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Editorial Standards


As with graphic standards, consistency and quality in copywriting help convey the College’s essential nature and brand identity. Like many colleges and universities, PC uses Associated Press style as the basis for its editorial standards in story and other common text uses. AP style is notable for its thoroughness and flexibility, characterized by regular updates that reflect changes in usage and culture. The gold standard for journalism, AP style is useful for colleges and universities because it helps us effectively communicate with external audiences in ways that are familiar to those audiences. In some cases, especially pertaining to certain academic disciplines, it may be necessary to follow a different style guide, such as MLA.

As an open, welcoming community committed to the success and well-being of all its members, Providence College encourages the use of language options that are inclusive of all persons. Recognizing that word choices are critical and that those choices may convey explicit or implicit meaning relative to hierarchy, stature, and respect, the College recommends that all writers and speakers consistency search for those words that reflect the institution’s belief in the fundamental dignity of each member of the community.

To a significant extent, this involves using language that is gender-inclusive. (For more detail, see Section 18 of this guide.) Providence College celebrates the differences among us, and it strives to use language in a way that reflects the diversity it so values.

Table of Contents

1. College Name and Address
2. Abbreviations
3. Academic References
4. Acronyms
5. Buildings, Facilities, and Sites
6. Capitalization
7. Class Years
8. Computer Technology
9. Dates/Periods of Time
10. Degrees
11. Departments/Divisions
12. Directions and Regions
13. Disabilities
14. Dominicans
15. Italics, Quotation Marks
16. Miscellaneous
17. Names
18. Gender-Neutral Language
19. Numbers
20. Offices
21. Programs
22. Punctuation
23. Time
24. Titles

1. About our Name, Addresses, and Phone Numbers

1a. Name
First references should always be to “Providence College.” On subsequent references, use the following in this order of preference: the College and PC.

1b. Addresses
The official mailing address and business reply address are not the same.
The official College mailing address is:

1 Cunningham Square Providence, RI 02918-0001

Note: Traditional college practice is to spell out “Rhode Island” when used on printed stationery.

The College address for business reply cards is:

1 Cunningham Square Providence, RI 02901-9912

The College address for business reply envelopes intended to include donations is:

P.O. Box 834 Providence, RI 02901-9912

1c. Phone numbers
Use periods rather than hyphens between numbers.


2. Abbreviations

2a. Addresses
Abbreviate avenue (Ave.), boulevard (Blvd.), and street (St.) in numbered addresses. Otherwise, spell out. 100 Smith St.; Smith Street

2b. Degrees and religious/professional affiliations 

When abbreviating academic degrees and religious and professional affiliations, include periods with the abbreviations unless common usage dictates otherwise. B.A., M.A., M.B.A., S.T.D., Ph.D., O.P., D.D., M.D., C.P.A., R.N.

2c. Junior and Senior (Jr. and Sr.)

Abbreviate junior and senior as Jr. and Sr. when using full names of persons. Do not break up the name by preceding it with a comma, unless one is used by the individual. The same is true for such references as III or IV in a person’s name.

  • John A. Doe Jr., John A. Doe IV

2d. States

Spell out the names of the 50 states and the District of Columbia when they stand alone. When states are used in conjunction with a city, a town, a county, a military base, etc., the state name should be abbreviated as in the left-hand listing of each column below. However, eight states are never abbreviated: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, and Utah. Do not abbreviate states according to U.S. Postal standards (shown to the right of each state below) except in a mailing address.

Ala. AL

Alaska AK

Ariz. AZ

Ark. AR

Calif. CA

Colo. CO

Conn. CT

Del. DE


Fla. FL

Ga. GA

Hawaii HI

Idaho ID

Ill. IL

Ind. IN

Iowa IA

Kan. KS

Ky. KY

La. LA

Maine ME

Md. MD

Mass. MA

Mich. MI

Minn. MN

Miss. MS

Mo. MO

Mont. MT

Neb. NE

Nev. NV







Ohio OH

Okla. OK

Ore. OR

Pa. PA




Tenn. TN

Texas TX

Utah UT

Vt. VT

Va. VA

Wash. WA

W.Va. WV

Wis. WI

Wyo. WY

Note: State names should be listed after all cities and towns, even capital or well-known cities.

