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House Style Writing Guide

The Communications and Marketing team has developed this editorial style guide for Cairn University faculty and staff, especially those who write for an external or formal audience. Relevant documents include print and electronic materials designed to promote Cairn, its departments, and its programs, as well as materials providing information about or accountability for Cairn and its activities.

In August 2014, we modified our Cairn editorial style guidelines to ensure that our communication style is consistent across campus, whether we’re writing news releases for the media, content for the Web, or copy for print publications. The main change is that we have adopted the Associated Press Stylebook as our official style guide, in place of the Chicago Manual of Style. However, we do depart from AP Style in some instances.

A primary focus of this guide is to provide University-specific information such as official names of our schools and departments, a list of our buildings, abbreviations for major fields of study, and our nondiscrimination statements. For any style questions not addressed in this guide, please refer to the Associated Press Stylebook. For other spelling or usage questions not addressed in the AP guide, we encourage you to refer to Webster’s New World College Dictionary. A web version, Webster’s New World Online, is available with the AP Stylebook Online subscription.

Our goal is to present a consistent and high-quality standard of writing that appropriately reflects Cairn’s standard of excellence. We encourage University faculty and staff to become familiar with these guidelines and to follow them whenever possible. However, this guide is not intended to replace other writing style guides used for specific purposes or for publications such as scholarly journals.

Please direct questions or comments about this style guide to the editor of Cairn magazine at [email protected].

Many thanks to the Communications department at University of Colorado — Boulder for granting permission to adapt the wording and table of contents of their style guide when appropriate.

Common Style Errors

Avoid italics and unnecessary capitalization.

When writing copy likely to be skimmed (rather than read closely), be concise and use simple syntax. Whenever possible, begin sentences or independent clauses with a short subject followed immediately by the verb.

Cairn does not adhere to AP Style’s use of periods regarding abbreviation of academic degrees. Rather, it omits periods: BA, BS, MA, PhD, MBA, MDiv.

Use a comma before the last item in a series (Oxford comma).

Periods and commas always go inside quotation marks.

Use figures for numbers of 10 or higher, except when they begin a sentence.

Use figures with am or pm (small caps or lowercase letters) to indicate specific times. 

  • The ceremony will begin at 10 am.
  • The meeting starts at 2:30 pm.

Em dashes (—) are used to denote a sudden break in thought that causes an abrupt change in sentence structure. Use no space before or after an em dash.

Use an en dash (–) rather than a hyphen (-) between numbers.

  • 1947–2011
  • 2007–12
  • pages 483–511

In general, formal titles are capitalized only when they precede a name, not after.

  • Todd Williams, president of Cairn University, spoke in today’s chapel.
  • President Todd Williams spoke in today’s chapel.

Capitalize only the complete and official names of schools, departments, offices, and official bodies. Lowercase informal and shortened versions of all such names.

  • The School of Liberal Arts and Sciences now offers five undergraduate majors. In addition, the school offers three of the University’s nine minors.
  • Exception: “the University” is capitalized whenever “Cairn University” could be substituted.

Exceptions to AP Style

Abbreviations: May follow an organization’s full name with its abbreviation in parentheses.

advisor – Use this spelling when referring to academic advising; otherwise, use adviser.

Capitalize department names (Department of Counseling) when a proper noun. For less formal uses, use “the counseling department.”

Capitalize “professor” before the person’s name: Professor Cheyney.

Capitalize Web only when it’s a noun. When used as an adjective, lowercase it.

Commas in a series: Use a comma before the last item in a series (Oxford comma).

Em dash (—): No space before or after an em dash.

homepage, not home page

https:// – Omit at the start of a URL unless needed for clarity

Seasons, semesters, and terms: Capitalize in front of a four-digit year only: Summer 2014, the Spring 2015 semester.

State abbreviations: Use the two-letter, capitalized zip code abbreviation (PA, NJ, AZ) without periods.

