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Editorial Style Guide

This guide has been adapted from the main MSU Editorial Style Guide to reflect terms and phrases used more frequently in the College of Education.



academic degrees

Spell out and lowercase names of degrees when referenced generically in running text: He earned a bachelor's degree, a master's in history, a master of business administration, and a doctorate. Remember to include an apostrophe as in bachelor's or master's (not masters degree).

Capitalize degree abbreviations without periods and set off with commas when following a name. Example: John Doe, PhD, was the guest speaker.

academic titles

Academic titles are capitalized when they immediately precede a personal name and lowercased when following a name. Examples: Associate Professor John Doe; Jane Smith, assistant professor.

When an academic title is used in apposition before a personal name as a descriptive tag, it is lowercased. Example: The team was led by history professors William Green and Susan White.

The term "professor" should not be used simply to indicate "faculty member." (Use of "professors" in the example above indicates that Green and White are, indeed, full professors, not just members of the history faculty.)

The forms for MSU titles are vice president "for"; dean "of"; chair or chairperson "of"; professor, associate professor, and assistant professor "of"; and instructor "in"—followed by the applicable field or unit.

See also University Distinguished Professor.

accommodation versus accommodations

Accommodation refers to something supplied for the convenience of accessibility: Accommodation for persons with disabilities is available. Accommodations generally refers to lodging and related service arrangements. Example: The hotel offered first-class accommodations.

acronyms and initialisms

Acronyms (read as a single word, such as AIDS) and initialisms (read as a series of letters, such as HIV) are abbreviations that generally are less cumbersome to use than the complete name of the entity they represent. Avoid coining new ones to address isolated situations.

Generally, acronyms and initialisms are based on the initial letter of the words in the name of the entity they represent and are formed using capital letters without periods. Plurals are formed by adding "s" (e.g., SATs) or "'s" for terms ending in "S" (e.g., SOS's).

An acronym or initialism is enclosed in parentheses following the first text reference to the complete name for which it stands: The Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education (HALE) program is hosting a symposium in the Kellogg Center. An acronym or initialism should not be provided if there is no subsequent reference, unless it is better known than the term for which it stands or there is a desire to promote its use.

Acronyms and initialisms commonly understood by the intended audience (e.g., GPA, ACT, SAT with prospective students) can be used on first reference.

The first reference to Michigan State University in institutional pieces need not be followed by (MSU) even when MSU is used in subsequent references.

See also departments.


Building Name
Street number and name Room Number
East Lansing, MI 5-digit ZIP

Erickson Hall
620 Farm Lane Room 518
East Lansing, MI 48824

adjectives, coordinate

If two adjectives can be joined by "and" without affecting the meaning, they are coordinate and should be separated by a comma: It was a long, arduous exam.

adjectives, phrasal

A phrasal adjective (also called a compound modifier) functions as a unit to modify a noun. It is generally hyphenated if it appears before the noun: well-trained athlete. It is generally unhyphenated if it follows a verb. Example: The athlete is well trained.

A two-word phrasal adjective that begins with an adverb ending in "ly" is not hyphenated even when preceding the noun. Example: sharply worded reprimand.

If two phrasal adjectives end in a common element, the first phrase should end with a hyphen and the second with a hyphen and the common element: first- and second-place trophies.

Open compounds are not hyphenated even when preceding a noun. Example: health care system, high school student, Nobel Prize winner.

An en dash is used in place of a hyphen in a phrasal adjective when one of its elements is an open compound. Example: Nobel Prize–winning author.


Preferred spelling. Note; This differs from MSU and Associated Press style.

affirmative-action statement, MSU

Michigan State University is an affirmative-action, equal-opportunity employer.

African American

Two words, no hyphen. See race/ethnicity.


One word when used as an adjective. Example: the afterschool program.

