Writing Style Guide

ALWAYS WRITE AS ONE WORD: artwork, campuswide, cellphone, coursework, email, flagpole, fundraising/fundraiser, nonprofit, online, postsecondary, schoolwork, startup (a new business venture), systemwide, timeline, voicemail, webcam, website, worldwide, yearlong
SPELL CHECK: cancelled, catalog, labeled, theatre (not theater), time frame (two words)


academic degrees
associate degree; bachelor’s or bachelor’s degree, but Bachelor of Arts.

Use for both men and women. You may also use actress(es) for women, but use actors (not actors and actresses) when referring to both men and women.

Use the -or spelling in all VU references (academic advisor, faculty advisor, residence advisor) and for all general references. When referring to the job titles of specific people outside the University, use their preferred spelling.

Affect, as a verb, means to influence. (His illness will affect his attendance.) Effect is infrequently used as a verb and means to cause. (We will effect a major reorganization of the office.) Affect is very rarely used as a noun, and its correct use as a noun relates to psychological emotional states. Effect, as a noun, has a variety of meanings and uses, including consequence or result (The effect of the budget cuts will affect us all.); becoming operative (The policy goes into effect immediately); media technology (The special effects won an Academy Award.); creation of a desired result (Nearly everything Lincoln did was calculated for effect.); and the stuff in your purse, always used in the plural (Your personal effects.).

afterward, not afterwards
anyway, not anyways
backward, not backwards
forward, not forwards
toward, not towards

alumni association
Capitalized only when referring to the VU Alumni Association. Do not capitalize association when it appears alone (see capitalization).

ampersand (&)
Do not use ampersands (&) in text (tuition and fees), titles (provost and vice president for academic affairs) or names (College of Health Science and Human Performance), except when it is part of a company's legal name (Procter & Gamble).

Do not use the phrase “and/or,” when simply “and” or “or” would suffice.

Use 's with bachelor's and master's, but not associate degrees.
Do not use 's with decades. Use 1980s or use '80s.
Placement of apostrophes for possession with compound nouns depends on whether the nouns are acting collectively or separately.
Jim's and Mary's weddings were both in Kalamazoo. (They are not married to each other.)
Jim and Mary's weddings were both in Kalamazoo. (They have been married twice to each other.)

All mean to make secure or certain, but only assure is used in the sense of putting a person's mind at ease and only insure is used in references to financial guarantee against risk. Use ensure in all other cases. (We strive to ensure the success of each student.)

Except for email addresses, never use the symbol @ in text.

See sports.

audiovisual (noun), audio-visual (adjective) Never use A/V.

biannual versus biennial
Biannual and semiannual mean twice a year; biennial means every two years.

blue and gold
The school colors are blue and gold (not capitalized). Do not refer to VU as "the blue and gold." Official VU colors are Reflex Blue and Pantone 116.

Board of Trustees
Capitalized only when referring to the VU Board of Trustees. Do not capitalize board or trustees when they appear alone.

book titles
See composition titles.

Use break for scheduled periods when there are no classes (Thanksgiving break, holiday break).

bulleted lists
See lists.

campus community
The campus community includes all students, faculty, and staff and is a part of the much larger University community, which also includes alumni, emeriti, parents and families of students, and friends of VU.

chair (not chairman, not chairwoman, not chairperson). Except for people outside VU, whose titles should not be changed to conform to VU style.

check in
check-in (noun and adjective), check in (verb). Also checkout (noun and adjective) check out (verb).

Christmas break
Use holiday break, not Christmas break, for the period from the end of fall semester to the start of spring semester.

Do not use ciphers (double zeros) for times of day or whole dollar amounts. ("Shows start at 7 p.m. and tickets are $15," not "Shows start at 7:00 p.m. and tickets are $15.00.")

Class of 20__
Capitalize when referring to a VU graduating class. (She is a member of the Class of 2014.) Do not capitalize "class" when it appears alone.

freshman, sophomore, junior, senior (not capitalized) The term "first-year student" is preferred over freshman.

coed and coeducation
(not hyphenated) Coed may be used, even in formal writing, in references such as "coed residence halls," and "coed softball teams." Do not refer to women as coeds.

