Editorial Style Guide


The Whittier College Writing Style Guide reinforces general standards for writing, marketing, and communications materials as well as writing for the website.

These standards represent guidelines for language usage often occurring in Whittier College publications. If not listed here, please refer to the Associated Press Style Guide and Webster’s New World College Dictionary as the source for all marketing and communications writing standards. Other guidelines are often applied for academic writing. Questions relating to this writing style guide should be directed to the Office of Communications at extension 4277.


Academic Degrees  

Use bachelor’s degree and master’s degree lowercase with an apostrophe; doctoral degree is lowercase. Degrees in abbreviations: B.A., Ph.D., M.A., and MBA (no periods).

Only use the term Dr. when referring to a person with a medical degree. Otherwise, use Ph.D., after their name on the first reference. 

For honorary degrees conferred by Whittier College, use L.H.D. – Doctor of Humane Letters. 

Academic Departments

Lowercase except when naming specific Schools, e.g., the School of Arts and Humanities.

Academic Titles

Capitalize and spell out before names, lowercase after: “I am studying chemistry with Assistant Professor John Smith,” but “John Smith, assistant professor of chemistry.” Don’t abbreviate titles. If the name of an office, department, or school is part of the title, capitalization rules apply: “Jane Smith, dean of the school of Arts and Humanities.”

If a person has earned more than one degree from Whittier College, list the undergraduate year first. The apostrophe faces away from numerals, e.g., ’83. 


The following are terms you have to spell out on first reference, but can use the acronym on subsequent references if you include the acronym in parenthesis the first time:

•    Department of Business Administration (BSAD)

•    Kinesiology (KNS)

•    Whittier Scholars Program (WSP)

•    Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC)

•    Science & Learning Center (SLC)

African American

No hyphen. Capitalize. Acceptable to describe an American of African descent. Follow the preference of the individual. When used as a modifier for a collective noun, use a plural noun: “African American communities,” not “African American community.”

Alumnus, alumni, alumna, alumnae

Alumni is the plural noun for a group of male or mixed-gender graduates. An alumnus is one male graduate. An alumna is one female graduate. Alumnae is the plural form for a group of female graduates. “Alum” can be used as the singular, gender-neutral term for someone who has graduated from the College. 

a.m., p.m.

Lowercase with periods. Avoid the redundant 10 p.m. tonight. Use noon, not 12 p.m.


Use only if something is the second or more. Do not write “first annual.”


When referring to years, use only to indicate numerals that are left out. The apostrophe faces away from numerals. Do not use apostrophe in plural cases. 

•    Class of ’96

•    1960s

•    For plural cases: “poets” not “poet’s”

Bachelor’s, master’s, and doctor’s degrees should always be written with an ’s. Men’s and women’s sports should also be written with an ’s.

Asian American 

No hyphen. Capitalize. Acceptable to describe an American of Asian descent. When possible, refer to a person’s country of origin or follow the person’s preference: “Filipino American,” “Chinese American.”



Acceptable as a racial/cultural descriptor. Follow the preference of the individual. Always use in uppercase.

Board of Trustees

Capitalize when using the whole name. Use the whole name on the first reference. In succeeding references, use the board of trustees. 



In formal communications, use the official names of campus facilities and capitalize the names: 

•    Science & Learning Center. On a second mention or after, use SLC.

•    Deihl Hall

•    Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts. On second mention, use Shannon Center.

•    A.J. Villalobos Hall. On a second mention or after, use Villalobos.


May be acceptable to separate items on a list, following a colon. After each bullet, capitalize the first letter and use periods at the end of each item.

Capitalize individual list items following a complete sentence, but do not use terminal punctuation if they are incomplete sentences, phrases, or single words. 

The students’ favorite subjects are:

•    English literature

•    Biology

•    Art history

Individual list items that are complete sentences should be punctuated with a period.

The art instructor assigned three projects for the spring semester:

•    Draw a still-life portrait.

•    Take a digital photo of a family member.

