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Editorial Guidelines

An Editorial Style Guide is provided by the Virginia Wesleyan University Communications office to assist faculty and staff in preparing copy for any form of communication on behalf of the University. The guide includes some of the most common editorial questions related to punctuation, capitalization, names and titles, degrees and the like.

Because Marketing and Communications is geared primarily toward communicating with the general public and/or the media in addition to faculty, staff and students, the Associated Press Stylebook (most recent edition) should be used as the go-to source for any style related questions not covered here.

Academic Degrees

Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, etc., but there is no possessive in Bachelor of Arts degree or Master of Science degree.

 Capitalize the full name of degree – Bachelor of Arts – but not the informal bachelor’s degree.

 Use periods (with no spaces in between) when abbreviating degrees: B.A., B.S., M.A., M.B.A., Ph.D., Ed.D. etc.

Academic Titles/Attributes/Names

AP Style dictates that the abbreviation Dr. should only be used when referring to a medical doctor. The reason is that the general public (outside of academia) most often associates the title of doctor with the medical field. In general, avoid the use of Dr. except in direct quotes, detailed faculty listings/directories or certain publications such as formal letters or print materials associated with special events like commencement. If you must use Dr., it should only be used on the first mention of the person’s name. It is more helpful for most readers to include the person’s specific credentials or area of study rather than Dr. (Ex. Audrey Malagon, who holds a Ph.D. in mathematics, or Garry Noe, a professor of physics.)

When academic degree designations are listed after someone’s name (as in a formal publication described above), they should be separated by a comma. Ex: Benjamin Dobrin, Ph.D.

Redundancy – Never use Dr. and Ph.D. together. Do not use two titles consecutively. (Incorrect: President Dr. Billy Greer. Correct: Dr. Billy Greer, president of Virginia Wesleyan University.)

First Names/Last Names — As a general rule, once you have stated a person’s full name, use their last name in subsequent references. Though faculty and staff may be very familiar with the person in question, the general public and/or members of the media may not.

Job Titles — Capitalize a person’s job title only if it is their official title and it comes directly before their name. Ex. Professor of History Sara Sewell (that’s her official job title). But: Sara Sewell, a history professor at Virginia Wesleyan, or history professor Sara Sewell.

Religious Titles — The first reference to an ordained clergyperson should include a capitalized title before the person’s name, usually the Rev. On subsequent mentions, use the last name only (no title). Same for Monsignor or Rabbi.

Middle Initials — Do not use middle names or initials (again, unless it’s a formal print piece or detailed directory)

Jr. and Sr. – There is no comma between a person’s last name and Jr. or Sr. (Ex. John O. Smith Jr.)

Other Capitalization

University Buildings — Capitalize the names of campus buildings and use in full on first reference. (Ex. Blocker Hall, Jane P. Batten Student Center.)

Departments/Offices/Division Names — Lowercase informal department, office and division names (Ex. psychology department, philosophy department, admissions office, registrar’s office, humanities division) except when it includes proper nouns (Ex. English department). But capitalize when the full official name is used. (Ex. the Office of College Advancement, the Department of History, the Office of Admissions, the Division of Social Sciences.)

Programs and Centers — Capitalize specific programs and centers within Virginia Wesleyan University and use in full on first reference. Ex. Adult Studies Program, Center for the Study of Religious Freedom. If shorthand acronyms such as ASP and CSRF are used for subsequent references, they should be placed in parenthesis directly after the first mention of the full name: [Ex. Adult Studies Program (ASP)].

Winter Session — Capitalize only because it is a distinctive program at VWU. Do not capitalize fall session, spring semester or anything similar.

Capitalize University when referring specifically to Virginia Wesleyan University but not when used in a general sense.

Marlins – when referring to our mascot or our students, faculty and alumni as Marlins, always capitalize

Alumni Graduation Years

Place the two-digit graduation year directly after the name with the apostrophe pointing out rather than in. (Incorrect: John Smith ‘97. Correct: John Smith ’97)

Keep in mind that this notation is specific to the education world. It should not be used in a press release or communication with the broader public. (Instead, use something like: John Smith, a 1997 graduate of Virginia Wesleyan.)

Alumnae/Alumni – Alumna/Alumnus

Alumna refers to a single female graduate. Alumnae is the plural of alumna and should be used when referring to graduates of the University who are female. Alumnus refers to a single male graduate. Alumni is plural and refers to graduates of both sexes. The informal “alum” is acceptable if appropriate in the context of the copy, but should not be used for formal communications.


