TSL Copy Style Guide

This style guide uses AP Style, with a few exceptions.
For questions of spelling, use the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Use the first spelling listed.

Table of Contents



Abbreviations & Acronyms

Spell out first reference followed by abbreviation in parenthesis. Use abbreviation thereafter. Names of technology terms do not have to be capitalized before abbreviation.

Example: Our company just invested in a new point of sale (POS) system.

Exception: organization/company: the Better Business Bureau (BBB)

More guidelines:

  • United States: U.S. (in text); US (in headlines). Never spell out.
  • The names of the 50 U.S. states should be spelled out when used in the body of a story, whether standing alone or in conjunction with a city, town, village or military base. A comma must follow the state name: She will visit Indianapolis, Indiana, in the fall.
  • Times are formatted like 9 a.m. and 10:30 p.m.


Bulleted Lists

Use no more than 3 to 5 bullet points in a series. The Oxford Dictionary states that the text introducing the list of bullet points should end with a colon.

If the list is short, do not put periods at the end.

Morning Checklist:

  • Hair
  • Makeup
  • Coffee 

If the text following the bullet point IS a complete sentence, a full stop at the end is technically required but is not absolutely essential.

Get a quote and:

  • Benefit from a cost-effective solution for your business.
  • Experience 24/7/365 support from Windstream’s staff.



Do not capitalize common words, such as cloud or the cloud (unless it is a specific client request). That also goes for inbound marketing terms like blogging, social media, search engine optimization, lead generation, etc.

Internet should only be capitalized when it is used in a product name. Example: Company B Internet Services


Citation & Sourcing

Sources should be relevant, authoritative sources. Be sure to follow these rules:

1. Track down the original source and confirm the data. Instead of using information you saw quoted in a news article or a blog, track the information to the organization, company or government authority that released it. That is your source, not the media outlet that published it.

2. Avoid sources from competitors. Try to avoid sources from competitors UNLESS approved by client OR competitors aren’t in conflict.

3. Make sure you’re using the most recent data available. Surveys and reports get outdated – fast. A good rule of thumb: if a data set is older than two years, then chances are there is more recent data available.

Citation Within Body Copy

Superscript numbers that correlate with the sources listed at the bottom of your document should be placed after punctuation (no space) at the end of the sentence.

Example: Knowing your audience can increase your lead generation by 38%.1

Source List
Include a list of your sources at the bottom of your document, under a heading of Sources.
1 Hubspot | http://www.hubspot.com/
2 Harvard Business Review | https://hbr.org/2019/04/4-questions-retailers-need-to-ask-about-augmented-reality



Do not use on before a date or day of the week when its absence would not lead to confusion, except at the beginning of a sentence: The meeting will be held Monday. He will be inaugurated Jan. 20. On Sept. 3, the committee will meet to discuss the issue.

Use on to avoid an awkward juxtaposition of a date and a proper name: John met Mary on Monday. He told Obama on Thursday that the bill was doomed.

Use on also to avoid any suggestion that a date is the object of a transitive verb: The House killed on Tuesday a bid to raise taxes. The Senate postponed on Wednesday its consideration of a bill to reduce import duties.



Use title case for headlines. For help with title casing, consult this converter: https://titlecaseconverter.com/ Select AP and hit Convert.

One H1 per piece.

Sentence case can be used for H2s or H3s that are short product or feature descriptions or questions.


[H1] Places to Visit on a Beach Vacation

Body copy

[H2] What You Can Find at a Souvenir Shop

Intro body copy

[H3] Themed trinkets

Body copy

[H3] Destination clothing

Body copy


[H1] Questions You Should Ask Your Business Partner

Body copy

[H2] Where do you see yourself professionally in the future?

Body copy

[H2] Do you feel as though you’re financially stable?

