WOU: Public Relations - Style guide

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University Communications

Style and Grammar Guidelines

Which Word to Use?
A guide to common words and phrases that sound very similar but have different meanings and intentions.

Punctuation Guide
A guide to correct usage in confusing areas of punctuation.

a, an
Use the article a before consonant sounds. A historic event or a one-day conference.
Use the article an before vowel sounds. An emergency situation or an honor of distinction.

abbreviations and acronyms
Spell out the first reference to the university and any university group or program. In subsequent references, phrases such as the center or the committee are preferable to abbreviations or acronyms, which are often ambiguous to both internal and external audiences.

  • If absolutely necessary, abbreviations or acronyms should be used sparingly and only to clarify if more than one group or program is mentioned in the text.
  • If acronyms are necessary for clarity, stick to those that have been commonly used and understood throughout campus. Resist the urge to turn larger official names into acronyms for the sake of convenience. Vice President for Business and Finance should not be referred to as the VPBF, as this is not a commonly understood designation on or off campus.
  • In acronyms, the various capital letters do not have periods between them. RRCD instead of R.R.C.D.; WUC instead of W.U.C.
  • Also, in naming new committees or organizations, do not create a clever acronym and attempt to find a name that fits those parameters. Focus the work on creating an effective name for the group; effective names speak louder than clever acronyms.

(For rules regarding the use of Western Oregon University and the WOU abbreviation, see Western Oregon University.)

academic degrees
Don’t capitalize general or specific references to degrees or the name of the area in which the degree was received. bachelor of arts in humanities, bachelor of science in mathematics, master of arts in education

  • The exception to this rule is with the use of a proper noun, such as a language or country. bachelor of science in American history, bachelor of arts in English, bachelor of arts in Latin American studies
  • Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, bachelor’s, a master’s, etc.
  • If mention of a degree is necessary to establish someone’s credentials, the preferred form is to avoid an abbreviation and use a phrase similar to the following example: Jim Smith, who has a master’s in corrections, is an expert in his field.
  • Use the abbreviations B.A., B.S., M.A. or M.S. only when the need to identify many individuals on each first reference would make the preferred form cumbersome. Use these abbreviations only after a full name and never after just the last name. When used after a name, the academic abbreviation is set off with commas: Jim Smith, M.S., is an expert in the corrections field.
  • Do not precede a name with a courtesy title for an academic degree and then follow it with the abbreviation for the degree in the same reference: Dr. Jim Smith, a corrections specialist or Corrections specialist Jim Smith, Ph.D. not Dr. Jim Smith, Ph.D.
  • For academic doctorates, use the academic rank. If it’s important to show someone’s academic degree, put the degree after the name, e.g., Jim Smith, Ph.D. This is more descriptive to the reading audience of that person’s qualifications and experiences – Ph.D., Ed.D., J.D., etc.
  • In text, give the title of a faculty or staff member or student the first time you mention the person’s name; thereafter, just use a surname without the courtesy title.

academic departments and divisions
Academic divisions are the sub-groups of the College of Education and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The Computer Science Division and Social Sciences Division are in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Academic departments are the sub-groups of the various divisions within a college. The Psychology Department and History Department are among several in the Social Sciences Division.

Use uppercase for department and division names when the full name is used. Two new professors will be hired into the Division of Humanities this year or Students in the Psychology Department often volunteer for experiments.

Use lowercase when only the subject area name is used without division or department following, except for areas that are proper nouns or adjectives. I’ve often wondered what’s taught in humanities or Where would I find that department?

academic titles
Academic title is capitalized only when used preceding the faculty member’s name; references following the member’s name or general references are not capitalized. Professor Robert Roberts will speak now or Speaking now is Robert Roberts, professor.

  • When the academic title of a faculty member is mentioned in any written text, use the official, university-conferred title of professor, associate professor, assistant professor, instructor, lecturer, research assistant, etc.
  • Adjunct, courtesy, emerita or emeritus, or visiting may also be part of the official rank.
  • It is not always necessary to list academic title in a text piece. In many cases, the phrasing professor of preceding the name is equally effective.
  • Refer to people who oversee academic units as the following:
    department head
    division chair*
    program director
    college dean
    university president
  • Do not hyphenate vice chair or vice president.

*The only exception to this rule at WOU is with the Division of Extended Programs, which is guided by an executive director.
(See Academic Degrees for guidelines on distinguishing academic from medical doctors.)

academic units
Western Oregon University’s academic units are broken down in the following manner:
College College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of Education
Divisions Division of Creative Arts or Creative Arts Division (both variations are commonly used for all divisions)
Departments Theatre/Dance Department *

Colleges, divisions and departments are capitalized whenever the full unit name is used. In general references to that unit, school, division and department are not capitalized, nor are the subjects**. When the academic division or department is part of a degree title, i.e. bachelor of arts in humanities, the reference to the academic field is not capitalized as it is a reference to the degree major, not the department itself.

Six new faculty have joined the College of Education or The college has experienced great success.
The Division of Humanities has named its new chair or The division needs more office space.
She is the Natural Sciences/Math Division receptionist or He has never been quick to learn math.

*The College of Education is arranged in divisions (e.g. Special Education Division, Elementary Education Division) and does not feature departments.
References to languages or countries (proper nouns) are always capitalized. Grammarians hold a great knowledge of English or The professor recommended that her class watch German television commercials.

Use the abbreviations for directions – N., N.E., N.W., S., S.E., S.W., E. and W. – and for roadways – Ave., Blvd. and St. – only with a numbered address.

  • Spell them out when part of a formal street name without a number. 345 N. Monmouth Ave. and North Monmouth Avenue
  • Lowercase and spell out roadway names when used alone or with more than one street name. Knox and Main streets
  • All similar words – alley, drive, road, terrace – are always spelled out. Capitalize them when part of a formal name without a number; lowercase when used alone or with two or more names.
  • Always use figures for an address number, even when only one number is used. The house is located at 8 Jones Blvd.
  • Spell out and capitalize First through Ninth when used as street names; use figures with two letters for 10th and above. Meet us at 8 Fourth St. and We found the building at 345 N. 14th St.

(For guidelines on use of state name abbreviations and ZIP code rules, see State Names and ZIP Code.)

Lowercase any reference to administration unless used in that group’s formal name. the administration, the president’s administration, the governor’s administration, the Reagan administration
However: the Veterans’ Administration

administrative titles
An administrative title is capitalized only when used preceding the employee’s name; references following the employee’s name or general references are not capitalized. Career Services Director Jane Smith or Jane Smith, director of Career Services

Refer to people who oversee administrative units as the following:

center director
committee chair department head
division chair* office director
program director college dean
university president

Do not hyphenate vice chair or vice president

*the exception to this example is the Division of Extended Programs, which is led by an executive director.

Use this spelling instead of the often-used advisor. The faculty adviser will sign all paperwork.

affirmative action and equal opportunity
Approved versions of the university’s affirmative action and equal opportunity statement must appear on all university publications.
(See Standard Legal Statements in the WOU Publications Guidelines, available online.)

Always use figures when stating ages. When the context does not require years or years old, the figure is presumed to be years. The boy, 10, has a sister, 12 or The boy is 10 years old.

Ages expressed as compound modifiers before a noun or as substitutes for a noun use hyphens. A 5-year-old boy made the catch or The man, 32, has a 2-month-old daughter.

Confusion often exists as to which form of the word is appropriate for which reference.

  • Singular: alumna refers to a woman, alumnus refers to a man
  • Plural: alumnae refers to women only, alumni refers to men or to women and men

    In stating the year or years the graduate received his or her degree, place the graduation year behind their name and use only the last two numbers of the year preceded with an apostrophe, not an open quote. Mary Smith ’75

    For graduate degrees alone or for both undergraduate and graduate degrees, retain the first format but include the abbreviation for graduate degrees: Mary Smith M.S. ’78 or Mary Smith ’75, M.S. ’78

Doctoral degrees would not apply at Western Oregon University, as no doctorates are offered.

a.m., p.m.
Always lowercase with periods and a space between the time and the letters. The game should be over by 10:45 p.m.

When a time is listed as being at the exact hour, there’s no need for a colon and two zeros to follow. The game begins at 8 p.m. in the gym.

To avoid redundancy, do not add a descriptor after a time. The game is scheduled for 8 p.m. not The game is scheduled for 8 p.m. this evening.

An event cannot be described as annual until it has been held in at least two successive years.

Do not use the term first annual. Instead, note that the sponsors plan to hold the event annually. The Conference for Collegiate Writers, which will become an annual event, will be held this Friday not The first annual Conference for Collegiate Writers will be held this Friday.

Once an event has been qualified as annual, the number of times it has been held may be used in the description and should not be hyphenated as it is not a compound modifier for the event. The division will host its fourth annual Conference for Collegiate Writers.

anybody, any body, anyone, any one
Spell as one word for an indefinite reference. Anybody can pass this test or Anyone can come to the party.
Spell as two words when singling out one element of a group. Any body will do for the chalk drawing or Any one of the students can pass this test.