Use for both men and women.

Not capitalized except when preceded by the name of the University (VU Commencement) or used as part of the name of a specific commencement (Spring 2017 Commencement).

company names
Use the full, formal name on first reference.
Do not use a comma before Inc. or Ltd., even if it is included in the formal name. The same rule applies for Co., P.C., LLP, etc.
Generally, follow the spelling and capitalization preferred by the company: eBay. But capitalize the first letter if it begins a sentence.
Do not use all-capital-letter names unless the letters are individually pronounced: BMW. Others should be uppercase and lowercase. Ikea, not IKEA; USA Today, not USA TODAY.
Do not use symbols such as exclamation points, plus signs, or asterisks that form contrived spellings that might distract or confuse a reader. Use Yahoo, not Yahoo!; Toys R Us, not Toys "R" Us; E-Trade, not E*Trade.
Use an ampersand only if it is part of the company's formal name.
Lowercase "the" unless it is part of the company's formal name.

composition titles
Apply the guidelines listed here to titles of books, computer games, movies, operas, plays, poems, albums and songs, radio and television programs, lectures and speeches, and works of art.
Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters.
Capitalize an article - the, a, an - or words of fewer than four letters if it is the first or last word in a title or is the first word after a colon.
Put quotation marks around the names of all such works except magazines, newspapers, the Bible, or books that are used primarily as reference materials (such as almanacs, directories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, gazetteers, handbooks, journals, textbooks, and similar publications). Do not use quotation marks around such software titles as WordPerfect or Windows, or website names. Most app names are capitalized without quotes. An exception to this is computer game apps such as "FarmVille," which are placed in quotes.
Translate a foreign title into English unless a work is generally known by its foreign name.

courtesy titles
Do not use the courtesy titles Ms., Miss, Mrs., or Mr. in general writing. They may be used in personal correspondence, direct quotations, and other special situations. When courtesy titles are used, use the title preferred by the individual to whom you are referring.

current and currently
present and at present
Overused and frequently unnecessary. Instead of, "We currently have 200 students in the program," write, "We have 200 students in the program."

dates, days, months, years
Use 1, 2, 3, 4, not 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th. Write "Reservations are due July 27," not "Reservations are due July 27th."
For academic and fiscal years, use 2011-12, not 2011-2012. Only exception: 1999-2000.
Do not abbreviate days of the week in text.
Do not abbreviate months of the year when they appear by themselves or with a year (December 2010). March, April, May, June, and July are never abbreviated in text, but the remaining months are when they are followed by a date (Jan. 27), and are correctly abbreviated Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., Dec.

daylight saving time
(not capitalized) saving, not savings. Use EDT for Eastern Daylight Saving Time and EST for Eastern Standard Time.

Use 1960s, 1990s, or use '60s, '90s (no apostrophe before the s).

As with all units of the University, the Department of Biological Sciences should be referred to by its full name on first reference and may be referred to as biological sciences or the department on subsequent references. Use biology to refer to the discipline and major, not the department.

Use figures and spell out inches, feet, yards, etc., to indicate depth, height, length, and width. Hyphenate adjectival forms before nouns.
EXAMPLES (all correct):
He is 6 feet 3 inches tall, the 6-foot-3-inch man, the 6-foot man, the basketball team signed a 7-footer.
The car is 20 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 5 feet high. The rug is 3 feet by 4 feet. The 3-by-4 rug…
The storm left 10 inches of snow.
The building has 25,000 square feet of floor space.

directions and regions
In general, lowercase north, south, northeast, northern, etc., when they indicate compass direction. Capitalize these words when they designate regions.
EXAMPLES (all correct):
Compass directions: He drove north. Turn west.
Regions: VU has one of the only fully accredited programs in the Midwest.

dollar amounts
Do not use ciphers (double zeros) for whole dollar amounts or times of day. ("Shows start at 7 p.m. and tickets are $15." not "Shows start at 7:00 p.m. and tickets are $15.00.")

drop off
drop-off (noun and adjective), drop off (verb).

e.g. and i.e.
The abbreviations e.g. (meaning for example) and i.e. (meaning that is) are always lowercase and always followed by a comma. Example: The University completed a number of construction projects in 2016 (e.g., the Jefferson Union Student Center). These constructions are awkward and, in most cases, can be easily avoided: The University completed a number of construction projects in 2016, including the Jefferson Union Student Center.

