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Writing Style Guide

In all university publications and our website, we follow Associated Press style. This is the same style used by journalists, so adhering to it will make your communications more understandable to the public and give them a greater chance of being promoted by media outlets.

  • Writing Conventions

    academic degrees

    Do not use periods in abbreviations of degrees:

    Degree names:

    • BA – Bachelor of Arts
    • BM – Bachelor of Music
    • BS – Bachelor of Science
    • MBA – Master of Business Administration (note: some older graduates have an MM, master of management. Unless their donor profile specifies otherwise, update to the current terminology of MBA)
    • MAT – Master of Arts in Teaching
    • MEd – Master of Education
    • JD – Doctor of Jurisprudence
    • LLM – Master of Law

    When using the specific name of the degree use caps: “Buzz was named an honorary Doctor of Science.” “Susie earned her Master of Business Administration at the Atkinson Graduate School of Management.”

    When referring to a degree but not using the specific name, the degree is not capitalized: bachelor’s degree in music, master’s degree in chemistry, doctorate in English.

    academic subjects

    Lowercase except for words that are proper nouns or adjectives (e.g. English department, mathematics, psychology, etc.) or when the official and formal department name is used: Willamette University Department of History, Department of Athletics.

    a cappella



    Use the abbreviation Ave., Blvd. and St. only with a numbered address: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Spell them out and capitalize when part of a formal street name without a number: Pennsylvania Avenue. Lowercase and spell out when used alone or with more than one street name: Massachusetts and Pennsylvania avenues.

    All similar words (alley, drive, road, terrace, etc.) are always spelled out. Capitalize them when part of a formal name with or without a number; lowercase when used with two or more names.

    Always use figures for an address number: 9 Morningside Circle.

    Spell out and capitalize First through Ninth when used as street names; use figures with two letters for 10th and above: 7 Fifth Ave., 100 21st St.

    Abbreviate compass points used to indicate directional ends of a street or quadrants of a city in a numbered address: 222 E. 42nd St., 600 K St. NW. No periods in quadrant abbreviations — NW, SW, NE, SE.


    Always use figures. His children are John, 5, and Sue, 8. John is a 5-year-old boy. Sue is 8 years old.


    • Alumnus: One man
    • Alumna: One woman
    • Alumni: Group of men, or group of men and women
    • Alumnae: Group of women
    • Do not use “alum” or “alums.”

    admission officer

    Use admission officer rather than the terms “counselor” or “recruiter” to refer staff engaged in the process of encouraging students to consider Willamette.


    Spell with an “ae.”


    Avoid the construction, “The couple live in Des Moines, Iowa.” Use the pronoun “they” or use the couple’s last name (assuming they have the same last name). “The Smiths live in Des Moines, Iowa.”

    course names

    Use quotes around formal titles and capitalize the name of the class. Ex) Paul Dwyer teaches “Design Thinking” at the Atkinson Graduate School of Management.

    class of ’year

    Lowercase “class” except for formal invitations.

    dates/times dates

    dates: Spell out months when used alone or with a year only. “It can be very busy in November, and November 1992 was the busiest month of all.” But with a specific date, abbreviate these months: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., Dec. It’s Dec. 8, not Dec. 8th or December eighth. Never use the day of the week.

    time: For even hours, drop the colon and zeros: “5 p.m.” Otherwise it’s “5:30 p.m.” The “a.m.” and “p.m.” should be lowercase with periods. For formal invitations use “five o’clock” or “five-thirty.” In all publications, use “noon” not “12 noon” or “12 p.m.” When listing a range of time, use an en dash, 6–8 p.m., 9 a.m.–6 p.m. If you can’t use an en dash, have spaces before and after the hyphen. 6 - 9 p.m.

    together: List the date first, then the time. You can use the word “at” or just a comma between the two. March 1, 7:30 p.m. or March 1 at 7:30 p.m.

    decision-makers, decision-making

    Hyphenate in all uses.