Body copy



Meta Descriptions & Titles

Character count for meta descriptions: 155-160

Character count for title tags (These are HTML pages titles, not H1s or headlines): 55-60

Place title tag and meta description in this link and select Google for a preview https://seomofo.com/snippet-optimizer.html

H1: 5-7 words or 20-70 characters

Meta descriptions should be written for blogs, landing pages, and web pages, unless otherwise directed by PM. Thank You Pages are the exception – they never take a meta description.

Surveys, on the other hand, may or may not, depending on whether they’re being indexed. To get a definitive ruling on the survey you’re working on, consult the assigning PM.



Styling of numbers will depend on the tactic.

  • For white papers and case studies, spell out numbers under 10. Numbers 10 and above can be numerical.
  • For infographics and blogs, use Arabic numbers.

Example (blog): The scientist had been with the tech company for 4 years and, since his hire date, has completed 6 different guides for training.

However, exclude obscure references to “one” from this rule and continue to spell out. For example, Our technology teacher only required one report for the entire semester.


  • Ratios: The report shows that 1 out of 20 people drink coffee.
  • Always spell out the number when it starts a sentence.

Arabic numbers should also be used when writing about years and decades. Centuries should be spelled out if it’s first through ninth; everything else can be numerical. 

Apostrophes should be used when abbreviating years or decades. 


  • The ‘60s were a colorful time.
  • The 1960s were a colorful time.
  • He graduated in ’94.


  • The 60’s
  • The 60s
  • The sixties


Paragraph Structure

Put a double space between paragraphs. Do not indent new paragraphs.



Use only a single space between sentences.

Spacing for referencing bytes: 2 MB, 3 KB 


The Tactics

  • White paper is two words, contingent with client style.
  • Infographic is one word.
  • eBook – e always lowercase, book always capitalized.
  • Blog
  • Battle card
  • Sell sheets
  • Solution brief (not solutions brief)
  • Case study
  • Launchpad
  • Landing page
  • Checklist
  • Email (not hyphenated)
  • Website
  • Web page


Technology and Industry Terms

We have an established style for the following words. See bottom of list for further guidance.**:

  • All-flash
  • as a service (*aaS) (never hyphenate and only capitalize when it's linked to a company: InfoSystems Platform as a Service. Don't capitalize general references: Platform as a service is a good option.)
  • Back end (noun) but, as an adjective, back-end system 
  • Backup (noun or adjective) back up (verb)
  • Blockchain
  • Cellphone
  • Click-through
  • Command-line functions/command-line interfacing
  • Cost per click (but cost-per-click advertising)
  • C-suite
  • Cyberattack
  • Cybercrime
  • Cyberespionage
  • Cybersecurity
  • Cyber breach
  • Cyber incident
  • Database
  • Data center
  • Decision-making/decision-maker
  • Downtime
  • eCommerce
  • email
  • Endpoint
  • End user/end-user support
  • Face to face (meet face to face, but a face-to-face confrontation)
  • Failover (noun)/fail over (verb)
  • Fiber optic network
  • Finance industry or financial services industry, but not financial industry
  • fintech 
  • Firewall
  • Flash storage
  • Growth-Driven Design (HubSpot's web design process)
  • Hyperconverged
  • In-house
  • Knowledge base
  • Launchpad (TSL's preferred style)
  • Lloyds Banking Group (Lloyd’s is a British insurance company)
  • Marketing-qualified lead
  • Metadata
  • Net-new leads
  • Omnichannel
  • One-on-one (adjective and adverb - all uses)
  • Online
  • On-site/off-site (in all uses)
  • Open source/Open-source technologies
  • One-click protection
  • Pretest/post-test
  • Ransomware
  • Rollout
  • Service-level agreement
  • Sitemap 
  • smartphone
  • Software-defined security (SDSec)
  • Software-defined storage (SDS)
  • Style board
  • Time frame
  • Timeline
  • Voicemail
  • Webcam
  • Web server
  • Wi-Fi
  • Work site

**Note: If you don’t see it in the list, style will depend on the client’s preference. Use their current website as a guideline. Some examples are: on-premise vs. on-premises, co-location vs. colocation.


