There is a distinction between style and grammar. Grammar involves rules that we rarely (if ever) break, but style often is a matter of choice. The key to adopting an effective style is to choose one prevailing guide and apply it across the board consistently.
For the college’s printed materials and most of our digital communications*, the Communications office follows the rules outlined in the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), which is the preferred style guide for most academic institutions and academic presses. We follow Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary on questions of spelling (for consistency, always use the first listed spelling); compound words (solid, hyphenated, open); foreign words (no italics if they’re listed in Webster’s, italics if they are not); accents; and word breaks.
Because not everyone has a copy of Chicago and because even those of us who do often find it cumbersome to use, we have identified the following items that come into question frequently. In addition, we have listed some Carleton-specific terms.
This style guide is intended to evolve, as the English language does, to reflect current usage and to embrace new terms as they come into common use. Please contact us with your suggestions for making this guide more helpful and more inclusive or to request a paper copy of the style guide.
* The Carleton News and Carleton Today websites follow Associated Press (AP) style.
- Generally, no periods with abbreviations: IQ, IOU, VCR, HMO
Exceptions: U.S., U.N. (no space between)
- Form the plural by adding an s (no apostrophe): VCRs, HMOs, CD-ROMs.
- Abbreviations: BA, PhD, MD, RN, MBA, MFA. (See CMS 10.20 for a more complete list.)
- Use lowercase and, where appropriate, possessive in text:
“master’s degree in business administration”; “doctorate in political science.”
- A degree takes the indefinite article a: “He earned a PhD.”
- Form the plural by adding s: BAs, PhDs, MBAs.
No period, put in small caps: CARE, VISTA, AIDS
Spell out one through nine; use numerals for 10 and up: “a six-year-old boy,” “a 47-year-old man.”
alumni relations office
Use lowercase for informal usage; capitalize formal name only: Office of Alumni Relations; no hyphen.
Alumni Annual Fund
Capitalize for clarity. For the same reason, capitalize related entities: Parents Fund.
Alumni Association of Carleton College
Capitalize the formal name of this group, which includes all people who have attended Carleton.
Use lowercase for informal usage; capitalize formal name: Alumni Board of Directors.
Alumna is a female graduate; the plural is alumnae. Alumnus (plural: alumni) is, strictly speaking, the masculine form, but it’s still gender-inclusive and we use it exclusively. Avoid alum.
Lowercase informal usage; capitalize formal name: Cowling Arboretum. But: “the Arb.”
Do not set off a birth name in parentheses or quotation marks: Jane Doe Smith. In publications with alumni as the primary audience, use a female graduate’s birth name followed by her married name: Becky Loraas Zrimsek ’89.
Board of Trustees
Capitalize when it refers to Carleton’s governing body: “the Board of Trustees.” But: “the board.” Trustee, however, is lowercase: “trustee chair Jack Eugster.” (See also titles, personal.)
When referring to the Carleton Bookstore in Sayles-Hill, make it one word and capitalize to avoid ambiguity.
Use square brackets, not parentheses, to insert words for clarification in quoted material (see CMS 13.58).
Use single quotation marks when referring to the Carleton athletic hall of fame.
When a college or university has more than one campus, separate the campus name from the institution’s name with an en dash: University of California–Berkeley, Cal State–Fullerton, State University of New York–Buffalo.
- See Alumni Annual Fund; Board of Trustees; class year; college; departments; reunion; titles, personal; and titles of works.
- Chicago‘s preference is for sparing use of capitals—what is sometimes referred to as a “down” style. Although Brussels (the Belgian city) is capitalized, Chicago prefers brussels sprouts. Likewise, President Obama is capitalized, but the president is not (see CMS 8.18-32).
End with a period if caption/cutline is a complete sentence. No period if it is not a complete sentence. Length is not the determining factor.
Carleton College Voice
Italicize the formal name of the College’s alumni magazine; less formally, the Voice.
Italicize the formal name of the College’s student newspaper.
Carleton Student Association
Capitalize the formal name of the student governing body; no periods in CSA.
See state names.
See course titles.
- No comma before it, no parentheses around it, and make sure that the apostrophe that takes the place of the “19” or “20” is a real apostrophe, not a single open quote: Becky Loraas Zrimsek ’89
- Capitalize the word class when it refers to a specific year:
“The Class of ’56 presented a gift to support science technology.”
When referring to Carleton, do not capitalize the word college: “the college’s policy is.” Also: “one of the crucial questions facing every college.”
