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Editorial Style & Tips

OCU Style Guide

The purpose of OCU’s Style Guide is to provide consistency throughout official university communications. OCU has worked hard to create a stellar reputation, and one way we maintain the integrity of our brand is through clear, professional writing.

Please consider this your go-to reference when you are crafting news releases, articles, scripts, social media posts, newsletters, emails, ads, posters, or any communication that represents our university to the public. It is not intended to serve as a guide for academic writing. Not everyone is -- or is expected to be -- a writer by profession, so we’re here to help! Use this guide as much as you need, and feel free to submit your writing here to make sure it’s at the level you want. (Please allow 3 business/school days for a response.)

Our foundation for the guide is The Associated Press style, although we do have some intentional exceptions, which are noted here and throughout the guide. Just like all good style guides, we consider it a living document that adapts as needed. We will continually make updates, so check back often. If you’re confused about a word that isn’t here, AP’s default dictionary is Merriam-Webster.

If you have questions about the entries in this guide, or if there is an item you would like us to include, please contact the Communications and Marketing Department.

Writing Tips
Misused Words and Phrases
Punctuation Help

Style guide entries

  • Deviations from AP Style marked with *
  • OCU-specific entries marked with +

A

abbreviations and acronyms — An acronym is an abbreviation that stands for several words and is generally capitalized, i.e. NASA or FBI. Most abbreviations are not acronyms. If they are not universally recognized, spell them out on first reference without using parentheses directly after. Do not use an apostrophe for simple plurals of acronyms or abbreviations, i.e. CDs, CEOs.

  • I am an employee of Oklahoma City University. At OCU, we value top-notch communication.

academic degrees — Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, master’s, etc., but there is no possessive in the full degree name such as Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science, which should be capitalized. Either form is acceptable. Do not capitalize field of study unless it is a proper name, i.e. language or country/region. Capitalize specific degree programs in reference to the universities’ programs.

  • She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s in English. However, she has a Master of Arts in Communication.
  • The new Game Design and Animation degree program is exciting!

academic calendar — winter break, fall break, spring break, Thanksgiving break

addresses — Use the abbreviations Ave., Blvd., and St. only with a numbered address. Spell them out and capitalize when part of a formal street name without a number.

  • Oklahoma City University’s main address is 2501 N. Blackwelder Ave. Its administrative offices are located on Blackwelder Avenue.

*+advisor — Not adviser

afterward — Not afterwards

ages — Always use figures for ages. See the numerals entry. Note: Use age reference only when necessary for meaning.

  • She is 8 years old. The law is 6 years old; the 6-year-old law is in review.

all right — Not alright

a lot, alot, allot — Alot is not a word. A lot means a large number. Allot means to parcel out.

a.m., p.m. — Lowercase with periods. See the times entry.

ampersand (&) — Use the ampersand when it is part of a department’s or group’s formal name or a composition title. Otherwise, do not use the ampersand in place of and. It is acceptable in an acronym.

  • example

amid — Not amidst

B

because — Use because to denote a specific cause-effect relationship. Do not start a sentence with “because” unless it is part of a dependent clause. (Hint: There should be a comma if you’re using it correctly at the beginning of the sentence, but do not put a comma after it.)

  • Because we care about the university’s reputation, we are making a helpful style guide. NOT a correct sentence: Because we care about the university’s reputation.
  • We are making a helpful style guide because we care about the university’s reputation.

biannual, biennial — Biannual means twice a year and is a synonym for the word semiannual. Biennial means every two years. (No hyphens)

bimonthly, biweekly — Bimonthly means every other month; biweekly means every other week. Semimonthly is twice a month; semiweekly is twice a week. (No hyphens)

board of directors, board of trustees — Lowercase in all references.

broadcast — The past tense also is broadcast, not broadcasted.

building — Never abbreviate. Capitalize the proper names of buildings, including the words “Building” or “Center” if it is an integral part of a proper name. See Appendix for list of OCU’s buildings and departments.

baby boomer — Lowercase, no hyphen. backward — Not backwards

C

campuswide — one word

cancel, canceled, canceling — Use one “l,” but there are two in cancellation.

cannot — one word

capitalization — Use lower case for headlines, subheads and presentation titles. In general, avoid unnecessary capitalization in writing. Many specific capitalization entries are listed throughout the style guide.

capital — The city where a seat of government is located; in financial terms, capital describes money, equipment or property used in a business by a person or corporation.

