Style Guide


Define abbreviations (e.g., AWS, EXE, PDF) the first time you use it in a document.

Example: Active Directory (AD) is a Microsoft technology. AD is used by …

You do not need to define the abbreviation if it is commonly used (e.g., USB, UTM, OS).

Do not use periods in abbreviations (e.g., IT, not I.T.).

The exception is when abbreviating countries (e.g., U.K. and U.S.).


Acronyms we pronounce as words are written in lowercase, unless at the start of a sentence (e.g., laser, sonar, scuba).

For less common and technical acronyms, write them in capitals (e.g., CD-ROM, WYSIWYG interface, GNOME environment).

You can make abbreviations plural by adding a lowercase "s" without an apostrophe, (e.g., PDFs, CD-ROMs). For indefinite articles (“a” or “an”) before an acronym, choose the one you would use when pronouncing the acronym.

Examples: an FTP server (“an eff-tee-pee server”), an OS (“an oh-ess”); a UTM (“a yoo-tee-em”).


Apostrophes are used to show possession (e.g., the customer’s complaint, the company’s future). If the owner is plural, the apostrophe usually comes after the "s" (e.g., the customers’ complaints, the companies’ future, etc.). If the plural doesn’t end in an "s," treat it as a singular (e.g., the women’s committee, the people’s choice).

Two situations can cause problems:

Ordinary plurals (plurals of a single word) don’t need apostrophes. We sell apple’s and pear’s is wrong.

It’s or its? It’s means it is or it has, (contraction). Its means belonging to it, (e.g., the company is confident about its future). Its’ is never right.

Avoid using the possessive form of Sophos (say “our”). When you need to use it, use Sophos’ and not Sophos’s.


Use bold sparingly to emphasize words, numbers, and dates.

Bold italic

Bold italic makes text hard to read, so stick with bold.

Bullet points

When creating a list of bullet points, do not use a period at the end of the sentence.


Only capitalize proper names (e.g., product names, headlines, etc.) or at the beginning of the sentence.


When listing a series of elements, include a comma before the and/or.

Example: The final decision was among a Jeep, a Mazda, and a Nissan.

This is called the serial comma, also known as the Oxford comma.


Contractions shorten two words by adding an apostrophe like it’s or isn’t. Use contractions unless you’re writing something formal. You don’t have to use them all the time. Read it out loud to make sure it sounds natural and flows properly.


Use this format for dates:

September 15, 2010

If you’re using dates in a table, it’s fine to abbreviate the month (e.g., Sept. 15, 2008).

For decades, talk about the 1990s or ‘90s, never the 1990’s.

Communications that will remain strictly regional should use the local format.


Ellipses ( ... ) always have a space before and after.

Em Dash (—)

Em dashes may replace commas, semicolons, colons, and parentheses to indicate added emphasis, an interruption, or an abrupt change of thought. An em dash has a space before and after it.

Example: Our antivirus zaps spyware and adware — and it wins awards. Our solution is easy to manage so you can focus on what’s important — your business.


Write fractions out in full and hyphenate them, (e.g., three-quarters, one-and-a-half). Set decimal fractions as figures, (e.g., 3.14, 84.9).


When you’re presenting numbers in a graph, use numerals, (e.g., 1,2,3).


Use hyphens to make compound words, (e.g., full-disk encryption).

Sometimes you’ll need to use them to avoid confusion: A third world war is different from a third-world war. Full-disk encryption is different from full disk encryption.

If you’re not sure, look it up in the dictionary.


Avoid using italics. They make writing look cluttered.

Italic case is harder to read than normal copy and should be used sparingly.

Bold and italic at the same time is difficult to read and should not be used.

Italics should also be used when you’re talking about publications, TV/radio programs, films, shows, and ships:

Huckleberry Finn
Star Wars
The New York Times
USS Theodore Roosevelt


For amounts of money, use the symbol for the units of currency without a space:

US$123.45 (U.S. dollars)
CDN$123.45 (Canadian dollars)
€1,234.56 (Euro)

If you need to explain what the unit price is, say in cents or in dollars.


The first time you mention someone, give their full name. Then call them by their first name. (e.g., Kris Hagerman is the CEO of Sophos. Kris says; Bruce Schneier is the world’s most prominent cryptographer. Bruce says ... ).


