Use dashes to set off a parenthetical element that is very abrupt, that denotes a sudden break in thought, or that has commas within it. Dashes tend to emphasize the elements being set off. The em dash character is represented by a typist as two hyphens; it can also be found in the character set of most software programs. It can be helpful to remember that dashes separate; hyphens join.

  • The dean—small, old, and frail—addressed the assembly before his retirement.

The other specialized dash is the en dash. It is primarily used for inclusive dates and number sequences, as well as denoting the minus sign in grades (see grades). It is slightly longer than a hyphen but shorter than an em dash.

  • 2012–2013
  • chapters 12–14
  • pages 3–15


Spell out months and days of the week. If necessary for space, you can abbreviate Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. Use no punctuation if listing only the month and the year, but set the year off with commas if listing the day of the month as well.

  • December 4, 2011, was...
  • Oct. 24, 2012 (abbreviated for space)
  • October 2012
  • the class of '09
  • the sixties (or the 1990s—just be consistent)

degrees and majors

Capitalize the full degree title; lowercase the shorter form.

  • Bachelor of Arts degree (BA)
    bachelor's degree
    baccalaureate or baccalaureate degree
  • Master of Arts (MA)
    Master of Public Administration (but master's program in public administration)
  • doctorate in education (EdD) [descriptive, not formal title]
    Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) [formal title]

In general, do not use abbreviations for degrees after a person's name (e.g., Joel Stein, PhD), unless necessary to establish her or his credentials.

No periods in abbreviations of academic degrees.


When referring to degrees in general, lowercase the first letter of the degree and use 's. Lowercase the subject of the degree.

  • Seventy people hold master's degrees.
  • She earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics.

Note: Some degree titles do not follow this pattern (e.g., Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Public Administration).

The word degree should not follow a degree abbreviation.

  • He has a BA in history. (not He has a BA degree in history.)

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Use the full official name on first reference. Subsequent references may be in the shorter form.

  • Department of Chemistry
    the department
    chemistry department


See biased language.


Use three spaced periods to indicate an omission within a quoted phrase. To indicate an omission after a complete sentence, use four spaced periods (an actual period plus the ellipsis).

  • "Each semester, register in advance ... and pay fees by the deadline."
  • "The college name was changed to 'Chico State College' in 1935. ... In 1972, it became 'California State University, Chico.'"

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(See also URLs and email addresses.)


Emerita, in the title "professor emerita," means a female retired from the faculty but permitted to retain as an honorary title the rank of the last academic appointment held.

Emeritus in the title "professor emeritus," means a male retired from the faculty but permitted to retain as an honorary title the rank of the last academic appointment held.
See titles of people.


Choose only one type style to indicate emphasis (italics or bold with lowercase are most common) for consistency. Using various styles to indicate emphasis can be distracting (and may leave readers feeling like you're shouting at them).

  • You must meet the deadline or your registration will be canceled.
  • Avoid: You must meet the deadline or YOUR REGISTRATION WILL BE CANCELED!

Wherever possible give directions in courteous, positive terms.

  • Please turn out the lights. (not DON'T LEAVE LIGHTS ON!)

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Etc. sometimes masks an imprecise or incomplete thought. Omit when possible, but if used, avoid "and etc." since et cetera means "and the rest."

ethnic groups

See African American; Asian American; Chicano, Hispanic, Latino, Mexican American.

fall/fall semester

Lowercase references to seasons and academic terms. (See also capitalization and seasons.)

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Founders Week

Note the absence of the apostrophe. This is the attributive form, not the possessive.


Spell as one word.


When referring to a grade, use a capital letter, but no quotation marks. Use an en dash to indicate a minus sign. Use an apostrophe for plurals.

  • a B average
  • a CR/NC course
  • She earned A's and B's this semester.

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See biased language.


See Chicano, Hispanic, Latino, Mexican American.


Many compounds are hyphenated when they come before the noun, but not after it.

  • She directs their computer-assisted reference services. (but Almost all our services are computer assisted.)
  • He lives in off-campus housing. (but His home is off campus.)
  • She is a well-respected professor. (but Professor Thomas is well respected.)

A commonly used compound such as high school is left open when used to modify a noun, especially if the compound is a familiar one.

  • high school students, not high-school students
  • grade point average, not grade-point average

Use a "suspended" hyphen when a base word, a suffix, or a prefix is doing double duty.

  • second- and third-year students; self-initiated and -implemented projects
The suffix -wide is hyphenated only after a base word of three or more syllables.
  • university-wide, (but campuswide, statewide, collegewide)

Many words beginning with common prefixes are closed.

  • extracurricular, interlibrary, interdisciplinary, midyear, minicomputer, multicultural, nondegree, postdoctoral, preregistration, socioeconomic, subcommittee

For guidance on hyphenating specific words, see Webster's Instant Word Guide or Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition.

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i.e. or e.g.

These often are confused: i.e., id est, means that is; e.g., exempli gratia, means for example.
It is usually preferable to spell out the terms in text. Use abbreviations in parenthetical phrases and in tables.

  • Only the department's tenured faculty—that is, full, associate, and assistant professors—are entitled to serve on the Personnel Committee.

    The University has exchange programs with universities in many European cities (e.g., Paris, London, Florence, and Stockholm).