  • Oklahoma City is the capital of Oklahoma.

capitol — The building in which a state legislature or U.S. Congress meets. Capitalize if referring to the building in Washington, D.C., or state capitols.

  • Oklahoma City University is located close to the Oklahoma State Capitol.

cellphone — One word. Also, smartphone is one word.

cents — Spell out the word cents and lowercase, using numerals for amounts less than a dollar. Use the $ sign and decimal system for larger amounts.

  • 5 cents, $1.23 Use the $ sign and decimal system for larger amounts.

CEO — Acceptable on first reference as a title before a name or as a stand-alone abbreviation for chief executive officer.

chairperson — Do not use chairwoman or chairman unless it is the formal title for an office or specifically noted by the titled person.

citizen, resident, national, native — A citizen is a person who has acquired the full civil rights of a nation either by birth or naturalization. To avoid confusion, use residents when referring to people living in a city or state. National is applied to a person residing away from the nation of which he or she is a citizen. Native is the term denoting that an individual was born in a given location.

citywide — One word

classes — Lowercase if referencing generic classes, i.e. intro to biology. Capitalize if referencing specific classes, i.e. Movement in Shakespearean Combat.

click here — Avoid using when providing links to access in a communication. See links entry for more.

coinsurance, copay — Both are one word with no hyphen.

collective nouns — Nouns that denote a unit take singular verbs and pronouns: class, committee, crowd, family, group, staff, team, etc. When discussing individuals, it’s best to use “members” to distinguish.

  • Our staff is excited to read this style guide. Some staff members are working in the office today.

college — Capitalize when part of a formal name. Lowercase when not part of a formal name.

  • Did you go to college at OCU? I graduated from the Petree College of Arts and Sciences.

company — Abbreviate as Co. or Cos. when used with a formal name, i.e. Ford Motor Co. Spell out and do not capitalize when used alone or on second reference.

  • The company is based out of Oklahoma City.

company names — Consult the company. Do not use a comma before Inc. or Ltd. Follow the spelling and capitalization preferred by the company such as iMac, eBay, but capitalize the first letter if it begins a sentence. See corporation entry.

companywide — Use as one word.

compliment, complement — Compliment is a noun or a verb that expresses praise or courtesy. Complement is a noun or a verb denoting completeness or the process of supplementing something. Complimentary also refers to something given without charge.

  • We appreciate any compliments. The inside pages of Focus magazine complement the cover.
  • Complimentary food is the best food. He was complimentary about the report. The magazine has complementary designs.

*composition titles — Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters; capitalize an article (a, an, the) or words of fewer than four letters only if it is the first or last word in a title. Put quotation marks around the names of all works of composition. Do not use quotations for media such as blogs, newspapers, and magazines, which are capitalized without italics.

  • The Oklahoman and the university’s Nova blog do not need extra punctuation. His favorite book is “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.”

compound modifiers (adjectives) — A compound modifier includes two or more words that express a single concept. When a compound modifier precedes a noun, use hyphens to link words in the compound except adverbs that end in -ly.

  • OCU has many part-time employees. Example of -ly adverb here.

comprise, compose — Comprise is always used in the active tense. Use compose for the passive tense. Exceptions include using “compose” to refer to compositions.

  • OCU is composed of several departments and schools. These groups comprise OCU’s community.
  • She is hoping to compose a new choral piece.

continual, continuous, continued — Continual means a steady repetition, over and over again. Ex: The United Way campaign has been a continual success in all of Enable’s locations. Continuous means uninterrupted, steady, unbroken. Continued may be used in either form.

