Marketing Communication

Writing Style Guide


This guide deals with many of the troublesome issues that may face communicators at SUU. All colleges, departments, and employees are encouraged to follow these guidelines for publication.

The official editorial style manual for Southern Utah University publications and Web pages is The Associated Press Stylebook. The book is easy to use and is a storehouse of good information about grammar and usage. Should your question not be addressed within this text, the Chicago Manual of Style is a good alternative. Also, you may always contact us for immediate assistance with any editorial concerns.

Because SUU's needs are not the same as those of the news media, some exceptions to AP style are used. Following are the exceptions, plus some of the more difficult usage issues you may encounter. Use this guide to reference SUU style on common questions you are likely to face while writing or editing materials for the University's internal and external audiences.

Table of Contents

Exceptions to AP Style
This section details common issues within University materials that, for clarity or style, warrant different guidelines than those within the AP Style Guide. Entries in this section relate primarily to common ideas/terms in the University environment.

Word Usage
This section lists words/phrases that are commonly misused. In addition to an explanation about the correct usage, most entries also provide examples for your reference.

This section addresses many common questions about punctuation – and common errors.

This section primarily addresses common titles and terms used across campus.

There are many different purposes behind the inclusion of numerical values in text. This section helps ensure your numbers are properly formatted for their specific meaning/purpose.

Cultural Sensitivity
A quick reference to ensure your communication is politically-correct and inoffensive.


Exceptions to AP style

academic degrees

Generic degree terms such as bachelor of arts and bachelor of science are not capitalized at SUU. Capitalize, however, when the formal name of the degree is used.
Use an apostrophe only when listing the degree informally.

Bachelor of Arts in English or Bachelor of Science in Biology
bachelor’s degree in art vs. Bachelor of Science in Communication

academic rank

In descending order: professor, associate professor, assistant professor, instructor. Lecturer and clinical instructor are also acceptable academic titles, though they are not official in the tenure track.
Also in descending order: vice president, associate vice president, assistant vice president.

academic units

Capitalize the formal name of a department, college or other SUU unit.

Department of Communication vs. biology department

African American

African American (not hyphenated) is the term used at SUU. For more, see the Cultural Sensitivity section.


Use the nonsexist terms chair or chairperson. AP prefers chairman or chairwoman, but don't use those unless they are part of an official title.

telephone numbers

Separate each series of numbers by a hyphen. Do not use "1-" before long-distance or toll-free numbers.



Titles of books, paintings, sculptures, films, magazines, plays, record albums, operas and other long musical works, newspapers and continuing radio and television shows are italicized. AP says to enclose these in quotation marks but that is because there are problems with transmitting italics to all member newspapers. In fact, AP does italicize these terms in the stylebook. Titles of short stories, articles and poems; individual chapters in books; songs and other short musical compositions; and radio and television shows are set off in quotation marks.


It isn't necessary to include http:// in a URL when it is clear that it's a Web address. Browsers don't require that it be entered, and it's easier for the reader to remember a URL without it. As an added bonus, eliminating “http://” can make it easier to fit the URL on a single line.

When listing Web addresses, try to get the URL to fit on a single line. If it is necessary to break the URL, try to break it before a slash or period. Don't allow the URL to break itself by adding a hyphen because that could change the address.

If a URL ends a sentence, put a period after it, but ensure the period is not included as part of the hyperlink in electronic publications. In printed materials, please remove the blue, underlined hyperlink marks that automatically appear in many word processing programs when you type in a complete URL.

Word Usage

a, an

The article is determined by the beginning sound of the word that follows rather than by the actual first letter. Use an before a vowel sound and a before a consonant sound.

an honor vs. a university

a.m., p.m.

These are lowercase with periods in both lists and sentences. It isn't necessary to use :00 for times on the hour. To avoid confusion, noon and midnight should be used instead of 12 p.m. and 12 a.m. Avoid saying 12 noon or 12 midnight. Those are redundant.

9 a.m., 10:30 a.m.

advance, advanced

When used as adjectives, advance means "ahead of time" and advanced means "beyond others."

advance tuition deposit vs. advanced standing


In the interest of campus unity, use advisor not adviser when referencing all professional and academic applications.

affect, effect

Affect is the verb, while effect is the noun.

