College Style Guide

The Davidson College Style Guide is a reference tool that helps eliminate inconsistencies in spelling, punctuation and grammar. Davidson College’s style guide conforms to best practices of today’s academic, public relations and news authorities. It follows conventions outlined in the Associated Press AP Stylebook and Webster’s New World College Dictionary.

This guide does not apply to certain materials produced by faculty and staff members for academic purposes, including monographs, scholarly research, journal articles, faculty-written books or articles, dissertations or the like. The style guide is for primary communication pieces, such as brochures, catalogs, fliers, marquee images, newsletters, posters, news stories, websites and digital communications.

We have also created specific sections to address commonly accessed style questions.

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z


a vs. an with acronyms

Use a or an based on the acronym’s pronunciation. For example, a WYSIWYG application and an ASCII file.

@ symbol

Use of the special character “@” within Web text should be avoided, e.g., page names, page titles, subheadings, or callouts. College style is to use “at.”


Use the following abbreviations when used before a full name outside direct quotations: Dr., Gov., Lt. Gov., Mr., Mrs., Rep., the Rev., Sen. and certain military titles, such as Gen., Lt. Gen., Col., etc. Spell out all except Dr., Mr., and Mrs. when they are used before a name in direct quotations.

Use the abbreviations Jr., Sr. and Esq. when used after a full name.

Use the abbreviations Co., Corp., Inc. and Ltd. in the formal names of businesses.

Use the abbreviations a.m., p.m., A.D., B.C. B.C.E, A.C.E when used with specific numbers: 6 p.m., 600 B.C., A.D. 96

Use the abbreviations Ave., Blvd. and St., such as 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, 9201 University City Blvd.

Use the abbreviation St. (St. Louis) in the names of cities, saints and other place names but spell out Fort (Fort Lauderdale, Fort Bragg).

Capitalize alphabetical abbreviations of groups, organizations, or institutions such as FBI, UNH, ROTC, USDA, UCLA, or MIT, without periods or spaces unless the entity uses such punctuation as part of its proper name.

In running text, write out the first instance and place the abbreviation in parentheses. Thereafter use the abbreviated text.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has an office in Charlotte. For directions to the USDA’s office, visit their website.

See also the guidelines under the separate entry on states and academic degrees.

Academic degrees

A Ph.D. is a doctorate.
An M.A. is a master’s degree.
A B.S. or a B.A. is a bachelor’s degree.

If mention of degrees is necessary to establish someone’s credentials, the preferred form is to avoid an abbreviation and use a phrase such as: John Jones, who has a doctorate in psychology. Use abbreviations B.A., Ed.D., J.D., M.A., M.A.T., M.S., LL.D., Ph.D. when the need to identify many individuals by degree on first reference would make the preferred form cumbersome.

Use apostrophes in bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, etc.

Do not capitalize official college degrees when spelled out.

He has a bachelor of science in biology, a master of arts in literature, and a doctor of philosophy.

Use abbreviations for academic degrees only after full names; set them off with commas: William Mahony, Ph.D., will give a lecture. However, the preferred method would be to identify the individual in a phrase: William Mahony, associate professor of biology, will give a lecture.

Do not use courtesy titles (Dr. Frank Smith) to indicate academic degrees.

Academic disciplines

Do not capitalize names of college studies, fields of study, options, curricula, major areas, major subjects, or programs, unless referring to a specific course. (Exception: Capitalize names of languages.)

Jill Jones is an English major.
A professor of geography and earth sciences delivered the lecture.
I have a history review.
I’ve signed up for History of Gender Studies with Professor McMillen.

See departments.

Acknowledgment (not Acknowledgement)


Acceptable on second and subsequent references if given in parentheses after first use: The Davidson College Student Government Association (SGA) held its first meeting today. The next SGA meeting will take place in two weeks.

Certain acronyms are acceptable without first spelling out if the initials are widely recognized – CEO, SAT, NCAA, AIDS, HMO, NASA, FBI, CIA.

Do not parenthesize after a first spelled-out use if the organization will not be mentioned subsequently.

Administer, not Administrate

Admission, Office of – see offices


Use abbreviations only in numbered addresses: She works at 2700 N. Tryon St.

Otherwise, spell out directional modifiers and road designations: He lives on North Tryon Street.

Admission, Office of

Note there is no “s” at the end of admission.

adverse, averse

He predicted adverse weather.

She is averse to change.

Adviser, advisor

Two correct spellings exist for this word: adviser and advisor. Adviser is the preferred AP style spelling.


John affected a cosmopolitan air.
The urban air affected his lungs.
The effect of stress is sleeplessness.
She effected energy conservation by recycling.