Titles: Italicize titles of books, periodicals, journals, movies, television and radio programs, musicals, plays, long poems, works of art, and campus publications.

webpage, not Web page

Word List

The following list includes easily confused words, as well as the preferred spelling and capitalization for words frequently used in Cairn writing. For words not included here, consult the Merriam-Webster Dictionary or the AP Style guide. Typically, US spellings are preferred over British.


advisor – Use this spelling when referring to academic advising.

after-school – hyphenate when used as an adjective (per Merriam-Webster)

All-Steinway — Always hyphenate

alum – Abbreviation for alumnus or alumna. Avoid this abbreviation in formal copy.

alumna – Singular for female graduate; alumnae is the plural when referring to only female graduates.

alumni – Plural for male graduates or combination of male and female graduates.

alumnus – Singular for male graduate. Also used as a generic reference for male or female graduate (“If you are a Cairn alumnus…”)

apply – One applies to Cairn University; one applies for a scholarship; one applies with an application

athletic / athletics – The term “athletic” is an adjective (athletic department); “athletics” is a noun (Director of Athletics).

autism spectrum disorders endorsement – not capitalized in body copy


biblical – Lowercase (unless part of a proper noun or title – i.e., Philadelphia Biblical University)

biblically minded — No hyphen

biblical world and life view — Phrase long used historically by the University, although less recently



black – AP Style lowercases “black” as an adjective referring to race.

Board of Trustees – Use the full name for first reference. Subsequent references may be styled the trustees or the board. “Board of Trustees” is singular; “trustees” takes a plural verb.



cancel, canceling, canceled, cancellation (American English spelling)

check-in, check in – Hyphenated as a noun, two words as a verb

checkout, check out – One word as a noun, two words as a verb

co- – Use a hyphen when forming nouns, adjectives, and verbs that indicate occupation or status. Do not hyphenate in other combinations.

  • co-author, co-teacher
  • coeducational, cooperate, cocurricular
  • Exceptions: coworker

coffee shop/coffeehouse

combating – American English spelling (British English doubles the “t”)

commencement – Capitalize only when referring to a specific one.

compose/comprise/constitute – Compose means to create or put together. Comprise means to be made up of. Comprised of is redundant. Constitutes means to be the elements of and may work best when neither compose nor comprise seem to fit.

course load — Two words


cross country team – No hyphen


cum laude – No italics for this or other commonly used Latin terms. (If it’s in Webster’s or another standard dictionary, it’s common enough to not require italics.)

data – Both a plural noun and a collective noun—i.e., that represents a unit—that can take a singular verb


day care — Two words, no hyphen, for all uses

Degree Completion Program



dual-degree programs




email – Capitalize the e only when the term appears at the beginning of a sentence, in a heading, or on a form where other entries (such as Address and Phone Number) are capitalized.

emeritus – Honorary title for retired professor, whether male or female. Emeriti is plural.


every day/everyday – The single word everyday is an adjective.


faculty – A collective noun referring to an institution’s entire teaching staff. It takes a singular verb. To refer to an individual who is part of the faculty, faculty member is preferred.

federal — Lowercase unless beginning a sentence or part of a proper noun


female/woman – For clarity, use female as an adjective only and woman as a noun only.


First Year Programs


full time – Hyphenate only when used as an adjective immediately before a noun.


gospel — Capitalize “Gospel” when referring to any or all of the first four books of the New Testament. Lowercase in other references. See “Religious References” for examples.

GPA – Needs not be spelled out on first use

gray – Rather than grey (British English spelling), unless part of a proper noun

head-on — Always hyphenate, whether adj. or adv.

higher education — lowercase, unless personifying or placing specific emphasis, per


homeschool — No hyphen (verb)

homeschooled — No hyphen (adjective)

Honors Program

HTML — All caps

the internet — no capitalization needed

its/it’s – Its is the possessive pronoun (his, her, its). It’s is the contraction of “it is.”

