Western Oregon University’s editorial style guide provides guidelines to maintain consistency and identity through written works – whether a brochure, website, news release or article. This style guide has been developed by Strategic Communications and Marketing as a reference for the WOU community to use when writing documents for campus use or external audiences.
This guide differs from what many are accustomed to as it is based primarily on Associated Press Style (but we have selected specific variations). It is not meant to be used in the academic setting for papers or other academic writings (journal articles, reports, etc), unless it specifically calls for AP Style. Please note this style is different from APA Style.
We recommend you do not print this document, but rather refer to this page as there may be changes due to changes issued from AP as well as changes determined by MarCom.
Below you’ll find the sections for WOU’s Editorial Style Guide with general guidance and WOU-specific examples. Here are the sections:
Abbreviations and acronyms
Building and department names
Dates, money and times
Names and titles
Technical terms and jargon
Tricky grammar and language use
ABBREVIATIONS AND ACRONYMS
Abbreviation vs. acronym
An abbreviation is formed by taking the first letter of each word, for example, the abbreviation of Federal Bureau of Investigation is FBI. This becomes an acronym when those letters are pronounced together. Example: AIDS is an acronym, HIV is an abbreviation.
Try to use abbreviations and acronyms sparingly unless your audience is familiar with them. They are intended to be used only when it increases readability of a document, such as using an acronym when referring to a lengthy organization name (but spell out the name on first reference before using the abbreviation).
There are some abbreviations that stand alone and do not require being spelled out on the first use, such as GPA and SAT. Avoid using periods between letters whenever possible (e.g. PR instead of P.R.). However, there are some exceptions to this rule (U.S., P.O., U.K., U.N., B.C., B.A.), consult an AP style guide for specific examples.
Articles (a, an)
Choose the appropriate article (a, an, or the) based on how an article would be chosen in speech. Examples: He worked for the FBI. She enrolled in an MBA program. They may be eligible for a NASA grant.
Do not use the ampersand (&) as an abbreviation for and. Use the ampersand only when it is part of an official name of a company, product, or other proper noun, or on print publications at the discretion of the designer.
If the name of the state stands alone without a city preceding it, spell out the entire name of the state. If the state is mentioned in an address format, use the postal code abbreviations below in parenthesis. Lastly, if the state name appears in a line of text (e.g. She graduated from a college in Monmouth, Ore., with a master’s.), use the abbreviations below.
345 Monmouth Ave. N.
Monmouth, OR 97361
Use the abbreviations Ave., Blvd. and St. only with a numbered address, such as 345 Monmouth Ave. N. Spell out those abbreviations when part of a formal street name without the number (Monmouth Avenue). If using the term with multiple street names, lowercase it (Main and First streets). Other words, such as alley, drive, road, terrace, etc, are always spelled out. Follow the same capitalization rules when part of a formal street name without a number and lowercase when used with multiple street names. Directions should be abbreviated when used in an address including an address number (e.g. 345 Monmouth Ave. N.). However, if no address number is used, spell out the direction (Monmouth Avenue North).
Always spell out the number at the beginning of a sentence unless the number being used is a year. Spell out numbers in casual expressions (i.e. A thousand times no!). Spell out numbers one through nine, or first through ninth, unless they are used as part of names or military terms.
- He only got 11 eggs in the carton.
- She has three cats.
- He earned second in the race.
- This was the 10th time she’d gotten the same letter.
- 7th Fleet
- 1st Ward
- 1st Sgt.
- Year ranges: 2016-17
Never use parenthesis with an area code as the area code is no longer optional for dialing. Always use hyphens between the numbers (e.g. 503-838-8000).
When writing someone’s age, always use figures and include hyphens when the age is expressed as an adjective before a noun or as a substitute for a noun (e.g. Joe is 18 years old. The 10-year-old car has a flat tire. Susie, 10, has a brother, 5, and her mom is in her 40s.)
BUILDING AND DEPARTMENT NAMES
The official names of departments and divisions should always be capitalized. When the department refers to a specific person’s role (e.g. president or provost), always begin with “Office of…” (e.g. Office of the President, Office of the Provost). The word “office” or “department” is not used in any other names officially (e.g. Budget, University Housing). The only time “office” should be used is when indicating a physical location (e.g. The Strategic Communications and Marketing office is in the Lieuallen Administration Building).
