Dickinson’s style guide is based on the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook. Regarding the spelling of terms not included in AP Style, Dickinson editors consult The American Heritage College Dictionary.
Below, you’ll find grammatical notes specific to Dickinson and/or to higher-education publications as well as entries for instances where we diverge from AP Style. For all other editorial style questions not addressed here, consult the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook or contact Editorial Services.
For more detailed information relating to inclusive language use, please see Dickinson's Inclusive Language Style Guide.
abbreviations and acronyms
Include an unfamiliar abbreviation or acronym in parenthesis after a proper name before using it on second reference. First-reference examples: Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring (ALLARM), Library & Information Services (LIS), the Food, Agriculture & Resource Management (FARM) Lab. Generally, do not use periods, unless an organization’s style calls for them.
When speaking generally, use doctorate, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree (note use of apostrophes).
Lowercase when writing out degrees. Examples: She earned a bachelor of arts degree. He earned a master’s in communication.
Use capital letters and periods when abbreviating. Examples: B.A., B.S., M.D., M.S., M.A.
Exceptions include Ph.D., MFA, and MBA.
Lowercase academic majors except proper nouns. Examples: history, English, psychology.
Refer to the “academic programs” section of www.dickinson.edu for a complete listing of majors, minors and concentrations.
African American (n.); African-American (adj.)
Examples: Joe is an African American. Joe is of African-American ethnicity. See also: Black.
No caps and no italic.
Not to be confused with Homecoming & Family Weekend, which occurs in the fall.
alumna, alumnae, alumni, alumnus
alumna—singular, female only
alumnae—plural, women only
alumnus—singular, male only
alumni—plural, a group of men and women
alum—OK in informal usage
New names: Alumni who have changed their names since graduating, when they assumed a partner’s last name, will be listed by both the married name and the name by which they were known while attending Dickinson. Example: Karen Neely Faryniak ’86.
If an alum has legally changed a name for any other reason, their preference takes precedence, but the general rule is to use their new name, but include a brief reference to the original name such as:
John Smith ’00, known as Jane Smythe ’00 at Dickinson, visited campus last May.
Sarah Christmas ’17, aka Mary Christmas ’17. Delivered the lecture.
The same rule of thumb applies to alumni who have changed their preferred pronouns after graduation. Use the pronoun they prefer at this time. (For additional guidance on related matters, refer to the college’s inclusive Style Guide).
Use this symbol if it is part of an official title; otherwise, use “and.” Example: Theatre & Dance.
Per AP Style, Black is capitalized when synonymous with “African American.” See entry on “African American” for details.
board of trustees
Use lowercase in most cases, but capitalize “Board of Trustees” when referring to Dickinson’s Board of Trustees.
Capitalize. Examples: Homecoming & Family Weekend, Alumni Weekend, Commencement, Convocation.
Note: lowercase spring semester. See entry for “seasons.”
Capitalize proper nouns:
The Trout Gallery
Mary Dickinson Room
Holland Union Building
the Department of Music
Lowercase common nouns:
the college (see also: college)
the music department (but Department of Music, as this is the official name)
the football team
No comma is needed to separate a name from a class-year designation. Example: John Doe ’58 gave a presentation.
If referring to alumni who graduated 100 or more years ago, use four digits. Example: Zatae Longsdorff, class of 1887.
Direction of apostrophe: Right: John Doe ’58. Wrong: John Doe ‘58; John Doe '58.
When referring to current students, use the class year or class name, not both. Right: First-year student Jane Smith won an award; Jane Smith ’11 won an award. Wrong: First-year student Jane Smith ’11 won an award.
Alumni who are also parents of students or alumni have both a class year and a parent year after their names, separated by a comma. See “Dickinson parents.”
Use lowercase unless accompanied by a proper noun. Examples: I work for Dickinson College. I work for the college.
- In a series
Dickinson does not use the serial comma.
In a simple series, use commas to separate elements, but do not put a comma before the conjunction. Example: He ate ham, turkey and a salad.
Do use a comma before the concluding conjunction if not using the comma would confuse the meaning of the sentence.
