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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

Discover what this means

Scouts’ style guide

If you’re writing about or for Scouts, this is the place for you


An is used before a vowel or vowel sound, for example, ‘an hour’, or ‘an eagle’. A is used for consonants and hard ‘h’s, for example, ‘a hotel’, or ‘a historic’.

For abbreviations, go by the pronunciation rather than the first letter. For example, ‘an SOS’ or ‘a UFO’.

Feel free to change ‘a’ and ‘an’ in direct quotes so it’s grammatically correct.

One way for Scouts to take action and achieve their Community Impact Staged Activity Badge. It’s centred on six national themes, chosen by young people and supported by expert charity partners. Make sure you capitalise it correctly and find out more at

Avoid ‘etc’, ‘eg’, and ‘ie’ as much as possible; use phrases including ‘and so on’, ’for example’, ‘such as’, and ‘in other words’ instead.

If you really can’t avoid these abbreviations (though you almost always can):

  • Use eg (not e.g. or eg.) to mean ‘for example’.
  • Use etc (not etc., e.t.c, or et cetera) to mean ‘and other things’.
  • Use ie (not i.e. or ie.) to mean ‘that is’.

Write names or titles in full the first time you use them, with the abbreviation in brackets afterwards. This applies to Scout abbreviations too – remember that not everyone has the same level of Scout experience. For example, ‘You should talk to a Nights Away Adviser (NAA). An NAA will assess…’ or ‘The Scouts completed the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) course, and earned RYA awards’. You don’t need to do this for well-known abbreviations, for example, you could write ‘the NHS’ or ‘an ATM’ as though the abbreviations were words.

You don’t usually need to put full stops between letters in an abbreviation (for example, use ‘mph’ not ‘m.p.h.’). If you pronounce the individual letters in an abbreviation use block capitals, for example, ‘BBC’ or ‘USA’. 

When an abbreviation is a name of a group or association, capitalise it, for example, ‘Nato’ and ‘Abba’.

Never use ‘Aborigine’ or lower case ‘indigenous’. Avoid ‘Aboriginal’ as a noun. ‘Aboriginal Peoples’ is OK, but ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ is better if you’re talking about both cultures. Acceptance of ‘Indigenous’ or ‘Indigenous Australian’ varies.

Don’t add accents to anglicised French words such as cafe (but keep them on words such as exposé or résumé). Add them to French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and Irish Gaelic words where needed – and always add to names when needed, whatever their language. For example, ‘Arsène went to the cafe in Orléans to work on his résumé’.

Most often used to mean making sure that disabled people don’t face barriers to access.

We use it to mean the ways we make it possible for everyone (for example, disabled people, people with caring responsibilities, and people on low incomes) to get involved with Scouts through reading webpages, doing activities, and attending events as easily as everyone else. Accessibility is about removing the barriers that make it harder for people to benefit from opportunities.

Sometimes volunteers need permission to do specific tasks. This is where accreditations come in. Accreditations make it easier to share out tasks and responsibilities.

There are Nights Away Assessor accreditations to Safety Lead accreditations, just to name a few.

Volunteers will need to meet the right criteria, generally by having a qualification, completing specific learning, or being in a particular role. Some accreditations will expire but can be reviewed and given again.

All lowercase – it doesn’t matter if ‘the Scouts thought bungee running was wonderful’ or ‘dragon boating was a bad idea given the weather’.

For actors of any gender; see gendered terms.

See disability.

For Gilwell Park (UK Headquarters): Scouts, Gilwell House, Gilwell Park, Chingford, London E4 7QW.

An adult with a role in Scouts is anyone aged 18 or above. Anyone aged 18–25 can also be a member of Scout Network – while they’re undertaking activities as a member of Network, they’re classed as a young person. There’s no set retirement age for adult volunteers in Scouts.

Should be lowercase. Use ‘volunteer’ (rather than ‘leader’ or ‘helper’) whenever you can. If you’re writing an activity, it often makes sense to say leader – and that’s OK.

As part of the new volunteer experience, this is being replaced by The Learning Tree (see The Learning Tree).

Allows adults to gain the skills they need to deliver and support the Scout programme including understanding Scouts, their role within Scouts, role-specific skills, ways to improve the quality and quantity of Scouts delivery, and personal development needs.

Capitalise the full name the first time you write it out (for example, Gilwell Park Adventure Centre) – you can just call it ‘the adventure centre’ after that. 