African American, African-American

Generally preferred as proper noun or as an adjective.

Do not hyphenate unless used as a modifier; this applies as well to Asian American, Latino American, etc.

He was the first African American to play basketball at Davidson.

He was Davidson’s first African-American basketball player.

Do not capitalize a color when referring to race; i.e., white, black.


alumnus (male singular)
alumna (female singular)
alumni (male plural or in reference to Davidson graduates in general)
alumnae (two or more female graduates)

Never write “alum”

When referring to an individual female and male who has attended/graduated from Davidson College, use alumna and alumnus, respectively. Jill Jones ’78, an alumna of Davidson College, works at Bank of America. Alumnus John Jones ’85 is president of the company. On first reference use the person’s full name and year of graduation. Note:  alumna/us is not the same as a graduate. An individual who takes classes at Davidson College is an alumna/us, but the person may not have completed a degree.

Alumnae is the plural of alumna; alumni is the plural of alumnus. Use alumni when referring to a group of men and women.

The Davidson College Alumni Association is the official name of the organization that supports former students/graduates. The Alumni Association offices are located in Nancy O. Blackwell Alumni House. To save space, Alumni House is acceptable.


A shortcut to avoid; it can lead to confusion or ambiguity. Use either word, but not both words in a sentence. If necessary, use an “or both” phrase: salt or pepper or both.


Use figures for ages more than 10; spell out if less than 10.

The child is five years old.
For a 12-year-old student, she sure knows her history
The average student age at the college is 20.


An event cannot be described as annual until it has been held in at least two successive years.


Do not use to form plurals (1950s, not 1950’s) except in the cases of single letters (straight A’s).

Possessives of singular nouns, even those ending in s, are formed by adding ‘s:  Susan’s desk, Chris’s office.

Possessives of plural nouns not ending in s are formed by adding ‘s:  women’s studies.

Possessives of plural nouns ending in s are formed by adding an apostrophe only:  the horses’ mouths.

In the case of plural nouns modifying other nouns, such as the parents’ newsletter, the use of the apostrophe is preferred.

Use apostrophes for omitted letters (’tis the season, He is a ne’er-do-well) and figures (The class of ’62


Bias-free language

Where possible, use first-year students instead of freshmen.

The term “international students” is preferred over foreign students.

The use of “juniors and seniors” is preferred over upperclass students.

Board of Trustees

Capitalize when referring to Davidson’s.

The Davidson College Board of Trustees will meet tomorrow.

Board of Visitors

Members of Davidson’s Board of Visitors are ambassadors of the college.

Building names, room numbers

Capitalize the formal names of buildings (Duke Residence Hall, Rusk House, Alvarez College Union, E.H. Little Library). Lowercase in general reference (They went to the library to study).

Capitalize room when referring to a specific location within an academic or administrative building. The room location always follows the building. (The lecture will be in Chambers Building, Room 159. C. Shaw Smith 900 Room is the location for the seminar.)

See the campus map for a complete list of buildings and campus spaces.



Do not capitalize.


Do not hyphenate. Except for university-wide, most “wide” compounds are not hyphenated.


Capitalize all proper nouns and proper names.

As a rule, official names of departments, centers, organizations, courses and offices are capitalized (Chemistry Department, Admission and Financial Aid, ENG 101, English Composition) and unofficial names are not (chemistry, admission office).

Lone references to college, center, institute, department, foundation, and similar should appear in lowercase, e.g., The center will be open to midnight during final exams. The institute is located on the second floor of the building.

Capitalize geographical areas and localities (the Eastern Shore, New York City), government bodies (the U.S. Congress, the Baltimore City Council), historical periods (the Depression, the Enlightenment), names referring to a specific deity (God, Allah), sacred books (the Bible, the Koran), religions (Christianity, Judaism), holidays (Memorial Day, Halloween) and registered trademarks (Xerox, General Electric).

Lowercase job titles (president, professor) when they are not used before a proper name; unofficial names of departments or offices (the admissions office); nouns used with numbers to designate chapters, pages, etc. (chapter 1, page 125); derivative adjectives (french fries); simple directions (the east coast of Maryland).

See also headlines and titles.

Captions for photos

Use a caption if there’s a person, place or situation that the reader is likely to want to identify.

Use (left), (from left), or the like if there might be confusion about identities.

Do not use a middle initial if the full name with initial is already in the story.

Do not use periods in captions that are not full sentences.


Not Catalogue

Center vs. center

Lone references to center, college, institute, department, foundation, and similar should appear in lowercase, e.g., The center will be open to midnight during final exams. The institute is located on the second floor of the building.


Use instead of chairman or chairperson (chair of the English department).