The ae spelling is preferred over the less formal archeology, as the former is the academic spelling and should be used in academic and other references for consistency.

awards and decorations
Always capitalize when the full formal name is used. Bob Jones received the Mario and Alma Pastega Faculty Excellence Award.
Lowercase the award when used in a general reference. Bob Jones received the faculty excellence award for his dedication.

bachelor of arts, bachelor of science
A bachelor’s degree or bachelor’s is acceptable in any reference.

  • Don’t capitalize general or specific references to degrees or the name of the area in which the degree was received. bachelor of arts in humanities, bachelor of science in mathematics, master of arts in education
  • The exception to this rule is with the use of a proper noun, such as a language or country. bachelor of science in American history, bachelor of arts in English, bachelor of arts in Latin American studies
  • Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, bachelor’s, etc.

See Academic Degrees for guidelines on when the abbreviations B.A. and B.S. are acceptable.

Use lowercase for references to internal elements of an organization (boards of directors, trustees, etc.) when they have names that are widely used generic terms. The Western Oregon University Foundation board of trustees or the board of directors of the Smith Fine Arts Series.
Capitalize internal elements of an organization when they have names that are not widely used generic terms. The General Assembly of the World Council of Churches or the House of Delegates of the American Medical Association.

building names
Capitalize the proper names of buildings, including the word building, center, etc., if it is an integral part of the proper name. Natural Sciences Building, Terry House, Werner University Center.

When used as a general or second reference, do not capitalize building, center, etc., if it stands alone without the proper noun. The class will meet in the university center tomorrow.

The Oregon University System’s Academic Council must approve the naming or renaming of academic and administrative buildings. Until that approval has been received in writing, a proposed name change should not appear in any Western Oregon University publications, press releases, stationary or media contacts. In addition, variations on current building names should not be used.

Capitalize references to a specific body of advisers heading executive departments for presidents, kings, governors, etc. The governor’s Cabinet will convene this afternoon or President Smith has a diversified Cabinet.

call letters
Use all capitals for the call letters of television and radio stations. Use hyphens to separate the basic call letters from the type of station. KBZY-AM or KGW-TV.

The city where a seat of government is located. Salem is Oregon’s state capital.

The building where a seat of government is located. Capitalize U.S. Capitol and the Capitol when referring to the building in Washington. The president’s Cabinet met in the east wing of the Capitol.
When referring to state capitols, however, use the lowercase when not using the full name of the building. The Capitol Building is in downtown Salem. Washington state’s capitol is in Olympia.

Spell out the word and lowercase, using numerals for amounts less than a dollar. 5 cents, 50 cents, 75 cents
Use the dollar sign and decimal system for larger amounts. $1.50, $2.03, $1.99

Lowercase, spelling out the numbers less than 10. Fifth century, 16th century, 20th century
For proper names, use the spelling that follows the organization’s practice. 20th Century Fox, Twentieth Century Fund, Twentieth Century Limited

chairman, chairwoman
Capitalize as a formal title when preceding a name. Chairman Lee Iacocca, Chairwoman Jane Smith
Do not capitalize as an informal, temporary position. Parking Committee chairwoman Jane Smith
Do not use chairperson unless it is an organization’s formal title for an office.

cities and towns
Capitalize in all instances. Capitalize official titles, including separate political entities. West Salem, East St. Louis, Ill., West Palm Beach, Fla.
The preferred form for a section of a city is lowercase. The west end, northern San Francisco. But capitalize widely recognized names for sections of some cities. South Side (Chicago), Lower East Side (New York)
Spell out the names of cities unless referred to differently in direct quotes. They took a family vacation to Los Angeles. "We’re going to L.A."

Some U.S. cities are well known and therefore do not require a state listing afterward.
No state is required with the following:

Cleveland Denver
Las Vegas Los Angeles
New Orleans
New York Oklahoma City
St. Louis
Salt Lake City San Antonio
San Diego
San Francisco
Washington, D.C.

While Dallas (Texas) is generally on this list, the location of Western Oregon University just miles from Dallas, Ore., requires the Texas reference to be followed by Texas. The Oregon reference can stand alone. Exceptions are allowed when the reference is clearly on a national level and the audience would not know of Dallas, Ore. I will be attending a conference in Dallas, Texas, this fall. or I will be attending a meeting in Dallas next week.

Capitalize when used as part of the proper name. Kansas City, New York City, Junction City, Jefferson City
Lowercase elsewhere, including references to multiple cities and all city of references. An Oregon city. The city of Monmouth. The city Planning Commission. We’re going to Monmouth and Independence city halls.
Capitalize when part of a formal title before a name. This is City Manager Jim Brown. Lowercase when preceding the name but not part of the formal title. This is city Health Inspector Joe Smith.

Classes and courses are often mistaken to have the same definition. In reality, classes are closer in meaning to sections than courses. There are several classes or sections of second-year Spanish taught fall term, but only one course taught by Jim Brown at 9 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during fall term.

collective nouns
Nouns that signify a unit take singular verbs and pronouns. Examples include fFaculty, staff, committee, club, family, group, herd, jury, choir, band, student body, Cabinet. The faculty is responsible for academic instruction. The committee will meet to examine its budget. The Circle K Club will hold its weekly meeting tonight.

Capitalize when part of a proper name. College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. College of Education. Boston College.
Lowercase in general references to a college or colleges. My daughter will begin college this fall. The dean is aware of changes within the college.
Use the same guidelines when using community college. Capitalize when part of the proper name but lowercase in general references. Chemeketa Community College but I haven’t decided which of the three community colleges to attend.

Capitalize when used as part of the formal name. The Faculty Senate Committee.
Do not capitalize committee in shortened versions of long committee names. The Senate’s committee or the committee for student grievances.

composition titles
When referring to the titles of books, movies, operas, plays, poems, songs, television programs, lectures, speeches and works of art, use the following guidelines:

  • Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters. "Gone With the Wind"
  • Capitalize an article – the, an, a – or words of fewer than four letters if it is the first or last word in a title. "An American Werewolf in Paris."
  • Put quotation marks around the names of all such works except the Bible and books that are primarily collections or catalogs of reference material. This category includes almanacs, directories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, gazetteers, handbooks and similar publications. Also place quote marks around the names of artistic exhibits, staged plays and series of events with a specific name. "Encyclopedia Britannica," "Webster’s New World Dictionary," "Lovers and Executioners," "Heatwave"
  • Translate a foreign title into English unless the work is known to the American public by its foreign name. Rousseau’s "La Guerre" would be Rousseau’s "War" but Wagner’s "Die Walkuere" would remain in the native German.

Contractions reflect informal speech and writing, and should therefore be used as the mood of the writing dictates.
When writing an informal piece or something that should appear more conversational and directed toward a familiar audience, contractions are acceptable.
When writing a more academic piece or something in a more formal tone, contractions may still be used but at a minimum.
Many dictionaries contain a listing of acceptable contractions and are an appropriate resource.

Capitalize when used as part of the proper name. Polk County. Marion County. Benton County.

  • Lowercase elsewhere. An Oregon county. Dallas is the county seat.
  • Capitalize the full name of county governmental units. The Polk County Board of Commissioners. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
  • Retain capitalization for the name of a county body if the proper noun is not needed in the context. Lowercase when used to distinguish an agency from state or federal counterparts. the Board of Supervisors, the Department of Human Resources or the county Board of Supervisors, the county Department of Human Resources
  • Lowercase the board, the department, etc. when they stand alone without the full formal name.
  • Capitalize if it’s an integral part of the specific body’s name even without the proper noun. the County Commission. Lowercase the commission and other similar groups when not preceded by the word county.
  • Capitalize when part of a formal title before a name. This is County Manager Jim Brown. Lowercase when preceding the name but not part of the formal title. This is county Health Inspector Joe Smith.
  • Avoid references to the county of whenever possible, but when used, always lowercase. the county of Marion, the county of Polk.
  • Lowercase when referring to multiple counties. We’re meeting with the commissioners of Marion and Polk counties.

course work
Course work is two words.

courtesy titles
In general, do not use courtesy titles of Mr., Mrs., Ms. or Miss on first and last names of the person unless requested to do so by that person. Otherwise, use the first and last name on first reference and the last name for references thereafter. When two people share the last name, continue to use the first and last name on each reference.

In most cases, use credits rather than credit hours, hours, term credits, quarter credits or term hours. When necessary to distinguish between the quarter system and the semester system, use quarter credits and semester credits.
Write the number of credits in figures unless it begins a sentence; spell out the number of credits if it’s the first element of a sentence. This course is worth 5 credits or Twelve credits is the minimum for full-time enrollment.

A plural noun, it normally takes on plural verbs and pronouns. The enrollment data are being manipulated this afternoon.

data processing
A noun and adjective, the word is not hyphenated as either. She works in data processing and He is a data processing specialist.

The collection of all data used and produced by a computer program, it is spelled as one word, in keeping with widespread usage. The enrollment database is being manipulated this afternoon.

Always use the numeral – 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 17, etc. – for dates.
When using with a month, do not include the st, rd, nd or th. I will have a test on Monday, Oct. 23.
When using without a month, do include the st, rd, nd or th. I will have a test on the 23rd.

(See Days of the Week and Months for guidelines on abbreviations of those.)

days of the week
Always capitalize and never abbreviate.

