Writing Style Guide/AP Guide

The following is a description of Florida Institute of Technology's in-house writing style for everything except technical papers and reports. This guide is set up alphabetically and contains listings that will allow you to standardize everything you write for the university. Reference materials include The Associated Press Stylebook, Webster's New Dictionary and McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms.

a, an
Use the article "a" before consonant sounds (e.g., a catastrophe); use "an" before vowel sounds (e.g., an energy crisis, an honorable man).


  • Abbreviate Co., Corp., Inc. and Ltd. when used after the name of a corporate entity.
  • With dates or numerals, abbreviate a.m., p.m., no. (number), A.D., B.C.
  • In numbered addresses, abbreviate Ave., Blvd., Ste., Rte. and St., but spell out in text.
  • Spell out United States as a noun, but abbreviate U.S. as an adjective.

academic degrees
See also class year

Use lowercase and an apostrophe in bachelor's degree and master's degree. No apostrophe in associate degree. In these constructions, the study discipline is lowercased (i.e., bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering)

Initial cap and no possessive in Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, Associate of Arts. In these constructions, the study discipline is initial cap  (i.e., Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering)

Use periods with no space between for abbreviations: B.S., B.A., M.S., M.A., Ed.S., A.S., A.A., Ph.D., Psy.D., except MBA (no periods).

When used after a name, an academic abbreviation is set off by commas. (John Jones, 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.

academic departments
It is preferred to lowercase academic departments except for words that are proper nouns or adjectives: the department of chemistry, the department of English, the chemistry department, the English department.

In Florida Tech catalogs and other publications if necessary, the department will be initial cap on first reference only.

"Department of" is used with reference to academic units. "Office of" is used with reference to administrative units. (department of computer sciences, Office of Creative Services)

academic titles
Capitalize and spell out formal titles such as Professor, Chancellor, Chairman and Dean when they precede a name. Lowercase elsewhere. Lowercase modifiers such as history Professor Robert White or department Chairman Frank Thomas.

academic years
Lowercase: the freshman, sophomore, junior and senior classes.

accept, except
"Accept" means to receive. "Except" means to exclude.

Not acknowledgement.

Spell as one word, not acousto optic or acousto-optic.

Define all but the most common abbreviations and acronyms on first reference. Do not use periods. Do not add an apostrophe when forming a plural (PCs, VAXes, IBMs).


  • Use the abbreviations Ave., Blvd., Dr., Rd., Ste., Ter., Rte. and St. only with numbered addresses.
  • Spell out when part of a formal street name given without a number or when included in text.
  • Always use figures for an address number.
  • Abbreviate compass points and omit periods with two-letter compass points.
  • Do not abbreviate compass points if an address number is not given (East 42nd Street; 222 E. 42nd St., North Hollywood).
  • Exception: On university forms and stationary, no abbreviations are used. (150 West University Boulevard, Melbourne, FL 32901-6975)


Lowercase: the administration, the president's administration.


  • Adverbs ending in "ly" that help form compound modifiers are never followed by hyphens (tightly written story).
  • The adverb "well" is always followed by a hyphen in two-word combinations modifying nouns (well-written story, well-respected professor).
  • If the modifier follows a form of the verb "to be", however, drop the hyphen (the author is well respected).


Not adviser.

affect, effect
Generally, use "affect" as a verb—its meaning is to influence. (The game will affect the standings.) Avoid using "affect" as a noun.

Use "effect" as a noun—it means result. (The effect was overwhelming.) "Effect" as a verb means to cause. (He will effect many changes in the university.)

alumnus, alumni, alumna, alumnae
Use alumnus (alumni in the plural) when referring to a man who has attended a school. Use alumna (alumnae in the plural) for similar reference to a woman. Use alumni when referring to a group of men and women. Alumnus—one who has attended or graduated from a college or school.

among, between
Generally, "between" introduces two items and "among" introduces more than two. (The bet is between you and me. The workstations were equally divided among Macintoshes, IBMs and UNIX boxes.)

Use only when part of a formal name (Baltimore & Ohio Railroad); use "and" in all other instances.

For an event to be labeled annual, it must have taken place for at least two successive years. Avoid the phrase, first annual. Use inaugural instead.


  • Use to indicate omitted letters and figures. (class of '79, the Spirit of '76, the '20s)
  • Use to form plurals of single letters and possessives. (p's and q's, A's and B's)
  • Do NOT use an apostrophe to form plurals of numerals or multiple-letter combinations. (the 1980s, PCs)

area codes
Use parentheses around the area code (321) 674-8000. Do not use a 1 before an 800 number (800) 432-3355.

as, like
The conjunction "as" is the correct word to introduce clauses. "Like" is used correctly as a preposition to compare nouns and pronouns. (John does his job professionally, as he should. John plays guitar like a pro.)

assistant, associate
Never abbreviate. Capitalize only when part of a formal title before a name. (Assistant Professor John Smith)

audiocassette, audiotape, audiovisual
One word.

awhile, a while
When following a preposition use "a while"; otherwise spell it as one word.

bachelor of arts, bachelor of science
A bachelor's degree or bachelor's is acceptable. See capitalization.

because, since
"Because" expresses a cause-and-effect relationship. "Since" is used for reference to time. (I finished the assignment because I want a good grade. I have been doing my homework since 3 p.m.)

