Writing Style Guide

A writing style guide serves three significant purposes: It acts as an arbiter of factual and grammatical accuracy, it ensures clarity and consistency, and it serves as a reference. The Stanislaus State style guide is intended to supplement and occasionally supersede the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook, which is the widely accepted standard.

Guidelines for Use

The Stanislaus State style guide addresses issues specific to the University (place names, for example) and terms frequently used in academia. To this extent, the style guide is the primary source. It also includes sizable sections on capitalization because it is among the most problematic matters of grammar. If a question or issue is not addressed, the Associated Press Stylebook should serve as the primary source. Third in the hierarchy, but nonetheless important, is your dictionary of choice.

Writing Resources

A list of five free online resources to assist writers of all levels in making certain their words deliver their intended meaning to their varied audiences.

View the Writing Resources

How to Use this Style Guide

Like the venerable Associated Press Stylebook, this guide is both alphabetical and cross-referenced, with the intent to simplify and quicken a search. Related information, if cross-referenced, will appear in its entirety in both places. Please note that examples in the style guide are italicized simply to highlight usage. Do not infer that italicization is expected in practical use.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | I | M | N | P | Q | S | T | U | W | Y


A

Academic degrees

Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree and master’s degree, but note that there is no possessive in bachelor of arts or master of science. Use the abbreviations B.A., B.S., M.A., M.S., Ph.D. and Ed.D. only when the use of someone’s credentials is important to a story. The use of Dr. should be limited to physicians, dentists and veterinarians. As a rule of thumb, use Dr. in print when the subject is qualified to write a prescription. If it is relevant to reference that someone has a doctorate in another field, use a phrase such as Dawn Strongin, who has a doctorate in psychology...

Address

The University’s official address is One University Circle, Turlock, California, 95382

Advisor

Not adviser

Alumnus

A man who has graduated from a university

Alumna

A woman who has graduated from a university

Alumni

Men, or men and women, who have graduated from a university

Alumnae

Women who have graduated from a university

Note that someone who has attended but not graduated from a university is not an alumnus/alumna. With that said, there may be instances when it is strategically important to refer to someone as such. Check with the Communications and Public Affairs if you have questions about a specific person.

Ampersand (&)

Replace the ampersand with the word and in stories. The ampersand may remain in flyers and pamphlets and can be used in social media as a space-saving device. Example: The library’s archives and special collections, not archives & special collections.

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B

Buildings

Capitalize names of buildings and formally designated places on campus. Include building numbers in parentheses if necessary. Named locations should never be abbreviated to leave out the honorary name.

  • Dorothy and Bill Bizzini Hall. Accepted first reference: Bizzini Hall.
  • Dr. J. Burton Vasché Library. Accepted first reference: Vasché Library.
  • Ed and Bertha Fitzpatrick Arena. Accepted first reference: Fitzpatrick Arena.
  • Al Brenda Track
  • Demergasso-Bava Hall
  • Mary Stuart Rogers Educational Services Gateway Building. Accepted second reference: MSR also may be used on first reference in flyers and pamphlets.
  • John Stuart Rogers Faculty Development Center
  • Bernell and Flora Snider Music Recital Hall. Accepted first reference: Snider Recital Hall.
  • Nora and Hashem Naraghi Hall of Science. Accepted first reference: Naraghi Hall of Science.

Others: the Health Center, the Dining Hall, Warrior Grill, University Student Union, University Bookstore, Residence Life Village, Student Recreation Complex (includes Warrior Fitness Center, Warrior Stadium and Al Brenda Track); Warrior Baseball Field, Warrior Softball Field.

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C

Cabinet

Capitalize when referring to the president’s team of senior administrators: The Cabinet and the president meet on Thursdays.

California State University, Stanislaus

Preferred on first reference.

Stanislaus State This also is acceptable.

The University is also acceptable when referring to Stanislaus State. Note the capital U, which is contrary to the AP Stylebook. Capitalize University in all cases when referring to Stanislaus State but use lower case in general references to a place of higher education: A university education is important.

Capitalization

Official names and proper nouns are capitalized. Common nouns and various shortened forms of official names are not capitalized. Use the full, official name at least once (preferably in the first reference) except on flyers and pamphlets.