  • The United Way campaign has been a continual success each time OCU has participated. OCU has been continuously dedicated to our community.

corporation — Abbreviate corporation as Corp. when a company or government agency uses the word at the end of its name. Spell out Corporation when it occurs elsewhere in a name. Spell out and lowercase when the word stands alone. Sonic Corp. The corporation is in charge of regulation.

D

dangling modifiers — Avoid modifiers that do not refer clearly and logically to some word in the sentence.

  • Incorrect: Equipped with new and updated computers, jobs are easier to do.
  • Correct: Equipped with new and updated computers, employees can better perform their jobs.

data — The word takes singular verbs and pronouns when writing for general audiences and in data journalism contexts.

  • The data is sound.

dates/months — When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate months that are six letters or longer. Spell out all months when using without a date, alone or with just the year. When a phrase lists only a month and a year, do not separate the year with a comma, but when a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with commas. If using a day with a date but without the year, set off with a comma. Do not use “th,” “st,” or “rd” in dates.

  • April 22, Feb. 14, January 2021
  • When OCU began Jan. 1, 1904, it was called Epworth University. The January 1904 open date came quickly for those planning it.
  • David sent me an email on Tuesday, Sept. 12, about our new style guide.

daylight saving time — Not capitalized

department/division — Capitalize only on first reference of a formal name. See appendix for full OCU department list.

  • The department staff wants to capitalize its name.

directions and regions — Do not capitalize a section of a state or city, i.e. western Oklahoma. However, capitalize these words when they designate regions in the United States and abroad or refer to widely known sections.

  • No one seems to agree if Oklahoma is in the South or Midwest. He has a Northern accent.

differ from, differ with, different — To differ from means to be unlike. To differ with means to disagree. The word different takes the preposition from, not than.

  • I am different from my coworkers because I differ with their opinions on cilantro. I differ from them in that regard.

double-click — Always hyphenate.

E

email — Lowercase, unless used at the beginning of a sentence. While no hyphen is needed for email, use a hyphen with other e- terms: e-book, e-business, e-commerce. Exceptions include esports, which is lowercase.

esports -- OCU’s esports team is called Nova, the OCU Esports team; OCU Esports Arena

earth — Capitalize when used as the proper name of the planet; lowercase for other uses.

  • The space shuttle returned to Earth. He hopes to move heaven and earth.

every day, everyday — Two words when used as an adverb-noun combination; one word as an adjective.

  • He works every day but Friday. It is the everyday people who deserve the recognition.

every one, everyone — Two words when it means each individual item. One word when used as a pronoun meaning all persons. (Hint: Use as two words if “every” could be replaced with “each.”) Everyone takes singular verbs and pronouns, but rewriting is preferred in place of needing to use “his or her.” Every one of the T-shirts had Starsky on it. Everyone has a T-shirt now.

F

farther, further — Farther refers to physical distance; further refers to an extension of time or degree.

  • He can throw a football farther than anyone I know. We need to look into this matter further.

fewer, less — In general, use fewer for number and less for bulk or quantity. (Hint: If you can count it, use fewer.)

  • The meeting had fewer presentations and cost less money than the last one.

Fiscal year — FY is acceptable in headlines or other informal references for fiscal year. However, the FY precedes the number.

  • Our enrollment numbers are higher in FY21 than anticipated.

flyer — Flyer is preferred in all uses.

+Focus -- The alumni publication produced by OCU. If magazine is used after, do not capitalize it.

forecast — Use forecast also for the past tense, not forecasted.

full time, full-time — Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier.

  • She worked a full-time job and attended school full time.

fundraiser, fundraising — One word in all cases.

G

game — Capitalize only when referring to a game in a playoff round or championship series.

