City of Durham Resources

This page should be a go-to resource for City employees with writing or style questions. From simple copywriting tips to downloadable guidelines, consider your correspondence needs covered.

Glossary of Terms

Download a full glossary of terms (PDF) relating to style and correspondence.
Download a full list of grammar mistakes and typically misused terms (PDF) relating to style and correspondence.

Common Style Questions

What is the appropriate way to reference the City of Durham when referring to the government organization?

Spell out the City of Durham on first reference. Use the “City” as the abbreviation in the second reference. City should be capitalized when referring to the City as an organization, such as a City department, division, program, event, etc. The word city should not be capitalized when referring to anything other than the organization itself, such as city limits, etc.

What about departments?

When referring to City departments and divisions, use Department and Division in the name and capitalize on first reference, e.g. the City of Durham Water Management Department or the City of Durham Stormwater and GIS Services Division with the Public Works Department. On second reference, you may use the department or the division name only.

When do I capitalize a job title?

Capitalize a job title when it is used immediately before a name. Use lowercase and spell out titles when they are not used with an individual’s name. If there is no name used, then the title is lowercase.

Quick Tips for Copywriting and Correspondence
  •    The Associated Press Style Book should always be used when developing news releases, but is also a great reference for any copy or correspondence needs.
  •    Less is more – Make your point and support it well, and avoid using extraneous words. When possible, keep letters and memorandums under one page.
  •    Avoid casual writing – Remember that your words are representative of the City and should be expressed as such. Correspondence should never contain slang, unnecessary jargon or abbreviations, texting acronyms, emoticons, or specialized expressions that your audience may not understand.
  •    Remember your reader and tone – Do not forget about the recipient of your writing, what they are looking for, and what is most relatable to them. Make sure your tone is courteous, motivating, and clear.
  •    Always proofread – Don’t just rely on spell check. You should re-read every line of your correspondence for grammar and typing mistakes. Reading aloud also helps find errors and is a good proofreading check for speeches.
  •    Check your format – Have you used the appropriate mode of correspondence (letter, memorandum, email)? Have you made sure to use the following formatting guidelines?
    » Font: Arial or Calibri, size 11 or 12 pt.
    » Margins: Left justified.
    » Format: All external correspondence, including envelopes and labels, should be typed.
    » Sign Off: Your letter should contain a date, address, salutation, body of letter, complimentary closing, and a signature block.
    » Headers: If you have a second page, your header should include the name, subject, date, and page number.
    » Numbers: Spell out numbers one through nine, and use figures for numbers 10 and over. Use figures for one through nine only when numbers have technical significance.

Addressing Government Officials

Download a list of formal mailing address guidelines (PDF) for City Officials.

State and Street Mailing Abbreviations

Download state and street abbreviations (PDF) guidance.

ADA Notice

Download the most updated ADA disclaimer (PDF).