Editorial Style Guide
The Editorial Style Guide is intended to help writers and editors communicate clearly and consistently about Boston University in print and electronic media. The guide recommends ways to present information about the University and its faculty, departments, research centers, and events. It addresses the most common questions that arise at BU about titles and tricky wording, but it is not a comprehensive grammar manual or dictionary. Editorial Services will continue to update the guide as new words enter the mainstream and various issues of usage and style evolve.
For more detail on capitalization, punctuation, and abbreviation, please see The Chicago Manual of Style, the University’s standard reference. For spelling, word division, and helpful usage notes, refer to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. You can also view a list of common proofreaders’ marks.
We are glad to answer your questions and welcome your feedback at the University Editor’s office at 617-358-2137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terminology and Usage
Brand Identity Standards—Naming Conventions
- In keeping with the Boston University Brand Identity Standards, schools and departments should appear in hierarchical format in logos and letterheads.
- Boston University
College of Engineering
Department of Biomedical Engineering
- Boston University
College of Arts & Sciences
- Boston University
- In logos and running text, eliminate the words “Office of” in names of administrative departments. Exceptions: “Office of the” will still be used in cases in which it is needed in order to retain meaning. Allowed exceptions include Office of the President, Office of the Provost, Office of the Trustees, Office of the General Counsel, Office of the Senior Vice President, Office of the Budget, Office of the Comptroller, Office of the Dean, Office of the Registrar.
- In logos and in running text, an & symbol replaces “and” in the names of schools, colleges, administrative or academic departments, offices, centers, and institutes.
- College of Arts & Sciences
- Development & Alumni Relations
- Marketing & Communications
- Events & Conferences
- Department of American & New England Studies
- University Style still follows the use of the serial comma in running text. However, the serial comma should be omitted before the & symbol:
- Alcohol & Drug Institute for Policy, Training & Research
- Department of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance
- In titles, when an individual has two titles or two roles within the University, keep the “and” that joins the two titles:
- Vice President for Financial Affairs and Treasurer
- Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary of the Board
- Provost of the Medical Campus and Dean of the School of Medicine
- Vice President and Associate Provost for Research
- Professor of History and Director of University Honors College
Electronic Media Terms
- Write “email” without a hyphen, but continue to hyphenate other e-words: “e-business,” “e-commerce,” “e-letter,” “e-newsletter,” “e-Portfolio,” etc. Lowercase email in text, except when the word begins a sentence.
- Email and web addresses are written in roman type: www.bu.edu/parking or email@example.com. A distinctive type treatment, such as bold or italic, is optional to differentiate a URL or email address from the surrounding text.
- In URLs, it is increasingly acceptable to omit the letters http:// or www. We continue to recommend using www for easy reader recognition.
- Capitalize URL, an acronym for Uniform Resource Locator.
- Write website as one word, lowercased.
- For all other “web words” when “web” is used informally or as an adjective modifying a noun, web is lowercased but not joined: web page, web address, web design, etc.
- Capitalize Internet, Web, and World Wide Web when using the term in the larger sense as a global system of networks: e.g., “The Internet is a network of networks.” or “The Web is a system of interlinked documents accessed via the Internet.”
- Write online, homepage, and sitemap as one word, without a hyphen. See full list of Troublesome Terms.
- Write “slideshow” as one word.
- “Login” is one word. Login name or user name are two words.
- Avoid breaking URLs and email addresses over two lines. Whenever it is necessary to break a URL, avoid doing so in the middle of a word, and do not add a hyphen. Instead, choose a breaking point at the end of a word and place the next symbol at the beginning of the new line.
- Use italics for the names of online publications, such as Salon.com or Slate magazines. Names of blogs are not italicized.
- After an initial mention of Boston University, using the more informal “BU” (without periods) is acceptable.
- Capitalize “University” when used alone to refer specifically to Boston University in running text, but lowercase “university” when using it in a general sense (third example below).
- President Brown presented the plan at a recent University leadership retreat.
- The University encourages student involvement in the greater Boston community.
- We are the largest university in Boston.
