Editorial Standards Editorial Standards
Just as the university strives for consistency of communication design, it also encourages clarity and consistency in its messages. Our audiences oftentimes overlap; the parent of a prospective student also could be a graduate, a legislator, a donor, or an employer of our graduates. The Iowa State materials received by that one person could come from admissions, the alumni association, his or her college, governmental relations, or one of the college career services offices. It is important that we all treat language, punctuation, and grammar consistently and clearly.
The Chicago Manual of Style, Sixteenth Edition, and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, are the foundations for this guide. Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style is also a resource. Materials created specifically for use by the news media may follow The Associated Press Stylebook but only those materials.
Use this guide to help you write anything intended for the campus and external audiences. If you are doing technical or academic writing, some of these guidelines may not be appropriate.
A and an, use of
The use of a or an preceding an abbreviation or acronym is determined by the pronunciation of the first letter of the abbreviation or the pronunciation of the word formed by the acronym.
a NATO member
an ACT test
When writing about Iowa State, use Iowa State University at first mention and follow with Iowa State. Avoid using ISU if at all possible, due to the potential confusion with Illinois State University, Idaho State University, and Indiana State University. Lowercase university when standing alone.
For the most part, avoid in running text (Professor Johnson, not Prof. Johnson). Use only where clear to readers. Normally spell out at first occurrence, unless it is almost never used in spelled out form (such as DNA, GOP).
Abbreviations such as Ave., St., Blvd., Hwy., N., E., S., NW, SW are used on envelopes and labels but rarely in nontechnical text. Single-letter compass point abbreviations are followed by a period; two-letter ones appear without. Spell out compass points that are part of the street name.
123 North Ames Street
4321 James Street SW
Capitalize abbreviations if words they represent are proper nouns or adjectives.
Capitalize those abbreviations formed from the initial letters of the words that make up what is abbreviated.
Most abbreviations that are pronounced as words are capitalized, though some have been recognized through usage as words in their own right and usually are lowercased.
Also see Academic degrees, Addresses, Technology and science.
Academic and administrative titles
Capitalize titles when they precede names and are used as part of the names. Lowercase if they follow names or are used to further identify people. In lists such as those used in programs, titles are usually capitalized even when following names.
Professor John D. Hancock
Steven Leath, president of the university
Well-known professor of psychology, John H. Jones
If a title contains the full name of an academic or administrative unit, capitalize the unit name.
John D. Hancock, professor in the Department of Psychology, . . .
Jane Doe, a secretary in the Office of the Registrar, . . .
For consistency in publications, the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost has approved the following style for professors and instructors. professor of mechanical engineering (for full, associate, or assistant professor)
instructor in mathematics
The provost’s office notes one exception. There is no of used with the library.
It is professor, library.
The following style is for endowed chairs, named professorships, and distinguished professorships.
John James, Distinguished Professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and professor of zoology and genetics
John B. Jones, A. B. Martin Endowed Chair in Plant Pathology
For named professorships, capitalize all nouns in the title, whether the title appears before or after the person’s name.
John A. James, the Albert C. Jones Professor of History
Academic colleges and departments, capitalization
Iowa State has eight colleges, including the Graduate College.
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
College of Business
College of Design
College of Engineering
College of Human Sciences
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
College of Veterinary Medicine
Uppercase college when used as part of the proper name of a college; lowercase when used alone or with an unofficial name, whether it refers to a specific college or not.
She is a student in the College of Engineering.
John is a senior in the engineering college.
There are more than 5,000 students enrolled in the college.
Uppercase department when used as the proper name; lowercase when used alone or with an unofficial name.
Department of English
Do not abbreviate department.
In general, do not use abbreviations for degrees after a person’s name unless it is necessary to establish credentials. Do not include the word degree after a degree abbreviation.
He has a B.A. in history.
not He has a B.A. degree in history.
Do not use Dr. with the degree designation. Use either Dr. John Jones or John Jones, Ph.D. Iowa State’s editorial style generally reserves the Dr. designation for medical doctors (e.g., College of Veterinary Medicine) in printed material unless for special recognition (e.g., awards, certificates).
Common practice is to use periods without spaces for abbreviations of degrees (B.A., M.S., Ph.D., M.Eng., M.B.A., LL.D., and LL.M.). The most recent edition of The Chicago Manual of Style, however, recommends omitting the periods unless required for consistency or tradition.
Degree abbreviations are best used in listings, while spelling the degrees out is more readable in regular text.
associate degree; baccalaureate degree, bachelor’s degree, and master’s degree; doctoral degree, doctorate (don’t follow doctorate with degree); bachelor of arts, master of science, doctor of philosophy
Set off degree names by commas when they follow personal names.
Mary Jones, master of science in biology, is the coordinator of the program.
Do not capitalize academic subjects unless they are proper nouns.
She is majoring in astronomy.
His favorite course is American history.
fall semester, spring semester, summer session—no caps when used to refer to time of the year.
Try to avoid. Universities overuse acronyms and incorrectly assume that its publics have high awareness of what the letters stand for and an understanding of what the organization does. Acronyms only confuse. Exceptions are widely recognized acronyms such as NASA, SAT, ACT, FBI.
Names of states and countries should be spelled out in text (especially if used alone); abbreviations may be used in lists, mailing addresses, or where space is limited. Use the postal abbreviations (without periods) for mailing addresses; otherwise use the abbreviation with periods in text.
If using traditional abbreviations (such as Ala. and Wash.) within text, there should be commas before and after.
The three students from Omaha, Neb., roomed together.
Use adviser (not advisor).
Affirmative Action statement
Iowa State University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, age, ethnicity, religion, national origin, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, sex, marital status, disability, or status as a U.S. veteran. Inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies may be directed to Office of Equal Opportunity, 3350 Beardshear Hall, Ames, Iowa 50011, Tel. 515 294-7612, email email@example.com.
Also see Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action tagline, Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action shortened tagline, Nondiscrimination statement.