Templates, Typefaces & Fonts

Use the TSL Marketing copy template as a guide for typefaces and fonts for written pieces. Remember to ‘save as’ your template with the new document name to preserve the original template’s format for later use. 

Templates can be found here: https://www.tslmarketing.com/tsl-internal-resource-tsl-digital-assets




Ampersand (&)

There may be some cases when it might be stylistically okay to use in bullet points or titles, but use sparingly. Don’t use ampersands in body copy.



AP’s rule for making singular proper names ending in ‘s’ possessive:

Use only an apostrophe: Achilles' heelAgnes' bookCeres' ritesDescartes' theoriesDickens' novelsEuripides' dramasHercules' laborsJesus' lifeJules' seatKansas' schoolsMoses' lawSocrates' lifeTennessee Williams' playsXerxes' armies.

Example: Curtis Jones’ house (just Curtis lives there) or the Joneses’ house (Mr. and Mrs. Jones live there.)


Dashes, Colons, and Slashes

Em dash

Use em dashes for sentence interruptions. AP style dictates that spaces pad each side of the em dash.

Example: Technology experts can — and will — find the answer to the question.

If you do the following, AutoFormat will insert an Em dash ( ) as you type.

In a Word document:

  1. Click on the insert tab in Word.
  2. Click on the symbol chart and select “More symbols”.
  3. Click on the special characters tab.
  4. Choose em dash.
  5. Click on insert and then close.



When a slash appears in a sentence that divides two words, it should not be padded with spaces.

Example: The technology team focused on additions/adjustments to the website.



Capitalize the word after the colon only if it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence.


  • He promised this: The company will make good all the losses.
  • She has many nice traits: friendly, outgoing, and fair.



Yes, use the Oxford Comma! Just say ‘yes’ to the Oxford Comma (a.k.a. a serial comma or series comma). It is the final comma in a list of things.

Example: “I ate apples, oranges, and grapes.”

Not using the Oxford Comma can sometimes lead to confusion especially for longer sentences. “I love my parents, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty.”



We follow the Associate Press guidelines.

  • No hyphen is needed if the modifier is commonly recognized as one phrase, and if the meaning is clear and unambiguous without the hyphen. Examples: third grade teacher, chocolate chip cookie, early morning traffic, special effects embellishment, climate change report, public land management, first quarter touchdown, real estate transaction.
  • Do use hyphen if it’s needed to make the meaning clear and avoid unintended meanings: small-business owner, better-qualified candidate, little-known song, French-speaking people, free-thinking philosophy, loose-knit group. (Think of the different possible meanings or confusion if the hyphen is removed in each of those examples.)
  • A change effective today: Many combinations that are hyphenated before a noun are not hyphenated when they occur after a noun: She works full time. She is well aware of the consequences. The children are soft spoken. The play is second rate. The calendar is up to date. (Previously, the Stylebook said to hyphenate following a form of the verb to be.)
  • Do use a hyphen after a form of to be if confusion could otherwise result, especially with longer compound modifiers or those that are not as commonly used: The steel surface should be blast-cleaned. The technology is state-of-the-art. The test was multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank. He will work arm-in-arm with the director.



Use the percent symbol (%) when paired with numerals. The symbol (%) accompanies a specific number, whereas the more general word percentage is used without a number.

Example: We are interested in knowing the percentage of applicants holding college degrees.


Publication Titles Mentioned In Copy

Use italics for:

  • Book/eBook titles
  • Reports and surveys
  • periodicals (journals, magazines, newspapers)
  • Official names of blogs (not blog posts - see below)
  • Movies, films
  • YouTube video
  • Music album
  • Websites that are online periodicals. Company websites are in plain text.

Use quotation marks for:

  • a short story/essay/poem from an anthology/collection
  • episodes of video series
  • Webisode
  • song titles
  • articles from publications
  • Book/eBook chapter
  • Newspaper article
  • a blog post/article from a Website