- Student Life
- Support SC
Style, Mechanics, and Usage Questions Commonly Encountered Within Higher Education
If mention of degrees is necessary to establish someone’s credentials, the pre ferred form is to avoid an abbreviation and use a phrase such as: John Jones, who has a doctorate in psychology.
Use such abbreviations as M.Div. and Ph.D. only when the need to identify many individuals by degree on first reference would make the preferred form cumber some. Use the abbreviations only after a full name—never after just a last name.
- When used after a name, an academic abbreviation is set off by commas: Daniel Moynihan, Ph.D., spoke.
- Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, a master’s, etc.
Do not precede a name with a courtesy title for an academic degree and follow it with the abbreviation for the degree in the same reference:
Wrong: Dr. Sam Jones, Ph.D.
Right: Dr. Sam Jones, a chemist.
- Use alumnus when referring to a former male student. Use alumni when referring to a group of former male students. Use alumna when referring to a former female student. Use alumnae when referring to a group of former female students. Use alumni when referring to a group of former male and female students.
When identifying current students, alumni or alumnae by their class years, the year is not set off fby commas:
Benjamin C. Clardy ’95 is a student trustee.
Sharon P. Best ’92 is an alumna of Sterling College.
- Identify former students (who did not graduate from Sterling College) by the initial fs and by the class year in which they entered Sterling:
Steve Jones fs’96.
- Identify a married couple who are alumni or former students by placing the wife’s maiden name and class in parenthesis:
Glenn ’45 and Evelyn (Jones ’46) Smith.
- Identify parents of current or former students by the initial P followed by an apostophe and the class year(s) of the student(s):
Mr. and Mrs. Gordon E. Brown P’98
Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth R. Carle P’82, ’84, ’90.
- When identifying an alumnus or alumna with a medical degree, place the title Doctor before the name, rather than placing the degree after the name: Dr. Frank P. Smith ’36 not Frank P. Smith, M.D. ’36.
The abbreviations Jr. or Sr. following a name are set off by commas, but Roman numerals in the same situation are not:
William T. Waller, Jr., left school.
Horace Havemeyer III ’64 visited campus.
Neither Reverend nor its abbreviation, Rev., is placed in direct juxtaposition with the person’s surname. There must be an intermediate qualifier, such as:
The Rev. Frederick Moser OR The Rev. Mr. Moser
The Rev. Mr., Dr., Fr., Ms. (Full name)
- Do not use an apostrophe to form the plural when referring to a decade as a single period of time, but do express the year in numerals: the 1920s, the ‘90s.
Mechanics and Usage
- Capitalize the College and Alma Mater when referring to Sterling College. Do not capitalize college or alma mater when used generically or when referring to another school.
Capitalize titles when they appear before a name:
Professor of History Donald L. Woodrow
Sociology Professor Laura Brophy
Instructor in Mathematics Robert E. Lamberson
Do not capitalize titles when they appear after the name:
Donald L. Woodrow, professor of history
Laura Brophy, sociology professor
Robert E. Lamberson, instructor in mathematics
(Note that one is an instructor or lecturer in a subject, but a professor, associate professor, or assistant professor of the subject)
Capitalize titles for Sterling College administrators when they appear before the name or in place of the name, but not following the name:
The Academic Dean issued a statement.
Alumni Director Joe Kline
Sherry Johnson, Sterling College president
Capitalize Sterling College administrative offices and academic departments. Do not capitalize "the department".
The Department of History has two full-time professors.
The department submitted its budget.
- Capitalize (as proper names) specific features of our own curriculum: Honors Program, American Studies.
Do not capitalize higher education or liberal arts unless personifying or placing specific emphasis:
Sterling is a liberal-arts college.
Assessment is important in higher education.
A Liberal Arts curriculum offers a broad exposure.
Capitalize Board of Trustees when referring to Sterling College but not trustee (except before the name, as a title):
The Board of Trustees meet three times a year.
She has been a trustee for three years.
Trustee Roy Dexheimer ’55.
Do not capitalize seasons of the year when standing by themselves, but do capitalize divisions of the academic calendar and events of the collegiate year:
Homecoming takes place in the fall.
Fall Term, Spring Term
- Do not capitalize first-year student, sophomore, junior, or senior when referring to individuals, but do capitalize names of organized entities: Class of 1912, the Senior Class.
- Capitalize African American, Native American, Asian, Hispanic, Latino, Caucasian; do not capitalize white or people (men, women) of color.
- Capitalize names of specific academic and honorary degrees: Bachelor of Arts, Doctor of Humane Letters. Do not capitalize degrees when used generically: bachelor’s degree, master’s.
Optional spellings or usages adopted as style:
advisor, not adviser
aesthetics, not esthetics
African American, not black
catalog, not catalogue
first-year student, not freshman
non-profit, not not-for-profit
theatre, not theater
fund-raiser, not fundraiser
People with disabilities:
Use disability and disabled, not handicap or handicapped.
Refer to the person first: person with a disability, NOT: a disabled person; people with disabilities, NOT: the disabled people.
Avoid emotionally colored words and phrases such as suffers from, afflicted with, victim of. One uses a wheelchair or is in a wheelchair; one is not confined to, wheelchair-bound, or a prisoner of a wheelchair.
- Use chairman if referring to a man and chairwoman if referring to a woman. If referring to the position in general, use a neutral word such as leader or moderator instead of using chair or chairperson.