Two words when paired with a verb. Example: I am going home after school.

alumna/alumnus, alumnae/alumni

The plurals of alumna and alumnus are alumnae and alumni, respectively. While alumna and alumnae refer specifically to a woman or women and alumnus refers specifically to a man, alumni can be used to refer to both men and women and should be used for the general plural term. Do not use "alum" or "alums" as a substitute.

alumni, degrees

When listing the degrees earned by an alumnus, use a comma after their name followed by the level of degree (BA, BS, MA, MS, EdS, EdD or PhD), abbreviated year, and program name in parentheses: Peter Flynn, MA '69 (Curriculum and Instruction), has received the Superintendent of the Year Award. Note the year should be abbreviated with a backwards apostrophe – '.

among versus between

Among is used for undefined or collective relationships. Between is used for one-to-one relationships. Between also is appropriate for more than two objects if multiple one-to-one relationships are understood from the context. Example: collaboration between members of the consortium.


Do not use "&" in place of "and" in running text, even in the names of units or organizations that use an ampersand.


The apostrophe replaces missing letters (e.g., doesn't) and missing numbers (e.g., class of '71). The curved (or "smart") version is preferred unless it is standing for feet in a measurement: 6' 8".

If use of straight apostrophes is the convention for a website, consistency is key.

apostrophe, for possessives

The possessive of most singular nouns is formed by adding "'s"; the possessive of most plural nouns is formed by adding an apostrophe only. This general rule covers most proper nouns, including names ending in s, x, or z, in both their singular and plural forms. Example: Dickens's novels, the Lincolns' marriage.

When the entity possessed is the same for closely linked nouns, only the second noun takes the possessive form: I visited my aunt and uncle's home. When the entities are different, both nouns take the possessive form. Example: I appreciate my aunt's and uncle's specific talents.


Direct and indirect quotes require attribution. The preferred attribution is "says."


Big Ten

MSU is a member of the Big Ten (not Big 10) conference, which has 12 members. Other members are: Indiana University, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University, University of Illinois, University of Iowa, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska, and University of Wisconsin.


When black is used in reference to African Americans in running text, it is lowercased (as is white in reference to Caucasians). Example: The rally included both black and white students.


The complete building name is used on first reference. Example: Biomedical and Physical Sciences Building, Communication Arts and Sciences Building.

Buildings named for a person use only the last name: Breslin Student Events Center, Hannah Administration Building, Smith Student-Athlete Academic Center, Wharton Center for Performing Arts.

Residence halls (never referred to as dorms or dormitories) do not include "residence" in their names: Case Hall is located near the Daugherty Football Building. Do not include directional indicators for halls with two sides unless relevant to the text. Example: The James Madison College dean's office is located in South Case Hall.

See also Erickson Hall and IM Circle.



one word

see hyphen

capital versus capitol

The seat of government is a capital. Example: Lansing is the capital of Michigan.

The building where a legislature meets is a capitol. Example: The legislature cannot meet until renovations to the capitol are completed.


The general rule is that official names are capitalized; unofficial, informal, shortened, or generic names are not: Department of Kinesiology, kinesiology department; Department of Teacher Education, teacher education department. This rule applies to names of offices, buildings, schools, departments, programs, institutes, centers, and so on.

capitalization, following a colon

In running text, the word following a colon should be lowercased unless it is a proper noun or the beginning of a series of sentences or questions. Example: The results were clear: the treatment was successful.

capitalization, of a common element

When a common element applies to two or more names and precedes them, it is capitalized: Departments of History and English. When a common element applies to two or more names and follows them, it is lowercased. Example: Wharton and Breslin centers.

capitalization, of geographical references

Regional terms (often based on compass points) that are accepted as proper names are usually capitalized: Midwest, Southeast Michigan, West Michigan. Adjectives or nouns derived from such terms are usually lowercased. Examples: midwestern, midwesterner, southeastern Michigan, western Michigan.

capitalization, of titles with names

Civil, military, religious, and professional titles are capitalized when immediately preceding a name: Dean Donald Heller, Dean Heller. Titles following names, normally set off in apposition with commas, are lowercased. Example: Donald Heller, dean of the College of Education, began his position in 2012

captions (cutlines)

Captions (cutlines) appear adjacent to and explain artwork or photos. They are generally written in present tense and follow standard capitalization and punctuation if they contain complete sentences. A caption that is an incomplete phrase begins with a capital letter but has no closing punctuation.


Use chair or chairperson in references to heads of departments and committees. See also academic titles.


