Writing Style Guide

Source: AP Style Guide. For all other questions, see the complete AP Style Guide and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

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A Cappella

Two words, meaning group or solo singing without instrumental accompaniment, or a piece intended to be performed in this way.

Academic Departments

Capitalize only the official names, because they are proper nouns; lowercase names when you shorten or invert them. Languages, however, are always capitalized. Examples: Department of Music (official name), music department (unofficial name). He teaches for the French department.

  • Department of Music (official name)
  • music department (unofficial name)
  • He teaches for the French department.


An acronym is a word formed from the first letter or letters of a series of words: laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation).

Do not follow an organization’s full name with an abbreviation or acronym in parentheses or set off by dashes. If an abbreviation or acronym would not be clear on second reference without this arrangement, do not use it.


Use only the initials in referring to the previously designated American College Testing.


Abbreviate “boulevard,” “avenue” and “street” with numbered addresses. Abbreviate directions (N., S., E., W.) in street addresses. Spell out the names of numbered streets from First through Ninth. States following cities in regular text require commas before and after.

  • Central College is located at 812 University St.
  • They walked up Pennsylvania Avenue.
  • They visited Pella, Iowa, on their last trip.
  • She lives at 221 E. Sixth Ave.


Not adviser.


Use numerals in all instances.

  • He is 6 years old.
  • The 21-year-old student is majoring in math.

All Right

Never alright. Hyphenate only if used as a compound modifier: He is an all-right guy.

A Lot

Two words.

Alma Mater

Two words, lowercase.

Alumnus, Alumna, Alumni

Alumnus is the singular, masculine form. For women, use alumna (singular) or alumnae (plural). Alumni is plural for a group of all men as well as a group of both men and women.

Alumni Names

Published alumni names should include graduation year. Do not set off a birth/maiden name in parentheses or quotation marks.

If alumni couples share the same last name, identify each with his/her graduation year. For couples with different last names, list each full name and graduation year.

  • Nathan ’99 and Sunny Gonzales Eighmy ’99
  • Bob Smith ’74 and Linda Jones ’76
  • Nic and Abby Gonzales Larson ’02
  • Deanna VerSteeg ’94 and Joseph Timmins
  • Trista and Mike Spencer ’99

In lists (such as donor boards, annual giving report), alphabetize names.

Some alumni have requested to be identified differently and the advancement office will provide support in managing those exceptions.

Big Red

The name of Central’s mascot.

Black(s), white(s) (n.)

Do not use either term as a singular noun. For plurals, phrasing such as Black people, white people, Black teachers, white students is often preferable when clearly relevant. White officers account for 64% of the police force, Black officers 21% and Latino officers 15%. The gunman targeted Black churchgoers. The plural nouns Blacks and whites are generally acceptable when clearly relevant and needed for reasons of space or sentence construction. He helped integrate dance halls among Blacks, whites, Latinos and Asian Americans. Black and white are acceptable as adjectives when relevant.

Black (adj.)

Use the capitalized term as an adjective in a racial, ethnic or cultural sense: Black people, Black culture, Black literature, Black studies, Black colleges.

African American is also acceptable for those in the U.S. The terms are not necessarily interchangeable. Americans of Caribbean heritage, for example, generally refer to themselves as Caribbean American. Follow an individual’s preference if known and be specific when possible and relevant. Minneapolis has a large Somali American population because of refugee resettlement. The author is Senegalese American.

Use of the capitalized Black recognizes that language has evolved, along with the common understanding that especially in the United States, the term reflects a shared identity and culture rather than a skin color alone.

Also use Black in racial, ethnic and cultural differences outside the U.S. to avoid equating a person with a skin color.

Use Negro or colored only in names of organizations or in rare quotations when essential.

Board of Trustees

Capitalize when referring to Central’s formal group. Lowercase when using general terms. Also capitalize the names of the committees.