    Use ’20s, ’30s, ’40s, etc. — no apostrophe before the “s.”


    Use figures and spell out inches, feet, yards, etc., to indicate depth, height, length and width. Hyphenate adjectival forms before nouns. Examples: He is 5 feet 6 inches tall, the 5-foot-6-inch man, the 5-foot man, the basketball team assigned a 7-footer. The car is 17 feet long, 6 feet wide and 5 feet tall. The rug is 9 feet by 12 feet. The building has 6,000 square feet of floor space.

    Use an apostrophe to indicate feet and quote marks to indicate inches (5’6”) only in very technical contexts.


    Lowercase and no hyphen.

    emeritus professors

    A retired professor, female or male, who has received emeritus status is a “professor emeritus.” For more than one, use “professors emeriti.”


    Faculty is a collective noun that refers to an institution’s or academic unit’s entire instructional staff. Therefore, it takes a singular verb. The faculty likes long meetings. Its plural is faculties.

    In referring to an individual, use the phrase faculty member. In referring to a group of individuals numbering less than the entire faculty, use the phrase faculty members.


    One word, no hyphen.


    Do not spell it out. Use all caps, no periods.

    graduation years

    Put the last two digits of Willamette graduation dates after names of all students and alumni, on first reference only. The apostrophe before the date faces the left. No space between the degree name and the date. If the person holds two Willamette degrees, put a comma between them, unless it is a joint degree, when you use a “/.” This rule does NOT apply to media press releases.

    • John Jones ’89 (for CLA or CAS graduates) (Don’t precede year with BA, BS, etc.)
    • James Smith JD’03
    • Sally Evans MBA’80
    • Sara Jacobsen MBA/JD’91
    • Ivan Hirt ’45, JD’50
    • David Ellis MAT’00
    • John Doe MEd’11


    For Willamette publications, capitalize all verbs, modifiers, nouns, adjectives, words at the beginning of a line and prepositions with five or more letters. “Talking Across the Divide. Bringing the World to the Classroom.” “Willamette University Presents New Farce Written by Alumna.”

    For media press releases and on the university website, only capitalize the word at the beginning of the line and proper names. Ex) Willamette University presents new farce written by alumna.


    Use periods and no space when an individual or location uses initials. Ex) M.L. Jones or U.S., L.A., D.C.




    Not luau

    majors/fields of study

    Do not capitalize college studies, fields of study, major areas or major subjects, except languages, unless referring to a specific course. “He is a double major in art history and English. He is taking the American Art History course.”


    No hyphen. (AGSM uses the term not-for-profit, which does include hyphens)


    Spell out numbers one through nine, use numerals from 10 up, including ordinal numbers (ninth, 22nd). Exceptions: Never use numerals to start a sentence. When listing ages, use numerals throughout, i.e., their children are Joy, 13, Bill, 6, and Myron, 2 1/2. When it’s not a list, use “a 5-year-old,” “she’s in her 20s,” and “Jack’s 20-year-old son.” If you’re writing about a range or using two numbers that refer to the same group of things, where one is over 10 and one is under (ex. – There were 12 winners, and 2 were women) then use numerals for both, even if one normally would be spelled out.

    OK or okay

    Either spelling is OK, but O.K. is not okay.


    Lowercase, one word, no hyphen.


    In print publications, don’t use the symbol % except in tables; spell it out as one word, and always make the number in front of it a numeral: 5 percent, 64.3 percent. Using the symbol % online is okay.

    phone numbers

    Use hyphens with phone numbers: 503-370-6014 and 1-800-370-6014.

    Pow wow — or pow wow, not powwow.

    Only capitalize if the word is part of an official title or at the beginning of a paragraph. Ex) Willamette University is celebrating its 10th annual Social Pow wow on April 26.