Use pairs of commas to separate cities from states. The award winners include Bea Baylor, Beloit, Wisconsin.; Jenny Jones, Fort Smith, Arkansas.; Sam Smith, Rockford, Illinois.; and Wayne Taylor, Portland, Oregon. The St. Paul, Minnesota., band is here. See “states” entry.
- Endings on personal and business names
Do not use commas before Sr., Jr., III, Inc., Ltd., etc. Example: John F. Kennedy Jr.
Capitalized when referring to the event held at Dickinson each spring., as this is a formal event name. Also: Commencement Weekend, Commencement Week.
See entry for “hyphen.”
courses (titles of)
Use capital and lowercase letters with formal course titles. Do not italicize or enclose in quotation marks. Example: Her favorite course was Culture, Media and Truth. Do not capitalize informal titles. Example: I took a math class last semester.
AP style uses only two kinds of dashes—the hyphen and em dash (not the en dash):
Hyphen (-). Used to separate the elements of a hyphenated compound (for example, on-screen or English-speaking students) or to break words at the end of lines of copy. Rather than an en dash, AP style uses a hyphen with no spaces around it to indicate ranges (Jan. 3-8).
Em dash (—). Used to introduce an explanatory or emphatic element, to indicate a sudden break in thought or speech and to create a break in continuity greater than that suggested by the comma. Do not put a space on either side of the em dash. Example: The characteristics of a Dickinson education—global, engaged, useful—make it unique among its peers.
dates (see also months)
Use commas to set off the year when using full dates. Example: She was born Sept. 15, 1985, in Los Angeles.
Do not use commas when using only month and year constructions. Example: Planning began in September 1985.
Do not use 1st, 2nd, etc., with dates. Right: July 21, April 2. Wrong: July 21st, April 2nd.
Use the year if not the current calendar year. Example: John and Joan Jones had a baby in December 1997; the Smiths had a baby in January.
Periods of years. Examples: He worked from 1949 to 1961. He worked in 1949-50 (if academic year). He worked in the 1950s (if a decade).
Capitalize only when used as a formal title before the full name. Examples: Dean Joe Smith. I ran into the dean while walking across campus.
See “academic degrees.”
degrees with distinction
Set in Roman typeface; do not capitalize or use italics. Examples: cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude.
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.
For reference, all official academic-department names are listed on the “Academic Departments” page on the Dickinson website (Dickinson.edu)
departments, nonacademic (aka offices)
Capitalize formal references to particular offices, because they are proper nouns. Example: Office of Alumni Relations but alumni-relations office.
Some departments may not have official titles or may be more of a place with a specific function than a properly named office (library, mail center, print shop); these should be lowercased.
The official names of nonacademic departments are listed in the “Administrative Offices” page on the Dickinson website (dickinson.edu)
“Magazine” is capitalized and italicized because it is part of the official title. Do not precede name with “the” when referring to the full title. Example: Read all about it in Dickinson Magazine.
Call it “the magazine” (lowercase) in subsequent references.
directions and regions
In general, lowercase “north, south, northeast, northern,” etc., when they indicate compass direction; capitalize these words if they designate regions.
Examples: A storm was brewing in the west. We have a lot of tornadoes in the Midwest. The East Coast is cold in the winter. The Western states are dry. The North defeated the South. She is a Northerner. Have you been to the South Pacific? Carlisle is located in central Pennsylvania.
District of Columbia
Abbreviate as “D.C.” when the context requires that it be used in conjunction with “Washington.” Spell out when used alone. Surround “D.C.” with commas when used in a sentence. Example: Washington, D.C., is home to the White House.
Use a dollar sign followed by a numeral. Do not use .00 with dollar values.
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, that the writer is leaping from one topic to another or pausing for effect. Example: Americans in the 21st century face no such cultural-identity crises, of course ... or do we?
A complete sentence will have its own period, followed by a space, then the three dots, space and next sentence. Example: Dickinson College is a great school. … It is located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
(See “dash” for more information.)
An honor earned (not automatic), usually upon retirement. Conforming to the rules of Latin, use this descriptor after the title. Use the singular person, by gender: Examples: Professor Emeritus John Doe; President Emerita Martha Peterson; Jane Doe, professor emerita.
