Editorial Style Guide

The Associated Press Stylebook is the main reference guide for Missouri State University communications. However, writing styles for higher education differ from journalism. The following guidelines for grammar and usage are intended to address questions of style that are frequently encountered in university communications.

Academic degrees

In text

The preference is to use words instead of an abbreviation.

Example:

Jane Doe earned a bachelor’s degree in botany in 1995. (not "Jane Doe earned a BS in 1995.")

Correct punctuation and use

Use an apostrophe when using the degree name as an adjective, but do not use an apostrophe when using a degree name as a noun.

Examples:

  • bachelor’s degree
  • master’s degree
  • Bachelor of Arts
  • Bachelor of Science

Note that, when used as a noun, degree names are proper nouns so are capitalized

Doctoral versus doctorate

“Doctoral” is an adjective and “doctorate” is a noun.

Examples:

  • They all earned doctoral degrees.
  • They all earned doctorates.

The university breaks with Associated Press style to give the courtesy title “Dr.” to academic professionals with doctoral degrees. Give this title on first reference only (Dr. Jane Smith, then Smith on second reference).

In lists

Use abbreviations only when the need to identify many individuals by degree on first reference would make the preferred form cumbersome (i.e., long lists of faculty). When you do use a degree abbreviation, do not set it off with periods.

Examples:

  • BA
  • BS
  • BFA
  • MA
  • MBA
  • AuD
  • DNAP
  • EdD
  • PhD
Plural form

Plurals of all of the above take an “s” but no apostrophe.

Examples:

  • MAs
  • PhDs
Followed by a name

When a name is followed by a degree abbreviation, set the abbreviation off with comma.

Example:

John Smith, PhD

For a full listing of Missouri State degrees and abbreviations, see the Undergraduate Catalog and Graduate Catalog.

Addresses

Usage

Use United States Postal Service style for addresses, which means abbreviation of directional (N. instead of North) and street (Ave. instead of Avenue). Use the postal-code abbreviation for states in an address (MO instead of Mo. or Missouri).

Example:

Missouri State University, 901 S. National Ave., Springfield, MO 65897

Ampersands

Usage

Use only when part of a formal name or other proper noun or in a list when space is at a premium (though this usage is discouraged).

Example:

Smith & Smith Law Firm

Do not use to substitute for the word "and" in text. Do not use in a university department name.

Apostrophes

Usage

Use to show possession and omitted figures. Do not use with plurals of numbers or multiple-letter combinations. Do not use with decades on any reference.

Examples:

  • CDs (not CD's)
  • 1980s becomes '80s in a second reference (not 80's)

Athletic teams

Description

All Missouri State University athletic teams are named the Bears.

Capitalization

Always capitalize. Proper team names are always capitalized.

Examples:

  • Lady Bears
  • Football Bears
  • Basketball Bears
  • Baseball Bears
  • Volleyball Bears

However, the sport is not capitalized when not used as part of the proper name.

Examples:

  • The Bears won the volleyball match.
  • The Volleyball Bears won the match.
Format
Do not place in quotes or italics.

Attribution of quotes

Usage

Best practice is to use "said" or "says." This is the verb of choice for quote attributions because it is a largely invisible, neutral, impartial word that doesn't call attention to itself and does explain exactly what the speaker did. Words such as "exclaimed," "declared," "remarked," "stated," etc., all have connotations that may distract from the person being quoted and insert the writer instead. Even "noted" calls itself into attention more than "said."

Expanded attribution

It's appropriate to include more info about how the person said their statement after the verb.

Examples:

  • he said, while laughing
  • he said with a grimace

Those are facts and sound less stilted than "he laughed" or "he grimaced" since people don't laugh a sentence, they say it.

Name placement

It's best to put the quoted person's name before the verb if possible.

Examples:

  • "Smith said," (not "said Smith")
  • "she said," (not "said she")

Bear CLAW (Center for Learning and Writing)

Definition

The Center for Learning and Writing links students, faculty and staff to campus-provided resources to assist with academic success.

Usage

Spell out the Bear Center for Learning and Writing on first reference. Bear CLAW is fine after first reference.

Bear Line

Definition

The shuttle system for the campus of Missouri State.

Capitalization and spacing

Not "BearLine" or "Bearline."

Bear mascot

Description

Missouri State’s athletic mascot is the Bear.