Alumna, alumnae, alumnus, alumni, alum
Alumna refers to one female graduate. Use alumnae to refer to two or more female graduates. Alumnus refers to one male graduate. Use alumni to refer to more than one male graduate or a group that includes both female and male graduates.
Merriam-Webster lists alum as an Americanized colloquial form of alumnus or alumna. Iowa State does not use this term beyond scientific use.
On first reference, always use Ames Laboratory. On the second and subsequent references, use Ames Lab. When a formal declaration is needed, use U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory.
Omit spacing around ampersands used in abbreviations.
Do not use an ampersand as an abbreviation for “and” in university unit, department, or program names.
Avoid ampersands unless commonly used in a proper name (e.g., Texas A&M).
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
not College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Use the curved or “smart” version for printed material unless for measurements (foot/feet).
Associations and conferences
Capitalize the full names of associations, societies, meetings, and conferences and some short forms.
Generic forms derived from the name are usually lowercased when used alone.
Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity; the conference
Triangle Club; the club
Boy Scouts of America; a Boy Scout; a Scout
Capitalize the names of awards and prizes; lowercase words not actually a part of the name.
National Merit scholarships
Nobel Prize in Medicine
Nobel Prize-winning scientist
Civic or academic honors are capitalized when following a personal name.
John Doe, Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers
Lower case big data in text.
Iowa State University is a member of the Big 12 Conference. Other members are:
Kansas State University
Oklahoma State University
Texas A&M University
Texas Tech University
University of Kansas
University of Missouri
University of Oklahoma
University of Texas
West Virginia University
When using the conference name in text, use the number 12
Big 12 Conference
Bio words (words with a bio prefix)
Do not use a hyphen (e.g., biobased, biorenewables).
Board of Regents
Proper name is Board of Regents, State of Iowa (a comma follows Iowa when name appears within a sentence).
The Board of Regents, State of Iowa, meets next week in Des Moines.
The statement applies to all Regents universities.
Brand names and trademarks
Registered trademarks and brand names are capitalized; however, it is better to use generic terms.
photocopy for Xerox
bandage for Band-Aid
jeans for Levi’s
tissue for Kleenex
Also see Terms to avoid.
Use the full name for buildings on first reference, capitalizing Building, Hall, Center, and such. Shortened versions are acceptable for subsequent references (e.g., Catt Hall for Carrie Chapman Catt Hall).
Campus zip codes
See Contact information formats.
Chairman, chairwoman, chairperson
Use chair with no reference to gender.
In running text, company names are best given in full form. Abbreviations such as Inc. and Ltd. can be omitted unless they are relevant to text. If used, commas are not required around the abbreviations.
Computer terms, capitalization
Proper names of computer hardware, software, networks, and such are capitalized; lowercase generic terms. Consult a current dictionary for spelling.
World Wide Web; web, web page, but webmaster, website
Conference, lecture series, symposia
Capitalize formal names of these events. Enclose in quotation marks.
Contact information formats
Do not use the numeral 1 before area codes. Proper form is 515-752-1930 or 555-1212, Ext. 11. When listing separate home, office, and fax numbers, indicate them as follows:
Do not enclose the area code in parentheses.
When listing e-mail addresses in publications, use the full e-mail address, set in lowercase letters. When listing URLs, omit http//, https//, www., and any slash at the end if at all possible. It’s a good idea to check that the website is accessible, then alter it if necessary.
E-mail and web addresses should not be underlined in text but may be highlighted in some other way (e.g., color, boldness).
Most Iowa State mailing addresses follow the format below. Iowa State University is listed above the room and building number to aid postal delivery:
Person or office
Iowa State University
Room and building
Ames, IA 50011-xxxx
See www.fpm.iastate.edu/maps/buildings/addressing_project for street addresses and zip code information. (Note: this website required www. See Internet addresses above and altering the URL for website accessibility if necessary.)
Use official names of offices and departments in university addresses (e.g., Office of the Treasurer, not Treasurer’s Office).
Spell out the names of buildings (e.g., Carver Hall, Buchanan Hall).
When listing mailing addresses, use the two-letter postal abbreviation for the state. In running text or if the context is formal (such as in an invitation), spell out the state name. Also see Addresses.
Use the full nine-digit zip code whenever possible (see www.fpm.iastate.edu/maps/buildings/addressing_project for a listing of extended zip codes for university buildings).
Abbreviate compass designations (N., S., E., W.), but spell out designations such as Street, Avenue, and Road.
For listing addresses in running text, use commas to separate elements, including U.S.A. (e.g., Direct inquiries to Office of Admissions, Iowa State University, 100 Enrollment Services Center, 2433 Union Drive, Ames, IA 50011-2011, U.S.A).
General campus zip codes, but see www.fpm.iastate.edu/maps/buildings/addressing_project for the last four digits:
50010 Frederiksen Court, University Village, Schilletter Village
50011 University faculty and staff offices
50012 Department of Residence administrative offices, Friley, Helser, Eaton halls
50013 Barton-Lyon-Freeman, Birch-Welch-Roberts, Buchanan Hall, Knapp-Storms, Linden, Maple-Willow-Larch, Oak-Elm, Wallace-Wilson halls
Capitalize official course titles. Do not use quotation marks. Lowercase when making a general reference to courses, unless the subject includes a proper noun or adjective.
He wanted to sign up for Introduction to Philosophy.
She took English, history, and psychology courses.
Use an en dash separated by space or an em dash (usually without much extra space), but be consistent throughout the publication. Do not use two hyphens. Note the differences:
en dash –
em dash —
Do not use – –
Data is the plural of datum and requires a plural verb.
Data are shown in the table below.
Use the month-day-year style; commas should be used (including after the year). If only the month and year are used, no commas are required.
They chose July 20, 2015, as the day to begin the series.
They chose July 2015 as the month to begin the series. New Year’s 2015 was very cold.
Spell out names of days and months in running text. Do not abbreviate the words day, week, month, and year.