  • The OCU Stars will play the _____ in Game 1 in the first round of the conference playoffs.

good, well — Good is an adjective that means something is as it should be or better than average. When used as an adjective, well means suitable, proper, healthy. When used as an adverb, well means in a satisfactory manner or skillfully. Good should not be used as an adverb. It does not lose its status as an adjective in a sentence such as “I feel good.” Such a statement is the equivalent of saying I am in good health. “I feel well,” however, could be interpreted as meaning that your sense of touch was good.

+grade-point average — GPA is acceptable in all uses.

H

headers/headlines — Capitalize only the first word and proper nouns in a headline. The exception is the first word after a colon is always capitalized in headlines. It is acceptable to use numbers, the percent sign and widely known abbreviations in headlines. In general, avoid the articles a, an and the in headlines. When needed, use single quote marks rather than double quote marks. An exception can be made for graphic design pieces, in which creative license can be taken for typographic reasons. For guidelines on formatting PowerPoint headers, refer to brand guideline page.

*healthcare — One word, i.e. (insert OCU degrees). (Exception for Family HealthCare Clinic) homepage — One word

I

inbox — One word

input — Preferred as a noun. Do not use as a verb in describing the introduction of data into a computer.

  • We value your input.
  • Incorrect: She input the data.
  • More incorrect: She inputted the data.

insure, ensure — Use ensure to mean guarantee. Use insure only for references to insurance.

internet — Lowercase

interdepartment, interoffice — One word

invitations — Refer to entries on times and dates for formatting guidelines. When inviting a public audience, public is a singular noun.

  • The general public is invited to attend this free event.

irregardless — Do not use; it is a double negative. The proper term is regardless. (Hint: You might find irregardless in some dictionaries, but it is not consistent with AP Style.)

J

judgment — Not judgement

L

legislative titles — Abbreviate most titles such as Rep., Sen. or Gov. before the name in regular text. Spell out and capitalize these titles before a name if used in a direct quotation. Spell out and lowercase representative, senator or governor when the word stands alone in other uses. Spell out president in all references and capitalize when using as a title.

  • David Holt, OKC mayor, graduated from OCU.

lectern, podium — A speaker or professor stands behind a lectern and on a podium.

*LGBTQ+ — Acceptable in all uses to mean lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning. The + denotes inclusivity of all other gender and sexual minorities.

links — When sending digital communications, hyperlink text using key words.

  • Contact our department. Incorrect: Click here to contact our department.

login/log in, logon/log on, logoff/log off — Use one word as a noun and two words in verb form. I log in to BlueLink each day. My computer login is doejane.

M

+majors — Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, a master’s, etc., but there is no possessive in Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science. Associate degree does not have possession (no apostrophe). Do not capitalize a student’s area of study unless preceded by the degree type.

  • John Snow, a psychology major, needs to complete his coursework before he can obtain a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. When he’s finished, he’ll have a bachelor’s degree.

media — Plural

  • The news media are featuring OCU’s Christmas Vespers.

midnight — The term refers to the day that is ending, not the one that is beginning. Do not put a 12 in front of midnight; always use in place of 12 a.m. See times entry.

millennial — Lowercase.

million, billion — Use figures with million or billion in all except casual uses. When decimals are used, do not go beyond two places.

*more than vs. over — Preferred use of over is limited to spatial relationships.

  • The sunsets over campus are quite beautiful. We have more than 10 beautiful sunsets a month.

N

names — Use first and last name of a person on first reference and last name only on second reference. When it is necessary to distinguish between two people with the same last name, use the first and last name.

nationwide — One word

No. — Abbreviation of number in conjunction with a figure.

  • OCU is the No. 1 university.

noon — Use when referring to 12 in the afternoon. See times entry.

Nova — An online publication of OCU. Do not capitalize blog when following Nova.

numerals — For primary uses, spell out whole numbers below 10, use figures for 10 and above. Use figures for ages, dimensions, rankings, weights, and phone numbers. When large numbers must be spelled out, such as at the beginning of a sentence, use a hyphen to connect a word ending in -y to another word; do not use commas between other separate words that are part of one number, i.e. twenty-one; one thousand one hundred and forty-seven. (Tip: It’s best to try to rewrite the sentence than to have a numeral start the sentence.) Exceptions include calendar years, which can start a sentence as a numeral.