Internet is a proper noun, so it's capitalized.


It's is a contraction meaning "it is." Its is a possessive pronoun (hers, his, its).

  • It's a requirement that each department have its own chair.

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-ize words

Use -ize words (nouns made into verbs by adding -ize) sparingly and only if they are words found in the dictionary. Consider using substitutes:

  • agendize
    to place on the agenda
  • finalize
    sign; agree to
  • prioritize
    list; rate; rank
  • utilize


See Chicano, Hispanic, Latino, Mexican American.


Many writers prefer to use fewer when referring to items that can be counted individually, and less when referring to quantity, value, degree, or amount.

  • Fewer students failed the entrance exam.
  • Chico got less rain this year.

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It is most common to alphabetize the entries in a list, but other methods include organizing according to importance, size, cost, rarity, or position in space and time. If the method of order is not obvious, explain the order.

  • Students may earn certificates in the following areas:
    Exercise Physiology
    Forensic Identification
    Literary Editing and Publishing
  • Cast (in order of appearance):
    Shirley Niven
    Victor Juarez
    Rasheeda Ross

Use numbers or letters only when indicating a priority or sequence to the items. When items are numbered or lettered in a vertical list, follow each number or letter with a period. Otherwise, if the items in a vertical list need to be set off, use bullets. If one or more item in the list is a complete sentence, use a period at the end of each item. Otherwise, no punctuation is needed at the end of each item.

  1. Complete the Free Application for Federal Aid accurately and legibly.
  2. Send it to the processor as soon as possible after January 1.
  3. Respond promptly to requests for additional information.

Use parentheses to enclose numbers marking a division within running text.

  • You will qualify for admission if you (1) are a high school graduate, (2) meet test requirements, and (3) have completed the college preparatory subject requirements.

Make lists parallel by using the same sentence construction for each item.

The Campus Wellness Center provides tips to increase cultural wellness:
• Keep an open mind.
• Learn more about cultures that are unfamiliar to you.
• Remember the Golden Rule.

In running text, colons are often used to introduce a list, but should not be used to separate a verb from its object. This also applies to vertical
lists. (See also colon.)

  • Required courses include the following: ENGL 001, MATH 004, CMST 011.
  • Required courses include ENGL 001, MATH 004, and CMST 011.

Alternative transportation in Chico includes
• Bicycling
• Public Transit
• Walking

Alternative transportation in Chico includes the following:
• Bicycling
• Public Transit
• Walking


Use a hyphen when used as an adjective.

  • lower-division courses


See degrees and majors; also Colleges, Departments, Majors, and Committees under capitalization.

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man, mankind

Use human or humankind when referring to men and women. See biased language.

Mexican American

See Chicano, Hispanic, Latino, Mexican American.


Set as one word, no hyphen.

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Native American

This term is sometimes preferred to American Indian. When possible, use the name of a specific tribe. Use Indian (not East Indian) to refer to the people of India.


In general, non takes no hyphen when used as a prefix (nonprofit, nonresident), except when the base word is a proper noun (non-Western) or begins with an n (non-native).

Northern California/ North State

Capitalize Northern California and North State.
See capitalization.

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In nontechnical text, spell out whole numbers from one through nine; use numerals for 10 or greater.

  • Course requirements include reading nine novels.
  • There are 10 periodicals on order.

Ordinals. The general rule also applies to ordinals.

  • The center celebrated its fourth anniversary.
    This is the 10th year in a row that enrollment has grown.


Ages. Use numerals for all ages.

  • She was 9 years old.

Consistency. Numbers applicable to the same category should be treated alike within the same sentence; do not use numerals for some and spell out others.

  • There are 9 graduate students in the philosophy department, 56 in the English department, and 117 in the religious studies department.

However, spell out all numbers that begin a sentence, regardless of any inconsistency this may create.

  • One hundred ten men and 103 women will graduate this semester.

Decimals/Percents. Use numerals with decimals and percents. Use the word percent in nontechnical text. (Use the symbol % in statistical or technical text and in tables and charts.)

  • Of the sophomores, 5 percent are undeclared majors.

Fractions. Quantities consisting of both whole numbers and fractions are expressed in numerals.

  • You will need 8.5–by–11-inch paper.

Money. Use the dollar sign and numeral for whole dollar amounts of U.S. currency when under $1 million. For dollar amounts beyond thousands, use the dollar sign, numeral, and appropriate word.

  • The late registration fee is $9.
  • Submit the application with the $100 fee.
  • The grant was $14 million.

The decimal and following zeros should be omitted if all amounts in the same statement are whole dollars. Fractional amounts over one dollar are set in numerals like other decimal fractions. Whole dollar amounts are set with zeros after the decimal point when they appear in the same context with fractional amounts.

  • Fees of $150 and $175 must be paid in advance.
  • Parking decals are $63.00 for an automobile, $15.75 for a motorcycle.

Pages of a Book. Use numerals for references to pages of a book, tables, illustrations, and figures.

  • See Table 4 on page 7.

Round Numbers. Approximations used in place of exact numbers may be spelled out.

  • We get thousands of change forms each semester.
  • The population is about fifteen thousand.
    (but We recorded 72,483 grades last fall.)

Round numbers over 999,999 may be expressed in numerals followed by million, billion, etc.

  • The population exceeded 50 million.

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