Automotive style guide - Andrew Noakes - Motoring Writer

Style guides are essential for magazines, newspapers, websites and anywhere else where text is regularly published. The idea of the style guide is to record commonly mis-spelled words and names, notes on usage of words and phrases, spelling and punctuation choices and so on. Often there is more than one way of spelling a word or presenting, say, an abbreviation or trade name, so the style guide gives guidance on the style the publication prefers.

Most of the style guides available online – like the well-known Guardian Style – are for newspapers and magazines with a wide-ranging remit. For specialist titles it's useful to have a style guide which concentrates on specialist words, so what follows is an automotive style guide which I'll add to and update from time to time. 

If you have any additions or corrections please let me know.


abbreviations as a general rule, use capitals if the letters are pronounced separately (BMW, EBD) but not if the abbreviation is pronounced as a word (Avus, Vtec)

ABS is a Bosch trade name, but its use as a generic for anti-lock braking system is now so widespread there is little point distinguishing between Bosch and non-Bosch systems

Airikkala, Pentti (1945-2009) British Rally Champion 1979 and left-foot braking evangelist

Alfa Romeo no hyphen, except for very early cars

Aston Martin no hyphen, except in its very earliest days

Austin-Healey hyphenated

Avus German race track


Bilstein dampers

Blydenstein, Bill (-2007) Vauxhall tuning expert

brake, braking when referring to vehicle retardation

Braeckel, Dirk van (1958-) Volkswagen group designer, design director of Bentley 1998-2012

Brawn, Ross motorsport engineer and team principal

Button, Jenson not Jensen; 2009 F1 World Champion


caliper not calliper

carburettor but note the SU company always used 'carburetter'

Carello lamp manufacturer

Carillo con-rod manufacturer

Citroën not Citreon, and note the position of the umlaut

concours a competition where old cars are judged for condition and originality

concourse part of a railway station

Cortina Lotus the Lotus-engined Mk2 Cortina - see Lotus Cortina



damper do not use 'shock absorber', because the term is misleading

Dell'Orto Italian carburettors

Donington Park note single n; do not refer to the circuit as Castle Donington, which is the village nearby


fascia not facia

Fiat X1/9

Fibreglass is a trade name and should not be used as a generic - use GFRP or glass fibre

front-wheel drive


GFRP glass fibre reinforced plastic, commonly (but imprecisely) called glass fibre

glass fibre two words

Goodrich tyre manufacturer; BF Goodrich is part of the Michelin group

Goodridge reinforced hose manufacturer

Grand Prix

GTi for Golfs before September 1993

GTI for Golfs September 1993 onwards


hybrid engine is nonsense. A hybrid is something made up of two or more things, and the point about a hybrid vehicle is that it has two or more 'engines' - usually a petrol or diesel engine and an electric motor.


Isky valve spring manufacturer

Issigonis, Alec (1906-1988) not Alex; BMC chief engineer, responsible for the Mini


Jaguar XJ-S, XJS XJ-S 1975-90, but the facelifted car built 1991-6 was XJS with no hyphen

Jensen West Bromwich car and coachwork company; compare with Button, Jenson


Jubliee clip trade name


Kevlar is a trade name


Land Rover, Land-Rover early models carried a hyphen, but for consistency refer to the company and all its products without one

Lotus Cortina Mk1 Lotus-engined Cortina; see Cortina Lotus


MacPherson strut suspension system named after Earle MacPherson. Consists of a strut and a wishbone, so don't say 'MacPherson strut and wishbone'.

Mazda MX-5 hyphenated

Mercedes-Benz hyphenated; note that Mercedes-Benz is a vehicle brand and the parent company was Daimler-Benz, DaimlerChrysler or Daimler AG depending on the era, so don't use Mercedes-Benz to refer to the company

Michelotti, Giovanni (1921-80) Italian car designer

Mikuni carburettors

Mini not MINI, even for the BMW Minis

Minilite note not all Minilite-style wheels are made by this company

Mulliner can refer to Mulliners Limited based in Birmingham, or H.J. Mulliner of Chiswick, two separate coachbuilding companies founded by members of the same family. H.J. Mulliner was bought by Rolls-Royce in 1959 and merged with Park Ward in Willesden in 1961 to form H.J. Mulliner Park Ward.


Odor, Jan founder of Janspeed 

Odor, Kieth (1962-95) son of Jan, racing driver killed in a touring car race at Avus


Räikkönen, Kimi (1979-) 2007 F1 champion, also competed in WRC and NASCAR 

Range Rover no hyphen

Rolls-Royce always hyphenated. Claude Johnson, managing director of the company 1906-1926, has been called 'the hyphen in Rolls-Royce'.

Rover SD1 for 'Special Development number 1', not SDI

Rose joint trade name


Schanche, Martin (1945-) rallycross driver

Schreyer, Peter Kia designer

Serck Marston


Toivonen, Henri (1956-86) rally driver


veteran car built up to the end of December 1904

vintage car built 1918 to 1930

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