Editorial Style Guide

The NSU Editorial Style Guide was created to provide answers to commonly asked questions about language usage within the university community. The goal is to maintain consistency while establishing a set of standards that are intended to fit the majority of circumstances. These guidelines are not intended to be a complete resource, nor to replace the sources listed below. Following the standards set forth in these sources is not intended to restrict creativity in the production of marketing materials such as brochures, posters, banners, web, or other content written for a specific audience or to serve a specific intent.

In our daily work, the Communications and Marketing team follows standards set forth in the following widely accepted style guides:

  • The Associated Press Style Book for news releases, e-newsletters, print newsletters and other related news media;
  • Webster's Dictionary for proper spelling and grammatical usage;
  • Strunk and White for grammatical and common usages, abbreviations, punctuation, spelling and other matters of consistency and style.

We suggest that each department or college acquire access to these publications or refer to this style guide.


Abbreviations

Acronyms and Initials

Acronyms are formed when the first letters in the words of a proper name form their own capitalized word. They are popular because they are often easier to remember than the name itself.

Examples
NASA: Native American Student Association
RUSO: Regional University System of Oklahoma

Initials are the first letters of the words comprising the proper name, and are usually repeated individually.

Examples
NSGA: Northeastern Student Government Association
FBI: Federal Bureau of Investigation

On first reference, spell out the complete name and list the abbreviation in parentheses. Avoid using abbreviations and acronyms that the reader might not understand.

Example
The Northeastern Student Government Association (NSGA) offers students the opportunity to hone their leadership skills.

The exception is reference to Northeastern State University.

Example
In 1846, Northeastern State University was founded as the Cherokee National Female Seminary. The oldest building at NSU is Seminary Hall.

Two-letter abbreviations require periods, but periods should not be used for three or more letters. NSU is always written without periods.

Examples
a.m., p.m., U.S., R.N.
GRE, GPA, ACT, ROTC

Use U.S. only as an adjective and United States as a noun.

Example
To be elected to the U.S. Senate, you must be a citizen of the United States.

Ampersand

Do not use ampersand in place of the word and. It should be used only if part of an official name of a company, product, or other proper noun, or as part of an email address.

Cities and Other Geographic Names

City and other geographic names, while they may be abbreviated in speech, should be spelled out. Broken Arrow, Fort Gibson, Port of Catoosa are appropriate. The exception is the Saint in St. Louis or St. Paul.

Course Titles

A standard set of three- and four-letter department abbreviations is used with the course titles in all catalogs and class schedules. They are set in solid caps with no periods.

Course abbreviations should only be used when followed by a course number as part of a listing, and never in written prose.

Examples
I am enrolled in English 3313 this semester. To enroll in this class, check the schedule for the course that reads ENGL 3313.

Dates

Do not abbreviate March, April, May, June, or July. Abbreviate January, February, August, September, October, November, and December only when used with a specific date.

Example
NSU became a state institution on March 6, 1909. The first classes were held at Northeastern State Normal School on Sept. 14, 1909.

In writing, avoid abbreviating dates with numerals, such as 03/06/09. Use periods to separate the month, date and year for graphic design purposes only.

Degrees, certificates, and licenses

Use the following abbreviations with NSU degrees:

Examples
Bachelor of Science B.S.
Bachelor of Arts B.A.
Master of Arts M.A.
Master of Science M.S.
Master of Education M.Ed.
Master of Business Administration M.B.A.
Doctor of Optometry D.O.

Use lower case for informal references to the degree and capitalize formal degree names.
Do not capitalize the names of majors, minors, emphases, areas of concentration, or subject areas.

Example
They both earned bachelor's degrees. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and he has a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in biology.

Graduation Dates

In university publications, list the graduation date of an alumnus after the name, in parentheses, and use an apostrophe to replace the century.

Example
Harold Battenfield ('59) recently retired as an orthopedic surgeon.

When writing for general readership, confirm the individual is a graduate and indicate the year.

Example
Carrie Underwood, a 2006 NSU graduate, sang the National Anthem.