Academic colleges, divisions, departments and programs
The terms “colleges,” “divisions” and “departments” are to be capitalized in reference to an academic unit. “College” should always precede the name of the college (e.g. College of Education). “Division” may follow or precede the division name, but preceding is preferred to put the differentiating element first and it takes up less space (e.g. Social Science Division is preferred to Division of Social Science). Whichever you choose, it’s important to be consistent. “Department” always follows the department name (e.g. Anthropology Department). The word “program” is not capitalized, but the program’s department may be capitalized (e.g. WOU has a Business program and Athletics program).
Building names and abbreviations list
Avoid excessive and unnecessary capitalization. Using capitals should be reserved for providing emphasis and using them too much can dull the impact on a reader. Many rules of capitalization, such as titles and addresses, can be found in other sections of this style guide.
Use these guidelines for titles of articles, books, computer games, movies, operas, plays, poems, albums and songs, radio and television programs, lectures, speeches, and works of art. Capitalize the principal words. Only capitalize an article (the, a, an) if it is the first letter of the title. Italicize composition titles, unless there is concern for lost formatting, then use quotation marks.
DATES, MONEY AND TIMES
Numerical figures should always be used without st, nd, rd or th (e.g. Oct. 13). Always capitalize the names of months. When the month is used in conjunction with a specific date, abbreviate Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. When using the month alone, or just with a year, spell out the month (e.g. December 2009). Do not separate the month from the year with a comma when there is not specific date included. If the date is included, place a comma after the date and before the year (e.g. Dec.1, 2009).
When referring to U.S. dollars, always preface with a $. Do not include numbers past the decimal point if they are zeroes, and use a comma if there are four or more numbers. Always spell out cents instead of using symbols.
Always use ‘to’ instead of a hyphen (e.g. 4 to 5 p.m.). Use numerals for times except for noon and midnight. If both times are in the morning, ‘a.m.’ needs to be used only once. The same goes for ‘p.m.’ Avoid redundancies in times (e.g. Don’t say the meeting began at 8 a.m. this morning). Both ‘a.m.’ and ‘p.m.’ are always lowercase. Midnight always goes with the day before (e.g. The band played from 9 p.m. until midnight). Noon and midnight are preferred over 12 p.m. and 12 a.m., for clarity.
–Noon to 2 p.m.
–8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
–The party began at 5 p.m. and went for seven hours.
To establish credentials of a doctorate, either preface the person’s name with ‘“Dr.”, (e.g. Dr. John Smith) or follow their name with a comma then “Ph.D.’ (e.g. John Smith, Ph.D.). Never use both. Upon subsequent references, only use the individual’s last name without ‘Dr.’ Spell out “doctor” in reference to a position (e.g. The town needed a new doctor and hired Dr. Smith). The use of “Dr.” is a personal preference and it is recommended you ask someone how they prefer to be addressed. WOU Style encourages the use of doctorate over Ph.D. when referring to a degree (e.g. He earned his doctorate).
Use “Dr.” as a formal title before listing the name of someone with a medical degree. It is not necessary to specify the medical degree they hold unless it is relevant to the subject matter of the writing. Upon subsequent references, only use the individual’s last name without “Dr.”
Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s or master’s degree and keep the words lowercase when listing without a specific program attached (e.g. She earned a bachelor’s). When using the full term, capitalize without possession to show Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science. Limit the use of abbreviations to long lists of credentials or people, when spelling out the degrees would be cumbersome. The common abbreviations are: bachelor’s (B.A. or B.S.), master’s (M.A. or M.S.) and doctorate (Ph.D.). When using with a name, the academic abbreviation is set off by commas (e.g. Bob Smith, Ph.D., presented his paper).
NAMES AND TITLES
On first reference use both the first and last name and any titles if necessary to establish credentials. On all further references, use the last name only. Some exceptions are stories involving children or obituaries/remembrances to soften up the tone of the story. If it’s a serious story involving a major crime and children, use the surname. If a story uses multiple people with the same last name, it is preferred to use first and last name over first name only.