J Term – No hyphen

JAM — Junior High Adventures in Ministry — Name of annual YFM summer outreach event. No periods in the acronym. No hyphen in the event name.


judgment — American English spelling (not British English ”judgement”)

junior high — Adjective does not need to be hyphenated or capitalized. Do not abbreviate “junior” as “jr.”

lifelong — One word

login/log-in – One word when used as a noun or adjective; two words when used as a verb. “Log in” is preferred over “log on.”

low impact skills — No hyphen, per

master class — two words, per Merriam Webster

magna cum laude – No italics necessary

middle level — No hyphen when referring to education



mission trip – Not “missions trip”

more than/over – Over generally refers to spatial relationships. More than is preferred with numerals or amount.

multicultural /multidisciplinary / multinational /multimedia

noes – plural of “no”

non- – Most words beginning with non- do not use a hyphen (nonprofit, nonrefundable). Exceptions include where the following word is a proper noun or when the resulting word would be unclear or confusing.

off campus /off-campus – Two words when preposition plus noun; one word when adjective immediately preceding a noun

on campus/on-campus – Two words when preposition plus noun; one word when adjective immediately preceding a noun

off-hours — Hyphenate for all usages



part time – Only hyphenate when used as an adjective immediately before a noun.

Ping-Pong — When referring to table tennis, trademark is capitalized and hyphenated

post-  Most words formed with the post- prefix are styled without a hyphen, unless the word begins with a capital or unless confusion would result (post-World War II).

powder-puff football — Per Webster’s dictionary

pre- – Most words formed with the pre- prefix are styled as a hyphen. (Exceptions: preprofessional, prequalify, preregister, prerequisite, preschool)

problem solving – No hyphen when used as a noun. Hyphenate only when used as an adjective before a noun.

question-and-answer session

re- – In general, use a hyphen in compounds beginning with re- only if the word following the prefix begins with an e or if confusion would result (re-elect, re-establish, redo, rewrite, recover/re-cover)

residence halls – Rather than dorms

resume – No accents

SAT – Never spell out or use periods. It is no longer an acronym – it does not refer to anything but itself.


sight-read, sight-reading (but sight reader— Per Webster’s dictionary

small-group / small group — Hyphenated when used as an adjective, unhyphenated when used as a noun

SPSS Statistics software — Lowercase software (SPSS Statistics is the official name of the program)


story line — Two words

student-athlete – Always hyphenate, whether used as a noun or adjective

student teaching / student-teaching— When used as a nominal or verbal phrase, “student” serves as a modifier of the noun or verb (“an article on student teaching abroad” or “Education majors have the opportunity to student teach overseas”); when used as an adjective, the phrase “student-teaching” serves as a single adjectival (“sharing their student-teaching experiences with readers”).

summa cum laude – No italics.

theater – Use this spelling except when it is spelled Theatre in a proper name.

travel, traveling, traveled – American English spelling


toward – Not towards, which is the British spelling

ultimate frisbee — No capitalization needed


University, the – When referring to Cairn (only when it is preceded by “the.” “Our university” would not be capitalized, even though it refers to Cairn)

US, USA — No periods

Veterans Day — No apostrophe

vice- Per AP Style guidelines, use two words: vice chairman, vice president, vice principal.


wait list, wait-list – Two words as a noun, hyphenated as a verb or adjective

Washington DC – When used in running text, DC is followed by a comma (similar to treatment of states’ abbreviations)

web – Used whether noun or adjective



weeklong — Per AP Style guidelines, one word as an adjective; an exception to Webster’s

well Hyphenate as part of a compound modifier (well-educated, well-equipped, well-dressed)


the Word – Capitalized when referring to the Bible


work-study – Always hyphenate, whether used as a noun or adjective


worldview – One word

worshiping – American English spelling (not British “worshipping”)


yeses – plural of “yes”


Abbreviations should be restricted to situations where they enhance readability and/or comprehension – for example, when your copy refers repeatedly to a lengthy name or term that has a commonly accepted abbreviation.

In General

  • Use abbreviations sparingly unless your audience is familiar with them.
  • Spell out the full entity or term on its first occurrence and follow with the abbreviation in parentheses to prepare readers for your subsequent use of only the abbreviation.
  • Avoid using periods in abbreviations, unless confusion may result.
    • VP rather than V.P.
  • If using periods in an abbreviation, do not add a second period if the abbreviation ends a sentence.

Articles (a, an, and the) with Abbreviations

The choice between using a or an is determined by how the abbreviation is pronounced.