Semesters

Use lower case for generic terms, even when designating the year:

Examples
She is enrolling in classes for fall semester. Chemistry classes for the 2010 fall semester are filling quickly.

States

Names should be spelled out when used in prose, and abbreviated only where appropriate, including datelines in news articles and when referring to elected officials.

Example
Dan Boren, D-Okla., represents Oklahoma's second congressional district.

Enclose the name of a state or nation with commas when it appears with a city.

Examples
The university's newest branch campus is located in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. You are invited to tour the university's main campus in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The alumni meeting was held at a Dallas, Texas, restaurant.

Use traditional abbreviations in writing prose, and save the U.S. Postal Service two-letter abbreviations for envelopes. Note that not every state has an abbreviation:

Alaska Ky. N.Y.
Ala. La. Ohio
Ark. Mass. Okla.
Ariz. Md. Ore.
Calif. Maine Pa.
Colo. Mich. R.I.
Conn. Minn. S.C.
D.C. Mo. S.D.
Del. Miss. Tenn.
Fla. Mont. Texas
Ga. N.C. Utah
Hawaii N.D. Va.
Iowa Neb. Vt.
Idaho N.H. Wash.
Ill. N.J. Wis.
Ind. N.M. W. Va.
Kans. Nev. Wyo.

Email

Email is short for "electronic mail." Use the standard spelling of email without a dash. Email addresses should be used in the standard format: username@nsuok.edu


Names and Titles

Courtesy Titles

When writing, courtesy titles may be used, but are not necessary.

The institutional standard is to refer to individuals by their first and last name in writing other than formal documents. Where names appear in published material other than academic works, the use of Dr. is discouraged and the person is identified as holding a doctoral degree.

Dr. is not a preferred courtesy title, but should be used only as formal title in a formal document.

In instances where courtesy titles should be used, Dr., Mr., Mrs., and Ms. are abbreviated when used before a name. When choosing to use Mrs. or Ms., please be certain to use the subject's preferred title. If a courtesy title is used, then titles must be applied to all university personnel cited in the editorial copy.

When using a title to indicate the achievement of a terminal degree, choose a format that precedes the name or follows it, but not both:

Examples
Dr. John Smith or John Smith, Ph.D. President John Smith holds a doctorate degree in international affairs. Dr. John Smith, Ph.D. is redundant redundant.

Government Leaders, Officials, and Entities

Titles that should be spelled out before the name include Principal Chief, Mayor and Chancellor.

Titles such as Rep., Sen., Gov., and Rev. may also be abbreviated before a name, but should not be abbreviated if mentioned in a direct quote.

Examples
Gov. Brad Henry and Sen. Jim Wilson were greeted by Mayor Ken Purdy and several NSU student leaders as they disembarked at Tahlequah Municipal Airport. "I discussed the budgetary issues with Governor Henry and Senator Wilson," said one of the students.

Capitalize U.S. Congress and Congress when referring to both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. Use numerals when referring formally to a specific congressional district:

Examples
Dan Boren currently represents the 2nd Congressional District of Oklahoma. Many NSU students live in Oklahoma's second congressional district.

Maiden Names

On first reference, insert the maiden name in parentheses. Thereafter, refer to the individual by her maiden name. However, if she continues to use her maiden name in addition to her married name, use both on second reference as well (using a hyphen if appropriate):

Examples
Julie (Johnson) Smith returned for Homecoming activities last fall. Dr. Julie Smith and Dr. Laura Smith-Johnson greeted Mrs. Clark when she arrived on campus.

President, Vice President, Professors and Deans

When referring to the president of the university or a vice president, dean, or professor, spell out the title before the name.

Example
President Smith joined Vice President Tom Jackson for a meeting after lunch.

NSU uses for when referring to areas presided over by vice presidents and of in references to college and administrative deans.

Examples
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Vice President for Finance and Administration
Vice President for University Relations
Dean of Student Affairs
Dean of Enrollment Management
Dean of the College of Education
Dean of NSU-Muskogee

Assistant Professor and Associate Professor should not be abbreviated when listed before a name. When listed after a name, the titles should be lower case.

