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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 Downing at rdowning@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




capitalization. When in doubt, use lowercase. In addition to grammatical correctness and style, the idea is to make text easy on the eyes for your reader. Capitalize proper nouns, not generic words that refer to proper nouns. In specific instances, the communications office publication designers might employ all capital letters or initial caps for typographical reasons at their discretion.
          For a particular word or phrase, if there is no listing in this style guide, consult the Chicago Manual of Style or the dictionary.
          Do not capitalize Colgate majors, minors, programs of study, divisions, departments, or offices unless as a typographic style in list copy or when referring to an official title [He is a biology major. Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Office of Admission, Department of English, but natural sciences division, admission office, environmental studies program, English department].
          Names of formal committees are capitalized, but general references to committees are not [He is a member of the Alumni Council Nominations Committee. I am on the marketing committee to advertise that program.].
          Lowercase common words such as college, university, or state when listing several institutions with the same designation [We visited Colgate, Bucknell, and Lehigh universities. Both New York and Washington states passed an increased budget this year.].
          See also headlines, subheads.

captions (photo). Requires a period if caption is a full sentence, no period if a sentence fragment [Katy Graf ’06 wanders through the rooms in a residential dwelling in Pompeii. Selling organic produce at the Hamilton Farmer’s Market].
           A good caption will enhance and clarify that which is not immediately apparent in the photo. In some cases, simply the name of the individual shown will suffice; use no period after a nameline.


catalogue. Not catalog [Consult the university catalogue for more information.].

cellphone. Indicate cellphone listings on business cards, stationery, etc. with a C [C: 315-777-7777]

Center for Career Services.

Center for Freedom and Western Civilization.

Center for Language and Brain.

Center for Leadership and Student Involvement.

Center for Learning, Teaching, and Research.

Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education (COVE). Formally called the Max Shacknai Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education.

Center for Women’s Studies.

central New York. [We’re looking for ways to embrace the cold and snowy central New York winters.].

century, centuries. See numbers.

chair, chairman, chairperson. Chair is used both as a verb and a noun and is widely regarded as the best gender-neutral choice [He chaired the meeting. The chair recognizes the congressman. Susan Jones, chair of the admission committee.].
          You may, however, use chairman or chairwoman with specific references when the gender of the person is clear, or according to the preference of the person to whom you are referring. For an explanation of proper usage of chair in vs. professor of, see ACADEMIC TITLES under titles (of persons)


chapel. Lowercase unless using the official name of the building, Colgate Memorial Chapel

circumlocution. A roundabout way of saying something. To aid the reader, be succinct:
Use Instead of
today in this day and age
to in order to
now at this point in time
while during the time that
if in the even that
after at the conclusion of
during in the course of
join join together
before prior to
because the fact that OR due to

city, state. Place one comma between the city and state name, and another comma after the state name, unless ending a sentence or indicating a dateline [He traveled to Nashville, Tenn., from Syracuse, N.Y.].

classics, classical. See also historical periods.

class notes. This section in the Colgate Scene is most frequently called class news.

Class of. When referring to a specific class, capitalize [He is a member of the Class of 1999.].

class years. To denote class year on a graduate’s name, use John Jones ’39 (no comma between name and year).
          For master’s degree recipients, use Eric Brown MA’88, Jenny Jones MAT’99 (no space between degree and and the apostrophe).
          For honorary degree recipients, use James Jones H’95 (no space between H and the apostrophe).
          For Colgate couples, place the class years adjacent to the names as in example [Joe ’01 and Amy (Hargrave) ’03 Leo came to the reunion.].
          Multiple class years or parental designation: separate with commas [Bruce F. Wesson ’64, P’90,’93; Andy Rooney ’42, P’74, GP’05, H’96].
          To achieve ’ before class year numerals, on a Mac, use shift/option/apostrophe; on a PC, use control/shift/apostrophe.
          With possessives, find a way to rephrase to avoid making the class year possessive [RIGHT: We found the dog belonging to John Jones ’89 running around. WRONG: We found John Smith ’89’s dog running around].

clichés. Avoid using trite expressions or clichés such as acid test, crack of dawn, generous to a fault, cutting-edge, leading-edge technology, the picture of health, and state-of-the-art.

coed (coeducational). Don’t use coed as a noun (use woman or female student); coed may be used as an adjective [He chose to live in coed housing.].

