Editorial Style Guide

USF produces hundreds of print and electronic communications each year, and the quality of each should be representative of the university’s brand, mission, and goals. This style guide is intended to help bring stylistic consistency to all university publications, from newsletters and emails to brochures and flyers.

The guide is largely based on The Associated Press Stylebook with some exceptions. Listings cover everything from internet terms (email or e-mail?) to troublesome words (toward or towards?) to the proper names of university departments and programs.

If your question is not answered in this guide, consult The Associated Press Stylebook or contact the Office of Marketing Communications at (415) 422-5948 and usfnews@usfca.edu.



Academic abbreviations

See Degrees

Academic departments

Capitalize when using the full name of the department, but not when referring to it regularly:

  • The Department of Philosophy, but the philosophy department.

Academic program names

Do not capitalize “program”:

  • The Master of Public Health program.

If the program title has degree titles like “MA” or “MS,” use “Master” instead, in general writing:

  • The MA in Sport Management is the Master in Sport Management program.

(Refer to the program website on usage of “of” or “in”).

Academic titles

Capitalize and spell out formal titles such as professor, dean, etc., when they precede a name. Lowercase elsewhere, including when they stand alone (i.e., the president, the dean).

  • Professor John Smith
  • John Smith, a professor

On second reference, use only the last name, not “Professor ___.”


Spell out on first reference and put acronym in parentheses:

  • Call the Office of Marketing Communications (OMC) if you have questions.

Acronyms can be used on first reference if the initials are widely recognized (e.g., CEO, SAT, NCAA, AIDS, HMO, NASA, FBI).

Exception: See University

Additional Campus/Location

Do not use “branch campus,” “branch,” or “branches.” Instead, refer to USF locales outside of the main campus as either “additional campuses” or “additional locations.”

The term “additional campus” has specific criteria, including that it contains more than one school or program, that it provides access to academic services, that it houses full-time faculty and/or staff, and that its space is either owned by USF or under a long-term lease. Those qualifying as “additional campuses” under these criteria are

  • the Orange County Campus
  • the Pleasanton Campus
  • the Sacramento Campus
  • the Downtown Campus

Any USF space not on the Main Campus that does not qualify as an additional campus will be known as an “additional location.” These locations include

  • the Santa Rosa Location
  • the Presidio Location
  • active Kaiser Locations (used by the School of Nursing and Health Professions)
  • the Galleria Park Hotel Location (used by the School of Nursing and Health Professions)

The term “beyond the Hilltop” is acceptable for describing both additional campuses and additional locations, e.g., “…the Gleeson Library and Geschke Center offers services beyond the Hilltop.” The following variations in terminology for additional campuses are acceptable:

  • University of San Francisco – Sacramento Campus
  • University of San Francisco’s Sacramento Campus
  • USF – Sacramento Campus
  • USF’s Sacramento Campus

The following variations in terminology for additional locations are also acceptable:

  • University of San Francisco in Santa Rosa
  • University of San Francisco’s Santa Rosa Location
  • University of San Francisco, Santa Rosa Location
  • University of San Francisco programs in Santa Rosa
  • USF in Santa Rosa
  • USF’s Santa Rosa Location
  • USF programs in Santa Rosa


Abbreviate avenue, boulevard, and street only in numbered addresses:

  • He lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
  • He lives on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Exception for marketing materials: Capitalize and spell out a street as part of USF’s address on the back cover of brochures.

Spell out and capitalize First through Ninth when used as street names; use figures for 10th and above.

  • 7 Fifth Ave., 100 21st St. (Avoid superscripts)

Except for certain exceptions (see below), 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: Portland, Oregon.

Do not use state names with the following cities:

Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Seattle, Washington.

Do not use California with the following cities in California:

Anaheim, Bakersfield, Irvine, Los Angeles, Modesto, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Stockton, Oakland.


Always spell with an "e." Never use "advisor."

African American

See Black


Not afterwards.