"Since" is acceptable in a casual sense when the first event in a sequence leads logically to the second, but is not its direct cause. (They went to the game, since they had been given tickets.)

beside, besides
Beside means at the side of. Besides means in addition to. (She is sitting beside the plant. He has other assignments besides his English homework.)

between, among
See among, between.

biannual, biennial
Biannual means twice a year or semiannual. Biennial means every two years.

board of directors, board of trustees
Always lowercase.

See lists (bulleted)





can, may
Can—know, understand; to be able to do, make, or accomplish; to have knowledge or skill. May—have power, am able; have the ability to; have permission to.

The following rules apply:

  • Initial cap all official names of College of..., School of..., Office of... (College of Aeronautics, School of Psychology, Office of the President, etc.). Lowercase registrar's office, president's office, board of trustees, board of directors.
  • Initial cap Department of .... only on first reference in Florida Tech catalogs or other publications if necessary, otherwise lowercase.
  • Initial cap Master and Bachelor only when writing about a specific degree (Master of Science in Engineering, Bachelor of Science in English).
  • Lowercase university when it stands alone (Florida Tech is a leader among independent universities. The university spans 130 acres.) Initial cap only when it is used as a part of an official name (Ohio State University).
  • Lowercase prepositions (about, before, between, through) in course titles for catalog.


See photo captions.

Not catalogue (catalog, cataloged, cataloging).

Spell out and lowercase using numerals for amounts less than a dollar (5 cents, 12 cents).

chairman, chairwoman
Use chair. Do not use chairperson.

class year and academic degrees

When identifying individuals by class year and academic degree, punctuate as follows:

John Jones ’98 went to the lecture.

John Jones ’98, ’01, went to the lecture.

John Jones, Ph.D., went to the lecture.

John Jones ’98 M.S. went to the lecture.

John Jones ’98 M.S., ’01 Ph.D., went to the lecture.

One word.

One word.

Does not follow the rule of prefixes. Retain the hyphen when forming nouns, adjectives and verbs that indicate occupation or status (co-worker, co-founder, co-author). No hyphen in other combinations (cooperate, coexist, coed, coordination).

Lowercase when referring to the physical shoreline (Atlantic coast, east coast). Capitalize when referring to region of the United States lying along such shorelines (Atlantic Coast, East Coast). Do not capitalize when referring to smaller regions (the Virginia coast). Capitalize when standing alone only if the reference is to the West Coast.

College of Aeronautics

College of Business–use Nathan Bisk College of Business in all references; Bisk College of Business for shorthand

College of Engineering

College of Psychology and Liberal Arts

College of Science


  • Use a colon at the end of a sentence to introduce lists, tabulations, texts, etc. (There are three types of exam questions: multiple choice, open-ended and essay.)
  • Capitalize the first word after a colon only if it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence. (He promised this: The team will win first place in the competition.)
  • Be especially careful not to use a colon between a verb and its complement or object, between a preposition and its object, or after such as. (NOT: John ate: ham and cheese. The cat is on: the chair. The trip included activities such as: biking, hiking and canoeing.)

Commas are used to:

  • Set off words, phrases or clauses in a series. Do not place a comma before the conjunction in a series. (The colors on the American flag are red, white and blue.) Use a comma before the conjunction with items in a complex series. (I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs.)
  • Set off a prepositional, adverbial or dependent clause that precedes, interrupts or follows an independent (main) clause in a sentence. (When she discovered the answer, she reported her findings to the committee. The report, after being read aloud, was put up for consideration.)
  • Set off two independent (main) clauses in a single sentence joined by a conjunction (a compound sentence) and for short independent clauses not joined by a conjunction. (She knew little about him, and he volunteered nothing. I came, I saw, I conquered.)
  • Set off contrasting and opposing expressions within a sentence. (He changed his style, not his ethics. The cost is $50, not $56.)
  • Set off adjectives in a series that are equal in rank where the comma effectively replaces the word "and" (thoughtful, considerate manner; harsh, cold wind).
  • Set off quotations. Note: If a quotation is used as the subject of a sentence or if it is not being presented as actual dialogue, a comma is not used. ("The computer is down" was the reply we all feared. The fact that he said he was "leaving this instant" doesn't mean he actually left.)
  • Separate a question from the rest of a sentence. (It's a nice day, isn't it?)
  • Indicate the omission of a word or words in a sentence. (Common stocks are preferred by some investors; bonds, by others.)
  • Avoid ambiguity and to emphasize a particular phrase. (To John, Jane was someone special. The more bells and whistles a computer has, the higher the price.)
  • Set off geographical names, dates and addresses from the rest of a sentence. (Melbourne, Fla., is on the East Coast. He was wounded Sunday, June 12, 1940, two days before he was to come home.) Note: When just the month and year are given, the comma is omitted. (She received her master's degree in May 1990.)
  • Set off nonessential clauses with a comma following a conjunction in a compound sentence. (He likes his job at the university, but in a few months he will be graduating.)
  • Set off ages and hometowns from a name. (John Doe, 41, attended the event. Jane Doe, of Melbourne, Fla., also attended.)