2e. Titles

Abbreviate proper titles-courtesy, military, professional, religious, etc.-when used before a full name, with the exception of “Brother” and “Sister.” For a comprehensive list of abbreviated military titles, please refer to the AP Stylebook.

  • Cmdr. John A. Doe; Dr. Jane A. Doe; Rev. John A. Doe
  • Brother John A. Doe; Sister Jane A. Doe

The prefix “Dr.” should be used before a name for faculty and staff who hold an educational doctoral degree.

  • Dr. John A. Doe, professor of English

For those with medical doctorates, only the professional degree should be listed and should follow the name.

  • Jane A. Doe, M.D.; John A. Doe, D.D.S.

3. Academic References

3a. Course number listings

Leave a space between the subject of the course and its number.

  • ART 214, HIS 305

3b. Course Titles

Titles of specific academic courses should be capitalized. However, general references to courses are not.

  • Two of the most popular courses at the College are History of Presidential Elections and Sociology of Women and Men in Society.
  • John is required to take a history course and a biology laboratory course.

3c. Terms 

Here is a list of common academic terms and how they should be used:


Academic Convocation, convocation

Advanced Placement

adviser (not advisor)

alumnus or alum (singular), alumni or alums (plural)
note: alumna (plural: alumnae) is acceptable under certain circumstances, e.g. if the subject requests that usage, or if there is a programming reason relative to the name of an event

associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, doctorate, doctoral degree, master’s degree


baccalaureate degree




coeducational (not co-ed)

collegewide, campuswide

Commencement Exercises, commencement

cooperative, co-op (not coop)

core curriculum

credit hour

cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude


dean’s list

Development of Western Civilization (DWC on subsequent references)

emeritus (singular), emeriti (plural)


Fall Faculty and Staff Meeting

“First-year student” is an acceptable alternative to “freshman,” and “first-year students” is an acceptable alternative to “freshmen”

Spring Faculty and Staff Meeting

fundraising (all uses), fundraiser


Individualized Education Program (IEP)


master space plan


mission statement

ordinary faculty, adjunct faculty


preregister, preregistration

President’s Senior Cabinet, cabinet


strategic plan

New Student Orientation

Summer School (SCE)

4. Acronyms

In general, use an acronym in subsequent references after the initial reference has been formally written out. Omit periods in acronyms unless the accepted use is otherwise.

  • The Providence Alliance for Catholic Teachers (PACT) Program is located on the second floor. Students in the PACT Program should report at 10 a.m.

Note: Certain organizations and governmental agencies are widely recognized by their initials and do not require formal introduction on initial reference. Some examples include CIA, FBI, NBC, ABC, and CBS.

5. Buildings, Facilities, and Sites

The formal titles of building and other facilities on the Providence College campus are as follows:

Accinno Hall

Albertus Magnus Hall

Alumni Hall

Alumni Hall Food Court

Angell Blackfriars Theatre

Aquinas Circle

Aquinas Hall

Aquinas Hall Lounge

Bedford Hall

Bowab Studio Theatre

Campus Ministry

Canavan Sports Medicine Center

Center for Catholic and Dominican Studies

Ceramics Building

Chapey Field at Anderson Stadium

Concannon Fitness Center

Cunningham Hall

Davis Hall

DiTraglia Hall

Dominican community cemetery

Dominic House

Dore Hall

Eaton Street Entrance (Fennell Gate)

Feinstein Academic Center

Fennell Hall

Friar Station (USPS)

Glay Field

Guzman Hall

Harkins Hall

Hendricken Field

Hickey Hall

Higgins Clark Dance Studio

Howley Hall

Hunt-Cavanagh Gallery

Hunt-Cavanagh Hall

Huxley Avenue Entrance

Koffler Hall

Lennon Family Field

Mail Room

Mal Brown Hall

Martin Hall

McDermott Hall

McGlynn Sculpture Court

McPhail’s Entertainment Facility

McVinney Hall

Meagher Hall

Moore Hall

Mullaney Gymnasium

O’Hurley Rehearsal Room

Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel (priory chapel on subsequent references)

Peterson Garage

Peterson Recreation Center

Phelan Gates (at River Avenue)

Phillips Memorial Library

Physical Plant

Power Plant

Providence College Bookstore (PC Bookstore, or bookstore, on subsequent references)

