Editorial Style Guide

Is it alumnus, alumni, alumna or alumnae? Bachelors degree or bachelor’s degree? What about commas in a series? Do I capitalize department or not? And, why does it matter?

When writing on behalf of the college, it is important to remember that the final document, publication or message – whether electronic or print – reflects on the entire institution and, therefore, must meet the highest standards, be clear in meaning and be free of errors. Stylistic consistency strengthens the messages we want to communicate in our written material by letting the reader concentrate on the content without being distracted by variations in spelling and punctuation.  

The guide provides clarification on word use and spelling, presents basic grammar and punctuation rules and notes college-specific style preferences. It is organized alphabetically to serve as a quick reference when writing or editing material for the college’s internal and external audiences. 

The basis for this editorial style guide is The Associated Press Stylebook. It covers most questions campus writers will have about style issues. Because MCC’s needs are not the same as those of the news media, there are exceptions to the AP style that are noted as part of the specific entry.  A good dictionary is also useful for spelling and usage issues not covered in this document or The Associates Press Stylebook.

Happy writing! We hope you find this editorial style guide helpful.


Academic areas
Don’t capitalize areas of instruction unless the area is a proper noun, e.g, English and physics. Areas of instruction should be capitalized when used a part of the formal department name, e.g., Department of Mathematics.

Academic degrees
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, “Ida Molder, who has a doctorate in psychology, will introduce the speaker.”

Use the abbreviations of B.A., M.A. 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, e.g., Linda Smith, Ph.D., not Smith, Ph.D.

When used after a name, an academic abbreviation is set off by commas; e.g., Norma Gates, Ph.D., spoke to the crowd.

Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree and master’s degree, but there is no apostrophe in associate degree, bachelor of arts or master of science references.  

Generic degree terms, such as bachelor of arts and associate in science, are not capitalized. Capitalize, however, when the formal name of the degree is used, e.g., Bachelor of Arts in English, Associate in Science in Communication. 

Academic semester and year: Use uppercase as in Fall and Spring followed immediately by the year, e.g., Fall 2016, not Fall of 2016

Academic titles
Capitalize and spell out formal titles such as chairman, dean, professor, etc. when they precede a name. Use lowercase when the title follows the name.

Acronym vs. backronym vs. initialism
An acronym is a word formed from the first letter of each word in a series of words and spoken as a word – the letters of the word are capitalized and not separated by periods, e.g., NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and PAC (political action committee). A backronym is a word formed from the letters of an existing phrase and spoken as a word – the letters of the word are capitalized and not separated by periods, e.g., SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism). An initialism is a group of capital letters consisting of the first letter of words in a phrase and spoken letter by letter – the letters are not separated by periods, e.g., ABC (American Broadcasting Company) and FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation).

Acting vs. interim
Use acting if the position is filled on a permanent basis and the permanent appointee is unavailable because of extended travel, illness, sabbatical leave, etc. Use interim when an individual serves in the absence of a permanent appointee.

Addresses
Use the abbreviations Ave., Blvd., and St. only with a numbered address, e.g., 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Spell out when used without a number, e.g., Pennsylvania Avenue. Spell out and capitalize First through Ninth when used as street names, e.g., Fifth St.; use numbers for 10th and above, e.g., 13th St. If in doubt, consult website.

Address Service Requested vs. Address Correction Requested
Use Address Service Requested.

Adviser vs. advisor
Use adviser.

African American vs. African-American
Use African American.

Alumni graduating year notation – Joan Smith ’95 vs. Joan Smith ’95
Use Joan Smith ’95 with an apostrophe, not single open-quote mark.

Alumna, Alumnae, Alumni or Alumnus
Depends on usage.

  • Alumna-singular female
  • Alumnae–plural female
  • Alumni-plural male and also used when referring to a group of men and women
  • Alumnus-singular male

Ampersand (&)
Avoid using unless it is an official part of a name, e.g., Adolf & Virginia Dehn Gallery. Use the word “and” instead.

Annual
Do not describe an event as “annual” until it has happened two years in a row.

Area Code
Use 860-512-0000; do not enclose the area code in parentheses.

