Abbreviations and Acronyms

An acronym is the grouping of a series of initials, or initial letters, for an entity or organization that make up a unique word used as the shorthand for the name of that organization (OPEC, MENSA, NATO, NASA, etc.), as distinct from abbreviations, which are a series of initials used as the shorthand name for that organization (FBI, CIA, etc). Acronyms and abbreviations often are used in a similar manner.

In general, avoid "alphabet soup" — unnecessary use of acronyms or abbreviations — whenever possible.  Acronyms and abbreviations may be used for the first reference if they are widely recognized: SAT, NASA

Use periods in two-letter abbreviations. Use all caps, but no periods, in longer abbreviations:
U.S., U.N., Ph.D. (even though it has the small "h"), BSE, YMCA, CIA

Academic Calendar

The academic year begins autumn quarter, followed by winter, spring and summer quarters. The name of the quarter is lowercase, unless used at the beginning of a sentence or headline.

Academic Degrees

Capitalize full degree names such as Bachelor of Education, Master of Education, Doctor of Education and always use them on first reference. Use acronyms where applicable only on subsequent reference. Use an apostrophe and lower case for bachelor’s degree and master’s degree.

  • Minor in Education          minor                                        ELS
  • Bachelor of Arts                 bachelor’s degree            B.A.
  • Master of Education       master’s degree                M.Ed.
  • Master of Teaching          master’s degree                MIT
  • Doctor of Education        doctorate                               Ed.D.
  • Doctor of Philosophy      doctorate                               Ph.D.

The word "degree" should not follow an abbreviation:

  • She has a B.A. in Education.
  • She has a bachelor's degree in Education.


Use abbreviations for Ave., St., Blvd., Ct., La., Pl., Rd., Dr. and Pkwy. Spell out street designations such as the less common Terrace and Circle or anytime when not accompanied by an address number:

  • He lives on State Street.
  • Her office address is 2 S. Status St.

Adviser not advisor


Avoid using only class years behind the names of students and alumni (e.g., Jane Jones '12) unless content is for an internal audience and/or there is a long list.

  • senior Jane Jones
  • Jane Jones, a senior
  • Jane Jones, a member of the Class of 2012
  • Several undergraduates were selected to serve on the committee: senior Jane Jones, sophomore David Smith, freshman John Doe and junior Betty Anderson.
  • Several undergraduates and alumni were selected to serve on the committee: Betty Anderson '84, John Doe '15, Jane Jones '12 and David Smith '67.

Preferred for alumni in external publications:

  • Wendy Kapp, a 1989 University of Washington alumna, is the founder of Teachers for America.
  • Wendy Kapp, a 1989 iSchool graduate, is the founder …

Suggested style for alumni in internal publications:

  • David Peters MPA '85, Ph.D. '87.

Preferred style for alumni who did not graduate:

  • Jane Jones, who attended Princeton from 2004 to 2006 …


Use a colon to introduce a list only when the text following the colon does not flow naturally from it.

Here are examples of punctuation:

The students in the Tuesday afternoon seminar were asked to

  • read a chapter in a novel from the 18th century;
  • write an essay comparing it with a chapter in a novel from the 20th century;
  • and complete both assignments by 5 p.m.

The students in the Tuesday afternoon seminar have three assignments:

  • Read a chapter in a novel from the 18th century.
  • Write an essay comparing it with a chapter in a novel from the 20th century.
  • Complete both projects by 5 p.m.

Bulleted items may be capped or lowercase, depending on preference. Be consistent throughout the document. Generally, items that are complete sentences should be capped, and those that are fragments should be lowercase.


People’s Titles

Capitalize a job title when it immediately precedes a person's name. The title is not capitalized when it is an incomplete designation, follows a name or is on second reference:

  • University President Michael Young
  • Michael Young, president of University of Washington
  • the president
  • Professor of Educational Psychology Jane Doe
  • Jane Doe, professor of educational psychology
  • professor Jane Doe
  • the professor

Departments, Offices, the Board of Trustees

Capitalize the formal names of departments and offices, as well as the Board of Trustees; do not capitalize informal names and incomplete designations:

  • College of Education
  • Department of Educational Psychology
  • the educational psychology department
  • the department
  • the Office of Admission
  • the admission office
  • the office
  • Student Services

Buildings, Places, Centers

Capitalize the word "University" whenever referring to University of Washington. Use "College" on second reference whenever referring to the UW College of Education (this is preferred to using the abbreviation CoE or COE).

