Style, Mechanics, and Usage Questions Commonly Encountered Within Higher Education

Sterling College Stylebook

The Sterling College Stylebook is a resource to facilitate a consistent and unified voice when writing about the College. This includes names, punctuation, capitalization, preferred usage and many other frequently asked questions. When a subject cannot be found, use The Associate Press Stylebook’s standards. If The Associated Press Stylebook does not cover the subject, use The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition. For questions on proper spelling, use Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition for guidance.

The Sterling College Stylebook applies to College publications intended for large internal audiences, such as the employee handbook and mass emails, or all external audiences. It is not intended to replace style guides used in the classroom for academic or student publications.

Please note that this stylebook is a living document and will be updated as needed.  Any questions pertaining to this document should be directed to or 620-278-4213.

academic degrees

If mention of degrees is necessary to establish someone’s credentials, the preferred form is to avoid an abbreviation and use instead a phrase such as: John Jones, who has a doctorate in psychology.

Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, etc., but there is no possessive in associate degree or in Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science.

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 cumbersome. 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.

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:

Correct: Dr. Sam Jones, a chemist.

Incorrect: Dr. Sam Jones, Ph.D.

When stating specific and honorary degree names, capitalize the type of degree and the major. Abbreviated degree names are the preferred usage for news articles and institutional literature. Do not capitalize majors when they are listed without a degree type.

Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministries
B.A. in Christian Ministries
John earned a bachelor’s in Christian ministries.
Suzie majored in elementary education.

academic departments

Capitalize academic departments when using the full name, but do not capitalize if using anything less than the full name. Also, do not capitalize the department.

The Department of History and Government has two full-time professors.
The department submitted its budget.

He will be teaching in the theology and ministry department.

Official names for Sterling College academic departments:

Department of Art and Design

Department of Behavioral Science

Department of Business

Department of Communications, Media and Theatre Arts

Department of Education

Department of Exercise Science

Department of History and Government

Department of Language and Literature

Department of Music

Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Department of Theology and Ministry

administrative offices

Capitalize the full name of Sterling College administrative offices, but lowercase when using anything less than the full name. Do not refer to administrative offices as departments.

The Office of Admissions is hosting a visit day.

John Doe works in admissions.

Jane Doe works in the business office.

Official names for Sterling College administrative offices:

Office of Academic Affairs

Office of Academic Support Services

Office of Admissions

Office of Alumni and Parent Relations

Office of Career Services

Office of Financial Aid

Office of Financial Services

Office of Institutional Advancement

Office of Marketing and Communications

Office of Online Operations

Office of the President

Office of the Registrar

Office of Student Life


Athletic Department

Service Department

academic subjects, courses of study, and lecture series

Academic subjects are not capitalized unless they form part of a department name or an official course name of are themselves proper nouns (e.g., English, Latin)

She has published widely in the history of religions.

They have introduced a course in gender studies.

He is majoring in comparative literature.

She is pursuing graduate studies in philosophy of science.

Jones is chair of the Committee on Comparative Literature.

I am signing up for Foundations of Servant Leadership.

A popular course is Training for Cross Cultural Ministry.

His ballroom dancing classes have failed to civilize him.

The Oscar Schmidt Lecture Series is held on campus every fall. This year’s lecture was, “Enterprise Stewardship: How to Live a High Impact Life.”


Preferred spelling, not advisor


Preferred spelling, not esthetics

African American

Acceptable for an American black person of African descent. Black is also acceptable. The terms are not necessarily interchangeable. People of Carribean nations, for example, generally refer to themselves a Carribean-American. Follow a person’s preference. For a list of other races/ethnicities, see race/ethnicity.

alma mater

Capitalize 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.

Correct: Amy Thompson ’96 returned to work at her Alma Mater.

Incorrect: The college is located in Wichita, Kan.


Alumnus: a former male student

Alumni: a group of former male students

Alumna: a former female student

Alumnae: 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 by commas:
Benjamin C. Clardy ’95 is a student.
Sharon P. Best ’92 is an alumna of Sterling College.

Identify an alumnus or alumna with a medical degree by placing the title Doctor before the name, rather than placing the degree after the name:

Correct: Dr. Frank P. Smith ’36 

Incorrect: Frank P. Smith, M.D. ’36

Identify an alumnus or alumna with a graduate degree by placing the degree initials after the name and year of graduation.

Correct: Frank P. Smith ’36, M.A.

Incorrect: Frank P. Smith, M.A. ’36

Identify former students who did not graduate from Sterling College by the initials fs and the class year in which they entered Sterling:

Steve Jones fs96.

