Writing Style Guidelines
Why Editorial Guidelines?
Most professional publications – newspapers, magazines, journals – use a style guide to ensure consistency in the way words are presented. This is because a clean, consistent style helps readers quickly understand the message the writer wants to convey.
The industry standard for popular media is the Associated Press Stylebook. The Rockhurst Office of Public Relations and Marketing uses AP style to prepare copy for the news media, internal and external publication.
The style guide briefly addresses some of the issues writers in the Rockhurst community are likely to encounter. These standards should be used in all publication material, regardless of channel: print, Web, social media, etc., unless otherwise noted. For style questions not answered here, consult the Associated Press Stylebook or Webster’s New World College Dictionary.
abbreviations and acronyms
A few universally recognized abbreviations are required in some circumstances, i.e., NCAA. But in general, avoid abbreviations or acronyms that the reader would not quickly recognize.
Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, master’s, etc., but there is no possessive in Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science. Reserve the title “Dr.” for those who hold medical degrees. When used after a name, an academic abbreviation is set off by commas: John Snow, Ph.D., spoke. On second reference, use last name only. Use MBA, Executive MBA, M.Ed., M.D., DPT, DO, B.A., B.S., MA, DPT/MBA, DO/MBA, Ph.D. For those with multiple degrees: John Smith, Ph.D., '02 MBA. When listing academic major is necessary: Jane Smith, '12 M.Ed., secondary education.
Use lowercase except for words that are proper nouns or adjectives: the department of history, the history department, the department of English, the English department.
academic division names
Capitalize the names of Rockhurst academic divisions on first reference: College of Arts and Sciences (the college on second reference), Helzberg School of Management (the school or the Helzberg School on second reference), College of Health and Human Services (the college on second reference), Research College of Nursing (the college on second reference).
Capitalize and spell out formal titles such as chancellor, chairman, etc., when they precede a name. Lowercase elsewhere. Lowercase modifiers such as department in department Chairman Jane Doe.
When writing an address, use the office or department’s official name:
Department of Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy
Office of the President
Spell out names of buildings.
Campus Ministry Center
Claver Jesuit Residence
Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Hall (Arrupe Hall)
Greenlease Art Gallery
Office of Public Relations and Marketing
Physical Plant Operations
St. Ignatius Science Center
St. Francis Xavier
Student Activity Center
Upper Bourke Field
Van Ackeren Hall
Use AP style for state abbreviations to differentiate between Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri.
Admission, Office of
Admission is singular.
affect vs. effect
affect (v): to influence
The Rain affected the construction.
effect (n): result
The special effects were amazing.
effect (v): to cause
The president will effect many changes in foreign policy.
alumnus, alumni, alumna, alumnae
Use alumnus (alumni in the plural) when referring to a man who has attended a school. Use alumna (alumnae in the plural) for similar references to a woman. Use alumni when referring to a group of men and women.
Two words used when referencing Rockhurst’s iconic campus monument.
Capitalize, without quotation marks, when referring to the Scriptures in the Old Testament or the New Testament. Capitalize also related terms such as the Gospels, Gospel of St. Mark, the Scriptures, the Holy Scriptures. Lowercase biblical in all uses. Lowercase bible as a nonreligious term: My dictionary is my bible. Do not abbreviate individual books of the Bible.
Avoid unnecessary capitals. Words that should be capitalized include proper nouns, proper names, composition titles, and proper course titles. (See “titles” for more detail).
Words that should not be capitalized include seasons (including semester designations), academic degrees and academic classes (freshman, sophomore, etc.)
Use commas to separate elements in a series, but do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series: The flag is red, white and blue.
Set off non-essential (restrictive) clauses and phrases with commas: New academic programs, which must be approved by a committee, will be announced this fall.
Italicize book titles, magazines, newsletters, newspapers, plays, art exhibitions, works of art, short stories, song titles, TV shows, movies and operas. Use quotes for lectures and presentation titles. The Bible, academic journals, reference works, almanacs and gazetteers are not italicized or placed in quotes.
Use Arabic numerals and capitalize the subject when used with a numeral: Philosophy 209.
Do not use courtesy titles (Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms.). Refer to both men and women by first and last name on first reference. Refer to both men and women by last name, without courtesy titles, in subsequent references.
Capitalize the names of months in all uses. Abbreviate Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. Spell out when using alone or with a year alone. Don’t use ordinals when using a date: May 5, not May 5th.