Colgate Maroon-News, the. Colgate’s student newspaper. Use the Maroon-News on second reference. From 1968 to 1991, there were two student papers, the Colgate Maroon (founded 1916) and the Colgate News; the two merged in 1992.

Colgate Scene, the. The official magazine of Colgate University. Use the Scene on second reference.

Colgate Thirteen. Men’s a cappella group on campus.

Colgate University. Use Colgate, the university, or the institution on second reference (no initial caps on generic nouns). It is preferable on second reference to refer to Colgate as “the university” rather than “the college.”

Colgate University Catalogue.

commas. Use the serial (Oxford) comma before and in a series to ensure clarity [Joe ate peas, ham, and bread. Jen went swimming with the divers, Sam, and Ed (to make clear that Sam and Ed are not the divers, but rather, joined Jen and a group of divers)]. Likewise for the final in a series separated by semicolons: the last two elements should
be separated by semicolons. See also the punctuation section.

commencement. Lowercase, except when referring to a specific event [He celebrated his commencement in 1988. We attended Commencement 2003.].

committees. Names of formal committees are capitalized, but general references to committees are not [He is a member of the Alumni Council Nominations Committee. I am on the marketing committee to advertise that program.].

community leader. A student residential life position; serves as a mentor and resource in student residences (akin to an RA).

compose, comprise, constitute. These terms are not interchangeable. Compose means to create or put together. It can be used in both the active and passive voice. [Johnny Marks ’31 composed “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” That yarn is composed of merino wool, silk, and linen.] Comprise means “to contain, include all, or embrace” and is best used only in the active voice; the whole comprises its parts. Not to be used with of [This nation comprises 50 states.]. Constitute is often the best choice when neither compose nor comprise seems to fit [A hundred milligrams constitutes a gram. Six girls and five boys constitute the soccer team.].

computer terms.
e-mail. Not Email or E-mail.
home page.
http. Do not include when listing website addresses [For more, visit
Internet. Capitalize noun, lowercase adjective [I found it on the Internet. The university  has added to its internet resource allocations.].
Listserve. Capitalize this trademarked name.
login, logon. As a verb, use two-word form [log in to a network, log on to a computer].
web, website, webcam, webcast, webpage. Lowercase.

concentration. The official term is major at Colgate [Colgate offers 55 majors. He is an English major.]. For a complete list, see majors.
             Lowercase (except for proper nouns), except where initial caps are used for design/typographical convention in list form [environmental biology, English, Romance languages and literatures].

conference titles. Full official names of conferences and symposia should be capitalized [1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development]. Enclose titles given to conferences in quotation marks [“Upstate and the Liberal Arts: New Partnerships for the 21st Century”]. Don’t treat appendages such as “annual meeting” as part of titles; lowercase them [27th annual Alumni Council meeting].

convince, persuade. With convince, use that or of; with persuade, use to [She is convinced that he left on Monday, not Tuesday. Joanne’s work convinced Joe of her brilliance. Joe persuaded Joanne to read the document.].

core. Lowercase unless using the formal title, Liberal Arts Core Curriculum [Brian took three core courses during his first year. The core program is a hallmark of a Colgate education.].

course titles. Use roman type with initial caps; no quotation marks or italics necessary [As a junior, he took Religion 332: Contemporary Religious Thought.].


credits (academic). The term credit hours is redundant; use credits.

credits (photo). If supplying photographs to the Office of Communications for a publication or webpage, please be sure to supply the name of the photographer.

cum laude. Italicized but lowercased [She graduated cum laude in 1998].

currently, presently. Currently means “now”; presently means “soon.”