Capitalize when used in the formal title preceding a name or names. Dean John Jones or Deans John Jones and Jane Smith.
Lowercase in all other instances, including when used in the title following the proper name. John Jones, dean of the college or John Jones and Jane Smith, deans within the university.

Use standard numbers to indicate decades of history. I was born in the 1970s not I was born in the nineteen seventies.
Use an apostrophe to indicate numbers that are left out and show the plural by adding the letter s. Do not use a comma between the year and the s. The ‘90s were a time of social awareness and The 1920s and ‘30s brought a revolution in music.

Use numerals and spell out inches, feet, yards, miles, etc. to indicate depth, height, length and width. Hyphenate the phrase when used as an adjective preceding a noun. He is 5 feet 6 inches tall or the 5-foot-six-inch man.

directions and regions
In general references, lowercase north, south, northeast, northwest, northern, southern, etc. when they indicate compass directions. We are headed north. An east wind. This is a north/south highway.

  • Capitalize these words when they designate regions. We have visited the North Coast. The Pacific Northwest has beautiful scenery. The Civil War pitted the North against the South, brother against brother. She has quite a Southern accent.
  • Lowercase regions when used with names of nations unless that region is an integral part of the proper name or designate a politically divided nation. the northern United States, western Canada, southern Mexico but Northern Ireland, North Korea.
  • Also capitalize when combining with another common noun to form the proper name for a region. the South Pole, the West Coast, the Middle East, the Mid West, the Far East, the Eastern Hemisphere.

Capitalize only when used preceding the employee’s name; references following the employee’s name or general references are not capitalized. Career Services Director Jane Smith or Jane Smith, director of Career Services

Always lowercase. Use figures and the $ sign in all except casual references or amounts without a specific figure. The textbook cost $65 or I asked for a couple of dollars from my parents.

  • For specific amounts, the word takes a singular form. He said $65 dollars is the cost of the textbook.
  • For amounts of more than $1 million, use the $ and numerals up to two decimal places. Do not hyphenate amounts that serve as adjective preceding a noun. The exact amount, regardless of tens, hundreds, thousands or millions of dollars, can also be written as it is. The library cost $14.25 million to build but The library project requires a $14.25 million budget. The library’s budget is exactly $14,251,142.
  • For amounts less than a million, use the full figure. $1, $10, $45, $1,000, $623,000

e.g., i.e.
When using these Latin notations, "e.g." means "for example"; "i.e." means "that is" or "in other words."

Takes a singular verb. Each of the books is important to this class not Each of the books are important to this class.

earth, Earth
Lowercase in general references and references to physical ground. The earth is most damp this time of year. What a down-to-earth person he is.
Capitalize when used as the proper name of the planet. The planets in the Solar System include Earth, Mars, Pluto, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Venus and The shuttle has returned to Earth.

Capitalize only when used as a formal title preceding a name only when it is an official corporate or organizational title. Campus Editor Jane Smith or I’d like you to meet Jane Smith, campus editor.
Do not capitalize as a job description. She is applying for the campus editor opening.

electronic mail
Commonly referred to in the shortened, abbreviated form. His e-mail address is listed in the university directory.
When including e-mail addresses within text, do not underline. Many word processing programs will automatically underline this for you and/or turn the address into a direct e-mail link; when this happens, please reformat to remove underline. His e-mail address is jonesb@wou.edu.

Emerita and emeritus are honorary titles denoting retirement that follow a faculty member’s academic rank. The titles may be used only after official notification that a particular professor has reached emeriti status. When used before the name, titles are capitalized; when used after, titles aren’t capitalized.

  • Singular: emerita refers to a woman; emeritus refers to a man
  • Plural: emeritae refers to women only; emeriti refers to men or to women and men

    Joe Smiley, professor emeritus of art history. Professor Emeritus Joe Smiley retired June 1. There are 20 professors emeriti at Western Oregon University.

every day, everyday
Every day is a two-word adverb. We hold staff meetings every day.
Everyday is a single-word adjective. Our staff meetings are an everyday occurrence.

every one, everyone
Every one is two words when it means each individual item. Every one of the papers was excellent.
Everyone is one word when used as a pronoun indicating all persons. Everyone wrote an excellent paper.
Everyone takes singular verbs and pronouns. Has everyone brought his or her books not Has everyone brought their books. The exception is when the use of his or her is excessive and keeps repeating. Modern grammatical rules allow the use of the plural their with everyone to keep repetition and wordiness to a minimum.

Do not hyphenate when extra means outside of unless the prefix is followed by a word beginning with a or a capitalized word. Extramarital, extraterrestrial, extracurricular but extra-alimentary.
Hyphenate extra- when part of a compound modifier describing a condition beyond the usual size, extent or degree. Extra-dry drink, extra-soft pillow, extra-large print.

Faculty refers to a collective body of people and therefore is a singular noun requiring a singular verb (unless referring to more than one faculty). Western Oregon University’s faculty represents a variety of academic backgrounds. The faculties of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and College of Education gathered for a university reception.
Use faculty member (singular) or faculty members (plural) to refer to individuals. The College of Education is hiring one new faculty member this year and two new faculty members next year.

Most commonly used term is fax.
Lowercase all instances unless fax begins a sentence; in that case, capitalize the f and lowercase the rest. Does the fax machine work yet? or Fax me that memo tomorrow.

Spell out amounts less than 1 in text, using hyphens between the words. Two-thirds, five-eighths, one-half
Use figures for precise amounts larger than 1, converting to decimals wherever practical. 1.5 instead of 1½

fraternal organizations and service clubs
Capitalize the proper names as well as the words describing membership. Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club, American Legion, Lions Club, Elks Club. He is a Kiwanian. She is a Rotarian. They are Lions, Elks, Legionnaires and Kiwanians.
Capitalize the formal titles of officers of these organizations when preceding a name. Rotary President John Smith. Kiwanis Secretary Jim Jones.

full time, full-time
Hyphenate only when used as a compound modifier. He works full time as a gardener but He is a full-time gardener.

fund raising, fund-raising, fund-raiser
Do not hyphenate when referring to the act of raising funds. Library fund raising has been quite successful.
Hyphenate when describing a noun or person. The fund-raising campaign was successful. Meet Mary Smith, our new scholarship fund-raiser.

gods and goddesses
Capitalize God in references to the deity of all monotheistic religions, regardless of whether those religions are past or present.
Capitalize all noun references to the deity but lowercase the personal pronouns. God the Father, Holy Ghost, Holy Spirit, etc. but he, him, thee, thou.
Capitalize references to specific gods and goddesses in polytheistic religions (past or present) but lowercase general references to those beings. Zeus, ruler of all Greek gods and goddesses, was feared by mortals and immortals but The Greek gods and goddesses lived on Mt. Olympus.

Always lowercase and never abbreviate. The federal government, Oregon’s government, Polk County government

grade, grader
Hyphenate both the noun and adjectival forms. He is a first-grader and his sister is a 12th-grader and He is a first-grade student and his sister is a 12th-grade student.

grade point average
Use two digits after the decimal when stating a grade point average (GPA), even if the second of those digits is a zero. 3.50 (not 3.5), 3.75, 4.00 (not 4.0)

graduate, graduated
The verb form of graduate is correctly used in the active voice. She graduated from Western Oregon University.
It is correct, however unnecessary, to use the passive voice. She was graduated from Western Oregon University.
Do not drop the word from. She graduated from WOU not She graduated WOU.

Not grey except when used in greyhound.

A group of things is a singular accumulation or body and therefore takes singular verbs and pronouns. The group will make its decision next Monday. See collective nouns.

his, her
Never presume maleness in constructing a sentence but use the pronoun his when an indefinite antecedent may be male or female. A reporter always attempts to protect his sources not A reporter always attempts to protect his or her sources.
Frequently, however, the best way to avoid the gender conflict is to make a slight revision to the sentence. A newswoman always attempts to protect her sources or Reporters always attempt to protect their sources.

holidays and holy days
Capitalize all holidays and holy days. Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Hanukkah, etc.
The legal holidays in federal law are New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, George Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Note that Veterans Day holds no apostrophe to denote the possessive.

Independence Day
July Fourth or Fourth of July is also an acceptable reference.

Use periods and no space when an individual uses initials instead of a first name. A.A. Milne. T.S. Elliot.
When an individual has multiple middle names and prefers the use of initials for those names, a period and space should follow each initial. John T. L. Jones.
Do not give a name with a single initial unless it is the individual’s preference or the first name is unknown. J. Jones.

Capitalize in all references, as it is a proper name. Information about Western Oregon can be found on the Internet.
When using Web site addresses, include the www preference but not the http:\\
Also, do not underline any e-mail or Web site addresses in text. Many word processing programs will automatically underline these for you; when this happens, please reformat to remove underline.

Avoid usage of this double negative. Regardless is the correct word.

island, islands
Capitalize as part of a proper name. the Hawaiian Islands, Prince Edward Island
Lowercase when standing alone or in a general reference to a given area. the Pacific islands
Lowercase all island of constructions. the island of Nantucket or the island of Maui

job descriptions
Always lowercase. She is applying for the campus dispatcher opening.

junior, senior
Abbreviate as Jr. and Sr. only with full names of persons. Do not precede with a comma. John F. Kennedy Jr. or John F. Kennedy Sr.
If necessary to distinguish between father and son in second and following references, use the elder Kennedy or the younger Kennedy.