These style guidelines for university-related terms may differ from what you have been using. For several reasons, this guide recommends a lowercase style:

  • When too many words are capitalized, they lose their importance and no longer attract attention. Stories are more easily read when they aren’t peppered with initial caps or all caps.
  • Using lowercase letters in no way diminishes the stature or credibility of an individual’s position or a department’s reputation. After all, even the titles “president of the United States” and “pope” are lowercase when they do not immediately precede the president’s or pope’s name.
  • When writing promotional or marketing materials (such as flyers, pamphlets and print ads), emphasis can be achieved more effectively by the skillful use of white space, typeface and typestyle.
  • Keeping everything except official names lowercase also simplifies decisions about when to capitalize shortened forms of official names.

Capitalize University when it's standing alone when referring to Stanislaus State: the University. (This is contrary to the AP Stylebook.)

Capitalize only the complete and official names of colleges, schools, divisions, departments, offices and official bodies (such as Board of Trustees, Academic Senate, Veterans Affairs Office, College of Business Administration, Stockton Center).

Do Not Capitalize

  • city of Turlock, except when referring specifically to an action of the city’s governmental agency, as in My business license was issued by the City of Turlock.
  • classes: freshman, sophomore, junior, senior; note, however, the increasing use of first-year, second-year, etc.
  • college, the
  • degrees: doctorate, master’s, bachelor’s, baccalaureate, associate (note, not associate's)
  • department, the
  • form names (e.g., admission form, drop/add form)
  • orientation
  • program
  • semesters (fall, spring)
  • school
  • spring break or winter break
  • state of California

Committee, Center, Group, Program and Initiative Names

Unless a committee, center, group, program or initiative is officially recognized and formally named, avoid capitalizing. An ad hoc committee’s name, for example, should not be capitalized. However, do capitalize the official, proper names of long-standing committees and groups, as well as formally developed programs and initiatives. Examples:

  • The University Budget Advisory Committee made three recommendations.
  • The University’s vice presidential search committee met in executive session Tuesday.

Course Titles

Official course titles should be capitalized, but avoid quotation marks, italics or other formatting. Example: Students should consider taking Accounting Issues for Lawyers as well as Agency, Partnership and the LLC.

Department Names

Capitalize official department names and office names. References using shortened or unofficial names should be lowercase. Examples:

  • The Department of Theatre produces performances throughout the year.
  • Faculty members from the biological sciences, chemistry and mathematics departments are collaborating on a project.

Include the abbreviation in parenthesis following the first reference only when you cite it later in the same story. Example: The Computer Information Systems (CIS) Department. … The CIS professor will lead a discussion of cybersecurity.

Grades

Capitalize letter grades and use two numerals after the decimal point in GPAs. Example: She received an A in biology, which raised her overall GPA to 3.50.

Job and Position Titles

Capitalize job titles only when they immediately precede the individual’s name. Examples:

  • It’s common knowledge that President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • The president, Barack Obama, attended Occidental College.
  • The president of the United States serves a four-year term of office.
  • Have you taken a course from Professor Geoffrey Mulder?
  • Geoffrey Mulder, a professor of music, does not teach in the summer. 
  • The vice president for enrollment and student affairs uses a variety of means to improve students’ lives on campus.
  • Jane Doe has been promoted to associate professor.
  • Athletic Director Terry Donovan spoke at the basketball team’s celebration.
  • Terry Donovan, the athletic director, spoke at the basketball team’s celebration.

Titles in Addresses and Display Format

When a title appears in an address or other display format (such as list of administrators in an annual report), as opposed to story text, the title may be capitalized even if it appears after the name. Examples:

  • Jean Warren, Director
  • John Smith, Associate Director

Structures and Places

Capitalize names of buildings and formally designated places on campus. Examples:

  • Educational Services Building
  • Construction will take place in Parking Lot 11 this weekend.
  • The Reflecting Pond is beautiful this time of year.

Students

Do not capitalize freshman, sophomore, junior, senior or first-year student unless they appear at the beginning of a sentence or in a headline. Upper-division and first-year are the preferred adjectives for students instead of upper-class and freshman.

Trademarks

Many words and names are legally trademarked and should appear with initial capitals to acknowledge that fact. Also, owners of such trademarks have a legal right to restrict the use of those trademarked terms to their specific product. As a result, avoid using trademarked names, such as Xerox, as generic terms. Instead, use photocopier unless you intend to refer to the trademarked brand name. The AP Stylebook will tell you whether commonly used words are trademarked and will also indicate if a trademarked term should be capitalized.

The symbols ® and ™, which often appear on product packaging and advertisements, are unnecessary.

California State Student Association

Full title on first use. CSSA is acceptable in subsequent uses.

Clichés

Avoid them like the plague. 

Cybersecurity

Note that this is one word, as is cyberwarrior.

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D

Dates

Always use Arabic figures without st, nd, rd or th.

