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Editorial Style Guide

Jump to:        Acronyms and Abbreviations
                      Confusing and Difficult Words
                      Copyright Notice
                      Inclusive Language
                      Punctuation and Spacing
                      Sources and Citations
                      Technical Terminology


Acronyms and Abbreviations

Avoid using abbreviations unless they are universally recognized (e.g., AIDS, GPA, NASA, IBM, SSN, RSVP, ASAP, CEO, SAT). When deciding whether or not to use periods in an organization’s abbreviation, consult the organization’s website or printed materials for their preference. If no preference can be determined, omit periods between letters.

If an abbreviation is not universally recognized, spell out the organization’s name on first use, followed by the abbreviation in parentheses if you intend to use the abbreviation later in the document.

Academic Degrees

Abbreviations for degrees should be written without periods and spaces between letters.

For proper capitalization of degrees, see the Capitalization section below.

Degrees offered at Hunter: BA, BFA, BA/MA, BMus, BS, DPT, MA, MFA, MPT, MS, MSEd, MSW, PhD

Academic Years and Semesters

Graduated classes should be referred to as the “Class of 2002,” where “Class” is capitalized and the year is not abbreviated. ’02 is incorrect and can be confusing.

Semesters should be referred to as “fall 2009” or “spring 2010”; the season should not be capitalized and the year should not be abbreviated. Do not abbreviate the seasons to “fa” or “sp” except in tables or charts where space is limited.

Administrative and Academic Titles

The titles Mr., Ms., Mrs. and Miss should only be used in direct quotes, letters and donor lists. Do not use these titles in running text or faculty/staff listings.

Do not abbreviate Reverend to “Rev.” Reverent persons should always be referred to as “the Reverend John Doe.”

For proper use of Coach, Dean, Professor, President, Provost, Chair, Trustee, Board Member and other such titles, see the Capitalization section below.

Dates and Times

Always write out the names of the days of the week, except when they are used in a table, chart or calendar. When abbreviating, use the following abbreviations: Mon., Tue., Wed., Thu., Fri., Sat. and Sun.

Spell out the name of the month when it is used with a date, alone or with a year. Only abbreviate months when used in a table, chart or calendar. When abbreviating, use: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sep., Oct., Nov. and Dec. March, April, May, June and July are never abbreviated.

Avoid using numerals such as 08/06/09 to indicate dates, as this may be confusing to international students or students whose first language is not English.

For use of am/pm, see the Numbers section below.


Spell out a state’s name when it is used without the name of a town, county, or other official area. When the name of a state is used with the name of a town, use the standard abbreviation for the state’s name (see the Associated Press Stylebook), not the two-character postal code. Do not abbreviate state names if the name is less than six characters long (e.g., Texas or Ohio).

“United States” is spelled out when used as a noun, but abbreviated to U.S. when used as an adjective. (Note that U.S. is one of the only abbreviations to use periods after each letter.) The names of other countries should be spelled out on first reference and may be abbreviated thereafter if a standard abbreviation for the country exists (such as “UK” for “United Kingdom”).

Latin Abbreviations

i.e. is short for id est and means “that is” or “in other words.”

e.g. is short for exempli gratia and means “for example.”

etc. is short for et cetera and should be used at the end of a list of items when two or more items have been omitted.

et al. is short for et alii and should be used at the end of a list of names when two or more people have been omitted.

Other Abbreviations

An ampersand (&) should not be used to replace “and” unless it is part of an official title, place or organization name.

Avoid abbreviating common words such as information (info), page (pg), prerequisite (prereq), number (no) and professor (prof) in running text. Only abbreviate words if they are used in a format with minimal space, such as in a chart or table.

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The words “alumnus” or “alumna” can refer to anyone who attended Hunter College for at least one semester. A “graduate” is someone who earned a degree from Hunter.

        Alumni:           male, plural or mixed male and female, plural
        Alumnus:        male, singular
        Alumna:          female, singular
        Alumnae:        female, plural

Avoid use of the abbreviation “alum” when possible. Never say “an alumni.”

When referring to an alumnus or alumna within a body of text, use the format “John Doe (BA ’02)” where BA is the degree earned and ’02 is the graduation year. The person’s major, minor and school should not be included in the parentheses, but can be included following the closing parenthesis if desired.