Arts, Sciences and Technology Center
Naming protocol for the AST or Arts, Sciences and Technology Center has changed to the following: SBM Charitable Foundation Building or SBMCF Building.
Exception: AST is still used in banner when referencing room locations and on room signage.

Assessment test vs. placement test
Use assessment test.

Associate degree vs. associate’s degree
Use associate degree (see academic degrees).

Associate in science vs. associate of science
Use associate in science. 

Baccalaureate institution vs. 4-year institution
Use baccalaureate institution.

Bicentennial Band Shell vs. Bicentennial Bandshell
Use Bicentennial Band Shell.

Board of Director/Trustees
Capitalize when referring to specific board, e.g., MCC Foundations’ Board of Directors. Lowercase elsewhere, e.g., The board of trustees met last Thursday morning.

Bursar’s Office vs. Cashiers’
Use Bursar’s Office.

Business, Engineering and Technology vs. Center for Business and Technologies
Use Business, Engineering and Technology.

Campus
Use lowercase, e.g., the MCC campus.

Chapters
Capitalize when used with a numeral in reference to a specific chapter of a book, e.g., Chapter 1. Lowercase elsewhere. 

Children vs. kids vs. youth
Use children unless you are writing about goats. Use kids as an informal synonym for children in an appropriate context. Youth applies to boys and girls from age 13 to 18.

College
Capitalize when part of a proper name, e.g., Manchester Community College. Lowercase when used alone, e.g., The college is located in Manchester.

Commas
In a series: Use commas to separate the elements in a series, but do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series, e.g., The colors are red, brown and blue.

Exception: Use a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series if an integral element of the series requires a conjunction, e.g., I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast. Also, use a comma before the concluding conjunction in a sentence with a complex series of phrases, e.g., The main points to consider are whether the athletes are skillful enough to compete, whether they have the stamina to endure the training, and whether they have the proper mental attitude.

Introducing a direct quote
Use a comma to introduce complete one-sentence quotations within a paragraph.

Exception
Use a colon to introduce quotations of more than one sentence. 

Placement with quotes
Always place the commas inside the quotation marks.  

With dates and addresses
If a sentence contains two or more elements of the date or address, use commas to set off these elements, e.g., We scheduled the interviews on Monday, August 22, to take advantage of the open conference rooms. Mary Jones has lived at 50 Wyllys Street, Manchester, Connecticut, for more than twenty years.
Note: The zip code is not separated from the state by a comma.

Commencement vs. commencement
Use uppercase Commencement.

Communication vs. Communications
Use Communication when referring to the programs, course section or faculty titles.

Community College vs. community college
Use lowercase community college. Use uppercase when referencing a specific community college, e.g., Manchester Community College.

Composition titles
Italicize the titles of works that are published separately, e.g., books, magazine, newspapers and plays. Use quotation marks to enclose the titles of works that are parts of other works, e.g., articles, chapters in a book, poems and short stories.  

Cooperative Education abbreviation
Use co-op.   

Course numbers and titles
Use three letter abbreviation and capitalize, follow with an asterisk and the course number; capitalize first letter of each word in the course title but do not italicize. As an example, ENG* 101: English Composition.   

Coursework vs. course work
Use coursework.

Courtesy titles (Miss, Mr., Mrs. or Ms.)
Use these titles in direct quotations, when it is necessary to distinguish between two people who have the same last names or when a woman specifically requests it. 

Credit-Free vs. non-credit
Use credit-free.

Dates with month
Do not use “rd,” “th,” “st” or “nd” following numerals, e.g., April 23, not April 23rd.

Days of the week
Capitalize and spell out in text. When abbreviating in tabular format, use first three letters, without periods, to facilitate tabular composition.

Dean of Academic Affairs vs. Provost/Chief Academic Officer
Use Provost/Chief Academic Officer. Capitalize when title is used before name and lowercase elsewhere.

Dean of Administrative Affairs vs. Administrative Dean
Use Dean of Administrative Affairs. Capitalize when title is used before name and lowercase elsewhere.

Dean of Institutional Advancement and Community Engagement vs. Dean of Institutional Development and Community Engagement
Use Dean of Institutional Advancement and Community Engagement. Capitalize when title is used before name and lowercase elsewhere.