In general, limit capitalization of titles to formal titles used before a person’s name. A formal title generally denotes a scope of authority, professional activity or academic activity, and there are usually only one within an organization (e.g. Provost John Smith). Other titles that serve primarily as occupational descriptions are lowercased (e.g. moviestar Tom Hanks). In terms of professor, it is generally kept lowercased and used after the professor’s name in conjunction with their field of expertise (e.g. Jane Smith, professor of biology). Lowercase and spell out titles when they are not used with the person’s name (e.g. the president issued a statement).
An exception: when a title is listed as contact information on a second line below a name on printed material like business cards or brochures, all words in the title are uppercase.
Some formal titles are abbreviated and listed before a name. Those include: Dr., Gov., Lt. Gov., Rep., Sen., and some military ranks.
In a simple list of three items in a sentence, do not use an Oxford comma before the third item. (e.g. He wanted eggs, bread and lettuce.) In a complex list, do use the Oxford comma before the third item for clarity (e.g. She wanted boiled eggs, pepperoni and cheese pizza, and Romaine lettuce). Also, always place a comma within quotation marks whether it’s a full quote or partial quote within a sentence.
Use an apostrophe to signify possession (e.g. hers, John’s). The apostrophe is not necessary when used in conjunction with certain numbers, such as years or temperature (e.g. 1970s, temperature in the 30s, ABCs). However, it is necessary when referring to grades or shorthand of a decade (e.g. I got all A’s during high school in the ‘70s).
TECHNICAL TERMS AND JARGON
TRICKY GRAMMAR AND LANGUAGE USE
Accept means to receive. Except means to exclude.
Amendments, ordinances, resolutions and rules are adopted or approved. Bills are passed. Laws are enacted.
Adverse means unfavorable (e.g. He predicted adverse weather). Averse means reluctant or opposed (e.g. She is averse to change).
The default spelling to use is “adviser” as that is the spelling dictated by AP Style. However, in some cases specific job titles (e.g., Student Media Adviser or Academic Advisor) or professional organizations (e.g., The Global Community for Academic Advising) will use “advisor” and for consistency, follow the spelling dictated by job titles or professional organizations.
Affect, as a verb, means to influence (e.g. The game will affect the standings). It is best to avoid using it as a noun. Effect, as a verb, means to cause (e.g. He will effect many changes in the university). As a noun, effect, means result (e.g. She miscalculated the effect of his actions).
Aid is assistance and an aide is a person who serves as an assistant.
The greatest runner of all time had an all-time high.
To allude to something is to speak of it without specifically mentioning it. To refer is to mention it directly.
Allusion means an indirect reference (e.g. The allusion was to his opponent’s war record). Illusion means an unreal or false impression (e.g. The scenic director created the illusion of choppy seas).
An altar is a table like platform used in a religious service. To alter is to change.
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.
Between introduces two items, and among introduces more than two. However, between should be used when expressing the relationships of three or more items considered one pair at a time (e.g. Negotiations on a debate format are under way between the network and the Ford, Carter and McCarthy committees).
Anticipate means to expect and prepare for something, but expect does not include the notion of preparation.
Examples of use: He plans to stay awhile; he plans to stay for a while.
Use blond as a noun for males and as an adjective for all applications (e.g. She has blond hair). Use blonde as a noun for females.
Use brunet as a noun for males and as the adjective for both sexes. Use brunette as a noun for females.
Capitalize U.S. Capitol and the Capitol when referring to the building in Washington or each state’s capitol building (e.g. The Oregon Capitol is in Salem). Use capital when referring to a state’s capital city (e.g. Salem is the state capital).
Incense is burned in a container called a censer. To censor is to restrict or prohibit the use of something. To condemn is to censure.
Compared to/compared with
Use compared to when showing that two or more items are similar, without the need for elaboration. Use compared with when juxtaposing two or more items to demonstrate similarities or differences.
Complement is a noun and a verb meaning completeness or the process of supplementing something (e.g. The ship has a complement of 200 sailors and 20 officers.) Compliment is a noun or a verb meaning praise or the expression of courtesy (e.g. The captain complimented the sailors).