Identify a married couple who are alumni or former students by placing the wife’s maiden name in parenthesis and class outside of the parenthesis:

Glenn ’45 and Evelyn (Jones) ’46 Smith                                                                                                  

Identify a current student, alumnus or alumna, or former student and their spouse who has not attended SC by listing the attending member first and spouse second:                                               

John ’42 and Jane Doe                                                                                                                           

Jane (Smith) ’53 and John Doe

Identify parents of current or former students by the initial P followed by an apostrophe and the class year(s) of the student(s):

Mr. and Mrs. Gordon E. Brown P98
Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth R. Carle P82, P84, P90


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. Do not use o’clock unless constructing a formal invitation or program, such as the baccalaureate program.

When indicating a range of time, only list a.m. or p.m. once and use a hyphen unless the range begins in the morning and ends in the evening. There are no spaces in the hyphenated range.

8-9 a.m.

8 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 8 a.m.-3 p.m.

board of trustees

Capitalize Board of Trustees when referring to Sterling College. Do not capitalize 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

building names/location names

These are the official titles of each building and specific locations on campus:

Art and Media Center

Baseball Field

Bell Lecture Hall


Brown Hall

Brownlee Plaza

Campbell Hall

Campus Health Center

Chandler Board Room

Cooper Hall


Culbertson Auditorium

Divine Servant Statue

Douglas Residences

Douglas Men

Douglas Women

Edwards Weight Center

Evans Hall


First Bank Family Pavilion

Football Practice Field

Gleason Physical Education Center

Heritage Hall

Heritage Outdoor Learning Lab and Garden

Thompson-O’Brien Indoor Golf Facility

J.W. Fields Tennis Courts

Kilbourn Hall

Mabee Library

McCracken Field

McCreery Hall

McCreight Track


North Kelsey Hall

Service Department

Smisor Stadium

Soccer Field

Soccer Practice Field

South Kelsey Hall

Spencer Hall

Student Union and Cafeteria

Sunken Garden

Tedford Recreation Area

Thompson Hall

Underground Pulse Fitness Center

Upper Wilson

West Cafeteria

Wilson Hall


Capitalize Cabinet when referring to the group of top administrators for Sterling College


Preferred usage, not catalogue


Spell out centuries less than 10. Beginning with the 10th century, use figures.

Correct: 18th century

Incorrect: eighteenth century


Chair, chairman, chairwoman and co-chair are all acceptable terms. Use chair when referring to the leader of an academic department. Chair, chairman and chairwoman are all acceptable when referring to the Board of Trustees. When referring to another organization, use chairman if referring to a man and chairwoman if referring to a woman unless their title is stated. Capitalize as a formal title before a name, but do not capitalize as a casual, temporary position. Do not use chairperson.

Pete Manely is the co-chair of the Department of Exercise Science.

Chair of the Department of Education Terri Gaeddert called my office today.

Chairwoman Heather McCreery visited campus today.

class names

Do not capitalize freshman, sophomore, junior, senior or class when referring to individuals, but do capitalize names of organized entities:

senior Jane Doe

Class of 1912

the Senior Class

continuing education

Do not hyphenate


Do not use the abbreviations th, rd, or nd with numerals or dates

Correct: September 23

Incorrect: September 23rd


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

degree completion

Do not hyphenate

East Asia

When talking about a mission trip location for our students, use East Asia in place of China.


The abbreviations e.g. and i.e. represent specific Latin phrases and have separate and distinct meanings. Exempli gratia, e.g., is used when the English phrase for example would be appropriate; i.e., id est, substitutes for the English phrase that is.


Preferred usage, not e-mail or Email

financial aid

Do not hyphenate


Spell out amounts less than 1 in stories, using hyphens between the words: two-thirds, four-fifths, etc. Use figures for precise amounts larger than 1, converting to decimals whenever practical. Between three and 3 ½ years


Preferred usage, not first-year student

full time/full-time

Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier.

He works full time.

She has a full-time job.


Preferred usage, not fund-raiser


See people with disabilities


Avoid using he/she, s/he, and other combinations to represent both genders. Use he or she, or rewrite the sentence if possible.

Recast into the plural.

Correct: Students show their faith.

Incorrect: A student shows his/her faith.

Eliminate unnecessary pronouns.

Correct: The student should bring their textbook to class.

Incorrect: The student should bring his/her textbook to class.

higher education

Do not capitalize higher education unless personifying or placing specific emphasis:
Assessment is important in higher education.

Higher Education yields a wealth of opportunities.

mentally disabled

never mentally retarded

junior, senior

Abbreviate Jr. or Sr. only with full names of persons or animals, and do not precede by a comma. Roman numeral notations and cardinal numbers follow the same rule.
William T. Waller Jr. left school.
Horace Havemeyer III ’64 visited campus.

liberal arts

Do not capitalize liberal arts unless personifying or placing specific emphasis:

Sterling is a liberal arts college.

A Liberal Arts curriculum offers a broad exposure.


Majors and minors are not capitalized unless written as part of a complete degree name. Proper nouns are capitalized.