- Capitalize “School” or “College” when used alone to refer specifically to one BU school or college in text. Do not capitalize when referring to BU schools or colleges in a more general, all-inclusive sense (third example).
- SMG sponsors many visiting business leader events at the School.
- At COM, you will gain hands-on experience in the College’s AdLab.
- There are 17 schools and colleges at BU.
- Use the current name of a school unless there is a specific reason to use an earlier name. The standard school abbreviations are written without periods: CAS, COM, ENG, etc. View a list of the current names and abbreviations of the 17 BU schools and colleges.
- Capitalize “Charles River Campus” and “Medical Campus,” but lowercase the word “campus” when using it alone or informally.
Titles of Administration and Faculty
- Capitalize a title before a name, but lowercase a title when it follows a name.
- We invited Vice President for Enrollment & Student Affairs Laurie Pohl.
- Laurie Pohl is vice president for enrollment & student affairs.
- When following this rule, it confuses readers if you vary the format for titles within a sentence or paragraph. Arrange names and titles consistently in the text, either preceding or following the name.
- Dean Virginia Sapiro, Trustee Emerita Terry Andreas, and Senior Vice President Gary Nicksa will attend.
- Attendees include Virginia Sapiro, dean of CAS, Terry Andreas, trustee emerita, and Gary Nicksa, senior vice president.
- Capitalize a title used without a name when it represents one particular person, but otherwise lowercase titles representing one of many (fourth example).
- Submit your request to the Provost.
- The President will lead the procession.
- The Dean of Students approved the poster.
- Send your suggestions to the dean of the appropriate school.
- In running text, lowercase words like “president,” “professor,” “dean,” “director,” and so on when they follow a name.
- Hardin Coleman was selected as the dean of SED.
- Robert Brown is the tenth president of Boston University.
- Send your request to the director of the program.
- Capitalize a title for display, such as in a printed event program or when the title appears under a name (as in a letter’s signature or on a list).
- The gender-neutral “chair” is preferred when referring to the title of department chair.
- Write “ad interim” in roman type, lowercased, without a comma, and following a title.
- Write “Emeritus,” “Emerita,” “Emeriti,” and “Emeritae” in roman type and follow the rules of capitalization appropriate for the context. Place it at the end of the complete title without a comma or italics: President Emeritus, Professor Emerita, Trustees Emeriti.
- Treat names consistently in text and lists. If possible, avoid the use of social titles (Mr. or Mrs.) or honorifics (Hon.) with names. Thus, in a list of donors or in naming those who attended an event, avoid using “Dr.” or “Mr.” or “Ms.” inconsistently with only a few names.
- The word “faculty” can be used with either singular or plural verb agreement. When faculty means the teaching and administrative staff as a collective whole, it takes a singular verb: “The University faculty is committed to excellence in teaching.” When “faculty” is used to mean faculty members it takes a plural verb: “Three CFA faculty led the seminar. Many faculty were present.”
BU Schools, Colleges, and Departments
- Capitalize official college and department names: School of Law, Department of Geography & Environment, and Department of Health Sciences. However, in informal usage, lowercase a school, department, field of study, or major, unless a word is normally capitalized.
- She teaches at the medical school and the law school. He is a health sciences major.
- The physics department hosted an event.
- The English department showed a film.
- Capitalize “School” or “College” when used alone to refer to a specific BU school or college in text. Use lowercase when referring to BU schools or colleges in a more general sense.
- When cited in full, capitalize a program or center’s proper name: Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies & Civilizations, BioMolecular Engineering Research Center. In subsequent informal references, lowercase “center,” “institute,” or “program” when used alone.
- Research at the center is supported by a grant.
Courses and Fields of Study
- Capitalize course titles when given exactly: A Survey of English Literature. Lowercase informal references: an introductory course in English literature.
- Lowercase fields of study unless the area is the proper title of a department or program or the word is always capitalized.
- She is a marine science specialist.
- He is at the Department of Biomedical Engineering.
- She studied first-year Spanish.