    With rare exceptions we do not form plurals with apostrophes. Use s or es. Some examples: MBAs, the 1980s. There are occasional exceptions, such as single letters: Mind your p’s and q’s and she received all A’s.


    Lowercase blacks and whites but capitalize identifications with geographic words: Asians, Native Americans, Indians, African-Americans. Only include if pertinent and more detailed description is unavailable.

    room numbers

    Capitalize. Ex) Room 301. If rooms have a specific name, add the room number if needed to clarify location. Ex) Paulus Lecture Hall in Room 201 at the College of Law.


    Be consistent; use only “says” throughout the story for any Willamette publications. For media press releases, only use “said.” Always put the person’s name before “says” after a quote: “We can’t take the stability of our neighbors for granted,” Smith says. However, if you need to include the title of the person with the quote, then put the word “says” first: “You and I do not have the luxury of not getting along,” says John Smith, vice president of donor relations. “Said” is acceptable with event coverage, if the event already occurred.


    Lowercase the names of semesters: summer, winter, spring, fall semester. Lowercase spring break, winter break.


    We prefer the usage John and Mary Doe over such alternatives as John Doe and Mary. If the woman is an alumna and her husband is not, we suggest you use something like, Mary (Smith) Doe ’83 and her husband, John. If she has elected to retain her maiden name, make it Mary Smith ’83 and her husband, John Doe. With alumnae, we include their maiden name in parenthesis as needed.

    state names

    Stand-alone state names are spelled out: “Oregon is such a wonderful place to live, hundreds of people move here annually from California.” When a city name accompanies the state, use the standard abbreviation, as in: Susie was born in Wichita, Kan. Do not use the state with certain large cities; see “datelines” entry in AP Stylebook for a list. Only when giving a specific address that might be used on an envelope should you use the postal code abbreviation and ZIP without comma: “Send your ideas to Willamette University, 900 State St., Salem, OR 97301.”

    Here is the list we follow, with the postal abbreviations listed first.

    AL/Ala. AK/Alaska AZ/Ariz. AR/Ark. CA/Calif. CO/Colo.
    CT/Conn. DE/Del. DC/D.C. FL/Fla. GA/Ga. HI/Hawaii
    ID/Idaho IL/Ill. IN/Ind. IA/Iowa KS/Kans. KY/Ky.
    LA/La. ME/Maine MD/Md. MA/Mass. MI/Mich. MN/Minn.
    MS/Miss. MO/Mo. MT/Mont. NE/Nebr. NV/Nev. NH/N.H.
    NJ/N.J. NM/N.M. NY/N.Y. NC/N.C. ND/N.D. OH/Ohio
    OK/Okla. OR/Ore. PA/Pa. RI/R.I. SC/S.C. SD/S.D.
    TN/Tenn. TX/Tex. UT/Utah VT/Vt. VA/Va. WA/Wash.
    WV/W.Va. WI/Wis. WY/Wyo.


    • Theatre when referring to a live performance, and Willamette University theatre department, building or major. In press releases, follow AP style and use “theater” unless “theatre” is a part of a formal title.
    • Theater when referring to film, cinema.

    Tokyo International University of America

    May be called TIUA after the first reference. Tokyo International University of America (TIUA) refers to the building on the east side of the Willamette campus. Tokyo International University (TIU) refers to the main school in Kawagoe, Japan.


    Use “that” and “which” in referring to inanimate objects and to animals without a name. Use “that” for essential clauses, important to the meaning of a sentence, and without commas: “I remember the day that we met.” Use “which” for nonessential clauses, where the pronoun is less necessary, and use commas: “The team, which finished last a year ago, is in first place.”

    Tip: If you can drop the clause and not lose the meaning of the sentence, use “which.” Otherwise, use “that.” A “which” clause is surrounded by commas; no commas are used with “that” clauses.

    The United Methodist Church

    All words, including The, should be capitalized when referring to the denomination as a whole. First United Methodist Church would be appropriate for that local church (and, in this case, if “the” is used before it, “the” does not need to be capitalized).