Capitalize the proper names of languages and dialects. Arabic, Cajun, Yiddish, English, Persian, etc.

Avoid the use of last as a synonym for latest if it might imply finality. The last time it snowed, I forgot my boots is acceptable use of the word. But the last snow left 3 inches on the ground could leave the reader wondering if this was the last time it will ever snow or if it was simply the latest snowfall.

  • Last is unnecessary to convey the idea of the most recent when the name of a month or day is used. It snowed Wednesday or it snowed in October are preferred. It snowed last Wednesday or it snowed last October are correct but redundant.
  • Last is necessary to convey the idea of the most recent when a specific month or day is not given. It snowed last week or it snowed last fall.

Capitalize legislative acts but not bills. The Taft-Hartley Act but the criminal rights bill.
Do, however, capitalize The Bill of Rights as it is a composition title in common American history, similar to The Constitution. Because these are works of reference material, they are not listed in quotes.

One word, as opposed to life style.

long term, long-term
Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier. He has prospered in the long term. She has had long-term prosperity.

long time, longtime
Long time when used as a noun. They have been friends for a long time.
Longtime when used as an adjective. They have been longtime friends.

man, mankind
Either is acceptable when both men and women are involved and no other term is convenient. In these instances, do not use duplicate phrases such as a man or a woman or mankind and womankind.
Often, the best choice is a substitute such as humanity, a person or an individual.

master of arts, master of science
A master’s degree or master’s is acceptable in any reference.

  • Don’t capitalize general or specific references to degrees or the name of the area in which the degree was received. master of arts in education, she is a master’s student
  • The exception to this rule is with the use of a proper noun, such as a language or country. master of science in American history, master of arts in English
  • Use an apostrophe in master’s degree, master’s, etc.

See Academic Degrees for guidelines on when the abbreviations M.A. and M.S. are acceptable.

In the sense of mass communication, such as magazines, newspapers, the news services, radio and television, the term media is plural. The news media are expanding their resources to the Internet.

No hyphen unless a capitalized word follows. mid-America, mid-Atlantic
Use a hyphen when mid- precedes a numeric figure. the mid-1930s

To avoid redundancy, do not put a 12 in front of it. The clock struck midnight not The clock struck 12 midnight.
Midnight is the part of the day that is ending, not the part of the day that is beginning. A day ends at midnight and begins at 12:01 a.m.

minus sign
Use a hyphen, not a dash, to represent a minus sign, but use the word minus if there is any danger of confusion.
Use a word, not a minus sign to indicate temperatures below zero. It was minus 34 with the wind chill factor or It was minus 4 in Chicago yesterday.

A minor misfortune. People are not killed, lost or maimed in mishaps.

Capitalize the names of months in all uses.
Abbreviate when a month is used with a specific date, but abbreviate only the following: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec.
Spell out when using alone or with a year but no date.
When a phrase lists only a month and a year, do not separate with a comma. When a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with commas. He was born in July 1998 but He was born on July 10, 1998.

Capitalize as part of the proper name. The Blue Mountains, the Rocky Mountains, the Ozark Mountains.
Some mountain ranges can be referred to in a more simpler form, without mountains. The Cascades, the Rockies, the Ozarks, the Andes.

Capitalize, but do not use quotation marks, on descriptive titles for orchestral works. Bach’s Suite No. 1 for Orchestra, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

  • If the instrumentation is not part of the title but is added for explanatory purposes, the names of the instruments are lowercased. Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major (the common title) for violin and viola. If in doubt, lowercase the names of the instruments.
  • Use quotation marks for non-musical terms in a title. Beethoven’s "Erioca" Symphony.
  • If the work has a special full title, all of it is used. Wagner’s "Die Walkuere" from "The Ring of the Nibelungen."

national anthem
Lowercase any references using the exact terms national anthem. However, treat the actual name of the national anthem as a composition title. "The Star-Spangled Banner"

National Guard
Capitalize when referring to United States or state-level forces. the National Guard, the Guard, the Oregon National Guard, Oregon’s National Guard, National Guard troops.
Use lowercase when referring to the forces of other nations.

newspaper names
Capitalize the in a newspaper’s name only if that is the way the publication prefers to be known.
Lowercase the before newspaper names if the text mentions several papers, some of which use the as part of the name and some of which do not.
Where location is needed but is not part of the official name, use parentheses. The Polk County (Ore.) Itemizer Observer.

Use the abbreviation for number in conjunction with a figure to indicate position or rank. When referring to rankings, always use the numeral instead of spelling one through nine. He is the No. 3 choice for the job or The Wolves are ranked No. 3 in the nation.

All issues are controversial. A noncontroversial issue is impossible. A controversial issue is redundant. If an issue weren’t controversial, it wouldn’t be termed an issue.

Generally means no single one. When used in this sense, none takes the singular verb and pronoun. None of the books was in its right place.
Use a plural verb only if the sense is no two or no amount. None of the consultants agree on the same style or None of the tuition was paid at registration.

To avoid redundancy, do not put a 12 in front of noon. My class begins at noon not My class begins at 12 noon.

In general, spell out number one through nine and then use numerals for every number greater than nine.
(See Dimensions, No. and Percentages for exceptions to this rule.)

Capitalize when used with the proper name. Pacific Ocean, Antarctic Ocean
Lowercase ocean when standing alone or in plural uses. Pacific and Antarctic oceans or the oceans

Capitalize when part of a formal name. The President’s Office, Student Leadership and Activities Office, Office of Admissions.
Lowercase in all other uses, including casual references. The office of the student leadership coordinator, President Smith's office or When are you heading to the office?

off of
The of is unnecessary. The students walked off the patio not The students walked off of the patio.

ok, ok’d, ok’ing, oks
Do not use okay, okayed, okaying or okays.

Capitalize all references to the international athletic contests held on a four-year cycle. the Olympic Games, the Winter Olympics, the Summer Olympics and an Olympic-sized pool. Also the Special Olympics
Lowercase other uses. the residence hall olympics

Avoid use of on before a date or day of the week when its absence would not cause confusion. The Senate will meet Monday or the club installation is Oct. 21
Use on to avoid an awkward construction of date and proper name. She will go visit Sandy on Monday not She will go visit Sandy Monday.

Hyphenate when part of a fraction. One-third, one-half, etc.

One word when used in reference to the computer connection term. Online access is provided to all students, staff and faculty.

Generally refers to spacial relationships. The car drove over the curb.
In most other references to an amount, use more than. She is more than 30 years old or General sales went up more than 50 percent.

A single word in both adjective and adverbial forms. The campus is bustling overall.

Not a formal title. Always lowercase. Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen.

page numbers
Use figures and capitalize page when used with a figure in a textual format. See form on Page 23 for more details.
When a letter is appended to the page number, capitalize it but do not use a hyphen. See form on Page 23A for more details.

part time, part-time
Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier. He works in this office part time. He is a part-time worker in this office.

people, persons
Use person when referring to an individual. One person was late for the test.
Use people when referring to a group; this is preferred to persons in all plural uses. Seven people waited for the professor.
Persons should only be used when part of a direct quote or when part of a formal name. Bureau of Missing Persons

When using in a text, spell out as one word (as opposed to per cent or the symbol %). When used in a numeric table format of any sort, use of the % is fine.

Use figures for all percentages, even those numbers less than 10. For amounts less than 1 percent, precede the decimal with a zero. The class average was 87 percent or The students felt a 0.7 percent rise in incidental fees.

The preferred use is to say a person holds a doctorate or similar wording followed by the area of specialty as opposed to the Ph.D. usage.

Capitalize the proper names of planets. Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Neptune, Pluto, Earth, Uranus, Venus.
Capitalize earth when used as the name of the planet. The astronauts left Earth to study Mars.
Lowercase all nouns and adjectives derived from the proper names of planets and other heavenly bodies. Martian, jovian, lunar, solar, earthling.

post office
Use as the common name for the location, but do not capitalize, as the proper name is now U.S. Postal Service. I went to the post office this afternoon.

Hyphenated when used as compound modifier (most common use). He teaches at the post-secondary level.

Generally, do not hyphenate when using a prefix with a word starting with a consonant.
Three rules are constant, although they yield some exceptions to first-listed spellings in common Webster dictionaries:

  • Except for cooperate and coordinate, use a hyphen if the prefix ends in a vowel and the word that follows begins with the same vowel. We were re-energized by the evening run.
  • Use a hyphen if the word that follows is capitalized. The antiques are dated pre-Revolutionary War.
  • Use a hyphen to join doubled prefixes. It was mentioned in the third sub-subparagraph.

Always lowercase. Clinton’s presidency was one of controversy.

Capitalize president only when as a formal title preceding one or more names. President Ronald Reagan was also a famous actor or Presidents Andrew Johnson and Lyndon Johnson both took office following assassinations of current presidents.
Lowercase general references. The president’s Cabinet met this afternoon.