When referring to an individual for whom two courtesy titles would be appropriate, choose one or the other, and include the other identifying title if necessary (or refer to it later in the text):

Examples - Appropriate
President John Smith or Dr. John Smith
Dr. John Smith, president of Northeastern State University

Example - Not Appropriate
President Dr. John Smith

Director should be followed by the name of the department. The preferred style is to list the name, then follow with the title in lower case:

Example - Appropriate
Julie Smith, director of communications and marketing,

Example - Not Appropriate

Director of Communications and Marketing Julie Smith (too many capital letters is distracting to the reader)

Retired Professors

The correct reference for retired male professors is emeritus, emerita is used for a female, and the plural is emeriti.

Examples
Emeritus Professor John Smith returned to campus on Founders Day. Dr. John Smith, emeritus professor, influenced many students at NSU. Professors emeriti be involved in the dedication ceremony.


Numbers

For numbers 10 and above, use numerals. Spell out nine and below, except when referring to semester hours, ages, and percentages.

Examples
NSU offers more than 50 undergraduate degrees on three campuses. He interviewed a student who is taking 6 semester hours and spends 25 percent of his time outside class in the John Vaughan Library. Alumni with children under the age of 3 are invited to submit two photos each.


Publications

Capitalize and italicize the names of books, magazines and e-newsletters:

Examples
The university published a book about our history in 2009 entitled Roots From the Cherokees, Promises For Our Future: The Chronicle of Northeastern State University. Members of the NSU Alumni Association receive Imprints twice annually. RiverHawks Weekly is sent to all campus email addresses every day. A review of the news and activities is available monthly in Reflections: The Official Newsletter of Northeastern State University.

Thinking of the Internet as a worldwide, virtual publication will make it easier to remember that the word is always capitalized.

Example
She searched the Internet for all articles recently published about NSU.


Punctuation

Apostrophes

Use in place of letters or numbers.
Can't, don't, it's (for it is) are examples of contractions in which the apostrophe takes the place of missing letters.

Example
'90s uses an apostrophe to represent 19.

Do not use an apostrophe between the number and the s in either instance 1990s is correct; 1990's is possessive.

Examples
Fans of the 1990's musical group still buy their CDs. She was born in the 1990s and listens to '60s music.

To form a possessive, use an apostrophe followed by an s, even when the person's name ends in an s or with another sibilant (a letter that sounds like 's'). No apostrophe needed for his, hers, ours, yours, theirs.

Examples
John's car was parked in front of the Smith's house. Kansas's football team does not subscribe to Marx's ideology.

Always use an apostrophe when writing about a bachelor's degree or master's degree.

Use an apostrophe if failing to do so would cause confusion.

Examples
Mind your p's and q's. He earned 5 A's for the semester.

Do not use an apostrophe if you want to indicate the plural of an acronym or abbreviation.

Examples
She holds three Ph.D.s Her children learned their ABCs at the store that sells TVs.

Articles

Decide whether to use 'a' or 'an' before an acronym based on how it will sound to the listener's ear:

Examples
Students are encouraged to join an NSU organization. The information was retrieved from a UN website.

Commas

Do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series.

Example
Our school colors are green, white and black.

However, use a comma if not doing so would create confusion.

Examples
The class was required to read Pride and Prejudice, War and Peace, and the poems of Robert Frost before their final exam. To graduate, she must take English, and health and physical education.

Do use a comma between two proper nouns or between a year and a noun.

Examples
When she performed on campus, Carrie drew an enthusiastic crowd. In 1945, Dr. John Smith was appointed president of Northeastern State University.

Use a comma to set off age.

Example
Joe, 18, is a freshman this year.

Commas always go inside quotation marks.

Example
"I'll see you at the football game," she said.

No comma is needed between the month and year, or season and year, unless a specific date is indicated. Do use a comma when the text continues after the month and date.

Examples
The first book signing was held in November 2009. The dedication of the Sequoyah statue took place on March 6, 2009.

Do not use a comma to set off Jr., Sr., Co., Corp., or Inc.

Example
John Smith Jr. is president of the RiverHawk Corp.

