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Editorial Guidelines

All university communications, including NIU websites, follow the latest edition of The Associated Press Stylebook*[1]. Online access to the AP Stylebook is free for NIU employees and students through NIU Libraries.

This section contains only small percentage of common university-related AP guidelines. Consult the AP Stylebook for style issues not addressed here.

4.1 Punctuation, Capitalization, Spelling and Numbers

4.1.1 Punctuation and Symbols

In accordance with AP Style, don’t use the Oxford comma.

The word “and” should always be used over ampersands (&), except when the ampersand is part of an official company name.

Spell out “percent” or “percentage” in text. Use of symbol (%) is permissible in tables.

4.1.2 Capitalization and Titles

Capitalize the complete formal names of NIU colleges and departments, offices, committees, programs, course titles: Department of Marketing, Center for Black Studies.

Lowercase any fragmentary titles: the college, the university, the center, the marketing department. Capitalize “program” in formal names: Honors Program, Advanced Placement Program, General Education Program.

Lowercase “program” in general program names: the department’s program in finance.

Seasons and academic semesters or terms are lowercase: fall semester, spring 2018, summer session.

Lowercase titles that follow a name or stand alone: Poppy Pomfrey, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences; chair of the School of Nursing and Health Studies; director, Health Services.

Capitalize titles preceding names: President Arthur Weasley; Dean Pomfrey.

The Dr. title is reserved for persons holding medical degrees. For Ph.D. degree holders, state their name followed by the degree (i.e., Parvati Patil, Ph.D.).

Majors, minors, specializations, emphases, concentrations, options and areas of study are lowercase in text references*[2]: major in elementary education, minor in urban studies, specialization in audiology, biochemistry emphasis, concentration in public history, time arts area of study.

Languages are capitalized: major in English, minor in Spanish.

Page navigation labels are written in Title Case.

Main Headings and Heading 3 level headings are written in Title Case. Fragmentary subheadings should be written in Title Case. In cases where a subheading (H4, H5, etc.) is a complete sentence, it can be formatted in sentence case (only the first word capitalized).

4.1.3 Spelling

Correct spellings of commonly misspelled words: accountancy (not “accounting” when referring to the academic department), DeKalb, email, Huskie, internet (no longer capitalized), U.S. (when abbreviating United States).

4.1.4 Numbers

Cardinal numbers: spell out whole numbers between zero and nine*[3], use figures for 10 and above.

Ordinal numbers: spell out first through ninth; use figures starting with 10th.

Spell out numbers used in casual expressions (ex. They say a picture is worth a thousand words.)

Phone numbers should be formatted with hyphens, not parentheses or periods (i.e., 815-555-1234).

Write out a number when it is the first word in a sentence. For example, “Twenty-one is the legal drinking age in the United States.” Better yet, rewrite the sentence so that it doesn’t start with a number: “The legal drinking age in the United States is 21.”

Carry decimals in a grade point average to two digits: 3.50.

Correct time abbreviates are: a.m., p.m., noon and midnight. If the time is on the hour, it should be written as 1 p.m. If the time is on the half hour, it can be written as 1:30 p.m.

4.2 Hyphenation

first-year student

on-campus, on campus: Use the hyphen when phrase is used as an adjective, leave unhyphenated when used as a preposition.

pre and post - leave unhyphenated unless followed by a proper noun or a word that begins with the same vowel: preregistration, postbaccalaureate, pre-establish, post-WWII.

4.3 Common Phrases

freshman class
freshmen students
freshman orientation
freshman student-athlete
freshmen student-athletes
chair or chairperson
adviser or advisor (either is accepted but must be used consistently throughout site)
post-traditional students (has replaced non-traditional students)
email (not e-mail)
website, web page
course work (not coursework)
gray (not grey)

Program names should match up with the catalog.

4.4 Degree Terminology

Use the terms fall semester, spring semester, summer session.

Upper division and lower division are the correct references for NIU students in junior-senior or freshman-sophomore groups and for NIU courses at the 300-400 or 100-200 levels. Do not use the terms “upper class,” “under class” or “lower class” in this context.

For the first mention of grade point average, spell out the entire phrase. For additional references, abbreviate to GPA. Carry decimals in a grade point average to two digits: 3.50.

The proper term is Graduate Record Examinations, not “Exams” or “Examination.”

Use periods for abbreviated degrees, certificates and licenses*[4]: B.S., M.S.Ed., Ph.D.

4.4.1 Undergraduate Degrees

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.)
Bachelor of General Studies (B.G.S.)
Bachelor of Music (B.M.)
Bachelor of Science (B.S.)
Bachelor of Science in Education (B.S.Ed.)

4.4.2 Advanced Degrees and Certificates

Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.)
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Educational Specialist (Ed.S.)
Master of Accounting Science (M.A.S.)
Master of Arts (M.A.)
Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.*[5])
Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)
Master of Music (M.M.)

Master of Physical Therapy (M.P.T.)
Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.)
Master of Public Health (M.P.H.)
Master of Science (M.S.)
Master of Science in Education (M.S.Ed.)
Master of Science in Taxation (M.S.T.)
Performer’s Certificate (do not abbreviate as P.C.)

4.4.3 College of Law Professional Degree

Juris Doctor (J.D.)

4.4.4 Examples of Degree Terminology

associate degree (no possessive)
bachelor’s degree/baccalaureate degree/Bachelor of Arts degree
master’s degree/Master of Science degree
doctoral degree/doctorate/Doctor of Education degree
law degree/Juris Doctor degree

A Performer’s Certificate is not a graduate degree, but is designed to permit students to attain greater mastery of their chosen fields than achievable with the master’s degree. “Performer’s Certificate” is not abbreviated.

A Certificate of Graduate Study is a course of study, not linked to the pursuit of a degree, consisting of a coherent set of courses, fewer than for a major, addressing a specific theme.

A concentration is a course of study, typically interdisciplinary, linked to the pursuit of a specific graduate degree.

Use the word “degree” with the abbreviation, rather than the abbreviation alone: Ph.D. degree, B.S. degree.

4.5 Alignment and Text Formatting

Do not center align text or headings.

Bold may be used to emphasize particular words and phrases. Do not bold full sentences or use bolded words in place of a heading.

Do not use underline.

Italics should be used for book or publication titles. To emphasize words or phrases, italics may be used sparingly, but bold is preferred.

Italics and bold should not be combined.

ALL CAPS should never be used, unless using an official name already formatted that way (ex., NASA).


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