Providence College Science Complex

Raymond Dining Hall

Raymond Hall

Reilly Art Gallery

Ruane Atrium

Ruane Center for the Humanities

River Avenue Entrance

Arthur and Patricia Ryan Center for Business Studies

Ryan Concert Hall

Safety and Security Center

St. Catherine of Siena Hall

St. Dominic Chapel

St. Thomas Aquinas Priory-Gragnani Dominican Center (priory on second reference)

Schneider Arena

Service Building

Slavin Center

Slavin Center ’64 Hall

Slavin Center lawn

Smith Center for the Arts

Sowa Hall

Suites Hall

Sullivan Hall

Ray Treacy Track

War Memorial Grotto

6. Capitalization

6a. Academic majors and minors

Do not capitalize references to majors and minors, unless those references involve a language, and in that case, only the name of the language is capitalized. She is a history major with a minor in English literature.

6b. Associations, conferences, meetings 

Full, official names of associations, conferences, and meetings should be capitalized.

  • American Association of University Professors
  • The Charleston Conference on Book and Serial Acquisition
  • The 32nd Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

6c. Board of directors/trustees 

Capitalize references to Board of Directors, Board of Trustees, and similar boards/commissions when they are used in conjunction with an institution, company, organization, etc.

  • The speaker is a member of the Board of Directors at Textron and is on The Attleboro Public Library Board of Trustees.
  • He joined the board of trustees last year.

6d. Providence College and affiliated organizations

Subsequent references to Providence College as the “College” should be capitalized. Capitalize references to specific Providence College boards, committees, and commissions.

  • Providence College Board of Trustees, Corporation, President’s Council
  • the Committee to Aid Faculty Research

6e. The Church 

In authoritative references, the word “Church” should be capitalized in first and subsequent references in the context of the religion it serves.

  • More than half of the state’s residents are members of the Roman Catholic Church.
  • The course outlines the position of the Church on social issues.

6f. The Mass

Capitalize all references to Mass or Masses when referring to the liturgical celebration.

7. Class Years

7a. General references 

In text copy, initial references to individual students and alumni should include their class year after their names.

  • John A. Doe ’02, Jane A. Doe ’70
  • They are members of the Class of 1952

7b. Religious and professional references

In cases in which alumni have a religious or professional reference after their names, list the class year after the respective reference. The name should be separated from the religious/professional reference with a comma.

  • Rev. John A. Doe, O.P. ’44
  • Jane A. Doe, M.D. ’81

Multiple degree references In cases in which alumni have obtained multiple degrees from the College, list class years in the order in which the degrees were received and separate the class years with an ampersand. Use the class year only for the undergraduate school, the class year followed by “SCE” for the School of Continuing Education, the class year followed by “G” for Graduate Studies Program alumni, and the year followed by “Hon.” for honorary degree recipients.

  • John A. Doe ’78 & ’01G
  • Jane A. Doe ’96SCE & ’99G
  • John A. Doe ’02Hon.

7d. Parent references

Parent status is designated with a P after child’s graduation year. If the parent is an alum, list graduation year before parent year. If not, list parent year only.

  • John A. Doe ’78 & ’12P
  • John A. Doe ’12P

8 Computer Terminology

8a. Common terms

Here is a list of common technological terms and how they should be used:



home page


login, logon, logoff

(n.) But use as two words in verb form:


voice mail



8b. Email addresses and websites

Lowercase all email addresses and websites unless the usage is otherwise.

  • or

9. Dates/Periods of Time

9a. Centuries

Lowercase the word “century” and spell out numbers less than 10.

  • the sixth century, the 20th century

For proper names, follow the organization’s practice.

  • 20th Century Fox, Twentieth Century Fund

9b. Day, date, and year

The sequence of day, date, and year is set off by commas.

  • The events leading up to Monday, May 2, 1975, were instrumental in his decision.

9c. Month and year 

There is no need to separate a month and a year by a comma.

  • June 2000

9d. Season and year

There is no need to separate a season and a year by a comma. The name of the season should be lowercased.

  • summer 1995

9e. The year alone 

Always use figures when referring to a year

  • 1950, 27 B.C.

9f. When to abbreviate months

Spell out all references to days of the week and abbreviate the month, if appropriate.*

  • Monday, Aug. 12, 2013

*The following months are abbreviated when used with a specific date: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec.

9g. Fiscal years

Refer to fiscal years as “fiscal year 2013” rather than “fiscal year 2012-2013.”

