The Ontario Principals’ Council ® (OPC) Style Guide is a working reference document outlining common terms, spelling and formatting for OPC staff developing written materials and for individuals looking to submit articles, research reports or written documents for OPC publications. The guide focuses on the areas of formatting, punctuation, capitalization and other grammatical elements, as well as additional style guidance.

We use the following resources as a guide when writing


Always spell out the full formal name the first time, then use the acronym without periods between letters.

"The Principal’s Development Course (PDC) is a new offering. Many people who have taken the PDC will tell you that… ."

Commonly Used OPC Acronyms

  • Additional Qualification (AQ)
  • l’Association des directions et des directions adjointes des écoles franco-ontariennes (ADFO)
  • Catholic Principals’ Council of Ontario (CPCO)
  • Education Law Additional Qualification (ELQP)
  • Professional Learning (PL)
  • Principal’s Development Course (PDC)
  • International Confederation of Principals (ICP)
  • Institute for Education Leadership (IEL)
  • International School Leadership (ISL)
  • Mentoring Qualification Program (MQP)
  • Ministry of Education – often referred to as simply ministry or EDU
  • Ontario Principals’ Council ® (OPC) (registered icon only required on graphic logo)
  • Policy and Program Memorandum (PPM)
  • Protective Services Team (PST)
  • Principal Association Projects (PAP)
  • Principal’s Qualification Program (PQP)
  • Supervisory Officer’s Qualification Program (SOQP)
  • Special Education Additional Qualification Program (SEAQP)
 Commas, Colons and Semi-Colons
  • Do not use the Oxford or serial comma. She registered for the PQP, SOQP, Odyssey Conference and a legal issues workshop.
  • Semi-colons are used to separate two complete ideas. 
    The minister will be making a statement tomorrow; we are looking forward to hearing about the new bill.
  • Semi colons are used to separate items in a list if some of the items include commas. Three people attended the workshop; the new principal; the teacher; the vice-principal, along with her daughter; and the trustee.
  • Colons are used to connect ideas when the second part is not an independent clause. You should never come to a workshop without the following items: your College of Teachers’ number, your OPC number and your business cards.
 Formatting, Fonts
  • Font, Calibri
  • Size 12pt (for body copy)
  • Formatting for headings should use the Style Pane headings in Word only for AODA compliance. The OPC recommends
    • Header 1, 20pt
    • Header 2, 14pt
    • Header 3, 12pt
  • Headings with following subheadings should be all uppercase on first letters, followed by a colon, then uppercase first letter followed by all lowercase.Alternative Dispute Resolution: Mediation skills
  • For written emphasis, use bold and not italics.
  • Do not use underlining, as this is reserved for hyperlinks.
  • Do not add a colon at the end of a heading unless it is a complete clause.
 Italics, Caps and Lowercase Usage
  • Use italics (specifically the emphasis style header option in Word) only for book titles, document titles, website titles, full legal references such as Acts and Codes, Charters, formal framework names, Human Rights Code, Advisory or formal report/document names. The Register, Ontario Leadership Framework, Education Act
  • No italics are needed on policy documents or program names.
  • Use lowercase words in plural use.acts 3 and 5, chapters 1-3, grades 9 through 11
  • Use lowercase for page, paragraph, sentence, size, verse, line page 36, paragraph 2, line 3
  • Do not capitalize “the” at the start of names such as handbooks, organizations or programs the Oxford Dictionary and the Ontario Principals’ Council.
When the list is in a chart format, capitalize as you would a sentence. The following list is viewed as one sentence. Do not use a colon at the end of the intro statement, or periods at the end of each point. No commas on a list of items, only use a period at the end, as well as “and” before the last point.
  • You will need to bring
    • a pen
    • a pencil and
    • a pad of paper.

The following list is viewed as separate sentences. Use a colon at the end of the intro statement and periods after each sentence.