Capitalize city if it is part of proper name, an integral part of an official nickname or a regularly used nickname: Baltimore City, New York City, the Windy City, City of Hope.

Lowercase elsewhere: a North Carolina city, the city government, the city of Charlotte.

In running text, some cities do not need to be identified by state. These include Atlanta, Baltimore, Berkeley, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and St. Louis.

When referring to cities within North Carolina, it is understood they are within the state. Other than the above-mentioned cities, include the state to avoid confusion – Concord, N.H.; Augusta, Maine. (Maine is one of eight states not abbreviated – the others are Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Ohio, Texas and Utah.)

Foreign cities commonly associated with a country do not need a country identification (e.g., London, Bangkok, Tokyo, Toronto).

Class of

Capitalize class as part of the proper name (Class of 1946, Class of ’99)

Class years

Eileen Keeley ’89
Eileen Keeley, Class of 1989
John McCartney was in the Class of 1974.

In a sentence, consider the class year as part of the name, and do not set off with a comma:

John Smith ’82 writes for The New York Times.

Avoid using a class year as a suffix when the proper name is used in the possessive.

E.g., avoid: Eileen Keeley’s ’89 title is Vice President for College Relations.

Rewrite: The position Eileen Keeley ’89 holds is Vice President for College Relations.

Collective nouns

Nouns that denote a unit take singular verbs and pronouns (class, committee, crowd, family, group, herd, jury, orchestra, team)

Team or group names that are plural take plural verbs (The Davidson Wildcats are in first place).

Some words that are plural in form become collective nouns and take singular verbs when the group or quantity is regarded as a unit:

A thousand bushels is a good yield. [unit];
A thousand bushels were created. [individual items];
The data is sound. [a unit];
The data have been carefully collected. [individual items]

See faculty.

college vs. College

“College” is considered a proper noun only when paired with Davidson, not when used in reference to Davidson; thus, use lowercase when it appears alone:

I attended Davidson College before the college was admitting women.

Lone references to center, institute, department, foundation, and similar should appear in lowercase, e.g., The center will be open to midnight during final exams. The institute is located on the second floor of the building.


The most frequent use is at the end of a sentence to introduce lists, tabulated material or texts.

My roommate is guilty of two unhealthy habits: staying up late and poor eating.

For short lists, do not use a colon.

Classes offered this semester include yoga, fencing and aerobics.

Capitalize the first word after the colon only if it is a proper name or the start of a complete sentence:

He promised this: He would not go quietly.

Unless they are part of a quotation, leave colons outside quotation marks.


Use a comma to separate elements in a series, but do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series.

The flag is red, white and blue. He would nominate Tom, Dick or Harry.

Put a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series if an integral element of the series requires a conjunction.

John Jones had toast, orange juice, and ham and eggs for breakfast.

NOTE: Do not use serial commas (I remembered to bring my pen, pencil, and notebook.) unless necessary for clarity.

Use a comma to introduce direct quotations: He said, “I will see you in class.” Do not use a comma at the start of an indirect or partial quotation. He said the victory put him “firmly on the road to a first-ballot nomination.”

In general, if you set something apart with a comma, you must follow it with a comma: The bus to Washington, D.C., will leave at noon, Friday, Nov. 15, from the Student Union.


Capitalize only when referring to Davidson’s graduation ceremony.

I have invited my cousin to Commencement.

This day marks the commencement of my career.


Use these with care. To comprise is “to be made up of, to include” (the whole comprises the parts). To compose is “to make up, to form the substance of something” (the parts compose the whole). The phrase comprised of, though increasingly common, is poor usage. Instead, use composed of or consisting of.

The Union comprises fifty states.

Fifty states compose the Union.

Conferences, lecture series, symposia, etc.

Capitalize formal names (the National Conference on Wrongful Convictions and the Death Penalty).


Do not capitalize unless using the proper title: Spring Awards Convocation

Course titles

Capitalize and put in quotation marks.

Courtesy titles

Refer to both men and women by first and last name: Susan Smith or Robert Smith. Use the courtesy titles Mr., Miss, Ms. or Mrs. only in direct quotations or in other special situations:

–When it is necessary to distinguish between two people who use the same last name, as in married couples or brothers and sisters, use the first and last name.

–When a woman specifically requests it; for example, where a woman prefers to be known as Mrs. Susan Smith or Ms. Susan Smith.

In cases where a person’s gender is not clear from the first name or from the context, indicate the gender by using he or she in subsequent reference.

After a first reference, subsequent references generally use only a person’s last name. Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., Rev., Dean, and Professor should not be used in second references except in quoted material.

NOTE: Use of Dr. is reserved for physicians, dentists, members of paramedical professions.



