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Editorial Style and Usage Guide

This guide is the established editorial style for e-mail announcements, the Colgate Scene, colgate.edu pages and stories, brochures, newsletters, letters, and more.

Have a suggestion for the style guide? Contact Rebecca Costello at rcostello@colgate.edu

For answers to common questions, see our Quick Tips

NOTE: All entries, in bold type, indicate lower case or capitalization as appropriate

   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
             Punctuation - Helpful references - Proofreading tips

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A

a, an
. Use a before consonant sounds [a historical novel, a one-time event]. Use an before vowel sounds. With acronyms, the choice of a or an is determined by the way the abbreviation would be read aloud [an awful sound, an hour’s time, an NCAA ruling, a NATO response, a UFO, an HIV test].

abbreviations. Use standard abbreviations when it is customary to do so [A.D., B.C., a.m., p.m., GNP, Mr., Mrs., Ms., ID].
          Increasingly, periods are omitted from abbreviations and acronyms. If an abbreviation can be used either with or without periods, use it without. Some names are usually abbreviated even on first reference, including those of government agencies, associations, service organizations, and unions [AFL-CIO, CIA, NAACP, NATO, UN, YMCA].
          Avoid abbreviated colloquialisms such as “the ’gate” for Colgate unless your format is particularly informal.

academic degrees. Use apostrophes in bachelor’s degree, a master’s, etc. but no apostrophe with bachelor of arts or master of arts in teaching. Lowercase degrees, including disciplines, except for proper nouns [master’s degree in English literature, master of arts in teaching degree].
          No periods in abbreviations MAT, MA, MS, AB. Avoid redundancies such as Dr. John Smith, MD.

academic leave of absence. Lowercase.

academic titles. See titles (of persons).

a cappella. This non-English term, which should appear in italics, means “without instrumental accompaniment” [The Colgate Thirteen, Swinging ’Gates, and Colgate Resolutions are three campus a cappella singing groups.].

acronyms. For well-known acronyms [NFL, NSF, NEA], periods are not necessary. On first reference, spell out university acronyms that may be unfamiliar to the audience [Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education,
rather than the COVE].
          Do not start a sentence with an acronym [RIGHT: Joe Smith, a COVE member, attended. WRONG: COVE member Joe Smith attended.].

addresses. In body copy, use commas to set off individual elements in addresses or place names. No comma between street name and an abbreviation such as NW [Colgate University, 13 Oak Dr., Hamilton, N.Y., 13346].

administrative titles. See titles (of persons).

admission(s). At Colgate, the department is referred to in the singular case (admission office), but use “college admissions” when talking about the concept in general.

adviser. Not advisor, unless it is spelled that way as part of a person’s official title.

affect, effect. Affect is a verb meaning “to influence” or “to make an impact upon” [Exposure to sun affects your skin.]. Effect is a noun; otherwise, as a verb, it means “to bring about or to execute” [We measured the effects of sun on skin. He was hired to effect change in the department.].

African American. No hyphen for either the noun or the adjective. Both African American and black are acceptable, although they are not always interchangeable.

ages. Always use numerals [She has a 3-year-old daughter. They have two children: Damian, 9, and Savannah, 4 1/2.].

agree to/agree with. One agrees to a plan, but a thing agrees with another thing [One agrees in principle, agrees on
a plan of attack, agrees to fly, agrees with his mate].

ALANA. Acronym for African American, Latin American, Asian American, or Native American, as in Colgate’s ALANA Cultural Center.

all right. Preferable to alright [All right, let’s get down to business. Before we leave, I’ll make sure everything is all right in the barn.].

alma mater. Lowercase, no italics, both when referring to Colgate as the school from which one has graduated or the song.

although. Preferred to though in writing.

alumni. Use alumnus for an individual male, alumna for an individual female, alumni for a group of males, alumnae for a group of females, and alumni when referring to a group composed of men and women (never “alumni/ae”).
          You should not use alum or alums in writing because they are colloquial terms; use only in informal direct quotations and when the meaning is clear, because alum is also a type of chemical compound.
          When appropriate, consider using the alternative graduate to reduce repetition.
          Note: It is preferable to always identify alumni with the class year in publications. Anyone who has attended Colgate for at least one semester is considered an alumna or alumnus, regardless of whether or not the individual actually graduated. In certain instances (i.e., where the degree status is pertinent), an alumnus or alumna who did not graduate from Colgate is referred to with an NG before the class year: Fred Schunck NG’36, but in publications, use the simpler and more inclusive Fred Schunck ’36.

