Abbreviations and symbols. Symbols

    The content of these guidelines is taken from the third edition of the Vives University Network’s Interuniversity Style Guide for Writing Institutional Texts, an interuniversity project in which the UPC participates with the support of the Secretariat for Universities and Research of the Government of Catalonia.



    • As with truncations and contractions, with symbols it is important to be consistent when alternative forms are available. This section provides guidelines for the symbols most commonly used in institutional writing. For details on symbols expressing sequences, ranges and yearly periods, see Numbers.
    • In our institutional context, the ampersand is mainly found in the formal names of firms or businesses, where it should not be replaced with the word and. The ampersand, and not the plus sign, should be used to abbreviate the phrase research and development.

      Is today's R&D model failing to meet the needs of developing countries?

    • This guide recommends not using the ampersand as a substitute for the word and, as this use is generally a feature of informal writing.


    Capitalisation and lowercasing

    • Use capital letters for the first letter of symbols that come from people's names.

      Bq (becquerel) Hz (hertz) K (kelvin) N (newton)

    • Symbols that come from common nouns are generally written in lower case and are the same for singular and plural.

      cd (candela)
      kg (kilogram)
      g (gram)
      lm (lumen)
      kb (kilobit)
      lx (lux)

      • However, remember kilobyte (kB) (one kilobyte is equal to eight kilobits) and litre (L).


      Multiplication signs

      • The multiplication sign (×) is similar to the lower case x but should not be confused with it.



      • Use per cent where the number is also spelt out in words; with figures, use the per cent sign without a space between the figure and the symbol.

        Forty-nine per cent

      • Note that the per cent sign should follow each of the figures in any given phrase. Therefore:

        *Library survey users rose last semester from 5 to 7% of the total 1,500 members.
        Library survey users rose last semester from 5% to 7% of the total 1,500 members.

      • Finally, note the difference between per cent and percentage point: an increase from 5% to 7% would be an increase of two percentage points (or an increase of 40%), not an increase of 2%.