May be abbreviated (ea.) in tables, but never in text. Avoid unnecessary use. Instead of "Tickets are $12 each," write "Tickets are $12."

Not hyphenated, not capitalized. Similar terms such as e-book and e-commerce are hyphenated.

email addresses
Use all lowercase for email addresses and use official vinu.edu individual and office email addresses for all University communication.

See assure/ensure/insure.

Books, plays, movies, songs, and lectures have titles and are titled. (William Shakespeare wrote a play titled, “Othello.”) Entitled refers to guarantees, rights, and entitlements. (Each coupon entitles you to one free admission.)

every one/everyone
Use two words when referring to each individual item. Use one word when used as a pronoun meaning all persons.

Farther refers to physical distance. (She ran farther than anyone else.) Further refers to an extension of time or degree. (He wants to further his studies.)

Always lowercase when used as an adjective (federal regulations, federal assistance) to distinguish something from state, city, county, and other government entities. Capitalize only when part of a proper name (Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Trade Commission).

Less means "not as much." Fewer means "not as many." Use fewer for things you can count, and less for things you cannot. "I should eat less chocolate." "I should eat fewer chocolate chip cookies."

first come, first served
Add hyphens when used as a compound modifier, "Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis."

flier, flyer
Flier is the preferred spelling for an aviator and for a handbill. Flyer is part of the proper names American Flyer, Pacific Flyer, Western Flyer, and others.

formal names
Should not be used in general writing for buildings or other entities named for people. Use Bell Recreation Center, not Donald G. Bell Recreation Center.

gender bias
avoid in writing.

Acceptable on second and subsequent references. On first reference, use "grade point average."

Letter grades don't require quotation marks. (She received an A.) Use 's to form the plural of a letter grade. (He received all A’s and B’s.)

When writing news article headlines, only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized. The following rules apply only to headlines:
Use numerals for all numbers.
Use single quotes for quotation marks.
Use US, UK, and UN (no periods).
For US states use traditional abbreviations, but do not use periods for those abbreviated with two capital letters: NY, NJ, NH, NM, NC, SC, ND, SD, RI, and also DC. Other states retain periods: Ind., Ill., Minn., Wis.

health care
Two words in all cases.

Referring to past history, previous history, or prior history is redundant. All history is past, previous, and prior; there is no other kind. Use "history."

holiday break
The period between fall and spring semesters when no classes are held. The period during the holiday recess when the entire University is closed is the "holiday closure." Neither should be referred to as "Christmas break."

Use of apostrophes in holidays.
Apostrophe before the s
   New Year's Day
   Valentine's Day
   St. Patrick's Day
   Mother's Day
   Father's Day
Apostrophe after the s
   Presidents' Day
   April Fools' Day
No apostrophe
   Veterans Day
   Teachers Day
   Administrative Professionals Day

home page
Internet term referring to the main page in a website. Two words, no hyphen, not capitalized.

home schooling (noun)
Also, home-schooler (noun), home-school (verb), and home-schooled (adjective).

Not capitalized except when preceded by the name of the University (VU Homecoming) or used as part of the name of a specific homecoming (Homecoming 2017).

hyphenated words
Except for cooperate and coordinate, use a hyphen if the prefix ends in a vowel and the word that follows begins with the same vowel. Examples: co-opt, co-owner, de-emphasize, de-escalate, pre-engineered, pre-existing, re-edit, re-elect, re-enlist, re-examine


Writing Style Guide, cont'd

imply / infer
The writer implies; the reader infers.

in order
Unnecessary in constructions such as, "In order to save money, we reduced our spending." Simply write, "To save money, we reduced our spending." The exception would be the VU motto: “Learn in order to serve.”

in, into
In indicates location: He was in the room. Into indicates motion: She came into the room.

