Editorial Manual

Mastheads and cover pages

All United Nations documents other than publications and supplements to the official records bear a masthead identifying the organ to which it is submitted and giving the document symbol, information with regard to the scope of its distribution, the date of issue, the original language and the language of the translated version.

Other elements that normally appear in the masthead are:

  • The words “United Nations”
  • The emblem of the United Nations
  • The name of the principal organ (General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, Secretariat) or of certain other major organs (such as UNDP, UNICEF and UNCTAD)

For more information on the use of the United Nations emblem, see Editorial guidelines/Policy questions.


Document symbol

For information on symbols of United Nations documents, see United Nations Documentation: Research Guide.


Distribution category

The distribution category may be General, Limited or Restricted  (see Editorial guidelines/Policy questions).



The date that appears in the masthead of a document should be the date on which the document is submitted to the Document Management Section.



Documents must be drafted and submitted in one of the six official languages.

The language of the document indicated in the masthead  (for example Original: English) is the language in which the text was drafted in the Secretariat or submitted to the Secretariat by a Member State or another organization for translation into the other official languages.

The language indicated in the masthead applies to the main document and not to any annexes or attachments to it. If the original language of any annex or attachment is different from that of the main document, that original language is indicated in square brackets at the top of the annex in question (under and to the right of the heading Annex). If the annex is being circulated in the language of submission only, however, it is not necessary to indicate the language notation at the top of the annex.

If a complete text is submitted in more than one language version – for example, a peace agreement drafted and signed in equally authentic English and French versions – then the language is indicated in the masthead – or above the text in the case of an annex – as Original: English and French.

If a document is made up of a number of different texts – such as replies from Member States or curricula vitae – submitted in various languages, then the language is indicated in the masthead as, for example, Original: Arabic/English/French/Spanish.

Similarly, if some sections of a report are drafted in English and some in French, the language shown is Original: English/French.

If a document is issued in one official language only, the notation Original: English is replaced with Arabic only, Chinese only, English only and the like.

If a document is issued in more than one official language but not in all of them, the languages are indicated in the masthead, below the original language:

          Original: English
          English, French and Spanish only

Note: A footnote may be added to indicate the reason for the issuance of the document in some languages only.

This instruction does not apply to corrigenda. For the language designation in corrigenda, see Editorial guidelines/Basic Documents/Corrigenda and reissues.


Corner notation


In the upper left-hand corner of the cover page, under the masthead, information is given on the body concerned (in certain cases only), the session, and the number and title of the item of the agenda of that session to which the document relates.

In the case of the General Assembly, the reference is to an item of the preliminary list, or an item of the provisional agenda, or an item of the agenda as adopted at the start of the session. A footnote reference is provided for the preliminary list and the provisional agenda; there is no footnote for the adopted agenda (for more detailed information on the various stages of the agenda of the General Assembly, see Basic Documents/Documents relating to the agendas of the principal organs).

In reports and communications, a sub-item is always included after the main item, even if the two are identical, unless the sub-item is also the title of the report.

In draft resolutions, the sub-item is always included with the main item, even when they are identical and when the sub-item is also the title of the draft resolution.

In documents of the Security Council, no agenda item is given.

In the case of the Economic and Social Council, the reference is to the provisional agenda or the adopted agenda of the session. A footnote is provided for the provisional agenda only.

If a document is issued before the earliest form of the agenda is available – the preliminary list, in the case of the General Assembly, or the provisional agenda, in the case of the Economic and Social Council – no item number is given.


For the dates of the session, use:

  • An en dash for a series: 12–23 April 2014
  • The word "and" for consecutive dates: 12 and 13 June 2015



Every document issued for the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council other than a communication from a Member State or high Secretariat official normally has a title indicating the subject (which frequently corresponds to the agenda item or sub-item) and a subtitle indicating the type of document (report, note, memorandum and the like) and the author (normally the Secretary-General). In reports of the Secretary-General, the headings are followed by a summary, contained in a text box, regardless of the length of the document.

(See also Basic documents/Notes by the Secretary-General.)



The models attached show the style of the corner notation and headings for various documents of the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council.

General Assembly

Report issued before the issuance of the preliminary list
(item used as title)

Report on an item of the preliminary list
(item used as title)

Report on an item of the provisional agenda
(item used as title)

Report on an item of the agenda
(agenda item used as title)

Report on a specific question under an item
(specific title, different from agenda item)

Report on a sub-item
(sub-item used as title)

Note on elections
(sub-item used as title)

Report on a specific question under a sub-item
(specific title, different from sub-item)

Document issued under many items

Document issued under many sub-items

Dual-symbol document (A/ and E/)

Dual-symbol document (A/ and S/)

Main Committee document (A/C...)


Security Council

Report of the Secretary-General on a specific question

Report of the Secretary-General submitted pursuant to a resolution

Letter from the Secretary-General

Report of the Secretary-General on credentials


Economic and Social Council

Draft resolution (reference to provisional agenda)

Report of the Secretary-General (reference to adopted agenda)