Where space restrictions require abbreviations for days and months use the following:
In informal usages, the abbreviation of a year is often formed by replacing the first two digits with an apostrophe; decades by adding an s. Note that the apostrophe faces left, like a closing single quotation mark and should be the curved “smart” apostrophe.
the class of ’55
the 1960s and ’70s
Designations of chronology such as AD and BC (full capitals, no periods) may be used in text and elsewhere. (Some prefer small caps with or without periods, which is acceptable as well.)
Cap when used as a formal name; lowercase for informal usage. For department names, go to iastate.edu/depts.
Department of Landscape Architecture, not Landscape Architecture Department
landscape architecture department or department
Do not use email. See Contact information formats.
An ellipsis (. . .) indicates an omission in text, and each period should be separated by spaces. An ellipsis should be treated as though it’s a word.
professor emeritus/professors emeriti (masculine)
professor emerita/professors emeritae (feminine)
professors emeriti (masculine and feminine group)
Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action tagline
Iowa State University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, age, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, marital status, disability, or protected veteran status and will not be discriminated against. Inquiries can be directed to the Office of Equal Opportunity, 3350 Beardshear Hall, 515 Morrill Road, Ames, Iowa 50011-2024, 515-294-7612, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Also see Affirmative Action statement and Nondiscrimination statement.
Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action shortened tagline
Iowa State University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or protected veteran status and will not be discriminated against. Also see Affirmative Action statement and Nondiscrimination statement.
Etc., et al., i.e., e.g.
The abbreviation etc. stands for et cetera (“and other things”; not people). Do not use and etc. (et means “and”). Generally not used in formal text (phrases such as “and so forth” will do); it may be used in lists and within parentheses. Place a comma both before and after when used as the final item in a series and do not italicize.
The abbreviation et al. stands for et alii (“and others,” meaning people, not things). Used most often in bibliographies. When it follows a single item, no comma is needed; when it follows two or more, use commas as you would in a series.
The abbreviation i.e. (id est) means “that is”; e.g. (exempli gratia) means “for example.” Used most often in parentheses, place a comma after both.
Omit hyphens for ethnic names whether used as a noun or adjective.
African American, Asian American, Chinese American, Italian American
Names of ethnic and national groups are capitalized, as are the adjectives associated with these names.
Native Americans; Native American art
Designations based on color are not capitalized
black, brown, and white people
Capitalize full names of events such as Family Weekend, Student Orientation, and Homecoming.
Extension and Outreach
Use Iowa State University Extension and Outreach first time mentioned; second reference, ISU Extension and Outreach. Never Iowa State Extension and Outreach. Capitalize extension when it’s used as part of the official name; lowercase otherwise.
Faculty as a collective noun
As a collective noun, it may take either a singular or plural verb form. Use a singular verb when referring to the group; a plural verb when referring to individual members. If using the noun throughout the publication, be consistent with form of verb.
The faculty is striving to make their department the best in the nation.
The faculty are in disagreement over curriculum changes.
Lowercase faculty unless part of a specific name or title (e.g., Faculty Senate).
Cap when following a personal name, but lowercase when referred to generically as a fellowship.
John Q. Public, Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers
Fields of study/programs
Do not capitalize majors, programs, or concentrations of study, except for proper nouns.
The college offers courses in everything from biology to Asian studies.
He takes part in the astronomy program.
She is an economics major with an English minor.
John Doe (’15 marketing)
Jane Doe (’11 mathematics, accounting; MS ’14 finance)
Frequently misspelled words
absorb, absorbable, absorbability
access, accessible, accessibility
accommodate, accommodation (not accomodate, accomodation)
acknowledgment (not acknowledgement)
adviser (preferred to advisor)
afterward (not afterwards)
all right (not alright)
analog (not analogue)
audiovisual (no hyphen)
ax (not axe)
believable (not believeable)
benefit, benefited, benefiting
biohazard, biosecurity (not bio-hazard, bio-security)
bus, buses (busses are kisses)
canceled, canceling, cancellation
cannot (not can not)
catalog, cataloged, cataloger, cataloging, catalogist (not catalogue)
citywide/statewide/nationwide/worldwide (no space)
collectible (not collectable)
control, controlled, controlling
corral, corralled, corralling
cupfuls (not cupsful)
dietitian (not dietician)
dissociate (not disassociated)
dispel, dispelled, dispelling
doughnut (not donut)
downplay (no space)
enforce (but reinforce)
en route (two words)
enterprise (not enterprize)
espresso (not expresso)
existent (not existant)
formulas (not formulae)
forward (not forwards)
germplasm (one word)
glamour (but glamorous)
goodbye (not good-bye or goodby)
gray (not grey)
groundcover (one word)
groundwater (one word)
guarantee (not guaranty except in a proper name)
horticulturist (not horticulturalist)
honeybee (one word)
impostor (not imposter)
inasmuch (no spaces)
incur, incurred, incurring
index, indexes (for math expressions [measurable quantities] use indices)
inquire, inquiry (not enquire, enquiry)
inservice (no hyphen)
Johns Hopkins University (not John Hopkins)
judgment (not judgement)
kiwifruit (one word)
lawsuit (one word)
likable (not likeable)
livable (not liveable)
memento, mementos (not momento)
menswear (not men’s wear)
midpoint (one word)
midseason (one word)
multimedia (no hyphen)
notable (not noteable)
occur, occurred, occurring, occurrence
opossum (no apostrophe needed for possum as in playing possom)
parallel, paralleled, paralleling
parenthesis, parentheses (plural)
patrol, patrolled, patrolling
peatmoss (one word)
percent (one word)
picnic, picnicked, picnicking, picnicker
plow (not plough)
predominant, predominantly (not predominate, predominately, but the verb form is predominate)
prophecy (noun), prophesy (verb)
prostate gland (not prostrate)
protester (not protestor)
public (common typo; watch that “l”!)