Multiples by gender: professors emeriti (for all men or mixed group); professors emeritae (for all women). Reference to all faculty and staff who hold emeritus status is, simply, “the emeriti.”
(See “dash” for more information.)
When used alone, treat it as a singular noun. When referring to the people who make up the faculty, say “faculty members.” Examples: Our faculty is the best. All of our faculty members teach multiple classes.
Use in place of “freshman.” Hyphenate as a compound modifier. Examples: She is a first-year student. She is in her first year at Dickinson.
Avoid gendered language whenever possible. Examples: Staff members tend the phones (not man the phones), spokesperson, sales representative, business owner/entrepreneur/retailer, actor (may be used for both genders), master of ceremonies (may be used for both genders); firefighter, police officer; fellow as adjective (fellow alumni) may refer to both genders. (See also: “gendered pronouns.”)
Be aware that not all people fall into one of two gender categories, so whenever possible, recast a sentence to avoid overgeneralization. Example: Instead of “A football player quickly learns how to manage his time well,” try “Football players typically learn how to manage their time,” or “... how to manage time.” In the case of writing about a person who prefers nontraditional pronouns, such as “they,” and if you are unable to reconstruct the sentence elegantly/efficiently, consider using their pronouns of preference, with a brief explanation on first reference. Example: Jane, who prefers to be called by the nongendered pronoun “they,” said that they were pleased to be interviewed for this article. Be sure to obtain permission before using a nontraditional pronoun. Continuing in the nonspecific vein, go with plural when you can to avoid cumbersome constructions. Example: Students may submit their applications. Preferable to: A student may submit his or her application. To learn more, refer to Dickinson’s Inclusive Language Guide.
Capitalize the letter grade, but do not use quotation marks. Use an apostrophe to make plural. Examples: He earned an A in chemistry. She earned straight A’s.
Capitalize the first letter of all nouns and verbs as well any other words longer than three letters in a headline, including multiple words in a hyphenated construction. Example: Part-Time Students Study Abroad in India.
Exception: Do capitalize articles that are part of a formal name: The New York Times (“The” is part of the formal name), but the Associated Press (“the” is not part of the formal name).
When using quotation marks in headlines, use single marks instead of double. Shortcuts, such as numerals and %, are acceptable.
Homecoming & Family Weekend
One word, no capitalization.
LL.D. is the Doctor of Laws degree, and D.H.L. is Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Try to be explicit in the text that these are honorary degrees. Example: A distinguished judge received an honorary doctor of liberal arts at the 2006 Commencement.
hyphen (see “dash” for more information)
Hyphens are joiners. Use them to avoid ambiguity (example: We enjoy hiking for recreation; the movie is a re-creation of the original) or to connect two or more words. But use them sparingly.
When a compound modifier—two or more words that express a single concept—precedes a noun, use hyphens to link all the words in a compound except the adverb “very” and all adverbs that end in “-ly.” Examples: full-time job, know-it-all attitude, very good time, easily remembered rule, liberal-arts college, study-abroad program.
Always hyphenate tax-free, tax-exempt and duty-free.
Example of suspensive hyphenation: He will give a 10- to 15-minute presentation.
Other relevant hyphenation examples: bride-to-be, first-year student, decision-making, face-to-face interaction, one-on-one.
Dickinson is committed to creating and fostering a just and inclusive environment, and respectful, appropriate language use is an important part of this work. When we are able to make informed, careful decisions about the language we use, we are better able to communicate effectively with others. Please note that while language is always evolving, language related to diverse populations and social justice is evolving significantly in the current moment and in recent years. This guide includes several entries reflecting this ongoing work. For additional guidance, please refer to the college’s Inclusive Language Guide and to subject experts in related Dickinson departments and centers.
Job titles in general, use gender-neutral terms, such as chair, chairperson, council person or police officer. However, if a gendered term is officially used by an organization, it is acceptable to use that term. Capitalize as a formal title before a name: Chairperson Julia Smith arrived one hour early.
Jr., Sr., III, etc.