Capitalize the formal names of buildings, places and centers. Use the formal name on first reference and, in most cases, use lowercase on second reference:

  •  Suzzallo Library
  • the library
  • University of Washington Henry Art Gallery
  • the art gallery
  • Miller Hall
  • The hall has four rooms.
  • The University allows ... (capitalize the "U" when referring to University of Washington)
  • At any university, students will ...


Capitalize the full names of forms:

  • Application for Undergraduate Admission and Scholarships
  • Request for Graduate Application Fee Waiver

Lowercase shortened or general forms:

  • admission application
  • fee waiver form


The formal names of special events are capitalized:

  • Alumni Day
  • Baccalaureate
  • Class Day
  • Commencement
  • Opening Exercises
  • Reunions
  • Title case for all headings, subheaders and headlines/event titles
  • Sentence case for all navigational menu links


Do not capitalize major areas of study, unless referring to a language:

  • She is studying economics and French.

Cities and States

Spell out the names of the 50 U.S. states when they stand alone, but use the state abbreviations listed in this section when a state is listed with a city, town, village, etc. However, keep in mind the audience for which you are writing. Many international readers do not understand U.S. state abbreviations. It may be best to write them out in materials designated primarily for global audiences.

Use of United States:

  • She studied U.S. culture of the 1950s.
  • She studied the culture of the United States from the 1950s.


Use lowercase for state, as in Washington state.

The first name listed should be used with a city, town, village, etc.; the second is the zip code abbreviation to use when referencing a full postal address in text.

Ala. (AL)

Maine (ME)

Okla. (OK)

Alaska (AK)

Md. (MD)

Ore. (OR)

Ariz. (AZ)

Mass. (MA)

Pa. (PA)

Ark. (AR)

Mich. (MI)

R.I. (RI)

Calif. (CA)

Minn. (MN)

S.C. (SC)

Colo. (CO)

Miss. (MS)

S.D. (SD)

Conn. (CT)

Mo. (MO)

Tenn. (TN)

Del. (DE)

Mont. (MT)

Texas (TX)

Fla. (FL)

Neb. (NE)

Utah (UT)

Ga. (GA)

Nev. (NV)

Vt. (VT)

Hawaii (HI)

N.H. (NH)

Va. (VA)

Ill. (IL)

N.J. (NJ)

Wash. (WA)

Ind. (IN)

N.M. (NM)

W.Va. (WV)

Iowa (IA)

N.Y. (NY)

Wis. (WI)

Kan. (KS)

N.C. (NC)

Wyo. (WY)

Ky. (KY)

N.D. (ND)


La. (LA)

Ohio (OH)



Do not use states with these U.S. cities:








Las Vegas



Los Angeles

St. Louis



Salt Lake City



San Antonio



San Diego


New Orleans

San Francisco


New York City



Oklahoma City


Do not use country names with these foreign cities:









Rio de Janeiro






San Marino



Sao Paulo


Mexico City





Guatemala City









Hong Kong




New Delhi

Vatican City


Panama City








Kuwait City

Quebec City



The word "Class" in the Class of 1976

Culture/Ethnic Designations

Use "people of color" or "underrepresented" in stories where it is appropriate to identify people by race; include the specific group(s) being identified in these stories. Avoid using the term "minority," if possible. Do not use a hyphen when African American is used as a noun or an adjective. This applies to all such ethnic classifications. In general, native is lowercase unless used with American: She is Native American. It is his native land.  

Dates and Times

Use figures for days of the month. Omit the ordinal designations of nd, rd, st, th.
Place a comma between the month and the year when the day is mentioned:

  • On April 27, 2009, Major Event brought together hundreds of people.

Do not place a comma between the month and the year when the day is not mentioned:

  • In April 2009, Major Event brought together hundreds of people.

When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate the month according to AP style: Jan., Feb., Aug. Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. (all others spelled out). Spell out when using alone or with a year alone:

  • Aug. 27, 2011
  • August
  • August 2011

Use the year, a hyphen and the last two digits to refer to a period of time within the same century as an adjective, but full years joined by a hyphen when the range crosses into another century:

  • the 2011-12 academic year
  • the 1999-2000 academic year

Use "to" instead of a hyphen when the year or time is a noun:

  • from 1989 to 2005
  • The meetings will take place from 8 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday.