pull back (verb), pullback (noun)
pull out (verb), pullout (noun)
push up (verb), pushup (noun)
put out (verb), putout (noun)
recur, recurred, recurring (not reoccur)
round up (verb), roundup (noun)
salable (not saleable)
second hand (noun) secondhand (adjective, adverb)
sidedressing (one word)
sizable (not sizeable)
stanch (verb), staunch (adjective)
Styrofoam (capitalized trademark; generic plastic foam)
subcommittee (not sub-committee)
subpoena, subpoenaed, subpoenaing
sulfur (preferred, not sulphur)
troubleshoot (one word)
turfgrass (one word)
usable (not useable)
whitish (not white-ish)
winterhardiness (one word, but winter hardy or winter-hardy plant)
Consider gender issues when writing; use firefighter, police officer, mail or letter carrier, chair, spokesperson, and so forth. Recast sentences if possible or use he/she if necessary. Humanity is preferred to mankind, but manmade is acceptable (consider using manufactured, synthetic, or handmade).
Full names of areas, regions, and places and the adjectives and nouns derived from them are capitalized.
Capitalize regional terms that are accepted as proper names, but lowercase adjectives and nouns derived from them.
the Midwest, midwestern, a midwesterner
the South, southern; Deep South
the Great Plains; the northern plains
Capitalize popular names of places. Do not use quotation marks. Certain terms considered political are lowercased.
the Wild West
the Twin Cities
the Sun Belt
the iron curtain
the third world
the Mighty Mississippi
Capitalize compass points when they refer to a geographical region or are part of a name, but lowercase when indicating simple direction or location.
North Ames Avenue; travel north on Ames Avenue
north wind, a northern climate
Generic geographical terms such as mountains, rivers, oceans, and such are capitalized when part of the name or when preceding two or more names.
Lakes Superior and Michigan
Mississippi and Missouri rivers
Capitalize names of streets, monuments, parks, landmarks, and buildings; lowercase the generic terms when used alone or after two or more names.
MacKay and Carver halls; MacKay Hall; Carver Hall
Iowa State Center; the center
Statue of Liberty; the statue
Governmental and political designations
Full names and some short forms of legislative, administrative, and judicial bodies, departments, bureaus, and offices are capitalized. Adjectives derived from them and generic names when used alone are usually lowercased.
United States Senate; the Senate; senatorial
United States Congress; the Congress; congressional
Department of State; the State Department; the department; departmental
United States Supreme Court; the Supreme Court; the Court
state supreme court
federal; the federal government; federal agencies; the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Ames City Council; the city council, city hall
Capitalize words such as state and city when the government rather than the place is meant.
Parking on that side of the street is a City of Ames ordinance
They live in the city of Ames.
Names of national political groups, movements, and economic organizations are capitalized; lowercase generic terms when used alone.
Democratic Party; Republican Party; the party; independents
North Atlantic Treaty Organization; the organization
Capitalize names of government programs, acts, and treaties.
the Bill of Rights
Social Security; Social Security number
Grade point average
Do not hyphenate. If abbreviation is used, use GPA, all caps, no periods.
Historical and cultural terms
The numerical designation of a period is lowercased unless it is part of a proper name.
the twenty-first century
the nineteen hundreds
the Roaring Twenties
A descriptive designation of a period is usually lowercased, except for proper names. When in doubt, check a dictionary or encyclopedia.
ancient Greece the nuclear age
the colonial period the Great Depression
modern history the Jazz Age
the Victorian era the Ice Age
space age the Stone Age
Names of some major historical events are capitalized. Others, more recent or with generic descriptions are lowercased. Consult a dictionary or encyclopedia.
the Boston Tea Party the cold war
the Enlightenment the gold rush
the New Deal the crash of 1929
September 11; 9/11 the civil rights movement
Names of cultural movements or schools of thought are usually lowercased, except when derived from a proper noun.
Capitalize each part of a hyphenated word as you ordinarily would.
In titles and headings, capitalize words without regard for hyphens.
Do not hyphenate ly words.
Do not hyphenate bio words. Also see bio words (words with a bio prefix).
Iowa State Center
The four-building complex includes C. Y. Stephens Auditorium, J. W. Fisher Theater, James H. Hilton Coliseum, and the Carl H. Scheman Continuing Education Building. The Brunnier Art Museum is housed in the Scheman Building.
Iowa State University
When writing about Iowa State, use Iowa State University first and follow with Iowa State. Avoid using ISU if at all possible, due to the potential confusion with Illinois State University, Idaho State University, and Indiana State University. Lowercase university when standing alone.
Iowa State University of Science and Technology is the official name of the university.
The university is organized into eight colleges.
Initials with names
Space between initials when listing names (John J. Jones, J. J. Jones; but use FDR and LBJ without periods and spaces when abbreviating entire name).
Jr., Sr., I, and II
Use only with full name. Commas are no longer required around Jr. and Sr. If commas are used, however, they should be both before and after.
Institutions and companies, capitalization
Capitalize the full names of institutions and companies and their departments. Lowercase the word the when it precedes a name in running text.
Iowa State University; the university
College of Human Sciences; the college
the Department of History; history department; the department
the General Foods Corporation; General Foods; the corporation
Italicize titles of regularly appearing cartoons or comic strips, books, films, plays, journals, magazines, newspapers, newsletters, long poems, paintings, drawings, statues and other works of art, long musical compositions, and television and radio programs.
Hyphenate land grant when used as an adjective.
Iowa State University is a land-grant university.
Lecture series, symposia
Capitalize the formal names of these events. Individual lectures are capitalized and enclosed in quotations marks.
He attended the Presidential University Lecture series last night and heard Gary Wells present “Do the Eyes Have It?
The Mistaken Eyewitness.”
Capitalize legal cases and set in italics when mentioned in text.
Brown v. Board of Education
See Contact information formats.
Use as a plural.
Medical terms, capitalization
Names of diseases, procedures, and such are lowercased, except for any proper names forming part of the term.
Names of generic drugs should be used whenever possible in place of brand names. Brand names should be capitalized; generic names are lowercased.
