Princeton Editorial Style Guide
The Princeton Editorial Style Guide was created by the Office of Communications as a quick reference tool to help University communicators follow a style that is consistent and appropriate for print and electronic materials written for and about Princeton University.
Two of the more commonly used comprehensive style guides are The Associated Press Stylebook, commonly called AP style, and The Chicago Manual of Style, commonly called Chicago style. Until September 2011, the Princeton Office of Communications used both styles, depending on the nature and purpose of the material. Beginning in October 2011, the office adopted one style that follows conventions outlined in The Associated Press Stylebook, which is the standard for most university publishing, communications and news offices and for writing for the Web.
The guiding principle in applying any style is that it is most important to maintain a consistent editorial approach within a specific piece.
The following is an abbreviated style guide to cover items not mentioned in The AP Stylebook, to note items you will most likely encounter, or to indicate exceptions Princeton makes to the stylebook. For spelling, style, usage and foreign geographic names not mentioned in The AP Stylebook, use as a first reference Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition.
The AP Stylebook is updated periodically. When that occurs, we will update this guide and implement changes in University materials as practical. For example, if we are in the middle of a series of print publications when the style changes, we will complete the series with one, consistent style and update the series the next time.
Those with questions or comments about this style guide may contact managing editor Karin Dienst in the Office of Communications.
A, An, And
Use the article "a" before consonant sounds and "an" before vowel sounds:
- a historic event
- an honorable person (the h is silent)
Avoid using the ampersand (&) except in specific business names (e.g., Tiffany & Co.) or to shorten Web menu headings.
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:
- The European Language Resources Association has awarded two Princeton psychologists this year's Antonio Zampolli Prize. The biannual award, named for the first president of the association (not ELRA), honors outstanding contributions to the advancement of language resources.
When necessary, spell out the first reference followed by the acronym or abbreviation in parentheses; the acronym or abbreviation may be used for subsequent references:
- There are two main ways to get involved in the Undergraduate Student Government (USG): through elected positions or appointed positions. USG elections occur twice a year, at the end of the fall and spring semesters. (But perhaps better to omit the parenthetical reference and write: "Student government elections occur …," or simply "Elections occur …").
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
The preferred form is to spell out degrees and avoid abbreviations.
The word "degree" should not follow an abbreviation:
- She has an A.B. in English literature.
- She has a bachelor's degree in English literature.
Use two words and no italics to refer to the groups that sing without accompaniment:
- The Nassoons are Princeton's oldest a cappella group.
Use "adviser," not "advisor."
Avoid using only class years behind the names of students and alumni (e.g., Jane Jones '12) unless the material is designated primarily for an internal audience, and/or there is a long list and it is clear that these are students and alumni.
- Preferred style for undergraduates: senior Jane Jones; Jane Jones, a senior; Jane Jones, a member of the Class of 2012; or, in the summer, Jane Jones, a rising senior.
- Preferred style for long lists of undergraduates: Several undergraduates were selected to serve on the committee: senior Jane Jones, sophomore David Smith, freshman John Doe and junior Betty Anderson. Also acceptable, such as with a list of alumni: 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 Kopp, a 1989 Princeton alumna, is the founder of Teach for America, one of the most popular and influential public-service programs in the country. Or, Wendy Kopp, a 1989 Princeton graduate, is the founder …
- David Petraeus earned his master's in public affairs and his Ph.D. from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 1985 and 1987, respectively; or David Petraeus, a 1987 Princeton graduate alumnus, has served this country for many years.
- Suggested style for alumni in internal publications: David Petraeus MPA '85, Ph.D. '87. Avoid using the asterisk (*) for graduate alumni, as external audiences may not know its Princeton meaning.
- Preferred style for alumni who did not graduate: Jane Jones, who attended Princeton from 2004 to 2006 …
Avoid using other letter and class year designations behind names (H, h, S, etc.) unless the audience is extremely familiar with these designations. The preference is to write out what they mean so all can understand (the recipient of an honorary degree, an honorary class member, the spouse of an alumnus/a, etc.).