  • We recommend that the government move quickly to solve this problem:
    • The bill needs to be revised.
    • Vice-principals will need to provide input.
    • The OPC will seek Council support.
    • All administrators will be provided with a copy of the new Bill.
 Numbers, Dates & Times
  • Numbers should be spelled out from one to nine and numerals are used from 10 on.
  • If a number is the first word of a sentence, it should be spelled out.
  • Avoid roman numerals except in personal sequences and proper names where specified (Henry Ford III, Rocky IV)
  • In general, capitalize a noun followed by a number denoting place in a numbered series (Session 1, Workshop 2)
  • For four-digit numbers, use a comma after the first number (3,600)
  • For units, percentages and measurement, numerals are used (2L jug, 80 per cent, $2 million, 3:30 p.m.)
  • Friday, February 23, 2005 
  • March 9, 2005
  • March 9th
  • 21st century (lowercase “c”)
  • Currency (USD$500, CAD$800)
  • 4:00 p.m. ,  4:00–5:00 p.m. (write out times in full using a.m. or p.m.)
  • for listed times include the assocaited time zones where applicable, the OPC follows the EDT/EST calendar  
  • 1930s, ’30s
  • 1920–21 but 1999–2003 (small [en dash] no spaces)
  • Page 23 or p.23

Punctuation Marks

  • Periods and commas always go inside quotation marks, even inside single quotes. She said, “I want to join the OPC.”
  • Periods and commas always go outside of brackets.It appeared in the Public Policy section of the document (page 4, paragraph 2).
  • The placement of question marks, exclamation points and dashes with quotes follow logic. If a question is in quotation marks, the question mark should be placed inside the quotation marks. She asked, "Can I join the OPC?" Are you sure she said, "The OPC workshop was excellent"?
  • Dashes such as the long dash (en – dash) are used with a single space before or after to indicate a pause in a sentence, introduce an explanation, paraphrase or allow for an interjection. A short (-) dash is used to join two words of equal value.pages 3–10, 2007–2010, 3–5 p.m.
  • Hyphens are for age or durations or measurements. Use hyphens between most compound modifiers and the noun they modify. This project is two-thirds complete.
  • Use quotation marks around a term or word you are defining.Why is the word “communities” at the heart of many discussions about education today?
  • Ellipsis are three periods (…) used to indicate an omission from a text or quote. They also require a space before and after they appear.The decision … rests solely with your elected representatives.
  • There is only one space after a period. First, you must register. Then, you ... 
  • In a title, capitalize all words except articles (the, a, an), conjunctions (and, but, if) and prepositions (on, for, after). Capitalize short verb forms (Is, Are and Be).
  • Do not capitalize the second word of a hyphenated compound.
  • Capitalize only the first word of a subtitle. Financial Management: An OPC online learning program
  • Capitalize brand names such as Kleenex, Microsoft when referring to the product.
  • Capitalize special areas of education or specific program names (eg. Special Education, Teachers’ College or a degree in Psychology)
  • Capitalize Internet and World Wide Web but not web, website, web browser, email, blog, home page.
  • Use lowercase for all refences to seasons (spring, summer, fall and winter).
  • Below are a selection of examples for formatting. Ideally in-text ciations are used whenever possible. For more examples visit the Chicago Manual of Style Citation Guide.  
  • Always be sure to add hyperlinks to references whenever possible.



Reference List

  • List Grazer, Brian, and Charles Fishman. 2015. A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • Smith, Zadie. 2016. Swing Time. New York: Penguin Press.


In-text citations

  • (Grazer and Fishman 2015, 12)
  • (Smith 2016, 315–16)


Website Content

Reference List

  • Bouman, Katie. 2016. “How to Take a Picture of a Black Hole.” Filmed November 2016 at TEDx Beacon Street, Brookline, MA. Video, 12:51.
  • Google. 2017. “Privacy Policy.” Privacy & Terms. Last modified April 17, 2017.


In-text citations

  • (Bouman 2016)
  • (Google 2017)


News or magazine article

Reference List

  • Manjoo, Farhad. 2017. “Snap Makes a Bet on the Cultural Supremacy of the Camera.” New York Times, March 8, 2017.

In-text citations

  • (Manjoo 2017)


Webinar Content

  • Smith, Katie. 2010, October 24. “How to Take a Picture", Life of Photography. Webinar from The Library, Toronto, ON.

In-text citations

  • (Smith, 2010)
Websites & Online References

Webinars & blogs

Title of the blog itself is italicized/treated as a publication; individual posts are roman and set within quotation marks, similar to treatment for a newspaper article.



Title of podcast program is italicized; individual episodes in podcast are roman and set in quotation marks.


