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Editorial Style and Usage Guide

This guide is the established editorial style for e-mail announcements, the Colgate Magazine, colgate.edu pages and stories, brochures, newsletters, letters, and more.

Have a suggestion for the style guide? Contact Rebecca Downing at rdowning@colgate.edu

For answers to common questions, see our Quick Tips

NOTE: All entries, in bold type, indicate lower case or capitalization as appropriate

   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
             Punctuation - Helpful references - Proofreading tips


said, says. Past tense (said) is preferable in citing a literal quotation uttered by an individual at a specific time [“I always wanted to study ancient Egyptian art,” said Jim to Barbara.]. Use present tense (says) in paraphrasing a line of thought that an individual continuously expresses [Smith says that Egyptian art is his favorite area of study.].

saint. Abbreviate as St. in the names of saints, cities, and other places. For a personal name, follow the bearer’s usage.

Salmagundi. Colgate’s yearbook.

Scene, the. Official title of the university’s magazine is the Colgate Scene.


scholarship. Lowercase except when used as part of a proper name [He won a scholarship last year. He received a Chenango Valley Scholarship.].

seasons. Lowercase, even when referring to the issue of a publication [the spring 2004 issue of the magazine].

second reference. For departments, programs, or references to other inanimate entities, see generic references under 

names. For second reference to people, use last name only [Joe Smith was introduced to the community Wednesday. Smith (not Mr. Smith) will begin his duties June 1.].

semesters. Lowercase [the fall 2005 semester].

semicolon. See punctuation section.

senior. Lowercase [I waited until senior year to take that course. The senior class met to discuss their gift.].

senior class gift. Lowercase.

serial comma. See punctuation section.

series. Titles of concert, lecture, or literary series should be set in roman (plain) type without quotation marks [The Art and Art History Lecture Series was founded many years ago.].

shall, will. Use shall for future action, will to express determination [I shall take a lunch break at noon. I will get to the bottom of this mystery.].

sic. Italicize. Means “so,” “thus,” or “in this manner.” Use within brackets, in italics, after a word or passage is misspelled or wrongly used in the original, to indicate that it is intended exactly as printed. It is a complete word and needs no period [He told me, “I aint [sic] going to follow you.”].

side by side. Hyphenate only when used as a modifying phrase [Students work side by side with professors. They went on a side-by-side slalom track.].

signs and notices. Capitalize specific wording of short signs, notices, mottoes, or inscriptions [He put up a No Smoking sign.]. Longer notices are better placed as quotations [The car had a bumper sticker that read “If you can read this, you’re tailgating me.”].

simple, simplistic. Use simple when you mean to impart a sense of straightforward simplicity; simplistic is used in a pejorative/negative sense, implying “too simple” [That’s a simple math problem. Your essay is simplistic; it does not delve deeply enough into the topic.].

Society of Families.

software titles. See 

titles (of original works or similar).

some. An imprecise term in many cases; avoid.

sophomore. Lowercase [I took that class my sophomore year. The sophomore class held a rally on the Quad.].

Sophomore-Year Experience. Note hyphenation. Part of Colgate’s Residential Education Program.


split infinitives. Though not a true error, it was formerly regarded as one and is still considered offensive to some; however, it is now widely acknowledged that adverbs sometimes justifiably separate the to from the principal verb. [RIGHT: Officials hope to more than triple the attendance rate at next year’s banquet. WRONG: It’s a good idea to correctly spell his name in the listing. RIGHT: It’s a good idea to spell his name correctly in the listing.].

sports. Lowercase the names of sports as well as teams [Joe is captain of the Colgate hockey team and Samantha is a catcher on the softball team. Jane is a swimmer. Bill plays lacrosse].

Spring Party Weekend. Use SPW on second reference.

sr. No comma before Sr. [Bill Jones Sr.].

staff. As a collective noun, this term refers to a group of people, yet it takes singular verbs. In addition, collective nouns such as staff (or faculty) in most cases require “member” to accompany them [RIGHT: We have called upon faculty members to assist. WRONG: We have called upon faculty to assist. RIGHT: Members of the staff will meet on Tuesday. WRONG: Staff will meet on Wednesday.]. For more information, see faculty, staff.

state. Lowercase in all state of constructions, and when used as an adjective to indicate jurisdiction [state Sen. Nancy Lorraine Hoffman, state budget, the state Department of Transportation].

state-of-the-art. Cliché; avoid.

states. Spell out when they stand alone in textual material. Abbreviate (see below) when used in conjunction with name of a city, town, village, or military base, except for the eight never abbreviated in textual material: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, and Utah [He grew up in New Mexico. She is from East Irondequoit, N.Y.]. Also abbreviate in short-form listings of party affiliation [D-Ala., R-Mont.]. 
          Do not use postal code except on mailing addresses. Use state of Washington or Washington State to distinguish from the District of Columbia (likewise, state of New York or New York State to distinguish from New York City).

State Postal Code Abbreviation
Alabama AL Ala.
Alaska AK none
Arizona AZ Ariz.
Arkansas AR Ark.
California CA Calif.
Colorado CO Colo.
Connecticut CT Conn.
Delawar DE Del.
Florida FL Fla.
Georgia GA Ga.
Hawaii HI none
Idaho ID none
Illinois IL Ill.
Indiana IN Ind.
Iowa IA none
Kansas KS Kan.
Kentucky KY Ky.
Louisiana LA La.
Maine ME none
Maryland MD Md.
Massachusetts MA Mass.
Michigan MI Mich.
Minnesota MN Minn.
Mississippi MS Miss.
Missouri MO Mo.
Montana MT Mont.
Nebraska NE Neb.
Nevada NV Nev.
New Hampshire NH N.H.
New York NY N.Y.
New Jersey NJ N.J.
New Mexico NM N.M.
North Carolina NC N.C.
North Dakota ND N.D.
Ohio OH none
Oklahoma OK Okla.
Oregon OR Ore.
Pennsylvania PA Pa.
Rhode Island RI R.I.
South Carolina SC S.C.
Tennessee TN Tenn.
Texas TX none
Utah UT none
Vermont VT Vt.
Virginia VA Va.
Washington WA Wash.
West Virginia WV W. Va.
Wisconsin WI Wis.
Wyoming WY Wyo.

stereotypes. In general, avoid racial and gender references or mention of debilitating physical conditions if they are not essential to the story or text.

streets and roads, campus.
Alumni Road
Broad Street
College Street
E. Kendrick Avenue
Hamilton Street
Lally Lane
Oak Drive
University Avenue


student body. The simple students says it all, in most cases.

student-faculty ratio, student-to-faculty ratio. Use a colon [The addition of these 10 professors would move the student-faculty ratio from 11:1 to 10:1.].

Student Government Association. Use SGA on second reference.

student organizations. Refer to getinvolved.colgate.edu for current listings, formal names, and proper spelling.

study groups. Capitalize specifically named groups as for course titles but lowercase generic references [He went on the London Art and Art History Study Group. I was a member of the Freiburg Study Group. He attended the first Washington, D.C., Study Group. I plan to find a study group in Europe.].

substance free. When referring to student housing at Colgate, the preferred term is healthy living.

subheads. See headlines, subheads.

summa cum laude. Italicized but lowercased [She graduated summa cum laude in 1987.].

syllabus. See Latin plurals.

symposia. See conference titles for title style conventions, Latin plurals for pluralization.