Abbreviate and capitalize when part of someone’s name; do not precede by a comma. Examples: John Robert Smith Sr. is my father. John Robert Smith Jr. is my brother. John Robert Smith III is my nephew.
See entry for “hyphen.”
Use lowercase in generic use and when speaking of the Dickinson College library. Use capital letters with formal title, the Waidner-Spahr Library.
livestream, livestreamed, livestreaming
Each of these are one-word entries with no hyphen.
The Dickinson College logo must be represented on all Dickinson College materials. The college seal is not interchangeable with the logo. Please consult the Office of Design Services for advice on proper use of the logo and seal. Use only the approved, high-resolution logo image files that are available on the Dickinson website.
names of people
In first reference, use the individual’s full name. Leave out middle initial unless he or she prefers to use it, or if it is used in a formal context. In subsequent sentences, use last names only:
First reference: Robert Smith
Second reference: Smith
First reference: Betty Johnson
Second reference: Johnson
First reference: Harvey Stuart Jr.
Second reference: Stuart
In text, do not surround Jr. or Sr. following a name with commas. Example: I saw Robert B. Pamplin Sr. at the event.
numbers (see also ages, dimensions, dollar amounts, fractions, page numbers and percentages)
In general, spell out zero through nine (and first through ninth) and use numerals for 10 and above (10th, etc.). Fractions, if paired with a whole number, should be represented via the decimal system. Example: 2.25.
Percentages, measurements, GPAs and ages should always be represented by numerals.
Use a comma with numerals of 1,000 and above (except dates). Examples: 5,000, 42,000. (See entry on “commas” for other exceptions.)
Use numerals when referring to academic credit. Example: The student earned 2.5 hours of credit.
Use numerals when referring to a page number. Example: The passage begins on Page 5.
When starting a sentence with a number, spell it out. Example: Forty-two students are in the cafeteria.
official department/office names
To view the most recent names of departments and offices, refer to the corresponding landing page on the Dickinson website, www.dickinson.edu. A general rule of thumb: When there are compound elements in an office, center or department’s name, use an ampersand, rather than “and.” Example: Department of Art & Art History, Archives & Special Collections. Only capitalize if using the official name: The Waidner-Spahr Library. The library. The Department of Art & Art History. The art & art history department.
on campus/off campus
Hyphenate only as a compound modifier. Examples: They live on campus. They live in off-campus housing.
Use figures and capitalize page when used with a figure. Examples: Page 1, Page 10, Page 20A.
Percentages should always be represented by a numeral. Examples: an increase of 7%; a 4% increase. Headline: Board Grants 4% Raise.
Phi Beta Kappa
National honorary scholastic society for top students in the senior class.
Follow AP Style's guidance on possessives, including placing the apostrophe after the "s" for names ending in an "s." Example: Alumni had the chance to hear President Jones' vision for the college.
For Dickinson Magazine articles and other mostly alumni/student publications, the president’s full name should be spelled out in the first reference. Example: John E. Jones III '77, P'11.
Do not uppercase “president” if the title stands alone. Example: The fraternity invited the president to dinner.
Do not abbreviate (“prof.”). When introducing a faculty member, use the full academic title, including assistant, associate, adjunct, visiting, etc., as needed, along with the person’s name. Long titles are more easily read after the name, lowercase and surrounded by commas.
Examples: Associate Professor of Psychology John Smith or John Smith, associate professor of psychology or psychology professor John Smith. (The latter example is lowercase because it is simply an adjective, not a formal title.)
Use instead of “dorm.”
resident assistant (RA)
reunions and classes
Do not capitalize. Examples: 25th reunion class; the class of 1973’s 35th reunion.
Capitalize formal room names. Example: Mary Dickinson Room.
Do not capitalize the word “room” if used. Example: Weiss 217 or East College room 217.
Spring, summer, fall and winter are never capitalized, except when starting a sentence.
Lowercase. Examples: She has an internship for the fall semester. He will take four classes during the spring semester.
Two words, lowercase. Examples: Registration is in the HUB side rooms. Registration is in HUB side room 201.
Use one space after periods, commas or colons.
