of organisations, this is not Australian Government style. Always use a singular verb. This applies even if organisation names end in an ‘s’ and look plural.

Write this

The Bureau of Meteorology has been quick to respond.

Woolworths is advertising its new stock.

The United Nations turns 75 in 2020.

NT Fisheries has reviewed its policies.

Not this

The Bureau of Meteorology have been quick to respond.

Woolworths are advertising their new stock.

The United Nations turn 75 in 2020.

NT Fisheries have reviewed their policies.

Release notes

The digital edition consolidates and updates information from the sixth edition. It has links to online resources writers can use to ensure the information is up to date. In a departure from the sixth edition, the abbreviations ‘Co’ and ‘Inc’ do not have a full stop. This is consistent with Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) guidance and relevant legislation.

The sixth edition had relevant information on organisations’ names in different parts of the manual.

The Content Guide had an example to illustrate style for generic and full organisation names, consistent with the sixth edition, but no explicit guidance.

About this page

References

APSC (Australian Public Service Commission) (2020) APS agency listing: agencies covered by the Public Service Act 1999, APSC website, accessed 14 June 2020.

Australian Business Register (n.d.) ABN lookup, Australian Business Register website, accessed 10 June 2020.

Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (n.d.) Charities, ACNC website, accessed 10 June 2020.

Australian Government (2020) Directory, Australian Government Directory website, accessed 10 June 2020.

Australian Securities and Investments Commission (n.d.) Search business names register, ASIC Connect website, accessed 10 June 2020.

Australian Securities Exchange (n.d.) ‘The official list (listed companies)’, Company information, ASX website, accessed 10 June 2020.

This page was updated Sunday 20 September 2020.

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