Use a single hyphen to denote a range (pages 40-48, July 1-2) and to join compound adjectives, such as full-time job. Hyphens should be used in sports scores.

Em dashes (-), or long dashes, may be used for material that amplifies, explains or digresses. Commas often may be used for the same purpose. (PC keyboard shortcut is CTRL + NUM LOCK + Keypad Hyphen; Mac is Shift + Option + Hyphen).

Do not use spaces around em dashes: She saw-or thought she saw-a knight in shining armor.

The en dash (medium dash, between a hyphen and a long dash) indicates duration of time or the relationship between numbers and requires no spaces. (PC keyboard shortcut is Control + Hyphen [on the number pad]; Mac is Option + Hyphen).

E.g.: 2010-11

The team won in the final inning, bringing the score to 12-10.


She was in college from 1957 to 1961.

That trip will cost you between $150 and $200.

Dates, days

The all-numeral style of writing dates (7/10/44) should not be used in body text for practical as well as aesthetic reasons, as the month-date-year style is not globally consistent.

If using an all-numeral style, avoid trendy choices, e.g.: 07.10.44

Capitalize and spell out the days of the week. Capitalize and spell out the month if used alone or with only the year (January 2011, February). Abbreviate months with specific dates (Jan. 1, Feb. 4, Oct. 9). Never abbreviate the months of March, April, May, June and July (except for tabular material).

When a phrase lists only a month and a year, do not separate with a comma. If the month, date and year appear, use a comma before and after the year.

Return financial aid applications by the March 30, 2011, deadline.

Do not place a comma between the month and year when the day is not mentioned, or between season and year.

December 1999, fall 2000

For tabular material, it is acceptable to use three-letter forms without periods (Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec)

Use a single hyphen to show a range of dates; do not repeat the first two numbers of the year if the second year is part of the same century as the first: 1985-86; 2007-08; 1889-1902.

Use the year with the month only if it is not the current year.

Use st, nd, rd, or th only if dates are adjectives: The event will take place July 15; The July 15th show has been cancelled.

Times come before days and dates: at 4 p.m., Friday; at 9 a.m., Monday, June 7.

Use numerals for decades: the 1960s; the ’60s.

When following AP style, particular centuries are written numerically: the 21st century, the 1900s.

Davidson College

Davidson College is the official name of the institution and is the preferred designation for first reference in all official external publications. Use of Davidson is acceptable for subsequent references.

Davidson Research Initiative, DRI

The Davidson Trust

The name for Davidson’s policy to replace loans in financial aid packages with grants. Use the entire phrase, The Davidson Trust, with the uppercase T in the word The:

The college family is eager to support The Davidson Trust.


See academic degrees.

Departments and programs

Full formal names of Davidson College departments, administrative units and academic programs are capitalized: the Department of Biology, Department of Philosophy, the Office of Grants & Contracts; the Women’s Studies Program.

Lowercase the department/majors they offer unless they are proper names:

She is double-majoring in psychology and English.

Jones, a communications studies professor, is the author of a new book.

Directions and regions

Lowercase when referring to compass points:

She traveled east for the lecture.

The storm is moving northwest.

Capitalize when they designate regions:

Tornadoes devastated parts of the Midwest.

Settlers from the East migrated West.


Avoid use of negative terms, like victim, afflicted and stricken. People with disabilities, not the disabled or disabled people. Do not use normal to mean the opposite of having a disability. Lowercase terms that describe groups or individuals by physical characteristic or disability.

Concert attendees who have a hearing impairment can request headphones.


Capitalize when using the formal names of the divisions. Lowercase in general reference.

The Division of College Relations includes a number of units. College Communications is a unit within college relations.

The Duke Endowment

The article “the,” which precedes the name of this foundation, is always written with an uppercase T:

Davidson’s largest donor, The Duke Endowment, is based in Charlotte.

Dean Rusk International Studies Program, Rusk Program, DRISP



Used to indicate the deletion of one or more words in condensing quotes, texts or documents. Treat as a three-letter word, constructed (space/three dots/space).

The reviewer wrote, “Jack Jones is unbelievable … a true talent.”

Note: In copy submitted for design and layout, do not use Microsoft Word’s auto-ellipsis feature; it does not translate into design software.


Added to formal titles to denote individuals who have retired but who retain their rank or title. When used, place emeritus after the title: professor emeritus, dean emeritus.

Use emeritus for a man, emerita for a woman.

Use emeriti for the plural.

Endowed professorships

Capitalize before or after the name: the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professorship.

Ethnicity, nationality, race

The terms “black” and “white” should be lowercase. Use a specific designation (Puerto Rican, Cuban) rather than Hispanic or Latino/a. Some Native American groups prefer Indian American; use a specific tribal designation (Cherokee, Navajo) when possible.