 When abbreviating years to two digits, put an apostrophe in front of the years:

  • the Class of '76
  • the summer of '66

Dates following a day of the week should be set apart by commas:

  • He decided that Friday, Oct. 12, would be a convenient date.

 Times generally come before days and dates:

  • The performance will take place at 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12.

When emphasizing the exact time, or when using a.m. or p.m., use figures (omitting 00 for on the hour):

  • 7 p.m.; 7:30 p.m.
  • 12 a.m. should be referred to as midnight; 12 p.m. should be referred to as noon.

Hyphens may be used with dates, and should always be used with dates when both days of the week and dates are included.

  • The workshop is set for Monday through Thursday, July 18-21.

Centuries and decades:

  • Noun: the 20th century
  • Adjective: 20th-century literature
  • the 1960s
  • '60s fashion


In general, do not describe an individual as disabled or handicapped. If it is relevant to the material and you must use a description, try to be specific:

  • Muhammad Ali, boxing hero and a former Olympic champion, defied the symptoms of Parkinson's to light the torch in a rare public appearance.

Use "accessible parking," rather than disabled or handicapped parking.

File Formats

If a file format acronym is being used in a sentence, it should be set in all caps.

  • I used three GIF images in my design.

If a file format acronym is being used to indicate the type of downloadable file in a link, it should be set in lowercase with a "." preceding it.

  • The image (.gif) is available for download.
  • Commencement 2011 press release (.pdf)

Fundraising and Fundraiser

Always one word

Gender and Inclusive Language

Use nonsexist language and follow these recommendations:
Don't say "he" when referring to an unspecified person. Instead, recast the sentence into the plural, or avoid the use of pronouns altogether.

  • (Incorrect) Each student is expected to turn in his paper by the deadline.
  • (Correct) Students are expected to turn in their papers by the deadline.

If it's impossible to solve the problem using these approaches, remember that "he or she" is preferable to "he/she."

Avoid gender-specific titles or terms, such as:

Instead of





business executive, manager


camera operator


female student


representative, senator





founding fathers



mail carrier

to man

to staff, to run, to operate


people, humanity


workforce, employees


police officer

Latin Suffixes

  • alumnus/alumni (male graduate/plural; also plural for a group consisting of male and female graduates)
  • alumna/alumnae (female graduate/plural)
  • emerita/emeritae (retired faculty woman who keeps her rank or title/plural)
  • emeritus/emeriti (retired faculty man who keeps his rank or title/plural; also plural for a group consisting of male and female retirees)

For official publications, use alumnus for a male and alumni when even just one male in a group; use alumna or alumnae when referring to females exclusively.


As a general rule, use only first name and last name unless the person is widely known and identified in professional or industry circles with an initial or middle name. Always use the president of the University's first name, middle initial and last name on first reference. Formal names (not nicknames) are preferred, unless the tone of the material is very informal.

  • President Ana Mari Cuace
  • Mia Tuan, dean of the College of Education

Use an individual’s first and last names on first reference. On subsequent references, use last name only. In cases where two people have the same last name, continue to use first and last names. 


Spell out numbers one through nine and general numbers in narrative text:

  • There were seven people at the meeting.
  • There were 36 students in the class.
  • There are approximately 5,000 undergraduates.
  • There are a thousand reasons.

When a number is the first word of a sentence, spell it out.

In a series, apply the appropriate guideline:
There are 25 graduate students in the philosophy department, nine in the music department and eight in the comparative literature department, making a total of 42 students in the three departments.
Express all percentages as figures. Do not use the % sign except in charts or graphs:

  • 3 percent; 130 percent

For very large sums of money use figures with a dollar sign; spell out million or billion:

  • $1.8 million
  • between $1 and $2 billion

Place a comma after digits signifying thousands, except when reference is made to temperature:

  • 1,160 students
  • 2200 degrees Fahrenheit

Use the words "more than" and "less than" instead of "over" and "under" in conjunction with numbers:

  • More than 200 students signed the petition.

Point Of View and Voice

When writing content for the website or print materials, use second-person narrative, unless writing a course description. Course descriptions are written in third person.  Do not use first person references such as ‘we’ except when referring to the College of Education mission/vision statements.

  • At the College of Education, you study the history of education. Faculty and staff support your career goals.

‘You’ is the most important word when writing anything except course descriptions.                         

Use active not passive verbs and make them punchy: Hellacious winds whipped the building rather than the building was whipped by hellacious winds.