Nondiscrimination statement for printed materials
Iowa State University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, age, ethnicity, religion, national origin, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, sex, marital status, disability, or status as a U.S. veteran. Inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies may be directed to Office of Equal Opportunity, 3350 Beardshear Hall, 515 Morrill Road, Ames, Iowa 50011-2024, Tel. 515-294-7612, e-mail email@example.com.
Spell out numbers under 10. Use numerals for 10 and higher. Measurements in scientific material use numerals.
Hyphenate when used as an adjective but not as an adverb.
They live off campus.
Use official names of offices and departments.
Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, not Provost’s Office. Capitalize official name only (e.g., provost’s office).
Capitalize official names of organizations. For official organization names, see stuorg.iastate.edu.
Society for Human Resource Management
Society of Women Engineers
Spell out in text. The percent sign (%) may be used in graphics, tables, and figures.
Personal names/titles, capitalization
Personal names with de, la, van, and such are capitalized or not depending on the styling of individual names. Always capitalize when beginning a sentence, however. Capitalize nicknames or epithets. When used in addition to a name, enclose in quotation marks within or after the name.
James “Tama Jim” Wilson
Lowercase kinship names unless they precede or are used in place of a personal name. Always lowercase when following a possessive pronoun.
Jane’s father and mother also graduated from Iowa State.
I think Father graduated in 1970. (B ut I think my father graduated in 1970.)
Yes, Mother, I’ll call when I arrive.
Adjectives derived from personal names are normally capitalized.
Personal titles immediately preceding a name are capitalized; those following a name or set off by commas are not. The exception to this rule is a named title. Lists of speakers, donors, and such in programs or annual reports where titles are often capitalized even when following a personal name. Also see Academic and administrative titles.
The committee is chaired by Professor Mark Smith.
Mark Smith, professor of English, chaired the committee.
Mark Zachry is the John K. Jones Professor of Sociology
Dean Johnson; Johnson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts
Professor Emerita June Olsen; the professor emerita
President Obama; the president
Lowercase titles used as descriptions.
former presidents Bush and Clinton
President Bush and President Clinton
The first word of a line of poetry is usually capitalized. However, in some modern poetry, the line beginnings are lowercased. Always follow a poem’s original capitalization.
Omit punctuation from abbreviations that are made up of initial letters. Periods are used with abbreviations that appear in lowercase.
The abbreviation etc. (et cetera) is preceded and followed by a comma, as is i.e. (id est, that is) and e.g. (exempli gratia, for example) when used within parentheses.
Omit space around ampersands when used within an abbreviation.
When using the traditional state abbreviations in text (Ala., Calif., Nebr.), a comma should precede and follow the abbreviation.
The roommate from Los Angeles, Calif., will graduate in December.
Use the curved or “smart” version for printed material unless for measurements (inches).
Italics with cap M, no space around ampersand.
Registered trademarks must be capitalized or replaced with generic terms. The symbols ™ and ® are used with product names on packaging and promotional items but are not legally required in text and should be omitted whenever possible. If they are included, any punctuation follows the symbol. Some examples of brand names and their generic terms:
Band-Aid (or bandage)
Coke (or soft drink, cola)
Saran Wrap (plastic wrap)
Styrofoam (plastic foam)
Room names and numbers
Refer to rooms on campus in this format:
206 Ross Hall
When referring to a grade, use a capital letter; don’t use quotation marks around letter grades. A capital letter does not require an apostrophe in the plural (e.g., He got three As this semester), unless it would confuse the reader (for instance, As could be confused with the word As if used at the beginning of the sentence).
Names of planets, satellites, stars, planets, constellations, and other celestial bodies are capitalized. Earth is capitalized when used as a proper name of our planet and lowercased, as are sun and moon, when used in nontechnical contexts. The words moon and sun are always lowercased when used in the plural form.
The earth circles the sun.
There was a full moon last night.
the distance of Mars and Jupiter from Earth
some planets have several moons
Lowercase names of meteorological phenomena.
Lowercase chemical elements and compounds when written out.
Genus names of animals, plants, and microorganisms are capitalized; species names are lowercased. Both genus and species names are italicized.
Escherichia coli E. coli
In botany and zoology, Latin names of groups above genus (such as class and family) are capitalized but not italicized; derivative nouns and adjectives are lowercased.
Proper names of scientific laws or theories are capitalized, but the common nouns, such as law and theory, are lowercased.
Einstein’s theory Boyle’s law
Seasons of the year are lowercase.
Always use self with a hyphen.
Lowercase references to seasons and academic periods (e.g., summer school, fall semester).
Lowercase freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior, but capitalize a class designation.
The Junior Class sponsored the event.
Technology and science, abbreviations, capitalization
Abbreviations, such as those used in the biological and physical sciences, appear most frequently in tabular matter, notes, bibliographies, and references. Some easily recognizable ones, such as CD or DVD, may be used in nontechnical text as well.
Units of measure abbreviations are the same whether singular or plural; however, the plurals of time designations are often formed by adding an s.
2 gal. milk
1 ft. (foot) or 4 ft. (feet)
Names of chemical elements are normally lowercased when spelled out, but the abbreviations all have initial caps.
A genus name may be abbreviated with an initial letter after first reference is spelled out. Never capitalize species names. Italicize genus and species names of all animals, plants, and microorganisms.
See Contact information formats.