Hyphenate African-American ONLY as a compound adjective preceding a noun (as in “an African-American idiom”). Do not hyphenate it as a noun phrase (as in “African Americans” or “he is an African American”).



Use as a plural noun to refer collectively to the teachers within an educational institution or department:

The history faculty will participate in the conference.

The committee consisted of faculty, staff and students.

To avoid confusion, use faculty members or members of the faculty.

Family Weekend (not Parents Weekend)

farther, further

Although these words have long been used interchangeably to denote spatial, temporal, or metaphorical distance, a divergence in meaning is evolving. As adverbs, farther has begun to take over the meaning of spatial distance, but when there is no notion of distance, further is used:

I can go no farther.

Our techniques can be further refined.

Further is also a sentence modifier:

Further, the leadership is not  enthusiastic.

As an adjective, farther relates to distance:

We’ll head for that farther shore.

Further indicates in addition:

No further action is needed here.


Lowercase in all uses, as in Kristi Multhaup is an honorary fellow of the American Psychology Association. Exception: Uppercase when part of proper name, such as Fulbright Fellow.

Fellowships and other awards

The formal name is capitalized (Fulbright Fellowship), but informal references (Fulbright grant) are not.


Use figures for numbers 10 or greater; write out figures less than 10

Nearly 40 people attended the gathering. Only four people came to class.

Use figures for sums that are cumbersome to spell out; however, spell out the words million and billion.

The campaign received a $25 million gift. (Not 25,000,000 million)


Do not use when referring to students or countries. Instead write international student(s) or country(ies).

Write: foreign words, foreign language, foreign money, foreign names.

Foreign words

Many foreign words and phrases have been accepted universally within the English language, such as bon voyage, ciao, et cetera, versus. Other foreign words and abbreviations, especially legal and medical terminology, are not understood universally. In such cases, place the word/phrase in quotation marks and provide an explanation: “non compos mentis” is a Latin term meaning “not of sound mind.”


Spell out amounts less than one and hyphenate: two-thirds, three-fifths.

Freshman, freshmen, first year

If possible, use first year student instead.

Used only as a modifier. Examples:

First year student, not, “She is a first year.”

Note: The term “freshman” is not taboo, since students, parents, and faculty commonly use the term. 

Fundraising, fundraiser

The noun phrase “fund raiser” is acceptable as a compound word without a hyphen, in a departure from Merriam-Webster.

But, do not use a verb form “to fundraise”; use “to raise funds.”


Gender-neutral language

As a rule, use nonsexist language: chair, not chairman; business executive, not business man; police officer, not policeman; female student, not coed student; humankind, not mankind

Avoid writing “he” when referring to an unspecified individual. Rewrite the sentence in plural or avoid the use of pronouns altogether. If using a singular pronoun, write “he or she” not “he/she.”

Grade, grader

Hyphenate in combining forms: a fourth-grade student, a 12th-grade pupil, first-grader, 10th-grader

Grade point average

Depending on the publication and context, it may be acceptable to abbreviate GPA in first reference.

Do not put in quotation marks. Use an apostrophe for plurals: A’s, B’s: He received straight A’s.

Gray, not grey (but write greyhound)



The use of downstyle, or upper- and lowercase headlines, is generally determined by the formality of the publication and the design, but once a style is chosen, it should be followed consistently within a publication. In downstyle headlines, the first word and proper nouns are capitalized. In upper- and lowercase headlines, every word is capitalized except articles (a, an, the), coordinate conjunctions (and, or, for, nor), prepositions and to in infinitives.

Health care

Two words as a noun or adjective.


Denotes a person from-or whose ancestors were from-a Spanish-speaking land or culture. Latina or Latino are sometimes preferred, but Hispanic is acceptable. Defer to the preference of the subject, and use a more specific identification when possible, such as Cuban, Puerto Rican or Mexican-American.

Homecoming, Homecoming Weekend

Capitalize, unless: Davidson has a strong homecoming program.

Honor Code/honor code

The Honor Code is a hallmark of Davidson culture.

A code of honor binds the Davidson community.


A hyphen joins words.

A dash joins parts of sentences. Avoid overusing the dash as a compositional device.

In general, do not hyphenate words beginning with the prefixes co, non, pre, post, or re unless there is a possibility of confusion (co-op, post-master’s) or the root word begins with a capital letter (post-Renaissance, Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program).

Hyphenate words beginning with the prefix self.

When a compound modifier-two or more words used to express a single concept-precedes a noun, use hyphens to link all of the words in the compound except the adverb very and all adverbs that end in -ly:

A study-abroad program, on-campus housing, a devil-may-care attitude, a very difficult class, an exceptionally good performance.