Never abbreviate, and capitalize only when part of a formal title preceding a proper name. Assistant Professor Jim Jones was hired in 1997.
Lowercase general references. He was hired as an assistant professor in 1997.
Do not continue use in subsequent references to the same person. Assistant Professor Jim Jones will lead the afternoon’s discussion. Jones is a known expert on vulcanology.

Means seldom. Rarely ever is redundant, but rarely if ever often is the appropriate phrase.

reference works
Capitalize their proper names. Encyclopedia Britannica, Webster’s New World Dictionary.
Do not use quotation marks, italicizing or underlining around the names of books that are primarily catalogs of reference material. This category also includes almanacs, directories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, gazetteers, handbooks and similar publications. the Western Oregon University Catalog, the Student Code of Conduct Handbook.

rooms and room numbers
Capitalize the name of specially designated rooms. The Pacific Room or The Oregon Room.
Use figures and capitalize room when used with the figure. Natural Sciences Building, Room 211.
When stating the building and room together, place the room after the building name Werner University Center, Pacific Room or place the room before the building name and followed by "of." The Pacific Room of the Werner University Center.

Acceptable in all references to Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. When the service branch is specified, use the full name, do not add that branch’s initials to the beginning of ROTC. Army ROTC and Air Force ROTC not AROTC and AFROTC.

Lowercase spring, summer, fall and winter and all derivatives, such as springtime, autumn, summertime, etc. The spring term schedule should be arriving soon or Will you be on campus during the summertime?
Capitalize seasons only when part of a formal name. Academic terms and sessions are not given formal names, therefore do not capitalize in those instances. We’re watching the Winter Olympics on TV or Are you going to the Winter Ball this evening?

Always hyphenate compound words beginning with self, whether or not they precede the noun. He is very self-assured or He is a self-assured young man.

Twice a year, the same as a biannual.
Do not confuse either semiannual or biannual with biennial, which mean every two years.

Capitalize all specific references to governmental legislative bodies, regardless of whether the name of the nation or state is used. The Oregon Senate, the Senate, the U.S. Senate.Lowercase plural uses. The Oregon and Washington senates.

stadium, stadiums
Capitalize only when part of a proper name. Oregon State University plays at Reser Stadium.
Lowercase all other general references. Western Oregon University’s stadium has no official name.

Staff refers to a collective body of people and therefore is a singular noun requiring a singular verb (unless referring to more than one staff). Our staff is having a party next week not Our staff are having a party next week.
Use staff member or staff members to refer to individuals. We are hiring one new staff member this year and two new staff members next year.

state names
Follow these guidelines:

  • Standing alone: Spell out the names of all 50 states when they stand alone in textual material.
  • Abbreviations: Use Associated Press abbreviations when used within text and preceded by a specific location, then follow with a comma. The students from Tacoma, Wash., are here.

Use postal abbreviations for state names only when the name is followed by a ZIP code. Do not follow these abbreviations with a comma between it and the ZIP code. Our street address is 345 N. Monmouth Ave., Monmouth, OR 97361.

The Associated Press abbreviations are listed below, followed by the appropriate postal abbreviation in parentheses.

Ala. (AL)
Ariz. (AZ)
Ark. (AR)
Calif. (CA)
Colo. (CO)
Conn. (CN)
Del. (DE)
Fla. (FL)
Ga. (GA) Ill. (IL)
Ind. (IN)
Kan. (KS)
Ky. (KY)
La. (LA)
Md. (MD)
Mass. (MA)
Mich. (MI)
Minn. (MN) Miss. (MS)
Mo. (MO)
Mont. (MT)
Neb. (NE)
Nev. (NV)
N.H. (NH)
N.J. (NJ)
N.M. (NM)
N.Y. (NY) N.C. (NC)
N.D. (ND)
Okla. (OK)
Ore. (OR)
Pa. (PA)
R.I. (RI)
S.C. (SC)
S.D. (SD)
Tenn. (TN) Vt. (VT)
Va. (VA)
Wash. (WA)
W. Va. (WV)
Wis. (WI)
Wyo. (WY)

Eight states aren’t abbreviated by Associated Press rules. They do, however, have postal abbreviations:

Alaska (AK)
Hawaii (HI) Idaho (ID)
Iowa (IA) Maine (ME)
Ohio (OH) Texas (TX)
Utah (UT)

Lowercase all state of constructions. The state of Oregon.
Four states – Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia – are legally commonwealths rather than states.

suspensive hyphenation
When using two or more compound modifiers that refer to the same noun, use the following form: The 5- and 6-year-olds were invited to the performance or The sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade teachers will be on campus Monday.

telephone numbers
Use figures for all numbers. With 10-digit dialing in place, area codes are no longer in parentheses but are formatted as follows. The 1 is not a required element with all numbers for all callers and thereby is not placed in front of standard calls. To learn more, contact the university at 503-838-8000.
For toll-free numbers, beginning with any of the 800, 877, 888, etc., prefixes, use the same format as above and add the 1 before, as it is a required element with all toll-free numbers. To learn more, contact the university toll free at 1-877-877-1593.

Use term as the general reference to each of the first three academic quarters – fall, winter and spring – at Western Oregon University, and session for the summer quarter. Do not capitalize the names of any of these terms or summer session. The academic year is divided into fall term, winter term, spring term and summer session.

Use this spelling unless part of the proper name including the word with the re ending. The movie theater has a variety of shows, but I like to go to the Elsinore Theatre.
On campus, the official name of the department is Theatre/Dance Department with the re spelling. However, the students are theater students, not theatre students. The official name of the small theater in Rice Auditorium is the Studio Theatre, therefore the -re ending.

Use figures and either a.m. or p.m. for all times except noon and midnight. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes; do not include 00 if the time is an exact hour without minutes. The students will arrive at noon and begin the tours following the 12:30 p.m. greeting.

  • When referring to time spans, use both a.m. and p.m. for those covering both morning and afternoon. They will arrive at 11:30 a.m. and leave at 4:30 p.m.
  • When referring to time spans covering only morning or only afternoon, use either a.m. or p.m. after the ending time of that span. The meeting is from 9 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m.
  • Avoid redundancies by including in the morning, in the evening, this afternoon, etc., after a time with the a.m. or p.m. It is acceptable to use these phrases, but listings with a.m. or p.m. are preferred. Use is dependent on the conversational or non-conversational mood of the writing. We’ll set the meeting for 4 p.m. today not We’ll set the meeting for 4 p.m. this afternoon.
  • The construction of o’clock is acceptable, but time listings with a.m. or p.m. are preferred.

toll free, toll-free
As an adverb following the verb, two words without hyphenation. Call toll free 1-877-877-1593.
As a compound modifier, two words with hyphenation. The toll-free number is 1-877-877-1593.

Acceptable as an adjective or in such constructions as cable TV. Do not normally use as a noun unless part of a quotation. "They talked about the wreck on TV" or They talked about the wreck on television.

Capitalize as part of a proper name. The university is centered in the mid-Willamette Valley.
Lowercase in all general and plural uses. Both the Umpqua and Willamette valleys contain colleges.

Abbreviate as vs. in all uses. The game tonight is vs. Central Washington.

Veterans Day
Formerly Armistice Day, Veterans Day recognizes the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. The federal holiday is observed annually on Nov. 11. There is no apostrophe, as the name does not require a possessive form.

Use two words to designate vice positions and avoid hyphenation. The four vice presidents serve on the president’s Cabinet or She was hired to fill the vice chancellor’s position.

vice president
Capitalize only when as a formal title preceding one or more names. Do not hyphenate. Vice President Lyndon Johnson or Vice Presidents Andrew Johnson and Lyndon Johnson both served presidents who were later assassinated.
Lowercase general references. The vice presidents met this afternoon.

One word. Not Viet Nam.

Capitalize when used as part of the name for a specific conflict. the Civil War, the Cold War, World War II.
Lowercase general references. He was drafted and went to war in Vietnam.

Abbreviate the state within text only when preceded by a location. She lives in Tacoma, Wash.
Never abbreviate when referring to the U.S. capital.
Use state of Washington or Washington state and Washington, D.C., or District of Columbia when the context requires distinction between the state and federal district.

Web page
Two words in all cases, with Web capitalized and page lowercased. To launch a personal Web page, consult the computer technicians.

Web site
Two words in all cases, with Web capitalized and site lowercased. To access the Web site, go to www.wou.edu.

Western Oregon Wniversity
Spell out the first reference to Western Oregon University. Use Western Oregon, WOU or the university in following references.

  • To avoid overuse of the acronym WOU, use of Western Oregon or the university is preferred.
  • To increase clarity and decrease confusion in the public, use of Western on its own is unacceptable, as the university is one of several academic and other organizations in the region with the word Western in its name.
  • Do not capitalize the university when using it in place of Western Oregon University. Only the full name of the university is to be capitalized, except in Western Oregon, where both are proper nouns.

World Wide Web
All three words capitalized. Also, using Web alone and uppercased is accepted when reference to the World Wide Web is obvious; preferable use is on a second reference. Western Oregon University has been on the World Wide Web for several years.
When using Web page addresses in text, include the www but exclude the http:\\ portion of the address. Our Web page is found at www.wou.edu not Our Web page is found at http:\\www.wou.edu.
Also, do not underline any e-mail or Web site addresses in text. Many word processing programs will automatically underline these for you; when this happens, please reformat to remove underline.