Where the government rather than the place is meant, the words city and state are capitalized. Examples: This is a City of East Lansing ordinance. She works for the State of Michigan.

clause, nonrestrictive

A nonrestrictive clause—one that is not essential to the meaning of a sentence—is normally introduced with the word which and preceded by a comma. Example: Olds Hall, which was built in 1906, burned in 1916.

clause, restrictive

A restrictive clause—one that is essential to the meaning of a sentence—is normally introduced with the word that and not preceded by a comma. Example: Each day that it snows becomes a holiday for school children in East Lansing.

College of Education

Never abbreviate as the acronym COE. Subsequent references can refer to "the college" but do not capitalize in that case.

comma, serial

Use serial commas when separating items in a list of three or more items, but do not use a comma before "and" or "or" preceding the final element in a series. Example: The flag is red, white and blue.

If the items in the series contain internal punctuation, especially commas, use semicolons between the items to make the distinct items clear. Example: The letters in question are dated August 7, 1989; May 15, 1990; and January 4, 1991.

comma, with coordinate adjectives

See adjectives, coordinate.

commas, with geographical units and time

Spell out and set off with commas the name of a geographical unit when it follows the name of a smaller geographical unit found within its borders. Examples: East Lansing, Michigan is the home of MSU. London, England is the home of Big Ben.

Set off the year with commas when a specific date precedes it. Example: March 1, 2009, was the deadline. Do not include commas when only a month precedes the year. Example: March 2009 was the deadline.

For more on using commas, see the MSU Editorial Style Guide.

Common Core State Standards

The acronym CCSS may be used on second and subsequent references.

compose versus comprise

To comprise is to be made up of or to include: The whole comprises many parts. Do not use "is comprised of." To compose is to make up or to form. Example: Many parts compose the whole.

It is acceptable to use "is composed of": The whole is composed of many parts. The phrase "comprised of," although increasingly common, is considered poor usage. Instead, use "composed of" or "consisting of."

continual versus continuous

That which is continual is intermittent or frequently repeated. That which is continuous is constant or uninterrupted.

course titles

Official course titles are capitalized: Latin America and the World, IAH 203. Example: Latin America and the World.

course work

two words

CREATE for STEM Institute

A research institute shared by the College of Education and the College of Natural Science. Full name: Collaborative Research in Education, Assessment and Teaching Environments for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

credit hours

Use numerals to refer to credit hours: 3 credit hours, ANP 432. Example: American Indian Women (3 credits), AL 493A: Arts and Letters Internship (1–6 credits).



Data is the plural of datum and requires use of a plural verb. Example: The data are inconclusive.


one word


Spell out days of the week; use numerals for dates and years. Abbreviate months if used before a specific date: Sept. 14. Do not abbreviate otherwise. Example: September 2009.

Set off the date with commas if used with a day. Example: Monday, Sept. 14, celebration.

Set off the year with commas if used with a month and date. Example: Sept. 14, 2009, celebration.

Use no punctuation if using just a month and year. Example: September 2009 celebration.

Decades may be referred to in any of the following ways: the 1960s, the '60s, the sixties.

Centuries are referred to in ordinals; words for first through ninth and a combination of numbers and letters for 10th and later.

day care

two words always (noun or adjective)


Use the full name of the department on first reference. Use the acronym for the department on subsequent references but only if added in parentheses to the first reference:

Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education (CEPSE)

Department of Teacher Education (TE)

Department of Kinesiology (KIN)

Department of Educational Administration (EAD)

Also, do not capitalize the department name when referred to more generally. Example: the kinesiology department.


Use of "Dr." as an academic title preceding a name is discouraged in news articles and most forms of external communication. If needed for the context, follow a name with the appropriate degree. Example: John Smith, MD; Jane Doe, PhD.



To indicate "for example," use e.g. set off by commas. Example: The course will include many components, e.g., weekly reading assignments, a group project, a final exam.