- Capitalize an academic degree when it is given in full: a Bachelor of Arts in Economics, a Master of Arts in Religious Studies, or a Doctor of Theology.
- Lowercase informal references to academic degrees: a bachelor’s degree in astronomy and physics, a master’s degree in physics, a doctorate in religion, the master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation.
- Omit the periods in academic degree abbreviations whenever possible: BA, MA, MBA, PhD, EdD, etc. In the instances when consistency or tradition prevail, such as in the Commencement Redbook, continue to write degrees with periods.
- Indicate the school or college and year of graduation after a BU alum’s name with the acronym and year abbreviation run together without a space: COM’07, CAS’99. In the context of a specific school, you may also write “COM Class of 2007.” Note the capitalization of “Class.”
- The word “alumni” is plural and refers to a group of men or a group of men and women. The plural “alumnae” refers to a group of women. “Alumna” refers to one female alum and “alumnus” to one male alum. The terms “alum” (singular, not gender-specific) and “alums” (plural, mixed-gender or not gender-specific) are more informal and are acceptable, particularly when the gender is unknown.
- Capitalize specific Boston University events such as Commencement, Baccalaureate, Senior Breakfast, and Reunion Weekend. Capitalize “Class” in a specific context, as in Class of 1997.
- Capitalize Alma Mater when referring specifically to BU, but lowercase alma mater in more generic usage.
- When possible, use gender-neutral language such as “chair” instead of “chairman” or “chairwoman,” or “letter carrier” instead of “mailman.”
- To avoid the gender-neutral but awkward “his or her” possessive, rephrase the sentence with a plural antecedent, whenever possible. Thus, “All students received their diplomas” could replace “each student received his or her diploma.”” Note that “their”” is traditionally correct only as a possessive with a plural noun. Today, however, the rules are loosening on this, and Webster’s dictionary allows usage of “their” to mean “his or her” in a singular context that does not specify gender.
- Use “alumni” or “alumni/ae” to indicate a mixed-gender group. In informal writing, use the genderless word “alum” or “alums.”
Dates, Time, Telephone Numbers, and Streets
- On programs, invitations, and the like, use numerals for the date and time of day: March 11, 2015, at 3 p.m.
- In very formal invitations, the date and time may be written in words: May Sixteenth at Three O’clock.
- Write 2014/2015 or 2014–2015 for the academic year (note the en dash to denote a range of numbers). Avoid writing 2014/15 or 2014–15.
- Omit the comma between seasons or months and year. Seasons are lowercased.
- The visiting scholars are expected in January 2011.
- The students will graduate in spring 2010.
- In times of day, use only necessary digits: 8 p.m., not 8:00 p.m., or 10–11:30 a.m. Note that “a.m.” and “p.m.” are lowercase, and periods are used except when space is limited.
- Express years or times in parallel construction: From 1997 to 2007, or from 9 to 10:30 a.m. (Avoid “from” with a dash: from 9-10:30 a.m., or from 1997–2007.)
- In telephone numbers, use hyphens throughout the number: 617-353-4557 or 1-800-353-4557.
- Write out street names in full, unless space is limited: Commonwealth Avenue, Bay State Road, Cummington Street. In very informal text and quotations, or on lists where brevity is necessary, Comm. Ave. and other abbreviations (Rd., Rm., St.) are acceptable.
- Write out full state names in running text. When space is limited, as in class notes, use the standard AP abbreviations, not 2-digit postal codes.
- However, in mailing addresses, especially reply envelopes, use the 2-digit abbreviations approved by the U.S. Postal Service, e.g., Boston, MA 02215.
- In nontechnical text, spell out numbers from one to nine and write numbers above nine in numerals. Technical material and text with many statistics should use numerals for all numbers.
- When numbers above nine and below nine occur in the same sentence, for consistency’s sake they should be written as numerals: There are 6 professors and 47 students.
- Spell out round numbers and approximations.
- There were enough seats for a thousand guests.
- Around fifty students attended the lecture.
- Do not begin a sentence with a numeral. Write the number in words or restructure the sentence if necessary.
- Thirteen boats entered the race.