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E

email

No hyphen.

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F

Farmers market

Note that no apostrophe is needed. The local farmers market is the Turlock Farmers Market.

Flier

This is someone who flies.

Flyer

This is a handbill or pamphlet. (This is contrary to the AP Stylebook.)

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G

GIS

GIS is the abbreviation for geographic information system. You may use GIS on first reference but should use the full term somewhere high in the story. GIS may be used on flyers and pamphlets as a space-saving device, assuming that it is understandable in context.

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I

Internet

The word internet is lowercase in all uses, except at the start of a sentence. By association, net also is lowercase when it refers to the internet.

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M

Majors

Do not capitalize, except for English and those that include a language or region, such as Asian studies.

Months

Capitalize the names of months in all uses. When the name of a month is followed by a date, abbreviate Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. Spell out the name of the month when used alone or when followed by the year. For instance: Aug. 30, 2016; August 2016.

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N

Names

Follow the preference that people have for use of their names. The name listed in the campus directory is not always the name the person prefers. If James Smith prefers to be called Jim, render the name simply as Jim Smith, not James (Jim) Smith. In other words, the decision rests with the person being named. He might be Jim in face-to-face conversation but prefers James in print.

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P

Parking

When referring to an event for which there is no charge to park vehicles in campus lots, refer to the parking as complimentary or free of charge

President

Capitalize when preceding someone’s name: President Ellen Junn. Lowercase when used generically or following someone’s name: The president will meet with the mayor on Saturday. Ellen Junn has been president at Stanislaus State since 2016.

Professor

Capitalize before a person’s name. If the area of study is included, capitalize it as well. Examples:

  • Professor Mary Smith
  • The award went to longtime Biology Professor Mary Smith.

Note that there is a distinction among professor, associate professor and assistant professor – and, of course, lecturer and adjunct.

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Q

Quad

Capitalize in reference to the public square on campus. The Quad is bursting with activity today. Let’s meet in the Quad. (Note that “the” is not capitalized unless it starts a sentence.)

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S

Stockton Center

On first reference, use the official name, California State University, Stanislaus-Stockton Center. Use Stockton Center on subsequent references.

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T

Theatre

Use this in all references. This is contrary to the AP Stylebook.

Time

Use figures in all cases except when referring to noon and midnight. Examples of proper use: 10 a.m., 10:30 p.m., 10-11 a.m., 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Turlock Farmers Market

No apostrophe because it is descriptive rather than possessive. Use the shorter version in lieu of Turlock Certified Farmers Market except in quotes when someone uses the full title. Note that farmers market is acceptable after first use.

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U

University

Note that University is capitalized when referring to Stanislaus State: the University.

University names

When referring to universities other than Stanislaus State in the CSU or UC systems, you should use the official, preferred short form of the names in first reference unless your intent is to be formal. You may drop “Cal State” or “State” on subsequent references if it’s clear that you are talking about the university and not the city or region.

  • Cal Poly Pomona
  • Cal Poly (for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo)
  • CSU Bakersfield
  • CSU Channel Islands
  • CSU, Chico (note the comma)
  • CSU Dominguez Hills
  • Cal State East Bay
  • Fresno State
  • Cal State Fullerton
  • Humboldt State
  • Cal State Long Beach (Long Beach State is fine in casual and sports use)
  • Cal State L.A.
  • California Maritime
  • Cal State Monterey Bay
  • Cal State Northridge (CSUN is acceptable on subsequent references)
  • Sacramento State (Sac State is acceptable on subsequent references)
  • Cal State San Bernardino
  • San Diego State
  • San Francisco State
  • San Jose State
  • Cal State San Marcos
  • Sonoma State

For the University of California system:

  • UC Berkeley
  • UC Davis
  • UC Irvine
  • UC Merced
  • UC Riverside
  • UC San Diego
  • UC San Francisco
  • UC Santa Barbara
  • UC Santa Cruz
  • UCLA (suitable in all references.)

You may drop “UC” on subsequent references if it’s clear that you are talking about the university and not the city.

University Police Department

Use the full title on first use. UPD is acceptable in subsequent uses, as is police department.

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W

World Wide Web

Capitalized in all uses, but becoming archaic as a term

Web

Capitalized in all uses when referring to World Wide Web, becoming archaic

Website

One word, lower case – website – except at the beginning of a sentence.

Webmaster

One word and lower case except at the beginning of a sentence.

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Y

Year of graduation

Use two digits to indicate when someone graduated. Note the backward apostrophe.

Example: John Smith (’76, mechanical engineering)