A trademark for the brand of photocopy machine. He works as a technical assistant for Xerox.
Never a verb. Use a generic term, such as photocopy. He worked on the copier for three hours or Let’s make a photocopy of this just in case.

Use figures, without commas within the year itself. She was born in 1972.

  • Use an s without the apostrophe to indicate spans of decades or centuries. He was in office during the 1890s or Innovation was a key of the 1800s.
  • When used within text, use a comma after the year when an exact date precedes. He was born on July 4, 1972, in Salem.
  • When used with only a month and no exact day, do not put a comma between the month and year or after the year. He will graduate in June 2000 with his third degree.
  • Years are the only exception to the rule that numerals do not begin a sentence. 1976 was the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

ZIP codes
Use all capitals for ZIP – Zoning Improvement Plan – but always lowercase code. The registration form should always include address, city, state and ZIP code.
Run the five digits together without a comma and do not put a comma between the state’s postal abbreviation and the ZIP code. Her address is 2000 Main St., Monmouth, OR 97361.

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Which Word to Use?

A guide to common words and phrases that sound very similar but have different meanings and intentions.

adverse, averse
unfavorable. Campus was closed due to the adverse weather.
Averse: reluctant, opposed. He was averse to the change in policy.

affect, effect
Affect (verb):
to influence. She hopes the changes affect the entire campus.
Affect (noun): occasionally used in psychology to describe an emotion; generally no need for use in everyday language.
Effect (verb): to cause. He will effect many changes in student government.
Effect (noun): result. The effects of the study were overwhelming.

allude, refer
to speak of something without specifically mentioning it. She alluded to the plan of a surprise party.
Refer: to mention something directly. She referred to the plans for the surprise party.

allusion, illusion
an indirect reference to something. She alluded to his experience in the military.
Illusion: an unreal or false impression. The desert oasis was an optical illusion.

among, between
introduces the relationship of more than two items. Among the four students, only one received an A.
Between: introduces the relationship of two items. Between you and me, there’s only one answer.

However, when the relationship of more than two items only has two sides or overall groups, between is used. The agreement between WOU and the three colleges has been signed.

anticipate, expect
to expect and prepare for something. They anticipated the arrival of the president with a full marching band.
Expect: still means to wait or be ready for something, but does not specifically imply preparedness. They expect the president will attend.

because, since
denotes a specific cause-effect relationship. Because he was tired, he fell asleep on the couch.
Since: used when one event leads logically to another but is not its direct cause. Since the study group met early, Sue decided to grab some dinner.

canvas, canvass
a heavy cloth. She finds inspiration even as her brush hits the canvas.
Canvass: a survey or to take a survey. She canvassed the neighborhood or The canvass will be completed Monday.

capital, capitol
the city where a seat of government is located. Salem is Oregon’s state capital.
Capitol: the physical building where a seat of government is located. The lobby is on the steps of the Capitol in Salem.

For capitalization guidelines, see Capital and Capitol in Style and Grammar Guidelines.

carat, caret, karat
the weight of precious stones, especially diamonds. She wore a half-carat diamond.
Caret: a writer’s and proofreader’s mark to indicate the insertion of information.
Karat: the proportion of pure gold used with an alloy. The pendant is 24-karat gold.

censer, censor, censure
a container in which incense is burned. He found a beautiful censer at the antiques market.
Censor: to prohibit or restrict the use of something. The students were censored from cursing in the classroom.
Censure: to condemn. The woman was censured for her actions.

character, reputation
moral qualities. She was raised with a strong character.
Reputation: the way a person is regarded by others. Her reputation is one of dependability.

compared to, compared with
Compared to:
used when the intent is to assert, without the need for elaboration, that two or more items are similar. Her level of effort has often been compared to that of the Little Engine That Could.
Compared with: used when illustrating similarities and/or differences with two or more items. He received a C on the paper, compared with the A and B averages of his fellow students.

complacent, complaisant
self-satisfied. I am quite complacent after today’s meeting.
Complaisant: eager to please. I wish some students weren’t quite so complaisant.

complement, compliment
a noun or verb denoting completeness or the process of supplementing something. The cross country team has a complement of seven women and nine men or The helmets complement the jersey nicely. Use this same guideline for complementary.
Compliment: a noun or verb denoting the praise or expression of courtesy. She compliments your kindness or Her compliments are to be taken seriously. Use this same guideline for complimentary.

compose, comprise, constitute
to create or put together. Commonly used in both the active and passive voices. She composed the lyrics to the song or The class is composed of sophomores and juniors.
Comprise: to contain, include or embrace and best used only in the active voice. The class comprises sophomores and juniors.
Constitute: to form or to make up, used when neither compose or comprise will not quite fit the sentence. Sophomores and juniors constitute the class.

connote, denote
to suggest or imply something beyond direct meaning. To the group of students, "a reasonable font size" connotes 12 or even 14 point.
Denote: to be explicit about the meaning. The word font denotes both size and type.

continual, continuous
a steady repetition. The track team has a continual conditioning workout.
Continuous: uninterrupted, steady, unbroken. The road’s fog lines made a continuous ribbon.

contrasted to, contrasted with
Contrasted to:
to assert, without the need for elaboration, that two items have opposite characteristics. Her dark hair has been contrasted to her bright blue eyes.
Contrasted with: to illustrate similarities and/or difference with two or more items. Her professional dress contrasted with the casual attire and informal demeanor of the other students.

cynic, skeptic
a disbeliever. He is cynical about the existence of ghosts.
Skeptic: a doubter. He has friends who believe in ghosts, but he is a skeptic.

differ from, differ with
Differ from:
to be unlike. His shaggy appearance differs from that of his fellow professors.
Differ with: to disagree. I beg to differ with your assessment.

disc, disk
Disc: used only in non-computer related references. I bought a new compact disc or I think I’ll buy a laserdisc player.
Disk: the thin, flat plate on which computer data is stored; not to be used as an abbreviation for diskette. I am looking for the two-megabyte disks.

discreet, discrete
prudent, circumspect. The staff members were very discreet about their raises.
Discrete: detached, separate. There are very discrete differences between the two styles of writing by the single author.

disinterested, uninterested
impartial. I am disinterested in the conflict between pro-choice and pro-life.
Uninterested: a person lacking interest. I am uninterested in the World Series.

e.g., i.e.
for example. The students will earn the money through fund raisers, e.g. bake sales.
i.e.: that is, in other words. The students were unmotivated, i.e. lazy.

each other, one another
Each other:
used when referring to only two people or beings. The squirrels looked each other over.
One another: used when the number is indefinite. The rally introduced many faculty to one another.

emigrate, immigrate
the act of leaving a country. The refugees emigrated from Haiti.
Immigrate: the act of coming into a country. The refugees immigrated into the United States.

The same rules follow for uses of emigrant and immigrant.

ensure, insure
to guarantee. Policies were followed to ensure safety.
Insure: used for references to insurance. The policy insures the student’s property.

entitled, titled
the right to do something. He was entitled to the promotion because of his years of dedication.
Titled: the title of a work. The essay was titled "The Archaeology of Oregon."

farther, further
refers to physical distance. The group walked farther than ever before.
Further: refers to an extension of time or degree. The movie lasted further into the night than expected.

fewer, less
use for references to individual items. The campus is dealing with fewer incidents of vandalism this year.
Less: use for references to bulk or quantity. The event cost less than $200 to host.

figuratively, literally
in an analogous sense, not in an exact sense. It’s freezing cold in this office.
Literally: in an exact sense, not like an analogy. The water is freezing upon impact.

fiscal, monetary
Fiscal: refers to budget matters. He is the fiscal planner for the university.
Monetary: refers to money supply. The nation is monetarily sufficient.

flair, flare
conspicuous talent. She has a flair for writing.
Flare: to blaze with sudden, bright light or burst out in anger. The fire flared up instantly or The student flared at the accusation of plagiarism.

flier, flyer
Flier: the preferred term for an aviator or handbill/poster. He was a flier during the war or The students handed out informational fliers.
Flyer: the proper name of some trains and buses. The Western Flyer will arrive at noon.

forego, forgo
to go before. The Model T was a forgoer of the modern car.
Forgo: to abstain from. I think I’ll forgo the concert tonight.

fund raising, fund-raising, fund-raiser
Fund raising (noun):
the act of raising funds. Library fund raising has been quite successful.
Fund-raising (adjective): a modifier for a noun. The fund-raising campaign was successful.
Fund-raiser: a person or event. Meet Mary Smith, our new scholarship fund-raiser. The auction was a successful fund-raiser.

gibe, jibe
to taunt or sneer. Small children are prone to gibe one another about most anything.
Jibe: to shift direction or, colloquially, to agree. The sailboat jibed east in the wind or The facts just didn’t jibe.

good, well
as an adjective, means something is as it should be or is better than average. Today has been a good day.
Well: as an adjective, means suitable, proper, healthy. The students are well behaved.
Well: as an adverb, means a satisfactory manner or skillfully. The students ski quite well.