Always use figures. Use hyphens for age expressed as an adjective before a noun or as a substitute for a noun:

  • A 5-year-old boy.
  • The boy is 5 years old.


Use alumnus (or alumni in the plural) when referring to a man who has attended a school. Use alumna (or alumnae in the plural) for similar references to a woman. Use alumni when referring to a group of men and women. Do not use “alum” or “alums.”

Follow the name of the undergraduate alumni with their graduating year:

  • Jane Smith ’69.

If they also have advanced degrees from the university, give the degree designation and year:

  • Jane Smith ’69, MA ’72 enjoyed the reunion.

For graduates with only advanced degrees:

  • Jane Smith MA ’72.

NOTE: The apostrophe should turn away from the year, not toward it, and the degree is not set off by commas.

See Years

a.m. and p.m.

Lowercase, with periods. Do not repeat a.m. or p.m.:

  • 10–11 a.m.
  • 10 a.m.–1 p.m.

See Time

Among or between

Use between for two things and among for more than two.

And or &

Use “and” instead of an ampersand unless an ampersand is part of an official title. An exception is made for web headlines and subheadlines when an ampersand is appropriate for space and scanability.


An apostrophe may be omitted when a plural noun ending in “s” functions as an adjective and not as a possessor (e.g., Dons Spirit Walk is a walk for Dons, not a walk possessed by Dons; Parents Weekend is a weekend for parents, not possessed by parents).


Capitalize as part of a proper name. Lowercase when it stands alone.


Associated Students of the University of San Francisco on first reference (followed by (ASUSF); ASUSF afterward.


Capitalize for the formal title of an award:

  • Fr. William J. Dunne Award



Black Achievement Success and Engagement initiative on first reference, followed by (BASE); use BASE afterward.

Bay Area

Refers to the San Francisco Bay Area and should be capitalized.


Capitalize, without quotation marks or italics, when referring to the Scriptures in the Old Testament or the New Testament. Capitalize related terms such as the Gospels, Gospel of St. Mark, the Scriptures, the Holy Scriptures, Last Supper. Lowercase bible as a non-religious term:

  • My dictionary is my bible.

Do not abbreviate individual books of the Bible. Use this form for citations of chapter/verse:

  • Matthew 3:16
  • Luke 21:1-3, 1 Peter 2:1


Capitalize "Black" in a racial, ethnic, or cultural sense, conveying an essential and shared sense of history, identity, and community among people who identify as Black, including those in the African diaspora and within Africa. The lowercase "black" describes a color, not a person.


See Composition titles

Board of Trustees

When writing about USF’s Board of Trustees capitalize the “B” and “T.” Use “the USF Board of Trustees” in first reference and “the board” in subsequent use. Use lowercase letters when discussing a company’s board: Jane Smith is on Twitter’s board of directors.

Bulleted list

In a bulleted list, do not use a period at the end of incomplete sentences. Use a period at the end of complete sentences.



The main campus is the USF Campus or Hilltop Campus or Main Campus.

There is no Lone Mountain Campus. Use Lone Mountain building.

See Lone Mountain

See Additional Campus/Location


In general, avoid unnecessary capitals. If a word or series of words is not indisputably proper, err toward lowercase: The Truman administration, instead of the Truman Administration. Lowercase departments, programs, and offices that are not the official name.


Use “Catholic Church” on first reference, when appropriate. Use “Church,” capitalized, when referring to the Catholic Church in subsequent references:

  • Next month Church leaders will meet in Rome.

Lowercase when used generally:

  • I go to church every Sunday.


Capitalize city as part of a proper name:

  • New York City

Lowercase elsewhere:

  • a Texas city
  • city government

See Addresses

Class of

Capitalize: The Class of 1950 held a reunion. But, the ’52 class ...

Cohort programs

Refers to programs that are offered in a lockstep manner, where the students stay together as a group, take the same courses at the same time, and the faculty members rotate in and out.

