Grammar and Style Guide
- Academic Terminology
- Corporations and Products
- Proofreader’s Marks and Editing Guidelines
- Semester Terminology
- Spelling and Usage
- Time and Numbers
A, an Use the article a before consonant sounds: a historic event, a one-year term (sounds as if it begins with a w), a united stand (sounds like you). Use the article an before vowel sounds: an energy crisis, an honorable man (the h is silent), an NBA record (sounds like it begins with an e), an 1890s celebration.
academic departments Do not capitalize in publications. John Jones is a professor in the department of chemistry.
accept, except Accept means to receive: Jack accepted the letter from Tom. Except means to exclude: Everyone except Tom joined in the discussion.
adviser Not advisor (though both spellings are correct). RIT preference is adviser.
affect, effect Affect as a verb means to influence: The game will affect the standings. The recession has affected enrollment figures. Affect as a noun is not used in everyday language. Effect as a verb means to cause or to bring about: He will effect many changes in the economy. Effect as a noun means result: The effect was overwhelming. It was a law of little effect.
African Of or pertaining to Africa, or any of its peoples or languages. Do not use the word as a synonym for black.
African-American Acceptable for an American black person of African descent. Black is also acceptable. The terms are not necessarily interchangeable. People from Caribbean nations, for example, generally refer to themselves as Caribbean-American.
all right Never alright. Hyphenate only if used colloquially as a compound modifier: He is an all-right guy.
ampersand (&) Use only when part of a company’s formal name: Procter & Gamble. The ampersand should not be used in place of and.
assure, ensure, insure Assure means to ease someone’s mind: The doctor assured him the operation would be successful. Ensure means to make sure of something: Steps were taken to ensure accuracy. Insure is used for insurance references: They were insured in the event of a flood.
awhile, a while He plans to stay awhile. He plans to stay for a while.
bad vs. badly Bad should not be used as an adverb. Unless your sense of touch has been damaged, you feel bad. Avoid the good-bad association; instead, use I feel well.
BASIC An acronym for Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, a computer programming language. Use of acronym on first reference is acceptable if it is identified as a programming language.
because, since Use because to denote a specific cause-effect relationship: He went because he was told. Since is acceptable in a causal sense when the first event in a sequence led logically to the second but was not its direct cause: They went to the game, since they had been given the tickets.
beside, besides Beside means at the side of: He stood beside the man. Besides means in addition to: Besides a bachelor’s degree, he will earn a master’s degree as well.
biannual, biennial Biannual means twice a year and is a synonym for the word semiannual. Biennial means every two years.
bimonthly Bimonthly means every other month. Semimonthy means twice a month.
biweekly Biweekly means every other week. Semiweekly means twice a week.
black Acceptable for a person of the black race. African-American is acceptable for an American black person of African descent. Do not use colored as a synonym.
black-and-white (adj.): black-and-white photography
board of trustees Always lowercase. On second reference, use the board.
Bombay The preferred name for this city in India is Mumbai.
braille The Braille Authority of North America recommends braille when referring to the code developed by Louis Braille, and Braille when referring to the inventor himself.
building Never abbreviate. Capitalize the proper names of buildings, including the word building if it is an integral part of the proper name: the Empire State Building. The words “building,” “gallery,” “auditorium,” etc., should be lowercase when referring to more than one at a time, if the term is not part of the facility’s official name, or if the entire name is not used on a second reference. Eliminate the word “Memorial” from the title of all buildings on the RIT campus for all purposes. Most buildings on the RIT campus are halls (Eastman Hall, Brown Hall, etc.).
Calcutta The preferred name for this city in India is Kolkata.
cancel, canceled, canceling, cancellation
capital, capitol Capital refers to the official city or town that is the official seat of government: Albany is the capital of New York. Also refers to wealth owned or used in a business by an individual, corporation, etc.: He needed capital to start his business. Capitol refers to the building in which the United States Congress meets in Washington, D.C., or the building in which a state legislature meets. The U.S. Capitol is in Washington, D.C. The Virginia Capitol is in Richmond.
Carlson Center for Imaging Science First reference; Carlson Center is acceptable on second reference.
center All RIT centers are capitalized: Center for Manufacturing Studies.
check-in (n., adj.), check in (v.)
checkout (n., adj.), check out (v.)
co- Retain the hyphen when forming nouns, adjectives, and verbs that indicate occupation or status: co-author, co-chairman, co-host, co-owner, co-partner, co-pilot, co-signer, co-sponsor, co-worker. Use no hyphen in other combinations: coed, coeducational, coequal, coexist, cooperate, cooperative, coordinate, coordination.