  • Set off academic credentials from a name. (Jane Doe, Ph.D., is the professor.)

communications, graphics, electronics, series, headquarters
These words are both singular and plural in construction. They do not violate the rule of plural adjectives when modifying a plural noun. The nouns that these words are modifying determine the verb tense.

compared to, compared with
Use "compared to" when the intent is to assert, without the need for elaboration, that two or more items are similar. (Her work was compared to that of Susan B. Anthony's campaign for women's suffrage.)

Use "compared with" when juxtaposing two or more items to illustrate similarities and/or differences. (His time was 2:11:10, compared with 2:14 for his closest competitor.)

compass points
See addresses.

complement, compliment
Complement is a noun and verb denoting completeness or the process of supplementing something. (The department has a complement of 26 professors.)

Compliment is a noun or verb that denotes praise or the expression of courtesy. (The vice president complimented the entire teaching staff.)

compose, comprise
Compose means to create or put together. (He composed a song.)

Comprise means to contain, to include all, or embrace. (The university is comprised of five basic units.)

composition titles

  • Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters: "The Star Spangled Banner".
  • Capitalize an article (the, a, an) or a word of fewer than four letters if it is the first or last word in a title: "Of Mice and Men".
  • Italicize titles of newspapers, magazines, journals and books (excluding reference works and the Bible). Underline if you can't set in italics.
  • Put quotation marks around the titles of movies, TV programs, plays, epic poems, operas, albums, exhibit titles, works of art, articles, chapters, lectures, speeches and presentations.

compound words
See hyphenation.

It is OK to begin a sentence with a conjunction occasionally, but do not set the conjunction off with a comma. (And the ARL building contains more research laboratories.)

course names
Lowercase reference to subject matter, unless a proper noun (mathematics, science, oceanography, English)

Capitalize the formal name of an academic course (Introduction to Engineering, Calculus 1)

One word.

courtesy titles
In general, (outside of standard correspondence) do NOT use the courtesy titles Miss, Mr., Mrs., Ms. on first and last names of people: Betty Ford, Jimmy Carter in regular copy.

No periods with most credentials (CPA, APR, CFRE, FAICP, etc.) List credentials only on first reference.See academic degrees.



One word as a noun and adjective.

dates (also see months)

  • When a phrase lists only a month and a year, do not separate the year with a comma (August 1990).
  • In tabular form, use three-letter abbreviations without periods (Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec).
  • Always use Arabic figures, without st, nd, rd, or th. (The party will take place January 21. NOT: The party will take place January 21st.)
  • It is unnecessary to indicate the year if the event occurs within the same year as the publication.
  • Do not use "on" with dates when its absence would not lead to confusion. (The program ends December 15. NOT: The program ends on December 15.)
  • Spell out numerical designations first through ninth and use numerals with letter suffixes for 10th and above. (the first semester, the 10th anniversary)

days of the week
Capitalize. Do not abbreviate, except in tabular format (Sun, Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat).

Capitalize when used as a formal title (Dean John Jones). Lowercase in other uses (John Jones, dean of the college; the dean).

dean's list
Lowercase in all uses. (He is on the dean's list.)

Use Arabic figures to indicate decades of history. Use an apostrophe to indicate numerals that are left out. Show plural by adding the letter "s." (The 1980s, the '90s, the Gay '90s, the 1920s, the mid-1950s.)

Use periods. (B.S., M.S., B.A., Ph.D., Ed.S., M.B.A., Psy.D.)

Also see temperature.

See academic departments.

One word.

Use figures and spell out inches, feet, yards, etc. to indicate depth, height, width, length and weight. Hyphenate adjectival forms before nouns. (He is 6 feet 7 inches tall, the 6-foot-7-inch man.)

directions and regions
Lowercase north, south, northeast, northern, etc. when they indicate compass directions; capitalize when these words designate regions. (He sat on the east side of the stadium. They came here from the Northeast. The storm system that developed in the Midwest is spreading eastward.)

Use figures for 10 and above, spell out one through nine. (He ran 10 miles. He kept his top speed for only two miles.)

In text, the preferred form for referencing an individual who holds a doctoral degree is to set off the academic credentials with commas. (John Jones, Ph.D., received a research grant.) On second reference, use only the last name. In most cases, the salutation Dr., or Drs. in the plural, is avoided. Do not use both Dr. and Ph.D. together in the same reference. (INCORRECT=Dr. John Jones, Ph.D.)