College and school names

The formal names of colleges and schools are capitalized:

  • She attended the College of Arts and Sciences.

Do not capitalize the college on second reference:

  • School of Law but the law school.


Oxford commas

Always use the Oxford comma:

  • There are red, blue, and white streamers for Fourth of July.

Serial commas

Use commas to separate elements in a series. Do put a comma before the conjunction of both simple and complex series:

  • The flag is red, white, and blue.

The main questions facing the university are how to increase enrollment, where to house students, and how to attract faculty.

Commencement Mass

Often incorrectly referred to as the Baccalaureate Mass.

Composition titles

For books, magazines, journals, newspapers, television shows, movies, album titles, and plays, capitalize and italicize the titles and do not use quotes:

  • The New York Times
  • New Yorker magazine
  • Meet the Press
  • The Corrections

Be careful not to capitalize or italicize articles of speech that are not in the actual title:

  • the San Francisco Chronicle

For lectures and articles, use quotes and no italics:

  • The professor published an article, “Study Habits of Highly Successful Students,” in a top scholarly journal.

Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions. Capitalize articles (the, a, an) or words of fewer than four letters if it is the first or last word in a title.

Computer terms

Use website, web page, web, email, net, online, dot-com, chat room, database, homepage, HTML, laptop, log on (verb), login (noun), log off, and megabyte.

Conference names

Capitalize, but do not place in quotes.


Capitalize in all instances when referring to a USF Convocation ceremony:

  • President's Convocation
  • Academic Honors Convocation

Convocation is lowercase on second reference, when used alone:

  • The convocation was packed.


"The coronavirus" is acceptable on first reference in stories about COVID-19. (While the phrasing incorrectly implies there is only one coronavirus, it is clear in that context). Keep in mind that the "coronavirus" refers to the virus, not the resulting disease. "COVID-19" is the disease that is sometimes caused by the coronavirus. These usages are incorrect: COVID-19 spreads through the air; scientists are investigating how long COVID-19 may remain on surfaces; she worries about catching COVID-19. In each of those, it should be the coronavirus, not COVID-19.

Course titles

Capitalize formal course names:

  • Jane Smith’s course, Living Ethics, is full.

Lowercase the names of subjects unless they are proper nouns or adjectives:

  • He is taking an English class, a history class, and a French class this semester.


One word.

Court cases

Do not italicize names of court cases, and use v. instead of vs. Roe v. Wade, not Roe vs. Wade.

Credit vs. unit

Unit is preferred. Use numerals:

  • The class is 4 units.

Cura personalis

Lowercase and italicize:

  • The Jesuit tradition of cura personalis offers a distinct framework for educating the whole person.



There are several kinds of dashes, differing in length. There are hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes. Each has its own use.

The em dash is most commonly used. It denotes a sudden break in thought that causes an abrupt change in sentence structure:

  • He spent several hours carefully explaining the operation — an operation that would, he hoped, put an end to the resistance.

Put a space on both sides of an em dash for web, do not put spaces on either side of an em dash for print.

The principal use of the en dash is to connect continuing or inclusive numbers, such as dates, time, or reference numbers:

  • The 2000–01 school year.

The hyphen, not the en dash, is used between numbers that are not inclusive, such as telephone and social security numbers. The hyphen is also used in compound adjectives:

  • Writing is a full-time job.
Keyboard Commands
  Mac PC
em dash shift-option-hyphen alt-ctrl-number keypad hyphen
en dash option-hyphen ctrl-number keypad hyphen


Use a comma before the year:

  • Dec. 1, 2000
  • But December 2000 (no comma)

Do not use the current year, unless it is necessary to avoid confusion. For information about an event, give the time, date, and location, in that order. Do not include the day of the week in web articles. Days of the week are acceptable in email communications.