•    Paint a nature scene.

Lists that are part of an incomplete introductory sentence are lowercased and punctuated as if each item was inside the sentence.

This year’s most generous donors included:

•    alumni;

•    members of the community;

•    other nonprofit organizations.



Avoid overuse of capitals. Capitalize full names of programs or schools but lowercase otherwise. Uppercase College only when referring to Whittier College. Lowercase majors or areas of study. Capitalize names of athletic clubs and teams, the San Francisco 49ers, but lowercase names of sports, i.e. men’s golf, women’s volleyball. 

Capitalize all conferred and traditional educational, occupational, and business titles when used specifically in front of the name or in lists and programs. Do not capitalize such titles in the text when they follow the name, useless the title is a named or distinguished professorship; Linda Oubré, president or President Linda Oubré.  

Do not capitalize unofficial titles preceding the name; “mascot Johnny Poet.” Do not capitalize titles standing alone or in apposition; “The dean of the School of Science must approve all research projects;” “Contact the dean of the School of Business and Management for more information.”  

Capitalize professor if it occurs before the name, lower case if following or by itself. “Many instructors attended the event, including Professor Jane Doe.” “Jane Doe, professor of geology, attended the event.”  

Capitalize the name of a specific course or subject. Sociology 555, The Self and Society.

Capitalize “room” when used to designate a particular room. “The meeting was held in Room 345 of the Science and Learning Center.”

Capitalize the letters of radio stations and alphabetical abbreviations of groups, organizations, or institutions such as USDA, UCLA, or MIT, without periods or spaces unless the entity uses such punctuation as part of its proper name. (Exception: U.S. should be capitalized and written with periods.)  

Capitalize names of ethnic groups and nationalities, including when used as adjectives: Lori Schmidt, professor of Asian American studies; the African American community; Irish folk music.  

Capitalize all words in the titles of books, plays, lectures, musical compositions, etc. unless they are prepositions, articles, or conjunctions. (Exception: The first word of a title is always capitalized, regardless of what part of speech it is.) e.g. For Whom the Bell Tolls.  

Capitalize recognized geographical regions. (Exception: Do not capitalize points of the compass.) “The professor spends her weekends in Northern California.” “He moved to northern Idaho.” “The South, the Midwest, the East. “We are walking northwest across campus.”    

Capitalize degrees when using the full and proper name of the degree. “He has a Bachelor of Science in biology, a Master of Arts in literature, and is a Doctor of Philosophy.”  

Do not capitalize names of college studies, fields of study, options, curricula major areas, or major subjects unless a specific course is being referenced. (Exception: capitalize names of languages.) “Russell is studying philosophy, theology, and French.” “Each student must meet the core requirements in science and the humanities.” “Whittier College offers a curriculum in music.”

Do not capitalize organized groups or classes of students, or the words freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, or graduate, when referring to the classification of the student. “ENG 200 should be taken in their sophomore year.” “The junior class will conduct its annual election tomorrow.”  

Do not capitalize designations of officers of a class or social organization. “She was elected first-year class secretary.”  

Do not capitalize these words: honors, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, baccalaureate page, doctor’s, federal, state, government.  

Capitalize seasons when they refer to semester, but not when they just refer to the season. “Tommy will be a sophomore in the fall.” “His brother will graduate in spring 2007.”


Avoid using “chairman.” “Chairperson” is acceptable. Capitalize in proper titles; lowercase otherwise. “Chair of the Sociology Department Jane Smith” and “Jane Smith is chair of the Sociology Department.” 

Class Years

When a person is a college alumnus, list relevant degrees first, others after comma: Jane Doe BA ’57, MA ’59. Note that the apostrophe faces away from the numbers.

Classes, courses

Uppercase when referring to a specific class, i.e. Psychology 101, or Law and Ethics in the 21st Century. Lowercase when making a general reference to courses: “He’s taking history and philosophy courses this semester.” 

