Names of ships, aircraft and other vehicles follow a set style. Using the correct style helps people identify the names of vehicles in text.
Italicise specific names and use capitals
Write the names of individual ships, aircraft and other vehicles:
- in italics
- with initial capitals.
This makes the name of the ship, aircraft or other vehicle clear. The name contrasts with the rest of the sentence.
Canberra is the Royal Australian Navy’s flagship.
Australian–American astronaut Andy Thomas flew his first flight in space aboard the
Indian Pacific takes 65 hours to travel from Sydney to Perth.
Screen readers don’t pronounce italics. Use the semantic tag <em> to provide emphasis for italicised names in HTML.
Names in citations
Separate the names of vehicles from titles in citations and reference lists. Separate them according to the type of publication:
- If the title is in italics (such as in book and website titles), use roman type for the name of the vehicle.
- If the title is in roman type (such as in journal article or blog titles), use italics for the name of the vehicle.
Mair C (2013) The lucky ship: the nine lives of the Australian coaster
Tambar 1912–1960, Nautical Association of Australia, Australia.
McMaugh D (21 March 2020) ‘
Albatross breaks bread with women in need of a hand’, Navy Daily, accessed 24 March 2020.
Don’t write brands or types of vehicles in italics
Begin the names of the brands, models and classes of vehicles with an initial capital letter but don’t use italics.
She was driving a
Boeing 737 brought the Australians home.
They travelled in a
Commodore for the last part of the journey.
Don’t italicise or capitalise types of ships, aircraft or other vehicles. Use an initial capital for a generic name only if it starts a sentence.
During the Second World War,
flying boats were deployed to strike remote enemy targets to Australia’s north.
The Waco 10 was an
open-cockpit biplane introduced in 1927.
Mail trains stop at every town, adding hours to the trip.
Don’t italicise the definite article (the word ‘the’) before the vehicle’s name unless it is part of the name.
Passengers travelling on
the Ghan had a marvellous view of flooded central Australia. [The definite article is not part of the train’s name.]
Brisbane is the home port of
The Lark. [The definite article is part of the ship’s name.]
Don’t put the abbreviated parts of a ship’s name in italics.
The crew boarded
HMAS Sydney last week.
PS Albury travelled the Murray River in the mid-1800s.
Refer to vehicles with the pronoun ‘it’
Use the pronoun ‘it’ for ships, aircraft and other vehicles. Do not write ‘she’ when referring to vehicles in government content.
Brisbane was the first stop for the replica Endeavour on
its maiden circumnavigation of Australia.
The digital edition expands on advice from the sixth edition about ships, aircraft and other vehicles. It adds explicit advice about using gender-neutral language to refer to ships. It includes guidance on referring to spacecraft.
The Content Guide did not cover this topic.
About this page
Australian Maritime Safety Authority (n.d.) List of registered ships, AMSA website, accessed 9 June 2020.
Mellefont J (2000) ‘Heirlooms and tea towels: views of ships’ gender in the modern maritime museum’, The Great Circle, 22(1):5–16.
National Museum of Australia (n.d.) ‘Italics’, Style guide, National Museum of Australia website, accessed 2 December 2019.
National Museum of Australia (n.d.) ‘Gender’, Style guide, National Museum of Australia website, accessed 9 June 2020.
Oxford University Press (2016) ‘5.16: Ships, aircraft and vehicles’, New Oxford style manual, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
University of Chicago (2017) ‘Names of ships and other vehicles’, Chicago manual of style, 17th edn, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
This page was updated Tuesday 22 September 2020.