As of 2021, we have nine adventure centres: Buddens, Fordell Firs, Gilwell Park, Great Tower, Hawkhirst, Lochgoilhead, Meggernie, Youlbury and Yr Hafod.

Allows Scouts to show they’ve got the skills and experience to lead an adventurous activity, without having to get an external qualification (yay!).

If you’re using a phrase where the adverb ends in -ly, don’t use a hyphen (for example, ‘genetically modified food’). If you’re using phrases with adverbs not ending in -ly, add a hyphen. For example, ‘much-loved activity’ or ‘ever-responsible leader’.

Not advisor. If it’s part of a role title, capitalise it (for example, ‘Programme and Development Adviser’).

Affect is usually a verb, meaning ‘to make a difference to’ something. For example, ‘Did the bad weather affect your camp?’ 

Effect is usually a noun, meaning ‘a result’. For example, ‘No, the weather had no effect on our camp.’

Effect can also be used as a verb, meaning ‘to bring something about’. It’s pretty formal, so double-check if there’s another word you could use instead. For example, ‘the volunteer effected a change’ could be reworded to ‘the volunteer brought about a change’ (or ‘the volunteer made a change’ or ‘the volunteer changed something’).

Affect can also be a noun meaning ‘display of emotion’, for example, ‘the patient had a flat affect’. Again, this is pretty technical, so it’s often best to find a simpler alternative.

This is a style guide, not a dictionary – for more information (including ‘affected’ as an adjective), go to the Oxford English Dictionary. Or ask someone in editorial – they’re always happy to chat grammar.

Not Afro-Caribbean. Remember that this doesn’t just mean people of African and Caribbean backgrounds – it only refers to people of African heritage with Caribbean backgrounds (in other words, Caribbean people whose ancestors were taken from Africa to the Caribbean by the trans-Atlantic slave trade).

In a sentence describing people, ages are written as ‘Ashley, 9, Cub Scout’ or ‘Aarav, 16, Explorer Scout’. Use ‘a five year old’ or ‘she is five years old’ without hyphens. If you’re talking about age ranges, for example ‘12–14 year olds’, use en-dashes.

Alfresco is one word.

Scouts with an aeronautical twist.

Alright is acceptable too (unless you mean ‘she got all of the answers right’ – then it has to be ‘she got the answers all right’).

The Arabic for ‘the God’ in Abrahamic religions. Both words refer to the same concept: there’s no major difference between God in the Old Testament and Allah in Islam. You can talk about ‘God’ in an Islamic context and use ‘Allah’ in quotations or for literary effect.

If they’re a Scouts Ambassador, capitalise it. If they’re an ambassador for anything or anyone else, keep it lower case.

America includes all of North and South America. If you mean the United States, call it the US. The US’s citizens are Americans, though.

Not amidst.

Not amongst.

These symbols should only be used when they’re in names (such as ‘M&S’ or ‘M&Ms’). Don’t use them in place of ‘and’ – it’s only two more characters to write or type.

Spell it out in the first instance with ‘AGM’ in brackets. Use AGM after that.

Upper case if it’s the Scouts one; lower case for any other annual report.

You can find Scouts’ Anti-bullying Policy on our website.

Two words please. ‘Anymore’ is American.

Not a doctor’s appointment - we use this term to describe when someone’s appointed to a role. While a volunteer doesn’t hold an appointment, and they’re no longer appointed through the appointments process, it can still be used to explain putting a volunteer into a role. Although try not to use too much. See joining journey.

Apostrophes are used to indicate a missing letter or letters or possession – if you’re talking about the guitar that Charlie owns, ‘It’s Charlie’s guitar.’ 

For missing letters, apostrophes replace the letters taken out. For example, ‘you are’ becomes ‘you’re’, ‘it is’ becomes ‘it’s’, and ‘we should have’ becomes ‘we should’ve’.

If a thing belongs to Anika, it’s Anika’s thing. Words ending in ‘s’ just have an apostrophe added. For example, ‘Mr Matthews’ job’ or ‘RBS’ troubles’. Proper names that already have an apostrophe in don’t get another one – ‘Sainsbury’s milkshakes are different to McDonald’s’. ‘The Cubs’ hideout’ means a hideout belonging to many Cubs. ‘The Cub’s hideout’ means a hideout that belongs to one Cub (though really, we should encourage them to share).