9h. Academic years

2012-13 (rather than 2012-2013)

10. Degrees

10a. Degree terms and usage

10.a.1. Associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate
In text, spell out references to academic degrees. It is acceptable to refer to degrees in first usage as associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate instead of the more formal reference (associate of arts, etc.). References should be lower-cased and should be written with an apostrophe unless the degree is a doctorate.

  • Jane has a bachelor’s degree in biology and a doctorate in psychology.

10.a.2. Doctorate

The word “doctorate” is preferred over doctoral degree.

  • John has a doctorate in philosophy.

10.a.3 Honorary degrees

  • Jane A. Doe, ’98Hon.

10.a.4 Multiple Degrees

When listing individuals who have more than one degree, cite the highest degree only. Any professional or religious affiliations should come before the academic reference.

  • Rev. John A. Doe, O.P., Ph.D.
  • Jane A. Doe, C.P.A., MBA

10.a.5 Religious (Dominican) degrees

The following are pontifical degrees frequently attained by Dominican Friars and other religious. These degrees are granted by pontifical faculties (i.e., The Catholic University of America, Dominican House of Studies, University of Louvain, etc.). The degree names and abbreviations are as follows:

  • bachelor’s degree in sacred theology (S.T.B.)
  • licentiate in sacred theology (S.T.L.)
  • doctorate in sacred theology (S.T.D.)

The following two degrees are also granted to Dominican Friars:

  • lectorate in sacred theology (S.T.Lr.)
  • master of sacred theology (S.T.M.)

The following secular theological degrees, granted by secular faculties, also pertain to members of the Dominican Order – as well as to laypersons.

  • master of divinity (M.Div.)
  • doctorate in theology (Th.D.)

Note: Abbreviations of all of these degrees are acceptable when they follow a name, but the Dominican or other religious affiliation comes first.

  • Rev. John A. Doe, O.P., S.T.D.

11. Departments

The preferred College style is to capitalize and use “Department of” before the department’s title. Informal, subsequent references to offices need not be capitalized.

First reference: Department of Music; subsequent reference: music department

A list of the departments at the College follows:

Academic Departments: 

Department of Accountancy

Department of Art and Art History

Department of Biology

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Department of Economics

Department of Elementary/Special Education

Department of Engineering-Physics-Systems

Department of English

Department of Finance

Department of Foreign Language Studies

Department of Global Studies

Department of History

Department of Management

Department of Marketing

Department of Mathematics and Computer Science

Department of Military Science

Department of Music

Department of Philosophy

Department of Political Science

Department of Public and Community Service Studies

Department of Psychology

Department of Social Work

Department of Sociology

Department of Theatre, Dance, and Film

Department of Theology

Other Departments/Entities:

Academic Media Services

Department of Athletics

Business Services Group

Capital Projects and Facilities Management

Center for Career Education & Professional Development

Center for Catholic and Dominican Studies

Center for Engaged Learning

Center for International Studies

Center for Orientation, Transitions & Leadership

Center for Teaching Excellence

Central Purchasing and Receiving

Copy Center

Feinstein Institute for Public Service

Financial Services

Department of Information Technology

Division of Marketing and Communications

Personal Counseling Center

Physical Plant

Recreational Sports

Sodexo Food Services

Student Health Center

Web Services

Note: Also see “Offices” and “Programs” later in this guide.

12. Directions and Regions

In general, lowercase north, south, east, west, northeastern, western, etc., when they indicate compass direction. Capitalize these words when they designate regions or widely known areas.

  • The storm system is moving east. It developed in the Midwest and will bring showers to the East Coast by morning and to the entire Northeast by late in the day.
  • She has a Southern accent.
  • Most of the team members come from Southern California but a small group lives in western Texas.

13. Disabilities

Those with physical disabilities should be referred to as “persons with disabilities.” When referring to parking for those with disabilities, the correct terminology to use is “parking with accessibility for persons with disabilities.”

14. Dominicans

For the record, the official title of the religious order affiliated with Providence College is the Order of Friars Preachers. More commonly, the order is known as the Order of Preachers (O.P.) and as the Dominicans.

14a. Affiliated terms and proper usage

  • Dominican community
  • Dominican Order
  • Dominican Province of St. Joseph
  • friar, friars (when referring to priests and brothers.)
  • Friars (when referring to the formal name of an athletic team or informally when referring to classmates or alumni: “fellow Friars”)
  • Order of Preachers (O.P.)
  • the Order
  • prior, subprior
  • provincial

14b. Order of Preachers (O.P.) 