Jane Doe’s major is elementary education.

John Doe majored in Christian ministries and minored in writing and editing.

John Doe earned a B.A. in Christian Ministries with a minor in Writing and Editing.

mission trip/mission trips

Preferred usage, not missions trip/missions trips


When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. Spell out when using alone, or with a year alone. When a month is used with a year alone, do not set off the year with commas.

The concert is on Dec. 4, 2012.

Graduation is in May.

The 125th anniversary of Sterling College was in November 2012.


Preferred usage, not not-for-profit or non-profit


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.

Ordinal numbers are the figures 1st, 2nd, 10th, 101st, first, second, tenth, one hundred first, etc. Spell out first through ninth when they indicate sequence in time or location:

first base, the First Amendment, he was first in line. Starting with 10th, use figures. Never use ordinal numbers for dates.

For more information see a.m./p.m., centuries, dates, decades or fractions

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, not one is confined to or wheelchair-bound.


Capitalize African American, Native American, Asian, Hispanic, Latino and Caucasian; do not capitalize white, black or people (men, women) of color.


Neither Reverend nor its abbreviation, Rev., is placed in direct juxtaposition with the person’s surname. There must be an intermediate qualifier, such as Mr., Dr., Fr. or Ms.
Correct: The Rev. Frederick Moser

The Rev. Mr. Moser

Incorrect: The Rev. Moser


Always use lowercase unless referring to a formal name or when used to denote an issue of a journal.
Homecoming takes place during the fall semester.

Students should sign up for their interterm class by Friday.

servant leadership

Do not hyphenate


Spell out the names of any of the 50 United States when they stand alone.

Use the U.S. Postal Service’s two-letter abbreviations in addresses that include zip codes.

Use New York state when necessary to distinguish the state from New York City.

Use the following abbreviations for state names when following names of cities, towns and other jurisdictions.

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.

student affairs

Do not hyphenate


Preferred usage, not theater


Capitalize titles when they appear before a name. Do not capitalize titles when they appear after the name:
Professor of History Donald L. Woodrow
Sociology Professor Laura Brophy
Instructor in Mathematics Robert E. Lamberson

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, president of Sterling College

When naming a specific vice president, use the word for between vice president and the office.

Correct: Vice President for Academic Affairs

Incorrect: Vice President of Academic Affairs

vice president

Do not hyphenate


preferred usage, not Web site


work-study is hyphenated

Sterling College participates in the Federal Work-Study Program.


Preferred usage, not world view

Punctuation and Mechanics


Use the ampersand when it is part of a company’s formal name or composition title. The ampersand should not otherwise be used in place of and.


Capitalize, as proper names, specific features of our own curriculum: Honors Program, American Studies


Do not use colons after verbs. Instead, reword the sentence to lead into the list.

Correct: The words have different meanings: titled is for a published media and entitled is to represent what a person is owed.

Incorrect: As follows: and the following:


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, work-study.

Note that phrases formed of an adverb ending in –ly and an adjective are not hyphenated: liberally educated students, highly developed intelligence.


Italicize names of books, newspapers, journals, films, full-length plays, symphonies, operas, ships, and airplanes. Underline only if italics are not available.

Use quotation marks around the titles of articles, poems, songs, one-act plays, television programs, and sculptures.

For newspaper articles, AP does not use italics. Refer to the AP Stylebook for quotation mark rules.

quotation marks

A comma or period is placed inside the quotation mark. A colon or 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.


Sentences should have one space after the final punctuation mark, rather than two.


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.


1. It’s, with an apostrophe, is the contraction of it isIts, without an apostrophe, is the possessive form of the pronoun it.
The committee finished its report.
2. The words titled and entitled are not interchangeable:
Eric Lax’s books is titled Woody Allen: A Biography.
Employees are entitled to certain benefits.

3.  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.

4. The word over signifies a physical location. Do not use it in place of the phrase more than.
Correct: Gifts to the College in 1995 totaled more than $1 million.
Incorrect: Gifts to the College in 1995 totaled over $1 million.
5. The word impact is a noun. One can have an impact on something, but one does not impact or impact on anything.
6. 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.
7. Writers or speakers imply in the words they use. A listener or reader infers something from the words.
8. Disinterested means impartial. Uninterested means that someone lacks interest.
9. Use definitely, NOT defiantly, when seeking to add emphasis.
10. Use a while after a preposition such as for, in, or after. We drove awhile and then stopped for a while.
11. Hopefully means with hope, NOT it is hoped.
She awaited his return hopefully.
It is hoped that the team wins tonight.

12. Irregardless is a double negative. Use regardless.
13. Use where alone, not with words such as at or to.
Correct: Where are you going?
Incorrect: Where are you going to?
14. Who’s means who is. Whose is a possessive pronoun.
Who’s going with you? Whose shirt is that?