Reporting to parents style guide

This guide has been developed in consultation with teachers and parents. It promotes best practice within the department and makes recommendations to teachers and leaders when writing or reviewing report comments to support the ongoing learning journey of the student.

Writing conventions

As a key communication channel to parents and carers, it is important that we provide high-quality academic reports, free from errors.

To achieve clarity in the reporting, formal reports should use plain English.

Subject names

The department's style guide recommends that most KLAs use lower case, for example mathematics and creative arts. English and languages, such as Indonesian, are to be capitalised. However, in line with the NESA syllabuses, schools can make the decision to use capital letters for all subjects.

Capital letters

When to use:

  • Higher School Certificate (the use of the acronym HSC is a school-based decision)
  • Term 1, Semester 1 (except when used generically: Ricardo has increased his range of additive strategies this term or semester)
  • The year group, for example, Year 7
  • The stage of learning, for example, Stage 1, 3, 6
  • Specific examinations such as Half-Yearly Examination, Yearly Examination and Trial HSC Examination
  • Assessment tasks such as First Fleet Assessment Task
  • Topic and module titles such as Australia as a Nation (history), Exploring places (geography), Playing the Game (PDHPE) (NESA units).

When not to use:

  • When referring to a non-specific task; for example, Robert enjoyed working on the student research task this term
  • When referring to terms, semesters, and exams in general; for example, Roberta has made good progress this term.


A comma should be inserted when using a coordinating conjunction in a compound sentence. Coordinating conjunctions include for, as, nor, but, or, yet and so. You should use a comma before the coordinating conjunction. For example, 'Juan did not complete the class tasks, so he had no notes to study from for the yearly examination.' Do not use this rule to create a sentence of more than 25 words. Shorter sentences are easier to read.

  • A comma should be used between items in a list. In a series of three items, the comma between the second and third item and the conjunction (generally ‘and’ or ‘or’) is optional.

  • The Oxford comma is the final comma in a list of items and is placed before the conjunction such as ‘and’, to avoid confusion. For example, “Sarah has demonstrated her skills in algebra, space and measurement, and statistics.

When to use ‘however’

The word ‘however’ is an adverb and should not be used as a conjunction between two unrelated ideas. It is not a synonym for ‘but’. In fact, if you can substitute the word ‘but’, then the sentence is not correct.

Correct – Awia effectively uses a variety of persuasive techniques in her writing, but she needs to edit her work more thoroughly.

Incorrect – Awia effectively uses a variety of persuasive techniques in her writing however she needs to edit her work more thoroughly.

Importantly, do not use ‘however’ to negate the initial positive observation with a second, more negative, observation in the same sentence. For example, 'Juan can combine information on a topic from a variety of sources, however he cannot be trusted to keep on task when using the internet.'

Correct possibilities:

  • Awia effectively uses a variety of persuasive techniques in her writing. She needs, however, to edit her work more thoroughly.
  • Awia effectively uses a variety of persuasive techniques in her writing. She needs to edit her work more thoroughly, however.
  • Awia effectively uses a variety of persuasive techniques in her writing. However, she needs to edit her work more thoroughly.

Use of contractions

Avoid contractions in reports. For example, use “do not” instead of “don’t,” “cannot” instead of can’t” or “will not” instead of ‘won’t.”

It is recommended that teachers use “examination” rather than “exam” in the report.

Common errors

We use the Macquarie dictionary to check for spelling. Commonly misspelt words include:

  • adviser
  • book work
  • classroom
  • class work
  • conscientious
  • cooperate
  • coordinate
  • focused
  • hard-working
  • homework
  • self-disciplined
  • up-to-date
  • well-mannered
  • work ethic.

Practice or practise

Practice is a noun but it can also be used as an adjective. For example:

  • Reading every night is a practice that is to be encouraged. (noun)
  • Ricardo is encouraged to complete the practice questions as part of his study routine. (adjective)

Practise is a verb

For example:

  • Harley should be practising his extended responses under timed conditions.

  • Thalia enjoys every opportunity to practise her writing.

Affect or effect

Affect (verb) means to change. Effect (noun) is a result of change.

For example:

  • Samit’s growing confidence to share his ideas in class will positively affect his written responses. (verb)

  • Edith needs to realise that her non-completion of critical class work did have a negative effect on her final assessment task. (noun)

Advice or advise

Advice is a noun and advise is a verb.

For example:

  • My advice (noun) is for Nathan to regularly revise his class notes in preparation for unit tests.

  • I would advise (verb) Nathan to revisit his class notes as part of his preparation for unit tests.


  • Teaching and learning

Business Unit:

  • Educational Standards
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