Comma (in a series)

Whittier College uses the Oxford (or serial) comma which is the final comma in a list of things. i.e. Please bring me a pencil, eraser, and notebook.


Capitalize each letter, no need to use periods. 

Course Titles 

Capitalize, with no italics or quotation marks. Lowercase when describing a course in a generic sense or area of study. “She is studying psychology.” “They are taking Psychology 101.” “He is taking Psychology of Adolescence.” 



Use Arabic figures without –nd, -rd, -st, etc. May 5. Always spell out days of the week. Capitalize the names of months. Abbreviate Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. when used with specific dates. Do not abbreviate March, April, May, June, or July. Spell out when used alone or just with a year: October 2006.

Always include the year when the date is not in the current calendar year.

When a phrase lists only a month and year, do not separate the year with commas. Use commas when a phrase refers to a day, month, and year. “July 2006 was a hot month.” “She started work on the project on Sept. 2, 2004.”

Set off the day of the week with a comma: “The event took place on Saturday, August 18, 2005.”

Always use numbers for years: the 1980s (no apostrophe) or the ‘80s, not “the eighties.”


Uppercase when used before a name, such as Dean Jane Doe. Lowercase when used after a name: Jane Doe, dean of faculty.


See academic degrees


Lowercase offices and departments when they are not the full name: biology department. Uppercase when using the proper name: Department of Biology. 



No hyphen, lowercase. Should only be capitalized at the beginning of a sentence.


Ethnicity and nationality designations

Try to use preferred, specific identifications. Dual-heritage identifiers do not require hyphens, even when used as modifiers: “African American communities, Native American traditions.”




Lowercase “faculty” unless the word is part of a specific name or title: “One of the department’s faculty members was part of the Faculty Senate.” Collective nouns take singular verbs: “The faculty was persuaded by the argument.” 

First-generation students

Hyphenate “first-generation” when it appears before a noun: “Jane is a first-generation college student.”

First-year students 

Whittier College uses the term “first-year student” or “first-year,” rather than “freshman” or “freshmen.”


One word. “We have been fundraising all summer.” “The fundraising drive kicked off last September.”


Geographic terms and names

General compass points and terms derived from them are lowercase if they simply refer to direction or location: “southern California.” Regional terms are generally capitalized: “Southern accent, East Coast, the Northeast, Western Hemisphere.” Capitalize legendary and popular monikers for locations: “the Big Apple”; “Silicon Valley.” 

Spell out full state names in sentences: “She was born in California.” Set off state names with commas before and after when used after a city in a sentence: “She lived in San Francisco, California, for 25 years.” Use two-letter postal abbreviations only in full mailing addresses with ZIP codes: “13406 Philadelphia St, Whittier, CA 90602.”


Grades should be capitalized: A, B-, C+. “He earned a B+ in that class.” 

Grade point average, GPA

After first reference, GPA is an acceptable abbreviation. No periods are necessary. When giving a GPA, always use a decimal point and carry to at least the 10th place: 3.0, 2.8.



Capitalize all words, no matter what part of speech they are. Lowercase articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, for, nor), and all prepositions (through, on, in, to). 



Use periods and no space: E.B. White.




Italicize names of books, magazines, newspapers, journals, newsletters, and other publications: Lord of the Rings, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Rock. Punctuation following an italicized word is not italicized. 



Capitalize. Acceptable to refer to a person of Mexican/Central American/Caribean/ South American descent. Latinx can be used as a gender-neutral term for an individual or group. Use the suffix that reflects the individual’s preference.

Light of Learning

Traditional ceremony that marks both the initiation of new students into the College and the conclusion of their time at Whittier. 



Lowercase majors unless it is a proper noun: biology, economics, physics. French, American, and English literature.



Spell out numbers one through nine, including ages. Use numbers for 10 and above: 10, 11, 12.