If you’re using time to modify a noun, add an apostrophe. For example, ‘two months’ holiday’ or ‘three years’ time’ – here, time modifies the nouns ‘holiday’ and ‘time’. If you’re using time to modify an adjective, there should be no apostrophes to be found. For example, ‘three months pregnant’ – here, time modifies the adjective ‘pregnant’. If you’re not sure, replace the number with one and see if it needs an apostrophe then. For example, ‘one month’s holiday’ still needs an apostrophe, but ‘one month pregnant’ doesn’t.

We use true apostrophe and quotation marks – they’re curly (like this: ‘’), not straight (like this: ''). If you use Word, it’ll probably autocorrect. Otherwise, use these keyboard shortcuts:

On Mac: for the left (open) quotation mark hold down ‘alt’ and ‘]’. For the right (closed) quotation mark and apostrophe hold down ‘alt’ ‘]’ and ‘shift’. For double quotation marks, hold down ‘alt’ and ‘[’ (open), and ‘alt’ ‘[’ and ‘shift’ (closed).

On Windows: you need a numeric keypad, and ‘num lock’ must be activated. For a left (open) quotation mark, hold down the ‘alt’ key and press ‘0145’ on the numeric keypad. For a right (closed) quotation mark and apostrophe, hold down the ‘alt’ key and press ‘0146’ on the numeric keypad. For double quotation marks, hold down ‘alt’ and type ‘0147’ on the numeric keypad (open) and hold down ‘alt’ and type ‘0148’ on the numeric keypad (closed).

We know it’s a lot to get your head around – and all of the best grammar rules have exceptions, so if in doubt, check with someone in editorial.

Used to be given out when someone gained full appointment with us. Now, we no longer use these and all membership details are recorded digitally.

As part of the new volunteer experience, this role no longer exists. Some of the tasks involved with recruiting new volunteers will now be carried out by the Volunteering Development Team.

If you’re describing the archbishops of Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, St Andrew’s, Southwark, and Westminster, you don’t need to say Roman Catholic as there’s no Anglican equivalent.

Specify Roman Catholic bishop wherever it could be unclear, especially where there are Anglican bishops too.

Different parts of the UK use different words to describe how they organise Scouts, so we often add a disclaimer so that no one feels overlooked. 

Generally speaking: England has Regions, Counties and Districts. Wales has Areas and Districts. Scotland has Regions and Districts. Northern Ireland has Counties and Districts. Some areas also use Islands and Bailiwicks (for example, Guernsey and Jersey).

The disclaimer’s usually along the lines of: ‘It’s important to remember that different areas across the UK organise Scouts differently. For ease of reading, this [whatever you’re writing] calls all variations of County-level groupings Counties. This includes in Scotland, where there’s no direct equivalent to County or Areas. To find out more about where responsibilities lay, check out Scottish variations from POR.’

If you’re sending a UK-wide communication that’s likely to use these words, please add a similar disclaimer. Remember to keep it tone of voice friendly: we write like we talk.



For Wales and BSO - Area Lead Volunteers provide leadership and inspiration to other volunteers and oversee the Area Leadership Team.

Previous role name: Area Commissioner.

Capitalise Armistice Day, which falls on 11 November every year.

Lower case, please.

You can refer to the Scouts logo as both an arrowhead and a fleur-de-lis. It’s up to you which you prefer.

People who are asexual may not experience sexual attraction to anyone or they may not act on sexual attraction. People who are asexual may describe themselves as ‘ace’. Some asexual people experience romantic attraction.

When you’re talking about adventurous activities, use a specific activity title if you can. Capitalise specific titles, but stick to lowercase if you’re talking about a general assessor (for example, ‘County Assessor – Hillwalking’ but a ‘climbing assessor’). 

As part of the new volunteer experience, this role title has changed. Please see Section Team Member.

It’s always best to ask individual people how they identify. Some prefer ‘an autistic person’, other use ‘person with autism’ or ‘person on the autistic spectrum’. The National Autistic Society (a great source for information and support) uses ‘autistic person’ as an umbrella term, so we do too. We also avoid using functioning labels.

Hyphenate it, please. If you’re wondering (we’re sure you are), we’re basing this decision on ‘audience-friendly’ in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Specific awards and badges are capitalised, but the words ‘badges’ and ‘awards’ are lowercase when used generically. That’s the simple version, though. For the detail, see badges and awards.