Use residence hall instead.

drop out (v.), dropout (n.)
(He will drop out of the English class. He will become a second-semester dropout.)

due to, because of
"Due to" is an adjectival prepositional phrase, meaning it modifies a noun. It is commonly preceded by a form of the verb "to be" (be, is, are, was, were, etc.). Because it follows a "be" verb, it is considered a subject complement: It modifies the subject of the sentence. (The team's loss was due to an incorrect answer. My financial success is due to wise investment decisions.)

"Because of" is an adverbial prepositional phrase, meaning it modifies a verb. It usually answers the question, "Why?" (The team lost because of an incorrect answer. I am financially successful because of wise investment decisions.)


each other, one another
Two people look at each other. More than two look at one another.

Generally lowercase, but capitalize when used as the proper name of the planet. The one exception being earth station, which is to remain lowercase.

effect, affect
See affect.

Means for example (i.e., that is).

either...or, neither...nor
The nouns that follow these words do not constitute a compound subject; they are alternate subjects and require a verb that agrees with the nearest subject. (Either the dress is red or it is not. Neither he nor they are going.)

NOT electro optic.

Use three dots (no spaces between them, but a space on each side) to signify that something has been left out of a direct quote or that the writer is leaping from one topic to another.

Lowercase, unless as the first word of a sentence or listing, then use Email

em dash, en dash

  • Do not leave a space before or after an em dash or en dash.
  • An em dash is used to denote an abrupt change in thought in a sentence or an emphatic pause (We will fly to Paris in June—if I get a raise).
  • An em dash can also be used when a phrase that otherwise would be set off by commas contains a series of words that must be separated by commas (He listed the qualities—intelligence, humor, conservatism, independence that he liked in an executive).
  • An en dash can be used when separating years (1990–'95).
  • Use an en dash between capitalized names and to indicate linkages, such as boundaries, treaties or oppositions. (Chicago–Memphis train, the Dempsey–Tunney fight.)

emeritus, emeriti, emerita, emitae
This word often is added to formal titles to denote individuals who have retired but retain their rank or title. When used, place emeritus after the formal title, in keeping with the general practice of academic institutions. (Professor Emeritus John Johnson or John Johnson, professor emeritus of history) When referring to two or more individuals, use professors emeriti.

ensure, insure
Ensure means to guarantee. Use insure when referring to insurance.

Use to mean a right to do or have something. Do not use to mean titled.

essential clauses, nonessential clauses
The essential clause cannot be eliminated without changing the meaning of the sentence. The essential clause must not be set off from the rest of the sentence by commas. "That" is the preferred pronoun to introduce clauses that refer to an inanimate object.

The nonessential clause, however, can be eliminated without changing the meaning of the sentence. The nonessential clause must be set off from the rest of the sentence by commas. "Which" is the only acceptable pronoun to introduce a nonessential clause that refers to an inanimate object or an animal without a name.

et al
No periods.

Literal translation is "and other things." Use "and others," "and so forth" or "and so on" in copy. Don't use any of these, however, in a series that begins with "for example." In this case, etc. is appropriate. Lists introduced with "such as" or "including" don't need etc. because it's assumed there are other items besides those listed.

every one, everyone
Two words when it means each individual item. One word when used as a pronoun meaning all persons. Everyone takes singular verbs and pronouns. (Every one on the team was a winner. Everyone wants his life to be happy.)

See accept.



When used alone, treat as a singular noun. (Our faculty is the best. The faculty is attending the conference.) When referring to the people who make up the faculty, use "faculty members."

farther, further
Farther refers to physical distance. Further refers to an extension of time or degree.

Lowercase. (E.g., a university fellow, a research fellow, a Snowdon fellow)

Capitalize as part of a named fellowship. (E.g., Edward W. Snowdon and Lee Hill Snowdon Fellowship, but a Snowdon fellow)

fewer, less
"Fewer" is used with individuals or individual items; "less" with quantity or bulk. (Fewer users on the network require less cable.)

fiber optics (n.), fiber-optic (compound modifier)

One word.

Add "s" for plurals; not apostrophe followed by "s," which is possessive (1990s, 1990's lifestyle).

financial aid
Lowercase except in Florida Tech Financial Aid.

flier, flyer
Flyer is the preferred term for a person flying in an aircraft, and for handbills: He used his frequent flyer miles; they put up flyers announcing the show. Use flier in the phrase take a flier, meaning to take a big risk.

Florida Institute of Technology
This is the official name of the university. Use full name for first reference, then use Florida Tech or FIT (no periods). The article "The" does not precede the university name.

Florida Tech
Use Florida Tech on second reference to the university as a whole or in first reference to athletics (i.e., Florida Tech Athletics). Florida Tech may also be used in headlines, informal communications, student activities and alumni communications, or where space is limited.

The abbreviation FIT (no periods) may also be used on second reference in body text. 

NOT forwards.

Spell out amounts less than one in stories, using hyphens between words (two-thirds, four-fifths, etc.).

fuel cell
Two words.

full time (n.), full-time (compound modifier)
(She is a full-time engineering student. He also goes to class full time.)

fundraising, fundraiser
(Fundraising is difficult. They planned a fundraising event. A fundraiser was hired.  This event is a fundraiser for the radio station.)

good, well
Good is an adjective that means something is as it should be or is better than average. Generally not used as an adverb.

