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Writing Style Guidelines

The following guidelines should be used when writing staff reports and articles for the City of San Rafael.

Writing About the City Council

  • Always use “the” before City Council i.e., “the City Council”
  • Remove genders e.g., Councilmember not Councilman, staff the desk not man the desk

Around San Rafael and the Region

  • San Rafael street names should reflect how they are written on street signs.
    • Downtown street names should be written as First Street, Second Street, Third Street, Fourth Street, and Fifth Avenue
  • "Marin County" is the region, "County of Marin" is the name of the government entity
  • Citywide, countywide and statewide are written as one word

Words, Sentences, and Grammar

Always spell out the first use of any acronym in a document, even if you think your audience knows the acronym. If the acronym is used in an attachment that is part of the document (e.g. an attachment to a staff report), consider it a new document and re-spell out the acronym again

  • California Department of Transportation (Caltrans)

Avoid using abbreviations

  • Department instead of Dept.
  • Government instead of Govt.
  • January instead of Jan.

Only capitalize proper nouns. Government tends to over-capitalize.

    • Seasons are lower case (spring, fall, summer…)
    • Use lower case for “state” and “federal” unless it is used in a title (e.g. State Board of Equalization)
    • City is always upper case when referencing the City of San Rafael
    • Use lower case for “division”, “department”, “program”, etc. unless used in the full name format (e.g. Streets Maintenance Division)
    • Use lower case for “courts” unless the full name is spelled out (e.g. Marin County Courts)

Italicize titles of publications, TV programs, videos, etc.

Grammar Tips
Be mindful of correct word choice and grammar

    • Something is “fleshed out” not “flushed out”
    • “The modest design complemented the neighborhood.” not “The modest design complimented the neighborhood.“
    • “It’s going to happen on Monday.” not “Its going to happen on Monday.”
    • I vs. me vs. myself (used incorrectly more often verbally than in writing)
    • “Your” means belonging to you. “You’re” is a contraction for “you are.”
    • “Affect” vs. “effect”. A new development will affect us. The effect will be minimal.
    • Use of i.e. vs. e.g.
    • i.e. means “in other words”: “There is one key project Analysts work with Finance on every spring, i.e., budgeting for the upcoming fiscal year.”
    • e.g. means “for example”: “There are a number of tasks Analysts work on, e.g., staff reports, administrative process improvements, budgeting.”
    • e.g. opens up more options, i.e. narrows them down.

Periods & Commas

  • Do not use periods after bulleted items unless they are complete sentences
  • Use the Oxford comma
    • Oxford comma: “The survey was administered in May, December, and February.”
    • No Oxford comma: “The survey was administered in May, December and February.”
  • Use a comma after a time period at the beginning of a sentence, such as: “In February 2021, the City Council approved a resolution….”
  • If you are trying to use a semicolon, it is likely better to use a period and a new sentence.


  • Use the “FY 2017-18” format for fiscal year references rather than “FY 17-18” or FY “2017/18”
  • Numbers under 10 should be spelled out
  • Do not include cents for dollar amounts (e.g. $25,000 not $25,000.00)
  • Write out ‘percent’ in text, use % symbol in charts
  • Always use a 0 before decimal points (e.g. 0.5 FTE)

Date and Time

Be consistent when writing dates, times.  Public Safety uses the 24-hour clock in operations but writing for the public use either the 12-hour clock – not both in the same text.

Write ante-meridiem and post-meridiem as a.m. and p.m in an article or staff report.

    • 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.


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