half-mast, half-staff
flags that are flown halfway up on ships and naval stations ashore. The admiral’s death was recognized on base with flags flown at half-mast.
Half-staff: flags flown halfway up everywhere else ashore. The dean’s death was recognized on campus by flags at half-mast.

hangar, hanger
a building. They work on the plane in the hangar.
Hanger: used to hang clothes. Do we have enough clothes hangers?

imply, infer
to give unspoken, yet added meaning to words of writers and speakers. He implied the idiocy of the agreement in his comments.
Infer: to hear or read those words and find an unmentioned meaning within. She inferred from his comments that he thought the agreement was idiotic.

in, into
location. I was in the meeting.
Into: motion. I walked into the meeting.

include, comprise
introduces a series when the items that follow are only part of the total group. The price includes dinner and lodging or The committee includes faculty and staff members.
Comprise: used when the full list on individual elements is given. The committee comprises 10 faculty and staff, including instructors and administrative assistants.

incredible, incredulous
unbelievable. This is an incredible dream.
Incredulous: skeptical. Please excuse my incredulous response to your odd explanation.

it’s, its
contraction of it is or it has. It’s time for class to begin.
Its: possessive. The dog keeps chasing its tail.

lay, lie
the action word that takes a direct object. Mind if I lay down my coat?
Lie: a state of reclining along a horizontal plane. I think I’ll lie down for a moment.
Lie: an untrue statement. It is irresponsible to tell a lie.

linage, lineage
the number of lines. What is the linage on that grid?
Lineage: ancestry or descent. Their family has a royal lineage.

majority, plurality
any number more than half of a total amount. The majority of students are concerned about tuition costs.
Plurality: when there are more than two alternatives, the highest number (as long as it is not more than one-half of the total). In the 2000 presidential election, Gore received a plurality of votes.

over, more than
generally refers to spatial relationships. The car drove over the curb.
More than: something in excess of something else; used especially in references to an amount. She is more than 30 years old or General sales went up more than 50 percent.

palate, palette, pallet
the roof of the mouth. They cleansed their palates between dishes.
Palette: an artist’s paint board. He gently mixed the colors on his palette.
Pallet: a bed. They each found a pallet in the old room.

pretense, pretext
a false show, a more overt act intended to conceal personal feelings. His aloofness toward the professor is just a pretense.
Pretext: something put forward to conceal a truth. She was expelled for academic reasons, which some think is only a pretext for her abusive behavior.

principal, principle
someone or something first in rank, authority, importance or degree. He will be school principal some day.
Principle: a fundamental truth, law, doctrine or motivating force. Students are worried about the club’s principles.

raised, reared
something done to all living things, including humans. They raised chickens, cows and children on the farm.
Reared: something done only to humans. They were all born and reared in Polk County.

ravage, ravish
to wreak great destruction or devastation. The Columbus Day Storm ravaged the university’s original Grove.
Ravish: to abduct, rape or carry away with emotion. Early armies often ravished village women.

rebut, refute
to argue to the contrary. The student will rebut his opponent’s arguments today.
Refute: to succeed in an argument; almost always implies an editorial judgement by the user. The student refuted his opponent’s arguments this morning. To avoid the editorial judgement, use deny, dispute, rebut or respond to.

reign, rein
the period a ruler is on the throne. The queen’s reign extended over four decades.
Rein: the leather strap for controlling a horse, thereby creating the figurative use to mean a sense of control. He seized the reins from the committee or The students were given free rein on planning the dance.

reluctant, reticent
unwilling to act. I was reluctant to attend the forum this afternoon.
Reticent: unwilling to speak. I was reticent to discuss the issues at the forum.

rifle, riffle
to plunder or steal. He rifled through the drawers’ contents looking for the watch.
Riffle: to leaf rapidly through a book or pile of papers. The professor riffled through his book to find the page.

stanch, staunch
to check or stop the flowing of. He stanched the flow of blood quickly.
Staunch: be steadfast in loyalty or principle. She is a staunch supporter of diversity.

that, which, who, whom
and Which: refer to inanimate objects and to animals without a name. The title goes to the university that has the highest score.
Who and Whom: refer to persons and to animals with a name. She is the one who scored the final goal.

their, there, they’re
a possessive pronoun. We’re going to their house today.
There: an adverb indicating direction. We’re going over there right now.
They’re: contraction for they are. They’re going with us.

who, whom
used when someone is the subject of a sentence, clause or phrase. Who is the owner of this vehicle?
Whom: used when someone is the object of a verb or proposition. You’re going skiing with whom?

who’s, whose
contraction for who is, not used to indicate possessive. Who’s coming with us?
Whose: used to indicate possessive. Whose books are these?

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Punctuation Guide
A guide to correct usage in confusing areas of punctuation.

ampersand (&)
Use the ampersand (&) only when it is part of a company’s formal name. Baltimore & Ohio Railroad

The ampersand should not otherwise be used in place of and. This rule applies to all academic departments and divisions as well as administrative areas on campus. Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management or Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

comma (,)
The following guidelines address some of the most frequent questions regarding the use of commas.

  • In a Series
    Use commas to separate elements in a series, but do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series. The university offers advice in admissions, financial aid and student housing.
    Put a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series, however, if an integral element of the series requires the conjunction to alleviate confusion. They served toast, orange juice, hashbrowns, and ham and eggs for breakfast.
    Use a comma also before the concluding conjunction in a complex series of phrases. The main points to consider are the skill of the athletes, their stamina during training, and their proper mental attitude.
  • With Equal Adjectives
    Use commas to separate a series of adjectives equal in rank. If the commas could be replaced by the word and without changing the sense, the adjectives are equal. A dark, stormy night. A kinder, gentler nation.
    Use no comma when the last adjective before a noun is an integral element of the noun phrase, which is the equivalent of a single noun. The beautiful live wolf.
  • Introductory Clauses and Phrases
    Use a comma to separate an introductory clause or phrase from the main clause. After they moved on campus, the students had several opportunities open to them.
    The comma may be omitted after a short introductory phrase if no ambiguity would result. Today I will turn 32.
    Use the comma if its omission would slow comprehension. On North Monmouth Avenue, a crowd gathered.
  • With Conjunctions
    When a conjunction such as and, but or for links two clauses that could stand alone as separate sentences, use a comma before the conjunction in most cases. He was glad he had studied for the test, for the class needed an 80 percent average.
    As a rule of thumb, use a comma if the subject of each clause is expressly stated. He was supposed to meet his group in the university center, but he was unsure as to where.
    Do not use a comma if the subject of the two clauses is the same and is not repeated in the second clause. He was supposed to meet his group in the university but was unsure as to where.
  • Introducing Direct Quotes
    Use a comma to introduce a complete one-sentence quotation within a paragraph. The student exclaimed, "I passed the test!"
    Do not use a comma at the start of an indirect or partial quotation. She said that living on campus was "the most exciting part of my college experience."
  • Before Attribution
    Use a comma instead of a period at the end of a quote that is followed by an attribution. "Living on campus was the most exciting part of my college experience," said Jane Jones.
    Do not use a comma, however, if the quoted statements ends with a question mark or exclamation point. "Why should we study?" they asked.
  • Hometowns, Ages and Academic Years
    Use a comma to set off a person’s hometown, age or academic year when it follows their name. Jane Smith, Salem, performed the solo or Jane Smith, sophomore, performed the solo or Jane Smith, 23, performed the solo.
  • States Names When Used with City Names
    See State Names in main style and usage text.
  • Dates
    See Dates in main style and usage text.
  • Separating Similar Words
    When one word is used twice in succession, use a comma to separate them and alleviate confusion. What the solution is, is not clear.
  • Numbers
    Use a comma in figures greater than 999. Student enrollment reached a new high with 4,515 students this year.
    The major exceptions are in street addresses, broadcast frequencies, room numbers, serial numbers, telephone numbers and years. See Addresses, Call Letters, Telephone Numbers and Years in the main style and usage text for additional guidelines.
  • Placement With Quotes
    Commas always go inside quotation marks. "A tuition freeze would benefit the university in the long run," said the student representative.

colon (:)
The most frequent use of a colon is at the end of a sentence to introduce lists, tabulations, texts, etc.
Capitalize the first word after a colon only if it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence. The president promised this: The students would receive a quality education regardless of tuition cost or The news was exciting: Dean Jones had been promoted.
Lowercase the first word after a colon in all other occurrences. There are three pieces to this brochure: the mailing panel, the tables and the text.

  • Emphasis
    The colon often can be effective in lending emphasis. Only one team in the conference carries this impressive record: the Wolves.
  • Introducing Quotations
    Use a comma to introduce a direct quotation of one sentence that remains within a paragraph. Use a colon to introduce longer quotations within a paragraph and to end all paragraphs that introduce a paragraph of material.
  • Placement with Quotation Marks
    Colons go outside quotation marks unless they are part of the quotation itself.

dash (–)
Dashes are used in a variety of ways, yet should be preceded and followed by a space on either side in most cases. The only exception to this is at the beginning of a new paragraph.