Use commas to separate elements in a series and do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series:

  • The flag is red, white and blue


Use an em dash to relay a break in thought. Place a single space on either side of the em dash. This is the longer dash ("—") as compared to the shorter en dash ("–") or two hyphens ("--"). Em dashes are created by holding down the SHIFT+OPTION+MINUS SIGN keys on a Mac or the ALT+CTRL+MINUS SIGN keys on a PC.
Chartered in 1746 as the College of New Jersey — the name by which it was known for 150 years — Princeton University was British North America's fourth college.
An em dash can be used to set off elements within a sentence: The materials used by the artist — wood, steel and plastic — created a powerful contrast.


Hyphen: - ("-" on keyboard)

Do not hyphenate words beginning with non, except if there is a proper noun:

  • non-American; nonscholarship

Do not place a hyphen between the prefixes pre, semi, anti, sub, etc., and nouns or adjectives, except before proper nouns, but avoid duplicated vowels or consonants:

  • reapply
  • semidetached
  • antiwar
  • ongoing
  • prerequisite
  • pre-enroll

Use hyphens to connect compound modifiers, being careful about meaning:

  • white-hot metal or white hot metal (depending on which is meant)
  • calculator-wielding graduate student

Do not use a hyphen on adverbs ending in -ly:

  • an easily hit ball
  • a badly cooked egg
  • a loudly ringing phone

Hyphenate part-time and full-time only when used as adjectives:

  • She has a full-time job at the College of Education.
  • She works at the College of Education full time.

Use a hyphen between numbers:

  • 231-29-0002
  • 2002-03 (not 2002-2003)

Use a hyphen, not a comma, to separate institutions from their city locations:

  • the University of California-Berkeley
  • the University of Texas-Austin

No hyphens: campuswide, Universitywide

Quotation Marks

The period and comma always go inside the quotation marks:

  • "He will stop by tomorrow," she said.

The question mark goes inside when part of the direct quote, outside when applying to quoted material within an entire sentence.

  • "Will you explain distribution requirements to me?" asked the student.
  • What is meant by "distribution requirements"?

The semicolon goes outside quoted material within a sentence:

  1. Refer to them as "conference participants"; all others should be known as "guests."


Use the semicolon to set off a series that includes commas:

  1. The main offices are in Mercer County, N.J.; Marion County, Ind.; and Broward County, Fla.


Use a single space between words and sentences.

Telephone Numbers

Use area codes with hyphens for all telephone numbers, or at least once with a listing. This practice has become necessary because of the increasing use of cell phones:

  • 206-258-3000
  • For international numbers (country code, city code, telephone number): 011-44-20-7535-1515
  • For 800 numbers: 800-222-7474


Courtesy Titles

Do not use courtesy titles (Mr., Miss, Ms., Mrs.).
Names followed by Jr., Sr. or a Roman numeral do not have a comma after the last name:

  • Martin Luther King Jr.
  • James Hart III

Publications, Course Listings, Films, Music, Works of Art

As a general rule, put titles of books and articles in initial caps and quotation marks: "The Grapes of Wrath"

Put titles of newspapers, magazines and journals in initial caps with NO quotation marks:

  • Science
  • Nature
  • The Daily

Capitalize "the" in a publication's name, if that is how it appears in the masthead: "The New York Times"

In text, put the course name in quotation marks: He selected "Introduction to Economic Dynamics" after meeting with his adviser.

Capitalize the titles of lectures, theses and dissertations: He gave the lecture "In Pursuit of Flight" to the class of auditors.

Titles of songs are usually set in quotation marks: "Old Nassau"

Use quotation marks around a musical composition's nickname but not a composition identified by its sequence: Dvorak's "New World Symphony," Dvorak's Symphony No. 9

Titles of paintings, drawings, statues and other works of art are put in quotation marks: Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa."

Web Terminology

  • email (or Email at the beginning of a sentence)
  • enews
  • Facebook page
  • homepage
  • Internet
  • log in, log out (verb)
  • login (noun)
  • NetID
  • online
  • the Web
  • webpage
  • Twitter feed
  • website
  • World Wide Web


Use the shortest URL possible.
For root-level sites, do not use "http://" or the "trailing slash":, not

Email Addresses

Should appear as we have it here: For more information, contact John Doe at 206-258-3000 or

Style on Social Media

Sometimes when text appears on Facebook and other social media, editorial style is more relaxed to save space on short posts. More specific guidelines are provided in the University's social media strategies, policies and best practices.


UW Style Guide:

Princeton Style Guides: