Correct grammar, punctuation, and “style” may seem old-fashioned these days, but their absence in any communication from a university or other reputable and highly visible entity is frowned on, even by those who may not ordinarily pay much attention. Because RIT owes its public and its students the best—in its use of language as well as in programs, facilities, teaching, and service—RIT’s Division of Marketing and Communications provides this reference to grammatical rules, academic terminology, punctuation, etc.
The guide relies on the Associated Press Stylebook, with additional references from the Chicago Manual of Style.
In addition, when writing policy documents, individuals should be mindful that RIT’s university and administrative policies exist primarily on the web, not in print. RIT’s web standards, which can be found in the Brand Identity Manual, create a framework for proper use of language, graphics, and navigational architecture for all RIT-related websites, and RIT’s policy website conforms to these standards.
Font and Format
RIT’s web standards include recommendations on typography and fonts. Based on these recommendations, Arial has been selected as the standard font for policy documents, and therefore should be used when submitting policy documents for review and approval.
Proposals for new policies as well as revisions to existing policies should follow the standard format approved in 2010.
Numbering / Lettering Sections and Lists within University-Level Policies
For Main Section Heads:
Use Roman Numerals (I, II, III, IV….)
For First-Level Sub-Section Heads:
Use Capital Letters (A, B, C, D….)
For Second-Level Sub-Section Heads:
Use Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3, 4….)
For Third-Level Sub-Section Heads:
Use lower case letters (a, b, c, d….)
For Fourth-Level Sub-Section Heads:
Use lower case Roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv….)
For lists inside sentences:
Use Arabic numbers ( 1), 2), 3), 4)… ) to clearly separate items
For unordered lists outside sentences or at the end of a paragraph:
Use bullet points
Because policies typically apply to diverse populations across the university, authors should use clear, consistent, and concise language and terminology. Specific guidelines include:
Create short, clear, concise sentences
Avoid jargon and buzzwords
Use present tense for verbs (reinforces that the policy is “current”)
Use plural form for nouns (creates gender-neutral and concise language)
Use lists whenever it’s logical
Avoid vague pronouns
Use action verbs for procedures and lists
Use consistent language and terminology
Eliminate unnecessary content
Terminology, Grammar, Punctuation
Based on terminology and elements of style that often occur in RIT policy documents, below are rules and tips that may be of particular help:
Institute vs. university. When referencing RIT in general, the correct term is university; not Institute or University. Although historical (and many existing) RIT documents use Institute as the generic reference, it has been replaced by university, which more accurately reflects the nature and scope of RIT today. However, the use of Institute in formal titles of committees or entities within the university remains appropriate. For example:
Proposals for policies that affect all members of the university and are subject to shared-governance review and approval should be introduced first at Institute Council.
Commonly-Used Words. To achieve consistency within and across policies, policy authors should write commonly-used words as noted below:
Timeline. Timeline is preferred over time line and should be used when referring to a set of specific dates. Merriam-Webster indicates that it originated as two words, but it most usually appears as one word. For example:
Each college shall provide a tenure-review timeline to pre-tenure faculty.
Time frame. Time frame, on the other hand, should appear as two words and should be used referring to time in a general way. For example:
The leadership team has determined that the time frame for the public phase of the capital campaign will be three years.
Tenure-track, pre-tenure, post-tenure, non-tenure-track. When used in policies, faculty-related terms should follow the grammatical rule of hyphenating compound-word adjectives appearing before a noun but not hyphenating them when they appear after the word they describe. For example:
All non-tenure-track faculty are invited to the meeting.
The position discussed with the individual was non tenure track.
Website. Similar to timeline, website originated as two words, but now commonly appears as one word. For example:
To ensure substantive and editorial integrity across policies, references, in whole or in part, should be made using a hyperlink to the website of the responsible office.
Dates. Most references to dates in policies include only a month and day. When doing so, the standard is to write the name (not number) of the month followed by the date (without adding “st” or “th”). For example:
The committee sends its evaluation of the faculty member’s fitness for tenure to the dean of the college by January 30.
Positions, Titles, and Ranks. When developing or revising policies, it is often necessary to reference ranks, positions, or titles. To increase consistency in language and reduce the need to edit policies when titles change, some rules and tips follow:
Position titles and ranks should be in lower case and referenced without individuals’ names. For example:
The president shall, in all cases, make the final decision on granting tenure.
If an assistant professor is being evaluated for tenure, he/she must be simultaneously evaluated for promotion to the rank of associate professor.
A specific position or role should be referenced using its functional, department, or baseline title rather than an individual’s promotional or temporary title:
The use of senior typically indicates an individual’s promotional title, such as senior vice president or senior associate director. The appropriate reference should be the baseline title; in these cases, vice president or associate director, respectively.
The designation of assistant or associate vice president is sometimes awarded as a promotional title to directors of major functions or departments in the divisions of the university. In such cases, the promotional title is related to the individual’s standing in the division and therefore, added to, but does not replace, the functional or department title. For example, if the director of admissions is promoted to become an assistant vice president, his or her title would become assistant vice president, enrollment management and career services; director of admissions. A policy that references the position or role of director of admissions should continue to do so.
The use of interim indicates an individual’s temporary title, such as interim director or interim dean. The appropriate reference should be the baseline title; in these cases, director or dean, respectively.
Of special note is the position title, provost and vice president for academic affairs. For brevity and ease of reference in policies, this title should be written as provost. In addition, chief academic officer should not be used when referring to the position of provost.
Referencing a Group of Individuals. It is also necessary when writing policies or procedures to reference groups of individuals with similar characteristics or responsibilities. Some rules and tips for doing so follow:
Many policies reference positions that have responsibility for supervising faculty and/or staff, providing program direction, and/or managing operations and budget. Individuals in these types of positions throughout the university have a variety of titles, such as director, department chair, program chair, and manager. For brevity and ease of reference, department head can be used as an appropriate generic reference for these types of positions. For example:
Department heads in the colleges are responsible for completing performance evaluations for faculty by November 15 and for staff by February 15.
The term students is generally used to mean all students. For clarity and accuracy, policies or elements of policies that apply only, or differently, to undergraduate or graduate students should reference them explicitly as undergraduate students or graduate students. For example:
For undergraduate students, only physical education courses and cooperative work blocks may be waived because of previously completed experience. For graduate students, required courses may be waived because of previously completed academic work....
Referencing Other Policies. Individuals proposing new policies or revisions to existing policies are encouraged to include information on other related policies, but should avoid copying and pasting text when doing so. To ensure the substantive and editorial integrity of all university and administrative policies, such references, in whole or in part, should be made using a hyperlink to the website of the responsible office. For example:
Department heads and staff will use current university processes and procedures, which include 1) a system and timeline for periodic performance assessment by using agreed upon procedures and tools, 2) individual performance and/or professional development plans, 3) two-way communication opportunities between the supervisor and employee, and 4) the established staff grievance procedures (E 30.0) as the appeal process.