Format

Always capitalize

Format

Do not place in quotes or italics.

BearWear

Definition

Clothing and accessories from Missouri State featuring the university's name, logo, the Bear head, etc. Every Friday is BearWear Friday on campus and the surrounding community.

Capitalization and spacing

One word, "W" capitalized.

Board of Governors

Definition

Missouri State University is under the general control and management of a nine-member Board of Governors, representing each of Missouri's nine congressional districts.

Capitalization

Capitalize Board of Governors on first reference.

Usage

Further references may be to "the board."

Class years

Abbreviated format

When abbreviating years to two digits, put an apostrophe (’) in front of the years of classes.

Example:

John Smith, ’09

Expanded format

When referring to a class, use all four digits.

Example:

Class of 2009

Commas

Numbers

Use a comma with figures higher than 999. Don’t use commas in street address numbers, broadcast frequencies, room numbers, serial numbers, telephone numbers, years and temperatures.

Series/serial comma

Do not use a serial comma, which is a comma before “and” or “or” in a series.

Example:

apples, oranges and pears (not "apples, oranges, and pears")

Name abbreviations

Do not use commas before or after these: Jr.; Sr.; Inc. or II, III, etc.

Example:

Bill Johnson Sr. (not "Bill Johnson, Sr.")

An exception is made when the person requests the comma.

Courtesy titles

Usage

Utilize “Dr.” on first reference, with first and last name, when the person holds a doctoral degree. This is a break with AP style. On all further references, use last name only.

Do not include academic credentials following the name.

Dates and times

Abbreviations

Spell out all months when they stand alone without a date.

Example:

August 2017

Use abbreviation for January, February, August, September, October, November and December when they are used with a date: Aug. 29, 2017. Never abbreviate March,  April, May, June,  July.

Month and year

Do not use commas to set off the year when the month but not the day is used.

Example:

September 2017 (not "September, 2017")

Numerals

The preferred numerical date style is 11-5-2017. In time references, use figures with a.m. and p.m. consistently throughout.

Example:

9 a.m. (not "nine a.m." or "9 AM")

Days of the week

Days of the week are capitalized and not abbreviated (unless used in tabular form).

Grade point average

Usage

First reference in text should read "grade point average," no hyphen and lowercase. Second reference can be GPA, no periods.

Figures

Use figures to express GPAs to one decimal place. Add extra decimal places when accuracy is essential.

Examples:

  • 3.8 GPA
  • GPA of 3.45

Hyphenation

Compound modifiers

Hyphenate the following when used as compound modifiers:

  • Full-time
  • Part-time
  • On-campus
  • Off-campus

Missouri State University Foundation

Definition

The Missouri State University Foundation is the not-for-profit corporation that encourages and manages private financial support for Missouri State University.

Capitalization

Capitalize Missouri State University Foundation on any reference using the full, formal name. Further references may be to "the foundation," lowercase.

Missouri State magazine

Definition

A print and online publication for alumni and friends of the university. Three issues are created each year.

Usage

The official name of the magazine is Missouri State magazine, lowercase magazine. No quotation marks or italics are needed.

Naming the university

Definition

The official name of the institution is Missouri State University.

Usage

First reference of the university’s name should be “Missouri State University” or “Missouri State.” Subsequent references may be “Missouri State,” “the university,” “the institution” or “MSU.”

Former names

In situations that require use of the institution's former name in text, use "then" as a preface.

Examples:

  • then-Southwest Missouri State University
  • then-Missouri State Normal School
Credentials

In situations that have a list of a person's credentials, change to Missouri State University. For example, "Jane Doe, PhD, Southwest Missouri State University" becomes:

Jane Doe, PhD, Missouri State University

Naming the university's president

Usage

Missouri State University President Clif Smart (full name Clifton M. Smart III)

Upon second reference, “Smart” is preferred.

Placement

If the title comes after the name, lowercase.

Example:

Clif Smart, president of the university

Numbers

General rule
Spell out numbers from zero to nine. Use figures for numbers 10 or higher, including ordinal numbers.

Percentages and decimals

Usage

The word "percent" should be spelled out in text (reserve the percent symbol, %, for use in graphics or statistics material). Use figures for decimal fractions and percentages.

Examples:

  • 5 percent (not five percent or 5%)
  • 3.5 percent (not 3 1/2 percent)

Preferred capitalizations, spellings and usage

academic degrees

Capitalize when part of a proper noun, lowercase when not.