To write out numbers, use words for one to nine and use numbers for 10 and above. Don’t mix the two in the same sentence, (e.g., I’ll write again in four days. I’ll write again in 12 days. I’ll write again in 4 days and in 12 days).

If you’re talking about measurements or adding numbers to a graph or table, always use numbers:

5 cm, 70 mph, 6 hr 17 min, £4 billion

For large numbers, separate the digits with a comma:


If it’s a whole number, you don’t need to write .00 after it.


Use parentheses (like this), not brackets [like this]. If you’re putting a whole sentence into parentheses, put the period inside too. (This is a full sentence in parentheses, so it has its full stop inside.) If you’re only putting part of a sentence inside the parentheses, then you need to put the period outside.


In text, always write out “percent” in full (e.g.,: 16 percent growth). In a graph or chart “%” may be used.

Phone numbers

Make domestic U.S. phone numbers easier to read by adding a hyphen between each block and starting with a “+”: +1-866-866-2802. For numbers in other countries, use a space instead of a hyphen and always include an international calling code. You’ll also need to insert the area code’s 0 in parentheses:

+44 (0) 1235 559 933


Places take an initial capital: Boston, Paris, New York.

Use lowercase for compass bearings and don’t hyphenate them, (e.g., north, southeast, northwest). The only time you’d capitalize them is for well-established names for regions and areas like the South (of the U.S.), the Pacific Northwest, Southeast Asia, etc.


If you’re quoting direct speech, use double quotation marks introduced with a comma.

Example: Kate Libby said, “This is good news for our customer.” She added, “It will also increase our sales.”

Punctuation goes inside the quotes.

If there’s a quote within a quote, use single quotation marks within double quotation marks.

Example: Richard Gill said, “That’s what the report meant by ‘The clear and obvious choice’.”

It’s very rare to need to do this, but if you’re quoting someone in a headline then use single quotation marks.

Example: New computer system ‘best ever’ – report

Use quotation marks to provide a gentle emphasis. Words in quotes will stand out as important when someone reads what you’ve written, but they won’t stand out at a glance like bold.


Sophos is always singular.

Example: Sophos is trusted by 100 million users.

Never say Sophos are.

Than or then?

Than relates to comparison, while then relates to time, particularly sequential order, or step-by-step instructions.

Attacks are more sophisticated than we’ve seen before. (Comparison)
Insert the disc, then follow prompts. (Sequential time)

Their, they’re, or there?

Use their when you’re talking about something that belongs to them. Use they’re as a contraction of they are. Use there to mean a specific place.

Example: They’re leaving all their packages over there.


We use a.m. and p.m., not AM/PM or am/pm. Do not include :00 for the top of the hour:

3 p.m. not 3:00 p.m.
3:30 p.m., etc.
12 noon or 12 midnight and
12 p.m. / 12 a.m. are both acceptable
depending on the situation

Note: We default to the 12-hour clock, and to American date structure for worldwide copy. It is perfectly acceptable to use regional style (for example: 0930, 2230) for localized copy however.


Sophos owned trademarks should be referenced in the first instance, but not afterwards.


Don’t underline words to make them stand out.

URLs: In Print

You don’t need to preface a web address with http://. Only write out the network protocol if it’s something else like https:// or ftp://.

In body copy, it helps mark out the fact that it’s a URL if you preface it with www.

We also offer 24-hour technical support at

For advertising and marketing communications, you can omit the ‘www.’ to save space.

Example: Visit today.

We also have a number of vanity URLs available for use with advertising and marketing materials, (e.g.,,,, etc). To look up or request a vanity URL, email

Do not use initial capitals in web addresses ( not; not


It’s more personal to talk about us and we, rather than talking about Sophos.

Because we’re such a big company, make sure people know exactly who we are; is it your team, your business, or the whole company? If your context doesn’t make it clear, make sure to explain it to your reader.

But because we want to sound like a team of people, open and understanding, we frequently use we.

We are changing the way people think about digital security worldwide.

Your or you’re?

Use your when you talk about something that belongs to your reader. Use you’re as a contraction of you are.

Example: You’re about to make your first payment.