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Jargon free zone

At Kent Fire and Rescue Service we need to be quickly and easily understood by everyone. That includes using clear, concise and current language that is free of jargon.

This A-Z guide contains useful advice on how we should speak as an organisation, including alternatives to commonly used phrases that might not be easily understood outside the fire station.

We have also included some tips on grammar and language to aid your ability to express yourself online, in print and broadcast (audio or video). If you have any questions please contact the Engagement team.


An abbreviation or acronym should be written out in full the first time it is used, followed by the abbreviation contained within brackets. Thereafter, just use the abbreviation/acronym.


He decided to contact the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC). Two weeks later, the NFCC replied, providing the information he requested.

What is an acronym? It’s a word made up of the first letters of a phrase or name: eg CIA is an acronym for Central Intelligence Agency.

Do not use full stops in abbreviations. For example: use NFCC – not N.F.C.C.

Exceptions: If the abbreviation is well known such as DVLC, it is not necessary to use it in full the first time.

We never use the word accident, please only use crash.

Write with an ‘active’ voice, rather than a ‘passive’ one. This helps to keep phrasing clear and direct.


active voice – she put out the fire.

passive voice – the fire was put out by the woman.

When the full title of an act of Parliament is given, it should be capitalised:


They breached the Fire and Rescue Service Act 2004.

If just referring to ‘the act’, or ‘the order’ use lower case.


He read the act in full.

When writing for an internal audience, refer to an ‘appliance’ or ‘pump’.

When writing for an external audience, for example in our incident reports online, use the term ‘fire engine’.

Use lower case


The armed forces were involved.

Only use ‘&’ where it forms part of a company, organisation or publication’s official name, otherwise use the word ‘and’ in full.


Kent Fire and Rescue Service should never be written as Kent Fire & rescue Service.

When a word is shortened (contracted), apostrophes are used to indicate a missing letter or word. They are also used to indicate the possession of something.


shortening a word:

‘He’s – is the shortened version of ‘he has’ or ‘he is’.

‘It’s’ – it is.

Let’s – let us.

indicating possession:

For singulars, the apostrophe comes before the ‘s’: the boy’s book; the cat’s mouse; the fire engine’s siren.

For more than one/a group ie plural, it comes after: the boys’ books; the kittens’ mice; the soldiers’ tanks.

It can get a bit more complicated when a word ends in ‘s’, such as ‘Henry James’ novel’ or Henry James’s novel. Both forms can be right but KFRS style is the first.

For example – Fire Services’ helmets.


This isn’t a term we would use, but bed-restricted is far more friendly and accurate.

Limit the use of bold text, confining it to instructions.


When giving instructions to complete a form or use a link: ‘Select Continue.’

Round brackets should be used in most cases.

Do not use them to indicate something could be singular or plural. Where this is the case, use the plural.


use: select which appointments you would like.

not: select which appointment(s) you would like.

Square brackets should only be used to indicate either an explanatory note or text that does not come from the original, inserted into speech or added into a quote.


‘Alerting Chris Colgan [Director of Operations] the officer…’

‘The fire service attended [in the afternoon] and rescued two people’.


Do not refer to KFRS as Kent Fire Brigade or ‘the Brigade’. Use Kent Fire and Rescue Service. The use of Kent Fire Brigade stopped in 2004 when the Civil Contingencies Act came in. Since then we have been known as Kent Fire and Rescue Service.


Bullet point styles differ with organisations. KFRS’ style for using bullet points is:

(i) lead into them with an introductory sentence.


When making a cake you will need

  • an egg
  • flour
  • sugar

(ii) each bullet text starts with a lower case.

(iii) each line of bullet text should be limited to one phrase/ sentence ( if you need to expand within that bullet use an en-rule (dash – see below) to signify this.

(iv) do not put any punctuation, or words such as ‘and’ ‘or’ at the end of each bulleted line.

(v) do not add a full stop after the last bullet point .

Numbers not bullets? If you choose to use numbered steps rather than bullet points, the rules are different. See Numbered lists.


Never write using just capital letters.

Do write this.

Use lower case, unless referring to a name, title, the
full names of government departments, educational
establishments, place names, group and organisation

examples of when to use capitals:
He went to the University of Kent to study
The Chief Executive of Kent Fire and Rescue Service
Mrs Smith, Mr Smith, The Duke of Kent
Tovil near Maidstone
National Fire Chiefs Council

examples: when not to use capitals:
He went to university to study
KFRS chief executive said
The duke was not present
The government was in disarray
The chairman said nothing

Use ‘select’ or ‘follow’, not ‘click’ or ‘tap’, if suggesting a
reader uses a hyperlink or interface because some users
may not be able to ‘click’ a link

Lower case

Colons: if you are using a list in a sentence you can use
a colon to denote the start of the list.
My dog ate: one sausage, a pizza, three biscuits and a
bunch of flowers.

