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Brand Editorial

WSU’s editorial style guide is a resource to help university staff communicate clearly, concisely, and consistently about Washington State University in all WSU-produced communications. Doing so helps our audiences better understand our complex, statewide organization.

For example, the guide recommends ways to present the name of the University and its colleges, departments, and other units. It also addresses common questions about titles, capitalization, punctuation, and more.

But the guide isn’t a comprehensive grammar manual or dictionary. The Chicago Manual of Style serves as the University’s standard style reference for marketing communications. For spelling, word division, and helpful usage notes, refer to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. You can view a list of common proofreaders’ marks here.

Note: News releases and media relations communications are based on the Associated Press Stylebook, in accordance with industry standards. WSU News can provide additional information about AP style and media relations.

Frequently Used Terms

When describing the University, use Washington State University as the first reference in text or in speaking. Subsequent references should be the University, Washington State, or WSU.

When describing one of the WSU urban campuses, use the full name on first reference, for example, Washington State University Tri-Cities. Subsequent references should be WSU Tri-Cities.

  • University Graduates
    • alumna = singular, feminine
    • alumnus = singular, masculine or non-specific gender
    • alumnae = plural, feminine
    • alumni = plural, masculine or mixed masculine and feminine
  • Graduate/graduates are good alternatives for non-specific gender uses.
  • fall semester, spring semester (not capitalized)
  • The Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health (first mention); Allen School (second mention).
  • African American, African American history
  • email; internet; online; password; username; website
  • fundraising
  • fall, winter, spring, summer (seasons)

Serial Comma

When there are three or more items in a series, put a comma before the “and” or “or” that precedes the last item. In the case of a series within a series, use semicolons to separate the outer series.

  • I want eggs, ham, and toast for breakfast.
  • I want eggs, ham, and toast for breakfast; soup, salad, and a sandwich for lunch; and a tofu stir-fry, rice, and fresh fruit for dinner.

Time

Use periods in a.m./p.m.; do not repeat in ranges.

Use noon, not 12 p.m. Use midnight, not 12 a.m.

Designate ranges with an en dash OR “from/to.” Do not combine methods.

Omit: 00

  • The afternoon presentation is 9–11:30 a.m.
  • Lunch is at noon. Doors will be open from 5:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Dates

  • September 8, 2014
  • September 2014

Numbers

Spell out numbers below 10 in non-scientific text. The exceptions are percents, semester hours, and grade point averages: 9 percent, 5 semester hours, 3.5 grade point average.

Spell out a number that begins a sentence.

Use Arabic numerals for numbers 10 and above.

  • We noticed a 1 percent difference in the number of students enrolled for fewer than 5 semester hours. Those students earned a 3.5 grade point average.
  • Twelve students signed up for the seminar.
  • The department ordered 122 pencils.

Addresses

Spell out directions, street names, and states, but use postal state abbreviations when followed by a zip code.

Phone Numbers

  • 509-335-6686

Non-University Titles

Professional titles are lowercased in running text.

  • Samantha Wilson is senior vice president of administration for FutureTech Corporation.

Acronyms

Avoid acronyms except in an organization’s official or preferred name: IABC, OGRD.

URLs

Omit “http://” and “www.” unless required for functionality. Use end punctuation if the URL is part of a sentence.

  • You can find information about the undergraduate program in biology at sbs.wsu.edu/undergrad/index.html.

Avoid breaking a URL between lines. If unavoidable, do not hyphenate; do break after a period, underscore, or slash.    

Academic Degrees

Use degrees for WSU alumni only. List degrees in chronological order. No periods. A single space between degree and year. Make sure the apostrophe is curled away from the year. Use four digits for years 100 or more years ago; use two digits for years less than 100 years ago.

Academic degrees are lowercase when spelled out: bachelor's degree, master's degree, doctoral degree (plural and singular forms are the same: bachelor's, master's, doctoral). Degrees are abbreviated with periods and closed up: B.A., B.S., M.A., M.S., Ph.D., D.Ed., M.D., etc. Plural form: B.A.'s, B.S.'s, M.A.'s, M.S.'s, Ph.D.'s, D.Ed.'s.