Well, when used as an adjective, means suitable, proper, healthy. When used as an adverb, well means in a satisfactory manner or skillfully. (The boat runs well.)

Always lowercase, unless part of an agency or committee name; never abbreviate.

grant-in-aid, grants-in-aid

Not grey for color.

group study
Two words.





Hyphenate as a compound modifier. (Each class offers hands-on experience.)

health care 
Two words.

Hyphenate as a compound modifier.

Hyphenate as a compound modifier. (This high-level decision will affect us all.)

Hyphenate as a compound modifier, except in the proper name High Tech Corridor.

One word.

honorary degrees
All references to honorary degrees should specify that the degree was honorary.

Avoid starting a sentence with "however" when the meaning is nevertheless. "However" is used correctly at the beginning of a sentence when it means "in whatever way" or "to whatever extent." (However you advise him, he will do as he thinks best.)

hydro, hyper
The rules of prefixes apply, but in general, no hyphen.

The following definitions apply:

  • Use between some prefixes and root words (co-author, pre-exist, noncontroversial). Consult prefix references in AP Stylebook for guidelines.
  • Use in forming compound nouns, especially those containing prepositions (sister-in-law, attorney-at-law, good-for-nothing).
  • Use with compound modifiers—two or more words that express a single concept that precede a noun. The purpose for hyphenating compound modifiers is to guide readers easily through your wording and help them distinguish the modifiers from the nouns at a glance.
    • Use a hyphen to link all words in a compound modifier, except the adverb "very" and all adverbs that end in "ly" (first-quarter report, very blue sky, full-time job, off-campus site).
    • Also use when a compound modifier is formed using a number, a single letter and a noun (D-shaped connector, 3.5-inch column, 24-point type).
    • When a compound modifier that would normally be hyphenated before a noun occurs after a form of the verb "to be," the hyphen usually must be retained to avoid confusion. (The professor is well-known. The class is second-rate.)
  • Use when writing compound numbers between 21 and 99 when the first number ends in "ty" (thirty-four, one hundred and fifty-eight).
  • In typeset copy, do not leave a hyphenated word from one page to another page or from one column to another column on the same page.
  • Do not hyphenate words with fewer than six letters (e.g., often); one syllable words (e.g., drowned, shipped, named, through); contractions (e.g., doesn't); abbreviations (e.g., Ph.D., FDA, B.C.)
  • Use a minimum of three characters before or after a hyphenated line break.
  • Use hyphens, rather than slashes (/) when forming nontraditional compound words. (Andy Seminick-Les Hall Field, student-athletes)


Means "that is" and is normally followed by a comma (e.g., for example).

in, into
In indicates location. Into indicates motion. (The cord is in the back of the machine. The cord is then plugged into the back of the machine.)

include, comprise
Use "include" to introduce a series when the items that follow are only part of the total. Use "comprise" when the full list of individual elements is given.

One word.

Hyphenated as a compound modifier. (We are an in-house publications office.)

Use periods and no space.

in order to
Rarely necessary, use "to" instead.

Capitalize when part of a proper name (Institute for Cross Cultural Management). Lowercase when used alone in a subsequent reference. (The institute held a conference.)

See ensure.

inter, intra
The rules of prefixes apply, but in general, no hyphen.


Use italics to emphasize individual words in text and to identify books, newspapers and magazines (excluding reference works and the Bible). TV shows, plays, movies, song titles, paintings, poems and other composition titles are set off in quotes; not italics. If you can't set words in italics, underline those words instead.



Not judgement.

jump lines
Not necessary to have a jump line from one page to the following page. However, it is necessary to include a jump line when it is not immediately apparent that the copy is continuing on the next page.

junior, senior
Abbreviate as Jr. and Sr. only with full names of persons or animals. Do not precede with a comma.





Hyphenate as a noun. Abbreviate kilowatt, kW. (Abbreviation is preferred by most technical sources.)

Hyphenate as a noun.





Should not be substituted for "as" (or such as) when comparing two or more nouns. (We use programs like Lotus 1-2-3 and WordStar means you used programs that were similar to Lotus 1-2-3 and WordStar; you didn't use Lotus 1-2-3 or WordStar. We used programs such as Lotus 1-2-3 and WordStar is correct if you actually used Lotus 1-2-3 and WordStar.)

lists (bulleted)
Bulleted lists fall into the following three categories:

  1. Unbroken syntax; no colon, no capitalization, no punctuation. This is a simple sentence broken into a list to emphasize the parts of a series.
    For example: A computer system consists of
    • a computer
    • a display device
    • one or more disk drives
  2. Typical lists; main clause followed by a colon with no capitalization or punctuation. For example: WordStar allows you to do any of the following word processing tasks quickly and easily:
    • editing
    • printing
    • writing
  3. Complex lists; main clause followed by a colon, includes punctuation. Items in this list are complete sentences. The first word of each item should be capitalized and each item should end with the appropriate punctuation.
    For example: Here are a few things macros do for you:
    • They save you the trouble of changing your margin settings every time you want to type a list.
    • They provide you with a way to display chapter numbers and titles, main headings and page numbers.
    • They eliminate the need to count blank lines between one element and another.

lists (numbered)
This type of list should be introduced by a main clause, followed by a colon. The first word of each item should be capitalized, and each item should have appropriate ending punctuation.

