Print and Web Style Guidelines
Here are a few guidelines to help you avoid the common mistakes that cross our editors’ desks. The Associated Press Stylebook and American Heritage Dictionary are our standard reference tools.
Abbreviate academic degrees without periods: BS, MBA, PhD
Capitalize the names of specific degrees:
Bachelor of Science in Management
Master of Science in Finance
PhD in Accountancy
Do not capitalize degree names in informal use:
doctoral degree or doctorate
In formal use, degrees should be written as:
Bachelor of Arts
Master of Science
Use adviser in general copy; advisor when part of a professional title:
I made an appointment to see my academic adviser.
Have you met Louis Taylor, special advisor to the president?
Alumnus refers to a male graduate. The plural is alumni. Alumna refers to a female graduate. The plural is alumnae. When referring to a group of both male and female graduates, use alumni.
Use between when referring to two items; use among for more than two.
Use the ampersand (&) only if part of an official name:
Proctor & Gamble
Do not say “first annual.” An event cannot be annual until it has been held more than once.
A person writes, not authors.
No: He authored the book.
Yes: He wrote the book.
Not due to
Not prior to
buildings and facilities
Capitalize the official name of campus facilities. On second reference without a proper name, do not capitalize hall, center and building. Do not use hall, center and building interchangeably:
The Hillside Dormitory was renamed Falcone Hall.
The hall is home to 250 undergraduate students.
Business Studies major
On first reference, use Business Studies major (note that major is not capitalized). BSM is acceptable for all subsequent references.
When referring to a bachelor’s degree, the style is name, apostrophe, year of graduation: Judy Worthington ’76.
When referring to a master’s or doctoral degree, the style is name, degree, apostrophe, year of graduation: John Wellington MBA ’94.
When referring to a specific graduation year, “Class” should be capitalized:
The Class of 2000
commonwealth of Massachusetts
Though it is legally a commonwealth and not a state, commonwealth should not be capitalized.
Capitalize all words except articles, conjunctions and prepositions of three letters or fewer in the titles of books, plays, lectures, television shows and musical compositions. The first word of a title should always be capitalized.
Use quotation marks around the titles.
Course titles should be capitalized:
She registered for New Product Marketing and Development for the fall semester.
Not data base
Do not use st, th, etc. with a date: Submit applications by October 14.
Spell out months: September, not Sept.
Follow full dates with a comma: The registration deadline is April 1, 1998. If the date is expressed only as a month and year, do not separate with a comma: May 2001.
Always use the first two digits of the year in dates: 2011-2012, not 2011-12.
Avoid all figure dating, such as 6-8-10 or 6/8/10, except in informal writing. While these numbers generally mean June 8, 2010 in the United States, they mean August 6, 2010 in many other countries.
When referring to decades, use the 1920s, not the 1920’s, the ‘20s, or the ‘20’s.
Capitalize the names of academic and administrative departments:
Call the Finance Department for more information.
The Registrar’s Office is down the hall.
directions and regions
Capitalize regions of the country, but not points on the compass:
Pioneers from the East traveled west to settle new towns.
Refer to as residence halls. Do not use dorms.
Do not use the abbreviation etc. in formal copy. Use substitutes such as “and more” or “and similar topics.”
A business partnership is correctly referred to as a firm: He joined a law firm.
Do not use firm in reference to an incorporated business entity. Use “company” or “corporation” instead.
Not fund-raising or fund raising
Do not capitalize the words government, federal, city or state:
The U.S. government
The federal government
The legislature of the state
The state of Rhode Island
The city of Boston
Elkin B. McCallum Graduate School of Business or McCallum Graduate School of Business. Graduate school on second reference
Two words; do not capitalize
Two words, not one
Use gender-neutral language. In cases where pronouns are to include both genders, use the plural if appropriate:
No: The student should do his homework each evening.
Yes: Students should do their homework each evening.
Do not use he/she.
No: He/she should fill out the forms correctly.
Yes: He or she should fill out the forms correctly.
Do not use foreign students
lectures and exhibits
Capitalize the titles of lectures and exhibits and place them in quotation marks:
I will be attending the lecture “Understanding the Global Economy” on Friday.
Liberal Studies major
On first reference, use Liberal Studies major (note that major is not capitalized). LSM is acceptable for all subsequent references.
Capitalize the names of academic majors:
Two popular majors at Bentley are Finance and Marketing.
See separate entries for the LSM and BSM.
Use “more than” to modify numbers.
No: Over 300 people attended the seminar.
Yes: More than 300 people attended the seminar.
Use “over” to refer to spatial relationships:
The bird flew over the house.
Spell out “zero” through “nine.” Use figures for 10 and up, unless the number is the first word of a sentence. Exception: always use figures for percentages (2 percent, 1.5 percent, etc.)