The new policy will not affect student tuition.
The new policy will have no significant effect on student tuition.

alumni, alumna

Alumna is the feminine singular form. Alumnae is the feminine plural. Alumnus is the male (or nonspecific gender) singular. Alumni is the masculine or mixed-gender plural.

and, but

And or but may begin a sentence. This approach can be useful in providing a transition between closely related sentences. But it shouldn't be overdone.

brand names

It isn't necessary to use a trademark symbol with brand names that are not part of SUU. The symbols are for the trademark owner to indicate its rights to its own materials. Be careful to capitalize appropriately when using brand names, however. A good general rule is to avoid using trademarked names when there is an easy alternative.

tissue vs. Kleenex


Spell out numbers less than 10; use ordinal numerals for higher numbers.

seventh century; 20th century

coed  or co-ed

Don't use this term to refer to a female student. Use it only when referring to both sexes at the same time.

co-ed residence hall

comprise, compose

These words are often misused. Comprise means "include" or "encompass." The whole comprises the parts, but the parts are composed of the whole.

The College of Performing and Visual Arts comprises three departments.
The College of Performing and Visual Arts is composed of three departments.


Use a hyphen so it's not confused with coop.


Spell out the names of countries in text. The abbreviation U.S. is acceptable as an adjective but use United States in other contexts.

U.S. foreign policy
foreign policy of the United States


One word. Not course work.

credit hours

This is the accepted term at SUU. Don't use just credit or hours.


One word.


Don’t use ordinals such as 3rd, 5th and 23rd in dates.

Commencement is slated for Saturday, May 2.

Months can be abbreviated only when referring to a complete date; otherwise, spell out the word.

Jan. 14, 2009 vs. January 14 or January 2009

When using a complete date within text, insert a comma at the end of the date.

Old Sorrel was born on January 1, 1878, in Iron County.


Directions are not capitalized when indicating a compass direction (street addresses and names being the exception to that rule).

Fans can use the parking lot west of the Centrum when attending basketball games.

Capitalize the direction when talking about a significant section of the world.

SUU is the West’s premier public-private institution.

Do not capitalize “southern” in southern Utah when talking about the region.

do's and don'ts

Spell these words this way so it is clear at first glance what they are.

e.g., i.e.

Be sure you know what these mean if you intend to use them. The abbreviation e.g. stands for exempli gratia, which means "for example." The abbreviation i.e. stands for id est, meaning "that is" or "in other words." Thus e.g. is used to cite examples from a longer series, while i.e. clarifies exactly what is included in the series.

The SUU ID card has many uses, e.g., library book checkouts, free admittance into athletic events.
The team now focuses its attention on two games, i.e., Centenary and Oakland, before looking ahead to the league tournament.


Use a hyphen. Don't capitalize unless it starts a sentence or is before the e-mail address in a vertical list.

ensure, insure

Although these can be considered synonyms, it is best to limit the use of insure to insurance matters and use ensure when you mean "assure" or "guarantee."

etc., et al.

Etc. means "and so forth" and should be used when referring to things. Et al. means "and others" and should be used in reference to people. Note that et al. is an abbreviation for et alia, so put a period after the al. Try to avoid using these abbreviations after such terms as i.e., e.g., or including.


Faculty can be singular or plural, depending on whether you are referring to an individual or group. Many people are uncomfortable using faculty as a plural noun, however, so you can use faculty members in the collective situation if you prefer.


Fax is short for facsimile and is not an acronym. It should not be all caps. Use fax, not facsimile, when referring to a copy sent electronically.


Use the capital letters, A, B, C, etc., with no quotation marks. Plurals are made by adding s, except in the case of A, which has an apostrophe to avoid confusion with the word as.

A's, Bs, Cs, etc.

GPA, grade-point average

Either is acceptable. GPAs normally have two numbers after the decimal, e.g., 3.00, 4.25.

international students

Not foreign students.

its, it's

These tend to cause confusion because its is a possessive but has no apostrophe. On the other hand it's has an apostrophe because it is a contraction for it is.

One of a university's selling points is its campus.
It's a beautiful campus.

military units

These are capitalized when referring to the forces of the United States, such as U.S. Navy or  Air Force. ROTC stands for Reserve Officers' Training Corps, but the abbreviation ROTC is acceptable in all references to the programs.


As a general rule, spell and punctuate people's names the way they prefer. Don't use spaces between initials in a person's name unless the person has indicated a preference for a space. Never use spaces between three initials. Terms such as Jr., Sr., II, III are not set off by commas when used in a name.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated on the third Monday in January.


Words with the prefix non are generally not hyphenated unless the prefix is directly before a proper noun. The dictionary contains a long list of non words and appropriate spellings.

nondegree, nonresident, noncredit, non-English speaking

Off campus, on campus

Hyphenate when using as an adjective, not as an adverb.

Off-campus housing is plentiful during the summer. vs. It's difficult to find housing off campus during fall term.