  • May to June not May–June, but May 20–25 and May 20 – June 25

Do not use “on” before a date or day of the week when its absence would not lead to confusion:

  • The conference will be Dec. 1, not The conference will be on Dec. 1

Do not use letters after dates:

  • Oct. 1, not Oct. 1st


Do not use apostrophes when all four digits are used:

  • the 1960s
  • the ’60s

The apostrophe should turn away from the year, not toward it.


Lowercase, and use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, a master’s, etc., but not in bachelor of arts:

  • Tom is working on a master’s degree in fine arts. (Note: Not “his” master’s.)
  • Eugene received a bachelor of arts in chemistry.

For an individual with a PhD, the preferred form is to say a person holds a doctorate and name of the area of specialty.

Do not punctuate PhD, EdD, MA, MBA, DDS, JD, LLM, MPA, MIS, etc.

See Alumni


Do not use the title “Dr.” to refer to those who hold PhDs; it is only used when referring to medical doctors. Do not use the title “Dr.” when writing for a general audience. Instead, ensure that the person’s specialty is stated in the first or second reference:

  • Jane Smith, a physician at St. Mary’s Medical Center, spoke at an event in the Lone Mountain building. 

See Degrees


Always use residence hall rather than dorm or dormitory.

Dorraine Zief Law Library

The USF School of Law’s library.


e.g. versus i.e.

Use e.g. when referring to specific examples:

  • Countries farther from the equator (e.g. Ireland or Greenland) are  unlikely to experience monsoons.

Use i.e. when using other words to express a concept:

  • The Fifth Amendment (i.e., the refusal to answer on the grounds that responses might be self-incriminating) is a privilege built into the constitution.


Not e-mail.

Emeritus, emerita, emeriti

The title “emeritus” is not synonymous with “retired.” It is an honor bestowed on select retired faculty and should be included in the title. Feminine “emerita”; plural for both “emeriti.” The word follows “professor”: Professor Emerita Jane Smith.

Ensure or insure

Use the former to mean guarantee:

  • Steps were take to ensure accuracy

Use the latter for references to insurance:

  • The policy insures his life


Use it to mean a right to do or have something. Do not use it to mean “titled”:

  • She was entitled to the promotion, not the book was entitled Gone With the Wind.


Using etc. at the end of a list is appropriate if at least two items precede it. Etc. should not be used in reference to people or at the end of a list that begins with e.g.


Event names are capitalized and are not put in quotes or italicized. Museum exhibit titles are capitalized and italicized.

Every day (adv.) or everyday (adj.)

She goes to work every day. He wears everyday shoes.

Exclamation points

Use them infrequently.



Use FAQ without an “s.” FAQ contains the last “s” in “frequently asked questions.”

Farther or further

The former refers to physical distance. The latter refers to an extension of time or degree.


Capitalize Fellow when referring to a specific person who is receiving/has received a fellowship: James Brown, the Guggenheim Fellow, accepted a new role at Rutgers. Do not capitalize when referring to general fellowships:

  • The academic fellow taught at Oxford.

Fewer, less

Use fewer for individual items, less for bulk of quantity:

  • Fewer than 10 applicants called.
  • I had less than $50 in my pocket (an amount) but I had fewer than 50 $1 bills in my pocket (individual items).

Fiscal year

Use “FY” and the year:

  • FY15


Spell out first to ninth and use figures starting with 10th when referring to floors in full sentences. Use numerals in other cases.


Capitalize the formal name of a form:

  • LSAT Staff Recruitment Form

Freshman and freshmen

A gender-neutral alternative to the term is “first year.”

Fundraising and fundraiser

One word always.


Gleeson Library/Geschke Center

Use the complete name for USF’s main library.


An abbreviation for grade point average. “GPA” should be used in conjunction with a numeric value and is acceptable on first reference.



Capitalize words with four or more letters. Capitalize pronouns. Capitalize the first word and last word. Capitalize all other words except articles (a, an, the), coordinate conjunctions (and, or, for, nor), and short prepositions (in, to, of, at, by, up, off). Do not use italics.


