Style Guidelines

Bentley Style Guide

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 the university's standard reference tools.

Bentley-specific usage

  • When referring to a member of Bentley senior management, use vice president for:

vice president for business and finance


vice president of business and finance

Capitalize and spell out formal titles such as "professor" and "chancellor" when they precede a name; use lowercase when titles follow a name in running text. 

Professor of History John Jones retires next year.


John Jones, professor of history, retires next year.



  • "Lecturer" uses the preposition in rather than of:


    Lecturer in Marketing Franz Ferdinand


  • Lowercase "acting" as part of a formal title:

Have you consulted acting Director of Graduate Admission Sally Smith?

  • Use the title "Dr." only when referring to a doctor of medicine, dentistry or veterinary medicine. To denote a doctorate, use PhD, MEd or other applicable abbreviations after the name in catalogue listings, brochure copy, business cards and other instances.
  • Capitalize the names of academic and administrative departments:

John Jones directs the Alumni Relations Department.

Call the History Department for information.

The Registrar's Office is down that hall.

  • Capitalize the official name of campus facilities. On second reference without a proper name, lowercase hall, center and building:

The Hillside Dormitory was renamed Falcone Hall. The hall is home to 250 undergraduate students.

  • Capitalize the words "university" or "library" when they are part of a proper name, but not when they appear alone: 

Bentley University is sponsoring an event.

The university is sponsoring an event.

Bentley Library (library on second reference)

  • Capitalize the names of academic majors, except in a title following a name:

Professor of Accountancy Jon Dough spoke to the class.

Jon Dough, professor of accountancy, spoke to the class.

Two popular majors at Bentley University are Accounting and Marketing.

  • Do not capitalize the names of outdoor areas: north campus, main campus, south campus, green space, library quad
  • Use the following proper names for academic divisions:

    Undergraduate College

    Elkin B. McCallum Graduate School of Business or McCallum Graduate School of Business (graduate school on second reference)

  • Capitalize names of specific degrees, but use lowercase for generic terms; abbreviate degrees without periods: 

    bachelor’s degree but Bachelor of Science (BS) in Management

    master’s and bachelor’s degrees

    Master of Science in Finance (MSF)

    PhD in Accountancy

  • When referring to bachelor's degrees, the style is name, apostrophe, year of graduation: Judy Worthington '76. For master's degrees, please use name, degree, apostrophe, year of graduation: John Wellington MBA '94 
  •  Hyphenate “on campus” only when the term appears as an adjective:

    Students live in on-campus housing.


    I will live on campus.

  • Use the following spellings for consistency in Bentley copy:

adviser, not advisor

audiovisual, not audio-visual

catalogue, not catalog

course load

course work


email, not e-mail

fundraising (not fund-raising or fund raising)

nonprofit, nontechnical

online, not on-line


syllabus, syllabuses

theater, not theatre

titled, not entitled


word processing


work force

General usage

  • Avoid the passive voice. Your writing will be clearer and livelier if your subject is performing an action rather than having an action being done to it:

The House approved the bill.


The bill was approved by the House.

Avoid using "has been" in copywriting:

She was elected to the highest office in the state.

rather than

She has been elected to the highest office in the state.

  • Use gender-neutral language. In cases where pronouns are to include both genders, use the plural if appropriate:

Students should do their homework each evening.

rather than

The student should do his homework each evening.

  • Do not use he/she:

He or she should fill out the forms correctly.


He/she should fill out the forms correctly.

  • Use afterward, not afterwards

forward, not forwards

toward, not towards

before, not prior to

because, not due to

amid, not amidst

use, not utilize

more important, not more importantly

  • Use between when referring to two items; use among for more than two.
  • Use OK, OK'd, OK'ing, OKs. Do not use okay.
  • Use international students, not foreign students.
  • Health care is two words.
  • Do not say "first annual." An event cannot be annual until it has been held more than once.
  • Use "sponsored" (not co-sponsored) even if more than one group organized an event. 
  • A person writes, not authors:

He wrote the book, not He authored the book.

She co-wrote the article not She co-authored the article.

  • A business partnership is correctly referred to as a firm, e.g., He joined a law firm.
  • Do not use firm in references to an incorporated business entity. Use "the company" or "the corporation" instead.
  • Rule for "that" and "which":

"that" introduces a limited or defining clause: The river that flows west of Manhattan is the Hudson.

"which" introduces a parenthetical or nondefining clause: The Hudson River, which flows west of Manhattan, is muddy.

  • Rule for "more than" and "over":

use "more than" to modify numbers:

More than 300 people attended the seminars


Over 300 people attended the seminars.


When in doubt, spell the word out.

  • Do not use the abbreviation "etc." in formal copy. Use substitutes such as "and more" or "and similar topics."
  • Abbreviate academic degrees without periods: BS, MS, PhD
  • Do not abbreviate "assistant," "associate," "president" or "professor," except in tabular listings.
  • Use the ampersand (&) only if part of a company's official name.
  • Versus is always abbreviated. Use v. in legal writing, vs. otherwise.
  • Spell out months: September, not Sept.
  • The words "company," "corporation," "incorporated" and "limited" at the end of company names are commonly abbreviated, except in formal writing. There is no comma before the abbreviation:

Procter & Gamble Co. but the Corporation for Public Broadcasting



  • Permanent compound adjectives are usually written as they appear in the dictionary even when they follow the noun they modify:

... for reasons that are well-known ...
... a plan we regarded as half-baked ...