    Also lowercase web.

    website addresses

    Do not set off by parenthesis. Do not use “www” when including a Willamette University website address in writing. Ex) The Office of Admission for the College of Arts & Sciences accepts applications online at” Never include the http://.

    Willamette University

    Due to the possible confusion with the Willamette Valley, or the Willamette River, or Willamette Industries, etc., external communications should use the university’s full name.

    On first reference use Willamette University. On subsequent reference, it is often shortened to Willamette or the university in cases where it is being repeated often, for instance in a magazine article. Do not capitalize “university” when used on its own.

    WU is for use on campus or with knowledgeable audiences only, e.g. alumni.

    World War I, World War II, Vietnam War

    (Not WWI, WWII and Vietnam Conflict)


    Capitalize, no periods. For use on campus or with knowledgeable audiences only, such as alumni.

    Writing Tips

    Use active voice when writing, not passive voice. (The subject does the action). Ex) Mary mailed the letter NOT, The letter was mailed by Mary.
    Avoid “to be” verbs. Ex) Instead of saying, “John will be coming to the party,” simply say, “John plans to attend the party.”


    “Not unto ourselves alone are we born” or “Non nobis solum nati sumus” — In narrative, use smart quotes and capitalize “Not” (both in English and Latin). Never italicize.

  • Names and Titles
    • President — Only capitalize when used as a formal title preceding a name. Ex) President Stephen E. Thorsett or President Steve Thorsett. The president is a scientist. Use Stephen E. Thorsett for formal documents, such as invitations.
    • professor — Never abbreviate. Only capitalize if used immediately before a name. Ex) Mary enrolled in Professor Joe Smith’s biology class last semester. Smith was assisted by Associate Professor Jane Doe. Meet Chris Jimenez, our new professor of biology.
    • vice president — No hyphen
    • Board of Trustees — Always capitalized, but not when using “board” or “trustees”
    • College of Arts & Sciences, College of Law, Atkinson Graduate School of Management, Pacific Northwest College of Art
    • Willamette Academy — Lowercase “academy” on second reference.
    • Building names — Unless used on a formal invitation, refer to buildings named after people by the last name of the person only. Ex). Hatfield Library, Long Law Library, Rogers Music Center, Sparks Athletic Center. The exception is the Hallie Ford Museum of Art (always refer to the full name on first reference. Afterward, it can be called “the museum”).
      • Atkinson Graduate School of Management — Can be referred to as AGSM on second reference. Use address (900 State St. in Salem and 1120 NW Couch St., Ste. 450 in Portland, if location needs to be clarified. The Portland center is called “The Willamette University Portland Center”). Never refer to it as “the business school.” It’s “the management school” or “the graduate school of management.” When referring to degree-specific information, use Willamette’s MBA programs,Willamette MBA or just MBA programs instead of Atkinson MBA or Atkinson’s MBA. “The Atkinson Graduate School of Management houses Willamette’s MBA programs and executive education courses. All MBA programs are accredited by the AACSB International.”
      • College of Law — Use address (245 Winter St. SE) if the location needs to be clarified. The “law school” is acceptable on the second reference. Other than in formal invitations, don’t use the official name “Truman Wesley Collins Legal Center.”
      • Cone Field House — Three words. Don’t use this name unless necessary; many people don’t know where this is, and it’s not specified on our campus maps. Instead use Sparks Athletic Center.
      • Hallie Ford Museum of Art — Roger Hull Lecture Hall is the lecture room inside the museum. The largest rotating exhibition gallery is the Henderson-Rubio Gallery and the smaller rotating exhibition gallery is the Study Gallery.
      • Goudy Commons — on first reference, Goudy on second reference.
      • Kaneko Commons — Use Kaneko Commons when referring to the name of the building. Kaneko can be used on second reference. Use Kaneko Café when referring to the dining facility.
      • Putnam University Center — Use full name on first reference. On second reference, it can be “University Center.” Don’t use “UC.”