(see Dashes)



Capitalize "Indigenous" in reference to original inhabitants of a place.


Use periods and no space when an individual uses initials instead of a first name:

  • J.J. Johnson

But use a space after a first initial then a middle name:

  • R. James Brown

Do not give a name with only a single initial:

  • J. Jones


Refers to between or among. In general, no hyphen. Exception: inter-American.



see Religious Titles

John Lo Schiavo, S.J. Center for Science and Innovation

The full name should be used on first reference. Lo Schiavo Center is acceptable on second reference. Do not use LCSI or CSI.

Jr. and Sr.

Abbreviate as Jr. and Sr. only with full names of persons or animals. Do not precede by a comma:

  • Joseph P. Kennedy Jr



Leo T. McCarthy Center

It is acceptable to use Leo T. McCarthy Center on first reference for the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good. Always use Leo T. McCarthy Center or the center's full name on first reference. McCarthy Center is acceptable on second reference.

Lone Mountain building

Capitalize Lone Mountain, but not building: The meeting will be held at the Lone Mountain building on the USF Campus.


Magazine names

Capitalize and italicize the name and do not place it in quotes. Lowercase magazine unless it is part of the publication’s formal title:

  • Vogue magazine
  • New York Magazine

See Composition Titles


It is celebrated or delivered, not said. Always capitalize when referring to the ceremony, but lowercase any preceding adjectives:

  • high Mass



Do not hyphenate.


Spell out one through nine, use numerals for 10 and above. Spell out a numeral at the beginning of a sentence, except for a calendar year. Spell out first through ninth when they indicate sequence in time or location. Starting with 10th, use figures. Dates are not ordinal:

  • Oct. 13; not Oct. 13th

Avoid superscripts.



Capitalize only when needed for clarity or when referring to a formal office name. For example, the admissions office provides applications to students throughout the year or applicants are required to send supporting materials to the Office of Admissions.

  • Office of the President


People or persons

Use person when speaking of an individual. The word people is preferred to persons in all plural uses.


Use figures in all cases:

  • 1 percent, 2.5 percent, 10 percent

For amounts less then 1 percent, precede the decimal with a zero:

  • The cost of living rose 0.6 percent.

Never use %.


Use single spaces after a period.


See Degrees

Plural forms of names and words

For proper names ending in “es”, “s”, or “z”, add “es”:

  • Joneses
  • Gonzalezes

For proper names ending in “y” add “s”:

  • Kennedys

Add “s” with no apostrophe to figures such as:

  • 1920s and 727s

Use “’s” for single letters:

  • p’s and q’s

Add “s” to multiple letters:

  • ABCs, IOUs, GPAs


A person speaks on a podium, not at a podium.


Add “’s” to plural nouns not ending in “s”:

  • the alumni’s contributions

Add an apostrophe to plural nouns ending in “s” and to proper names ending in “s”:

  • mathematics’ rules, United States’ wealth


see Religious Titles


Capitalize all prepositions of four letters or more in headlines, taglines, etc. Exception: Do not capitalize “from” in Change the World from Here.


On first reference use USF President Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J. Use Fr. Fitzgerald or the president on subsequent references.


See Religious Titles


see academic program names


Capitalize when referring to the formal name of a project, but do not capitalize in later references to the project. For example, the Keta Taylor Colby Death Penalty Project but the project focuses on appealing death penalty cases.


Always use a person's pronouns of choice when known. Use inclusive pronouns whenever possible:

  • they, them, their

May be used as singular to avoid he/she, him/her and his/her:

  • When a student can't find their next class, they should check the campus map.

Instead of using words that assume only two genders such as "ladies and gentlemen" use:

  • friends
  • colleagues
  • associates
  • staff
  • faculty, etc.

Even when not using pronouns, use words that do not assume gender in job titles such as:

  • chair instead of chairman
  • police officer instead of policeman
  • staff instead of manpower
  • first-year students instead of freshmen, etc.