        Correct:          John Doe (BA ’02)
        Correct:          John Doe (BA ’02), who majored in sociology,…
        Correct:          John Doe (BA ’02, MA ’04) - if both degrees were obtained from Hunter
        Incorrect:        John Doe (BA, ’02)
        Incorrect:        John Doe (BA ’02, Computer Science)

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Administrative and Academic Titles

When used without a name, titles should be lowercase.

When preceding a name, titles should be uppercase; however, please note that “Professor of Anthropology” or “Professor of Any Subject” is not a title; only “Professor” is the title, unless the professor holds a named professorship, e.g., the Albert Einstein Professor of Physics. Still, such titles are awkward when placed before a name and should usually be placed after the name.

When following a name, titles should be lowercase.

        Correct:          The president of Hunter College…
        Correct:          Professor John Doe, of the anthropology department, …
        Incorrect:        Professor of Anthropology, John Doe, …
        Correct:          Jennifer Raab, president of Hunter College, …

Associations and Government

When referring to an organization with the word “Association” in its title, spell out the name of the organization on first reference, and then use “the Association” or the organization’s acronym on second reference.

Congress, the House of Representatives (the House), and the Senate are always capitalized.

Course Names

Official names of courses should be capitalized (e.g., Anatomy and Physiology), but never italicized or put in quotation marks.

Informal descriptions of courses or academic fields should be lowercase (e.g., “a course in anatomy and physiology” or “She teaches music.”).

When referring to a course by number, use this format:

        Departmental_Acronym Course_Number.Section (e.g., CSCI 135.01, MATH 150.51).


When referring to compass directions, north, south, east and west are usually lowercase.

The words referring to a specific region or place name can be capitalized (e.g., Upper West Side).

For the correct way to refer to Hunter’s buildings and room numbers, see the Hunter Brand section of this guide.

Headlines and Periodicals

Use initial capitals for all major words in a title except articles (a, the) and prepositions (for, in, up, by, etc.), unless an article or preposition appears at the beginning or end of the title. If the title is from another source and uses a different style, that style may be used instead.

Titles of all major works, including books, epic poems, plays, court cases, periodicals, newspapers, long musical compositions, albums, operas, in-house publications, paintings and other works of art should be italicized.

        Tip: Words that are underlined in print should be italicized on the web. Underlining on the
        web is typically reserved for hyperlinks and should not be used for static text.

Titles of all minor works, including shorter poems, quotations, lectures, symposia, conferences, colloquia, presentations and songs should be set in quotation marks.

Other Capitalization Rules

Avoid writing in all capitals on the web, especially in headings and page titles.

All references to academic degrees should be lowercase (e.g., bachelor of arts, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, doctorate, doctoral) unless an abbreviation is used (BA, MA, etc.).

Capitalize the names of historical, artistic, literary and geological periods (e.g., the Middle Ages, Classical, Baroque, Proterozoic). For guidelines on referring to specific centuries, see the Numbers section below.

Never capitalize freshman, sophomore, junior or senior, unless used in a title.

Capitalize the title of a web page or form if the full title is used. Otherwise, the partial title should be written in lowercase.

        Correct:        More information can be found on the Student Activities page.
        Correct:        More information can be found on the activities page.
        Correct:        Fill out and return the Degree Audit Application Form to OASIS.

Capitalize the official name of a department, but lowercase a general reference to the department. Do not capitalize the words department, committee, program or office when not part of the official name.

        Correct:          the Department of Economics
        Correct:          Her advisor worked in the economics department.
        Correct:          The Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program…
        Incorrect:        If you are interested in the Program, …

Capitalization guidelines for the words school, college and university can be found in the Hunter Brand section of this guide.

Commencement and Convocation are always capitalized when referring to a specific event/ceremony at Hunter, but not when referring to generic events, e.g., “Hunter will hold its 2009 Commencement on June 27; most colleges hold commencement ceremonies in the spring.”

Only capitalize the word “the” in a name or title when the name or title officially includes the word “the”; otherwise, “the” is lowercase.