  • 2020 certainly was an interesting year.

O

ocean — Lowercase when standing alone. Capitalize when referring to the five oceans. Ex: Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean.

+OCU School of Law — Or OCU Law. Law is capitalized.

off of — The of is unnecessary.

  • He fell off the curb. Not: He fell off of the curb. Oklahoma City University -- OCU on second reference. Never use OKCU.

on — Do not use on before a date or day of the week when its absence would not lead to confusion. Use on to avoid an awkward juxtaposition of a date and a proper name. (Hint: Say it out loud. If it sounds weird, it’s probably incorrect.)

  • The meeting will be held Monday. We attended a meeting in Texas on Friday. Incorrect: We attended a meeting in Texas Friday. online — One word in all cases when referring to the computer connection term.
  • on-site, off-site — Both are hyphenated in all uses.

open enrollment – The timeframe when employees enroll in their health and retirement benefits. Lowercase in all uses.

*Oxford comma — OCU prefers the use of the Oxford comma in all instances to avoid ambiguity. This term refers to the comma used before the last entry of a simple series.

  • I enjoy cooking, my family, and my best friend. Not: I enjoy cooking, my family and my best friend. (This could mean you’re speaking to your family and best friend, which is not the same as saying, “I enjoy my family and best friend.”)

P

part time, part-time — Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier.

  • She is a part-time employee and works part time.

percent — Use the symbol (%) instead of spelling out in text.

+Petree College of Arts and Sciences — No ampersand (&)

+photo credit — No period needed at the end. Generally italicized.

planning — Leave out future when referring to planning or plans. It is redundant.

prefixes — Generally, do not hyphenate when using a prefix with a word starting with a consonant, i.e. replay, prepay. Except for the words cooperate and coordinate as well as words that have double “e”s, use a hyphen if the prefix ends in a vowel and the following word begins with the same vowel. (Hint: When in doubt, Merriam-Webster it out.)

  • We need to reevaluate the complexity of some grammar rules.

president — In general, capitalize formal titles used directly before a person’s name. Lowercase and spell out titles when they are not used with a person’s name or are set off by commas after a person’s name, i.e. President Kenneth Evans vs. Kenneth Evans, president.

  • President Kenneth Evans spoke to the class, and the president mentioned her love for OCU.

preventive — Not preventative

professional designations — Capitalize when used as either an abbreviation or spelled out. John Smith, CPA; John Smith is a Certified Public Accountant.

Q

+Quad — center yard area in the middle of the main OCU campus. Capitalize.

R

rational, rationale — Rational is an adjective meaning to have or exercise the ability to reason; of sound mind or sane. Rationale is a noun meaning the basis or fundamental reason for something.

S

scan/skim/scam — To scan is to examine carefully. To skim is to glance over quickly. To scam is to take advantage of someone.

screen saver — Two words

+seasons — Lowercase spring, summer, fall and winter unless it is part of a formal name, i.e. the Winter Olympics. Lowercase spring, fall semesters but capitalize semesters with years, i.e. Fall 2021.

self — Always hyphenate when used at the beginning of a conjoined word, i.e. self-assured, self-disciplined, self-defense.

+semesters -- Lowercase spring, fall semesters but capitalize semesters with years, i.e. Fall 2021. Wintersession, Maymester are capitalized.

semiannual — Means twice a year and is a synonym for biannual. Do not confuse with biennial, which means every two years. See biannual, biweekly, bimonthly entry.

+servant-leader, servant-leadership — Hyphenate in all uses.

+service-learning — Hyphenate in all uses.

sign up, sign-up — Hyphenate as a noun and adjective but use two words in verb form.