Abbreviate and capitalize as Inc. when used as a part of a corporate name. Do not set off with commas: "Program participants include Bright Financial Advisors Inc."

Proper noun, always capitalized.

A communication network within an organization or group. Not capitalized.

kickoff (noun and adjective), kick off (verb) Never use kick-off.

last and next
Avoid using.

less / fewer
Less means "not as much," and fewer means "not as many." Use fewer for things you can count, and less for things you cannot. "I should eat less chocolate." "I should eat fewer chocolate chip cookies."

letter grades
See grades.

When constructing bulleted lists, the following rules apply whether or not each list item is a complete sentence.
Each list item is treated as a separate sentence or phrase starting with a capitalized letter and ending with a period.
Do not capitalize every word - only the first word in each list item and any proper nouns.
An exception may be made for directories and other resource-type lists when each item contains only a few words. In these cases, you may omit the periods and capitalize each key word of four or more letters, but the items should be presented in alphabetical order to make it easier for the user to find what they need quickly.
Directory of services:
• Academic Advising
• Academic Affairs
• Academic Calendars

login, logon, logout, logoff
As a noun or adjective: one word, no hyphen, not capitalized. Example: Enter your login information. As a verb: two words, no hyphen, not capitalized. Example: Log in to MyVU. If you use login, use logout; if you use logon, use logoff.

master’s or master’s degree
See academic degrees.

Capitalize when referring to the geographic region of the United States.

million, billion, trillion
See numerals.

more than/over
More than is used with numbers. (More than 30 graduates attended.) Over refers to spatial relationships. (The flag flew over the building.)

move in
move in, move out (verb); move-in, move-out (noun, adjective).
EXAMPLES (all correct):
Fall move-in starts in August.
The move-out schedule is online.
He will move out in April.

Ms., Miss, Mrs.
See courtesy titles

Most words beginning with multi (multicultural, multimedia, multinational, multitasking) are not hyphenated.

names (buildings and programs)
In general writing do not use the full, formal names of buildings or other entities that are named for people. Use Shircliff Auditorium, Welsh Administration Building, etc. Exception: use Red Skelton Performing Arts Center on first reference; Skelton Center on subsequent references.

names (companies)
See company names

names (people)
In general writing, use an individual's full name, including Dr. if applicable, on first reference (Dr. John M. Dunn). On subsequent references, use only a last name (Dunn, not Dr. Dunn). Never use the courtesy titles Ms., Miss, Mrs., or Mr. Abbreviate Jr. and Sr. only with a person’s full name, and do not precede by a comma: Martin Luther King Jr.

names (programs, events, departments, offices, and other VU entities)
See company names

When used to mean "no single one” or “not one,” none always takes a singular verb and pronoun. "None [not one] of the 12 students is [not are] taking the exam."

Do not use the symbol "#" in text. Depending on the meaning, use "pound" or "number" or the abbreviation "No." (capitalized). Use "No." only if it is followed by a numeral, especially when indicating rank or priority. "We are the No. 2 seed in the tournament." "Creating an environment for student success is our No. 1 priority."