Also see Latin Suffixes.
While the AP Stylebook does not make provision for bullets, the Princeton Office of Communications recognizes the value of using bullets to present lists in some instances. Here are our guidelines:
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.
Terminal punctuation for the bulleted items is optional for phrases, and is preferred for complete sentences — again depending on the style of the document; consistency is the key.
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:
- Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber
Christopher L. Eisgruber, president of Princeton University
- Professor of Molecular Biology Jane Flint
Jane Flint, professor of molecular biology
professor Jane Flint
Endowed professorships are capitalized, even when the title follows a name. If following the name, it is preceded by a "the" or "Princeton's" to avoid confusion:
- Anthony Grafton, the Henry Putnam University Professor of History, moderated the panel.
- Cornel West, Princeton's Class of 1943 University Professor in the Center for African American Studies, Emeritus, is the author of "Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud."
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:
Department of Chemistry
the chemistry department
- the Office of Admission
the admission office
Facilities Organization: refers to the organizational unit at Princeton encompassing Building Services, Conference and Event Services, Office of Design and Construction, Dining Services, Facilities Engineering, Facilities Finance and Administrative Services, Grounds and Building Maintenance, Housing and Real Estate Services, Life Safety and Security Systems, the Office of Real Estate Development, and the Office of the University Architect.
While "The Trustees of Princeton University" is the legal title of the corporation that is empowered to "conduct a university not for profit," the group is informally referred to as the Board of Trustees in other materials:
- The Princeton University Board of Trustees
the Board of Trustees
In copyright statements, write:
- Copyright © 2011 by The Trustees of Princeton University (note the "T" on "The" is capitalized)
Buildings, Places, Centers
Capitalize the word "University" whenever referring to Princeton University, even though the word Princeton may not precede it. When referring to Princeton's history and the College of New Jersey, the word "College" is capitalized (note that "the" is not capitalized).
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:
- Princeton University Chapel
- the University Chapel
- the chapel
- Princeton University Art Museum
- the art museum
- Lake Carnegie
- Bobst Center
- The center has five rooms.
- The University allows ... (capitalize the "U" when referring to Princeton University)
- At any university, students will ...
Omit the first name of the person for whom a building or center is named, unless the reference is for memorial or ceremonial purposes:
- Burr Hall
- Thomas Laboratory
- Davis International Center
For buildings or centers that have additional identifiers with their names, use those whenever possible on first or early reference, and the last name only on subsequent references:
- Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding (Fields Center on subsequent references)
When referring to the Wilson School, use the first name on first reference:
- Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (Wilson School on subsequent references)
In general, put the building name first followed by the room number:
- McCosh Hall, Room 50
For large auditoriums, put the room first followed by the building name:
- Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall
- Taplin Auditorium in Fine Hall
Identify Princeton's residential colleges as such in the text — unless it's clear from the context — to avoid confusion with other independent colleges and universities:
- Whitman College, one of Princeton's six residential colleges, opened in 2007.
The formal names of special events are capitalized:
- Alumni Day
- Class Day
- Opening Exercises
- reading period (not capitalized, as it's a description of a specific period of time, not an event)
Cities and States
Use commas to separate the name of a state when it follows a city:
- The train ride ended in New Brunswick, New Jersey, at 5 p.m.
Spell out the names of the 50 U.S. states when they stand alone and when a state is listed with a city, town, village, etc.
Note about use of United States: Use "U.S." only as an adjective, otherwise spell it out. "She studied U.S. culture of the 1950s." "She studied the culture of the United States from the 1950s."