Use resident adviser on first reference, “RA”, without periods, afterward.

Religious order abbreviations


Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word


Order of Preachers (Dominicans)


Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus


Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary


Religious of the Sisters of Mercy


Society of Christ


Society of Jesus (Jesuits)

Religious titles


On first reference, use their full name followed by the designation “S.J.” Place a comma on either side in the middle of a sentence. On all subsequent references use “Fr. Smith.”

Clergyman or clergywoman

On first reference, capitalize the title before the individual’s name. In many cases, the reverence is the designation that applies. On second reference, use only a last name:

  • The Rev. Billy Graham on first reference, Graham or the reverend on second.


On first reference, Pope Francis. On second reference, the pope or the pontiff.

Cardinal, Archbishop, or Bishop

On first reference, capitalize these titles before the individual’s name:

  • Cardinal Timothy Manning, archbishop of Los Angeles

On second reference:

  • Manning or the cardinal

Room numbers and names

Use figures and capitalize the building name:

  • Lone Mountain 103

Capitalize the names of specifically designated rooms:

  • McLaren Conference Center


Seasons, months, and days of the week

Names of days of the week and months of the year are capitalized. The four seasons are lowercase.

Sobrato Center

The facility that houses War Memorial Gym is the Sobrato Center. It also houses a club level facility known as the John A. and Sue Sobrato Club Level, as well as offices, workout spaces, and locker rooms.

  • Use War Memorial Gym at the Sobrato Center on first reference, War Memorial afterward
  • Use John A. and Sue Sobrato Club Level on first reference, Sobrato Club Level afterward
  • The Sobrato Center is to be used on tickets, programs, and publicity for events taking place at the facility


See Addresses

St. Ignatius Church

Use the full name of the church on first reference, St. Ignatius afterward.


Always hyphenate student-athlete.


Telephone numbers

Use this format for all editorial material: (555) 555-5555

Thacher Gallery

Not “Thatcher.”


Use this spelling, except if proper names dictate otherwise.


Use figures except for noon and midnight:

  • 8 a.m.
  • 9:30 p.m.

Avoid the redundant “10 a.m. this morning”; “12 noon”; use 10 a.m., not 10:00 a.m. Use 8–9 a.m. and 11 a.m.–1 p.m. Use “PST” or “PDT” after the time for events (like Zoom webinars) that might occur across time zones:

  • Zoom Town Hall is Jan. 5, 12–1:30 p.m. PST.

Titles, non-academic

Capitalize and spell out formal titles such as president, general manager, etc. when they precede a name:

  • Dean Charles T. Moses

Lowercase elsewhere:

  • Charles T. Moses, dean of the law school; the president; the dean

Past and future titles

A formal title someone held or will hold is capitalized before their name:

  • former Governor Antonio Aguaro, deposed King Edward England, acting Mayor Paul Patron


Never towards.



Capitalize the University of San Francisco. Use University of San Francisco on first reference in most instances. Use USF or the university (lowercase) on subsequent references. USF is acceptable for first reference on web pages and brochures where the university branding is prominent.

“University” is not capitalized unless it begins a sentence or is part of a proper noun, like the University of San Francisco.

University of California campuses

“UC” is acceptable on first reference when used with a campus name, e.g., UC Berkeley, UC San Diego.


Use www before URLs, except social media URLs preceded by the social media icon.



War Memorial Gymnasium

Use the complete name on first reference, “War Memorial” afterward.

Web–related terms

Computer Terms




Abbreviated, two-digit numeric years are preceded by an apostrophe:

  • The summer of ’69

The apostrophe should turn away from the year, not toward it (see below for keyboard command). A span of years written in numeric years and including the century contains no apostrophe:

  • 1975–82

See Dates

Apostrophe Keyboard Commands
Mac PC
shift-option-right bracket ctl-apostrophe twice

Do not use the current year in dates, unless it’s necessary to avoid confusion.