Use the following form for ranges: $12 million to $14 million, not $12 to $14 million
Use OK, OK’d, OK’ing, OKs. Do not use okay.
Do not capitalize the names of outdoor spaces: north campus, main campus, south campus, green space, library quad
Do not capitalize earth and sun, unless used in connection with the names of other bodies in the solar system:
The earth’s atmosphere is breaking down.
The planets Venus and Earth are second and third in order from the Sun.
Capitalize but do not abbreviate to Prof. when used before a name.
Capitalize when used to designate a specific area:
Room 313 in Jennison Hall
Seasons Dining Room
Not Seasons Dining Hall
seasons of the year
Names of seasons should not be capitalized: fall semester, spring break
Use sponsored, not co-sponsored, even if more than one group organized an event.
Use the following format: 781.891.2000.
Times should be in the following format: 11:00 a.m., 3:30 p.m. Do not use 11 a.m., 11:00 AM, 11:00 am, 11:00 A.M.
Use noon and midnight, not 12:00 p.m., 12:00 noon, 12:00 a.m., 12:00 midnight.
Use 4:00 to 5:00 p.m., not 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Exception: when an event spans morning and afternoon/evening hours, include both: I will be in training from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Use “to” when indicating a time span.
No: The class is from 2:00-4:00 p.m.
Yes: The class is from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.
Do not capitalize the word “the,” even if commonly used in conjunction with a proper noun, unless it is at the start of a sentence.
No: I have an appointment at The Center for Health and Wellness.
Yes: I have an appointment at the Center for Health and Wellness.
Capitalize titles only when they precede a name; do not capitalize when they follow a name or stand alone:
Professor of History John Jones
John Jones, professor of history
There will be a speech by the president.
The word “acting” should not be capitalized when used as part of a formal title:
Have you consulted acting Director of Graduate Admission Sally Smith?
Lecturer uses the preposition in, rather than of:
Lecturer in Marketing Lisa Woods
Vice president uses the preposition for, rather than of:
He is the vice president for business and finance
Use the title Dr. only when referring to a doctor of medicine, dentistry or veterinary medicine.
Use titled, not entitled
Do not capitalize the word “university” unless it appears as part of an official title.
No: The University has seven LSM concentrations.
Yes: Bentley University has seven LSM concentrations.
The university has seven LSM concentrations.
Versus is always abbreviated. Use v. in legal writing, vs. otherwise.
One word. Do not capitalize unless at the start of the sentence.
Not work place
Capitalize the first word after a colon if it begins a complete sentence.
In a simple series, do not use a comma before and:
The fruit cart contained apples, oranges and peaches.
Use a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series if an integral element of the series requires a conjunction:
I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast.
Use a comma before a concluding conjunction in a series of phrases:
The main points to consider are whether the athletes are skilled enough to compete, whether they have the stamina to endure training, and whether they have the proper mental attitude.
Commas are not used next to colons, semicolons, dashes, exclamation points or question marks.
Do not use a comma before Jr., Sr., or a numeral following a proper name:
Nelson Rockefeller Jr.
Nelson Rockefeller II
Do not use a comma between the name of a company and the following abbreviations: Inc., Co., Corp., and LLC:
Proctor & Gamble Co.
Smith Insurance LLC
Avoid exclamation marks in almost all cases; use only to convey strong emotion or feeling.
Do not hyphenate words beginning with “non,” except those containing a proper noun or beginning with “n”:
Nonprofit, nontechnical, non-Bentley, non-native
Hyphenate part-time and full-time only when used as an adjective:
She attends Bentley full time.
She is a full-time student at Bentley.
Hyphenate on-campus only when used as an adjective:
Students live in on-campus housing.
I will live on campus.
Do not hyphenate the title vice president.
Add an apostrophe and “s” to:
Plural nouns not ending in “s (children’s)
Singular nouns ending in “s” (the hostess’s invitation)
Proper names ending in “s” (Alice Jones’s cards)
Add an apostrophe only to plural nouns ending in “s” (states’ rights)
Put them inside quotation marks if part of quoted material, outside if not:
He asked, “Have you seen the latest Batman movie?”
Who wrote the play “Uncommon Women”?
Place the period and comma within quotation marks:
“He went to the store.”
“I want to go to the game,” she said.
Place the colon and semicolon outside of quotation marks:
Tom said, “There are 15 people coming to the party”; I thought it was only 13.
“A Tale of Two Cities”: It’s my favorite book.
If clauses are long or punctuated, they are separated with semicolons; the last two clauses are sometimes separated by a comma if they are joined by a conjunction:
The kids were tired and whiny; mom was edgy; dad seemed to be bored, and even the dog was agitated.