Compose means to create or put together (e.g. He composed a song). Comprise means to contain, include all or embrace (e.g. The United States comprises 50 states). Constitute is usually used when neither compose or comprise seems to fit (e.g. Fifty states constitute the United States).
Connote implies something beyond the explicit meaning (e.g. For some, owning a dog connotes too much commitment). Denote means to be explicit about the meaning (e.g. Construction denotes creation).
Continual means a steady repetition (e.g. The parking has been a source of continual frustration). Continuous means uninterrupted and unbroken (e.g. The highway ahead of them was continuous).
Contrasted to/contrasted with
Use contrasted to when the intent is to assert, without the need for elaboration, that two items have opposite characteristics. Use contrasted with when juxtaposing two or more items to illustrate similarities and/or differences.
One may be convinced of something or that something. One is persuaded to do something.
A cynic is a disbeliever. A skeptic is a doubter.
Only uppercase when used in place of a name, as a term of address (e.g. Hi, Mom.).
Disinterested is another word for being impartial, whereas uninterested is a lack of interest.
E.g. is used to indicate “an example.” I.e. is used to say “that is.”
Each other/one another
Two people look at each other, while more than two look at one another.
Capitalized when referring to the planet Earth, as in Mars, Jupiter or Venus. When used in general terms, lowercase the word (e.g. She is down-to-earth).
A person who leaves a country emigrates from it, and one who comes into a country immigrates.
Use ensure to mean guarantee (e.g. Steps were taken to ensure accuracy). Use insure for references to insurance (e.g. The policy insures the car). Use assure to give confidence (e.g. He assured us it would work).
Farther refers to physical distance (e.g. She walked farther into the woods). Further refers to an extension of time or degree (e.g. He will look further into the mystery).
Faze means to embarrass or disturb (e.g. The joke did not faze her). Phase is a stage or aspect of something (e.g. They entered a new phase in the project).
Figuratively means in an analogous sense, but not in the exact sense. Literally means in an exact sense.
Fiscal applies to budgetary matters, and monetary applies to money supply.
Flair is conspicuous talent. Flare is a verb meaning to blaze with sudden, bright light or to burst out in anger. It’s also a noun meaning a flame.
Flier is the preferred term for an aviator or a handbill. Flyer is the proper name of some trains and buses.
To forbear is to avoid or shun, a forebear is an ancestor.
To forego means to go before (e.g. foregone conclusion), to forgo means to abstain from (e.g. he decided to forgo the meeting).
Full time/full-time and part time/part-time
Hyphenate the words when used as a compound modifier (e.g. He works full time; she has a full-time job).
A gage is a security or a pledge, a gauge is a measuring device.
Gods and goddesses
Capitalize God when referencing the deity of all monotheistic religions. Lowercase gods and goddesses in reference to the deities of polytheistic religions.
Good is an adjective meaning something that is better than average or as it should be; good should never be used as an adverb. Well means proper, healthy, and suitable when used as an adjective. If used as an adverb it means in a satisfactory manner or skillfully.
A hangar is a building, a hanger is used for clothes.
It’s is a contraction for it is or it has (e.g. It’s been a long day). Its is the possessive form of the neuter pronoun (e.g. The university remodeled its building).
The action word is lay and laid is the past tense form and its past participle. The present participle is laying. Lie indicates a state of reclining along a horizontal plane. Its past tense is lay and past participle is lain. The present participle is lying.
Use like as a preposition to compare nouns and pronouns; it requires an object (e.g. Sally blocks like a pro). The conjunction as is the correct word to introduce clauses (e.g. Sally blocks the linebacker as he should).
She is loath to leave; he loathes bureaucracy.
Palate is the roof of the mouth. A palette is an artist’s paint board. A pallet is a bed.
The verb pore means to gaze intently or steadily (e.g. She pored over her books). The verb to pour means to flow in a continuous stream (e.g. He poured the coffee).
Principal is a noun and adjective meaning someone or something first in rank, authority, importance or degree (e.g. She is the school principal). Principle is a noun that means a fundamental truth, law, doctrine or motivating force (e.g. They fought for the principle of self-determination).