No hyphen. No capitalization.


There is a tendency to overuse this word. It isn't necessary to say please return the attached card, please visit our website, please call for more information.

pre and post

These prefixes generally don't take hyphens unless they come directly before proper nouns. The dictionary contains a list of words with appropriate spelling.

postbaccalaureate, postdoctoral, preregister, premedicine, preveterinary, pre-Columbian

residence hall

This is preferred to dorm or dormitory when referring to housing units at SUU.


The preferred spelling includes the diacritical marks and helps avoid confusion with resume.

Southern Utah University

Within text, always first reference the University by its full name. Afterwards, you may alternate between its full name, SUU and the University as you see fit.

Southern Utah University will commemorate the University's heritage with a play entitled, SUU: The Early Years.

state names

Spell out the names of states when used alone in text. They are abbreviated when used after the name of a city or county. Check the AP stylebook for the appropriate abbreviations of states. Always use the Postal Service abbreviation and zip code in a complete address.

Parowan, Ut.; Iron County, Ut.
SUU is one of 6 universities in Utah.

that, which

Use that for restrictive clauses that are essential to the meaning of the sentence. Use which for nonrestrictive clauses that would not change the meaning of the sentence if removed.

The book that she needed was not in the library
The library book, which is due Thursday, is on my desk

theater, theatre

Use the er spelling except in a proper name that uses the British spelling.

One of the theaters on SUU's campus is the Randall Jones Theatre.


This is an alternative for until. It is not a contraction of until, though, so don't use 'til.


Not towards.

under way

Spell as two words.

Web, website, Web page

The word website is all one word, lowercase and not hyphenated. For standalone usage, Web should remain capitalized.

Other uses include:
the Web
Web page
Web feed


University-wide is hyphenated. However, most words with wide as a suffix are closed, e.g. worldwide, unless they are long and cumbersome. If in doubt, check the dictionary.


Hyphenate always. Capitalize only when using the formal designation.

Federal Work-Study Program


One word.



It's best not to use an ampersand (&) in place of the word and in text unless it is an official part of a name.

College of Performing and Visual Arts, Department of Physical Education and Human Performance vs. AT&T.


Avoid the common mistake of using apostrophes with nouns that are plural, not possessive.

Correct: The apostrophe's proper usage is to indicate ownership.
Incorrect: I am confused about when to use apostrophe's.

Use an apostrophe to represent the missing letters in a contraction.

isn't, haven't, rock 'n' roll, you'll, etc.

Bulleted lists

When making a bulleted or numbered list, be sure that capitalization, punctuation and structure are consistent. If individual items in a list are complete sentences, end each one with appropriate punctuation.


The colon is used to anticipate that something is following that will complete or amplify the previous material.

Correct: Visit the website at
Incorrect: Visit the website at:

It isn't necessary to capitalize the word immediately following a colon unless it begins a complete sentence of its own or is a proper noun.

Don't use unnecessary colons in sentences.

Use a colon when the sentence isn't complete without it.

Correct: Be sure to visit the SUU website:


Do not use a comma before and or or in a series of more than two items unless it is necessary to clarify the meaning. If more than one series is used in a sentence, separate the series by semicolons if necessary to clarify the sentence.

The College of Science comprises departments in agriculture and nutrition, biology, nursing and physical science.

Set off the name of a state with commas when it follows the city name in a sentence.

Cedar City, Utah, is the home of Southern Utah University.

Dates are punctuated with commas setting off the year in a complete date. There is no comma if only the month and year are used. Don't use ordinals such as 1st, 4th, or 23rd in dates.

Example On January 5, 1898, the first Cedar City residents ascended the Cedar Mountains to gather wood for the completion of Old Main. Construction of Old Main began in January 1898.

Jr., Sr., II, III, etc., in names are not set off by commas unless the person specifically indicates a preference for that.

Insert a comma if it is necessary to indicate a pause or clarify the meaning of a sentence.

Ellipsis points

The ellipsis is best used to indicate the omission of material from within quoted matter, not as a way to trail off or pause in a sentence. When ellipsis points are used within a sentence, use three; when they are used between sentences, punctuate the first sentence and then use three additional ellipsis points, set off by one space before and after the mark. Some word processing programs provide an ellipsis. Use a space before and after the elipsis.

SUU has a beautiful campus. ... The people are friendly and according to one student, "professors ... want to see you succeed."

There is no need for ellipsis points at the beginning or end of the material you are quoting, unless it is necessary to make it clear that the quote is only part of the full text. Under normal circumstances, the reader assumes that the text quoted may not be the entire quotation.