  • William Patterson, B.A. ’42, M.S. ’44, Ph.D. ’48, received the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Juliann Winters, B.S. 1910, Ph.D. ’17, discovered the cure for hepatitis.
  • Susan earned a master’s degree. John earned a bachelor of arts degree. Stephanie has a B.S. and two Ph.D.'s.

Faculty Academic Titles

Lowercase an individual's title except when it precedes his or her name or is used in a mailing address.

  • Dean Candis Claiborn; Candis Claiborn, dean of the College of Engineering and Architecture; the dean.
  • John Doe is an associate professor in the Department of History.
  • Mary Jones, assistant professor of physics, the Fernando Tatis Institute.

University Administrative Titles

Lowercase an individual’s title except when it precedes his or her name. Lowercase titles when used in place of a name.

  • President Elson S. Floyd; Elson S. Floyd, president of Washington State University; the president
  • Provost Bernardo described his vision for the University.
  • The associate vice president for economic development recently addressed the Seattle Chamber of Commerce.

Academic Department and Administrative Unit Names

Capitalize formal, official references and lowercase subsequent, alternative references. College of Veterinary Medicine; the college. Department of Biology; the department, the biology department. Holland Library; the library. Bohler Gym; the gym. The exception to this rule: Washington State University; the University.

Use of both “and” and “&” is allowed in compound names of academic and administrative units, though use of the ampersand generally should be limited to instances in which space considerations make it a better solution.

  • The School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
    The School of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
  • Department of Finance and Management Science
    Department of Finance & Management Science
  • For titles, use lowercase except when preceding a name or when used in a mailing address. President Elson S. Floyd; Elson S. Floyd, president of Washington State University; the president. Dean Candis Claiborn; Candis Claiborn, dean of the College of Engineering and Architecture; the dean.
  • For unit names, capitalize formal, official references and lowercase subsequent alternative references. College of Veterinary Medicine; the college. Department of Biology; the department, the biology department. Holland Library; the library. Bohler Gym; the gym. The exception to this rule: Washington State University; the University.
  • When referring to the academic year, fall semester, spring semester, and summer session are lowercase, as are freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior.
  • Academic degrees are lowercase when spelled out: baccalaureate degree, bachelor's degree, bachelor of arts; master's degree, master of science; doctoral degree, doctorate, doctor of philosophy, etc. Note the plural form: bachelor's degrees; master's degrees; doctoral degrees.
  • Academic degrees are abbreviated with periods and closed up: B.A., B.S., M.A., M.S., Ph.D., D.Ed., M.D., etc. Plural form: B.A.'s, B.S.'s, M.A.'s, M.S.'s, Ph.D.'s, D.Ed.'s.
  • Names of majors, minors, concentrations, and programs are lowercase within text.
  • Lowercase web, internet, and email (capitalize at the beginning of a sentence). Email has no hyphen.
  • Website is one word (lowercase except at the beginning of a sentence).
  • Lowercase the compass directions north, south, east, and west (including northern, southern, eastern, and western) when not part of a proper name. Capitalize in reference to a proper name or region. The Northwest, but northwestern. The West Coast, but western Washington.
  • State: Capitalize “State of Washington” (as usual) but lowercase “Washington state” to avoid confusion with the University.
  • University: Capitalize when “WSU” can substitute, e.g., The University carries out world-class research; lowercase when generic, e.g., WSU is a land-grant university. (Note: "land-grant” is hyphenated.)
  • URL: All caps, but “web address” preferred.
  • Use a comma before and and or in a series: "Entering students will be required to take placement tests in English, mathematics, and a foreign language."
  • Do not use a comma before Jr., Sr., II, III, IV, etc.: "John H. Jones III presented the guest lecture."
  • Dates are punctuated month, day, year: "May 12, 2009, was the date set for commencement." This differs from the Chicago Manual, which prefers day, month, year. If using only the month and year, there is no comma: "Commencement was held in May 2009." (Also "fall 2010"; "spring 2011"; etc.)
  • Quotation marks are placed outside commas and periods and inside semicolons and colons.
  • Question marks and exclamation points are placed inside quotation marks if they are part of a quote and outside if they are not.
  • Items placed inside quotation marks include article titles, direct quotes, parts of books, song titles, short poems, and television and radio programs.
  • Italics are used for book titles, periodicals, newspapers, pamphlets, proceedings, movie titles, works of art, operas, and other long musical compositions.
  • Acronyms should be all caps, no periods, closed up: GPA, ID cards.
  • An en dash* (longer than hyphen, shorter than em dash) is used in ranges, such as dates & times, e.g., 3:00–5:15 p.m., June 6–10; and to connect nouns, e.g., human–computer interaction (ctrl+minus on PC numpad).
  • An em dash is used as a strong comma or parenthesis—or for extra emphasis (ctrl+alt+minus on PC numpad).
  • A hyphen is used to create a single word, e.g., hands-on, day-to-day, water-borne
  • A slash "/" is used to omit surrounding spaces, e.g., Biosciences/Technology.
  • P.S. is followed by a colon, e.g., P.S.: Don't forget the colon.