  • The Board of Trustees will meet in October.
  • The board met for three hours.
  • The trustees will be on campus Friday.
  • He served on the Academic Excellence Committee.

Breakfast of Champions

Capitalize the first and last name of this event: Breakfast of Champions. It is the meal served by faculty and staff during finals week.


Use only one ‘l’ in spelling this word.

Central College

Use Central College on first reference. On second reference, it’s acceptable to use Central. Lowercase college when not included in full name: The college announced the gift Friday night.


One word, lowercase.


Capitalize when referring to Central’s graduation ceremony.

Composition Titles

Quotations should be used for titles of books, magazines, movies, plays, poems, albums, songs, operas, radio and television programs, lectures, journals, chapters, speeches, works of art. Do not italicize or underline.


Capitalize proper names of courses when used with or without course numbers, but do not capitalize subject names used in a general sense unless a language is included. Capitalize all nouns and adjectives referring to languages, countries and nationalities.

  • Economics 485
  • Research Methods in Economics
  • an economics course
  • a Spanish course


When using a month alone, spell out. When using a month with a date, abbreviate. Use a comma after the date when including month, date and year. Use a comma after the day of the week when including month and date. Use day of the week when the date is in the future but not if it’s in the past. Never abbreviate days of the week.

Note: It is acceptable to write out the month, with a date, when used as posters, postcards, etc., when used more like a headline.

  • The play is in October.
  • October 2018
  • Oct. 8
  • Jan. 12, 2017
  • Saturday, Aug. 18 (for a future date)


  • October of 2018
  • October 8
  • January 12, 2017

Also note that when using a date with a time and/or place, please use time, date, place (TDP) in order.

  • The game is at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, in Pella.

Dean’s List

Lowercase in all uses: He is on the dean’s list. She is a dean’s list student.


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 Jones, who has a doctorate in psychology.

Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, a master’s, etc., but there is no possessive in Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science. Also: an associate degree (no possessive).

Use such abbreviations 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 these 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: John Snow, 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.

Capitalize the formal name of a degree but keep lowercase in the more informal usage.


Avoid the honorific title “Dr.” in reference to an academic who has earned a doctorate, unless “Dr.” is part of a direct quote.

Emeritus, Emerita, Emeritae

Emeritus is the singular, masculine form. For references to women, use emerita (singular) or emeritae (plural). Emeriti may serve as the plural for a group composed of men only or both men and women. Emeritus is lowercase in all forms (unless used before a name as a formal title).


Email rather than e-mail.


All events should be capitalized, but not included in quotes or italicized. Presentation titles, however, should be put in quotes.

  • Homecoming
  • Family Weekend
  • Commencement
  • He gave a speech titled “What Is the Meaning of Life?”


  • Please stop by “Dance Marathon.”


Faculty can be plural or singular depending on whether the word is used to describe the group as a whole (singular) or to describe its members individually (plural). To avoid confusion, rewrite the sentence to avoid a plural verb or use faculty members.

Forever Dutch®

A term formerly used in fundraising by athletics; now adopted to mean someone who has attended Central. Use the ® with Forever Dutch on first reference.

  • Samantha Peters ’08 will remain Forever Dutch®.


Use first-year student instead, except in intercollegiate athletics materials, where freshman will continue to be used per AP Style.

Fundraiser, Fundraising

Both are one word, not hyphenated, in all instances.


Lowercase. It is a Central tradition played with golf clubs and tennis balls.


Acceptable in all references for grade point average.


One word. Central’s Handbell Choir will perform this weekend.


Capitalize. However, it is Homecoming week, Homecoming weekend.


Do not capitalize summa cum laude, magna cum laude or cum laude.


A common part of the college’s fight song. Hoo-Rah Day is every April to celebrate school spirit and show school pride.

Note: Please eliminate the exclamation point when referencing Hoo-Rah Day.