        Correct:        the School of Arts and Sciences
        Correct:        The New York Times

“New York City” and “New York State” are correct, but general references to “the city” or “the state” should be lowercase. Proper names of states and countries are always capitalized.

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Confusing and Difficult Words

A lot: Two words, not one.

A’s and B’s: When referring to grades, use apostrophes.

Advisor and adviser are both correct, but since most college and university publications spell the word with an “o,” Hunter publications should do the same for consistency.

Audiovisual: One word, no hyphen or spaces.

bachelor's degree, master’s degree: Should always be lowercase, unless used in a title. Note the apostrophe before the s.

Campus-wide: Hyphenated, not two separate words.

For words beginning with co- (e.g., co-chair, co-editor, co-sponsor), consult Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.

cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude: Do not capitalize, unless used in a title.

Dean’s List: Both words are capitalized.

Emerita: Female, singular.

Emeritus: Male, singular.

Emeriti: Plural.

Faculty: Faculty is a plural noun and takes a plural verb. To avoid confusion, you may use “faculty members” instead.

Full-time, part-time: Hyphenated, not two separate words.

Grade-point average (or GPA): The first two words are hyphenated. “Average” is separate.

Health care: Two words when used as a noun.

Healthcare: One word when used as an adjective.

Nonprofit: One word, no hyphen.

Off-campus, on-campus: Hyphenated when used as an adjective.

Off campus, on campus: Two separate words when used as an adverb.

OK or okay: Not O.K. or o.k.

On vs. at: When referring to a campus location, be sure to use the correct preposition.

        Correct:        The event will take place on the Brookdale campus.
        Correct:        The event will take place at Brookdale.
        Correct:        Her office is located on the 68th Street campus.

Pre-med, pre-law: Hyphenated.

Rhodes Scholar, Guggenheim Fellow: When referring to a distinguished academic scholar, both words are capitalized.

RSVP: Do not precede with the word “please,” since RSVP is the abbreviation of a French sentence meaning “please respond”; thus, an additional “please” would be redundant.

That vs. which: “That” should be used with essential clauses and is not preceded by a comma. “Which” should be used with nonessential clauses and is preceded by a comma. See the AP Stylebook for a further explanation.

Theatre vs. Theater: Since the official name of the Hunter College department dealing with this art form is the Department of Theatre, all references to the art form should be spelled “theatre” for consistency’s sake. “Theater” should only be used when referring to an institution, publication or other entity that spells the word “theater.”

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Copyright Notice

All printed materials and published web pages are considered copyright protected. Designation of copyright on all published material should read:

© Hunter College of the City University of New York 2010. All rights reserved.

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Inclusive Language

When referring to ethnicity or race, “black” and “white” should always be lowercase and never hyphenated. Capitalize identifying terms that refer to a specific region: Asian-American, Hispanic, African-American, Native American, etc. (If you are unsure whether or not to use a hyphen, consult Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary or the AP Stylebook.) When possible, refer to the actual country of origin rather than the region (e.g., use “Puerto Rican” rather than “Latino”). Use “international students” rather than “foreign students.”

Use “people with disabilities” rather than “the disabled” or “disabled people.” Terms describing the physically disabled should always be lowercase (e.g., “hearing impaired,” “requires a wheelchair”). Where possible, use the term suggested by an affiliated association. Avoid words with negative connotations such as “victim,” “afflicted,” “stricken,” etc. Do not use the word “normal” to refer to people without disabilities.

Avoid using the pronoun “he” when referring to an unspecified person. Rewrite the sentence so that the plural pronoun “they” may be used, or avoid pronoun use altogether. If unavoidable, use “he or she” rather than “he/she.” Similarly, avoid suffixes that denote a person’s gender. Use chair rather than chairman or chairwoman. Use business executive rather than businessman. Use humankind rather than mankind. For proper use of alumnus/a, see the Alumni section above.

The following Equal Opportunity Statement must be included on all student, staff and faculty recruitment documents: “Hunter College is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Institution. The College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, disability, genetic predisposition or carrier status, alienage, citizenship, military or veteran status, or status as victim of domestic violence in its student admissions, employment, access to programs, and administration of educational policies. Questions or concerns may be forwarded to the Office of Diversity and Compliance.”

