A to Z

This A to Z is for anyone writing content for the Ethnicity facts and figures website and publications. It includes:

  • general guidance on formatting, grammar and punctuation
  • example text that can be used in commentary

It should be used alongside guidance on writing about ethnicity and our writing principles. You can also check the GDS style guide or the ONS style guide.


Abbreviations and acronyms

Follow the GOV.UK style guide on abbreviations.

See also Ethnicity facts and figures, Race Disparity Unit and Race Disparity Audit.

Age standardisation

If figures have been age standardised, add this content to ‘Things you need to know’:

These figures are not the actual percentages of people who [insert text relevant to measure]. They have been adjusted because:

  • people’s age can affect their [insert text relevant to measure]
  • different ethnic groups have different age profiles.


Use conversational language when talking about ages.

For example:

  • ‘16 to 64 year olds’, not ‘people aged 16 to 64 years’
  • ‘5 year olds’, not ‘children aged 5 years old’
  • ‘under 18s’, not ‘people aged 17 and under’

There are some exceptions. For example, say ‘people aged 65 and over’, not ‘over 64s’.

Academic years

See Dates.


Don’t use ‘mean’ or ‘median’ in bullet points. Say ‘average’ instead.

You can explain the type of average used in ‘Methodology’.

Plain English version of median:

The middle point of a range of numbers arranged in order.

Plain English version of mean:

The sum of all the numbers, divided by how many numbers there are.


BAME and BME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic/Black and minority ethnic)

Don’t use these terms.

Refer to guidance in Writing about ethnicity.


Do not use this term.

Refer to guidance in Writing about ethnicity.

Broad and specific ethnic groups

Don’t use these terms.

Refer to guidance in Writing about ethnicity.

Bullet points

In most cases, follow the GOV.UK guidance on bullet points.

There’s one exception. Don’t add a lead-in line above the bullet points in ‘Main facts and figures’.

See also Our writing principles.



Follow the GOV.UK guidance on capitalisation.

See also Writing about ethnicity.


A population census happens every 10 years in England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Write ‘Census’ with a capital ‘C’ when you’re referring to a specific census.

For example:

according to the 2011 Census, the total population of England and Wales was 56.1 million

Use lower case:

  • when you’re not referring to a specific census – for example, ‘census information shows that…’
  • for the ‘school census’


Don’t write ‘compared to’.

Write ‘compared with’ when you’re comparing groups with each other.

For example:

from 2017 to 2018, there were 3 stop and searches for every 1,000 White people, compared with 29 stop and searches for every 1,000 Black people

Confidence intervals

Use this in the Methodology section:

Download the data to see confidence intervals for the estimates on this page.

Read more about how confidence intervals are used to judge the reliability of survey data.



Follow the GOV.UK style guide and write data as a singular noun:

‘This data shows that…’, not ‘These data show that…’.


Follow the GOV.UK style guide on dates. Write ‘2018 to 2019’, not ‘2018/19’ or ‘2018-19’.

Dashes (-) and slashes (/) make it harder for users to read and don’t work well for those who use screen readers.

Financial or academic years

Let users know if you’re referring to a date range other than a calendar year:

  • The financial year ending March 2019
  • The academic year ending July 2019
  • The tax year 2017 to 2018

For example:

there were 277,378 stop and search incidents in England and Wales in the financial year ending March 2018, at a rate of 5 per 1,000 people

Combining data across multiple years

Don’t refer to ‘rolling averages’.

Use or adapt one of the following:

  • 3 years ending March 2019 (combined)
  • In the 5 years ending August 2019, an average of…
  • On average for 2017 and 2018 combined, …

For example:

in the 2 years ending March 2017, 17% of households in England rented social housing

Periods over time

Don’t write ‘2002/03 to 2018/19’.

Use or adapt one of the following:

  • 2002 to 2019
  • 10 academic years ending August 2019
  • Financial years ending March 2003 to March 2019


See Quintiles.


See Rounding.

Denominators and numerators

Don’t refer to ‘numerators’ or ‘denominators’ except in data download files.


See Index of multiple deprivation.


Economically inactive

Use this Plain English definition of economically inactive:

Someone is economically inactive if they are 16 to 64 years old and:

  • are out of work
  • have not been looking for work in the past 4 weeks
  • are not waiting to start a job

This could include people who care for their family or are retired.


Use ‘ethnicity’ instead of ‘race’.

See also Writing about ethnicity.

Ethnic minorities

See Writing about ethnicity.

Ethnicities and nationalities

See Writing about ethnicity.

Ethnicity facts and figures

Write ‘Ethnicity facts and figures’, not ‘Ethnicity Facts and Figures’ or ‘ethnicity facts and figures’.

This includes within a sentence. For example, ‘New data was recently added to Ethnicity facts and figures.’

Don’t use the abbreviations ‘EFF’ or ‘EFAF’. Either say ‘Ethnicity facts and figures’ or ‘the website’, depending on the context. Don’t call it a ‘service’.


Financial years

See Dates.


Only use meaningful fractions such as a quarter, a half, three-quarters or one-third. Follow the ONS guidance by writing them out rather than expressing numerically (not ½ or ¾).

Free school meals

Follow the GOV.UK style guide on abbreviations before using ‘FSM’.

Eligibility for free school meals can be used as an indicator of deprivation.

Where it is, add this content to dimension summaries, above the bullet points:

Eligibility for free school meals (FSM) in England is used as an indicator of deprivation.

Add this content to the Methodology section:

Figures for free school meals include pupils who are eligible for FSM. To be eligible, their families must:

  • have applied for FSM at the time of the school census in January
  • be receiving a qualifying benefit like Jobseeker’s Allowance


Gender and sex

Use the same term as in the data source. The ONS explains the difference between the two terms.