- Academic All-American
Examples: He is a very athletic person. Her athletic ability is impressive. They participate in Dickinson’s athletics program. He works for the athletics department
- Centennial Conference
The Centennial Conference (CC) is an 11-member NCAA Division III conference that sponsors 24 championship sports.
As above, spell out on first reference and then use CC.
One word as noun and adjective
Stands for “runs batted in” and does not get an apostrophe
When used alone, it’s a singular noun. Say “staff members” when talking about the people who make up the staff. Examples: Dickinson’s staff is efficient. Staff members in this college are efficient.
study abroad/study-abroad programs
Hyphenate only as a compound modifier. Examples: He will study abroad in Germany. He is applying for the study-abroad program in Bremen.
Not "theater" when referring to Dickinson productions, department/courses, as the official name of this academic department is the Department of Theatre & Dance. When referring to other theatre groups, use that group's preferred spelling only when using a formal name: Bread and Puppet Theater, the visiting theatre group Bread and Puppet.
- Titles of people
Capitalize formal titles before a name or names. Examples: President Jane Smith, Provost and Dean Dwanye Jones, Associate Professor of Biology Morgan Cho.
Lowercase formal titles after a name or names. Examples: Jane Smith, president; Michael Lee, assistant professor of art & art history.
Lowercase titles standing alone: Examples: the president, the dean.
Civil, religious, medical and military titles. Examples: the Rev. Paul Wright, Dr. Ben Casey (denotes medical doctor), Gen. Casey Lewis (see AP Stylebook for full listing of military titles), U.S. Rep. (not Congressman) Allen Proudfellow, Sen. George Doe.
- Courtesy titles
Except in very formal communications and obituaries, courtesy titles such as “Mr., Mrs., Dr.,” are not used. Refer to both men and women by first and last name; “Susan Smith” or “Robert Smith.” See "chairwoman, chairman" for more on gendered titles. Generally, avoid using courtesy titles “Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss” except in direct quotations (see also: "gendered pronouns, "gendered titles"). Do not use the honorific on second reference. Right: Smith went to Washington. Wrong: Mr. Smith went to Washington.
- Official course titles
When talking about a specific class, capitalize it, but do not italicize it. Examples: Biology 101: Anatomy of a Rat; Psychology 210: The Mind of a Serial Killer.
Lowercase general mentions: He’s taking four biology courses this year. She is a biology professor.
- Use italics
albums or CDs
movies and plays
major musical compositions
paintings, drawings, statues and other works of art
periodicals (journals and magazines)
- Use quotation marks with
papers (e.g., papers presented at conferences)
radio programs (If part of a continuing series, italicize; e.g., National Public Radio’s All Things Considered).
TV programs (If part of a continuing series, italicize; e.g., Sesame Street).
- Do not use italics, underlining or quotation marks (but use appropriate capitalization) with
- Invitations/special publications
short, formal blocks of copy may call for total disregard of the above-stated rules.
Avoid use of “upperclass” or “underclass” in reference to students. If necessary, reword the sentence and be more specific (first-year, sophomore, junior, senior). “Upper level” also is acceptable.
Only include “http://” when it is necessary, such as when “www” is not present.
Omit trailing slashes. Example: www.dickinson.edu/admit, not www.dickinson.edu/admit/.
One word (same for webcam and website).
- alumni class designation
No comma before or after the year but put a space between the name and the year. Example: Bob Jones ’79 is the new coach.
If graduate is from 1922 or earlier, use four digits. Example: Zatae Longsdorff, class of 1887.
- parent class designation
See “Dickinson parents.”
- student class designation
In general, students should be listed by the year they will graduate, ’08, ’11, etc., rather than by first-year student, sophomore, junior or senior.
1970s or the ’70s (no possessive apostrophe).
In a sentence, print the words the reader should be reading, such as “from,” “to,” “between” and “and.” Example: We lived there from 1975 to ’76.
In other uses, such as headlines and lists, use all four digits followed by a hyphen, plus just two digits if the century remains the same. Examples: 1970-75; 1990-2001; 1997-98 school year.
Do not begin a sentence with a year. Right: Elvis hit it big in 1957. Wrong: 1957 was the year Elvis hit it big.