Many combinations are not hyphenated when they occur after a noun:

He plans to study abroad. She lives on campus. He works part time.

However, when a modifier that would be hyphenated before a noun occurs after a form of the verb to be, the hyphen usually must be retained:

The professor is very well-known.

Some combinations are so familiar that they need no hyphenation in any case (a liberal arts college).

Use the dictionary as your guide: If it lists a compound term without hyphens as its own separate term, do not hyphenate it.

Do not hyphenate compounds with vice:

vice chair, vice president

Hyphenate artist-in-residence, writer-in-residence, etc. before a name, do not hyphenate after:

Writer-in-residence Seamus Heaney will read. Seamus Heaney is the fall 2002 writer in residence.

When more than one prefix is joined to a base word, hyphenate any prefixes that stand alone (micro- and macroeconomics).


i.e. and e.g.

Introductory words or phrases such as namely, i.e., and e.g., should be immediately preceded by a comma or semicolon and followed by a comma.

Local cheese is fresher, i.e., it doesn’t have to be trucked here from Wisconsin. 


Use only as a noun; not a transitive verb.


Her words had a strong impact on my thinking.

I felt the impact of her words.

Consider using “influence,” or “affect,” which can be used as nouns or transitive verbs.

Her words influenced my thinking.

I was strongly affected by her new poem.

Do not make into an adjective form, e.g., never “impactful” or, even worse, “impacting.”

Consider using “powerful,” “influential.”


Use periods and no space when an individual uses initials instead of a first name (H.L. Mencken, J.P. Morgan).

In scientific citations, it is acceptable to use only a single initial and a last name. Do not use a single initial, last name (J. Jones) in normal publication text.

Use middle initials according to a person’s preference or where they help identify a specific individual.

International students

Preferred over foreign students.

Interstate 77

Use this form for first references; thereafter, use I-77 or interstate. This rule applies to all interstate highways.


Web addresses are italicized in print publications:

Use italics for foreign words or phrases, unless in common English usage.

Davidson is my alma mater.

But: It’s a lovely day, n’est-ce pas?

When in doubt, consult Merriam-Webster.


Job titles

Capitalize all job titles when used before a name or in lists and programs. (Exception: Do not capitalize such titles in the text when they follow the name.)

Jane Smith, president of ABC Corp…

Professor Bob Smith is chair of the Biology Department.

Jr., Sr., III in names

Do not set off with commas: Sammy Davis Jr.; Hank Williams Sr.; Clarence Williams III.


Latina, Latino

Preferred over Hispanic, but either is acceptable. Defer to the preference of the subject and do not use interchangeably within a document.

Lecture titles

Put quotation marks around the formal title.


“less” is used to describe an amount that cannot be specifically quantified; “fewer” is used with items that can be counted.

There is less snow today than yesterday.

Consequently, there are fewer snowballs.


“to lie” (to stretch out on a horizontal surface) is an intransitive verb;

“to lay” (to put something down) is a transitive verb, thus taking an object.

To confuse things further, the past tense of “to lie” is “lay.”


I lie on the beach; I lay my book down on the sand.

As I lay on the beach yesterday, I laid my head on a pillow.

Line breaks

Avoid breaking a proper name, breaking a hyphenated word except at the hyphen, ending a column at a hyphen and allowing more than two consecutive lines to end in a hyphen. In headlines, do not end the first sentence with a preposition.


Use a numbered list only when the number or ranking of items is significant. If there is no reason for numbering items, use a bulleted list.

A list should be introduced by a grammatically correct sentence, followed by a colon. List items should be syntactically alike: all noun forms, all phrases, all full sentences, etc. If list items are complete sentences, they should begin with a capital letter and have closing punctuation. If list items are not complete sentences, no punctuation is necessary.



Use figures for measurements.

6 feet

15 inches

9 cubic centimeters

33 percent (don’t use 33% in a sentence; it is permissible in tables or charts)


Use figures for amounts of money with the word cents or with the dollar sign (i.e., $5, $5.25, $.77 or 77 cents) unless tabulated in columns.



No comma before Jr., Sr., or III. No space between initials (H.L. Mencken).

Include the full name of a person the first time they appear in an article. Thereafter, use the person’s last name.

John Smith is author of the new book. Smith wrote the book while on sabbatical.

No-Loan Policy, see The Davidson Trust


Do not begin a sentence with numerals; supply a word or spell out the figures

Spell out one through nine; use numerals for 10 and above.

He has seven assignments due; she is working on 12 experiments.

Spell out first through ninth; thereafter, 10th, 11th, etc.