Terms to avoid
ampersand (&) (use only with proper names when part of the formal title)
and/or (choose and or or)
as well as (when used with the word both)
at this point in time, at the present time (use now)
Band-aid (use generic bandage)
being as, being that (use because or since)
by means of (use by or with)
despite the fact that (use although)
different than (use different from)
due to the fact that (use because)
end result (redundant; use result)
feel (unless sensory perceptions are relevant in describing certain qualities of a product)
firstly (use first)
fortnight (two weeks)
hopefully (use we hoped or it is hoped)
graduated Iowa State University (graduated from Iowa State University)
impact (as a verb; use affect)
in order to (use to)
in spite of (use despite)
in the near future (use soon or shortly)
irregardless (incorrect; use regardless)
it is suggested that (use I/we suggest)
kind of/sort of (use rather, somewhat, or somehow)
Jello (use gelatin)
Kleenex (use tissue)
lastly (use finally)
like (in place of as, as if, such as)
more equal (use more equitable)
more importantly, . . . (more important, . . .)
most (use almost; I would ask almost anyone to help.)
needless to say (redundant; it always precedes a statement)
not affected (say unaffected)
nowhere near (try does not approach, is not comparable, is far inferior)
off of (of is unnecessary)
on account of (use because)
on the grounds that/on the grounds of (use because)
orientate (use orient)
outside of (redundant; delete of)
over with (redundant; delete with or try completed)
per (avoid using for according to)
Incorrect: Assemble per manufacturer’s instructions.
Correct: Assemble according to manufacturer’s instructions.
percentage (as an adjective)
Plexiglas (use synthetic glass or plexiglass)
reason is because (use reason is that)
received a degree (use earned a degree)
though (avoid using in place of although)
’til/til/till (use until)
Saran (use plastic wrap)
Scotch tape (use cellophane tape)
secondly (use second)
separate (We filled out three separate forms. Separate adds nothing to the meaning.)
speciality (specialty preferred)
Styrofoam (use plastic foam)
subsequent to (use after)
Teflon (use nonstick or use poly[tetrafluoroethylene] in scientific writing)
towards (use toward; towards is more common in Great Britain)
try and (colloquial; use try to)
utilize, utilizing (simplify: use, using)
widely spread (use widespread)
whether or not (use whether)
Xerox (use photocopy)
Use theater, unless theatre is part of the formal name (e.g., Iowa State University Theatre).
Use a.m. and p.m. (preferred) or set in small caps without periods. Don’t use the abbreviations a.m. and p.m. with morning, afternoon, evening, night, or o’clock.
Use noon and midnight, not 12:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.
Place time zones in parentheses when needed. 2:30 a.m. (EST)
Time periods and dates
The names of days of the week, months of the year, holidays, and holy days are capitalized. Names of the seasons are lowercased.
summer, spring, winter, fall
Capitalize time zones when abbreviated; when written out, lowercase except for proper names.
Pacific standard time
Central standard time
Personal titles immediately preceding a name are capitalized; those following a name or set off by commas are not. The exception to this rule is a named title. (See also Academic and administrative titles.)
The committee is chaired by Professor Mark Smith.
Mark Smith, professor of English, chaired the committee.
Mark Zachry is the John K. Jones Professor of Sociology.
Titles of works, capitalization and treatment
Titles of works are capitalized headline style (with lowercase for internal articles, conjunctions, and prepositions). This includes titles of books, pamphlets, periodicals, newspapers; shorter works such as stories, articles, poems; chapters and other parts of longer works; unpublished works; plays, films, radio and television programs; musical compositions; and works of art. (Sentence style capitalization is commonly used in reference lists and library catalogs.)
The following titles of works should be italicized: books, long poems, magazines, newspapers, plays, movies, television and radio programs (a single episode in a series is set in roman type and enclosed in quotation marks), operas and long musical compositions, names of albums (individual songs are set in roman type and enclosed in quotation marks), works of art (paintings, drawings, cartoons, sculptures, and such), and catalogs of exhibitions.
When newspapers and periodicals are noted in running text, an initial the is lowercased and not italicized even if part of the official title. Do not italicize a periodical or newspaper name when it is part of the name of an award or building or such.
The professor referred to an article in the New York Times.
As a child, his favorite book was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
Time Magazine’s Person of the Year
The parts of a book, such as foreword, introduction, and index, and the words chapter, part, table, figure, and such are lowercased and spelled out when referred to in text.
Enclose the following titles in quotation marks and set in roman type: short stories, short poems, essays, lectures, dissertations, chapters of books, articles in periodicals and newspapers, speeches, titles of individual songs, a single episode in a television series, and titles of photographs.
The following titles are set in roman type without quotation marks: book series or editions (Modern Library edition); exhibitions and fairs; website titles; wording of short signs, notices, and mottoes (longer versions may be enclosed in quotation marks).
Capitalize and italicize names of ships, airplanes, spacecraft, and such; however, do not italicize USS and HMS.
Names/makes of automobiles, airplanes, and other vehicles are capitalized but not italicized.
Use the pronoun it rather than he or she in reference to ships, nations, and such.
University Book Store
Not University Bookstore
University Museums includes:
Anderson Sculpture Garden
Art on Campus Program
Brunnier Art Museum
Christian Petersen Art Museum
Farm House Museum
It’s university-wide but statewide, campuswide, nationwide (-wide words are normally closed but hyphenated after proper nouns and after most words of three or more syllables).
The abbreviation U.S. is acceptable as an adjective, but spell out United States when used as a noun. Use of periods is preferred in the abbreviation, but US also can be used.
It is preferable to avoid breaks in URLs. If it is necessary to break at the end of a line, no hyphen should be used. The break should be made between elements such as a colon, a slash, or the symbol @. Never break after a period, slash, or hyphen. Do not underline URLs in text. A change in color or boldness could be used for emphasis.
Also see Contact information formats.
U.S.News & World Report
U.S. and News with no space between. Magazine titles should be set in italics.
Versus is abbreviated as v. in legal contexts; vs. or spelled out versus in general use. The names of legal cases are italicized when mentioned in text.
Iowa State vs. Kansas
Brown v. Board of Education
Word usage, meanings, spellings, variations
a (use the indefinite article a before any word beginning with a consonant sound: a utopian dream, a history, a historical, a master’s degree)
an (use before any word beginning with a vowel sound: an officer, an hour, an M.S.)
absorb (to take something in; occupy full attention, engross)
adsorb (to take up the accumulation of gases, solids, or liquids on the surface of a solid or liquid)
access (a means of approach, entering, exiting, making use of)
assess (to estimate value of, to determine amount, to charge)
accept (to receive)
except (to exclude)
averse (reluctant, opposed)
advice (recommendation regarding a decision or course of action, an opinion)
advise (to give advice to, recommend, guide, to counsel)
affect (verb used to show influence: Budget reductions will affect services.)
effect as a noun means result: The changes will have a positive effect.