  • She is enrolled in an MBA program.

Abbreviations that Stand Alone

GPA and SAT are not spelled out. In fact, SAT is no longer an abbreviation; it is a trademark.

State Abbreviations

When standing alone in a text, spell out the names of the 50 US states.

When used in conjunction with the name of a city, county, town, village, or military base, use the two-letter, capitalized zip code abbreviation (PA, NJ, AZ) without periods.

Do not put a comma between the state and the zip code.

  • The class of 12 included students from Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
  • The Outdoor Action First Year Program went to Speculator, NY, to learn ice climbing and environmental science.
  • Alumni donations came in from Harrisburg, PA; Washington, DC; and La Mirada, CA.
  • Download and mail the printable form to: Cairn University, School of Music, 200 Manor Ave, Langhorne PA 19047.

United States

Do not use periods with the three-letter abbreviation for the United States of America or for the United States.

  • The US government requires academic institutions to meet certain requirements in order to qualify for federal funds.
  • Most of their products were made in the USA.

Academic Degrees

Cairn does not adhere to AP Style’s use of periods regarding abbreviation of academic degrees. Rather, it omits periods: BA, BS, MA, PhD, MBA, MDiv

When spelling out degrees, lowercase bachelor’s degreemaster’s degree, and doctorate; but capitalize Bachelor of ArtsMaster of Sciences, etc.

The title Dr. is used only for those with earned doctorates, not recipients of honorary doctorates.

Be careful to properly refer to untagged BA/MA degrees:

  • Master of Arts (Religion) not Master of Arts in Religion
  • Bachelor of Arts (English) not Bachelor of Arts in English
  • The nomenclature “Master of Arts degree in Religion,” etc. is acceptable, but not preferred.


Noting Accreditation Status in Institutional Print and Electronic Communications

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (hereafter, “the Commission”) receives many questions about the appropriate wording institutions should use when describing their accreditation status. In addition, some institutions may not be aware that there are federal requirements associated with reference to accreditation status.

For example, under federal regulations (CFR 602.23[d]), when an institution notes its accredited status, it must name the accreditor and provide the accreditor’s mailing address and telephone number. This practice provides students, employees, and the public with the necessary information to contact the accreditor to verify the institution’s accreditation or file a complaint against the institution.

Thus, the correct statement for MSCHE institutions is as follows:

Cairn University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, 3624 Market Street, Philadelphia PA 19104. Phone: 267.284.5000.

  • The use of the MSCHE logo is also subject to the Commission’s regulations.
  • The phrase, “fully accredited” should never be used, since partial accreditation is not possible.

Institutional Accreditation Statements

  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education* (1967)
    • *MSCHE, 3624 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, Phone: 267.284.5000

Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
3624 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Programmatic Accreditations

  • Association for Biblical Higher Education Commission on Accreditation(1950)
    • ABHE, 5850 T. G. Lee Blvd., Ste. 130, Orlando, FL  32822, 407.207.0808
  • Association of Christian Schools International (1981)
    • 731 Chapel Hill Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80920, 800.367.5391
  • Council on Social Work Education (1974)
    • 1701 Duke Street, Suite 200, Alexandria, VA 22314-3457, 703.683.8080
  • International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (2000)
    • 11374 Strang Line Road, Lenexa, KS 66215, 913.631.3009
  • National Association of Schools of Music (1979)
    • 11250 Roger Bacon Drive, Suite 21, Reston, VA 20190, 703.437.0700
    • NOTE: NASM gave associate membership to the program in 1972. Full membership was given in 1979. Use 1979 date as the standard, unless a footnote is included.



Abbreviate Avenue, Boulevard, and Street only with a numbered address. Spell them out and capitalize them when part of a formal street name without a number.

  • 1800 Arch St
  • the former Arch Street location

Per USPS standards, do not use periods in abbreviations.

Address Order

Campus addresses should begin with Cairn University, followed by the name of the school or office, followed by the name of the department (if applicable), followed by the street address. Mail to individuals (including students and employees) should include their first and last name (and middle initial, if possible), followed by the street address.