Use numerals with percent (1 percent), dollar sign ($3), temperature (6 degrees), scores (7-3), page (page 2), room (room 9), line (line 9) and chapter (chapter 6).

For figures greater than 999,999, use million or billion: 2.3 million, 4 billion. There are probably a million ways to deal with the $2.9 trillion deficit.

Use a comma in a figure greater than 1,000 unless it’s a date.

Numbers less than 100 should be hyphenated when they consist of two words.

Eighty-eight percent of our students live on campus.

For inclusive numbers, the second number should be represented by only its final two digits if its beginning digit(s) are the same as the first numbers: pages 343-47.

Use figures where ordinals indicate a sequence assigned in forming names, usually with geographic, military or political designations (4th Ward, 7th Fleet)

See Telephone Numbers.



Capitalize the formal names of all offices (e.g. Office of Communications, Office of Academic Affairs, etc.). Use the singular: admission, not admissions; Vice President and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid; the admission office.

orient, not orientate

over, more than

Use “over” to indicate a physical relationship.

Use “more than” to indicate quantity.

More than 20 robins flew over the picnic table.



If necessary to use parentheses to insert background or reference material, follow these punctuation guidelines:

Place a period outside a closing parenthesis if the material inside is not a sentence (such as this fragment).

(An independent parenthetical sentence takes a period before the closing parenthesis.)

When a phrase is placed in parentheses (this one is an example) might qualify as a complete sentence but is dependent on the surrounding material, do not capitalize the first word or end with a period.


Use numerals with the word percent (5 percent, 98.6 percent). In lists and scientific copy, it is acceptable to use the % symbol.


Always go inside quotation marks.


Write as it sounds:

The Smiths live next to the Joneses.

Professor Lewis’s class is full. (Or, in Web copy, Professor Lewis’ class is full.)

The Lewises are having a reception.

The reception was at the Lewises’ home.

Professor (vs. Dr.)

Preferred at Davidson (in body text):

Professor Appleyard, not Dr. Appleyard

“Dr.” is acceptable in a student quote.

Do not use both.

E.g.:  not Dr. Merlyn Schuh, James G. Martin Professor of Chemistry

As in all titles, capitalize when used before the name, lowercase when following the name.

E.g.: Professor of Biology Malcolm Campbell

Malcolm Campbell, professor of biology

But: Always capitalize named professorships, even following a name, e.g.:

Merlyn Schuh, James G. Martin Professor of Chemistry, spoke at the conference.


Use who rather than that when referring to people or groups of people.


Quotation marks

Commas and periods always are set inside quotation marks. Colons and semicolons are set outside of quotation marks. Commas should not be used in combination with exclamation or question marks.

He asked, “How long will this take?”

No quotation marks are necessary in interviews when the name of the speaker is given first, or in reports of testimony when the words question and answer or Q and A are used, such as:

Q: Who will benefit from the fee waiver program?

A: Full-time faculty and staff.


résumé, not resume

residence hall vs. dorm

Institutional usage dictates “residence hall.” “Dorm” is still in conversational usage and may be used in a student quote or similarly informal context.

Reunion, Reunion Weekend, 50th Reunion


The Reverend Brown

Rev. John Brown

Reverend is a modifier; do not use as a noun.

Correct:  Reverend Smith gave her blessing.

Never: The reverend gave her blessing.

review vs. test

“I have a review tomorrow” refers to a test at Davidson, not going over material in class.

“I need to review my notes because I have a review in my political science class.”


Use uppercase with this request for response to an invitation.

Note: Do not write “Please RSVP,” as it is redundant.


Second references

Second and subsequent references to a person generally use only the last name, except in obituaries. Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., Rev., Dean and Professor should not be used in second references except in quoted material.


Lowercase in all instances: She has been accepted for the fall 2002 semester. Commencement marks the official end of the spring semester. He plans to attend summer sessions.


Use to separate items in a series when one or more of the items contain a comma.

State names

Spell out the names of all 50 states when they stand alone in text. Eight states are never abbreviated in text (Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah).

Abbreviate state names using AP style when they accompany city names: Birmingham, Ala.; Phoenix, Ariz.;

In tabular material or if space is a consideration, the two-letter postal abbreviation is acceptable. Be consistent in the use.

In running text, some cities do not need to be identified by state. These include Atlanta, Baltimore, Berkeley, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and St. Louis.

Use state abbreviations with smaller and lesser-known cities, except within North Carolina. Cities listed without a state are understood to be located within the publication’s state.

Use commas before and after state abbreviations when they appear with cities:

John Jones, a native of Flint, Mich., received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.

student employment

The preferred way to refer to campus jobs that are part of student financial aid packages.