To create the standard dash, strike the hyphen key twice. In many word processing programs, the two hyphens will change into a single dash when preceded and followed by any typing on the keyboard other than a punctuation mark, such as – this. Otherwise, the dash will appear as two separate hyphens, like this --.

  • Abrupt Change
    Use dashes to denote an abrupt change in thought in a sentence or an emphatic pause. We will open campus for the remainder of the day – if the weatherman is correct.
  • Series Within a Phrase
    When a phrase that otherwise would be set off by commas contains a series of words that must be separated by commas, used dashes to set of the full phrase. The university’s qualities – strong academics, active leadership and varied student opportunities – made her choose Western Oregon for her freshman year.
  • Attribution
    Use a dash before an author’s or composer’s name at the end of a quotation. "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." – John F. Kennedy.

ellipsis (…)
Use the ellipsis to indicate the deletion of one or more words in condensing quotes, texts and documents. Be especially careful to avoid deletions that would distort the original meaning.

In general, treat an ellipsis as a three-letter word, constructed with three periods and two spaces, as shown above. Often, in many word processing programs, simply typing three periods in a row will cause an automatic formatting change to an ellipsis. Put a space on either side of the ellipsis, just as if it were a real word.

  • Punctuation
    If the words that precede an ellipsis constitute a grammatically complete sentence, either in the original or in the condensation, place a period at the end of the last word before the ellipsis. Follow it with a regular space and an ellipsis. "I can’t remember when I saw you last. …Perhaps it was last year," she said.
    When the grammatical sense calls for a question mark, exclamation point, comma or colon, the proper sequence is word, punctuation mark, regular space and ellipsis. Will you be attending tomorrow? …
    When material is deleted at the end of one paragraph and at the beginning of the one that follows, place an ellipsis at both locations.
  • Quotations
    Do not use ellipsis at the beginning or end of direct quotes. Start the quote just as the first word written was the first word spoken or thought. "She cannot complete this paper by tomorrow" not "… she cannot complete this paper by tomorrow."
  • Hesitation
    An ellipsis also may be used to indicate a pause or hesitation in speech, or a thought that the speaker or writer does not complete. Substitute a dash for this purpose, however, if the context uses ellipses to indicate that words actually spoken or written have been left out.

exclamation point (!)
Use the mark to express a high degree of surprise, incredulity or other strong emotion.

  • Avoid Overuse
    Use a comma after mild interjections, and end mildly exclamatory sentences with a period. When need calls for an exclamation point, use only one point. Extra emphasis does not justify use of several points at the end.
  • Placement with Quotes
    Place the mark inside quotations marks when it is part of the quoted material. "Ho! Ho! Ho!" Santa exclaimed.
    Place the mark outside quotation marks when it is not part of the quoted material. I hated reading Dante’s "Inferno"!
  • With Other Punctuation
    Do not use a comma or a period after a exclamation point. "Halt!" he cried not "Halt!," he cried

hyphen (–)
Hyphens are joiners. Use them to avoid ambiguity or to form a single idea from two or more words.

  • Avoiding Ambiguity
    Use a hyphen whenever ambiguity would result if it were omitted. The president will speak to small-business men. Businessmen is generally one word, however saying The president will speak to small businessmen leaves the reader to wonder if the businessmen are small, or if they are men of small businesses. The hyphen joiner alleviates the ambiguity.
  • Compound Modifiers
    When two or more words express a single concept and precede a noun, use hyphens to link all the words in the compound except the adverb very and all adverbs that end in –ly. First-team all-conference honors, the blue-green sweater, the poorly written paper.
    • Many combinations that are hyphenated before a noun are not hyphenated when they occur after a noun. The best way to remember when to hyphenate is to look at placement in the sentence. Generally, compound modifiers are hyphenated before the noun and are not hyphenated when placed after the noun. He made the conference’s first team. Her sweater, a bluish green, was in the closet.
    • However, when a modifier that would be hyphenated before the noun occurs after the noun and follows a form of the verb to be, then that modifier would still be hyphenated. The school is well-known. She is good-humored. He is soft-spoken.
  • Compound Proper Nouns and Adjectives
    Use a hyphen to designate dual heritage. Italian-American, African-American, Mexican-American.
    Do not use a hyphen, however, for French Canadian and Latin American.
  • Avoid Duplicated Vowels, Tripled Consonants
    Though many words with prefixes should not be hyphenated, use hyphens to avoid duplicated vowels and tripled consonants. Anti-intellectual, pre-empt, shell-like.
  • Suspensive Hyphenation
    When using two or more compound modifiers that refer to the same noun, use the following form: The 5- and 6-year-olds were invited to the performance or The sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade teachers will be on campus Monday.

parentheses ( )
In general, parentheses interrupt the flow of a sentence and can be jarring to the reader. If there’s temptation to use them for clarification or inserts, then the sentence is becoming contorted and should be written more simply. If a sentence must contain incidental material or slight clarifications, then commas or two dashes are frequently more effective.
There are occasions, however, when parentheses are the only effective means of inserting necessary background or reference information.

  • Within Quotations
    If a quote does not contain a word that would help clarify its meaning, insert that word in parentheses. "President Jones said that they (the administration) would look into the issue immediately."
  • Punctuation
    Place a period outside the closing parenthesis if the material inside is not a sentence and the parenthetical information is added to the end of another sentence (such as this example).
    (An independent parenthetical sentence such as this example takes a period before the closing parenthesis as the sentence stands alone.)
  • Insertions in a Proper Name
    Use parentheses if a state name or similar information is inserted within a proper name. In this case, where the information is inserted in a proper name, do not follow the state abbreviation in parentheses with a comma. The Burns (Ore.) Times Herald

question mark (?)
Placement with a Quotation Marks

Marks can go inside or outside, depending on the meaning and sentence structure.

Who wrote "Gone With the Wind"? (The question is who wrote, therefore the question mark follows the quote mark.)

He asked, "How long will it take?" (The question is within the quotes, therefore the mark stays inside the quote mark.)

quotation marks (" ")

  • For Direct Quotes
    Use to surround the exact words of a speaker or writer when repeated in text. "I have no intention of failing this test," he said.
  • Running Quotations
    If quoted material from one source ends a paragraph and the next paragraph begins with quoted material from that same source, do not put an ending quote mark on the first paragraph. Do, however, put a beginning quote mark at the start of the next paragraph.

    After several weeks of practice, Coach Smith said, "this team is ready for the fiercest of competition.

    "We know our obstacles and have fought to surpass them this season."

    However, if the first paragraph ends with quoted material that does not constitute a full sentence, do put end quotes on that paragraph and start the next with beginning quotes.

    After several weeks of practice, Coach Smith said, the team is ready for "the fiercest of competition."

    "We know our obstacles and have fought to surpass them this season."

  • Irony
    Put quotation marks around a word or words used in an ironical sense. The "debate" turned into a free-for-all.
  • Unfamiliar Terms
    A word or words being introduced to readers may be placed in quotation marks on first reference. Broadcast frequencies are measured in "kilohertz."
  • Avoid Overuse with Irony or Unfamiliar Terms
    Avoid using quotation marks to simply set words off from the rest of the text. Adding quotes simply to give an added weight or pause to a word results in unnecessary punctuation. This is often done when a writer assumes the audience does not understand the word. When in doubt, trust in the knowledge of the reader to understand the meaning. More often than not, what’s assumed to be an unfamiliar term is actually familiar.
  • Avoid Unnecessary Fragments
    Do not use quotation marks to report a few ordinary words that a speaker or writer has used. The professor said he would go home to Montana during the holiday break not The professor said he would go "home to Montana" during the holiday break.
  • Partial Quotes
    When a partial quote is used, do not put quotation marks around words the speaker could not have used. She said she was horrified at their "slovenly manners" not She said she was "horrified at their slovenly manners."
  • Quotes Within Quotes
    When including a quote within a quote, alternate between double quotes and single quotes. "Patrick Henry once said, ‘Give me liberty or give me death,’" the professor explained.
  • Placement with Other Punctuation
    The period and comma always go within the quotation marks.

    The dash, semicolon, question mark and exclamation point go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only. They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence.

semicolon (;)
In general, use the semicolon to indicate a greater separation of thought and information than a comma can convey but less than the separation that a period implies.

  • To Clarify a Series
    Use semicolons to separate elements of a series when individual segments contain material that also must be set off by commas. The students were assigned to write a story using themes, characters and supports; edit the story using the computer lab, peers and self; and submit a rough draft by next Tuesday.

Note that the semicolon is used before the final and in such a series.

See the Dash entry for another method for connection that avoids using multiple commas.

  • To Link Independent Clauses
    Use a semicolon when a coordinating conjunction such as and, but or for is not present. The test was scheduled for today; it will not be ready until a week from tomorrow.

If the coordinating conjunction is present, use a semicolon before it only if extensive punctuation also is required in one or more of the individual clauses. They scheduled the conference room, ordered the catering, tested the audio-visual equipment for quality, and invited the speakers early; but even with the preparation, there were a few moments of worry.

Unless a particular literary effect is desired, however, the better approach is to break the independent clauses into separate sentences.

  • Placement With Quotes
    Place semicolons outside of quotation marks.


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