See also Women and men.

Great Britain

See UK and Great Britain.

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller ethnic groups

See Writing about ethnicity.



Use this Plain English definition of household:

A household is a person or group of people whose accommodation is their main home. If it is a group, they must share cooking facilities and a living room, sitting room or dining area.


Index of multiple deprivation

Do not refer to indices of deprivation in commentary. Use Plain English instead, with a simple definition if necessary.

For example:

  • the neighbourhood’s deprivation is defined using the Index of Multiple Deprivation 2019.
  • Black students from all but the least deprived neighbourhoods had the highest rates of leaving their course

You can add a longer definition to ‘Things You Need to Know’:

The Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) 2015 splits England into neighbourhoods by population size (roughly, 1,500 people). IMD describes relative, not absolute, deprivation: that is, neighbourhoods are grouped into the most deprived 20% through to the least deprived 20%.

See also Quintiles.



You can use ‘more/most likely’ and ‘less/least likely’ to compare ethnic groups where there are statistically significant differences.

Always make it clear what you’re comparing.

For example:

  • in all ethnic groups, men were more likely to be employed than women
  • adults from the Chinese ethnic group were the least likely out of all ethnic groups to be overweight or obese
  • people from ethnic minorities were more likely to receive an OBE or MBE than any other type of honour

You can also use ‘as likely’ for relative likelihoods.

For example:

Black people were over 3 times as likely to be arrested as White people – there were 35 arrests for every 1,000 Black people, and 11 for every 1,000 White people

Avoid linking to PDFs. If you do, the document link text should be labelled as a PDF with the file size and number of pages. For example:

Follow the GOV.UK guidance on writing link text.


Maintained schools

Don’t use ‘maintained schools’. Use ‘state-funded mainstream schools’ instead.


See Averages.


See Averages.

Mixed ethnicity

See Writing about ethnicity.



Don’t say ‘Non-White’.

Refer to guidance in Writing about ethnicity.


Other ethnic groups

See Writing about ethnicity.


Percentage and proportion

Don’t use ‘proportion’, ‘level’ or ‘rate’ as an alternative to ‘percentage’. They don’t mean the same thing.

See also Rates.



Don’t use ‘quintile’ or ‘decile’. Instead refer directly to what the quintiles or deciles relate to.

For example, don’t say this:

43% of Indian households fell into the 2 highest income quintiles

Say this:

43% of Indian households had a total income of £34,700 a year or more



Use ‘ethnicity’ instead of ‘race’.

See also Writing about ethnicity.

Race Disparity Audit

The Race Disparity Audit was published on GOV.UK in October 2017.

It’s a standalone publication, and not the same as the Ethnicity facts and figures website.

If you need to refer to it, write ‘the Race Disparity Audit’, not ‘the race disparity audit’. In subsequent mentions, you can say ‘the audit’ (but not ‘the Audit’ or ‘the RDA’).

Race Disparity Unit

The Race Disparity Unit is the team that produced the Race Disparity Audit and now manages the Ethnicity facts and figures website.

Write ‘the Race Disparity Unit’, not ‘the Race disparity unit’ or ‘the race disparity unit’.

It’s fine to say ‘the RDU’, but write it out in full the first time you use it, as per the GOV.UK style guide on abbreviations.


You can use ‘rate’ as in these examples:

Black people had the highest unemployment rate out of all the ethnic groups (9%).

There were 698,737 arrests in England and Wales in 2017 to 2018, at a rate of 13 arrests per 1,000 people.

See also Percentage and proportion.

Rolling averages

Do not use rolling averages.

Refer to guidance in Dates.


Generally you should be consistent in your use of rounding in a measure page. So 1.2%, 5.8% and 10.1%, not 1.2%, 6% and 10.146%. Keep the decimal point even if it’s a zero. So 10.0%, not 10%.

The exception is when linking to measures with different rounding rules, for example from a summary report. In this case, use the same rounding that has been used within each measure page.



See Gender and sex.

Socio-economic groups

Write ‘socio-economic groups’. Don’t write ‘socioeconomic groups’ or ‘NS-SEC groups’ (including in charts and tables).

You don’t need to list the groups other than in the charts and tables.

Statistical significance

See Our writing principles.


Total household income

If needed, use this definition of total household income:

Total household income is the combined income of everyone in a household. It includes income from all sources. For example, work, pensions, benefits, and interest from savings.


UK and Great Britain

Write ‘UK’, not ‘United Kingdom’.

Write ‘England, Wales and Scotland’, not Great Britain.

If data covers regions in England, plus Wales and/or Scotland as a whole, write ‘all regions’ in commentary.

For example:

out of all regions, London had the smallest percentage of White British people, at 44.9%, and the North East had the highest percentage, at 93.6%



Use this in the Methodology section where applicable:

Download the data to see unweighted samples. Read more about how weighting is used to make samples representative of the population.

Women and men

Use ‘women’ and ‘girls’ instead of ‘females’. Use ‘men’ and ‘boys’ rather than ‘males’.

Only use ‘male’ and ‘female’ as adjectives.

For example:

in the same period, the percentage of female officers from the same backgrounds went up from 3.9% to 5.7%

Working age

The working age population in employment statistics includes all 16 to 64 year olds.

Consider if it’s clearer to refer directly to ‘16 to 64 year olds’ instead of ‘people of working age’.

If you do use ‘working age’, include a definition in the first bullet point of each summary.

For example:

75% of working age people (people aged 16 to 64) in England, Wales and Scotland were employed in 2018

Help us stay up to date

Language usage and acceptability change over time. We want to make sure our content reflects those changes. Contact us at ethnicity@cabinetoffice.gov.uk with your thoughts and research.