  • Have you filled out the sign-up yet? Everyone needs to sign up on the sign-up sheet.

states and cities — Spell out the names of the 50 U.S. states, whether they stand alone or are used in conjunction with a city. Avoid using postal codes except when included in a postal address. Place a comma between the city and state, then add another comma after the state name. The following major cities do not require their state to follow their name: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle. If it is understood that your audience is in the same state as you, you do not need to include it when referencing cities within your state.

+student-athlete — Hyphenate in all uses. stylebook, style guide — One word when referring to the AP Stylebook and stylebooks in general and two words when referring to the OCU Style Guide or other style guides.

T

telephone numbers — Use hyphens to separate parts of the number. Do not use parentheses for the area code, and do not use the number 1 to precede the area code, i.e. 405-269-0000. If an extension is needed, use a comma to separate it from the main number, i.e. 212-621-1500, ext. 2.

three-dimensional — 3D is preferred.

times — Use figures and a colon to separate hours from minutes and a.m. or p.m. following the time to determine morning or evening. Always use lowercase letters and periods in between a.m. and p.m. and do not use :00 if a time is at the top of the hour. When listing the time and day or date of an event, the time goes first. Use a dash when separating times within the same morning (a.m.) or evening (p.m.) timeframe. Separate with “to” when a timeframe extends from a.m. to p.m.

  • The meeting began at 9 a.m. and ended at 10:45 a.m. It ran from 9-10:45 a.m., which was much shorter than the meeting that lasted from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The meeting will be at 9 a.m. Dec. 10.

+time zones — To avoid confusion between standard time and daylight time, simply refer to the particular zone: Eastern time, Central time, Pacific time. Note that time is lowercase. OCU default is Central time if time zone is not specified.

titles — In general, capitalize formal titles used directly before a person’s name. Lowercase and spell out titles when they are not used with a person’s name or are set off by commas after a person’s name, i.e. President Martha Burger vs. Martha Burger, president. In general, a title longer than four words should follow the name.

  • Kevin Windholz, vice president for Enrollment Management and University Communications, has a title longer than four words.

toward — Not towards T-shirt — Capitalize the T and hyphenate.

U

The United Methodist Church — Capitalize The before the name.

United States — Use periods in the abbreviation U.S. The U.S. abbreviation is acceptable in all uses as a noun or adjective for United States.

*underway — One word in all uses

user friendly — Hyphenate as a compound modifier, i.e. the user-friendly OCU Style Guide. Do not hyphenate as an adjective, i.e. the OCU Style Guide is user friendly. (Hint: Refer to Writing Tips section for rules.)

V

voicemail — One word. Refers to a message or category of messages left after an unanswered call.

  • I’m going to check my voicemail. I have 37 unheard voicemails.

voice message — Two words. Refers to an audio message. (Hint: A voicemail is a voice message, but not every voice message is a voicemail.)

W

website — Lowercase, one word. Also, webcam, webcast and webmaster. Exception: web browser.

webpage — Lowercase, one word. Also, homepage, subpage.

+well-being — Hyphenate. Wellness is preferred to well-being.

wide-, -wide — Usually hyphenated when used at the beginning of a word but no hyphen at the end. Exceptions include widespread.

  • wide-eyed, wide-angle; schoolwide; campuswide; universitywide; officewide; nationwide.

whether — Just use whether, not whether or not.

workday, workplace, workweek — All are one word.

Y

y’all — Best not to use unless needing to quote someone directly only when absolutely necessary to the story or speaking very informally. Apostrophe is located between y and a as it is used in place of the removed “ou.”

year-end — Hyphenate when used as an adjective but not as a noun, i.e. “year-end giving” vs. “giving at year end.”

years — Use figures without commas unless using with a full date. Use an s without an apostrophe to indicate spans of decades or centuries, but use an apostrophe before a date if leaving off the century, i.e. The 1970s; the ‘70s.

  • He was born in 1975. He was born on Aug. 24, 1975, in Texas.

Helpful Resources

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

Grammarly

AP Stylebook (Hint: Stay in the know about updates to AP Style by subscribing to its newsletter.)

Purdue Online Writing Lab