Try to avoid constructions that begin sentences with numbers.
In general, spell out zero and whole numbers one through nine. Use figures for 10 or greater.
Numbers beginning a sentence should always be spelled out, unless they represent a calendar year: 1983 was the worst year.
Always use figures (even for single numerals) for the following:
Academic course numbers: History 101, Communication 350.
Addresses: Spell out numbered streets nine and under: 5 Sixth Ave., 3012 10th St.
Ages: His son, age 3, was rescued. She was 9.
Court decisions: The Supreme Court ruled 5-4. They made a 5-4 decision.
Dimensions, to indicate depth, height, length, and width: He is 5 feet 6 inches tall.
Distances: He walked 4 miles.
Headlines: 9 VU students earn coveted scholarships.
Mathematical usage: Multiply by 4, divide by 6.
Military ranks, used as titles with names, military terms and weapons: 1st Sgt. David Smith, M16 rifle, 9 mm pistol, 6th Fleet. In military ranks, spell out the figure when it is used after the name or without a name: Smith was a second lieutenant.
Millions, billions, and trillions (use a figure-word combination): 1 million people, $2 billion.
Monetary units: 5 cents, $5 bill.
Numbers involving decimals and fractions: 1 1/2 months, 7.2 magnitude quake.
Page numbers and other sequential designations: Page 1, Page 20A; sizes 4 and 5; Rooms 3 and 4; Chapter 2; line 1, but first line.
Percentages: 5 percent.
Rank: VU was my No. 1 choice.
Speeds: 7 mph, winds of 5 to 10 mph.
Sports scores: They secured a 6-0 victory.
Examples of other less-frequently used exceptions include: Act II, Scene 3; 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Article IV, Section 5; Interstate 5; 8 degrees below zero.
Generally, use the words million, billion, and trillion for numbers of one million or greater, unless precise figures are critical: Building costs were set at $24.8 million. He won the election by a vote of 1,892,056 to 1,852,876.
Do not use ciphers (double zeros) for times of day or whole dollar amounts: Shows start at 7 p.m. (not 7:00 p.m.) and tickets are $15 (not $15.00).
Use commas for figures greater than 999: The program had 1,000 students. It cost $25,000. She received $1,500.

Unnecessary in phrases such as "print out" and "separate out." Write "print the form," not "print out the form."

Not an acceptable substitute for “more than.” More than is used with numbers. (More than 30 graduates attended.) Over refers to spatial relationships. (The flag flew over the building.)

Your palate is the roof of your mouth or your sense of taste; a pallet is a bed or type of shipping platform; and a palette is a set of colors or the board an artist uses to hold paint.

Almost always preferred over "persons" or "individuals." (Only people registered for the workshop can win a prize.)

The symbol (%) may be used in informal text. (There was a 12% increase.) Always spell out in formal text. Always use numerals for percentages, even for single numerals (5 percent).

phone and fax numbers
The format for phone and fax numbers is 269-387-8400. Do not use parentheses around the area code. The format for toll-free numbers is the same. Use 800-555-1212. Do not use 1-800-555-1212.

pickup (noun and adjective), pick up (verb).

play titles
See composition titles

political titles
Capitalize and abbreviate when used as a formal title before a name: Gov. John Doe.

presently / at present
currently / current

Overused and frequently unnecessary. Instead of, "We presently have 200 students in the program," write, "We have 200 students in the program."

Except for cooperate and coordinate, use a hyphen if the prefix ends in a vowel and the word that follows begins with the same vowel. Examples: co-opt, co-owner, de-emphasize, de-escalate, pre-engineered, pre-existing, re-edit, re-elect, re-enlist, re-examine

quotation marks
Use quotation marks to enclose a direct quotation; that is, the exact words of a speaker or a writer.
Do not use quotation marks for an indirect quotation.
Use quotation marks around the titles of complete but unpublished works, such as manuscripts, dissertations, and reports.
Use around titles of songs and other short musical compositions, titles of paintings and sculptures, and titles of TV and radio series and programs.
Periods and commas always go inside the closing quotation mark.
Semicolons and colons always go outside the closing quotation mark.
A question mark or an exclamation point goes inside the closing quotation mark when it applies only to the quoted material.
A question mark or an exclamation point goes outside the closing quotation mark when it applies to the entire sentence.
If the quoted material and the entire sentence each require the same mark of punctuation, use only one mark - the one that comes first.
When a quoted word or phrase occurs at the beginning of a sentence, no punctuation should accompany the closing quotation mark unless required by the overall construction of the sentence.
Also see composition titles

Refers to a scheduled period when no classes are held, such as Thanksgiving recess. Use "closure" when the entire University is closed, including offices and residence halls, which occurs as a result of severe weather, holidays, or other non-standard closings.