Commas: commas are used to provide ‘breathing
spaces’ in sentences and to ensure they make sense. If you’re not sure where to put a comma, read the sentence
back to yourself and see where you naturally pause.

example — with no commas this sentence is
unwieldy and open to interpretation:
Jim decided to contact the fire service but hesitated
because he didn’t want to bother them and also wondered
what his best friends Charlie and Matt and neighbour
Glenda would do if they were caught up in a fire.

with commas the sense becomes clear:
Jim decided to contact the fire service, but hesitated
because he didn’t want to bother them and wondered
what his best friends Charlie and Matt, and neighbour
Glenda would do if they were caught up in a fire.

The comma after Matt is known as the ‘Oxford Comma’.
While commas are often not needed before the word
‘and’ it is sometimes needed for sense, in this case to
signify that Glenda is not Jim’s friend.


When referring to a local authority or council use capitals
if the name is given in full.
Ashford Borough Council.
He contacted the council to ask about bins.

Upper case

Never use ‘Accident’. Please only ever use crash.


Reference to the hyphen appears here to provide a comparison. See under H for information regarding hyphens).

A hyphen is used to join words.



An en dash (sometimes called an en rule) is used to connect a range of words or words that are related.


The appliance was 20–30 feet long

The war lasted from 1939–1945

An em dash is the longest of the three types and is used to create a break in a sentence, for example adding an aside from the author.


The fire service — once referred to as the Fire Brigade — is a compassionate and innovative organisation.

Use upper case for months and days of the week:

January, February, Monday, Tuesday

Put the year in full: 2020, 2019. Not ’19 or ‘20

Month and day abbreviations can be used if space is short – Mon, Feb

When giving a date range use ‘to’, not a dash or hyphen:

Monday to Friday, not Monday – Friday

The day number precedes the month: 24 April 2020, not April 24 2020

Do not use a comma in the date: 24 April 2020, not 24 April, 2020

In written text, do not use th, nd, rd after numbers in dates

When referring to those with a disability use ‘a person with a disability’ or ‘people with disabilities’.

Never say disabled people.

Refer to ‘wheelchair user’ not people in a wheelchair.

Other terms to avoid:

  • Victim of
  • Suffering from
  • Affected by
  • The handicapped
  • The blind
  • The deaf
  • Bed-bound (see under ‘B’)

The following terms have a negative impact and should not be used:

  • drug abuse
  • drug misuse
  • addict

Instead use:

  • person who uses drugs
  • person with drug dependence
  • problematic drug use
  • substance use disorder



Always use ‘for example’ in full – do not use eg. Alternatively use ‘including’ or ‘such as’.


Avoid if possible. Do not use at the end of a list.


ie is the abbreviation of ‘that is’. Avoid the abbreviation if possible, otherwise use ‘that is’.

An ellipses is used to denote the removal of a word or series of words from a quoted text.


Full quote: ‘take such general fire precautions as will ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of any of his employees’.

Quote with text removed and ellipses: ‘… such general fire precautions as will ensure … the safety of any … employees’.

An ellipses can also be used to indicate a sentence that is intentionally left unfinished.


she bitterly regretted not turning off the cooker, saying ‘if only I had ….’

Lower case

Refer to ethnicity, not race.

Use the term ‘ethnic minority’ to refer to all ethnic groups, except white British.

Do not use:


people/person of colour

BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic )

For further guidance on use of terminology regarding ethnicity go to:

Use ‘put out’.


See numbers

When writing for an external audience, for example in our incident reports online, use the term ‘fire engine’.

When writing for an internal audience, refer to an ‘appliance’ or ‘pump’.

use as lower case unless the name of the service referred to is included.


the fire and rescue service were present.

Kent Fire and Rescue Service was present.

Always use Kent Fire and Rescue Service: not Kent Fire & Rescue Service (see Kent Fire and Rescue Service below for further information).


Use gender-neutral terms wherever possible.


The firefighter was commended (not: the fireman was commended).

The postal worker called (not: the postman called).


Do not use patronising language or stereotypes.


patronising term: ‘career girl’.

stereotypes including: business men, housewife, male nurse, woman driver.