In text, spell out the words percent, degrees (temperature), feet, inches and cents. In tables, it is acceptable to use symbols.

Amounts greater than 99 cents should be in numerals with a dollar sign ($4, $7.40).


Telephone numbers

Write phone numbers as follows:

  • Always list area codes and local exchanges on the Web since some visitors will be attempting to call from off campus, (e.g., x2000 or ext. 2000)
  • Use dashes around area code, e.g., 704-894-2000)
  • Avoid using parenthesis around the area code, e.g., (704) 894-2000
  • Avoid using trendy listing methods, such as including periods, e.g., 704.894.2539
  • Also list toll-free numbers with a “1” for consistency (e.g., Call us at toll-free at 1-800-555-5555)


Don’t use a comma when referring to temperature.

i.e., 1800 degrees


Use “that” for restrictive (essential) clauses, which for nonrestrictive.

Students should select courses that are part of their degree program.

Fall semester, which marks the start of the traditional academic year, can be hectic.

Also, use “who”, not “that,” in reference to a person:

The woman who used to live here was lovely.

The boys who won the game whooped and hollered.


Lowercase before the name of an organization, business, or other group, unless they capitalize it:

He attended the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

She contributes annually to The Foundation for the Carolinas.

Capitalize at the start of titles of publications or works of art if it is part of the formal title:

The Washington Post

The Canterbury Tales

Theatre, theater

Use theatre in referring to the theatre department and any facilities, courses or plays associated with them. Otherwise, use theater.


Use figures except for noon and midnight. Do not use :00 with a time; otherwise, separate hours from minutes with a colon: 10 a.m.; 2:30 p.m.

Lowercase a.m. and p.m.

Noon and midnight, not 12 p.m., 12 noon., 12 a.m. or 12 midnight.

Do not use a dash in place of “to” in a range of times introduced by from: from 5 to 7 p.m., not from 5-7 p.m.

Do not use o’clock except in quoted material or contexts such as formal invitations.

time, date, place

Follow this sequence in announcing any past, present, or future events such as meetings, dinners, productions, classes: Professor Case’s class meets from 10 a.m. to noon Monday and Friday in 350 Macintosh Hall, or Professor Case attended the annual convention Oct. 14-15 in Arlington, Va.

Titles (dissertations, theses)

Capitalize and place in quotation marks.

Titles (legal citations)

Italicize and use v. for “versus”: Brown v. Board of Education.

Titles (organizations)

Names of associations, organizations, conferences, meetings, etc., follow the same guidelines as for compositions, except that the article “the” preceding a name is lowercased even when it is part of the formal title and the organization capitalizes it. Use the group’s punctuation and abbreviations for its name.

Use Co. when a business uses the word as part of its formal name. Inc., Corp., and Ltd. are usually not needed but when used after the name of a corporate entity should be abbreviated without being set off by a comma.

Such words as club, team and conference are lowercased when used alone.

Titles (people)

Capitalize and spell out formal titles when they precede a full name (Professor Jennifer Jones); use lowercase elsewhere:

Jennifer Jones, professor of history, will give a lecture

Use lowercase for modifiers such as history, even when they precede a name:

The lecture featured history Professor Jennifer Jones.

Always capitalize endowed professorships whether before or after the name:

Jennifer Jones, the Ike Belk Visiting Assistant Professor, will give a lecture.

Titles (artworks, books, computer games, lectures/speeches, movies, operas, plays, poems, song/album, TV programs)

Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters. Capitalize an article (a, an, the) or words of fewer than four letters if it is the first or last word in the title.

Put quotation marks around the names of all such works except the Bible and books that are primarily reference material (catalogs, almanacs, dictionaries, directories, encyclopedias, gazetteers, handbooks and similar publications). Do not use quotation marks around software titles (WordPerfect, Excel).


The Davidson Board of Trustees met in February.

The college family was proud of the trustees’ vote to eliminate student loans.

Allison Hall Mauzé is a Davidson trustee.

T-shirt, not tee shirt or t-shirt

I love my new Davidson T-shirt.


Units of measure

Use a combination of numerals and words to express units of measure.

An Apple MacBook weighs less than 3 pounds.

Drink 8 ounces of water six times a day.

The 8-by-10-foot Oriental tapestry is beautiful.

Upperclass students

If possible, use juniors and seniors instead.



Use periods between the letters; do not use spaces. This applies to all abbreviations involving capital letters, with an exception for institutions that prefer to eliminate the periods in abbreviations their names, such as UNC and UVA.

use, not utilize


Vice President (and other such titles)

No hyphen.



Lowercase general references to student work-study programs, but capitalize official references to Federal Work-Study (the program for undergraduates) and Federal Graduate Work-Study (the program for graduate students)