Lemming Race

The Lemming Race (uppercase) started in 1977 and features students dressed in costumes racing to the campus pond and jumping in. It typically kicks off Homecoming weekend.


One word.

Livestream, Livestreaming

One word in all uses.

Majors and Minors

All majors should be lowercase unless it is the name of a language, such as Spanish, or if using names of countries, nationalities, historical periods, and languages. Exceptions will be applied for publications such as the programs celebrating graduation.

Monetary Figures

Dollars: Use figures and the $ sign in all except casual references or amounts without a figure: The book cost $4. Dad, please give me a dollar. Dollars are flowing overseas. For amounts of more than $1 million, use up to two decimal places. Do not link the numerals and the word by a hyphen: He is worth $4.35 million. He proposed a $300 billion budget.

The form for amounts less than $1 million: $4, $25, $500, $1,000, $650,000.

Cents: Spell out the word cents, using numerals for amounts less than a dollar: 5 cents, 12 cents. Use the $ sign and decimal system for larger amounts: $1.01, $2.50.


Published alumni names should include graduation year. Do not set off a birth/maiden name in parentheses or quotation makes. See also, alumni names.

Note: In Civitas, bold names of all students, alumni and employees of the college on first reference within a given text block (captions, sidebars and article mainbar text are all different text blocks). Alumni and students names are followed by their class year on first reference, also in bold.

National Advisory Council

Members of the National Advisory Council serve as ambassadors, offer support, share expertise and advocate on behalf of the college. NAC is acceptable only for internal audiences; full name in all external uses.


One word.


Spell out numbers zero to nine, except in ages, percentages and sports scores. Use numerals for 10 and above and for fractions. If beginning a sentence with a number, always spell out. Always use numerals in bulleted lists.

  • The class included 55 psychology majors.
  • The class included three seniors.
  • Twenty-five class members attended the event.


  • The class included twenty-five staff members.
  • 3 people attended the course.

Move-In Day

Capitalize, since it is a formal event at Central. Also, use the hyphen in move-in as an adjective.

Off Campus, On Campus

Two words, but hyphenate as an adjective before a noun. Always lowercase.

  • Ed lives off campus.
  • Jamie has an on-campus apartment.

OK, OK’d, OK’ing, OKs

Do not use okay.

Percent, Percentages

Use the % sign when paired with a numeral, with no space, in most cases: Average hourly pay rose 3.1% from a year ago; her mortgage rate is 4.75%; about 60% of Americans agreed; he won 56.2% of the vote. Use figures: 1%, 4 percentage points. For amounts less than 1%, precede the decimal with a zero: The cost of living rose 0.6%.

Phone Numbers

Use dashes, not periods.

  • 641-628-5555
  • 800-555-1212


Capitalize only if used before a name.

  • President Mark Putnam
  • Mark Putnam, Central College’s president, will attend the meeting.


Acceptable to use the ampersand. No spaces.


Do not use a hyphen when referring to a “top 10” or “top 25” program. The word “top” is not capitalized in this usage unless it is part of a proper name.

Also, use No. in reference to number when listing a ranking.

  • She hopes to stay in the top 10 of her class.
  • Pella was No. 3 on the list of best towns to live in.

Reformed Church in America

The correct name includes in America, not of. Central College is affiliated with the Reformed Church in America, a mainline Reformed Protestant denomination in Canada and the United States. RCA is acceptable on second reference.

Residence Hall

Preferred instead of dorm.


Use accent marks. Always lowercase.

Room Numbers

Use figures and capitalize room when used with a figure: Room 2, Room 211.


Use only the initials in referring to the previously designated Scholastic Aptitude Test or the Scholastic Assessment Test.


Capitalize fall and spring only when in front of a year. Otherwise, lowercase in all instances.

  • Fall 2020 and Spring 2021
  • John Smith studied abroad during the fall semester.


Use community service for external audiences. No other variations.

