Writing Style Guide

The Office of Marketing & Communications has developed this writing style guide for Sewanee faculty and staff, especially those who write for external audiences. This includes writing for University websites, as well. The guide addresses issues of grammar and style that are likely to be encountered while writing for Sewanee.

Our goal is to present a consistent and high-quality standard of writing. We encourage University faculty and staff to become familiar with these guidelines and to use them whenever possible. However, this guide is not intended to replace other writing style guides used for specific purposes, or for publications such as scholarly journals.

If you have questions or need further assistance, please contact our office. To submit a piece for proofreading or identity review, please use this form. 

For any style questions not addressed in the guide, please refer to the AP Stylebook Online.

Alphabetical Listing

Common writing style questions

Academic degrees

Use a bachelor of arts, a bachelor’s degree, a B.A.; a master of fine arts, a master’s, an M.F.A. (Note: The possessive pronoun—her doctorate—is not used.) Examples: She has a bachelor (or master) of arts degree in English literature. He is getting a master’s in dance. (Note: Not “his” master’s) She has nearly completed an M.S. in mechanical engineering.

Campus names

Correct spelling and punctuation are: Abbo’s Alley, All Saints’ Chapel, Ayres Multicultural Center, Bishop’s Common, duPont Library, Green’s View, Memorial Cross, Morgan’s Steep, Shapard Tower, University Bookstore, Walsh-Ellett Hall, Woods Laboratories. Do not abbreviate names of buildings in formal text. (Example: Walsh-Ellett, room 109, not 109 WE.)

Capitalization — titles and departments

Capitalize titles only when they appear immediately before a proper name: Professor Bran Potter taught the class. John McCardell, vice-chancellor of the University of the South, addressed the nervous parents. The provost met with committee members. Courtesy titles (Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss) are generally not used.

Departments, offices, and programs are capitalized only when full name is used: Chemistry Department, Alumni Office, Education Program, but psychology, economics, advancement.

Class year of alumni

Use the appropriate letter for the school/college (“C” for College, “T” for School of Theology, “L” for School of Letters), and then the last two digits of the year in which the degree was awarded, set off by commas, following the name. Examples: Jon Meacham, C’91, won a Pulitzer Prize. John Smith, T’89, is a priest in Virginia.

Courtesy titles

Refer to men and women by first and last name, without courtesy titles (Mr., Mrs., Ms., and Dr.), on first reference (Susan Smith). Refer to both by last name only, without courtesy titles, on subsequent references. Use courtesy titles only in direct quotations or after first reference if specifically requested.

Dates and times

Abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec., and write out March, April, May, June, and July. Do not abbreviate months when they stand alone, or with a year alone but no date. Examples: She gave her first performance on Aug. 3, but her next will not be until February 2017. (Note: not Aug. 3rd.)

When announcing upcoming events, include the day of the week: The lecture will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23, in Guerry Hall. (Use the order time, day, date, place)

Use figures for times (except use noon and midnight instead of 12 p.m. or a.m.), inserting one space after the number but no further spaces: 9 a.m., 10:30 p.m. Do not add :00 (e.g., 10 a.m., not 10:00 a.m.).

Abbreviate CST or CDT without periods.

Ecce Quam Bonum (EQB) – Behold How Good

The first three words of the University motto, from Psalm 133:1. The Latin version of the original Hebrew is “Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum!” The University uses the English paraphrase, based on the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, “Behold how good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” The motto describes the University’s aspiration for living in community. For all campus uses, the motto is shortened to Ecce Quam Bonum, or just EQB, with or without the full English paraphrase. Avoid using the full motto in Latin.

Italics vs. quotation marks (books, movies, articles, etc.)

Italicize titles of books, plays, newspapers, magazines, ships, movies, television program titles, exhibits, record and CD titles, works of art, and long musical compositions. Italicize foreign words if they don’t appear in the regular part of the dictionary. Do not use all caps for titles.

Use quotation marks for titles of poems, short stories, lectures, short musical compositions, song titles, titles of articles within magazines and newspapers, book chapter titles, and dance titles.

Spacing

Use a single space after a period at the end of a sentence.