- For clarity, when two numbers fall together, spell out one and use a numeral for the other.
- There are three 4-credit courses.
- Always use numerals for dates, times, page numbers, course credits, decimal amounts, and percentages.
- 4 credits; 3 percent.
- In humanities and nontechnical text, spell out the word percent.
- In all, 8 percent of the faculty and 15 percent of the students attended the symposium.
- In scientific writing or when space is a consideration, use numerals and the % symbol. The % symbol follows the number without a space: 14%.
- Typically, numerals are used in lists and other display type.
- When referring to sums of money, use only those digits that are necessary: $60, not $60.00. Write $60 million, not $60 million dollars.
- Spell out ordinals denoting centuries: the sixteenth century, the twentieth century.
- In writing dates, use cardinal numbers, i.e., avoid “rd,” “th,” and “st” with dates. Write May 3, or March 12, or May 21, not May 3rd, 12th, or 21st.
- Decades may be written as either 1920s, ’20s, or twenties, but not 1920’s.
- Use a comma in a number containing four or more digits, except in test scores.
- Our first-year class of 4,174 students, with average combined critical reading and math SAT scores of 1335, was selected from a pool of 33,930 applicants.
- In report titles, capitalize the first word and all other words except conjunctions, articles, and short prepositions (fewer than five letters). However, do capitalize a preposition that is necessary to the verb that precedes it: Speeding Up the Process; Calling Out for Help.
- In report titles, capitalize short verbs like “Is” and “Be”: Born to Be a Scholar; Where Is Boston University?
- In a title containing a hyphenated compound word, both parts are usually capitalized: Long-Term Investment Strategies; Ready-Made Savings Plans.
- In general text, the four seasons are lowercased: winter, spring, summer, fall. However, for clarity when referring specifically to the academic year, capitalize the semesters: Fall Semester, Spring Semester, Summer Term.
- In prose and in text giving directions, capitalize important words: First Floor Auditorium, Exit 9 on Route 2. On invitations and posters or in addresses, capitalize such words as Floor or Room with the number: Seventh Floor, Room 701.
How to treat some common problem words:
- ad interim (lowercase, Roman)
- Advanced Placement
- African American (no hyphen)
- a.m., p.m. (lowercase, with periods)
- Barnes & Noble (use &)
- Barristers Hall (no apostrophe)
- Boston University Theatre
- Commencement Exercises at Nickerson Field
- dual degree program (no hyphen)
- farmers market (no apostrophe)
- fax (noun and verb: lowercase)
- firsthand (one word)
- Founders’ Day (use an apostrophe)
- fundraising (one word)
- grade point average (no hyphen)
- greater Boston
- health care (no hyphen, even when adjective)
- high school transcript (no hyphen)
- homepage (one word)
- Huntington Theatre Company
- ID card (no periods)
- in vitro, in vivo (not italic)
- late payment fee (no hyphen)
- login, login name (noun)
- log in (but two words as a verb)
- MasterCard, Visa
- master class (two words, no hyphen)
- multicultural, multidisciplinary (no hyphen)
- Parents Convocation (no apostrophe)
- Parents Weekend (no apostrophe)
- Patriots Day (no apostrophe)
- postbachelor’s degree
- postdoctoral degree
- post-master’s degree
- President Emeritus
- Presidents Day (no apostrophe)
- Professor Emeritus, Professor Emerita, Professors Emeriti, Professors Emeritae
- Reserve Officer Training Corps
- Room (capitalize with a number)
- School of Management Auditorium
- sitemap (one word)
- slideshow (one word)
- Social Security number
- Student Link
- study abroad (not capitalized, not hyphenated)
- The Castle (keep “The” when used in an address)
- Trustees Emeriti
- under way (two words) when used as adverb meaning in progress, in motion
- user name (two words)
- Veterans Administration (no apostrophe)
- Veterans Day (no apostrophe)
- voice mail (two words)
- vs (abbreviation of versus, no period necessary)
- Web (capitalize when referring to World Wide Web)
- web (lowercase when an adjective: web address, web page, etc.)