Use a comma to separate an introductory clause from a main clause and before the conjunction to separate two complete clauses. It is not necessary to put a comma before every conjunction.

Examples
When Rowdy RiverHawk appeared on the football field, the crowd cheered. The first half of the show featured musical favorites from the '60s, and the performers greeted audience members in the lobby during intermission. The homecoming floats traveled north on Muskogee Avenue and parked on the walking track adjacent to the stadium before the game.

End punctuation

Typically, a period, exclamation point or question mark is used to end a sentence. Leave only one space not two before beginning the next sentence.


Telephone Numbers

The standard format for listing phone numbers uses no parentheses around the area code, followed by a space, the three-digit prefix, a dash, and four digits.

Example
918-456-5511

Do not use periods between numbers. When possible, publish direct lines instead of extensions.

Example
918-444-2880 is preferred over 918-456-5511, ext. 2880.


University and Campus Names

Our full name is Northeastern State University.

Northeastern State University should be referred to by its legislatively-approved name on first reference, and thereafter referred to as either Northeastern State or NSU (no periods).

The word university is not an abbreviation for the institution's name. When used alone, it should not be capitalized.

Previous names should only be used in the context of historical reference: Northeastern State Normal School, Northeastern State Teachers College, Northeastern State College, Northeastern Oklahoma State University.

Example
She graduated from Northeastern State Normal School in 1914.

If it is necessary to distinguish us in writing from other educational institutions with Northeastern in their name, do so by adding (Oklahoma) after our full name:
Northeastern State University (Oklahoma)

Buildings

Only abbreviate names of buildings when referring to them in the context of an address:

Examples
J 212
SCI 123
UC 221

To find out the official abbreviation of a building, refer to the campus directory.

Otherwise, building names should be spelled out in their entirety:

Example
The visitors stopped at the University Center for breakfast, progressed to the Synar Center at the Muskogee campus to attend a seminar, and were treated to a fabulous dinner in the Banquet Hall at NSUBA later that day.

Campuses

NSU has three campuses in Tahlequah, Broken Arrow and Muskogee. Northeastern State University refers to the entire institution. When referring to NSU, it is implied that the main campus in Tahlequah is either the focus or is included. There is no accepted shortened reference to the Tahlequah campus. When referring specifically to the Broken Arrow or Muskogee campuses, it is appropriate to use a single dash between the name of the university and the campus name. However, when using only the acronym, no dash is used:

Examples
NSU-Muskogee or NSUM
NSU-Broken Arrow or NSUBA

Colleges

NSU has seven colleges:

  • The College of Business and Technology (CBT)
  • The College of Education (COE)
  • The College of Extended Learning (CEL)
  • The College of Liberal Arts (CLA)
  • The Gregg Wadley College of Science and Health Professions (CSHP)
  • Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry (NSUOCO)
  • The Graduate College

Abbreviations for the colleges of Business and Technology, Education, Liberal Arts, and Science and Health Professions are sometimes used informally within the campus community (generally restricted to email correspondence). Initials should only be used in the most informal of contexts (such as emails within the university). Otherwise, the formal name of the college should be spelled out. When making an informal reference for general readers, the college should be referenced in lower case.

Example
The group of prospective students will have an opportunity to tour the education college.

The exception to this rule is NSUOCO (one of 20 optometry colleges nationwide), widely known by its acronym. The name should be spelled out on first reference and thereafter may be abbreviated.

Departments

Names of departments should be capitalized if used formally, but lower-cased if the reference is informal or incomplete, or if listed as part of an individual's title, following the name.

Examples
The Department of Social Work will host a meeting later this year. We are making plans for a meeting that the social work department will host.

Mascot and Nicknames

The "H" in RiverHawk is distinctively capitalized not to cause confusion, but in lieu of a space between River and Hawk.

Examples
The name of the NSU mascot is Rowdy RiverHawk. NSU is home of the RiverHawks. There are 10 RiverHawk athletics teams on campus.

When referring to our previous nickname, the Redmen, always capitalize the word. A single individual is appropriately referred to as a Redman.