Native American/American Indian  

Both are acceptable terms for general references to those in the U.S.; follow individual preference. When referring to individuals, use the name of the tribe or tribal nation if possible. Note that some tribes and tribal nations use “member”; others use “citizen.” If in doubt, use “citizen.” Be mindful that some Native Americans say the terms “people of color” and “racial minority” fall short by not encompassing their sovereign status. “First Nations” is the preferred term for native tribes in Canada.



Do not use an apostrophe for plurals of acronyms: SATs, DVDs. 

No apostrophe is necessary when pluralizing numbers or letters, including letter grades. “The 1980s”; “two Bs and two Cs.” 


Always uses a capital P. Refers to a group of members of the campus community or athletics. “We welcome all Poets to today’s event…” 

Johnny Poet

The College’s mascot. Tagline: “The pen is mightier than the sword.”


Always use the word President, never Pres. Capitalize when used as part of a proper title, otherwise lowercase: “President Kristine Dillon” or “Kristine Dillon is the president of Whittier College.”


Lowercase if it is standing alone— “the professor walked in”—or when used as a generic descriptor, i.e. biology professor John Greenleaf. Uppercase when used before a name when the complete title is used “Professor of Chemistry John Smith.” 


Always use correct pronouns as indicated by the individual. They/them/theirs can be used to refer to a gender-neutral or gender-nonconforming person; refer to individual preference. When referring to a general person, or a person of unknown/non-specified gender, they/them/theirs pronouns are acceptable in place of “he or she.”

Purple and Gold

An acceptable nickname for athletic team, but generally not as a first reference. “The Whittier College women’s water polo team beat the University of La Verne this past weekend. In a buzzer-beating finale, the Purple and Gold scored a final point…”


The Rock

Must be italicized with a capital T and R when referring to the alumni magazine, The Rock. When referring to the actual rock located on campus, only the R is capitalized. “Students painted the Rock purple today.” 


Science & Learning Center

uses the ampersand sign (&) instead of the word “and.” 


Lowercase fall, winter, spring, and summer, and all derived words such as springtime. Also, lowercase references: “fall semester.” Capitalize only when part of a formal name: “Winter Olympics.” “Fall Family Weekend.”


Place one space between initials in a name: “T.H. Smith.” Do not insert spaces or periods in initials that serve as proper names, such as LBJ, JFK.

Always single space between sentences. (Using double spaces is a holdover from the days of typewriters.)


When the names of states or territories of the United States stand alone, they should always be spelled in full. When they follow the name of a city, use standard Associated Press Style abbreviations. “Wash., Ore., Calif.” States with five or fewer letters are always spelled out. Use the two-letter form (CA, WA, CO) only in ZIP code addresses. 

Student classifications

Lowercase first-year, sophomore, junior, and senior. Only capitalize when part of a formal title: “Senior Prom.” Do not use the word “freshman.” Use “first-year” instead.



a.m. and p.m. are always lower case and use periods. If referring to an exact time, use “9 a.m.” instead of “9:00 a.m.” 

Titles of people

Professional titles are lower case except when they proceed a name: “Johnny Poet, dean of students” but “Dean of Students Johnny Poet.” 

Use “Whittier College President Linda Oubré” on the first reference and “President Oubré” after.  

Endowed chair titles are always capitalized: “The Fletcher Jones Chair in Molecular Biology.”

Only use “Dr.” if it refers to a medical doctor. 

Book/magazine/films/television titles 




“Whittier” or “the College” are acceptable shorthand names for Whittier College, but not on the first reference.

Web addresses

Web addresses should be kept on one line whenever possible. Never use http and if possible, avoid www. i.e. whittier.edu

When a web address or email address link must be active, make sure that the hyperlink destination does not include the final period, which can result in a broken link.


One word and lowercase. 



Use numerals for years: “2006.” Use an “s” without an apostrophe to indicate a span of years, decades, or centuries: “the 1920s” or “the 1800s.” If abbreviated, use a right-facing apostrophe before the decade: “’70s.”

For graduating years, use a right apostrophe before the class year: “Johnny Poet ’95.”