The
In running text, do not capitalize the "the" in names, including:
  • the University of the South
  • the College of Arts and Sciences
  • the School of Theology
  • the Episcopal Church
  • the Course at Sewanee
  • the Sewanee Inn
The School of Theology
  • The proper name for the institution that consists of the seminary and the Beecken Center is “the School of Theology.”
  • Do not use Sewanee School of Theology; use “the School of Theology at the University of the South.” Do not abbreviate as SOT or SofT.
  • When referring to just the Beecken Center for the first time it is: “the Beecken Center of the School of Theology,” later references use the Beecken Center.
  • Education for Ministry may be abbreviated to EfM, do not abbreviate as EFM.
The University of the South

The University of the South is the official and legal name of the institution. Use “the University of the South” on first reference. Both “the University” and “Sewanee” can be used in subsequent references. When using “Sewanee,” be sure the meaning is clear--the school or the town. It is often preferable to use “the University of the South, familiarly known as Sewanee …” When the name appears in running text, do not capitalize the “t” in either “the.”

Yea, Sewanee's right!

The correct spelling is "yea," (pronounced YAY), never "yeah."

Back to Common writing style questions

Additional Guidance (listed alphabetically)

A

academic degrees

Use a bachelor of arts, a bachelor’s degree, a B.A.; a master of fine arts, a master’s, an M.F.A. (Note: The possessive pronoun—her doctorate—is not used.) Examples: She has a bachelor (or master) of arts degree in English literature. He is getting a master’s in dance. (Note: Not “his” master’s) She has nearly completed an M.S. in mechanical engineering.

Class year of alumni: Use the appropriate letter for the school/college (“C” for College, “T” for School of Theology, “L” for School of Letters), and then the last two digits of the year in which the degree was awarded, set off by commas, following the name. Examples: Jon Meacham, C’91, won a Pulitzer Prize. John Smith, T’89, is a priest in Virginia.

Honorary degree recipients: nonalumni: Gilbert Kalish, H’36; alumni: indicate first the earned degree, then the honorary degree: Eugene Lang, C’38, H’81.

academic major Lowercase general references to a major (e.g., biology major).

acronyms Spell out for first citation and follow with acronym in parentheses: The Council on Educational Policy (CEP) adopted new procedures. The CEP paved the way for improved policies.

Advent semester The University's term for the fall semester (lowercase “s”).

adviser (not advisor), but translator, supervisor

African American Do not hyphenate, neither as noun nor adjective; similarly Korean American, Mexican American, etc. (See also hyphens.)

All Saints’ Chapel Apostrophe follows the s. (See campus and buildings)

alumnus (male, singular), alumna (female, singular), alumnae (female, plural), alumni (male or male and female, plural) (Example: Associated Alumni, alumni trip)

a.m., p.m. lowercase, no spaces. (See time)

anti prefix; do not hyphenate except when followed by a vowel, e.g., antitrust, antiwar, but anti-aircraft.

apostrophe Use with possessives: five years’ worth, Joan’s book. Use apostrophe alone following proper names ending with an s: Agnes’ home. Use before class years: C’87.

B

book titles Italicize, e.g., Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods

C

campus and buildings Correct spelling and punctuation are:

  • Abbo’s Alley
  • All Saints’ Chapel
  • Ayres Multicultural Center
  • Bishop’s Common
  • duPont Library
  • Green’s View
  • Memorial Cross
  • Morgan’s Steep
  • Shapard Tower
  • University Bookstore
  • Walsh-Ellett Hall
  • Woods Laboratories

Do not abbreviate names of buildings in formal text. (Example: Walsh-Ellett, room 109, not 109 WE.)

Cap and Gown Student yearbook

catalog (not catalogue)

CDs Italicize titles , e.g., Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline

cities Always follow a city name with the state in which it is located, unless it is a state capital and the state has already been named, or for very well-known cities (Los Angeles, New York City, Boston).

class Generally lowercase: class dinner, class officers, the class, class reunion. Exception: specific class, e.g., the Class of ’27. Do not capitalize class years: freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior.