An ellipsis ( ... ) can be used to indicate an omission from a quoted passage as long as the omission doesn't change the meaning or the author's intent. The three dots in the ellipsis should not be separated by spaces, and the ellipsis should be treated as a word with regard to space before and after. Example: "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth ... a new nation ... dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

em dash

The em dash (—) is used to set off parenthetical phrases, especially long or complex ones, where something stronger than a comma is effective. Example: The building—one of MSU's oldest—will be reroofed.


hyphenated, as are other similar words: e-book, e-commerce, e-business

emerita/emeritae, emeritus/emeriti

The plurals of emerita and emeritus are emeritae and emeriti, respectively. While emerita and emeritae refer specifically to a woman or women and emeritus refers specifically to a man, emeriti can be used to refer to both men and women and should be used for the general plural term. All references follow the noun: dean emerita of the college, professors emeriti.

These terms are honorary designations and should not be used simply to mean retired.

en dash

The en dash (-) is used to connect words or numbers to indicate "from this through this". Examples: The Lansing-Chicago flight leaves early. He served as president 1995-2000.

If "from" or "between" is used before the first of a pair of numbers, the en dash should not be used; instead, "from" should be followed by "through" and "between" by "and." Examples: He served as president from 1995 through 2000. He served as president between 1995 and 2000.

The en dash is used in place of a hyphen to join two elements when at least one element contains two or more unjoined words. Example: Nobel Prize-winning author.

The en dash is used by some universities to indicate a specific campus. Example: University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Erickson Hall

Do not refer to as just Erickson. To indicate a specific room or location, place in the front. Example: 252 Erickson Hall. See buildings.


The abbreviated form of et cetera (meaning "and other things"), etc. implies a list of things (never people) too numerous to list. When used, etc. is not preceded by "and."


See race/ethnicity.


One word without a hyphen


fellow, fellowship

Do not capitalize unless part of an official name: Jane Doe was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Jane Doe received a Hellman Fellowship in Science and Technology Policy from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Note: There is an exception to this rule allowed for Fellows participating in the W. K. Kellogg Foundation's Woodrow Wilson Michigan Teaching Fellowship, per the program's own style rules.

field instructor

Do not capitalize.

foreign words and phrases

Commonly used foreign expressions and their abbreviations (e.g., ex officio, et al., cum laude) are not italicized. If a term is listed in the foreign words and phrases section of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, it should be italicized.


Do not capitalize former when preceding a title. Examples: former MSU President Peter McPherson; Peter McPherson, former MSU president.


The terms freshman and freshmen are the singular and plural nouns, respectively, that refer to students with 0–27 credits. The adjectival form is freshman: freshman year, freshman courses.

full-time, full time

Hyphenate as an adjective before a noun. Example: She is a full-time student. Otherwise, leave as two words. Example: He attends college full time.


For consistency with University Advancement, fundraising and its varying forms are spelled as one word.


Global Educators Cohort Program

May be referred to as GECP on subsequent references.

grade point average (GPA)

Do not hyphenate or put periods in the initialism GPA.


When greater is used with the name of a city to denote a whole metropolitan area, it is capitalized: Greater Lansing.


home page

two words


Use a hyphen in compound modifiers. See adjective, phrasal.

Most words formed with prefixes (e.g., midcareer, multidisciplinary, metadata) are not hyphenated. However, a hyphen is used when the prefix precedes a proper noun (mid-July) or to avoid double i's (multi-institutional), double a's (meta-analysis), and other combinations of letters or syllables that might cause misreading (re-cover versus recover).

Words formed with the suffix "wide" do not include a hyphen (e.g., campuswide) unless they have more than two syllables (e.g., university-wide) or include a proper noun (Lansing-wide).



To indicate "that is," use i.e. set off by commas. Example: That great American holiday, i.e., Thanksgiving, is almost upon us.


Use only as a noun, never as a verb.

IM Circle

The building housing the Department of Kinesiology. Often referred to as IM Sports Circle, but the word Sports does not have to be included. To indicate a specific room or location, place in the front. Example: 134 IM Circle. See buildings.

Inc., LLC, Ltd., PC, etc.

See names, business.

Institute for the Study of Youth Sports

Always use full name on first reference. The acronym ISYS is acceptable on second reference.


The preferred term for teacher candidates during their internship year; not student teacher. Do not capitalize.


Do not capitalize.

international students

Use of the phrase international students is preferable to foreign students.


always capitalized

italics, for distinction

Use italics (or quotation marks) to set off a word being discussed or explained, but use one or the other consistently throughout a document or publication.

italics, with titles

Italics are used for the titles of books, magazines, journals, book-length poems, newspapers, movies, television shows, radio programs, operas and long musical compositions, and paintings, sculptures, and other nonphotographic works of art.

Do not italicize descriptors that are not part of a title. Example: Newsweek magazine. In running text, do not italicize or capitalize "the," even if it is part of the title of a periodical or a newspaper. Example: the New York Times.


Jenison Field House

three words

Jr., Sr., III, etc.

See names, personal.


The terms junior and juniors are the singular and plural nouns, respectively, that refer to students with 56-87 credits.


K-12 Outreach

The Office of K-12 Outreach is an office within the College of Education that provides programs and resources for instructional leaders, teachers, and students. Use the full name, Office of K-12 Outreach, in all references.



Hyphenated as a descriptor of MSU


Acronym used to refer to individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bi-, trans-, queer and other orientations not specified.

like, versus, such as

This word and this phrase can generally be used interchangeably when introducing an example or series of examples, although "such as" is more generally used in formal prose. Comparisons, however, always call for the use of "like."

lists (introduced by a complete sentence)

In running text, vertical lists are best introduced by a complete sentence followed by a colon. Items in a list should be parallel; that is, each item should be introduced by a verb, a noun phrase, or some other similar construction.

Items that are phrases are lowercase (unless capitalization is required for a proper noun), and there is no closing punctuation.

The following items must accompany your application:

  • three letters of recommendation, including one from a teacher
  • brief personal essay
  • check for $25
  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid form

Items that are complete sentences begin with a capital letter and end with a period.

Do the following to complete your application:

  • Provide three letters of recommendation, including one from a teacher.
  • Submit a brief personal essay.
  • Send a check for $25.
  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form.

lists (introduced by a phrase)

In running text, if a vertical list completes an introductory phrase, there is no colon following that phrase. Items are lowercase (unless capitalization is required for a proper noun) and are followed by punctuation (period after the final item and comma or semicolon after all others as appropriate). The word "and" is not required following the next-to-last item.

The Office of Admissions requires that applicants

  • provide three letters of recommendation, including one from a teacher;
  • submit a brief personal essay;
  • send a check for $25;
  • complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form.


Michigan Test for Teacher Certification

The acronym MTTC may be used on second and subsequent references.


Always hyphened

Midwest, midwestern

References to the Midwest of the United States are capitalized. Derivatives, such as midwestern, are not.

mentor teacher

The preferred term for the teachers who work with MSU teaching interns, not collaborating teacher. Term should be lowercased.


Monetary amounts are expressed with numerals and accompanied by either ¢ or $: 5¢, 50¢, $500, $5,000. Large amounts can include words and should not be hyphenated: $5 million award, $50 billion deficit.


See dates.


The name for MSU's TV show and news website is one word.


See prefixes.


See prefixes.


names, business

Business name qualifiers, such as Inc., LLC, Ltd., and PC, are not set off by commas. Example: Pfizer Inc. was founded in 1849.

names, personal

Personal name qualifiers, such as Jr., Sr., and III, are not set off by commas. Example: John F. Kennedy Sr. was the 35th president of the United States.

Include a space between initials used instead of a complete name. Example: W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

Enclose nicknames in quotation marks within the complete name. Example: George Herman "Babe" Ruth.


See prefixes.


See prefixes.

nonsexist writing

He, him, and his should not be used to refer to both genders. Use the plural terms they, them, and theirs or revise the sentence to eliminate their use entirely. Humanity is preferable to mankind. Manufactured is preferable to manmade.


Use words for numbers from one through nine. Use numerals for numbers 10 and greater. Use commas in numbers 1,000 and greater, except in reference to SAT scores, which do not contain a comma.

Use words for ordinals from first through ninth. Use numerals for ordinals 10th and higher.

Use words for fractions. Example: two-thirds, three-quarters.

Use numerals for percentages. Example: 5 percent, 55 percent.

Use numerals for credit hours. Example: 3 credit hours; 1-6 credit hours.