For example: Connecting your computer monitor is easy:

  • Plug one end of the cable into the computer.
  • Plug the other end of the cable into the monitor.
  • Plug the power cord for the monitor into the back of the monitor.
  • Plug the other end of the power cord into a grounded outlet.

lists (in sentences)
Simple lists of items in sentence form should be separated by commas (The color choices were red, white and green) with no serial comma, e.g., before the "and." However, when the comma is necessary for clarity or to avoid confusion, then use it. (The color choices were blue and black, purple, yellow, and green and orange.)

Complex lists of items in sentence form, i.e., lists that contain multiple words with conjunctions, begin with a colon and items are separated by semicolons. (The color choices are: green with aqua undertones; blue and black; crimson edging on gold; and purple.)

long distance, long-distance
Always hyphenate in reference to telephone calls. In other uses, hyphenate only when used as a compound modifier.





make up (v.), makeup (n., adj.)
(He will make up the test at a later date. This is a makeup test for the class.)

maiden names
Include the maiden name of married alumnae in parenthesis on first reference. For example, Jane (Doe) Smith '12

Use work-hours, and hyphenate as a noun.

Use employees, workers, work force if referring to a group of people needed to accomplish tasks. Use effort or force if referring to physical power in the abstract.

may, can
See can, may.

One word.

metric abbreviations
The following rules should apply.

  • Butt two or less lowercase letters against number (35mm, 1cm).
  • Butt single uppercase letters against numbers (512K).
  • Place one space between two (or more) uppercase letters, or one (or more) uppercase letter(s) and one lowercase letter, and numbers (6 MHz, 50 bps, 15 Hz).


No hyphen with this prefix unless a capitalized word follows (mid-American, mid-'80s, midsemester, midterm, midrange).

The rules in prefixes apply, but in general, no hyphen (miniseries, minibus).


  • Capitalize the names of months in all uses.
  • When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec.
  • Spell out when using alone, with a year alone or with a specific date when used as a headline.
  • When a phrase lists only a month and year, do not separate the year with commas (January 1990).
  • In tabular material, use these three-letter forms without a period: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec

Generally, should not be used to mean "almost" in written English to modify the adjectives all, every and any; the pronouns all, everyone, everything, everybody, anyone, anything and anybody; and the adverbs everywhere, anywhere and always. Most as an adverb means to the greatest or highest degree, to a very great degree and almost.

The rules in prefixes apply, but in general, no hyphen (multiengine, multimillion, multidisciplinary, multimedia).




The rules of prefixes apply, but in general no hyphen (nanoscale, nanomechanical, nanosecond)

See either...or.

The rules of prefixes apply, but in general no hyphen when forming a compound that does not have a special meaning and can be understood if "not" is used before the base word (nonlinear, nonabrasive). Use a hyphen, however, before proper nouns or in awkward combinations, such as non-nuclear. Follow Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary.

One word.

noon, midnight
Use without numeral 12 before. To avoid confusion, do NOT use 12 a.m. or 12 p.m. in reference to either noon or midnight.


  • Always spell out numbers at the beginning of a sentence unless the number is a year. (1976 was a good year. Seven students attended the event.)
  • Spell out one through nine unless used in reference to dimensions, measurements, age, addresses, money, dates, percentages, speeds, weights, clock time (3:10, but three o'clock), or in tabular material.
  • Use figures for 10 and above. (They had 10 dogs and four cats.)
  • When large numbers must be spelled out, use a hyphen to connect a word ending in "ty" to another word; do NOT use commas between other separate words that are part of one number. (twenty, twenty-one, one hundred forty-five)


In general, spell out one through nine and first through ninth, use numerals for 10 and 10th and above. For more details, see the AP Stylebook.





off-campus, on-campus
Hyphenate when used as an adjective (off-campus housing, on-campus activities), but not when used as an adverb (he lives off campus, she lives on campus).

offline, online
One word.

OK, OK'd, OK'ing, OKs
Do NOT use okay.

on board, on-board
Two words as an adverb; hyphenate as a compound modifier. Use "aboard" when referring to getting on or onto a ship, plane, boat, etc. Never onboard.

One word.

Hyphenate as a compound modifier and adverb. (On-site campus activities will be taking place.)

on, upon
On shows position or state of rest; upon stresses direction or movement.

organizations and institutions
Capitalize the full names of organizations and institutions (American Medical Association; The Boeing Company; Harvard University; Sigma Delta Chi).

Use lowercase for internal elements of an organization when they have names that are widely used generic terms (the board of directors of General Motors, the board of trustees of Columbia University).

One word.