If a person’s gender needs to be referred to use: female or male, not woman or man.


Only refer to family details or marital status where it is necessary or relevant.


A reference to a person’s family such as ‘Mary Smith, mother of three, is a firefighter in Folkestone’ should only be used in a context where it is relevant eg an article relating to balancing family and work.


Do not use ‘his’ as a general term. Use his/her or their.


A firefighter uses their training or ‘a firefighter uses his/her training’.

Refer to ‘first’ and ‘last’ names, never use ‘Christian name’ or ‘surname’


Non-binary is a diverse identity. It relates to people who feel their gender identity may be in between male and female, may go beyond these two sexual identities, or that they have no gender. A non-binary identity may fluctuate or change.

(For further information refer to the website of the lgbt foundation

Non-binary people should be referred to as ‘they’ or ‘them’.

Transgender, trans

Transgender is used to denote a person who does not identify with their sex at birth, or does not identify with or conform with standard perceptions of sex and gender.

Use transgender at first mention, thereafter use trans. Do not use transsexual.

Reference to a person being transgender should only be made if it is relevant within the context, such as an article about life as a transgender firefighter.

Refer to someone as a ‘transgender person’, not as simply ‘transgender’.

Gender reassignment

Use gender reassignment. Do not use ‘sex change’.

North, south, east and west are lower case unless part of a regional name.


They travelled south-west and then turned north. north-west Scotland.


They travelled to North East Yorkshire. the South East regional managers.

Refer to as ‘the government’ not ‘government.

Use lower case unless the title is given in full.


government offices


HM Government

Scottish Government

Should be capitalised as a recognised ethnic group under the Race Relations Act.

(See also Roma and Irish Travellers).

Note: Gypsies should not be used to mean any group who regularly moves their homes.


Never use handicapped. See disabled (see page 62).

Hyphens can be used for several reasons as set out below.

Hyphens are not dashes and should not be used as an additional comma in a sentence, or to indicate an aside or brief digression from the main topic.

Hyphens join words together.





Hyphens help to distinguish meaning:


The guarantee on my up-to-date kettle is up to date.

A blue-winged butterfly is a butterfly with blue wings.


Hyphens help to aid pronunciation.


I co-ordinate people [not coordinate]

They co-operate

Let’s re-enter the building


When writing numbers, hyphenate two-word numbers up to 100.


Twenty-nine cats

Forty-two firefighters

This still applies when writing numbers of 100 and above, only hyphenating those of 99 or less.


one hundred and fifty-two lights

two hundred and eighty-seven vehicles

For further information about hyphens see the .Gov style guide and/or the Guardian and Observer Style Guide.


Should be capitalised as an ethnic group.


For accessibility reasons, do not use italics for large blocks of text.

Italics may be used to highlight a word or short part of a text that you want to draw to the reader’s attention.


A book title: The boy read Fireman Sam to his brother

Magazine titles: He read the firefighter’s magazine In Attendance


Full titles should be capitalised.


The Chief Executive is Ann Millington and the Director of Finance and Corporate Services is Alison Kilpatrick.

Job descriptions should be lower case.


For guidance on when to use the abbreviation KFRS please see ‘Abbreviations and acronyms’.

Refer to Kent Fire and Rescue Service – not the Kent Fire and Rescue Service.

Always use ‘and’ in Kent Fire and Rescue Service; never use Kent Fire & Rescue Service. (The logo is the only place ‘&’ is used in conjunction with our name.).

Kent Fire and Rescue Service as an organisation, is referred to in the singular, not the plural.


Kent Fire and Rescue Service is an emergency service.

not: Kent Fire and Rescue Service are an emergency service.

However, when describing what we do, refer to ‘we/us’.


Abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer.

See bullets and numbering.

If a list is included in a sentence, precede it with a colon.


Home safety includes: bonfires, chip pan fires, DIY safety, smoking and solar panels.


Use commonly accepted abbreviations for measurements:

Feet – use ft

Inches – use ins

Kilograms – use kg

Metres – use m

Do not add a space between the number and abbreviations.


15ft – not 15 feet

100 kg – not 100 kilograms


If the measurement is under 10, then write the number and the measurement in full.


Five feet

Nine kilograms


If the measurement relates to something such as kilometres per hour or land height, put the measurement in full the first time it is referred to, with the abbreviation in brackets. Thereafter, use the abbreviation.


The car travelled at 20 kilometres (km) per hour. It passed another doing 15km per hour.