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On first reference, refer to a person by his or her full name (John Doe). On subsequent references, you may use only the last name (Doe).

A person who prefers to use a middle name may be listed with his or her first initial followed by the full middle name (e.g., R. John Doe). When listing two initials, include a space between the initials (e.g., R. J. Doe).

Middle initials should be used in names when provided and/or when the individual prefers it that way (e.g., John J. Doe).

If the person prefers a nickname, it may be included in quotation marks between the first and last names (e.g., William “Bill” Doe). In less formal documents, the nickname may be used without the full first name.

Do not set off Jr., Sr., II or III with commas (John Doe Jr., not John Doe, Jr.).

Name spellings are important. If in doubt, call the office, department or person directly to verify the spelling of a name before publishing it.

See the Alumni section above for how to cite a person’s graduation year and degree.

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Spell out cardinal and ordinal numbers zero through nine, except for dates, times, percentages, prices, ages, years, addresses, temperatures, scores, pages, rooms, chapters, GPAs, or when the number is included in a table where space is minimal.

        Correct:          One, four, six, nine, first, third, eighth
        Incorrect:        1, 4, 6, 9, 1st, 3rd, 8th

Cardinal and ordinal numbers greater than nine should be written as numerals.

        Correct:          10, 57, 295, 11th, 55th, 61st
        Incorrect:        ten, fifty-seven, two hundred ninety-five, eleventh, fifty-fifth, sixty-first

Include commas in figures greater than 1,000.

Generalized numbers (such as a million, a billion, several thousand) should be spelled out.

Very large numbers should be written using a combination of numerals and denomination (e.g., 1.5 million, 2.8 billion).

Percentages should be written using the percent symbol (%), as in 4%, 100%.

Telephone numbers should be written with the area code in parentheses, and the area code should always be included. Since phone extensions are for internal use only, an extension alone should never be listed as a person’s or department’s official number.

        Correct:          (212) 772-4000
        Incorrect:        212-772-4000; 212.772.4000; 212/772-4000; Ext. 14000

Monetary values should be written as $100 or $59.95. Do not include the decimal point and two zeros if the amount is on the dollar.

Write out fractions in text. When the number is greater than one, or when numerals are required, use the decimal equivalent.

        Correct:          two-thirds, three-fourths, 1.75
        Incorrect:        one and three-fourths, 1½

When referring to temperature, use the degree symbol (°) if possible. Otherwise, spell out the word “degrees.” Both are acceptable. In tables or charts, the degree symbol (°) is preferred because of the minimal space. Differentiate between Fahrenheit and Celsius only when it is not obvious which temperature scale is being used.

Use numerals whenever referring to a measurement. But to avoid confusion, use a combination of numerals and text when referring to multiple measured items.

        Correct:          John is 6 feet 2 inches tall.
        Correct:          John is a 6-foot-2-inch student. (Hyphenate adjectival forms before nouns.)
        Correct:          John weighs 230 pounds.
        Correct:          She bought two 1-inch binders.
        Incorrect:        John is six-feet, two-inches tall and weighs two hundred thirty pounds.
        Incorrect:        She bought 2 1-inch binders.

For use of numbered lists, see the Writing for the Web section of this guide.


On first reference, specific dates should be preceded by the day of the week in running text.

When referring to a specific date, use cardinal rather than ordinal numbers. On subsequent references to the same date, ordinal numbers are acceptable.

        Correct:                        Monday, March 5, 2009
        Incorrect:                      March 5th, 2009
        Correct (2nd use):        On the 5th, …

Commas should be used before and after the year designation, unless referring to only the month and year.

        Correct:          March 5, 2009
        Correct:          March 2009,
        Incorrect:        March, 2009,

Decades should be expressed in numerals and should include the numerals indicating the century, except when referring to a person’s age or a specific age group.

        Correct:          1960s, 1990s
        Incorrect:        1960’s, the ‘60s
        Correct:          Like other seniors in their seventies, she was…
        Incorrect:        She was in her 70s.

Spell out the first through the ninth centuries, all lowercase. Use numerals for later centuries.

        Correct:        the fifth century, the 21st century

See the Abbreviations section above for information on when to abbreviate days and months.