Avoid using he/she, s/he, and other combinations to represent both sexes. Use he or she or rewrite the sentence if possible.
- Recast into the plural.
Change: A student shows his or her faith.
To: Students show their faith.
- Eliminate unnecessary pronouns.
Change: The average minister reads his or her Bible daily.
To: The average minister reads the Bible daily.
- Do not hyphenate vice president, continuing education, degree completion, student affairs, financial aid, or when referring to Sterling College offices.
- Do not use periods between USA in Presbyterian Church (USA).
- Always use the lower case with a period for a.m. or p.m. Avoid the redundant 10 p.m. tonight. Use midnight or noon, not 12 midnight or 12 noon. Also use 8 a.m., not 8:00 a.m., and do not use o’clock.
- Generally, spell out numbers from one to nine; use numerals for 10 and above. Spell out numbers when used at the beginning of a sentence, unless cumbersome, or rewrite the sentence. Write out first through ninth.
Do not use the abbreviations th, rd, or nd with numerals or dates:
Second edition, not 2nd edition
September 23, not September 23rd
EXCEPTION: 18th century, not eighteenth century
Spell out the names of any of the 50 United States when they stand alone. Use New York state when necessary to distinguish the state from New York City.
Use the following abbreviations (not the U.S. Postal Service’s two-letter abbreviations; use Postal Service abbreviations in addresses that include zip codes) for state names when following names of cities, towns, and other jurisdictions when using them in text:
Ala. Md. N.D.
Ariz. Mass. Okla.
Ark. Mich. Ore.
Calif. Minn. Pa.
Colo. Miss. R.I.
Conn. Mo. S.C.
Del. Mont. S.D.
Fla. Neb. Tenn.
Ga. Nev. Vt.
Ill. N.H. Va.
Ind. N.J. Wash.
Kan. N.M. W.Va.
Ky. N.Y. Wis.
La. N.C. Wyo.
Do not abbreviate the names of the following states when using them in text: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, and Utah.
When city and state appear in sequence, set off the name of the state with commas before and after: Sterling, Kan., is located in Rice County.
- The term "email" is the acceptable use for electronic mail. Do not use the form "e-mail" or "Email."
Punctuation and Mechanics
A colon is placed outside the quotation mark.
A comma is placed inside the quotation mark.
A period is placed inside the quotation mark.
A semicolon is placed outside the quotation mark.
Place the exclamation point or question mark inside the quotation mark when it is a part of the quoted material; otherwise, outside.
Italicize (underline only if italics are not available) names of books, newspapers, journals, films, full-length plays, symphonies, operas, ships, and airplanes.
Use quotation marks around the titles of articles, poems, songs, one-act plays, television programs, and sculptures.
Hyphenate adjectival phrases formed of an adjective and a noun preceding the noun modified: liberal-arts education, first-class mail, fund-raising campaign, 19th-century architecture. (See rule 25 for Sterling College exceptions.)
(Note that phrases formed of an adverb ending in –ly and an adjective are not hyphenated: liberally educated students, highly developed intelligence.)
- The abbreviations e.g. and i.e. represent specific Latin phrases and have separate and quite distinct meanings; e.g. (exempli gratia) is used when the English phrase for example would be appropriate; i.e. (id est) substitutes for the English phrase that is.
Use that with a restrictive clause (one that is essential and should therefore not be set off by commas):
This is the house that Jack built.
Use which with a nonrestrictive clause (one that is not essential and should be set off by commas):
Jack’s circular house, which he built, is the only one of its kind.
- Sentences should have one space after the final punctuation mark, rather than two.
Do not use colons after verbs. Avoid as follows: and the following: - Instead, reword the sentence to lead into the list.
The words have different meanings: titled is for a published media and en titled is to represent what a person is owed.
It’s, with an apostrophe, is the contraction of it is. Its, without an apostrophe, is the possessive form of the pronoun it.
The committee finished its report.
The words titled and entitled are not interchangeable:
Eric Lax’s books is titled Woody Allen: A Biography.
Employees are entitled to certain benefits.
Do not confuse insure and ensure.
It is wise to insure your personal property against theft.
Cutting expenses is one way to ensure that the budget will be balanced.
The word over signifies a physical location. Do not use it in place of the phrase more than.
Gifts to the College in 1995 totaled more than $1 million.
NOT: Gifts to the College in 1995 totaled over $1 million.
- The word impact is a noun. One can "have an impact" on something, but one does not "impact" or "impact on" anything.
Affect, as a verb, means to influence: The game will affect the standings.
Effect, as a verb, means to cause: He will effect many changes.
Effect, as a noun, means result: The effect was overwhelming.
- Writers or speakers imply in the words they use. A listener or reader infers some thing from the words.
- Disinterested means impartial. Uninterested means that someone lacks interest.
- Use definitely, NOT defiantly, when seeking to add emphasis.
- Use a while after a preposition such as for, in, or after. We drove awhile and then stopped for a while.
Hopefully means with hope, NOT it is hoped.
She awaited his return hopefully.
It is hoped that the team wins tonight.
- Irregardless is a double negative. Use regardless.
- Use where alone, not with words such as at or to. Example: Where are you going? NOT Where are you going to?
- Who’s means who is. Whose is a possessive pronoun. Who’s going with you? and Whose shirt is that?
For questions not covered in this guide, refer to the Associated Press Stylebook.