In general, maintain consistency in the use of words or numerals for items of the same category within a sentence. If one number of the group has a value of 10 or more, use all numerals: She read 4 of the 14 required books in just two weeks. However, inconsistent use of words and numerals for items of the same category has become increasingly common and is acceptable in publications with many number references.

See also dates.


off-campus, off campus

Hyphenate as an adjective before a noun: She has an off-campus job. Otherwise, leave as two words. Example: He works off campus.

on-campus, on campus

Hyphenate as an adjective before a noun: He has an on-campus job. Otherwise, leave as two words. Example: She works on campus.


one word


part-time, part time

Hyphenate as an adjective before the noun. Example: She is a part-time student. Otherwise, leave as two words. Example: He attends college part time.


Percentages are always given in numerals followed by the word percent. Examples: 5 percent, 55 percent, an increase from 5 percent to 55 percent. Use of the percent sign (%) is limited to tables, graphs, and the like.

phone numbers

Always include the area code with telephone numbers and separate it from the number. Use parentheses and a hyphen, like this: (517) 355-1787.


Although not strictly compound modifiers, words formed with prefixes are usually closed (e.g., multidisciplinary course, nonprofit organization, postdoctoral student), unless the prefix is followed by a capitalized word or a date (e.g., mid-July, un-American, pre-1950).

Compounds formed with prefixes are normally closed, whether they are nouns, verbs, adjectives, or adverbs. See Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, to verify.

A hyphen should appear, however, when a prefix or combining form stands alone: over- and underused, macro- and microeconomics.


Use "preservice" instead of "pre-service" when referring to future educators whom are still in training.

president, MSU

The preferred name configuration for MSU's current president is Lou Anna K. Simon. Capitalize president when it immediately precedes the name and lowercase it when it follows the name. Example: President Lou Anna K. Simon; Lou Anna K. Simon, president of MSU.

program names

Capitalize when referring to the degree program's formal name, in full: Master of Arts in Teaching and Curriculum, or in short: the Teaching and Curriculum program. Acronyms commonly used by the program may be used on second and subsequent references. Example: MATC.


quotation marks

The curved (or "smart") version is preferred unless it is standing for inches in a measurement. Example: 6' 8". If use of straight quotation marks is the convention for a website, consistency is key.

quotation marks, for distinction

Use quotation marks (or italics) to set off a word being discussed or explained, but use one or the other consistently throughout a document or publication. Avoid setting off a common informal expression: the dean’s get-together, not the dean’s “get-together.”

quotation marks, with quotes

Quoted material is enclosed in quotation marks. Quotations within quotations are enclosed in single quotation marks. Example: "Shakespeare, who is often called 'the Bard of Avon,' will be the focus of this English course," says the professor.

Periods and commas precede closing quotation marks. Colons and semicolons follow closing quotation marks. Question marks and exclamation points follow closing quotation marks, unless the question mark or exclamation point belongs within the quoted material.

quotation marks, with titles

quotation marks, with titles Use quotation marks around titles of non-book-length poems, theses, dissertations, manuscripts in collections, articles in periodicals, book chapters, short stories within a book, conferences and symposia, songs, photographs, television episodes, and unpublished works.



In compliance with U.S. Department of Education mandates, MSU uses the following terms in reporting racial and ethnic data: American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian; Black or African American; Hispanic (of any race); Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; and White.



Lowercase seasons in all generic references: winter 2009, spring semester 2009. Capitalize when part of an official name. Example: Fall Welcome activities.


Lowercase in all references: fall semester 2009. Note that summer semester options are session one, session two, and full session.


The most common use of the semicolon is between two independent but related clauses not joined by a conjunction. Example: President Simon intends to go to Africa; however, her plans are still vague.

Semicolons are used to separate items in a series that include internal punctuation: The committee membership breakdown was as follows. Example: professors, four; associate professors, two; and assistant professors, seven.


The terms senior and seniors are the singular and plural nouns, respectively, that refer to students with at least 88 credits.


always hyphenated


The terms sophomore and sophomores are the singular and plural nouns, respectively, that refer to students with 28–55 credits.

Southeast Michigan, southeastern Michigan

The geographic region is capitalized; the directional derivative is not.