Initial reference to a Dominican priest, sister, or brother must include O.P. after the individual’s proper title and name.

  • Rev. John A. Doe, O.P.; Sister Jane A. Doe, O.P.; Brother John A. Doe, O.P.

14c. Proper titles and usage

Use formal titles for priests on first reference. Abbreviations are acceptable.

  • Rev, Very Rev., Most Rev., Msgr.

On second reference to those priests who fall under a “reverend” category, the title “Father” is acceptable and should be followed by the surname, unless otherwise preferred.

  • First reference: Very Rev. John A. Doe, O.P.; the second reference: Father Doe.

For brothers and sisters, on first and subsequent references, always use and spell out their entire title. On second references, use the individual’s surname, unless that individual expresses a desire to be addressed in a different manner (i.e., by first name).

  • First reference: Brother John A. Doe, O.P.; second reference: Brother Doe
  • First reference: Sister Jane A. Doe, O.P.; second reference: Sister Doe 15.

15. Italics, Quotation Marks

Follow the general rules of usage in using either italics or quotation marks.

15a. Use of italics

Italicize the titles of all books, catalogs, journals, magazines, newspapers, and similar periodicals; course titles; long musical works, long poems, and collections of poetry; movies; plays; isolated words or phrases in a foreign language; radio and television programs that are part of a continuing series; scientific names of plants and animals; specific names of boats, ships, submarines, aircraft, and spacecraft; names of drawings, paintings, photographs, statues, and other works of visual art; and formal names of legal decisions (i.e., Brown v. Board of Education). Also italicized are words when referenced as the word itself: He misspelled the word conscience.

15b. Use of quotation marks 

Use “quotation marks” for the titles of dissertations, theses, short poems, manuscripts in collections, lectures, papers, projects, speeches, and presentations; articles and chapters within periodicals; songs; and the titles of individual television and radio programs or episodes. Quotation marks also may be used to provide special emphasis on a word or a phrase

15c. Use of neither

Event titles should be capitalized without quotation marks or italics.

  • Theological Exchange Between Christians and Jews

16. Miscellaneous

16a. Annual

An annual event is one that has been held in at least two consecutive years. Please do not use the phrase “first annual”.

16b. Faculty and staff

Refer to those members of the College community who work as faculty and staff.

16c. Money

Whole-dollar amounts should be listed as such.

  • $1, $5, $20, $100

EXCEPTION: When more than one reference to dollar amounts occurs and an amount is not of a whole-dollar nature, be consistent and use the dollar-and-cents style throughout the sentence or construction. The dinner tickets cost $17.50 each, while tickets to the play are $30.00 per person.

17. Names

17a. Formal use

The first reference to a person’s name should be formal and should include the appropriate initials, unless otherwise directed by the individual.

  • John A. Doe; J. Anne Doe

17b. Second reference

On second reference, use the last name ONLY unless referring to a member of the clergy or to a deceased individual. In these cases, use the appropriate clerical or secular title.

  • Secular first reference: Dr. John A. Doe; second reference: Doe
  • Religious first reference: Rev. John A. Doe, O.P.; second reference: Father Doe
  • Deceased individual: the late John Doe; second reference: Mr. Doe

18. Gender-Neutral Language

18a. General Rule

Use language that treats the sexes equally and which is free of assumptions and stereotypes. Some examples of improper vs. proper use:

  • NO: man’s achievements
  • YES: human achievements
  • NO: the best man for the job
  • YES: the best person (or candidate) for the job
  • NO: man and wife
  • YES: husband and wife
  • NO: you and your wife
  • YES: you and your spouse or guest
  • NO: manpower
  • YES: staffing or staff
  • NO: you and your husband
  • YES: you and your spouse or guest
  • NO: coed
  • YES: student

18b. Proper terminology

Common suggested uses of non-sexist terminology:

  • Businessperson, business executive, or business leader
  • chair or chairperson
  • humanity or humankind
  • individual
  • person
  • spokesperson

19. Numbers

19a. General rule: one to nine, and 10 and above 

In general, for cardinal and ordinal figures, spell out whole numbers one through nine and use figures for 10 and above. In text, fractions standing alone (less than one) are spelled out. For fractions with whole numbers (larger than one), use figures.

