• 2015 Living Writers

Style Guide

With many departments producing their own publications and newsletters, it is important for the College to project and maintain an image of quality as well as remain consistent in the use of names, titles and capitalization. The office of communications has composed a brief "style guide" for campus constituents. With few exceptions, the College follows the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook and Libel Manual. When in doubt, please use the AP stylebook or call the office of communications at x3230. The basic guidelines are outlined below.

The following guidelines may help to clarify some common style misconceptions.

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 Smith, who has a doctorate in psychology. 

Use an apostrophe in bachelor's degree, a master's, etc. 

Use abbreviations such as B.A., M.A., LL.D. 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: Jane Doe, 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: Dr. Jane Doe, a chemistry professor, not Dr. Jane Doe, Ph.D. 

academic departments Use lowercase except for words that are proper nouns or adjectives: the department of history, the history department, the department of English, the English department.

academic titles See section on titles.

alumnus/alumni and alumnae/alumna Alumni refers to multiple or all graduates of male or mixed gender. Alumnus refers to a single male graduate, alumna refers to a single female graduate and alumnae refers to multiple female graduates. "Alum" should never be used.

comma Associated Press style does not utilize the serial/Oxford comma. "First, second and third" is correct. "First, second, and third" is incorrect.

composition titles Apply the guidelines listed below to book titles, computer game titles (but not software titles), movie titles, opera titles, play titles, poem titles, song titles, television program titles and the titles of lectures, speeches and works of art.

• Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters.
• Capitalize an article - the, a, an - or words of fewer than four letters if it is the first or last word in a title.
• Put quotation marks around the names of all such words except the Bible and books that are primarily catalogs of reference material (almanacs, catalogs, directories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, gazetteers, handbooks and similar publications). Do not italicize or underline.
• Translate a foreign title into English unless the work is known to the American public by its foreign name.

magazine titles Capitalize the name but do not place it in quotes and do not italicize. Lowercase magazine unless it is part of the publication's formal title: Harper's Magazine, Newsweek magazine; Time magazine. Check the masthead if in doubt.

Muhlenberg College When referring to Muhlenberg College, capitalize the College when the word appears without "Muhlenberg." This is an exception to AP style.

names Students, faculty and staff are referred to by full name on first mention and by last name only with subsequent use. Rerences to student names follow faculty and staff naming conventions.

Alumni names follow faculty and staff naming conventions. If an alumna/alumnus last name differs from the last name used while a student, best practices dictate enclosing a former last name between first and last name, e.g., First Maiden Last '09. Always consult with the alumna/alumnus in question to respect specific naming preferences. 

newspaper names Capitalize the in newspaper names if that is the way the publication prefers to be known. Lowercase the before newspaper names if a story mentions several papers, some of which use the as part of the name and some do not. Where location is needed but is not part of the official name, use parentheses: The Huntsville (Ala.) Times. Do not italicize, underline, or place in quotes.

numerals Follow these guidelines in using numerals:

• Spell out a numeral at the beginning of a sentence. If necessary, recast the sentence. There is one exception - a numeral that identifies a calendar year: 1978 was a very good year.
• In general, spell out whole numbers below 10, and use figures for 10 and above. Typical examples: They had three sons and two daughters. They had a fleet of 10 station wagons and two buses.
• Do not use ordinal indicators for dates. For example, "January 4" is correct. "January 4th" or "January 4th" is incorrect.
• In a series, apply the appropriate guidelines: The had 10 dogs, six cats and 97 hamsters. They had four four-room houses, 10 three-room houses and 12 10-room houses.
• For ordinals, 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.

phone numbers/fax numbers Number sets should be separated by hyphens, not periods. This is designed to optimize legibility.

spacing Use one space after terminal punctuation. This is especially important in digital and online text.

state names Spell out the names of the 50 U.S. states in textual material.

time Morning and afternoon/evening should be designated by the use of "a.m." and "p.m.," not "am" or "pm." A space should be inserted between the number and the abbreviation. When possible, use "midnight" or "noon" instead of 12:00 a.m. or p.m., respectively. 

titles Academic, department and professional titles are capitalized when proceeding a name and lower-case when following. Exceptions include:

• Proper nouns, e.g., professor of English literature, assistant professor of Africana studies, lecturer of Spanish, are always capitalized.
• Titles that are used as captions or other descriptive text, such as the explanation associated with a photograph.
• "President" and "Chair of the Board of Trustees" are always capitalized.
• "Professor should always be spelled out. "Prof" is never used.

For consistency and legibility, we recommend academic and department titles follow a name whenever possible, e.g., "Brian Speer, vice president of communications, gave a speech."

website URLs/links Users should always check a URL in a browser before including a link in digital or print publications. Whenever possible, users are encouraged to omit the preceding "http://" and "www" from a URL. These omissions increase legibility and conserve space.