When a phrase lists only a month and a year, do not separate with commas. When a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with commas: May 5, 2005.
Acceptable in all references for electronic mail. It does not need to be capitalized. Many email or Internet addresses use symbols such as the at symbol (@), or the tilde (~) that cannot be transmitted correctly by some computers. When needed, spell them out. Use a hyphen with other “e” terms: e-book, e-commerce, e-business.
Do not capitalize letters in an email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
All email addresses will be spelled out to allow the user to copy and paste the address if they are using some kind of webmail.
When used, place emeritus after the formal titles: Professor Emeritus Samuel Eliot Morison, Dean Emeritus Courtney C. Brown.
Use it to mean a right to do or have something. Do not use it to mean titled.
Avoid using. Place outside quotation marks when not part of quoted material.
Acceptable in all references for grade point average.
holidays, holy days, holy celebrations
Capitalize them: New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Groundhog Day, Ash Wednesday, Easter, Hanukkah, Lent, Advent, etc.
Two words, does not need to be capitalized. The “front” page of a particular website.
When a compound modifier – two or more words that express a single concept – precedes a noun, use hyphens to link all the words in the compound except the adverb very and all adverbs that end in -ly: a first-quarter touchdown, a bluish-green dress, a full-time job.
Always capitalized. The World Wide Web and email are subsets of the Internet, not synonyms.
It’s vs. Its
It’s: a contraction of it is.
It’s going to rain.
Its: the possessive form of a pronoun.
The committee was preparing its monthly newsletter.
Mass is celebrated, not said, and is always capitalized.
Spell out numbers one through nine; use numerals for 10 and above. Spell out a numeral at the beginning of a sentence unless it is a year.
Always one word. It does not need to be capitalized.
On first reference precede the names of priests and Protestant clergy with “the Rev.” Because reverend is an adjective rather than a title, it should be preceded by “the.” For internal Rockhurst publications (those not prepared specifically for the media), precede the last name with “Fr.” on second reference.
Follow the names of all members of the Society of Jesus with S.J. on first reference. In general, academic degrees are not listed after S.J. Precede the names of nuns with “Sister” on first reference. For internal Rockhurst publications, precede the last name with “Sr.” on second reference.
On first reference, precede the full names of cardinals, archbishops and bishops with the title in uppercase. For internal Rockhurst publications, precede the last name with the title on second reference.
St. Ignatius Loyola
Founder of the Society of Jesus.
An advanced mobile devise that allows for email, Web browsing and downloadable applications.
their vs. there vs. they’re
their: possessive pronoun
We all went to their house.
there: adverb indicating direction
The keys are over there.
they’re: a contraction of they are
They’re on their way from the dorm.
Use figures except for noon and midnight. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes: 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 9-11 a.m., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For times and dates, list information in order of time, day, date, place. Example: 7 p.m., Friday, May 10, 2013, in Mabee Theatre.
Formal titles that appear before a name should be capitalized. If they appear under a signature, in tabular material, in a bulleted list or in a directory, uppercase may be used. Those that appear in body copy after a name should be lowercase and set off by commas. Lowercase and spell out titles when they are not used with a person’s name: The president issued a statement. The following formal titles are capitalized and abbreviated as shown when used before a name both inside and outside quotations: Dr., Gov., Lt. Gov., Rep., Sen. and certain military ranks. All other formal titles are spelled out in all uses.
When referring to Rockhurst in internal publications, capitalize University in all uses.
Stands for Uniform Resource Locators, the official name of a website address. Follow the spelling and capitalization of the website owner. Try to use the name of the website instead of the address. Use the “.com” only if it is part of a legal name. If an Internet address falls at the end of a sentence, use a period. If an address breaks between lines, split it after a slash or a dot. Do not insert a hyphen. Avoid URLs that are overly lengthy and complicated, unless absolutely necessary. For Rockhurst’s website, use rockhurst.edu.
Short form of World Wide Web. It should be capitalized.
Two words with Web capitalized.
Refers to a location on the Web that maintains one or more pages at a specific address. It does not need to be capitalized. Related words: webcam, webcast, webfeed and webmaster.
Use an apostrophe to designate omitted figures: Class of ’82, The ’90s. Do not use an apostrophe when denoting time periods: The 1800s.
your vs. you’re
your: possessive pronoun
Your new website is easy to navigate.
you’re: a contraction of you are
You’re about to take the last exam of the semester.