NOTE: Per USPS standards, please do not include any punctuation in the address block – including periods at the end of abbreviations and commas between the city, state, or zip code. (Although USPS suggests that addresses be in all-caps, the University standard is to use mixed case in the address block.)

Please use street abbreviations; the first letter should be capitalized and the rest lowercase: St, Ave, Rd

Please use state abbreviations. Although USPS suggests two spaces between the state and ZIP code, the University standard is to use only one. Do not use a comma between the state and zip code.

Secondary unit designators (such as Apartment or Suite numbers) should appear on the first address line. Example: 255 E Lincoln Hwy Apt 555 or 255 E Lincoln Hwy #255

Sentence form:

  • Checks and money orders can be sent to Cairn University, Office of Advancement, 200 Manor Ave, Langhorne PA 19047.
  • Download and mail the printable form to: Cairn University, School of Music, 200 Manor Ave, Langhorne PA 19047.

Campus Box Numbers

Student mail should no longer include Cairn box numbers in the address block.

Joe C. Schmo
200 Manor Ave
Langhorne PA 19047


In General

Cairn University may be shortened to “Cairn” or “the University”, never “CU.”

Buildings and Rooms

Safety and Security building (not the Carriage House)

Campus Store (not Cairn Bookstore)

Ellwood Cook Biblical Learning Center (BLC) – Shortening to “Biblical Learning Center” is also acceptable.

  • BL 223, BL 110, etc. (with a space)
  • Connie A. Eastburn Gallery – Shortening to “Eastburn Gallery” is also acceptable.
  • Lewis Holmes Hall – Shortening to “Holmes Hall” or “BL 210” is acceptable

Fairview Manor

maintenance building (lowercase)

Masland Library (not Masland Learning Resource Center or LRC)

Mason Activity Center (MAC)

  • Furman Dining Commons – Shortening to “the dining commons” is acceptable.
  • gymnasium (lowercase)
  • The Highlands – not the Café.
  • Office of Safety and Security

music building (lowercase)

Smith Administration Building (SAB)

Chatlos Chapel – Shortening to “the chapel” is acceptable.

Technology Services

University Housing

Collectively, these are referred to as “residence halls,” not “dorms.”

Heritage Hall

Manor Residence Halls

  • Souder Hall
  • Stillman Hall
  • Schofield Hall
  • Memorial Hall
  • Davis Hall

Offices, Departments, & Programs

For a full list of offices & departments, visit

Academic Leadership Team (ALT)

Academic Resource Center (ARC)

Office of Admissions / admissions office

Athletics / Athletic Department

Board of Trustees – Shortened to “the board”

Office of Business Services / business services office

Office of Development & Philanthropy (or Office of Development)

The Cairn Fund (with a capital T)

Center for University Studies (CUS)

Communications and Marketing

Degree Completion Program (with a capital P)

Office of Financial Aid / financial aid office

Honors Program (with a capital P)

President’s Advisory Council (PAC)

Safety and Security

School of Liberal Arts and Sciences (SLAS)

Technology Services (TS) – not “IT”

University Ministry Center

Women’s Ministries Bible Study


See also Religious References.

In General

In general, avoid unnecessary capitals – both Initial Caps and ALL CAPS.

Official names and proper nouns are capitalized. In subsequent references, any common nouns are lowercased. Use the full, official name the first time it appears in a document or section of a document.

  • Cairn’s Wisconsin Wilderness Campus opened in 1987 at Lake Owen in Cable, WI. After 25 years, the campus closed and four new First Year Programs were begun on the Langhorne campus.

Do Not Capitalize

  • bachelor’s degree
  • department, the
  • doctorate
  • form names, unofficial (e.g., drop/add form, admission form)
  • master’s degree
  • orientation
  • program, the
  • school, the
  • spring break
  • state of Pennsylvania, the
  • university, the (when not referring to Cairn University)
  • internet, the

Academic and Nonacademic Units and Bodies

Capitalize only the complete and official names of schools, departments, offices, and official bodies (such as the Board of Trustees, President’s Advisory Council, etc.). Lowercase informal and shortened versions of all such names. See also “Ampersand (&)” in the Abbreviations section.