(as a verb [seldom used] means to cause: The new president will effect many changes in policy.)
afterward (at a later time, frequently thereafter; preferred to afterwards)
aide (a person)
allusion (a hint, an indirect reference)
illusion (unreal, false impression)
all together (all acting together or all in one place)
altogether (entirely, completely)
all ready (completely prepared: We were all ready to take the test.)
already (expresses time: We already took the test.)
alumnus (a man; use alumni as plural)
alumni (a group of men and women)
alumna (a woman)
alumnae (a group of women)
among (preferred to amongst; relationship between more than two: The duties were divided among us.)
between (time, space, or interval that separates; relationship concerning two, except when three or more are considered to have a single relationship at a time: The decision is between you and me.)
anyone, anybody (indefinite reference: Anyone can register for classes.)
any one, any body (singles out: Any one of the classes is offered this semester.)
assure (to inform positively, confidently remove doubt [reassure])
ensure (to guarantee)
attorneys general (not attorney generals; also brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law [the first word is more important than the last])
awhile (I’ll probably stay awhile.)
a while (I’ll probably stay for a while.)
back up (to move into position behind, to accumulate in a congested space)
backup (one that serves as substitute or support, a copy of computer data)
backward (not backwards)
bad (unfavorable, poor quality, failing to meet standards, spoiled, not fresh)
badly (to a great or intense degree, in a bad manner: She performed badly.)
barbecue (not barbeque, Bar-B-Q)
since (not direct cause)
biannual (semiannual, twice a year)
biennial (lasting or living for two years, every two years)
bimonthly/biweekly (not bi-monthly/bi-weekly; means every other month/week)
semimonthly/semiweekly (twice a month/week)
bloc (coalition of people, groups, countries with common goal and purpose)
block ([noun] many definitions, an object; [verb] to impede)
blond, brunet (noun for male, adjective for male and female)
blonde, brunette (noun for female)
can (refers to capability)
may (refers to possibility or permission)
Canada goose (not Canadian goose)
canvas (heavy cloth)
canvass (noun/verb for survey)
capital (seat of government; money, equipment, property [financial assets])
capitol (government building)
carat (weight of precious stones such as diamonds)
caret (writers’ or proofreaders’ mark)
karat (unit of pure gold used with an alloy)
censer (a container for burning incense)
censor (to prohibit or restrict)
censure (to condemn)
cite (to quote an authority, bring forward as proof; to commend or honor formally; summon)
sight (to see)
site (place/plot of land where structure was, is, or is to be located)
collaborate (to work together, cooperate)
corroborate (to strengthen or support with other evidence)
contrast (points out only differences; normally followed by with or between)
compare (points out similarities or both similarities and differences)
complaisant (eager to please)
complement (anything that completes a whole)
compose (to create or put together, make up the whole)
comprise (to contain, include, consist of)
concept (a thought or idea)
conception (the sum of ideas or concepts)
creditable (worthy of praise or credit)
criterion (a single standard on which a judgment or decision is based, a characterizing mark or trait)
criteria (several standards, marks, or traits on which judgment or decision is based)
data (plural, factual information as measurements or statistics: These data have been published in our annual report.)
desert (a dry, barren, desolate area)
dessert (a sweet dish at the end of a meal)
dialog (as in dialog box)
differ from (unlike)
differ with (disagree)
disc-standard for farming, medical, optic applications
disk-preferred for computer applications (floppy disk, hard disk but compact disc, laserdisc, videodisc; disk is not an abbreviation for diskette)
discreet (showing prudence, self-restraint)
discrete (detached, separate)
uninterested (lacks interest)
die, dieing (to cut, form, or stamp)
die, dying (about to die, declining)
dye, dyeing (to color with pigment)
dryer (preferred for appliance or drying device: washer and dryer, hair dryer)
drier (comparative of dry: The soil is drier because of recent winds.)
e.g. (for example; follow with a comma)
et al. (and others)
i.e. (that is; follow with a comma)
emigrate/emigrant (leaving a country)
immigrate/immigrant (coming into a country)
eminent (high in rank or reputation)
imminent (threatening; likely to occur at any time)
envelop, enveloped (to enclose or enfold completely, to cover)
envelope (a flat paper container, a wrapper, a natural enclosing or covering)
every day (being each individual or part of a group without exception, being each in a series: She takes medication every day.)
everyday (encountered or used routinely or typically: She wore her everyday coat.)
every one (each individual item)
everyone (every person, everybody)
farther (physical distance)
further (extension of time or degree)
faze (to embarrass or disturb)
phase (refers to an aspect or stage [in time])
fewer (not as many)
less (not as much)
flair (talent, knack)
flare (blaze, flame, bright light)
flammable/inflammable (capable of being set on fire; flammable is the preferred choice)
nonflammable (not capable of being set on fire)
flier (preferred for aviator or handbill; not flyer)
flutist (preferred over flautist)
forbear (to avoid or shun)
forgo (to abstain from)
forego (to go before as in foregone conclusion)
forward (to promote, to help onward; also, an athlete or player at the front of the team, near the goal)
foreword (preliminary or prefatory comments usually in a book and written by someone other than the author)
foul (offensive, out of line)
fowl (bird, usually domestic used as food)
fractions (spell out in stories [two-thirds, three-fourths]; use figures for precise amounts or decimals)
freshman/freshmen (freshman class not freshmen class; also consider using first-year students)
gage (a deposit as security, a pledge)
gauge (designate the size, measurement)
gibe (to taunt or sneer)
jibe (to shift direction; to agree [colloquial])
good (adjective-meaning better than average or OK; do not use as adverb)
well (adjective-meaning suitable, proper, healthy; adverb-meaning satisfactory or skillfully)
grizzly (grayish [or for grizzly bear])
handicapped (avoid using to describe a disability)
disabled (term for a condition that interferes with one’s ability to do something independently)
impaired (as speech impaired)
hang, hanged, hung (One hangs a picture, criminal, or oneself. For past tense/passive, use hanged when referring to executions/suicides and hung for other actions.)
hangar (a building, usually for aircraft)
hanger (for clothes)
hopefully (means in a hopeful manner but should not be used for it is hoped/we hoped)
ingenious (gifted, clever, resourceful)
ingenuous (unspoiled, candid, sincere)
its (possessive pronoun)
it’s (contraction for it is/it has)
lay, laid, laying (action word, takes direct object; indicates someone is placing something somewhere)
I wish I could lay my hands on that book.
The students laid down their backpacks.
I should have laid aside some money for tuition.
lie, lay, lain (reclining; indicates somebody or something is situated somewhere)
On sunny days the turtles lie on the rocks.
The book lay on the floor.
You should have lain down.
lie, lied, lying (untrue statement)
led (a past tense of lead [to guide or direct])
lead (to guide or direct on course; also a metal; mistakenly used as the past tense when led is correct)
leave (do not use in place of allow or permit)
let (to permit)
lose (be deprived of; fail to win)
loose (not fastened; unrestrained)
long-term (occurring over a long period of time; a long-term solution)
longtime (having been so for a long time; a longtime friend)
marshal, marshaled, marshalling (verb and noun; fire marshal)
Marshall (proper name)
may be (verb: The project may be ongoing.)
maybe (adverb, meaning perhaps)
molal (molecular concentration per 1000 g of solvent)
molar (molecular concentration per 1000 mL of solution)
navel (bellybutton) navel orange
onetime (occurring only once, former, sometime; a onetime track star)
over (for spatial relationships: The eagle flew over the lake.
Occasionally over can be used with numerals: He is over 6 feet tall.
more than (Over 100 employees attended the seminar. Better choice: More than 100 employees attended the seminar.)
palate (roof of the mouth)
palette (artist’s paint board)
part time (He worked part time.)
part-time (modifier: He had a part-time job.)
pedal (as in riding a bicycle)
peddle (as in selling)
people (when referring to a large or anonymous group)
persons (when referring to individual people thought of separately)
personal (of or pertaining to an individual person)
personnel (group of people engaged in a common job)
photomicrograph (a photograph taken through a microscope)
microphotograph (a photograph on a greatly reduced scale [microfilm])
pique (to arouse anger, resentment, or interest)
piqué (a durable ribbed fabric of cotton, rayon, or silk)
plead, pleaded, pleading (not pled [colloquial])
pore (to gaze intently or steadily: She pored over her cell phone bill.)
pour (to flow)
premier (first in status or importance, government title)
premiere (a first performance)
presently (in a while, soon, shortly; not now)
pretense (false show, more overt act of concealment)
pretext (an excuse)
principal (noun and adjective for someone or some main thing)
principle (noun for assumption, truth, doctrine, motivating force)
prove, proved, proving (proven is only an adjective: It is a proven treatment.)
pseudo (false or counterfeit)
quasi (somewhat or partial but not half, differing from semi)
raise (to cause or help to rise to a standing position, arouse, stir up, incite, grow, cultivate)
rise (to assume an upright position from lying, kneeling, or sitting; to get up from sleep; to increase in intensity, quantity, number, rank)
ravish (to overcome by force or carry away with emotion)
refute (to prove false, deny the accuracy of)
reign (the period of rule)
rein (leather strap; figuratively, give free rein to, seize the reins)
reluctant (unwilling to act)
reticent (unwilling to speak)
resume (to continue)
résumé (a summary; curriculum vitae)
rifle (to plunder or steal)
riffle (to leaf rapidly through pages or papers)
self (both noun and adjective forms hyphenated, except where self is followed by a suffix or preceded by un: self-restraint, self-realization, self-sustaining, self-motivated, self-conscious, self-destructive; selfless, unselfconscious)
shall (expresses determination)
will (expresses desire, choice, willingness, consent)
should (expresses an obligation)
would (expresses a customary action)
set (put or place, establish, or harden)
sit (to rest, perch, be situated or located)
stationary (to stand still)
stationery (writing paper)
step (all step words are closed: stepchildren, grandstepdaughter, stepfather)
straight-laced (strict, usually in behavior or moral views)
strait-laced (confinement, as in a corset, straitjacket)
suit (clothes, cards)
suite (music, rooms, furniture)
tenant (one who occupies property owned by another)
tenet (an opinion or belief held by a person or organization)
then (at that time, next in order of succession, besides, by way of summing up)
than (other than, rather than, used for comparison to indicate difference: He is older than I am.)
there (in that place, toward that place; that place or point)
their (possessive form of they)
they’re (they are)
to (preposition, to mark an infinitive)
too (also, excessively)
United States/U.S. (U.S. is an abbreviation and should be used as an adjective, otherwise spell out United States: I am a U.S. citizen. I am a citizen of the United States.)
vita (singular; a brief biographical sketch; curriculum vitae)
who (what or which person)
whom (the object of a verb or preceding preposition or used as an interrogative: To whom do I respond? Do you know for whom this was intended?)
who’s (who is)
whose (of or relating to whom or which, that which belongs: Whose book is this?)
worse (of more inferior quality, more unfavorable, difficult, unpleasant, or painful; comparative of bad or of ill)
worst (most corrupt, bad, evil, or ill; most unfavorable, unsuitable, unattractive, faulty, or ill-conceived, least skillful; superlative of bad or of ill)
Always use with a hyphen.
World Wide Web
Capitalize World Wide Web, but lowercase references to the web, web page, and web feed; also website, webcam, and webmaster.
Remember Cyclone fans, yellow or gold paper with black ink is never a good combination!