Freshmen is a plural noun that indicates multiple first-year students. Freshman can be an adjective as well as a noun that refers to a single first-year student (Ex. We have a large freshman class this year.)

Majors and Minors

When used in text, use lowercase for all, with the exception of proper nouns like French and English. (Ex. Majors: art, biology, French, earth and environmental sciences. Minors: business, English.) The same applies to concentrations or areas of emphasis.

Addresses, States, Zip Codes

Eight states are never abbreviated (unless when used with ZIP codes): Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah. State abbreviations can be found under “state names” in the AP Stylebook.

Use the two-letter postal service abbreviation only with full addresses that include the ZIP code.

Space Between Sentences

Use only one space between sentences — not two. This is AP style and has been for years. The two-space habit was by precipitated typeface irregularities that have been eliminated by computers and digital printing.


Use standard indenting for written materials such as letters, publications, catalogs and the like.

Do not indent for the web or any kind of electronic communications including emails.

Times, Dates and Numbers

As a general rule, write out numbers under 10. Use figures for numbers 10 or higher. (Ex. More than 50 students have been working on this project for three months.) Exception: use numerals when you’re listing complex data or figures.  

Dates — Never use ordinal numbers for dates. (Incorrect: May 21st, June 23rd. Correct: May 21, June 23.)

Time of day — Use figures except for noon and midnight. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes: 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m.  Do not use 00 except for in formal pieces like invitations. Incorrect: 11:00 a.m. Correct: 11 a.m. Always use a.m. and p.m. — not AM and PM.

There is no need to repeat “a.m.” and “p.m.” in a time range if they are the same. (Ex. The event takes place from 10-11 a.m., not from 10 a.m.-11.a.m.) Never use 12 noon — noon alone will suffice.

Months — Never abbreviate March, April, May, June or July. When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. Spell all months out when used alone or with a year alone. (Ex. January 1972 was a cold month. Jan. 2 was the coldest day of the month. His birthday is May 8. Feb. 14, 1987, was the target date. )

Telephone numbers — Use figures with periods in between, as in 757.455.3200 (a deviation from AP Style). The form for all toll-free numbers is 800.555.5555. Do not use a “1” before any long-distance or toll-free numbers. If an extension is needed, use a comma to separate the main number from the extension: 800.555.55555, ext. 2.

Odds and Ends

Acronyms — Periods are not used with acronyms, which are uppercase. Ex. WCGA, CFW, NCAA, NEAC. Exceptions: U.S., Washington, D.C.

Adviser — Not advisor. The more formal advisor is acceptable if it is part of an existing proper noun or title.

All right — Incorrect: Alright. Correct: All right.

Ampersands (&) should never be used in place of “and” unless it is part of a company’s formal name: F&M Trust, Simon & Schuster.

Capitalization — Beyond the specific capitalization rules covered here, beware of random capitalizations. Do not capitalize for emphasis. Italics or bold are a better way to accomplish the same thing.

Periods — Always put periods inside of quotation marks, not vice versa. (Ex. The student said, “I am relieved to be finished with all of my exams.”)

Exclamation points — Use them sparingly. If something is truly exciting, you shouldn’t need an exclamation point to make it exciting.

Commas — Comma questions could fill volumes. Consult any respected style or writing guide for the basics.

Titles of books, plays, songs etc. — Standard capitalization rules apply. Italicize the names of books, plays, journals, periodicals, albums (CDs), films etc. Put song titles, chapter titles, article titles and the like in quotation marks. (Ex. Dr. Jane Smith has published an article called “Field of Dreams: Portrayals of Female Athletes in American Cinema” in the Journal of American Culture.)

email — Lowercase, no hyphen

Internet — Always uppercase

URLs — Always lowercase, generally no http:// prefix, e.g.,

web — web, website (one word, lowercase), webpage, webcam, webcast, webmaster

online — Lowercase, no hyphen

There/Their/They’re — They’re is a contraction for “they are.” Their is possessive. There means a place, as in, “We went there.”

Toward — Use toward, not towards.

Its/It’s — It’s with an apostrophe is a contraction for “it is.” Its without an apostrophe is possessive. (Ex. It’s good to see you. The dog scratched its face.)

Participial phrases — A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical subject. (Ex. Wrong: On arriving in New York, his friends met him at the airport. Correct: On arriving in New York, he was met at the airport by friends.)