Alumni Council. Formerly called the Alumni Corporation Board of Directors.

alumni names and class years. See class years.

a.m. TIME: Lowercase, with periods (not AM or am). For more on time style, see time. RADIO: Use FM and AM [Doc Miller’s show is on WRCU 90.1FM.].

American Indian. No hyphen. Native American is also acceptable; however, while some use the terms interchangeably, others prefer one over the other. In many cases, the tribal affiliation is the most appropriate term.

among, between. Among implies more than two objects; between is used when referring only to two objects.

ampersand (&). Use only when it is an official part of a name or title (formal name) [AT&T, Simon & Schuster]. Never use in body copy in place of and.

and/or. Avoid this construction; rephrase instead.

annual. An event can not be described as annual until it has been held for at least two successive years [RIGHT: We held the first Colgate Arts! Festival in 2005 and hope it becomes an annual event. WRONG: He attended the first annual Madison County Hopfest.].

annual fund. Lowercase in general references; the university’s official program name is the Colgate Annual Fund [The campaign will boost contributions to the annual fund. He gave a gift to the Colgate Annual Fund.].

apostrophe. See punctuation

archaeology/archaeologist. Not archeology/archeologist.

art exhibitions. See exhibitions under titles (of original works or similar).

artist-in-residence. Hyphenate before a name, and when part of a formal title. Follow capitalization rules according to titles (of persons). [Kenny Barron served as the 2002-2003 Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation artist-in-residence. We talked to artist-in-residence Jean Smith.]. After a name or in generic references, no hyphen [Colgate sponsors several artists in residence each year.].

Asian American. No hyphen for either the noun or the adjective.

as/like. As is a conjunction linking two clauses [Do as I do.]; like is a preposition introducing a comparison [My house is like a barn.]. As is not a substitute for because or for example [RIGHT: I missed the dinner dance because I was sick. WRONG: I missed the dinner dance, as I was sick.].

as per. Do not use; it is redundant for the Latinism per (see also per.). Instead, use one of the terms it is often used to mean: “in accordance with” or “at” [In accordance with (not as per) the guidelines, we registered for the conference before September 15. At (not as per) his suggestion, I called the mayor.].

assure, ensure, insure. Assure means “to inform with the intent of removing doubt.” Ensure means “to guarantee.” Insure means “to establish a contract for insurance.” These words are not interchangeable.

athletics facilities. See buildings and sites.

athletics. Colgate athletics teams are known as Raiders; women athletes are not Lady Raiders. It is the Department of Athletics or athletics department, not athletic department.

Athletics Hall of Honor. Recognizes extraordinary alumni athletes.

attribution. Attribute statements that are not widely known or that are a matter of opinion and subject to disagreement [Twenty-five percent of Colgate’s annual expenditure on financial aid is drawn from the endowment, according to David Hale, financial vice president. James Taylor is a better singer than Paul Anka, Jordan said.]. Past tense (said) is preferable in citing a literal quotation uttered by an individual at a specific time [“I always wanted to study ancient Egyptian art,” said Jones.]. Use present tense (says) in paraphrasing a line of thought that an individual continuously expresses [Smith says that Egyptian art is his favorite area of study.]. Forms of the verb say are impartial and appear objective; other verbs, such as noted, commented, claimed, suggested, charged, denied, or
asserted, can inadvertently imply shades of meaning and should be used judiciously.

AV. Abbreviation for audio-visual