  • Rule for well rounded, well-rounded:

Well rounded is a proper balance — The program in arts and sciences is well rounded.
Well-rounded is an adjective — The program produced well-rounded students.

  • Hyphenate "part time" and "full time" as adjectives, but not as adverbs:

He is a part-time instructor in the Computer Information Systems Department.
He works full time as the music director.




When in doubt, do not capitalize.

Do not capitalize:

  • seasons of the year:

They visited each spring and took courses during the fall semester.

  • 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.

  • commonwealth of Massachusetts. Though is it legally a commonwealth and not a state, commonwealth should not be capitalized.
  • Avoid capitalizing 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

  • Titles of seminars, courses, and such should never be in all caps. All caps is only appropriate for acronyms and trademark names (i.e., TIAA/CREF, VISA).


DO capitalize:

  • the names of academic and administrative offices and departments:

Mary Morse directs the Purchasing Department.

Call the Accountancy Department for information.

The Financial Assistance Office is down that hall.

  • the official name of campus facilities. On second reference without a proper name, lowercase hall, center and building. Do not use hall, center and building interchangeably:

The Hillside Dormitory was recently renamed as Falcone Hall. The hall is home to 250 undergraduate students.

  • the word "room" when used to designate a specific area:

Room 313 in Jennison Hall

  • formal occupational and business titles when used before the name; do not capitalize titles when they follow the name or denote a generic occupational description:

President Jack Sprat

Jack Sprat, president

  • the titles of exhibits and lectures, and put them in quotes
  • the titles of courses

She registered for New Product Marketing and Development for the fall semester.

  • the names of computer services and databases:

America Online

World Wide Web (abbreviated WWW)


Microsoft Word



Pascal or PASCAL


Internet or internet


web address (put addresses in parentheses)

  • 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.
  • names of all races and nationalities, such as Hispanic, Latino, Caucasian, African American, Irish and Asian. Lowercase black and white.
  • regions of the country, but not the points on a compass: Pioneers from the East traveled west to settle new towns.

Numbers, times and dates

  • 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 percents: 2 percent, 1.5 percent, etc.
  • Use 11:00 a.m. not 11 a.m., 11:00 AM, 11:00am, 11:00 A.M.
  • Use noon and midnight not 12:00 p.m., 12:00 noon, 12:00 a.m., 12:00 midnight.
  • Use 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., not 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • When referring to decades, use the 1920s not the 1920’s, the ’20s, the ’20’s, or the Twenties but use the Roaring '20s.
  • Always use the first two digits of the year in dates: 1986-1987 not 1986-87
  • Avoid all-figure dating, such as 6-8-97 or 6/8/97, except in informal writing. While these numbers generally mean June 8, 1997 in the United States, they mean August 6, 1997 in many other countries.
  • Do not use st, th, etc. with a date: Submit applications by October 14.
  • Use the following form for ranges: $12 million to $14 million not $12 to $14 million



  • Sometimes used to form plurals of words:

cross your t’s


  • Place the comma and the period within quotation marks:

“He went to the store.”
“She attended the session, ‘Tracking fur-bellied ferrets,’ because the subject intrigued her.”

  • Place the colon and semicolon outside the quotation marks:

She spoke of ‘the protagonists”; yet I remembered only one in “The Tell-Tale Heart”: the mad murderer.

  • In a simple series, do not use a comma before the “and”:

The fruit cart contained apples, oranges and peaches.

  • Use a comma before a concluding conjunction in a series of phrases:

The main points to consider are whether the athletes are skillful enough to compete, whether they have the stamina to endure the training, and whether they have the proper mental attitude.

  • 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.

  • Follow dates with a comma:

The registration deadline is April 1, 1988, and cannot be changed.

  • Do not use a comma before Jr., Sr., or a numeral following a proper name:

Nelson Rockefeller Jr. 
Nelson Rockefeller II

  • Commas are not used next to colons, dashes, exclamation points, question marks, or semicolons.
  • 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; Napoleon was edgy; Tabitha seemed to be going into heat, and even the guinea pigs were agitated.

Exclamation marks

  • Avoid exclamation marks for emphasis; use only for emotion or strong feeling.



  • Do not hyphenate the title vice president.
  • Do not hyphenate words beginning with "non," except those containing a proper noun or beginning with "n":

nonprofit, nontechnical but non-French, non-Bentley, non-native


Follow these guidelines for possessives:

  • add an apostrophe and an “s”:
  • to plural nouns not ending in “s” — children’s
  • to singular nouns ending in “s” — the hostess’s invitation
  • to proper names ending in “s” — Alice Jones’s cards
  • add an apostrophe to plural nouns ending in “s”— states’ rights

Question marks

Put them inside quotation marks if part of quoted material, outside if not:

He asked, “Have you see the latest Batman movie?”
Who wrote the play “Uncommon Women”?

This style guide has been written to provide guidelines to writers and editors in preparing copy for Bentley University print and electronic publications. For points not covered here, please refer to the Associated Press Stylebook. For spellings, refer to Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary.