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University Publications

Academic Terminology

Grammar and Style Guide

academic degrees Use lowercase when spelling out degrees: associate, bachelor of science, master of business administration, doctorate. John Jones has a doctorate degree in chemistry. Mary has a bachelor’s degree from Harvard. Use uppercase without periods for most abbreviated degrees: AA, AAS, BA, BS, MS, MFA, etc. (Exceptions are Ph.D., B.Tech., Ed.D., M.Arch., and some medical degrees. Note: MD no longer uses periods.) Remember, it’s associate degree, not associate’s degree, but bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, doctorate, and doctoral degree.

academic departments Capitalize only nonacademic departments. The Office of Cooperative Education and Career Services is located in the Bausch & Lomb Center. The mechanical engineering department is in Gleason Hall.

alumnus, alumni, alumna, alumnae Use alumnus (alumni in the plural) when referring to a man who has attended school. Use alumna (alumnae in the plural) for similar references to a woman. Use alumni when referring to a group of men and women.

alma mater

associate degree See academic degrees.

bachelor's degree See academic degrees.

board of trustees Always lowercase: The board of trustees will meet in June.

coeducational No hyphen.

college Capitalize when it’s part of a proper name: Dartmouth College, Kate Gleason College of Engineering, College of Liberal Arts. Names of all nine RIT colleges are spelled out on first reference. Do not refer to colleges or schools by initials on first reference. Avoid using initials on future references unless the name is long and must be used frequently in the text for clarity. When referring to two or more of RIT’s colleges in a sentence and using wording such as "The colleges of...," do not capitalize the word college. The colleges of Liberal Arts and Engineering will hold an open house next week. The College of Liberal Arts and the College of Engineering are accepting applications.

cooperative education Co-op is acceptable on second and subsequent references when referring to a student cooperative education experience.

course titles Use upper and lower case for language and specific course titles. Do not capitalize general subjects of study or areas in which degrees are earned. Ellen teaches English, German, and Spanish. He has a degree in mechanical engineering. Dr. Lewis teaches Introduction to Quality and some statistics courses.

cum laude Lowercase, and not italicized. Capitalize only to start a sentence. Cum laude--with honor; magna cum laude--with great honor; summa cum laude--with highest honor. He received a bachelor of science, cum laude.

dean’s list Lowercase in all uses: He is on the dean’s list. She is a dean’s list student.

departments See academic departments.

emeritus This word often is added to formal titles to denote that individuals who have retired retained their rank or title. When used, place emeritus after the formal title: Professor Emeritus Smith, Dean Emeritus Samuel O’Conner, or Samuel O’Conner, professor emeritus of history.

freshman See students.

grade-point average GPA is acceptable on second and subsequent references. Indicate that the average is on a 4.0 scale, as not all schools use the same scale. A perfect 4.0 average, however, should be referred to as simply that.

institute The preferred descriptive when referring to RIT is university, not institute.

intersession Use when referencing the short break or mini-term that occurs between the fall and spring semesters. [Do not use intercession--this word refers to the act of interceding (intervening or mediating) between two parties. In Christian religions, it refers to a prayer to God on behalf of others. Intersession and intercession are NOT interchangeable.]

Ivy League Refers to the following colleges only: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth University, Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University.

junior See students.

master’s degree See academic degrees.

Ph.D., Ph.D.s The preferred style is that a person holds a doctorate and the name of the individual’s area of specialty. Matthew holds a doctorate in education.

professor Never abbreviate. Lowercase before a name. Do not continue on second reference unless part of a quotation.
Statistics, taught by professor Smith, is offered in the spring semester. Smith will cover various themes in the course.

rooms Capitalize the names of specially designated rooms: 1829 Room, Alumni Room, Skalny Room. Do not capitalize if the room has only a number: The meeting will be held in room 295 of the Student Life Center.

seasons Use lowercase for spring, summer, fall, winter, and derivatives such as springtime unless part of a formal name.

semester Lowercase. See also seasons. She will start her master’s degree in the fall semester
Next semester the building will be complete.

students Use lowercase for freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, first-year student, etc. Remember, freshmen is the plural: Bill and Anne are freshmen at RIT. But the adjective is always singular. Jack is a member of the freshman class.