When you use ellipsis points, be careful to avoid skewing the meaning of the quote by leaving out clarifying words.

Hyphens and dashes

Use the dictionary to determine the appropriate place for breaking and hyphenating words. Break words at the end of syllables, but consider the sound of the word. Some words are best not broken at certain syllables. Compound words that are hyphenated should not be broken in a second place at the end of a line.

president-elect, not presi-dent-elect

The trend is away from using hyphens in permanent compound words. The dictionary can help you determine the appropriateness of a hyphen in many cases.

Don't use a hyphen after an adverb ending in ly.

She is an overly zealous recruiter.

Some words that normally would be solid should be hyphenated for clarity or for easier reading when the root word begins with a vowel.

co-op (as opposed to coop), re-signed (as opposed to resigned), re-enrolled, re-admitted

The en dash (named because it is the width of the letter "n") is wider than a hyphen and is used between ranges of numbers or dates and between adjectival phrases containing two-word concepts. There are no spaces before or after the en dash (though many word processing programs require you to include a space before it will convert the shorter dash to an en dash).

2001-2004, pages 206-220, Portland-San Francisco flight

In text, however, use the missing words instead of a dash. If the en dash is unavailable, it is acceptable to use a hyphen in its place.

He was at SUU from 1993 to 1998. (Not: He was at SUU from 1993-1998.)

The em dash (named because it is the width of the letter "m") is used to indicate a break in thought or a strong parenthetical phrase. There are spaces before and after the em dash. An em dash is indicated by two hyphens in typed material (though many word processing programs will automatically replace the two hyphens with an em dash).

Two professors -- what a contrast in styles -- share the teaching duties.


If a dependent clause or other sentence fragment is in parentheses, the final punctuation goes outside the parentheses. If the parenthetical matter is an entire sentence, the final punctuation goes inside the parentheses. In the latter case, be sure to properly punctuate the preceding sentence leading up to the parentheses.

If parenthetical matter is included within another set of parentheses, brackets [ ] should replace the inner parentheses.


If a sentence ends with a URL or an e-mail address, the closing punctuation, usually a period, should be included. There no longer is any real danger of Web users trying to make the sentence-ending period part of the URL, but if you are concerned, use a different font for the actual URL or make it bold. In electronic text, be sure the sentence-ending period is not included as part of a hyperlink.

The use of periods in degree abbreviations is preferred. Note also that there are no spaces in the degree abbreviations. For a cleaner appearance, it is acceptable to use degree abbreviations without periods in long listings or in text where degrees are repeated often.

B.A., M.S., Ed.D., Ph.D.

Acronyms should be in capital letters with no periods.

GPA, ID cards, ROTC

With the exception of well-understood acronyms and abbreviations, such as B.A., M.S., other degrees, GPA and ROTC, spell out the full name or title on first use, followed by the letters in parentheses, if the term is to be used repeatedly in the text. Repeated usage only then requires the acronym.

Many students take advantage of the Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Program (UGRASP) available at SUU. UGRASP offers students...

There are no periods in SUU.

Quotation marks

Quotation marks are placed outside of commas and periods, but inside of semicolons and colons. Question marks and exclamation marks are placed inside or outside the quotations marks, depending on whether they are part of the quote.

According to The Princeton Review, SUU is one of the "Best in the West."

Titles of short stories, articles and poems; individual chapters in books; songs and other short musical compositions; and radio and television shows are set off in quotation marks. Titles of books, paintings, sculptures, films, magazines, plays, record albums, operas and other long musical works, newspapers, and continuing radio and television shows, are italicized.


Capitalize the names of university units when the complete title is used, otherwise use lowercase initials.

Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, Southern Utah University, School of Business. vs. financial aid office, the college, the business school.

University is always capitalized when specifically referring to SUU.

The University is best known for providing a private school-type education at a public school price.

Names of majors, minors, and programs are lowercase.

information systems, international business, journalism, etc.

It is best to refrain from capitalizing first letters or entire words just to give them importance or emphasis. This device is outdated. Italics can be used to indicate emphasis when needed.

Correct: Send the attached card or go to the Web,
Incorrect: Send the attached card OR go to the Web.

Don't capitalize a generic term that follows or precedes more than one name.

colleges of Liberal Arts and Agricultural Sciences; Monroe and Jefferson avenues; Manzanita and Juniper halls.

If you are in doubt about any term not listed here, check the dictionary to see if capitalization is preferred.

academic and administrative titles

Capitalize a title that directly precedes the name of the person in that position (making the name part of the formal title).