- Use the serial comma: “Abe, Bob, and Camille.” In a series consisting of three or more elements, the elements are separated by commas. When a conjunction joins the last two elements, use a comma before the conjunction. (See CMS 6.18–6.21.)
- Follow CMS 6.22 on punctuating restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses—”which” versus “that.” Restrictive relative clauses are usually introduced by that (or who/whom/whose) and are never set off by commas from the rest of the sentence. For example, “The version of the manuscript that the editors submitted to the publisher was well formatted.” Nonrestrictive relative clauses are usually introduced by which (or who/whom/whose) and are set off from the rest of the sentence by commas. For example, “The final manuscript, which was well formatted, was submitted to the publisher on time.”
- Follow CMS 6.23 on punctuating restrictive and nonrestrictive appositives—for example, “My husband, Gabe, liked touring the campus” (since the speaker has only one husband, the construction is “nonrestrictive” and the name is set off with commas), but “My three girls, including my daughter Kate” (Kate is one of several, thus “restrictive,” thus no comma).
- See also Jr., Sr.
Capitalize when it refers to the Carleton event in June. But do not capitalize “weekend” when referring to Commencement weekend.
Lowercase names of faculty, staff, or trustee committees, and hyphenate only when necessary.
- In general, use Merriam-Webster’s to determine whether or not to hyphenate or to spell solid or open: clear–cut, workweek, chain saw. Also see CMS 7.85 for hyphenation guide for compounds and words formed with prefixes. (Chicago prefers a spare hyphenation style: if no suitable example or analogy can be found either in this section or in the dictionary, hyphenate only if doing so will aid readability.)
- To avoid ambiguity, hyphenate compound modifiers preceding a noun: “the compound-modifier issue.” If the compound is in the dictionary, ambiguity is unlikely: “a high school student.”
- Do not hyphenate when the first word of a compound modifier is an adverb ending in –ly: “a badly remembered past.”
- With frequent use, open or hyphenated compounds tend to become closed [on line to on-line to online]. Chicago‘s general adherence to Webster’s does not preclude occasional exceptions when the closed spellings have become widely preferred by writers (e.g., website) and pronunciation and readability are not at stake.
Capitalize only when it is modified by an equally important adjective, transforming it into a special event: Honors Convocation, Opening Convocation, and Alumni Convocation, for example. Otherwise, use lowercase: “The convocation speaker was Sylvia Rhyne ’78.”
Capitalize official names of courses of study; use quotation marks in running text: His course “Bandits, Outlaws, and Other Rebels” was offered last fall. Do not use quotation marks when listing courses.
- Use month-day-year sequence (omit the year if it’s obvious).
- Use cardinal, not ordinal, numbers: June 30, not June 30th.
- Do not separate month and year sequence with a comma: September 2003.
- Use lowercase—except proper nouns: German and Russian department, biology department, sociology and anthropology department.
- Capitalize a department’s full, formal name: Department of Philosophy. (Follow CMS 8.67.)
- Administrative departments: Unless it is the name of a publication (like the Voice) or a building (like the Alumni Guest House), lowercase the informal usage of all campus offices: admissions office, alumni relations office, dean of students’ office, development office.
- Capitalize the formal name: the Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching, the Math Skills Center, the Office of College Relations.
- Never any spaces between characters; no period at end unless it’s the end of a sentence; all lowercase
- Break an electronic address on either side of a slash (keep two slashes together) or at a period, which goes at the beginning rather than at the end of a line. Don’t break at a hyphen (or, if necessary, break before, not after, a hyphen), and never add a hyphen.
- Use periods separated by spaces on all sides except when ending a sentence: “The class . . . read Dickens enthusiastically.” “The class, as sophomores, read Dickens. . . . As seniors, they read Joyce.”
- Do not use the Microsoft Word version of ellipses.
Do not hyphenate.
No spaces around an em dash (—): “He knew—or thought he knew—he was right.” Follow CMS 6.82–6.89.
Follow CMS 6.78–6.81: New York–style hot dog, post–Civil War, 1979–83.
These are singular nouns, referring to groups en masse: “The faculty is granted certain privileges under the charter.” To make it plural, or to refer to individual professors, use “faculty members”: “Faculty members expressed concern over the proposal.” The same is true of staff: “the staff is,” but “staff members are.”
- Use italics for unfamiliar foreign words and phrases not listed in Merriam-Webster’s.