For internal audiences, the following are acceptable: service learning (students get a credit for this); community-based learning (students get a credit for this); volunteer service (what students do in the community).

spring break, winter break


  • She is looking forward to spring break.
  • He came back to campus early during winter break.


One word, lowercase.

Smart Quotes

Use these kinds of quotation marks (and apostrophes, too) rather than the straight ones, which look like those made by an old, manual typewriter. Example with smart quotes: The student said, “I’m going to class.” Example with straight quotes: The student said, “I’m looking for my textbook.”

Sports Terms

Athletic/Athletics: It is the Central athletics department, not athletic department. Likewise athletics director, not athletic director.

All-America, All-American: It is the All-America team. A specific individual is an All-American.

Academic All-America is a registered name used exclusively for the academic teams selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America, which can be called CoSIDA on second reference. There are many other academic honor teams named in various sports that should be referred to by their proper names.

American Rivers Conference: Central plays in the American Rivers Conference, which started in 2018. It no longer is the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which also was known as the Iowa Conference. It is acceptable to refer to the conference as American Rivers or A-R-C on second reference.

Central Dutch: Central and team are singular. Dutch is plural.

  • The Dutch have won their last three matches.
  • The baseball team raised its GPA.

Nonconference: One word, not hyphenated.

Playoffs, Postgame, Postseason, Pregame, Preseason: All one word.

Scores: All scores use numerals, separated by a hyphen. The winning score always is listed first. Examples: Central’s football team beat Wartburg 35-14. The women’s soccer team lost 3-2.

Teams: Lowercase the name of the team in all instances.

  • Central’s football team is at home today. The women’s basketball team has won six games in a row.
  • Central recognizes 20 intercollegiate athletics teams.


Spell out when used in the body of a story, whether standing alone or in conjunction with a city, town, village or military base. Postal abbreviations are only acceptable with addresses.

  • Omaha, Nebraska
  • We are going to Minnesota this weekend.


  • We vacationed in Calif.
  • Des Moines, IA


Acceptable on first reference for science, technology, engineering and math, but spell out the full phrase shortly thereafter.

Student Activities/Clubs/ Organizations

Central offers more than 100 student activities/clubs/organizations. Capitalize the official name.

  • Seth is part of Anthropology Club.
  • Jordyn joined the Dutch Brigade.
  • Melissa scheduled a speaker for Common Ground.


The term is hyphenated.

Study Abroad

Two words. Do no hyphenate as an adjective.

  • She went on a study abroad trip to Mexico.


Use numerals in all cases and omit the zeros for on-the-hour times. Use periods and lowercase letters for a.m. and p.m. To avoid confusion, use noon and midnight instead of 12 p.m. and 12 a.m.

  • 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • 1-3 p.m.
  • 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Also note that when using a time with a date and/or place, please use time, date, place (TDP) in order:

  • The play is at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, in Pella.


Capitalize titles when they immediately precede a personal name. Titles following a personal name or used alone in place of a name are lowercase.

  • Professor Robert Smith
  • Robert Smith, professor,
  • Robert Smith is a professor.


For all uses except for proper names using alternate spelling. It also is a Central department/major: Department of Theatre.


Never towards.


One word in all instances.

United States, U.S.

Use United States (or United States of America) as the proper noun; use U.S. as the adjective.


One word.


One word, lowercase.

Work Study

Two words, no hyphen.


Use numerals and an apostrophe when abbreviating to indicate class year. Names and class year also are bold in Civitas.

  • Class of 1963 (C is capitalized)
  • Allison Jones ’07
  • 2017-18 academic year

In news releases, avoid the use of shortened class years (i.e., Sunny Gonzales Eighmy ’99). Instead use this format: The information was provided by Sunny Gonzales Eighmy, vice president for advancement and a 1999 Central graduate.

Year in School

Do not capitalize the words “freshman,” “sophomore,” “junior,” “senior” when they refer to the year in which a course is to be taken or to the classification of the student. Also, note that first-year student is preferable to freshman.



