Style Guide

Main Content

As writers and editors at University Communications and Marketing, we follow the Associated Press Stylebook to keep our materials consistent. However, we see the same style issues in a majority of documents submitted for our approval before they are printed.

If you are creating content for SIU and sending it in for approval, here are some style guidelines:

academic degrees – The acceptable abbreviations are Ph.D., B.A. and M.A. When spelling out degrees, use associate degree, bachelor’s or bachelor of science, master’s or master of arts. Do not use bachelor’s of science degree or master’s of arts degree.

academic departments – use initial caps in formal and informal references to a specific department: the Department of History. Lowercase when you mean the academic discipline generally: Many history departments across the country teach this concept. But: Several English departments teach the same thing.

academic titles – lowercase when the title is a description: John Smith, associate professor of accounting. Initial capital letter only when a formal title precedes a name: Associate Professor John Smith in accounting. To minimize capitalization, generally follow this order:

  • Professor’s name, rank and department.
  • Dean’s name, rank and college.
  • Vice chancellor’s name, rank and area

acting – lowercase. Use initial cap on title that follows, if the title normally would have an initial cap: acting Dean John Smith.

addresses – use this standardized format for campus mailing addresses:

College / Unit Name
Building Name – Mail Code 1234
Southern Illinois University
123 Campus Address
Carbondale, IL 62901

advisor – but use adviser in external press releases unless using an individual’s title or formal office name.

African American, Asian American – these terms are capitalized and not hyphenated.

ages – Use numbers in all uses: The 4-year-old lesson plan; the 18-year-old freshman.

alumna, alumnae, alumni, alumnus – use alumnus (one male), alumna (one female), alumni (plural male or plural of both genders), alumnae (plural female).

a.m. / p.m. / noon / midnight – never use 12 noon.

ampersands – don’t use unless they are part of the formal name of a college or departmental unit. Use the word and instead.

annual – an event can’t be described as annual until it has taken place over two successive years. Do not use the term first annual. Spell out numbers less than 10: Third annual, seventh annual. Use numbers for annual events that have occurred for 10 years or more:  19th annual.

apostrophes – when an apostrophe is used to indicate omission, it should be placed where the omission occurs: The movie “Saturday Night Fever” immortalized the disco era of the ’70s.

attribution – Place attribution for quoted material at the end of the first sentence in a quote: “I am really happy to be a Saluki,” said incoming freshman John Smith. “I couldn’t have made a better choice.”

campuswide – one word, lowercase. See also: universitywide

capitalization – avoid unnecessary capital letters. Use a capital letter only when principles in this style guide or other style references justify. Do not capitalize a word simply because you consider it important.

chair – use it as a noun and as a verb: He is the committee chair. She chairs the committee. 

commas – do not use a comma before “and” in a series: English, Spanish and French. Commas go inside quotation marks.

company names – Do not use a comma before Inc. or Ltd., even if it is included in the formal name.

composition titles Follow the guidelines as described in the AP Stylebook. Here are the main points:

  • Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters.
  • Capitalize an article – or words of fewer than four letters – if it’s the first or last word in a title.
  • Put quotation marks around the names of all such works except the Bible and books that are primarily catalogs of reference material. Examples: “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the “CBS Evening News,” Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” But: Facebook and Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second Edition.
  • Use quotation marks around nicknames for classical music titles, but not compositions that are identified by sequence. Examples: Dvorak’s “New World Symphony,” Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9.

dashes – use an en dash, which is the medium-length dash that is used to separate two parts of a sentence. Use dashes in copy with a space on either side.

days of the week – spell out days of the week. Months are abbreviated when listed along with the day of the week: Monday, Feb. 1.

dean – initial cap when used as a formal title before a single name: Dean John Smith. Lowercase in other uses: John Smith, dean of the college; the dean.

dean’s list – lowercase in all uses. Examples: He is on the dean’s list. She is a dean’s list student.


dollars – For amounts that do not include cents, do not use a decimal point and double zeros: The student paid $35 for the textbook. His classmate found a used textbook for $28.50. Follow the AP Stylebook guidelines for other usages.


ellipsis – In general, treat an ellipsis as a three-letter word, constructed with three periods and two spaces. Use an ellipsis to indication of one or more words in condensing quotes, texts and documents.

email – lowercase, no hyphen.

emeritus – use after the title. Use professor emerita (one female); professor emeritus (one male); faculty emeritae (plural female); faculty emeriti (plural male or plural of both genders).

full time, part time – always hyphenate as an adjective; otherwise, it’s two words: He is a full-time student. She works part time.

fundraising – one word in all uses. This is an AP style rule.

health care – two words.

homepage – onewords. It’s the front page of a particular website.

interim – lowercase. Use an initial cap on title that follows, if the title normally would have an initial cap: interim Vice Chancellor John Smith.

italics – The Associated Press does not italicize words in news stories. Italics are used in this style guide to highlight proper and improper usage of terms.

majors – lowercase the names of majors unless they contain a proper noun: French studies, English, mass communications, theater and dance.