The house was 65 feet (ft) above sea level. Its neighbour was only 50ft above sea level.


Temperature should always be shown in centigrade: 40°C.

Refer to ‘mental health’ or ‘mental health problems’.


In need of mental health support.

Do not use ‘mental illness’- this should only be used in relation to those receiving medical treatment for a diagnosed condition.

Use ‘migrant worker’, not ‘economic migrant’.


When using numbers in content, numbers from 1 to 9 should be written out in full. Numbers from 10 on should be written numerically.


Eight fire stations were included.

There were 16 people present


If a sentence starts with a number, this should always be written out in full

When giving a range of numbers, for example 200 to 340, use ‘to’, not 200-340

If using common fractions such as a half or a quarter, spell these out, do not show as a numeric fraction


He had one-half of the cake


If the number is being used as part of step by step sequence or in a list, use a numeral.


The instructor then went onto Step 3.

If using millions: always use million(s) in full, do not abbreviate to eg £100m, use £100 million.

Numbered lists are used when describing a series of steps, and follow this style.

1. Follow each number with a full stop

2. Leave a space after the stop.

3. If the list follows on from a paragraph leave a space before and after the list.

4. If you wish to have another level in the list indent the next level like this.

     (i) this is the second level in a numbered list.

     (ii) etc


Use the term ‘older person’.

Do not use OAP, elderly or senior.

One word.


When written in full, per cent should be two words.

Percentage(s) is one word.

When giving a number use the % symbol: 10%

Use shorter sentences where possible (15 to 20 words on average), and shorter words if appropriate.


say ‘extra details will be given’, rather than ‘additional particulars will be provided’.


Write using an active rather than a passive voice.

Use ‘you’ and ‘we’.

For further information see ‘Words to avoid’ below.

Used to describe a building or buildings.

(Do not confuse with ‘premise’ which is an idea/theory on which something is based).


Double quote (speech) marks

Use speech marks when quoting speech only. If the quoted speech extends to two or more paragraphs, start each paragraph with new speech marks, closing them in the final paragraph.

Do not use double quotation marks for quotes from documents, literature or other sources.

Single quotes

Use single quotes when quoting extracts from documents.


For assessments, the Fire Safety Order states ‘The responsible person must make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks …’ and then goes on to give further details.

Single quote marks are also used to indicate an unusual term.


A A Milne made up the name ‘heffalump’ in his famous book.


If a quoted extract makes up the whole of the sentence, the full stop goes within the quotes.

If the quoted extract forms part of the sentence, the full stop goes outside the quotes.


‘Fire Engines are now called appliances.’

The journal observed ‘fire engines are now called appliances’.


When quoting a reference in an article or within research, it is recommended the Harvard style of referencing is used.

Style for use in academic papers/journals:

example of reference in article:

Quintiere, J. G. (1989) Scaling applications in fire research. Fire Safety Journal, 15:1, 3-29.

Style for use in webpage:

example of reference in webpage:

Quintiere, J. G. (1989) Scaling applications in fire research. Available at: (Accessed 25 May, 2020).

Note: the style of referencing will vary dependent on where and/or how it is being used. For further information please contact the Engagement team.

Should be capitalised as a distinct ethnic group.


Avoid the use of semi colons wherever possible. This is because they can be easily misread.

These are defined as two separate vessels.

If a vessel has, for example, lifeboats on board – it is a ship.

If the vessel does not carry any boats itself – it is a boat.

Any references to suicide should be treated with the utmost sensitivity.

Do not refer to ‘committing’ or ‘committed’ suicide. If necessary used ‘died by suicide’

Keep details to a minimum.

Refer to the Engagement team for advice, before and if you consider it necessary to refer to suicide when writing.

Do not use suffering in relation to a condition, use the term ‘living with’. Example: ‘a person is living with dementia’, not ‘suffering from dementia’.


When referring to timings use ‘to’, not dashes.


Use: it lasts from 9am to 11am. Not: it lasts from 9-11am

Use: pm and am. Not: the 24 hour clock (with the exception of operational communications).

Use: midnight. Not: 00:00 hours.

Use: midday. Not: noon, 12pm or 12 noon.

When giving timings use hours and minutes in full with a space between number and word.


4 hours, 15 minutes. Not 4h 15m.

Always use a capital T for twitter.


Use the term ‘wheelchair user’ or ‘person who uses a wheelchair’.

Do not use ‘wheelchair bound’ or ‘in a wheelchair’