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 story for clarity.
committee Capitalize when part of a formal name.
company Use Co. or Cos. when businesses use the word at the end of their names: Eastman Kodak Co., American Broadcasting Cos.
compose, comprise Compose means to create, constitute, put together, or make up, as in the parts compose the whole. Commonly used in both the active and passive voices: She composed a song. Nine colleges compose RIT. The United States is composed of 50 states. Comprise means to consist of, contain, or to include all, as in the whole comprises the parts. Best used in the active voice, followed by a direct object: RIT comprises nine colleges. The jury comprises five men and seven women.
computer-assisted, computer-aided (when modifying a noun)
cooperative education Co-op is acceptable on second and subsequent references when referring to a student cooperative education experience.
copyright (n., v., and adjective)
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.
days of the week Capitalize them, but do not abbreviate except when needed in a tabular format: Sun, Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat (three letters, no periods).
dean See titles.
dean’s list Lowercase in all uses: He is on the dean’s list. She is a dean’s list student.
decades Use Arabic figures to indicate decades of history. Use an apostrophe to indicate numerals that are left out. Show plural by adding the letter s: the 1890s, the ’90s, the mid-1930s, the 2000s. See also years.
decision-making It was a decision-making process. The research will help with diagnostic decision-making.
degrees See academic degrees under Academic Terminology.
departments Capitalize only nonacademic departments: The Office of Admissions is located in the Bausch & Lomb Center. The mechanical engineering department is in Gleason Hall.
disinterested, uninterested Disinterested means impartial. Uninterested means that someone lacks interest.
disk Use this spelling, not disc, for computer-related references (diskette) and medical references, such as a slipped disk. Use disc for phonograph records and related terms (disc jockey), optical and laser-based devices (Blu-ray Disc, CD, DVD) and for disc brake.
distance learning Use hyphen when used as a modifier: He took distance-learning courses.
e-book, e-commerce But email; see below.
email Acceptable in all references for electronic mail. But use a hyphen with other e- terms: e-book, e-business, e-commerce. Capitalize the e and the first letter of the word following the hyphen in only two instances: when the word is used as a headline (or part of a headline), or in a name of a course title. Saunders College of Business offers Introduction to E-Commerce.
end user (n.), end-user (adj.)
enquire, enquiry The preferred words are inquire, inquiry.
ensure, insure Use ensure to mean guarantee: Steps were taken to ensure accuracy. Use insure for references to insurance: The policy insures his life.
farther, further Use farther when speaking of measurable distance: How much farther do we need to drive? Use further when speaking of general distance or progress: That could not be further from the truth.
fax (n. or v.) Acceptable as short version of facsimile or facsimile machine in all uses.
fewer, less Use fewer for individual items; things that are identifiable by number. Use less for bulk or quantity. I had less than $50 in my pocket. (An amount.) But I had fewer than 50 $1 bills in my pocket. (Individual items.)
fundraiser, fundraising One word in all cases.
Gracie’s, Grace Watson Dining Hall Gracie’s is an acceptable term for Grace Watson Dining Hall for internal publications. If the reader is unlikely to know what Gracie’s is, use full name on first reference.
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.
ground breaking Hyphenate only when used as a modifier.
Hale-Andrews Student Life Center Use full name on first reference; Student Life Center is acceptable on second reference.
hard-of-hearing (adj.) But He is hard of hearing.
hearing loss Avoid phrases such as students with hearing loss. Use instead deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
home-school (v.), home-schooled (adj.), home schooling (n.)
IM Abbreviation for instant message. Sometimes used as a verb: IM’ing, IM’d. Acceptable on second reference for instant messaging.
imply, infer Writers or speakers imply in the words they use. A listener or reader infers something from the words.
Indians American Indian or Native American is acceptable for those in the U.S. Follow the person’s preference. Where possible, be precise and use the name of the tribe: He is a Navajo commissioner. In Alaska, the indigenous groups include Aleuts, Eskimos, and Indians.
initials Use periods and no space when an individual uses initials instead of a first name: H.L. Mencken, J.K. Rowling.
Interfaith Center Also known as the Kilian J. and Caroline F. Schmitt Interfaith Center.
intersession The period between regular academic sessions. Don’t use intercession unless you mean a prayer on behalf of someone else.
irregardless A double negative. Regardless is correct.
IT Used as an acronym for information technology. Always spell out information technology on first reference. For degree programs, use abbreviation in headlines.
its, it’s Its is the possessive form of the neuter pronoun: The company lost its assets. The dog scratched its ear. It’s is a contraction for it is or it has: It’s up to you. It’s been a long time. (Tip: If it has an apostrophe, it always means it is or it has. If it has no apostrophe, it is always possessive.) There is no its’.
Java A computer programming language trademarked by Sun Microsystems Inc.
JPEG, JPG Acronyms for Joint Photographic Experts Group.