Use the zip code abbreviation below when referencing a full postal address in text.
|Alabama (AL)||Louisiana (LA)||Ohio (OH)|
|Alaska (AK)||Maine (ME)||Oklahoma (OK)|
|Arizona (AZ)||Maryland (MD)||Oregon (OR)|
|Arkansas (AR)||Massachusetts (MA)||Pennsylvania (PA)|
|California (CA)||Michigan (MI)||Rhode Island (RI)|
|Colorado (CO)||Minnesota (MN)||South Carolina (SC)|
|Connecticut (CT)||Mississippi (MS)||South Dakota (SD)|
|Delaware (DE)||Missouri (MO)||Tennessee (TN)|
|Florida (FL)||Montana (MT)||Texas (TX)|
|Georgia (GA)||Nebraska (NE)||Utah (UT)|
|Hawaii (HI)||Nevada (NV)||Vermont (VT)|
|Idaho (ID)||New Hampshire (NH)||Virginia (VA)|
|Illinois (IL)||New Jersey (NJ)||Washington (WA)|
|Indiana (IN)||New Mexico (NM)||West Virginia (WV)|
|Iowa (IA)||New York (NY)||Wisconsin (WI)|
|Kansas (KS)||North Carolina (NC)||Wyoming (WY)|
|Kentucky (KY)||North Dakota (ND)|
Do not use states with these U.S. cities:
|Chicago||Los Angeles||St. Louis|
|Cincinnati||Miami||Salt Lake City|
|Denver||New Orleans||San Francisco|
|Detroit||New York City||Seattle|
Do not use country names with these foreign cities:
|Brussels||London||Rio de Janeiro|
|Islamabad||New Delhi||Vatican City|
|Kuwait City||Quebec City|
Capitalize the word "Class" in
- the Class of 1976
Use "people of color" or "underrepresented" in stories where it is appropriate to identify people by race (see the "race" entry in the AP Stylebook); 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.
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, Communiversity 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, Communiversity 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 2011
Use figures for years without commas: 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.
The Office of Communications recognizes that some publications, such as posters and invitations, call for a design treatment that demands the more elegant presentation offered by Chicago style (such as spelling out a month). When this is the case, exceptions will be allowed.
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.
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
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:
|businessman||business executive, manager|
|to man||to staff, to run, to operate|
For organizations outside the University, use the language in their official title.
- Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke or Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board
- 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)
Menu Links and Headers
Initial caps for all words in menu links, page headers and subheaders.
Exceptions: short (less than four letters) conjunctions, prepositions and other words that do not come first, such as:
- the, in, but (exception: pronouns)
- see section on A, An, And
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 Christopher L. Eisgruber
- Valerie Smith, dean of the college
- H. Vincent Poor, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science
- Pablo Debenedetti, dean for research
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
Possessives Ending in 'S'
For most possessives, simply add an apostrophe and an "s"
- The horse's shoe is loose.
Follow the AP style rules for possessives ending in "s":
For plural nouns ending in "s," add only an apostrophe:
- the horses' shoes
For singular common nouns ending in "s," add an apostrophe and an "s" unless the next word begins with an "s":
- the bus's tire
- the bus' seat
For singular proper names ending in "s," use only an apostrophe:
- Achilles' heel
- Dickens' novels
- Tennessee Williams' plays
When shorter forms must be used, it is appropriate to refer to Princeton University as
- the University
Use a colon to introduce long lists — see section on Bullets
Leave a colon outside quotation marks unless it is part of a quotation.
Follow the colon with a single space.
Use a colon to introduce a direct quotation if it is more than one sentence.
Capitalize the first word after a colon if it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence; lowercase the first word if it is part of a sentence.
- His reason for staying was simple: The snowstorm had shut down all routes out of town.
- There were three reasons to stay: the warmth of the fireplace; the friendliness of the company; and the aroma of the food.
Here are guidelines for some common uses of the comma.
- Three or more items in a simple list: The event is for students, alumni, parents, families and friends. (Do not include a comma before the last item in a series of items, unless it aids in comprehension.)
- Three or more items in a complex list: Wilson doubled the size of the faculty, created an administrative structure, and revised the curriculum to include general studies for freshmen and sophomores and concentrated study for juniors and seniors. (Use a comma before the last item in a series to improve comprehension.)