Examples:

  • Bachelor of Arts in English
  • Master of Business Administration
  • bachelor's degree
  • master's degree
actor/actress

Use actor for both genders. Only use "actress" when it is part of an award title or other official title.

Example:

Best Actress

advisor

Not "adviser"

ages

Ages are numerals.

Example:

25 years old (not twenty-five)

Use "younger than" and "older than" instead of terms such as "over."

Example:

Students older than 18 may apply (not "Students over 18 may apply")

BearFest Village

No space between Bear and Fest; capitalize the F

Bear Line shuttle system

Not "BearLine" or "Bearline." Do not hyphenate.

BearPass

One word, B and P capitalized.

BearTalks expert speakers program

No space between Bear and Talks; capitalize the T

Bronze Bear award

Three words, Bs are capitalized.

campus

Always lowercase.

Examples:

  • Springfield campus
  • West Plains campus
centers, colleges and schools

Names of university centers, colleges and schools are capitalized.

Examples:

  • Center for Archaeological Research
  • College of Arts and Letters
  • School of Social Work
Common Reader

The Common Reader is the book read by all first-year students.

course work

Two words; hyphenated when used as a compound modifier

curricular-learning communities

Three words, first two hyphenated, not capitalized. Can be CLC or CLCs on second reference.

Departments, programs, divisions and other offices

Names of university departments, programs, divisions and offices are lowercase.

Examples:

  • Elements of the art and design department are located in Brick City.
  • Several programs are offered by the division for diversity and inclusion.
dorm versus residence hall

Our preferred term is "residence hall." May use "hall" on second reference. Avoid use of "dorm."

email

Lowercase “e” (unless beginning a sentence) and no hyphen. (But use a hyphen with other e-terms: e-book, e-business, e-commerce)

ensure, insure

Use ensure to mean guarantee and insure for references to insurance.

First-generation students

Hyphenated.

former students

Examples:

  • alumnus (singular male attendee)
  • alumna (singular female attendee)
  • alumni (mixed gender or all male group of attendees)
  • alumnae (all female group of attendees)
fundraising

One word, no hyphen

headings and subheadings

Capitalize first word and proper nouns in headings and subheadings.

Examples:

  • Congress votes to go with the plan
  • Board of Governors to meet with president
Health care

Not healthcare. Can be health-care when used as a compound modifier (i.e., “health-care majors”).

homecoming

Capitalize Missouri State Homecoming. Lowercase homecoming in general use.

impact

Use this word as a noun only (i.e., "had an impact on") not a verb (i.e., "this will impact students"). Impact as a verb is not a synonym for "affect" or "influence" – it means to strike forcefully (think meteor hitting Earth). Variations of the verb form, including "impactful," are not recognized by most dictionaries and therefore should not be used.

internet

Style on this changed in 2016. It should now be lowercased.

living-learning communities

Three words, first two hyphenated, not capitalized. Can be LLC or LLCs on second reference.

Missouri State University system

lowercase "system."

noncredit

Not non-credit. Most "non" words are one word, no hyphen. If in doubt, check Webster's Dictionary.

nondegree

One word, no hyphen. Use a hyphen after the word when using as a compound modifier, such as "nondegree-seeking student"

over or more than?

"Over" refers to a spatial relationship; "more than" is a quantity.

Examples:

  • the light hangs over the table
  • More than 40 students came to class. (not "over 40 students")
phone numbers

Use dashes, not periods.

Examples:

  • 417-836-4142
  • 800-000-0000
post- prefix

Most post- prefix words are not hyphenated; an exception is post-master’s

Example:

postbaccalaureate

post-master’s

postdoctoral

postdoctorate

practicum/practica/practicums

A practicum is a course that gives students hands-on, practical application of theory. The plural is either "practica" (the traditional, Latin form) or "practicums" (the modernized plural now recommended by the Oxford and American Heritage dictionaries). Missouri State's preferred plural is practicums, though either is technically correct.

President’s Finals Breakfast

A tradition on campus. This is the preferred title for the event (i.e., not “president’s late-night breakfast,” “midnight breakfast” or similar).

season/semester

The names of the seasons and semesters are not capitalized.