- If a foreign word becomes familiar through repeated use throughout a work, italicize only on first occurrence; if it appears only rarely, retain italics.
- Set in roman and use quotation marks for an entire sentence or passage of two or more sentences in a foreign language. (See CMS 13.71)
Spell out fractions: two and a half years; one-fifth. (See also percent.)
full time/part time
Use as a noun: “I work full time.”
Use as an adjective: “I have a full-time job.”
The formal title of Carleton’s library is the Laurence McKinley Gould Library (capitalize). Other references include: Gould Library (capitalize), the library (lowercase). But the Libe (uppercase).
“He graduated from college,” never “He graduated college.”
- Follow CMS 6.77 (to separate numbers and letters when a word is spelled out) and CMS 6.76 (in compound words).
- Do not use hyphens in place of em- or en-dashes.
- Use a space between initials standing for given names: R. S. Smith, W. E. B. DuBois. But if an entire name is abbreviated, omit space and periods: JFK, LBJ. See CMS 10.12
- No space is left between the letters of initialisms and acronyms, whether lowercase or in capitals: RN, YMCA, C-SPAN. See CMS 10.4–10.5
- Court cases: Roe v. Wade
- Foreign words not listed in Merriam-Webster’s
- Do not italicize commonly used Latin words and abbreviations: ibid.; et al.
- See also titles of works.
In contemporary usage, no longer preceded by a comma: Robert A. Oden Jr.
No hyphen, even when it’s used as an adjective: “a liberal arts environment”
See birth name.
Not necessary except in formal usage, or where someone with a common name (say, John Smith) might otherwise be confused with someone else. Be alert to cases in which a middle initial stands in for a woman’s birth name, and substitute the full name for the initial. (See also birth name and initials.)
Spell out in text. (See also dates.)
In text, first reference should include full name; later references last name only. Repeat first name only to avoid confusion with someone else with the same last name.
If the name of a newspaper you’re citing includes the city but not the state, and the city is not on the Associated Press Stylebook’s list of stand-alone cities (see Associated Press Stylebook under “Datelines”), use the following style: “Oberlin (Ohio) News-Tribune.” Note that the name of the Star Tribune, which is published in the Twin Cities, does not include a city name.
Use quotation marks, not parentheses, for nicknames: Muriel “Tootsie” Smith Jones ’45.
- Spell out one through nine. Use numerals for 10 and up. Follow style for ages as well: “a six-year-old boy,” “a 47-year-old man.”
- Exceptions for consistency: “five or ten years from now”
Spell out and always use a numeral: 7 percent.
places, names of
- Lowercase if they simply indicate direction or location: northern; a north wind; in the southwest of France. Follow CMS 8.45.
- Capitalize regions of the world and national regions: West, the Western world, Western civilization (but western, a westerner); the Midwest; the East; the industrialized North; the developing South. Follow CMS 8.46–8.49.
- Capitalize popular geographical place names: the Gulf; the Left Bank; the Twin Cities
- Use lowercase for generic parts of urban areas: the business district; the inner city. But capitalize “greater” when used with the name of a city to denote a whole metropolitan area: Greater Chicago (but the greater Chicago metropolitan area).
- Singular common nouns that end in s: add ’s
“the class’s graduation party”
- Singular proper nouns that end in s: add ’s
Davis’s book, Texas’s laws, Congress’s deadline
- Plural common nouns that end in s: add only an apostrophe
“the three dogs’ bowl”
- Proper nouns with plural form: add only an apostrophe
Los Angeles’, United States’, General Motors’
Follow CMS 7.85.
president of Carleton
In a first reference to President Poskanzer, give his title and full name: “President Steven Poskanzer”. Thereafter, refer to him as “President Poskanzer.” But, “Steven Poskanzer is the president of Carleton College” (lowercase “president”). (See also titles, personal.)
quotation marks, punctuation with
Always place commas and periods inside quotation marks. Follow Chicago for the use of exclamation points (CMS 6.74), question marks (CMS 6.70), and colons (CMS 6.63) with quotation marks.
quotes or italics
Follow CMS 8.2: Italicize titles of major or freestanding works such as books, journals, plays, movies, paintings, and long musical compositions. This practice extends to cover the names of ships and other craft, species names, and legal cases. Use quotation marks for poems, short stories, and short musical compositions, and the titles of subsections of larger works, including chapter and article titles and the titles of poems that have been collected into a series. (See also titles of works.)
Use the accents.