Avoid using an ampersand unless it is part of an official title. It should not be used in place of and.

Note: Exception is on donor boards. Also acceptable in Q&A.


Make abbreviations plural by adding “s” only. No apostrophe is needed.

  • IDs
  • IOUs
  • Ph.D.s

No apostrophe is needed for decades.

  • 1990s, but ’90s. (Make sure the smart quote punctuation is facing outward — ‘90s is incorrect.)

Bullet Points

Within a bulleted list, a full sentence should have closing punctuation. For phrases or single items, no punctuation is needed.

  • There are three LEED-rated buildings on campus.
  • Three LEED-rated buildings


  • Roe Center.


Do NOT use the serial, or Oxford, comma. In a series of three or more items, include commas after each item except the one immediately before the conjunction.

  • He saw lions, tigers and bears.


  • She wanted to take classes in math, biology, philosophy, and English.

Note: Include a final comma in a simple series if omitting it could make the meaning unclear. Example: They sent gifts to her sons, Kate, and Sophie. If items in the series contain commas themselves, use semicolons between all items.

  • The documents are dated May 7, 1920; June 12, 1935; and July 4, 1941.


Use the three-dot sequence to indicate something has been left out of a sentence or passage. Leave a space before and after the dot sequence. If a sentence ends (or is cut off) right before the ellipsis, leave in the punctuation that would have ended the sentence.

  • The prerequisite class … is required for all students.
  • As the saying goes: “When in Rome … .”

Em Dashes

They are used to signal abrupt change; as one option to set off a series within a phrase; before attribution to an author or composer in some formats; after datelines; and to start lists. AP style calls for a space on both sides of a dash in all uses.

  • Central College has 1,100 students — the perfect size for a student body.

En Dashes

AP does not use en dashes.


We use headline-style capitalization, also called title case, which means the main words are capitalized and the “less important” words are lowercased in titles and headings. This deviates from AP style, which uses sentence-style capitalization. Here are some tips for using headline-style capitalization:

  • Capitalize the first and last words.
  • Capitalize the first word after a colon.
  • Capitalize nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs and verbs (including is, am, are and be).
  • Don’t capitalize coordinating conjunctions for, and, or, but or nor.
  • Capitalize all other words that have four or more characters, including prepositions (from and with).


Use as few hyphens as possible. Use hyphens in compound adjectives to prevent misreading.

Use hyphens as joiners, such as for compound modifiers: small-business owner. AP also uses hyphens for ranges, such as Jan. 1-4. There should be no spaces surrounding a hyphen.

Quotation Marks

Periods, semicolons and commas should always be included inside the quotation marks. A question mark should be included only when it is associated with the quote.

  • “Central is a great school.”
  • “My professor is great,” she said.
  • “Where is the Roe Center?” he asked.
  • Have you seen “The Avengers”?


One space between sentences, not two.

Athletics Facilities

A.N. Kuyper Athletics Complex

The entire athletics complex is the A.N. Kuyper Athletics Complex. This includes all buildings and fields in the athletics area of the campus.

H.S. Kuyper Fieldhouse

Refers only to the area with the track and racquetball courts, the athletic training room, first-floor offices, second-floor locker rooms, second-floor assistant coaches office area and the classroom/meeting room adjacent to the locker rooms.

P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium

Refers to the remainder of the building — gym, offices, wrestling room, football conference room, main lobby and locker rooms. It is acceptable to refer to it as Kuyper Gymnasium or Kuyper Gym. Refer to the main lobby as the Pacha Family Lobby so that it is not confused with the Schipper Center Lobby.

The upstairs entrance and lobby in P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium is the M. Joan Kuyper Farver Atrium. The lower-level lobby, which includes the Athletics Hall of Honor (it should not be referred to as a hall of fame) and concession stand, is the Pacha Family Lobby.