M.D. – The periods in this abbreviation are an exception to Webster’s New World College Dictionary.

months – spell out when the word stands alone in text. When the day of the week is included, months longer than five letters long are abbreviated: The semester begins in January. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was Jan. 19, 2015. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was celebrated Monday, Jan. 19, 2015, not Sunday, March 15, 2015.

numbers – spell out whole numbers below 10, use figures for 10 and above. Use a comma in numbers greater than 999. Spell out “first” through “ninth”; use figures for “10th” and above. Physical quantities, such as distances, lengths, area, volumes, etc. are expressed in figures, whether for whole number or fractions: 45 miles, 10.5 pounds. Numbers expressed as adjectives before a noun or as substitutes for a noun need to be hyphenated: The five-year time frame, the two-and-a-half-hour course.

off campus, on campus – two words, hyphenated when used as a modifier: Some SIU students live on campus. Off-campus living is a popular option.

OK, OK’d, OK’ing, OKs – Not okay.

online – one word, no hyphen.

percent – write out in text. Use the percentage sign only in charts or graphs.

period – only one space between a period and the beginning of the next sentence.

phone and fax numbersseparate element with hyphens618-453-1234.

pluralization – defer to Webster’s for specific words, but in general do not use an apostrophe for pluralization unless the word is a single letter: She received all C’s; mind your p’s and q’s.

possessive – for plural nouns not ending in s, add ’s: The faculty’s teaching load, children’s toys. For plural nouns ending in s, add only an apostrophe: Texas’ 254 counties, the churches’ needs, states’ rights.

résumé – note that there are accent marks in two places.

seasons/semesters – lowercase except when beginning a sentence: He will enter SIU Carbondale as a freshman this fall semester. Fall 2014 enrollment increased by 25 students.

series – when listing items in a series, use commas to separate simple series. Do not use a comma before “and” in a series: He is taking English, math and political science. When listing more complex series of phrases, use semicolons to separate the phrases: Job duties include project management; employee motivation, communication and training; and design. Use a colon to introduce a series of items: Please bring the following items to class: notebook, ruler, textbook and pencil.

SIU Alumni Association, SIU Foundation – always use SIU in front these two entities’ names; “the association” and “the foundation” are acceptable on second reference.

SIU Board of Trustees – lowercase on second reference when omitting SIU Board, as in: The memo was sent to the trustees.

SIU Carbondale / SIU / Southern Illinois University Carbondale – Never use the acronym SIUC, with the exception of formal documents for the SIU System and SIU Board of Trustees offices; SIU is acceptable on second reference.

state names – Do not abbreviate the state name in text when it is used with the name of a city, county, town or village. This is a recent AP style change.

theater, theatre – use theater unless the proper name ends in re: The McLeod Theater. He studied theater at SIU.

time of day – do not use a colon and double zeros for events that start at the top of the hour, as in: The event starts at 7 p.m. Otherwise, note the time as follows: The event starts at 9:30 a.m.

titles – in general, do not use Dr., Mr., Mrs., Miss or Ms. Use degrees after a name on first reference only. Use last name alone on second reference: John Smith, Ph.D., teaches geology. Smith is a favorite among students. Titles that serve as occupational descriptions rather than proper titles are lowercase: chemistry professor Barb Beaker, coach Ron Ball. Proper titles preceding names are initial caps: Executive Director John Smith. Lowercase after the name: John Smith, executive director.


universitywide – one word, lowercase. See also: campuswide

URL formats – these are standardized: (Do not include www. or https:// at the beginning of an URL, or / at the end of an URL.)

U.S. News & World ReportU.S. News on second reference.

vice chancellor – never hyphenated or abbreviated. Lowercase when the title is a description: John Smith, vice chancellor. Initial capital letter only when a formal title precedes a name: Vice Chancellor John Smith.

web – Lowercase. Acceptable on all references for World Wide Web.

webcam, website – one word, lowercase.



yearlong – one word, no hyphen.

ZIP code – all uppercase ZIP because it’s the acronym for Zoning Improvement Plan. Lowercase “code.”