*applies primarily to print use

Consult Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary for spelling and word breaks. American spellings are preferred over British.

  • Advisor, not adviser
  • Alumna/alumnae; alumnus/alumni
  • Catalog, not catalogue
  • Classwork, not class work
  • Computer terms: database, data file, debug, hard copy, input, log on, online
  • Course work, not coursework
  • Emerita/emeritae; emeritus/emeriti
  • Curriculum vitae (singular); curricula vitae (plural); vita informal)
  • Ex-officio, with a hyphen
  • Fundraising, not fund raising
  • Full-time, half-time, and part-time are hyphenated whether they precede or follow a noun
  • In-depth, in-service when used as an adjective before the noun
  • Multicampus
  • Noncredit, not non-credit
  • Nondegree, not non-degree
  • Nonprofit, not non-profit
  • Percent, not per cent
  • Under way: two words, unless referring to a ship or airplane in motion
  • United States = noun; U.S. = adjective
  • University-wide but campuswide, citywide, nationwide, statewide
  • Well-being: always hyphenate
  • Web terminology: web, website, webmaster, home page, internet
  • Numbers below 10 are spelled out in non-scientific text. The exceptions are percents, semester hours, and grade point averages: 9 percent, 5 semester hours, 3.5 grade point average.
  • When writing for the web, use numerals in all cases. This helps readers scan content more quickly.
  • Always spell out numbers at the beginning of a sentence or reword the sentence to avoid spelling out a large number.
  • Treat numbers alike in a sentence if they refer to the same thing: "The class of 50 students was separated into smaller groups of 5 students each."
  • Spell out ordinal numbers in text: e.g., first, second, third—not 1st, 2nd, 3rd.
  • For numbers of four digits or larger, use a comma: 1,500; 35,000. Very large numbers should be expressed with a figure and word: 450 million. Exceptions are dates, temperatures, and SAT scores.
  • Spell out references to money under $100 and use figures for references to $100 and more: "The ticket will cost five dollars." In text referring to registration or conference fees, use figures and the dollar sign because they are easier to read: "Conference materials and lunch are covered in the $275 registration fee."
  • Use figures when referring to fractional amounts higher than one dollar: "The course notes cost $15.95." When writing a whole dollar amount, use .00 only when it appears in a sentence that includes a dollar/fraction amount: "The registration fee is $75.50 if you are staying on campus, but $55.00 if you stay off campus."
  • Decimals and fractions are set in figures, although in some cases, a fraction may be spelled out: "The professor covered about two-thirds of the chapter during the class." Note that hyphens are used when spelling out fractions.
  • Figures plus a.m. or p.m. (lowercase with periods) are used to designate time in both text and schedules for ease of reading. This is different from the Chicago Manual, which spells out time in text. "The lecture will begin at 10:00 a.m. with a luncheon to follow at noon." Note that "noon" is lowercase and is not used with 12:00.
  • The plurals of numbers are formed by adding an s (with no apostrophe): 5s, 20s, 1980s.
  • Spell out references to centuries and decades: fifteenth century, the sixties.
  • Telephone numbers are written with a hyphen after the area code: 509-335-3518. A 1 should not precede the area code: 800.