Ron Schipper Fitness Center

Refers to the “weight room.” It is also acceptable to refer to it as the Schipper Fitness Center or just the Schipper Center. The adjacent lobby is Pacha Family Lobby in Schipper Fitness Center.

Ron and Joyce Schipper Stadium

Includes the football field and outdoor track. It may be referred to as Schipper Stadium.

Other Athletics Facilities

The baseball, softball and soccer fields are not formally named at this time. We refer to them as the Kuyper Athletics Complex softball field, Kuyper Athletics Complex baseball field and Kuyper Athletics Complex soccer field. They may also be referred to as the Central softball field, baseball field and soccer field.

The golf facility is the Ryerson Golf Practice Range (not driving range).

The cross country course is the Central College Cross Country Course. While a sign there recognizes the support of Hilda and Verle Ver Dught — great-grandparents of former Central runners Josh and Micah Puyear — the course does not bear the family name.

Many on campus will refer to a meeting or event “at Kuyper.” This should be considered slang. Out of respect for the Kuyper family, in any printed materials or public references, please refer to each facility by its given name.

Buildings / Rooms

A.N. Kuyper Athletics Complex

  • Aerobics Room
  • Chip Griffith Student Lounge
  • DeCook and Heerema Families Plaza
  • H.S. Kuyper Fieldhouse
  • M. Joan Kuyper Farver Atrium
  • Pacha Family Lobby
  • P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium
  • Ron Schipper Fitness Center
  • Ron and Joyce Schipper Stadium
  • Wrestling Room

Carlson-Kuyper Field Station

Central Hall

  • Douwstra Auditorium
  • Douwstra Lobby
  • Hoekstra Family Stage
  • Wormhoudt Room

Central Market

  • Entryway
  • President’s Dining Room


  • Lower Chapel
  • Upper Chapel

Cox-Snow Music Center

  • Recital Hall

Facilities Planning and Management

Gaass Hall

Garden Cottage

Geisler Library

  • Global Café at Geisler
  • Lammers Archives
  • Reference Teaching Room

Graham Annex

  • Rankin Nakahara Boardroom
  • Dave and Ardie Sutphen Common Room

Graham Conference Center

  • Earl Simmelink Atrium
  • Bette Brunsting Fireside Lounge
  • Paul J. Poppen Conference Room
  • Graham 2
  • Harry and Bernice Vermeer Banquet Hall

Graham Hall

Helen Jean Hislop Center

Hoffman Hall

Jordan Hall

Kruidenier Center

  • Kruidenier Theatre
  • Mr. B Studio Theatre

Lubbers Center

  • Glass Blowing Studio
  • Mills Gallery

Maytag Student Center

  • Atrium
  • Boat Room
  • Boat/Moore/Weller Rooms
  • Fred’s
  • Fred’s Patio
  • Hinga Room
  • Moore Room
  • Van Emmerik Studio
  • Weller Room

Mckee Hall

Peace Mall

  • Wallace Spencer Stepenske Amphitheater

Peace Hall

Pietenpol Hall

Roe Center

Scholte Hall

Vermeer Science Center

Weller Center for Business and International Studies

Endowed Chairs of Central College

  • M. Joan Kuyper Farver Endowed Chair in Music and Professor of Music
  • Ruth & Marvin Denekas Endowed Chair in Science and Humanities and Professor of Mathematics/Computer Science
  • Mark and Kay De Cook Endowed Chair in Character and Leadership Development and Professor of Psychology
  • Kenneth J. Weller Distinguished Professorship of the Liberal Arts and Professor of Communication Studies
  • Donald T. Butler Endowed Chair and Professor of Finance
  • Frank Moore Endowed Chair in Anthropology and Professor of Anthropology
  • John and Anna Poole Endowed Chair in the Humanities and Professor of English
  • Dr. Jacob and Gela Schnucker Sessler Chair in Philosophy and Religion and Professor of Religion