      • Rogers Music Center/Hudson Hall — Rogers Music Center refers to the entire building. Hudson Hall refers to the performance venue inside the building.
      • Sparks Athletic Center — Sparks Center is acceptable on second reference.
      • The Hatfield Fountain — Don’t call it “the chicken fountain” unless in a very informal context, such as “affectionately known as ‘the chicken fountain.’”
    • Dr. — Only use this title for medical doctors, not for people who’ve earned a doctorate.
    • Titles for people
      • Except in very formal communications and obituaries, courtesy titles like Mr. and Mrs. are not used.
      • Job and academic titles are used for identifications. Capitalize only formal titles used directly before an individual’s name. “Dean Jane Doe, Vice President John Smith and Professor Emeritus Mary Jones met on the steps of the Oregon State Capitol.”
      • Use lowercase and spell out titles when they are not used with an individual’s name. “The president, a dean, the mayor and the deputy attorney general all spoke at the opening of the program.”
      • Generally, titles such as associate professor, assistant professor, professor of law or any lengthy titles are used after a person’s name, lowercased and separated by a comma. Ex) John Smith, professor of biology, and Jane Doe, Van Winkle Melton professor of law, include a community service component within their curricula, said Sue Jones, director of alumni relations.
      • First and last names are used on first reference, and the last name alone on subsequent references. “Professor Jane Doe is adding a community service component to her sociology course’s curriculum. Doe will post this curriculum at”
      • Use the Rev. before a clergy person’s name on the first reference.
      • The Honorable should only be used as part of the title when the name is in a formal list, or when addressing an envelope.
    • Titles of offices — Capitalize formal name when used alone but not when part of a person’s title. Ex) Student Engagement & Leadership, Student Affairs, Office of Admissions. James Adams works for Student Affairs at Willamette University. James Adams, student affairs director for Willamette University, is retiring in June.
    • Tiles of academic departments — Capitalize only when using the full and proper name of the department. Otherwise, only capitalize proper nouns. Ex) They teach in the Willamette University Department of Music. They also teach in the English and theatre departments.
  • Punctuation and Formatting
    • ampersand (&) — Do not use as a substitute for “and” unless it’s a part of an official name or website navigation.
    • comma series — Do not use a comma before the conjunction in a simple series. “The flag is red, white and blue.” Keep commas in a series of complex phrases to ease readability.
    • comma before Jr. — Don’t use a comma. Ex) John F. Kennedy Jr.
    • ellipses — A single space precedes and follows ellipses.
    • en/em dash — Use an en dash to indicate a range: 6–8 p.m., $10–$15 (notice the use of the dollar sign for both numbers). There are no spaces before or after en dashes. Use an em dash when setting off information in a sentence: The room was stifling — 85 to 90 degrees— and reeked of body odor and rotten fruit. Use spaces before and after the em dash.
    • hyphens — When a compound modifier precedes a noun, use hyphens to link all the words in the compound except the adverb very and all the adverbs that end in “ly.” A first-quarter touchdown, a full-time job, a very good day, her worst bad-hair day, a well-qualified candidate, a highly qualified candidate.
    • italicize — Never italicize copy, including composition titles and foreign words. Designers may italicize text for effect.
    • periods — Use periods in abbreviations, except in such common usage as JFK, MLK, GE, IBM, CBS, YMCA, CIA, the UN, etc. We do, however, use periods in U.S., L.A., D.C.
    • parenthesis — Don’t use them.
    • quotation marks — Use smart, curved inward, quotes.
    • spacing — One space after a period; one space after a colon.
    • superscripts — No superscripts. Ex) 12th
    • 2009–10, not 2009–2010 (use an en dash) — only applies when both years are in the same century
Willamette University


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Willamette University
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