  • She is taking five courses for a total of 15 credits.
  • The Friars placed first in a field of 10 teams for the 12th straight year.
  • The empire ruled from the ninth century to the 11th century.
  • About one-third of his salary goes to buy 2 ½ tons of pet food each year.

Note: There are a multitude of exceptions to this rule, in areas such as ages, heights, percentages, scores, sums of money, temperatures, and weights. For a list of exceptions to this rule, consult The AP Stylebook.

19b. Dates

In text, use cardinal numbers only when using dates. Do not use ordinal numbers.

  • Correct: June 10; incorrect: June 10th

19c. Multiple number sequences

Use a comma to separate multiple number references.

Four, three-credit courses; two, 12-credit semesters

19d. Percentages 

In generic copy, use the word “percent” when referring to percentages. In scientific and statistical copy, use the % symbol. There is no space between the numeral and the symbol.

  • The three-year line of credit will carry interest of 3 percent.
  • Her share of the profit fell from 15 percent to 5 percent.
  • Fewer than 23% of the cultures yielded positive results
  • Responses in the under-16 category increased.

20. Offices

Capitalize and use “Office of” upon first reference to all campus offices. Informal, subsequent references to offices need not be capitalized.

  • First reference: Office of Academic Services; subsequent references: academic services office

The following is a list of offices at the College:

Office of Academic Affairs

Office of Academic Services

Office of Admission

Office of Advancement Services

Office of Alumni Relations

Office of Annual Giving

Office of Athletic Development

Office of Business Services

Office of the Chaplain/Campus Ministry

Office of College Events

Office of Community Standards

Office of the Controller

Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations

Office of Cultural Education and Programming

Office of the Dean of Undergraduate and Graduate Studies

Office of Development

Office of Enrollment Services

Office of Environmental Health and Safety

Office of the Executive Vice President

Office of Finance and Business

Office of Financial Aid

Office of the General Counsel

Office of Human Resources

Office of Institutional Advancement

Office of Institutional Diversity

Office of Institutional Research

Office of Major Gifts

Office of Mission and Ministry

Office of Off-Campus Living

Office of Planned Giving

Office of the President

Office of Prospect Management and Analysis

Office of Public Affairs and Community Relations

Office of Residence Life

Office of Safety and Security

Office of Special and Archival Collections

Office of Sponsored Research and Programs

Office of Student Activities

Office of Student Affairs

Office of the Treasurer


Accounts Payable Office

Analyses and Reporting Office

Bursar’s Office

Payroll Services Office

21. Programs

Academic Programs References to the College’s academic-oriented programs, as listed below, should be capitalized. American Studies Program

Asian Studies Program
Black Studies Program
Business Studies Program
Cunningham Southeast Asian Scholarship Program
Development of Western Civilization Program
Global Studies Program
Health Policy and Management Program
Humanities Program
Instructional Technology Development Program
Johnson C. Smith Exchange Program
Labor-Management Relations Program
Labor Relations – Quirk Institute
Liberal Arts Honors Program
MBA Program
Martin Luther King Scholarship Program
Multicultural Scholarship Program
Pre-Engineering Program
Pre-Law Program
Premedical Sciences Program
Providence Alliance for Catholic Teachers (PACT)
Public Administration Program
Secondary Education Program
Social Science Program
Teacher Certification Program
Undeclared Advising Program
Washington Semester Program
Women’s Studies Program  Other Programs Assessment Program
Campus Ministry
Providence College National Alumni Association
Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC)
Recycling Program  Schools School of Arts & Sciences
School of Business
School of Continuing Education
School of Professional Studies

22. Punctuation

22a. Apostrophes For figures: Do not use an apostrophe after figures.

  • The custom began in the 1920s.
  • Boeing is constructing more 757s.

For single letters: Use an apostrophe.

  • John received two A’s and two B’s.
  • She emphasizes the three R’s in class.

For multiple letters: Do not use an apostrophe.

  • She knows her ABCs very well.
  • Four VIPs attended the reception.

For possessive, singular, common nouns ending in s, add ‘s unless the next word begins with s.

  • the witness’s answer – the witness’ story

For possessive, plural, common nouns ending in s, add only an apostrophe.

  • the churches’ needs – the girls’ toys

For possessive, singular, proper nouns ending in s, add only an apostrophe.