Note: At MCC, the division name is Institutional Development.

Dean of Student Affairs vs. Dean of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management
Use Dean of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. Capitalize when title is used before name and lowercase elsewhere.

Dean’s List vs. dean’s list
Use lowercase in all instances.

Dehn Gallery vs. Adolf & Virginia Dehn Gallery
Both are acceptable. Use Dehn Gallery if space is an issue. Do not use Adolf and Virginia Dehn Gallery, as the ampersand (&) is a formal part of the name

Department Chairman/Chairwoman vs. Department Head
Use Department Chairman/Chairwoman. Capitalize when title is used before name and lowercase elsewhere.

Department vs. department
Use lowercase as in Marketing and Public Relations department. Capitalize when department precedes name of an area, e.g., Department of Marketing and Public Relations.

Dimensions
Use figures and spell out inches, feet, yards, etc. Hyphenate when used as an adjective, e.g., The table is 12-feet long.

Directions and regions
Use lowercase north, south, etc., when they indicate compass directions, e.g., We drove west. Capitalize these words when they designate regions, e.g., She has a Southern accent.    

Division vs. division
Use lowercase as in Liberal Arts division. Capitalize when division precedes the name of an area, e.g., Division of Liberal Arts.

E-Book vs. e-book
Use e-book, lowercase with hyphen.

Email vs. e-mail
Use email, lowercase with no hyphen.
Note: At MCC, an individual’s email is typically constructed with first initial plus last name, e.g., jsmith@manchestercc.edu.

Emerita, Emeriti or Emeritus
Depends on usage.

  • Emerita-singular female
  • Emeriti-plural male and female
  • Emeritus-singular male

Evening of Fine Wines
When using the complete name, always italicize. On second reference, use evening or event.

Exhibition vs. exhibit
Use exhibition.

Fax: 512-0000 vs. FAX: 512-0000
Use fax, or initial cap if at the beginning of a sentence. Fax is short for facsimile and is not an acronym.

Farmers’ Market vs. Farmers Market
Use Farmers’ Market.

First-time vs. first time
Use first-time when modifying a noun, e.g., first-time event. Use first time when standing alone, e.g., The first time I stayed home alone.

Foreign students vs. international students
Use international students.

Foreign words
Always italicize.

Fractions
Use ½ rather than 0.5, ¾ rather than 0.75, etc.

Fundraising vs. fund-raising
Use fundraising.

Grades
Use capital letters with no quotation marks.

Hans Weiss Newspace Gallery vs. Newspace Gallery
Use Hans Weiss Newspace Gallery.

Hyphens and Dashes

Hyphen: The hyphen is the shortest dash-like mark. Use it to break a word or to connect two words that function together as a single concept, e.g., toll-free. Some words that normally would not be hyphenated should be for clarity or for easier reading when the root word begins with a vowel, e.g., co-op and re-enrolled. There should be no space between the hyphen and the adjacent material. 

En dash: The en dash (named because it is the width of the letter “n”) is longer than a hyphen. Use it to represent a range of numbers, dates or times and between phrases containing two-word concepts, e.g., pages 150–160 and Hartford-Los Angeles flight. There should be no space between the en dash and the adjacent material, although many word processing programs require you to include a space before it will add an en dash.       

Em dash: The em dash (named because it is the width of the letter “m”) is the longest dash. Use it to indicate a pause or to separate parts of a sentence, e.g., After months of deliberation, the verdict was unanimous — guilty. For readability, em dashes are used in place of commas, colons, parentheses and semicolons. Insert a single space between the em dash and the adjacent material. An em dash is indicated by two hyphens that many word processing programs will convert to an em dash.     

Instructor vs. Lecturer
Use Instructor as a title for full-time entry-level faculty and use Lecturer as a title for part-time adjunct (credit or credit-free) faculty. Capitalize when title is used before name and lowercase elsewhere.

Internet vs. internet
Use Internet.

Learning Resource Center
Use Learning Resource Center or the abbreviation LRC.

Lecturer in vs. Lecturer of
Use Lecturer in. For distinction between Instructor and Lecturer, see Instructor entry.