If a complete sentence is contained within parentheses, the first letter in that sentence is capitalized and the punctuation is placed within the closing parenthesis. If an incomplete sentence is contained within parentheses, the first letter is lowercase and the punctuation is placed outside the closing parenthesis.

part time (n.), part-time (compound modifier)
(She works part time. She is a part-time student.)


Not an acronym. The programming language is named after a mathematician, Blaise Pascal.

One word. Always spell out in text, unless the text is technical or a list.

playback (n.), play back (v.)
(The video playback will show the error. The music will be played back.)


photo captions

Always identify individuals in a photo starting from the left. Spell out left, right and center. Avoid using abbreviations (L, R, C). Only use a period if the caption is a complete sentence.


Acceptable caption formats include:

  • From left: John Jones, Sue Johns, John Doe
  • ROTC cadets pictured from left, front row: John Jones, Sue Johns, Jane Doe; from left, back row: John Doe, Ben Smith, Pat Smith
  • Members of the flight team are, from left, John Jones, Sue Johns and John Doe.
  • John Jones (left) and John Doe enjoyed the event.

plural adjectives
The words communications, graphics, electronics, headquarters and various others are to be considered both plural and singular in construction. Therefore, phrases such as communications systems, graphics artists and electronics firms do not violate the plural adjective rule of grammar—using plural adjectives to modify plural nouns.

possessive nouns
Possessive nouns ending in "s" take only a final apostrophe, not an apostrophe followed by a second "s." (students' thoughts—meaning the thoughts of multiple students)

Follow Webster's Tenth New Collegiate Dictionary. Hyphenate if not listed but, (postbacculaureate, postbachelor, postcollegiate, postdate, postdoctoral, postgraduate).

One word.

One word as a compound modifier.


One word.

principal, principle
Principal is a noun and adjective meaning someone or something first in rank, authority, importance or degree. Principle is a noun that means a fundamental truth, law, doctrine or motivating force.

Never abbreviate. Capitalize when used as a formal title before a full name. (Professor John Jones)

Not programable.





Not questionaire.

quotation marks
Periods and commas always go within quotation marks. Semicolons, colons and unusual punctuation go outside quotation marks when they do not apply to the quote. Use single marks in headlines.





The correct form is $12 million to $14 million; not $12 to $14 million. Ranges should be specified using the preposition "to," not a dash. In technical text, ranges are specified with an en dash unless the range starts with "from," then use the preposition "to."

The rules of prefixes apply. See AP Stylebook. Note: For many words, the sense is the governing factor: recover (regain); re-cover (cover again); reform (improve); re-form (form again).

real time (n.), real-time (compound modifier)
(Testing will be done in real time. The entire campus will be used as a real-time aerial sensing test bed.)

Hyphenate as a compound modifier.

recur, recurred, recurring
NOT reoccur.

residence halls
NOT dorms or dormitories.

With accent marks.

right-hand side
Avoid using hand in such references. Right side is sufficient.

Acceptable on first reference for Reserve Officer Training Corps. No periods.

No periods.


Capitalize when part of a proper name (School of Psychology, School of Extended Studies). Lowercase when used alone in a subsequent reference. (The School of Psychology offers bachelor's degrees in several areas. The school also offers graduate degrees.)

Lowercased acronym for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.

Lowercase spring, summer, fall, winter and derivatives such as springtime, unless part of a formal name.

Always hyphenate as a prefix.

The rules of prefixes apply, but in general, no hyphen (semifinal, semi-invalid).

setup (n.), set up (v.)
(She will set up for the meeting. The sting was a setup.)

shall, will
Use "shall" to express determination. (We shall overcome. You and he shall stay.)

Either "shall" or "will" can be used in first-person constructions that do not emphasize determination. (We shall hold a meeting. We will hold a meeting.)

For second- and third-person construction, use "will" unless determination is stressed. (You will like it. She will not be pleased.)

should, would
Use "should" to express an obligation. Use "would" to express a customary action and to construct a conditional past tense. (We should help the needy. In the summer, we would spend hours at the beach.)

shut off (v.), shut-off (n.)
(She shut off the light. He used the shut-off switch.) Note: This style contradicts Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary.

sign up (v.), sign-up (n.)
(Please sign up for the class. The sign-up table is in the lobby.)

space shuttle
Two words, lowercase, but capitalize as a proper name. (The Space Shuttle Endeavor)

One word.

One word.

start up (v.), start-up (n.)
(He started up the engine. The start-up company needed funding.)

Lowercase in all "state of" construction. (The state of Florida)

state abbreviations
The names of the 50 U.S. states should be spelled out when used in the body of a story, whether standing alone or in conjunction with a city, town, village or military base.

Use text abbreviations in photo captions or bulleted lists (Melbourne, Fla.).
Use postal abbreviations when writing a complete address (150 W. University Blvd., Melbourne, FL 32901).










Dist.of Col.






















New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota





Puerto Rico

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota






Virgin Islands


West Virginia

















































































































student-faculty ratio
Not faculty-student ratio.