commas

  • adjectives Use a comma between adjectives if the word “and” works equally well: a smart, diverse student body. Don’t use a comma between adjectives if you wouldn’t replace it with the word “and”: the old grey mare.
  • ages List ages with a comma on both sides: Eileen, 17, and Ellen, 15, both play soccer.
  • clauses Use a comma to separate clauses in a sentence only if each clause has a subject and a verb: John is teaching religion, and he hopes to do so again next year; but John is teaching religion and hopes to do so again next year.
  • dates Use commas before and after the year in a full date: April 1, 1993, was a Monday. Don’t use a comma when there is only a month and year: the May 1996 meeting.
  • essential clauses, nonessential clauses Nonessential clauses (those with extra information) must be set off by commas, and essential clauses (those with required information) must not be set off by commas. Examples: Tom’s friend Chris was his best man. (Because Tom has more than one friend, “Chris” is essential and is not set off by commas.) His wife, Elizabeth, is a lawyer. (He has only one wife, so giving her name is nonessential.)
  • introductory phrases Use a comma following all introductory phrases. Example: After the banquet, the class enjoyed a talk by the provost.
  • quotations Use a comma to introduce a quotation of one full sentence: Mary asserted, “He was not here at the time.” Use a colon to introduce quotations of more than one sentence. No comma is needed to introduce a partial quotation.
  • serial comma Use a comma before the conjunction: Chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla (Note: This Sewanee style preference is an exception to the AP Stylebook.)
  • suffixes Don’t use commas before or after Jr. or Sr.: John Smith Jr. and John Smith Sr. Never use commas with II or III: Peter Smith II or Peter Smith III.

committee Capitalize when part of a name; otherwise lowercase. Examples: the 50th Reunion Committee will hold its final meeting next month. I’ve forgotten the name of that new committee, whose first meeting I attended last week.

course or seminar names should be capitalized, not in quotes or italics: Poetry of the Italian Renaissance

courtesy titles Refer to men and women by first and last name, without courtesy titles (Mr., Mrs., Ms., and Dr.), on first reference (Susan Smith). Refer to both by last name only, without courtesy titles, on subsequent references. Use courtesy titles only in direct quotations or after first reference if specifically requested.

Do not use courtesy titles in combination with any other title or with abbreviations indicating scholastic or academic degrees: Dr. Jerry Smith or Jerry Smith, Ph.D.

D

dashes An en-dash is used: between numbers or dates (1996–1997), in university names where there is more than one campus (UC–Berkeley). An em-dash is used when a dash is desired (e.g., for an abrupt shift in a sentence) with no spaces on either side: “The frozen turkey was the murder weapon—but you know that, don't you?”

dates Abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec., and write out March, April, May, June, and July. Do not abbreviate months when they stand alone or with a year alone but no date. Examples: She gave her first performance on Aug. 3, but her next will not be until February 2017. (Note: not Aug. 3rd.) In formal text, months may be written out even with a specific date.

When announcing upcoming events, include the day of the week: The lecture will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23, in Guerry Hall. (Use the order time, day, date, place)

departments, academic and administrative Departments, offices, and programs are capitalized only when full name is used: Chemistry Department, Alumni Office, Education Program, but psychology, economics, advancement.

directions In general, use lowercase north, south, northeast, northern, etc. when they indicate compass direction: Drive east on I-80 until you cross the Mississippi. Capitalize when they designate regions: A storm system that developed in the Midwest is heading eastward.

E

Easter semester The University's term for the spring semester (lowercase “s”). 

Ecce Quam Bonum (EQB) – Behold How Good The first three words of the University motto, from Psalm 133:1. The Latin version of the original Hebrew is “Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum!” The University uses the English paraphrase, based on the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, “Behold how good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” The motto describes the University’s aspiration for living in community. For all campus uses, the motto is shortened to Ecce Quam Bonum, or just EQB, with or without the full English paraphrase. Avoid using the full motto in Latin.

ellipses A three-point ellipsis, with a space before and after but not between points, is used midsentence to indicate deleted text. A period and three-point ellipsis is used to denote the end of a complete sentence. Examples: The weather forecasters predicted rain tomorrow ... and a warm and sunny weekend. “Good morning. ... Our first item is a sales report,” read the director’s memo.

email Lowercase and no hyphen

emeritus, emerita, emeriti Professor Emeritus of English Willie Cocke but Willie Cocke, professor emeritus of English

exhibition titles Italicize 

F

faculty, staff Use faculty members and staff members to avoid awkward singular constructions.

fundraising, fundraiser, fundraise No hyphen. 

G

GPA Use in caps without periods

gray, not grey

group names, music The Beatles, with no quotes.

H

Honor Code  Uppercase “H” and “C” when referring specifically to the University’s Honor Code. Lowercase for generic references: many schools assert they have an honor code. 

Honorable/Hon. The Hon. William Caldwell

hyphens Hyphenate compound modifiers except those including adverbs ending in “ly” and an adjective: the newly elected president. Do not hyphenate (when used as nouns or adjectives): African American, Korean American, Mexican American. 