  • All of the trustees were present at the Board of Trustees meeting last week.
  • The School of Liberal Arts and Sciences now offers five undergraduate majors. In addition, the school offers three of the University’s nine minors.

Exception: “University” is capitalized whenever “Cairn University” could be substituted.

  • Cairn University is committed to educating students to serve Christ in the church, society, and the world. To that end, the University provides opportunities for students to grow both academically and spiritually.
  • Cairn is the only university in Bucks County.

Academic Degrees

Capitalize the names of degrees unless they’re referred to generically, as in the second example.

  • Julie earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Cairn University.
  • Marissa earned a master’s degree in education in 2012.

Committee, Center, Group, Program, and Initiative Names

Unless a committee, center, group, program, or initiative is officially recognized and formally named, avoid capitalizing. Do capitalize the official, proper names of long-standing committees and groups, as well as formally developed programs and initiatives.

  • The Degree Completion Program provides working adults with a flexible and convenient way to earn a bachelor’s degree.
  • The Teacher Education Academic Standards Committee provides a process for evaluating the arts and sciences curriculum component of the teacher education programs.
  • The Grace Livingston Hill Collection showcased the life and work of a prolific Christian novelist. The collection was located on the third floor of the Masland Library until May 2013.

Academic Programs

Names of majors, minors, concentrations, specializations, and programs are lowercase: communication major, business administration major, performing arts minor.

Composition Titles

Capitalize the following in titles:

  • the first word
  • the last word
  • the first word after a colon
  • all nouns, verbs (including short verbs, such as is/are/be), pronouns, adjectives, prepositions of four or more letters (with, before, through), and conjunctions of four or more letter (that, because).

Do not capitalize the following in titles (unless they fall into one of the previously listed categories):

  • articles (a, an, the), unless they are part of a proper noun
  • conjunctions of fewer than four letters (and, but, or, for, nor, so, yet)
  • prepositions of fewer than four letters (on, of, to, by)
  • By Design: Developing a Philosophy of Education Informed by a Christian Worldview by Marti MacCullough was published by Cairn University in 2012.
  • The Masland Library provides access to thousands of eBooks, such How to Laugh Your Way Through Life: A Psychoanalyst’s Advice.

Course Titles

Style official course titles with initial capitals but without quotation marks, italics, or any other formatting.

  • Students should consider taking Global Economics, as well as Global Business Environments.

Geographical and Related Terms

Capitalize geographical terms commonly accepted as proper nouns. In general, capitalize words that designate regions, but lowercase words that indicate compass directions.

  • the Schuylkill, the Adirondacks, the Jersey Shore
  • the West, the Midwest, the East Coast, a Southern accent, the Western culture, Eastern influence
  • The storm is moving east.


Capitalize and italicize letter grades, and use two numerals after the decimal point in GPAs.

  • She got an A in Macroeconomics, which brought her overall GPA up to 3.89.

Job and Position Titles

Capitalize formal titles only when they immediately precede the individuals’ names or when they are named positions or honorary titles.

  • President Todd Williams has two children, Caitlin and Connor.
  • The president, Dr. Todd Williams, was inaugurated in January 2008.
  • The president of the United States serves a four-term term of office.
  • Barack Obama, president of the United States, is serving his final term in that office.
  • Have you been reprimanded by Dean Sherf?
  • Tom Sherf, the dean of students, loves to surf.
  • Sherrill Babb is the first chancellor of Cairn University.
  • In his commencement speech, Chancellor Dr. Sherrill Babb quoted Bob Sjogren’s book Cat and Dog Theology.
  • During the annual open enrollment period, the vice president of human resources conducts annual meetings reviewing employee benefits.
  • Paula Gossard, School of Education, has been promoted to the rank of professor.
  • Alumnus Allen Guelzo serves as Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College, where he coordinates the college’s Civil War Era Studies program.

Job Descriptions

Use lowercase at all times for terms that are job descriptions rather than formal titles.

  • Before teaching at Cairn, Ann Rivera was a teacher and administrator in Philadelphia for 25 years.

Long Titles

When a person has a very long title, put the title after the name to avoid clumsy syntax and too much capitalization.