Liberal Arts and Science vs. Liberal Arts and Sciences
Use Liberal Arts and Science.

Liberal and Creative Arts Division vs. Liberal Arts Division
Use Liberal and Creative Arts Division.

Lifelong vs. life-long
Use lifelong.

Live Wire vs. The Live Wire (MCC’s student run newspaper)
Use Live Wire and italicize.  

Local-area network vs. local area network
Use local-area network or the acronym LAN.

Lowe Building vs. Student Services Center
Use Student Services Center or the abbreviation SSC.

Makeup vs. make-up
Use makeup.

Mathematics, Science and Health Careers vs. Math, Science and Health Careers
Use Mathematics, Science and Health Careers.

MCC Campus Buildings:

MCC Campus Buildings names and abbreviations
Functional Name Functional Abbreviation Formal Name
Arts, Sciences & Technology Center AST SBM Charitable Foundation Building or SBMCF Building
Great Path Academy GPA Jonathan M. Daube Building
Learning Resource Center LRC Raymond F. Damato Building
Damato Library Library Raymond F. Damato Library
Student Services Center SSC Frederick W. Lowe, Jr. Building

Unless the formal name is required, use the functional name; on second reference, use functional abbreviation.

MCC Academic Divisions – there are three divisions:

  • Liberal and Creative Arts Division
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Division
  • Social Science, Business and Professional Careers Division

MCC Library
Use Raymond F. Damato Library as the formal name, Damato Library as the functional name. On second reference, use Library.

MCC on Main vs. Manchester Community College Arts and Education Center
The official designation is Manchester Community College Arts and Education Center. There is an option of using MCC on Main as an unofficial title. The combination of MCC on Main Arts and Education Center should not be used.

MCC Police Department vs. Campus Police
Use MCC Police Department.

Military Friendly school
When using this term, Military Friendly has a registered mark.

Money
Always lowercase the word dollar or cents. Use figures and the $ sign in all references except in casual references or amounts without a figure, e.g., The coffee in the cafeteria cost $1.15, Thanks a million. When the figure is a whole dollar amount, do not use decimal amounts, e.g, The book cost $6, not $6.00.

Months
Capitalize and spell out the names of months. When only a month and year are listed, do not separate with a comma, e.g., July 2016 has been an extremely hot month.

Names
Use full name on first mention and then refer by last name only. Do not use courtesy titles with last name references.

Numbers in a table
In presenting numbers in a table, align them to the right.

Numerals
Spell out numerals one through nine. Use numerals beginning with 10. Spell out the numeral if it begins the sentence except when the numeral identifies a calendar year. Spell out the numeral if it is used in a casual expression, e.g., Thanks a million. When referring to decades, do not use an apostrophe, e.g., The decade of the 1960s was revolutionary.     

Object oriented vs. object-oriented
Use object oriented.

Off-campus vs. off campus/on-campus vs. on campus
Hyphenate when used as an adjective, e.g., Off-campus housing is easy to find in the summer. Use two words without a hyphen when used as an adverb, e.g., It is difficult to find housing off campus in the fall.   

Office vs. office (e.g., Student Affairs office vs. Student Affairs Office)
Use lowercase as in Student Affairs office. Capitalize when office precedes name of an area, e.g., Office of Student Affairs.

Older Adults Association vs. Organization of Active Adults
Use Organization of Active Adults.

Online vs. on-line
Use online.

Percentages
Always use a numeral followed by the word “percent” spelled out, e.g., The teacher said 50 percent of the class attended the lecture. Percentages take a singular verb when standing alone or when expressed as a percentage of a singular entity but take a plural verb when expressed as a percentage of a plural entity. Repeat the word percent with each individual figure in the sentence, e.g., The pundit predicted that 10 percent to 30 percent of registered voters will not vote.  

Persons
Do not use coined words such as chairperson or spokesperson. Instead use chairman/chairwoman or spokesman/spokeswoman.

PIN vs. Pin
Use PIN, plural is PINs.

Plurals
In general, add “s” or “es” to pluralize a noun unless the plural has a form change, e.g., dogs, boxes, children and geese. Consult a dictionary for specifics and proper usage. Do not use an apostrophe in plurals of acronyms and initialisms, e.g., PACs, FAQs.