Websites and website navigation

Website’s name is capped, no italics (eg Wikipedia; IMDb;

A URL is regular type: Go to If a website must be written out, it does not require “www” to precede it unless it is specific to the usage, such as “ftp"

If you’re citing a command, simply cap it, with no quotation marks (e.g., once you have finished reading, click Next to get to the next page).


 Be sure to familarized yourself with our OPC lexicon of commonly used words for prefered spelling, word usage, or capitalizations.  

 Lexicon: Our commonly used words, spelling and capitalization
  • AQ’s should be referenced as programs (not courses)
  • a Member of the OPC (OPC Member always with uppercase “M”)
  • an Associate of the OPC
  • Bill 163 or PPM 000
  • a bill about safety was introduced
  • board (lowercase unless part of a formal title)
  • bussing
  • candidate (references AQ programs) and participants (for workshops, book clubs and smaller programs)
  • co-operate, co-operation, co-ordinate, co-worker
  • coordination, coordinator
  • Councillor or Provincial Councillor (uppercase in all occasions as representative on OPC Provincial Council)
  • COVID-19 is the disease it causes and SARS-CoV-2 is the virus
    • Greek names for variants should be capitalized (Delta, Omicron)
    • Variants of Concern (VOCs or VOIs)  should be written out, not abbreviated
    • Refer to physical distancing (a more accurate description that implies distance and people can grasp well) vs. social distancing
  • decision-making
  • department names, program names or school names are capitalized (eg. Special Education, Teacher’s College and Psychology)
  • Education Act
  • eight days
  • eight-year-old
  • email or online (no dash )
  • enrolment, enrol, enrolled
  • facilitator (references professional learning leads)
  • full-day kindergarten, full-day learning (Ministry spelling uses the dash)
  • full-day or half-day, part-day workshop (with dashes)
  • good standing
  • Grade 9 (caps on grade) or ninth grade, grades 1, 2 and 3
  • in-person (for example in references to meetings and events)
  • job-embedded
  • Long-term disability (LTD)
  • master’s degree or Master of  Education (only capitalize when speaking of a specific degree, these rules apply to bachelor’s degree as well)
  • Master's Dimension Program
  • Member-at-Large
  • mentee & mentor (lowercase when not a title)
  • Membership Services (formerly Membership & Benefits, or OPC Benefits)
  • MentorCoaching (OPC’s program) 
  • Mentor-Coaching Institute™ (Kate and Jeanie program)
  • mentor-mentee relationship (when referring to the OPC’s program)
  • Education Minister Stephen Lecce; "the Minister stated ... " (uppercase department and title)
  • ministry (lowercase), formal title write as The Ministry of Education with uppercase
  • Module 1, 2, 4, or "... the program modules focus on ..."
  • Betty White, education minister … (informal title style)
  • North, South, East, West (capitalize geographic regions but not derivatives and lowercase mere direction or position) the North (region of Canada) …, northern Ontario, the Canadian North …
  • not-for-profit, non-profit (noun and adjective)
  • non-member 
  • one-day, two-day, three-day, full-day, half-day workshops (with dashes)
  • one-time (adjective)
  • online learning or e-learning (commonly used to describe web-based learning)
  • one year
  • Ontario Leadership Framework (OLF or can also be written as the Framework)
  • per cent, percentage, six per cent increase (no hyphens)
  • postgraduate, post-secondary
  • post-retirement
  • play-based learning
  • practising principal (verb), practice (noun or adjective)
  • problem solving (no dash)
  • “… principal and vice-principal of the school …” (lowercase all titles, unless preceding a name, and titles that are more than two words long should be set off beside the name with a comma)
  • Principal Mary Brown (formal title in writing), Mary Brown, principal (informal title style)
  • Provincial Council
  • Provincial Councillor 
  • PQP 1 and 2
  • short-term and long-term (with dashes)
  • them/they instead of using he/she
  • toward (using "toward populism" vs towards)
  • deputy Speaker John Smith, Speaker John Smith … (always with caps)
  • supervisory officer, director of education, trustee (all lowercases unless preceeding name as part of a formal title) Supervisory Officer John Smith, Director of Education John Smith, Trustee John Smith
  • Transfer Payment Agreement (TPA) (how the Ministry refers to agreements for funding)
  • UK, US (commonly used with no periods)
  • "up-to-date" vs. "up to date", if it comes after the noun, the compound adjective usually doesn't get a hyphen and if it's before a noun it needs a hyphen (eg. document is up to date but it's an up-to-date document)
  • voice mail (two words)
  • website, web page, web conferences, webcast
  • well-being (hypen)
 Language use in relation to topics of equity and inclusion

It is important to note that the following language guidelines are a “living” resource, and therefore reflect today’s recommended usage. The content is subject to regular updates as language evolves.