I

including Preceded by a comma. Example: My gem collection, including sapphires, emeralds, and rubies

initials No space between initials, e.g., B.J. Smith.

italics italicize titles of books, plays, newspapers, magazines, ships, movies, television program titles, exhibits, record and CD titles, works of art, and long musical compositions. Italicize foreign words if they don’t appear in the regular part of the dictionary. Do not use all caps for titles.

J

junior, senior Abbreviate as Jr. and Sr., and do not precede by a comma, e.g., Edward Borer Jr.

L

law school Lowercase unless part of an official school name: My cousin is in law school. He's at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

M

medical school Lowercase unless part of an official school name

movie titles Italicize, e.g. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

musical compositions Quotation marks for short pieces, italics for long compositions, e.g. Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday,” but Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Do not use quotes and italics together.

N

newspapers and periodicals Follow the style of the exact title (check whether “the” is part of actual title for each one).

non Refer to dictionary. No hyphen with words with which prefix non could be replaced by word not: nonacademic, nonprofit. Hyphenate with proper nouns: non-Hodgkin's lymphoma; or awkward combinations: non-nuclear.

numbers

  • Spell out whole numbers below 10, and use figures for 10 and above.
  • Spell out first through ninth, use figures for 10th and above: the first victory, the 21st century.
  • Spell out when beginning sentences, e.g., Three hundred students attended orientation.
  • Use figures for degrees, times, measurements, decimals, fractions, percentages, sports scores, and ages: 3 ounces, 3.5, 3 percent, final score was 5-2, the child was 5 years old.
  • Use figures for sums, which are cumbersome to spell out, but spell out the word million (example: 5.2 million). Do not add a numeral in parentheses after it is written in words.
  • Spell out simple fractions: She walked two-thirds of a mile to her car.
O

OK (not “okay”)

online Do not hyphenate.

P

parentheses If a phrase appears in parentheses at the end of a sentence, place the period after the closing parenthesis. If a complete sentence is in parentheses, the period should be inside the closing parenthesis.

part-time, part time (also full-time, full time) Use hyphen for an adjective when it precedes a noun but not when it follows the noun. Examples: Following his retirement, he couldn’t resist taking a part-time job. Because the job was part time, he was able to spend more time with his grandchildren.

percent Spell out (except in scientific, technical, or statistical copy, use the symbol %).

phone numbers Use periods 610.399.4752

play titles Italicize. Do not use all caps.

possessives

  • Plural nouns not ending in s: add ’s, e.g., women’s rights, children's books.
  • Plural nouns ending in s: add only an apostrophe, e.g., the girls’ rooms, the dogs’ leashes.
  • Nouns plural in form but singular in meaning: add only an apostrophe, e.g., measles’ effects, physics’ laws. Often in these cases, it is preferable to simply say “the effects of measles” or “the laws of physics.”
  • Singular proper names ending in s: use only an apostrophe, e.g., Dickens’ London, Tennessee Williams’ plays.
  • Pronouns: personal, interrogative, and relative pronouns take the forms mine, ours, yours, his, hers, its, theirs, whose. None of them use apostrophes—do not use it’s as a possessive. “It’s” can only mean “it is”.

post No hyphen (postgraduate, postwar).

pre Do not hyphenate as prefix (premed, preseason), unless followed by a word beginning with e: pre-eminent, pre-empt.

professor emeritus/a (see also emeritus) Use lowercase in general references but uppercase in a formal title preceding a name.

program Use uppercase when part of an official title, e.g., the American Studies Program; but lowercase in general references.

The Sewanee Purple, student newspaper 

Q

quotations

Capitalize first word of a quotation unless it’s midsentence. Precede first word by a comma (if the quote is one sentence or less) or a colon (if the quote is longer than one sentence).

Use quotation marks for titles of poems, short stories, lectures, short musical compositions, song titles, titles of articles within magazines and newspapers, book chapter titles, and dance titles (see also italics). Do not use all caps for titles.

Use single quotation marks for quotations printed within other quotations.

Set quotation marks after periods and commas. Colons, dashes, semicolons, exclamation points, and question marks that are not part of the quotation should be set outside quotation marks; put them within the quotation marks when the punctuation applies to the quoted material.

R

re A prefix used with no hyphen unless followed by a vowel or if the sense of the word is changed. Examples: re-elect, re-enlist; re-cover (to cover again) and recover (to get better); re-sign (to sign again) and resign (to step down from a position).

reunion Lowercase reunion: the reunion, class reunion, reunion dinner, reunion plans, 50th reunion. 

the Rev. Use before name of an Episcopal priest. “Reverend” is an adjective.