- A series of adjectives equal in importance: Princeton is an independent, coeducational institution.
- Complete sentences that are combined with a conjunction: The event is open to the public free of charge, but reservations are required.
- An introductory phrase from the rest of a sentence: First, we must double the amount of external support.
- A nonessential phrase (a phrase that is not essential to the meaning of the sentence) from the rest of a sentence and days from dates: The Princeton University Orchestra, conducted by Michael Pratt, will perform on Friday, Oct. 30, in Richardson Auditorium.
- More on nonessential and essential phrases: "My wife, Janet, loves to golf" (you have only one wife), but "His brother Jeff is a sailor" (he has more than one brother); and "Princeton provides many intercollegiate sports, such as basketball, football and lacrosse," (phrase is nonessential information), but "Sports such as lacrosse are played in the spring" (phrase is essential information).
- Direct quotes: "We must support students in any way we can," Tilghman said.
- Cities from names of states: John Jones, of Newark, Delaware, is the president of the organization.
- Yes and no; and names/titles in a direct address: Yes, officer, I'll obey the traffic laws.
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.
In a sentence, add a space before and after a three-dot ellipsis:
- She reported what the speaker said ... and then followed up with her own comments.
If the words that precede an ellipsis make up a complete sentence, insert a period at the end of the last word before the ellipsis and follow it with a space and an ellipsis:
- The speaker said that he was happy to be running for office again. …
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:
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 Princeton. She works at Princeton full time.
Use a hyphen between numbers:
Use a hyphen, not a comma, to separate institutions from their city locations:
- the University of California-Berkeley
- the University of Texas-Austin
Use a single space after a period at the end of a sentence.
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:
- Refer to them as "conference participants"; all others should be known as "guests."
Use a comma to introduce a direct quotation when it is one sentence; use a colon when the quoted material is more than one sentence.
On the Web, use straight quotation marks: "like this"; in printed publications, use smart quotation marks: “like this.” This function can be turned on or off in MS Word under Tools>AutoCorrect>AutoFormat as you Type>Replace as you type>"Straight quotation marks" with “smart quotation marks.”
Use the semicolon to set off a series that includes commas:
- The main offices are in Mercer County, New Jersey; Marion County, Indiana; and Broward County, Florida.
Use italics for scientific terminology, in particular reference to genus and species, e.g., The professor spent five years studying the toxic and invasive plant, Solanum campylacanthum, in Kenya.
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:
- For international numbers (country code, city code, telephone number): 011-44-20-7535-1515
- For 800 numbers: 800-222-7474
That and Which
If you're using which properly, it typically is preceded by a comma:
- The announcement about his department's hiring efforts, which was reported in the media, pleased the director.
- The director was pleased with the announcement in the media that reported on his department's hiring efforts.
Do not use courtesy titles (Mr., Miss, Ms., Mrs.).
Use the title Dr. only when referring to a medical doctor.
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:
- The Princeton Packet
Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters.
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.
Do not capitalize the word after a hyphen in a title:
- Her lecture is titled "An Introduction to 14th-century Franciscan Manuscripts."
Do not capitalize major areas of study, unless referring to a language:
- She is studying economics and French.
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"
For materials with bibliographic listings, it may be clearer to use The Chicago Manual of Style, which allows italics for major titles.
- email (or Email at the beginning of a sentence)
- Facebook page
- log in, log out (verb)
- login (noun)
- the Web
- Twitter feed
- World Wide Web
Use the shortest URL possible.
For root-level sites, do not use "http://" or the "trailing slash":
- princeton.edu, not http://www.princeton.edu/main/
For folder-level sites, use "www," but only use words after the "trailing slash" if needed.
- www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S31/31/64C27/, rather than http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S31/31/64C27/index.xml?section=featured
Should appear as we have it here:
- For more information, contact John Doe at 609-258-3000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Wide (as a Suffix)
Use hyphens: campus-wide, University-wide