  • Kansas’ motto – Burns’ poetry

For most possessive, plural, proper nouns ending in s, add es’.

  • the Joneses’ and the Williamses’ property

22b. Brackets vs. Parentheses Brackets are used within quoted text for corrections, explanations, translations, or comments. Parentheses are used like commas or dashes for text within a sentence that amplifies, explains, or digresses.

  • “These [Fulbright Scholars] represent the finest the school has to offer.”
  • He finished his speech (reprinted on page 10) and answered questions.

22c. Dash The long dash or “em dash” (—) is used to denote an abrupt change in thought. Put a space before and after the dash.

  • The choir will tour Europe — if it raises enough funds.

The long dash is also used when a phrase that otherwise would be set off by commas contains a series of words that must be separated by commas.

  • She listed the qualities — intelligence, integrity, work ethic, and productivity — that she likes in an executive.

The long dash also may be used as a point of emphasis.  22d. Ellipsis Use an ellipsis – with a space before, between, and after the periods – to indicate the deletion of one or more words in condensing quotes, text, and documents. An ellipsis also may be used to indicate a pause or hesitation in speech, or for a thought that the speaker or writer does not finish.

  • “I … tried to do what I felt was best.”
  • “If that was the best you could do…”

If the words that precede an ellipsis constitute a grammatically complete sentence, place a period at the end of the last word before the ellipsis.

  • “I no longer have a strong political base…It’s time to drop out.”

22e. Quotation marks In general, closed-quotation marks go outside a comma, period, question mark, or exclamation point.

  • “He said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
  • “What in the world, “she asked, “are you doing?”

On rare occasions, closed-quotation marks go inside the punctuation mark, depending upon the construction of the sentence.

  • Why call it a “gentleman’s agreement”?

22f. Serial Comma In a series consisting of three or more elements, to ensure clarity, separate the elements by commas.

  • We have a choice of copper, silver, or gold.
  • The owner, the agent, and the tenant were having a heated discussion.

Although the use of etc. in running text should be discouraged, when used, it should be set off by commas.

  • The firm manufactured nuts, bolts, nails, metal wire, etc., in its plant on the Passaic River.

22g. BulletsBe consistent when using bullets. Either use full sentences with a period at the end of each bulleted item or use fragments with no punctuation at the end of each line. 22h. SpacingAlways use a single space after a period. 22i. Exclamation pointsUse of the exclamation point in professional communications is discouraged

23. Time

Always use figures, except for noon and midnight. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes. Do not use 00 for on-the-hour times. Also, use lowercase a.m. and p.m. – with periods – when referring to morning, afternoon, and evening time periods.

  • 2:30 p.m., 6 a.m., noon, midnight

When referring to a period of time, use the word “to.”

  • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; noon to midnight

In most uses, time should precede date.

  • 10 a.m. Friday, June 7, 2013

In the case of an event invitation or save-the-date, in which the date of the event is more of an emphasis than the time of day, date should precede time.

  • Friday, June 7, 2013 at 7 p.m.

Note: Avoid use of the term “o’clock”; time listings with an a.m. or p.m. are preferred and are more concise.


24a. Courtesy titles
In general, do not use Mr., Mrs., Miss, or Ms. before a name. However, it is College style to use Dr. for faculty and staff who have an academic degree.

24b. Job or position titles
In text matter, it is preferable to list job or position titles AFTER a personal name. Titles following one’s name or used alone in place of a name are, with few exceptions, lowercased.

  • John A. Doe, assistant vice president for business administration, issued the statement.
  • Jane A. Doe, director of public affairs, reported the quarterly figures for Textron.

Other categories:
24.b.1. Civil titles and offices

  • Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States; the president; the presidency; the Lincoln administration

24.b.2. Military titles and offices

  • Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, commander in chief of the Union army; the commander in chief

24.b.3. Professional titles

  • Jane A. Doe, professor of history and chair of the department; professor of history

Exception: Capitalize the titles of endowed positions in academic and other professional areas when they appear after a name.

  • John A. Doe, the John H. Smith Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University

24.b.4. Religious titles

  • Pope Benedict XVI; the pope; the pontiff
  • the Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, D.D., bishop of Providence; the bishop

24c. Special references
In cases where formal titles are used before a name, those titles should be capitalized.

  • College President Rev. John A. Doe, O.P.
  • Pope John Paul II