The rules of prefixes apply, but in general, no hyphen.



telephone numbers
Use hyphens: 321-674-8000 and 800-888-4348. If extension numbers are given, use 768-8000, ext. 6159. Do not use a "1" before the area code.

Indicate the temperature scale, Fahrenheit or Celsius, of the measurement when discussing temperature. There is no space between the degree symbol and the scale abbreviation. (i.e., 72?°F)

that, which, who, whom (pronouns)
Use "who" and "whom" when referring to people and to animals with names. (John Jones is the man who helped me.)

Use "that" and "which" in referring to inanimate objects and to animals without names. (The dog that bit you was his.)

their, there, they're
"Their" is a possessive pronoun. "There" is an adverb indicating direction. It is also used with a pronoun for impersonal constructions in which the subject follows the verb. (There is no food on the table.) "They're" is a contraction for they are. (This is their room. Put the disk over there. They're here to learn about computers.)

three dimensional
Hyphenate as a compound modifier. 3-D is acceptable. Never three-D.


  • Use figures, except for noon and midnight, and a space between the time and a.m. or p.m. (7 a.m., 7:30 p.m.)
  • Use a colon to separate hours from minutes. (11:30 a.m., noon, NOT: 12 noon)
  • Separate spans of time with an en dash, no space between the times, or with the prepositions "from" and "to" (8–10 a.m., 8 a.m.–5 p.m., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) Do not combine use of an en dash with use of a preposition. (NOT: from 8 a.m.–4 p.m.)
  • Omit minute placeholders for times on the hour. (i.e., 7 a.m., not 7:00 a.m.)
  • Avoid redundancies such as 10 a.m. this morning. Instead, use 10 a.m. today.
  • If a time span is during the same part of the day, use a.m. or p.m. only once. (i.e., 8–10 a.m., not 8 a.m.–10 a.m. or 4–6 p.m., not 4 p.m.–6 p.m.)


One word as a modifier.


Titles such as president, vice president, treasurer, reporter, editor, dean, professor should not be capitalized after a name. If you must place a title before a name, capitalize only if it is a formal title. Do not capitalize occupational descriptions. Job titles are always lowercase when they stand alone.

See also composition titles, courtesy titles.

NOT towards.

travel, traveled, traveling, traveler

Do not capitalize even if used before a name.


The rules of prefixes apply, but in general, no hyphen (ultraviolet, ultrasonic).

One word in all uses.

United States, U.S.
Always spell out as a noun. Can be abbreviated as an adjective.

Lowercase when it stands alone. Capitalize only when it is used as a part of an official name.

upgrade, upgradable
NOT upgradeable.

upon, on
"Upon" stresses direction or movement, "on" shows position or state of rest.

NOT upwards.

No periods.

NOT useable.


This word, meaning use, is rarely needed. "Use" is usually sufficient.




Abbreviate as vs. in all uses.

Veterans Affairs
No apostrophe. VA can be used on second reference.

One word.

videocassette recorder
Two words. VCR is acceptable on second reference.

videodisc, videodisk
Use videodisc and spell as one word.

video recorder
Two words.

One word as a noun and verb.





One word, lowercase. 

When writing a web address, do not include http://www. If necessary to ensure a URL can be perceived as a URL and not as plain text, set in bold or italics. Do not include a forward slash (/) at the end of a URL. Include a period if the URL falls at the end of a sentence.

See World Wide Web entry.

Hyphenate as a part of a compound modifier (She is a well-dressed student).

which, that
"Which" introduces a nonessential clause and must be preceded by a comma (a nonessential clause can be eliminated without altering the basic meaning of a sentence).

"That" introduces an essential clause (cannot be eliminated without changing the meaning of a sentence; can stand alone and be a sentence) and is not preceded by a comma. (This is the best brochure that I have ever written. The new brochure is an exceptional piece, which will, no doubt, be a winner with the students.)

Hyphenate as a compound modifier. (white-water rafting)

who, that
Use the pronoun "who" for references to human beings and animals with names. Use the pronoun "that" to refer to inanimate objects.

No hyphen needed with the suffix "wide." Some examples are campuswide, nationwide, worldwide, areawide, companywide, universitywide, and so on.

In typesetting, a widow is defined as a single word of seven or fewer letters or the last syllable of a multisyllable word that appears at the end of a graph or column of typeset text or the beginning of a column. All widows should be corrected, if possible.

work force
Two words.


World Wide Web
Avoid if possible, use web page, website. Lowercase and abbreviate (www) in addresses. The web is lowercase as a short form of World Wide Web, as are web page, web feed and compound terms, like website, webcam, webcast, webmaster.

One word as an adjective.

X-ray (noun, verb and adjective)





Hyphenate as a compound modifier.

One word.


Use figures and months without commas: August 1990. Use an "s" without an apostrophe to indicate spans of decades or centuries: the 1990s. Use an apostrophe for class years: She belonged to the Class of '72.




ZIP code

Use all-caps ZIP for Zone Improvement Program, but always lowercase the word "code."