Times should be written with a space between the number and the am/pm designation. Do not include periods when writing am and pm.

        Correct:        3:35 pm, 8:52 am, 10:15 am

For times on the hour, drop the :00.

        Correct:          2 am
        Incorrect:        2:00 am

12 am should be referred to as 12 midnight and 12 pm should be referred to as 12 noon to avoid confusion; however, when referring to times not on the hour, you may use “12:30 pm” or “12:30 in the afternoon” to avoid confusion.

When discussing a span of time, use a hyphen, “from” and “to,” or “between” and “and.” Do not mix time-span styles.

        Correct:          October 15-17
        Correct:          from 2001 to 2003
        Correct:          between 12 noon and 2 pm
        Incorrect:        between 12 noon to 2 pm
        Incorrect:        from 2002-2003

Note that the date comes before the time when discussing an event.

        Correct:        The event will be held on March 5, 2009, from 2:30 pm to 3:45 pm.

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Punctuation and Spacing

Sentences should be followed by only one space, not two, as was once the accepted style.

In text that includes a list, do not place commas before the words “and” or “or” unless omitting a comma would lead to confusion.

        Correct:        Apples, bananas, grapes and oranges
        Correct:        Biology, Chemistry, and Anatomy and Physiology

Commas should be used to indicate if an item is the only one of its kind. For example, “John’s wife, Jane,” indicates that Jane is John’s only wife, while “John’s wife Jane” would indicate that John has more than one wife. Similarly, “Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet,” indicates that Hamlet is Shakespeare’s only play, while “Shakespeare’s play Hamlet” indicates that Shakespeare has numerous plays.

Use a semicolon to separate items in a list only if each element in the list contains a comma.

        Correct:        He has a son, John; a daughter, Jane; and a dog, Spot.

Most prefixes (such as co, post, re, pre, semi, anti, sub and non) do not take a hyphen, unless required for clarification. Do not use a hyphen after “vice” (as in vice president). When a hyphen is used to separate two words, include a space before and after the hyphen (e.g., 9:30 am – 10 pm). When in doubt, refer to Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary or the AP Stylebook.

Use apostrophes when referring to alumni and grades. Do not use an apostrophe when referring to a graduation class or decade. See also the Alumni and Numbers sections above.

        Correct:           John Doe (BA ’02), A’s and B’s, Class of 2002, the 1990s
        Incorrect:        Class of ’02, the 90’s

For additional information on using commas, hyphens, apostrophes, em dashes, en dashes, ellipses, colons and semicolons, consult the AP Stylebook.

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Sources and Citations

When citing sources or listing publications in a document, use a consistent format.

Publications under an individual’s faculty or staff listing do not need to include the person’s name, as this is understood.

When directly quoting another source, do not edit the text according to this style guide.

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Technical Terminology

Correct capitalization, spelling, hyphenation and spacing of common technical terms are below:

        kilobyte (KB)
        log in (verb), login (noun)
        megabyte (MB)
        the web
        web address
        web page
        World Wide Web

When referring to a button, menu item, link or folder on a website, the name of the item should be capitalized and set in quotation marks (e.g., Type a keyword into the “Search” box above.).

Use all lowercase letters when referring to an e-mail address.

When referring to a URL in running text, do not surround the web address with < and >.

You may omit “http://” in a web address if the URL contains www; otherwise, use the full URL. If a web address ends in index.htm, index.html, index.shtml or index.php, you can omit this portion of the URL (for example, becomes Using the shortest URL possible makes the text easier to read, easier to remember and more visually appealing.

If referring to a web page within the Hunter WebCMS, never use ww5; instead, use the www equivalent.

Include punctuation after a web address (without a space) when the web address appears at the end of a sentence. URLs in lists or tables do not require end punctuation. Keep web addresses on one line if possible, and break at a forward slash (/) when necessary. Test all URLs after publishing a link on the Internet.

When web or e-mail addresses are forced onto two lines, do not use a hyphen.

Visitors to your website should be warned when they are about to open a PDF or DOC file. Follow each link to a PDF or DOC document with (PDF – 2MB) or (DOC – 1.5MB), depending on file type and size. See the Writing for the Web section of this guide for more information.

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