Possessives
Add apostrophe “s” to form the possessive for all nouns, including proper names and those ending in “s.”

Postscript
When adding a postscript, use capital letters and place period after each letter, e.g., P.S.   

Pupil vs. student
Use pupil for children in kindergarten through eighth grade. The use of pupil or student is acceptable for grades nine through 12. Use student for individuals who are in college or graduate school.

Quotation Marks
Place quotation marks outside of commas and periods but inside of semicolons and colons.

Re-application vs. reapplication
Use re-application.

Re-enrollment vs. reenrollment
Use re-enrollment.

Registrar’s office vs. Registrars office
Use Registrar’s office.

Rockville Bank Foundation Computer Center vs. LRC Computer Center
Use Rockville Bank Foundation Computer Center.

SBM Charitable Foundation Auditorium vs. SBMFC Auditorium
When referring to the auditorium itself, use SBM Charitable Foundation Auditorium which is the formal name of the space. When identifying the room as the location of a class or event, use Auditorium, SBM Charitable Foundation Building, or Auditorium, SBMFC Building.

SBM Charitable Foundation Building vs. AST Center
Use SBM Charitable Foundation Building or SBMFC Building.
Exception: AST is still used in banner when referencing room locations and on room signage.

Seasons
Lowercase winter, spring, summer, fall and derivatives such as springtime, unless part of a formal name, e.g., Summer Olympics. Capitalize when a season is used to identify a semester, e.g., Fall semester.

Semester and year
Use uppercase as in Fall and Spring followed immediately by the year, e.g., Fall 2016, not Fall of 2016.

Social Sciences, Hospitality and Culinary Arts Division vs. Social Science, Hospitality and Culinary Arts Division
Use Social Sciences, Hospitality and Culinary Arts Division.

State
Lowercase all “state of” constructions, e.g., state of Connecticut. Apply the same principles to phrases such as city of Hartford, town of Manchester, etc. Do, however, capitalize the name of specific counties, e.g., Hartford County.

Commonwealths
Four states, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia, are legally commonwealths and not states. This distinction is necessary only in formal use.

State names
Spell out the names of the states when they stand alone in text. They are abbreviated when used after the name of a city or county.

State Abbreviations
In text, states are abbreviated differently than the U.S. Postal Service abbreviations that are used with a ZIP code in a complete addresses.  Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah are never abbreviated.

Students with disabilities vs. disabled students
Use students with disabilities.

Summer session vs. summer school
Use summer session.

Telephone extensions for MCC
For noting an extension, use x followed by the extension number, e.g., x3111.

Thulin Family Occupational Therapy Lab vs. vs. Occupational Therapy Lab
Use Thulin Family Occupational Therapy Lab.

Time
Use a.m. and p.m. Always use lowercase with periods and no spaces between letters. Use noon and midnight; there is no need to put a 12 in front of either word. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes, but do not use :00 when there are no minutes, e.g., 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m.

Total credits required
Use a colon following the phrase, “total credits required” before noting the requisite number or credits, e.g., total credits required: 18.

Use vs. utilize
Use use.

Veterans O.A.S.I.S. vs. Veterans OASIS
Use Veterans OASIS. The term is an acronym for Operation Academic Support for Incoming Service Members. Use OASIS in second mention and in casual reference to the room on campus, SSC L101.

Veterans Day/Services vs. Veterans’ Day/Services
Use Veterans Day/Services.

Voicemail vs. voice mail
Use voicemail.

Viscogliosi Entrepreneurship Center
Spell out on first reference and then use VEC.

Web addresses for MCC
For the general college web address, use www.manchestercc.edu; for MCC Foundation (giving), use www.MCCGiving.org.

Website vs. web site
Use website.

Wide-area network vs. wide area network
Use wide-area network or the acronym WAN.

William R. Johnson, Sr. Library Garden vs. Library Brick Garden
Use William R. Johnson, Sr. Library Garden.

Years
Use numerals without commas. Years are the lone exception to the general rule that a numeral is not used to begin a sentence, e.g., 2016 was a tumultuous year in politics.