To avoid ambiguity, capitalize only in references to the official Carleton-sponsored event held every June: “She came back to campus for Reunion,” “I drank too much cheap beer during Reunion weekend,” “He is the Reunion co-chair,” but “He enjoyed a quick reunion with friends after Thanksgiving,” “the 50th-reunion class.
Capitalize name of the intramural softball league named for a former White Sox pitcher (begun at Carleton in 1964).
- Use en dashes, not hyphens, in scores: “Carleton defeated St. Olaf 49–6.”
- In describing events that include distance, add a hyphen for compound adjectives (“the men’s 100-meter dash”), but not when the phrase is used as a noun (“He ran the 100 meters”). Note, too, that “meter” (or “yard”) is singular in the former instance, plural in the latter.
- Lowercase names of individual sports: rugby, men’s cross-country, volleyball
Exception: Ultimate Frisbee
- Spell out in text. Use two-letter postal abbreviations (no periods) only in addresses, with zip code.
- There is no need to use state names with the cities listed in the Associated Press Stylebook under “Datelines.” To this list, we add Northfield and St. Paul.
See Carleton Student Association.
Use hyphens between sets of numbers: 507-222-1234.
Spell out as a noun; OK to abbreviate as an adjective.
Lowercase: fall term, spring term, summer break.
Spell it theater—unless Theatre is part of an organization’s official name, and then use it only in the full name.
- Capitalize when they precede a name as a courtesy title; use lowercase when they follow the name or stand alone. Always place long titles after a name. Use lowercase for descriptive titles (“history professor Harry Williams”) before or after a name; consider former titles to be descriptive. Follow Chicago 8.21–8.35.
Examples: “Peter Balaam, associate professor of English,” but “Professor Balaam” (note that the honorific doesn’t distinguish between professorial ranks); “development officer Patrick Ganey”; “Dean Beverly Nagel”; “Paul Thiboutot, dean of admissions”; “trustee Catherine Paglia”
- Capitalize named professorships and place them after the name:
“Stephen Kelly, Dye Family Professor of Music”
- Emeritus professors use their last active title followed by emeritus or emerita:
“W. Hartley Clark, professor emeritus”;“John Smith, professor emeritus of history”; “Bardwell Smith, John W. Nason Professor of Religion and Asian Studies, emeritus”
- Spell out titles preceding names:
“Senator [not Sen.] Paul Wellstone taught at Carleton.”
“General [not Gen.] Colin Powell was a member of the Bush administration.”
- Avoid honorifics like Dr., Rev., and Esq.
titles of works
- Titles in italics: book, journal, periodical, magazine, online magazine, newspaper, movie, play, long poem (esp. constituting a book), work of art, opera or other long musical composition, television program or series, art exhibition, record album (vinyl, tape, CD), video, radio program, blog, podcast, video blog, and similar electronic formats
- Titles in quotes: comic strip, short story, short poem, song or other short musical composition, episode of TV series, blog entry
- Titles roman (no quotes or italics): newspaper/magazine column, course, computer program, computer game, website, web page
- Titles of works (books, journals, etc.) should usually be treated the same whether they are published in print or online. Some websites share the name of a printed counterpart (The Chicago Manual of Style Online; the online edition of The Chicago Manual of Style), and others (such as Wikipedia) are analogous to other types of publications and should be styled accordingly. See also CMS 8.154–192 and CMS 14.243–46.
Capitalize trademarks (e.g., Frisbee, Dumpster, Realtor). A trademark symbol ™ is usually not necessary, but always use the registered trademark symbol when referring to GI Bill® and AP® (as an acronym for “Advanced Placement”).
Always capitalize the T.
Capitalize (Frisbee is a brand name).
Spell out as noun, abbreviate as adjective: “She returned to the United States,” but “the U.S. representative to Japan.”
- One word, lowercase. Also webcam, webcast, webmaster.
- Other website-related terms generally use two words: web page, web browser, web server.
- General titles of websites mentioned or cited in text or notes are normally set in roman, headline-style, without quotation marks. An initial the in such titles should be lowercased in midsentence; an initial the in named blogs should be treated as part of the title. See CMS 8.186-187.
- See also titles of works.
That is a restrictive, or defining, pronoun; it introduces a phrase or clause that is essential to the meaning of the sentence. Which is a nonrestrictive, or descriptive, pronoun; the phrase or clause it introduces, which is usually set off by commas, could be eliminated without changing the meaning of the sentence.