Sensitive Subjects (Age and Mental Health)

  • Use the individual’s actual age, instead of generalizing; “senior” is ok to use if the group/person you are speaking of defines themselves by that word. 
  • Only use euphemisms that are commonly understood by your audience.
  • Do not say senior citizen or elderly. Instead use older adult (if you can’t specify the age/group).
  • Do not say “suffering from Alzheimer’s/other concerns,” but “living with or diagnosed with ….”
  • A person may have an intellectual disability and a mental illness. These are different, so language choice is critical.


  • Unless they declare otherwise, do not define people by their disability (eg. a woman with autism and NOT an autistic woman). If someone wishes to define themselves (identify-first language) they will likely capitalize the word (eg. Autism) and we should follow that in all references surrounding that person or group. Always check with the subject.
  • Additionally, add context in writing(s) to give readers clarity around the importance of the issue in relation to the person/group, as it helps further explain and educate the capitalization use throughout the rest of the written context.
  • Using a lowercase or uppercase “D/d” on deaf depends on the subject’s preference (eg. Deaf Culture), so specify with the subject/group first. 
  • When speaking about disabilities, never presume “suffering” or assume/imply a condition is permanent.
  • Never use language like “afflicted with” or “confined to.”
  • Avoid sayings that could be triggering to a disability such as “turn a blind eye” or “ fell on deaf ears.”
  • Choose your advocacy voice(s) for your writing or organization with care. Ensure diversity, since not all groups are created equally (ie. parents’ groups convey interest for their children but do not speak for other adults perhaps).

Race and Ethnicity

  • Showcase Canadian ethnic diversity in all ways, from written to visual contexts.
  • Beware the risk of “othering” in your writing or editing, meaning grouping people into categories (eg. not, “Iranian Canadian community in mourning after plane crash.” Instead, “Canadians with loved ones in Iran grieve crash victims.”) We don’t need to talk about Iranian Canadians, because they are Canadians, and we need to consciously include them as part of our Canadian community. Don’t separate them with language choices.
  • Identify a person by race, colour or national origin only when it’s truly pertinent.
  • Joint nationalists are no longer hyphenated (eg. French Canadian).
  • When writing antisemitism and antisemitic, do not use a hyphen, and no capital on S.  
  • Following social movements, it is suggested people do not use the BIPOC acronym, but rather write the title out in full. It is also suggested not to use the word “minority.” Consider the context and audience to guide what is the most acceptable format, as a general blank rule does not apply in all cases. We (Communications and EDI) will review this wording when/if necessary.

Capitalizing Black and Indigenous

  • Society has taken the word Black and defined it as an ethnicity, which is why we capitalize it now.
  • The word/ethnicity “white” remains lowercase because it lacks a similar shared culture and experience, and because of the risk of lending legitimacy to white supremacist ideology or other stereotypes.
  • The broad term of “brown” as an ethnicity/cultural group remains lowercase, as it covers a wide-ranging global group, and does not specify a shared collective experience or defined set of specific characteristics. It is best avoided, except in a quoted style when necessary. Whenever possible, list region or specify the group/subjects’ cultural background.  
  • We capitalized Indigenous, because we are referring to a special group unmatched in other areas.
  • When using Indigenous Peoples (uppercase P) or Indigenous people (lowercase p), pay attention to how social conversation is moving in terms of caps on this wording. Reflect the preferences of the subject/group.
  • Avoid caps on group titles as much as possible. It makes it hard for readers to keep terms and references straight on the defined differences of terms.  An example of this is two-spirit. 

Gender Identity

  • Ask for and use individual’s preferred pronouns.
  • Do not say/write transgendered or trans, but instead transgender.
  • Use the individual’s chosen name, instead of using they/them whenever possible, as it makes it unclear who is being referenced and confuses readers. Do not assume a preference or leave out info where it can be sourced by the subject. If that isn’t possible, then using they/them is a respectful choice.
  • When needed for educational context in written materials, seek confirmation to use their previous name first or in brackets before the chosen name to help educate readers (eg. Elliot Page articles).