Only one space follows any form of punctuation, including a period, comma, question mark, exclamation point, semicolon, colon, and the like.


Where the government rather than the place is meant, the words city and state are capitalized: She works for the State of Michigan. This is a City of East Lansing ordinance.

state names

Spell out the names of the 50 U.S. states when they stand alone in textual material. Abbreviate the state name when appearing with a city (East Lansing, Mich.)

Following are the state abbreviations:

Ala. (AL) Md. (MD) N.D. (ND)
Ariz. (AZ) Mass. (MA) Okla. (OK)
Ark. (AR) Mich. (MI) Ore. (OR)
Calif. (CA) Minn. (MN) Pa. (PA)
Colo. (CO) Miss. (MS) R.I. (RI)
Conn. (CT) Mo. (MO) S.C. (SC)
Del. (DE) Mont. (MT) S.D. (SD)
Fla. (FL) Neb. (NE) Tenn. (TN)
Ga. (GA) Nev. (NV) Vt. (VT)
Ill. (IL) N.H. (NH) Va. (VA)
Ind. (IN) N.J. (NJ) Wash. (WA)
Kan. (KS) N.M. (NM) W.Va. (WV)
Ky. (KY) N.Y. (NY) Wis. (WI)
La. (LA) N.C. (NC) Wyo. (WY)

The names of eight states are never abbreviated in datelines or text: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah.

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)

Or STEM education. Used to refer to these four core areas. Do not use acronym without stating what it stands for elsewhere in the same text.


always hyphenated

student teacher

Do not use this term to describe teacher candidates during their internship year. The preferred term is intern.

study abroad

always two words


teacher candidate

Preferred term for College of Education students preparing to become teachers. Also may use future teachers.

Teacher Preparation Program

Capitalize and use when referring to the five-year program that prepares teacher candidates at MSU. It is not necessary to specify elementary, secondary or special education (i.e. Elementary Teacher Preparation Program), unless it is for that specific context.


The definite article "the" should not be capitalized before names of either on- or off-campus entities, even if the entities capitalize it in their own materials. Examples: the School of Hospitality Business not The School of Hospitality Business; Ohio State University not The Ohio State University.

theatre versus theater

For consistency with MSU's Department of Theatre, theatre is preferred in all uses except official names to the contrary.

time references

Time is written numerically followed by a.m. or p.m., as appropriate, except for noon and midnight: 8 a.m., 2 p.m. Inclusion of terms like "in the morning" or "in the afternoon" is redundant. If one time cited contains a minute designation, all times cited should have a minute designation for consistency: 8:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

titles, of people

Civil, military, religious, and professional titles are capitalized when they immediately precede a personal name and are lowercased when following a name or used in place of a name.

Do not use courtesy titles, i.e., Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss.

See also academic titles.

titles, of works

Retain the spelling of the original title, but spell out numbers usually spelled out in text and change "&" to "and." If needed for clarification, add a colon between a title and a subtitle.

See also italics, with titles; quotation marks, with titles.


not towards



Avoid underlining whenever possible; this typographic treatment is reserved for hyperlinks. Book titles, journal names, film titles, and the names of other large works are now italicized.

United States/U.S.

United States is written out when used as a noun. Example: The United States has a large population.

U.S. should be used only as an adjective. Example: The U.S. population is large.


Even in references to MSU, the word "university" standing alone is lowercased. Example: The university is in East Lansing.

University Distinguished Professor

University Distinguished Professor is an official designation established in 1990 and bestowed on select faculty members. (It does not indicate recipients of MSU's Distinguished Faculty Award.) It is always written with initial capitals: John Doe, University Distinguished Professor of history; John Doe, University Distinguished Professor, Department of History.




one word, not hyphenated

Urban Educators Cohort Program

May be referred to as UECP on subsequent references.


Remove "http://" and "www." from URLs if inclusion is not needed for connection to the website.


vice president

two words

See also academic titles.


web page

two words


one word and lowercased


one word and lowercased

West Michigan/western Michigan

The geographic region is capitalized; the directional derivative is not.


always hyphenated


hyphenated as a descriptor of MSU