Kwanzaa A seven-day celebration based on African festivals, occurring from Dec. 26 though Jan. 1.
LAN An acronym for Local Area Network.
languages Capitalize the proper names of languages and dialects: Aramaic, Cajun, English, French, Spanish, Yiddish.
lectern A speaker stands behind a lectern. See also podium, pulpit, rostrum.
Madras The preferred name for this city in India is Chennai.
magazine names Capitalize and italicize. Lowercase the word magazine unless it is part of the publication’s formal title: Harper’s Magazine, Newsweek magazine, Time magazine. See also newspaper.
major Use when referring to academic programs in instances such as these: She is in the public policy major. The game design and development major requires co-operative education.
micro In general, do not use a hyphen: microcomputer.
mid- No hyphen unless followed by a capitalized word: midyear, mid-America.
mini- In general no hyphen: miniseries, miniskirt, minivan
modem Acceptable in all references for the acronym formed from modulator and demodulator.
multi- In general no hyphen: multimedia, multifaceted
Muslims The preferred term to describe adherents of Islam.
names Use the full name of a person on first reference, last name only on second reference: Mark Smith will attend the meeting. Smith will speak on economics. For academic departments on the RIT campus, spell out full name on first reference, and use abbreviation (if it has one) on second and subsequent references: University News Services produces both University Magazine and Athenaeum. UNS is located in Brown Hall.
nationalities Capitalize the proper names of nationalities, peoples, races, and tribes: Arab, Arabic, African, American, Caucasian, Cherokee, Chinese, Eskimo, French Canadian, Japanese, Jew, Jewish, Latin, etc.
newspaper names Place in italics and capitalize the in the newspaper name if that is the way the publication prefers to be known: The New York Times. Do not place the name in quotes: Democrat and Chronicle. Where location is needed but not part of the official name, use in parentheses: The Huntsville (Ala.) Times.
New York Use New York state (lowercase s) when a distinction must be made between the state and the city.
non- In general no hyphen except before proper nouns or awkward combinations, such as non-nuclear.
office Capitalize office when part of an agency or department’s name: Office of Part-time Enrollment Services, Office of Undergraduate Admissions. Lowercase all other uses: the office of the attorney general, the U.S. Attorney’s office, the dean’s office.
page numbers Use figures, and capitalize page when followed by a figure. When a letter is appended to the figure, capitalize it, but do not hyphenate: You can refer to Page 1 for more information. The list is on Page 10. Please see Page 20A in the contract.
percent One word. Always spell out: The teacher said only 50 percent of the class passed the exam.
podium A speaker stands on a podium. See also lectern, pulpit, rostrum.
pre This prefix usually combines to form one word: prearrange, prehistoric, prenatal, prewar. When the word that follows begins with the same vowel (e) that the prefix ends in, use a hyphen: pre-election, pre-eminent, pre-empt, pre-establish, pre-exist.
premier, premiere Premier can be an adjective meaning first in rank or importance, or a noun denoting a prime minister. Premiere is the first public performance or show of something, and can be a noun or a verb.
principal, principle Principal is a noun and adjective meaning someone or something first in rank, authority, importance, or degree. She is the school principal. He was the principal player in the trade. Principle is a noun meaning fundamental truth, law, or doctrine. They fought for the principle of self-determination.
professor Never abbreviate. Lowercase before a name: The Modern History course is taught by professor Smith.
programs Do not capitalize academic programs. Use major when referring to academic programs in instances such as these: She is in the public policy major. The game design and development major requires co-operative education.
pulpit A speaker stands in the pulpit. See also lectern, podium, rostrum.
race See nationalities.
RAM Acronym for Random Access Memory.
rarely Means seldom. Rarely ever is redundant, but rarely if ever is correct.
regions Use uppercase when referring to regions of the country, but lowercase for direction. She is from the East Coast. RIT is one of the top eastern technical universities. (“Eastern” is a direction, not a region.) RIT is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as an outstanding institution in the North for academic reputation. (Here, “North” is a part of the nation.) Drive east to find the campus.
reluctant, reticent Reluctant means unwilling to act: He is reluctant to enter the building. Reticent means unwilling to speak: The candidate’s husband is reticent.
RIT SportsZone Cable program produced at RIT Production Services.
RITZ Sports Zone, also known as RITskeller. Food area in the Student Alumni Union.
ROM Acronym for Read-Only Memory.
rostrum A speaker stands on a rostrum. See also lecturn, podium, pulpit.
SAT Refers to the Scholastic Aptitude Test; the acronym is proper for all references.
seasons Do not capitalize seasons. The fall semester begins in September.
semester Effective September 2013, RIT moved to a semester system from its old quarter system.
startup One word (n. and adj.) to describe a new business venture.
states Spell out all 50 states when they stand alone in text, and always spell out Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, and Utah. Other states should be abbreviated when accompanied by the name of a city. When used in a mailing address, use the standard postal abbreviations for all states (shown in parentheses). Postal abbreviations do not get periods.