Example:

fall semester

seasonal breaks

When referring to Missouri State’s seasonal breaks, do not capitalize

Example:

fall break

spring break

winter break

slide show

Two words; hyphenated when used as a compound modifier

state of Missouri

Lowercase “state" in this phrase

student-athlete

Hyphenated

student classification

Do not capitalize the words freshman, sophomore, junior, senior or graduate when referring to the classification of a student or to the year in which a course is taken.

theatre

Use this British spelling when referring to a proper name that uses this form. Otherwise, use "theater." The two spellings mean the same thing.

Examples:

  • Tent Theatre
  • Theatre and Dance Department
  • Plaster Student Union Theater
The Founders Club

An organization for supporters of Missouri State. Capitalize the "T."

The Standard

The student-run newspaper of Missouri State. Capitalize the "T."

titles of people

Capitalize titles that appear before a name and lowercase titles that appear after a name.

Examples:

  • Missouri State University President Clif Smart
  • Clif Smart, president of Missouri State University
titles of compositions

Use quotation marks around the titles of art exhibits, books, songs, television shows, computer games, poems, lectures, speeches and works of art. Do not use quotations around the names of magazines, journals, newspapers, the Bible or books that are catalogues of reference materials. Do not underline or italicize any compositions. When the title links to the composition directly, quotation marks are not necessary.

Examples:

  • Alumnus and author Kevin Brockmeier read from his book “The Illumination.”
  • They sang "The Scotsman" before the game.
  • The Standard first reported the story.
  • He reads the Bible every morning.
under, fewer than or less than?

“Under” refers to spatial relationships.

Example:

The dog is under the table.

“Fewer than” and “less than” are used with numbers and amounts. Use “fewer than” with things you can count (books, students, computers, etc.) and “less than” with mass nouns – things you cannot count individually (clutter, furniture, honesty, wisdom, etc.). If you cannot make the word plural (as in, “I have many honesties,”), it’s a mass noun.

university

In first reference, always use Missouri State University. Subsequent references may be Missouri State, university or MSU.

web, website

Both words are lowercase. Website is one word. Style on the capitalization of “web” changed in 2016. It should now be lowercased.

Presidential scholar/Board of Governors scholar

Definition

The Presidential Scholarship and the Board of Governors Scholarship are among the most valuable freshman awards available at Missouri State. Students who earn these scholarships are Presidential scholars and Board of Governors scholars, respectively.

Capitalization

Lowercase scholar in both uses.

Public affairs terms

Definition

Our public affairs mission helps set Missouri State apart and is an important part of the university. Here are the styles for some public affairs events, awards and terms:

  • Citizen Scholar award; Citizen Scholar(s)
  • Statewide Collaborative Diversity Conference
  • Community Engagement Project
  • ethical leadership, cultural competence, community engagement (the three pillars of the mission; not capitalized)
  • Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame (second reference may be hall of fame)
  • New Student Convocation
  • public affairs mission (no hyphen, lowercase unless it begins a sentence)
  • Public Affairs Conference
  • Public Affairs Convocation
  • Public Affairs Week

Social media

Relaxed style

Sometimes when text appears on Twitter and other social media, editorial style is more relaxed to save space on short posts.

Spaces

Usage

Use only one space between sentences or after a colon.

States

Abbreviations

The names of the 50 U.S. states should be spelled out when used in the body of a story, whether standing alone or in conjunction with a city, town, village or military base.

Punctuation

Place one comma between the city and the state name, and another comma after the state name, unless ending a sentence or indicating a dateline.

Examples:

  • He was traveling from Nashville, Tennessee, to Austin, Texas, en route to his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
  • She said Cook County, Illinois, was Mayor Daley’s stronghold.
Clarity

Use "New York state" when necessary to distinguish the state from New York City. Use "state of Washington" or "Washington state" when necessary to distinguish the state from the District of Columbia.

Web addresses

Usage

Inline links. Don’t use “click here”

Print use

When including links parenthetically in print, email or other communications, include “www.” not “http://” or “https://” before the website addresses.

Websites should be treated in italics to stand out against other text and represent a call to action. If italics style is not available, use bold.

Websites should not be written in sentences if possible. Make them stand out and don't force them to have a period after them. For example, change "You can learn more at our website,www.website.com/." to this shorter, more glance-box style: "Learn more: www.website.com" This form also allows designers to pull out the websites in text as a glance box or visual element.