S

seasons Lowercase spring, summer, fall, and winter.

semi Prefix, no hyphen.

Sewanee The familiar name of the University. See University of the South. It is often preferable to use “the University of the South, familiarly known as Sewanee,…” rather than the colon construction.

Sewanee Union Theatre Campus movie theater, can abbreviate as SUT on second use. Example: The movie will be shown at the Sewanee Union Theatre (SUT). Check the Messenger for the SUT schedule.

spacing Use a single space after a period at the end of a sentence.

state names (see also cities)

The names of the 50 U.S. states should be spelled out when used in the body of text, whether standing alone or in conjunction with a city, town, or village. Place one comma between the city and the state name, and another comma after the state name, unless ending a sentence. Use the state name with a city in text when necessary to avoid confusion: Springfield, Massachusetts, or Springfield, Illinois

Abbreviate only in lists, tabular material, or short-form listings of party affiliation (D-Ala., R-Mont.): Ala., Ariz., Ark., Calif., Colo., Conn., Colo., Del., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Kan., Ky., La., Md., Mass., Mich., Minn., Miss., Mo., Mont., Neb., Nev., N.H., N.J., N.M., N.Y., N.C., N.D., Okla., Ore., Pa., R.I., S.C., S.D., Tenn., Va., Vt., Wash., W.Va., Wis., Wyo. Do not abbreviate (except for postal addresses): Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, Utah.

Use postal uppercase abbreviations ONLY in mailing addresses: AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MA, ME, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY.

T

The

In running text, do not capitalize the "the" in names, including:
  • the University of the South
  • the College of Arts and Sciences
  • the School of Theology
  • the Episcopal Church
  • the Course at Sewanee
  • the Sewanee Inn

The School of Theology

  • The proper name for the institution that consists of the seminary and the Beecken Center is “the School of Theology.”
  • Do not use Sewanee School of Theology; use the School of Theology, University of the South. Do not abbreviate as SOT or SofT.
  • When referring to just the Beecken Center for the first time it is: the Beecken Center of the School of Theology, later references use the Beecken Center.
  • Education for Ministry may be abbreviated to EfM, do not abbreviate as EFM.

theater unless referring to a specific name or the University’s Theatre Department or the Sewanee Union Theatre

times Use figures (except use noon and midnight instead of 12 p.m. or a.m.), inserting one space after the number but no further spaces: 9 a.m., 10:30 p.m. Do not add :00, e.g., 10 a.m., not 10:00 a.m. Abbreviate CST or CDT without periods.

When announcing upcoming events, include the day of the week: The lecture will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23, in Guerry Hall. (Use the order time, day, date, place)

titles Capitalize titles only when they appear immediately before a proper name: Professor Bran Potter taught the class. John McCardell, vice-chancellor of the University of the South, addressed the nervous parents. The provost met with committee members. Courtesy titles (Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss) are generally not used.

toward Not towards.

T-shirt Not t-shirt or tee-shirt.

U

University Uppercase when referring to the University of the South, even in shortened form, “He gave $1 million to the University.” Lowercase when referring to other universities, without full name: “University of Tennessee,” but “He gave $1 million to the university in Knoxville.”

University Motto See Ecce Quam Bonum

University of the South

The University of the South is the official and legal name of the institution. Use “the University of the South” on first reference. Both “the University” and “Sewanee” can be used in subsequent references. When using “Sewanee,” be sure the meaning is clear--the school or the town. It is often preferable to use “the University of the South, familiarly known as Sewanee …” When the name appears in running text, do not capitalize the “t” in either “the.”

use not utilize

V

vice-chancellor Hyphenate. Use lowercase except when the title precedes a name. “Vice-Chancellor John McCardell” but “John McCardell, vice-chancellor of the University.”

W

wait-listed

worldwide (also nationwide, campuswide, citywide)

Y

Yea, Sewanee's right! The correct spelling is "yea," (pronounced YAY), never "yeah." 

yearlong No hyphen.

year-round Hyphenate.

years Separate the beginning and end of time spans by an en-dash in schedules, calendars, lists, reports, etc., but separate with “to” in articles or stories. Examples: the budget report for fiscal year 2007–2008; from 2007 to 2008, the college graduate worked as a writer.