The London Institute’s Webby-nominated website is how we share our discoveries and describe our research organisation. Here, we review the general design principles behind our website, and how these principles evolved in tandem with the design of the Institute itself.


The multiplication sign is different from the letter x, as in 2 ⨉ 2 matrix.

Don’t use the Oxford comma, unless it adds clarity to a list of complex objects.

In large numbers at least 1,000, separate sequences of three digits with a comma.

Use semicolons sparingly. One exception is to differentiate complex items on a long list.

Displayed equations are punctuated just as you would if they were written out in words. There is no space separating the equation and the punctuation mark.

Use one space between sentences. Two spaces is a throwback to the days of monospaced typewriters. It disrupts the appearance of the text on the page, creating white holes in the text block.

When forming abbreviations, use a full stop if the last letter of the abbreviation differs from the last letter of the word, but do not use one otherwise. Thus it’s Prof. Smith but Dr Smith.


It’s Erdős, Gödel and Schrödinger.

A website is a collection of individual web pages.

Spell out integers from zero to nine, but write 10 and above using digits.

When presenting a list, use first, second, and so on, not firstly, secondly.

Use et cetera sparingly. Just because you name just some elements of a set doesn’t mean you deny the existence of the others.

Favour short words over long words in general. For instance, try over attempt, show over demonstrate, use over utilise and about over pertaining to.

It’s at the start of a sentence and otherwise. This is contrary to our normal convention—which would be everywhere Bit.Bio—but made a special request.

Being a British organisation, we use British spelling rather than American spelling. Thus, for example, it’s analogue, analyse, colour, defence, organisation, and traveller, not analog, analyze, color, defense, organization and traveler. The exception is for work published in American journals.


The UK agency is Ministry of Defence but the US agency is Department of Defense.

Do split infinitives. If it’s okay for the Starship Enterprise to boldly go, it’s okay for us.

It’s London Institute for Mathematical Sciences, not London Institute of Mathematical Sciences.

The London Institute’s researchers are theoretical physicists and mathematicians, in that order, or theorists for short.

Our Arnold and Landau posts are for Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, in that order, which is the order of the number of applicants.

Write London Institute for Mathematical Sciences in the first instance, then tend to use London Institute after that. Exceptions are when the identity is implicit, such as in our Twitter feed. We use LIMS on our website only occasionally.

When writing about a person, use the full name in the first instance, then the surname after that. For example, it’s: Prof. John Smith, then Prof. Smith; Dr John Smith, then Dr Smith; Mr John Smith, then Mr Smith; but Sir John Smith, then Sir John.


If in doubt, favour concision. Thus use US over U.S. and 6 pm over 6 p.m.

In general, arrange items in a list according to their number of syllables, building from the shortest item to the longest: for example, chalk, blackboards and a place to think.

In general keep paragraphs short. The point of paragraphs is to break down prose into logical modules, each of which has a job to do. Don’t try to do multiple jobs with one paragraph.

Avoid parentheses where possible. Academics are particularly prone to an overuse of parentheses. As a rule of thumb, try to limit yourself to at most one instance of parentheses per page. Sometimes—when the enclosed text is parenthetical—parentheses can be replaced by dashes.

Use the active voice wherever possible. Academics tend to use the passive voice in the belief that it conveys impartiality, but the effect is just to make the sentence dull. As the physicist Lord Robert May put it, “These days, use of the passive voice in a research paper is, more often than not, the hallmark of second-rate work.”


Parentheses are always upright (even when surrounding italics).

Titles and labels are set in sans serif and other text is set in serif.

Do not indent the first paragraph, or the first paragraph after a section heading.

Italicise the titles of stand-alone works: books, journals, magazines, newspapers and movies. When listed in a bibliography, however, sometimes journal names are not italicised, depending on the house style of the publication.

Use italics for emphasis rarely. Instead, use the richness of the English language and the structure of your sentence to make your point. The academic custom of italicising the first instance of technical terms is in general unnecessary.

There are four kinds of dashes. An em dash marks a pause or change in sense—notice how it is unspaced. An en dash indicates a range, as in pp 1–5. A hyphen is a word-breaking device. A minus sign is used for mathematics, as in 1 − 5 = −4.

The English language is loath to capitalise. Thus, for example, it is nature, postdoc and quantum mechanics. Some exceptions are Gaussian, Boolean function and Euclidean geometry, the reason being that these are adjectival forms of the proper names Gauss, Boole and Euclid.