Use "In regard to..." or better, "Regarding..." Correct in the phrase "as regards."

regional sites
Previously known as branch campuses and regional locations.

room numbers
Capitalize "Room" if used. Always use numerals and the formal name of the building.
Correct: Room 211 of the New Student Center
Correct: New Student Center 211
Incorrect: room 211 of the Student Center, room 211 Student Center, Student Center Room 211

RSVP (no periods)
An abbreviation for the French, "répondez s'il vous plait," which means "please respond." “Please RSVP" is redundant. Just use RSVP.

Referring to the official seal of the University (or any organization’s seal or logo), use lowercase even in constructions such as "VU seal."

Lowercase summer, fall, winter, spring, including "fall semester" and "summer I session." In text, "first summer session" is generally preferred over "summer I session."

semester / session
Not capitalized. Correct: fall semester, spring semester, summer I session, summer II session. In text, "first summer session" is generally preferred over "summer I session."

sign up
sign-up (noun and adjective), sign up (verb). Examples (all correct): Sign-up for fall housing begins Feb 4. Sign up now. Apartment sign-up began last week.

Social Security
Capitalized, but words following, such as "number," "system," "card," and "benefits" are not capitalized. The abbreviation for Social Security number is SSN. "SSN number" is redundant. Use SSN. Plural: SSNs. Never include your Social Security number in an email message.

song titles
See composition titles

Do not capitalize the names of sports such as basketball and volleyball, even if the sport is preceded by the name of the school or the school nickname (VU volleyball, Trailblazer basketball).
For sports in which both men and women compete, the gender of the team must always be specified on first reference (men's basketball, women's soccer).
When referring to varsity teams, do not identify gender when VU has only one gender represented in that varsity sport. Do not use women's golf, men's hockey. Use golf, hockey.
Never use girls or ladies to refer to women's teams. Use women. Never use boys to refer to men's teams. Use men.

spring break
The one-week period in spring semester when no classes are held, typically in March.

summer break
The period from the end of summer II session to the start of fall semester.

Thanksgiving break
is the period around Thanksgiving when no classes are held, typically beginning the day before Thanksgiving.

Not capitalized unless it begins a sentence or follows a colon.

See composition titles for books, songs, movies, plays, magazines, newspapers, and other compositions. See courtesy titles for Ms., Miss, Mrs., or Mr.

Capitalized when referring to the VU nickname or mascot. Do not use Trailblazer(s) as a general reference to the University, such as "Trailblazer course offerings" or “Trailblazer commencement." In an appropriate context, referring to VU students or alumni as Trailblazers is acceptable, even recommended.

Unique is an absolute, meaning "one of a kind." Something is either unique or it is not. It can be less distinctive, more unusual, or truly extraordinary, but it cannot be less unique, more unique, somewhat unique, or very unique.

Capitalize only when it refers exclusively to Vincennes University.

University community
The campus community includes all students, faculty, and staff on any given campus. The campus community is a part of the much larger University community, which also includes alumni, emeriti, parents and families of students, and friends of VU.

Uniform Resource Locator, a Web address. "Web address" is preferred over URL.

Spell it out in ordinary speech and writing. In some short expressions, however, the abbreviation vs. is permitted. For court cases, use v: Roe v. Wade.

Vincennes University
Spell out on first reference. Use the abbreviation VU (no periods) for subsequent mentions.

The preferred abbreviation after the full name of the University has been introduced. Do not use periods.

When referring to the World Wide Web, Web is a proper noun and is capitalized.

Web addresses
Also known as URLs. "Web address" is preferred over URL. The prefix http:// should not be included when listing a Web address in a correspondence, publication, or other printed material, and for pages at www.vinu.edu, do not include www. In print and spoken communication use vinu.edu, not http://www.vinu.edu.

Web page
Two words. Web is always capitalized.

(not Wi-Fi or WiFi)

Use work-study (with hyphen) to refer to the financial aid program through which students are paid in the form of a regular paycheck.

(hyphenated in all cases)

For academic and fiscal years, use 2006-07, not 2006-2007.

ZIP code
ZIP (all caps) is an acronym for Zoning Improvement Plan.