  • Scott Cawood, senior vice president for student affairs and administration, is concerned with both prospective and current students’ experience with Cairn.

Titles in Addresses and Display Format

When a title appears in an address or other display format (such as email signature or a directory), as opposed to running text, the title can be capitalized even if it appears after the name.

  • John Mulvaney, Director of Marketing
  • Kevin McFadden, Professor of New Testament

Seasons and Semesters

Seasons, semesters, and terms should all be lowercase.

  • spring semester
  • summer classes
  • spring break

Seasons, semesters, and terms should be capitalized in front of a four-digit year only.

  • Summer 2014
  • the Spring 2015 semester (no commas)


The symbols ® and ™ (which often appear on product packaging and advertisements) need not be used in running text.



Use the US-preferred styling: month, day, and year. Do not use ordinal numbers in dates. When listing a month, day, and year, set off the year with commas. When listing only a month and a year, do not separate the year with commas.

  • Spring commencement will be held on May 2, 2015.
  • Undergraduate course registration begins on March 23, 2015, at 8 am.
  • The awards were announced in November 2014.

Graduation Dates

When referring to a graduation year in running text, use all four digits. When you abbreviating the year, use the final two digits of the graduation year (or expected graduation year) preceded by an apostrophe, and bold both the name and the abbreviated year when appropriate. Be sure that the apostrophe is facing away from the year.

  • Grace Note, who graduated in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in music performance, was the guest soloist.
  • At The Gallery event last April, Art Smith ’11 was awarded a one-year student membership to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Inclusive Dates

Use an en dash for continuing or inclusive numbers (not a hyphen). Do not use a dash as a substitute for the word “to.”

  • The 2013–2014 academic year concluded with the usual graduation ceremonies.
  • He taught in the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences from 2001 to 2014. (not “… from 2001­–2014.”)

Punctuation with Dates

No comma is needed between a month and a year. Commas are required before and after a year when month, day, and year are used.

  • She began her studies in September 2009 and completed them in May 2013.
  • She began her studies on August 23, 2009, and completed them on May 2, 2013.
  • She began class on Tuesday, Sept. 1, at 8 am.


Lists Within Sentences

Within a sentence, separate items in a list with commas (or semicolons, if the items in the list include commas).

The roommates came from Boise, ID; Akron, OH; and Lancaster, PA.

Vertical Lists

Introduce items in a vertical list with numbers only when the order matters. Otherwise, use bullets or other typographical symbols. If items are numbered, each entry begins with a capital letter—whether or not the entry forms a complete sentence. Avoid putting long sentences or consecutive sentences in list form; rather, set them as numbered paragraphs and indent only the first line.

Follow the posted fire emergency procedures:

  1. Shut off all equipment in immediate area.
  2. Close windows and doors.
  3. Calmly and quietly evacuate your department area. Use the posted evacuation routes. Do not use elevators
  4. Assemble in designated location at least 75’ away from the building.
  5. Take class attendance, if possible.
  6. Report whether all employees and students are accounted for to security personnel.

This course covers four genres of theological writing and thinking:

  • Theological reflection
  • Theological argument
  • Theological critique
  • Theological construction

If any or all of the items in a vertical list are complete sentences, punctuate all items in the list with periods.

If the list completes a sentence, lowercase each item & follow each item with a comma or omit punctuation at the end of each item (including the last one). Be consistent within a document in how you treat similar types of lists.

When you move to college for the first time, you usually

  • bring too many items for your dorm room,
  • forget a few essential items, and
  • end up sharing some items with your roommate.

If the sentence introducing the list is a complete sentence, it can end in a period or colon, whichever seems appropriate. (Exception: following and as follows must be followed by a colon.) If the introductory material is not a complete sentence, use the punctuation mark appropriate for the context, whether that’s a comma, colon, semicolon, dash, or nothing at all.

Use a line space (or partial line space) before and after all vertical lists.


Use an individual’s full name (with title, when appropriate) when mentioning someone for the first time (in an article, paper, etc.).