- website (one word)
- zip code
Recent BU name or address changes:
- Christopher A. Knight, SPH dean
- Arun Upneja, SHA Dean
- Natalie McKnight, CGS Dean
- Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies (PAR): Dean Adil Najam
- 33 Harry Agganis Way (newest residence, opened Fall 2009)
- BU Dual Degree program (formerly BUCOP)
- Center for Excellence & Innovation in Teaching (name change, formerly Center for Excellence in Teaching)
- College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College
- Events & Conferences (formerly All-University Functions and Conference Services)
- Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (use full name Henry M. Goldman)
- Information Services & Technology (formerly Information Systems & Technology)
- International Programs (no longer uses Division of)
- International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO)
- Orientation (formerly Orientation & Off-Campus Housing)
- Public Relations (formerly Media Relations, in Marketing & Communications)
- Sargent Center for Outdoor Education (no longer operated by BU, effective 8/31/09)
- Silber Way (formerly Sherborn Street)
- University Computers—closed
- Kilachand Honors College (KHC is an honors program that does not grant degrees and is not counted in BU’s 17 schools and colleges.)
- University Professors Program (UNI ceased enrolling students in 2007, but continues to graduate a few students in 2015. Not counted in 17 schools & colleges.)
Boston University’s Equal Opportunity Statement
- University communications that are used to recruit students or personnel should include a form of the Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Policy, as listed in 2, 3, and 4 below:
- When space is at a premium, as on posters and small ads, use:
- An equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.
- A brief version is used in advertisements, brochures, and many other publications targeted to an audience outside the University:
- Boston University’s policies provide for equal opportunity and affirmative action in employment and admission to all programs of the University.
- In the Admissions Viewbook, bulletins, and other formal documents, the Equal Opportunity Office has approved the following formal wording:
- Boston University prohibits discrimination against any individual on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, military service, or because of marital, parental, or veteran status. This policy extends to all rights, privileges, programs, and activities, including admissions, financial assistance, educational and athletic programs, housing, employment, compensation, employee benefits, and the providing of, or access to, University services or facilities. Boston University recognizes that non-discrimination does not ensure that equal opportunity is a reality. Accordingly, the University will continue to take affirmative action to achieve equal opportunity through recruitment, outreach, and internal reviews of policies and practices. Inquiries regarding this policy or its application should be addressed to the Director of Equal Opportunity, Equal Opportunity Office, 25 Buick Street, Boston, MA 02215, 617-353-9286.
Boston University’s Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Policy was revised in February 2010, and was updated to reflect changes in federal and state laws. Please contact Director of Equal Opportunity Kim Randall at 617-353-9286 with questions concerning the policy.
Preparing Printed Materials for Mailing
Departments designing and planning their own mailings are advised to consult well in advance with Boston University Mail Services at 617-353-9724 or with U.S. Postal Service Mail Piece Design (John Powers at 617-654-5068 or John Donovan at 617-654-5323). To be compatible with today’s automated processing equipment, the mail piece should comply with current design requirements, including size, shape, weight, color, areas that must be clear of any print, and placement of the address. Business reply envelopes and business reply cards should always be reviewed by BU Mail Services.
- Always use two-digit state codes and zip codes when addressing your outgoing mail pieces and reply envelopes. The U.S. Postal Service processes all mail using automated sorting systems that recognize only two-digit state codes and zip codes. Problems and delays of many days may occur when envelopes and self-mailers are incompatible with the USPS address recognition software and sorting systems.
- The name Boston University should be included in your return address. To avoid problems with automated address scanners, it is recommended to place the return address well away from the outgoing address area, or put it in italics. Consult BU Mail Services.
- The city, state, and zip code line should always be the lowest line on your reply envelope. Place your “Attention” line in the body of the address.
- Also check with BU Mail Services regarding the fees associated with Special Address Services, such as Address Service Requested, Return Service Requested, Change Service Requested, and Forwarding Service Requested.
- There are two basic indicias for BU Charles River Campus bulk mailings:
- First Class
Permit No. 1839
Permit No. 1839
- First Class