Professor Richard Jones, Dean Mary Smith.

Do not capitalize a title if it follows a name or stands alone

Richard Jones, professor of mechanical engineering.

This rule applies to titles such as president, provost, director and dean, as well as academic titles.

Talk to your professor, not the provost, to clarify homework deadlines.

academic areas

Don't capitalize areas of instruction unless the area is a proper noun.

physics, English, forest engineering, nutrition and food science.

Areas of instruction should be capitalized when used as part of the formal department name.

Department of Biology vs. biology department.

academic semesters

Lowercase, even when used with a year.

fall semester, spring semester 2004

bachelor's degree/master's degree

These are lowercase and possessive ('s), not plural.


Not catalogue.


Lowercase unless it begins a sentence.

15th century; Centuries ago...

course titles

Capitalize course titles when used in text.

She is taking Cultures in Conflict this term.


Don't capitalize the subject area unless it is the formal name of the degree.

B.S. in physics vs. Bachelor of Science in Biology


Lowercase except when it begins a sentence or precedes the address in a list.


Lowercase when used in text or when it follows the number; capitalize when it precedes the number in a list.


Capitalize only when referring to the SUU Homecoming.


Internet is capitalized.


Don't capitalize even when preceding the name of the state within text. Do, however, capitalize the name of specific counties.

state of Utah (not State of Utah), Iron County, Washington County


Spell out numbers of nine or less within text. Use numerals for higher numbers. Exceptions are made for ages, monetary units, percents, credits and grade-point averages, which are always numerals unless they start a sentence.

8 percent, 3 credits, 3.50 GPA, 3-year-old daughter, 7 cents, six colleges, four departments.

Any number that begins a sentence is spelled out. It's okay to mix uses in a sentence.

SUU has 17 intercollegiate athletics programs, 10 women's and seven men's.

It is permissible to spell out numbers from one to 99 in formal or scientific writing

Plurals of numerals are made by adding the letter s. There is no apostrophe in the plurals.

100s, 1900s

Contractions of years take an apostrophe. Be aware of this because word processing systems will often try to insert an opening single quotation mark, which is incorrect (on PCs, you can overcome this by pushing alt + the single quotation mark).

Class of '92

Numbers containing four digits or more (except years) take commas between each series of three numbers. For rounded numbers of more than six digits, it is appropriate to use a figure and a word.

4,000; 12,197; 12,297,865
14 million, 237 billion

Telephone numbers are written with a hyphen between groupings. A "1" should not precede the area codes. The telephone company no longer uses parentheses to set off area codes.

541-555-1000; 800-555-4192

Spell out numbers at the start of a sentence unless they represent a year. The example is permissible, but it would be better to rewrite the sentence to avoid starting with the year.

1776 is the year the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Dates are indicated by cardinal, not ordinal, numbers.

April 1, not April 1st; July 4, not July 4th

A series of years can be indicated by using the entire year in both cases or only the last two numbers in the second year.

2003-2004 or 2003-04

When the years cross a century mark, the entire year must be used.

1999-2002, not 1999-02

Within text, use percent rather than the % symbol.

Student enrollment increased by 6.5 percent this past year.

Cultural Sensitivity

Avoid all sexual or racial stereotyping and language. Use he or she or make the usage plural: they. Many words now have neutral alternatives that can be used rather than assuming a particular gender. Don't create words such as s/he, and use skillful writing to avoid putting two words together with slashes: he/she.

firefighter, police officer, chair or chairperson.

Disabilities are handled according to the preference of the individual or group, when appropriate. In writing about disabilities, stress the person, not the disability. If you have questions, check with the Services for Students with Disabilities office, 865-8022.

use: persons with disabilities
avoid: the disabled

Ethnic designations generally follow the preference of the group being referred to. As a general rule, identify ethnic groups by recognized ethnic designations. It also is appropriate to use national-orign designators such as Polish American, Cuban American, Irish American, Japanese American, etc. Don't hyphenate these designations, even when using them as adjectives. The generic terms black and white aren't capitalized, but if you capitalize one to conform to a particular group's preference, capitalize both.

Acceptable identifiers: African American, Asian, Pacific Islander, Latina, Latino, Hispanic


Don't underline words or capitalize every letter in textual matter for emphasis. These are typewriter techniques, but they aren't appropriate in professional printed materials. It's best to indicate your emphasis through skillful use of language, often by putting the material to be emphasized at the beginning or end of the sentence. If it is necessary to show emphasis, use italics.

It is normal practice for printed materials to have one space between sentences and after colons. The use of two spaces is for typewriters, which use different fonts and font spacing.