Alabama: Ala. (AL)
Alaska: Alaska (AK)
Arizona: Ariz. (AZ)
Arkansas: Ark. (AR)
California: Calif. (CA)
Colorado: Colo. (CO)
Connecticut: Conn. (CT)
Delaware: Del. (DE)
District of Columbia: D.C. (DC)
Florida: Fla. (FL)
Georgia: Ga. (GA)
Hawaii: Hawaii (HI)
Idaho: Idaho (ID)
Illinois: Ill. (IL)
Indiana: Ind. (IN)
Iowa: Iowa (IA)
Kansas: Kan. (KS)
Kentucky: Ky. (KY)
Louisiana: La. (LA)
Maine: Maine (ME)
Maryland: Md. (MD)
Massachusetts: Mass. (MA)
Michigan: Mich. (MI)
Minnesota: Minn. (MN)
Mississippi: Miss. (MS)
Missouri: Mo. (MO)
Montana: Mont. (MT)
Nebraska: Neb. (NE)
Nevada: Nev. (NV)
New Hampshire: N.H. (NH)
New Jersey: N.J. (NJ)
New Mexico: N.M. (NM)
New York: N.Y. (NY)
North Carolina: N.C. (NC)
North Dakota: N.D. (ND)
Ohio: Ohio (OH)
Oklahoma: Okla. (OK)
Oregon: Ore., not “Oreg.” (OR)
Pennsylvania: Pa., not “Penn.” (PA)
Rhode Island: R.I. (RI)
South Carolina: S.C. (SC)
South Dakota: S.D. (SD)
Tennessee: Tenn. (TN)
Texas: Texas (TX)
Utah: Utah (UT)
Vermont: Vt. (VT)
Virginia: Va. (VA)
Washington: Wash. (WA)
West Virginia: W.Va. (WV)
Wisconsin: Wis. (WI)
Wyoming: Wyo. (WY)
streets Abbreviate streets when the specific address is given (50 W. Main St.; 55 Lomb Memorial Dr.). Do not abbreviate when no address is given (on Main Street; on Lomb Memorial Drive).
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.
SUNY On first reference, use State University of New York at _____ for all university centers that are graduate-degree-granting institutions. The biggest examples are Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, and Stony Brook. Second reference can be SUNY at _____. For all university colleges, use State University College at _____. Do not use “of New York” for university colleges. Second reference, though, can be SUNY _____. (Some, but not all, university colleges: Brockport, Cortland, Fredonia, Geneseo, New Paltz, Oneonta, Oswego, Plattsburgh, Potsdam, Purchase)
that, which Use that for essential clauses, without commas. I remember the day that we met. The report that the committee submitted was well documented. Use which for nonessential clauses, offset by commas: The team, which finished last a year ago, is in first place. The report, which was well documented, was discussed with considerable emotion. (Tip: if you can drop the clause and not lose the meaning of the sentence, use which. Otherwise use that.)
their, there, they’re Their is a possessive pronoun: They went to their house. There is an adverb indicating direction: They went there for dinner. There also is used with the force of a pronoun for impersonal constructions in which the real subject follows the verb: There is no food on the table. They’re is a contraction for they are: They’re going to dinner tonight.
time Use figures, except for noon and midnight. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes: 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3:20 p.m.
titles Use lowercase unless directly preceding the name. William W. Destler, president of RIT, will give an address. President Destler said the new building will be ready by the fall. When people have long titles, use them after the name, not before.
toward Not towards.
travel, traveled, traveling, traveler
unique Refers to something that is one of a kind. Do not refer to something as very unique or most unique.
URL Uniform Resource Locator, an Internet address.
U.S. Used as an adjective, but not as a noun, for United States.
video game Two words in all uses.
website One word, always lowercase.
who’s, whose Who’s is the contraction for who is or who has, not a possessive: Who’s there? Whose is the possessive: I do not know whose coat this is.
who, whom Who is the pronoun used for references to human beings and to animals with a name. It is grammatically the subject (never the object) of a sentence, clause, or phrase: The woman who entered the room left the window open. Who is there? Whom is used when someone is the object of a verb or preposition: The woman to whom the room was rented left the window open. Whom do you wish to see?
years Use figures, without commas: 2017. Use commas only with a month and day: Oct. 11, 2015, was a special day. Years are the lone exception to the rule against using numerals to start a sentence. When denoting class years, it is acceptable to use an apostrophe in place of the numerals denoting century: Joe Smith ’16; Joe Jones ’09. Make sure the apostrophe is facing the correct way.