Government Programs

Following the general rules of capitalization, full formal or official names of plans, policies, laws, and similar documents or agreements, together with the programs resulting from them, are usually capitalized. Incomplete names are lowercased.

  • The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) affords students certain rights with respect to their education records. The act guarantees the following:

Names with Degrees

Use a comma between a person’s name and degree.

  • Martha MacCullough, EdD, is the author of By Design.

Names with Initials

No space between initials. If an entire name is abbreviated, spaces and periods are omitted.

  • The Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot was chosen by the members of the book club.
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt, often referred to as FDR, is the only U.S. president to have served more than two terms.

Names with Jr., Sr.

Omit commas before and after Jr., Sr., and the designations I, II, III, and IV.

  • Each year, Cairn’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service is organized by Evan D. Curry III.

Names with Titles

Capitalize formal titles only when they immediately precede the individual’s name in running text. Titles are capitalized in signage or email signatures. Use lowercase for titles that serve as occupational descriptions.

  • Professor Charlotte Gleason OR Charlotte Gleason, professor of English
  • Dean Tom Sherf OR Tom Sherf, dean of students
  • conductor Joseph Caminiti, astronaut John Glenn, tour guide Giovanni Antoine

Whenever possible, refer to President Todd J. Williams with both title and name or as “University president” (rather than simply “the president”) to avoid confusion.

  • The garden party will be held at President Williams’ home.
  • President Todd J. Williams was in attendance.
  • The University president will speak at Convocation chapel on Monday.

Nondiscrimination Statements

Cairn is legally required to include the following statement in all publications intended for external audiences.

Equal Opportunity Admissions Policy (used in catalogs)

Cairn University admits students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, veteran status, or known disability to all rights, privileges, programs, and athletic activities generally accorded or made available to students at the University. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, biological sex at birth, age, veteran status, or known disability in the administration of its educational policies, admissions practices, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic or other school-administered programs.

Equal Opportunity Employer (for use on employment advertisements)

Cairn University is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate against any person because of race, gender, color, age, national or ethnic origin, biological sex at birth, age, veteran status, or known disability in the administration of its employment policies or practices.

Cairn University is a conservative evangelical institution within the protestant tradition that employs faculty and staff who profess Jesus Christ as personal savior; agree to Cairn’s Statement of Faith and Community Life Covenant; and serve students in a ministerial capacity through imparting and upholding biblical instruction, prayer, and mentoring. Members of the faculty are required to integrate biblical instruction in their respective professional subject areas.


The following guidelines apply to University for most purposes, excepting writing about certain fields (scientific, statistical, technical, mathematical, etc.).

In General

Spell out one to nine. Use figures for 10 and above, except when they begin a sentence. (Alternatively, you may wish to rephrase a sentence so that it no longer begins with a number.)

  • Last November, Highlanders teams earned two of the seven 3-D Awards presented by the Colonial States Athletic Conference. They were chosen for these awards above the other 11 members in CSAC.
  • Twenty-four different academic degrees were awarded at the final Centennial commencement.

Use a combination of figures and words with numbers in the millions and larger.

  • The new campaign seeks to raise $2.5 million for the Cairn Fund.

Use a comma for numbers with more than three digits unless they represent SAT scores or years.

  • Full-time tuition for the 2014–15 is $23,035 per year.
  • The book, which was published in 2006, has 2,260 pages.
  • Her combined SAT score was 2200.

Use figures for percentages, decimals, credit hours, GPAs, book sections and pages, ages, distances and dimensions, quantities combining whole numbers and fractions, and when symbols rather than abbreviations are used for units of measure.

  • We printed the first draft on 8.5” x 11” paper.
  • In her third semester, she carried 21 credits and earned a 3.72 GPA.
  • The answer is found in Chapter 2 on page 31.
  • Her brother gave $5 to the Cairn Fund.
  • Her sister gave $1 million to the Cairn Fund.
  • He is 22 years old.
  • She ran 3 miles.
  • She is 5 feet 2 inches tall.

Use the word percent in running text. Use the percent sign in tables, charts, scientific and statistical copy, and some informal and promotional copy. Most importantly, be sure to be consistent throughout a document.

  • They spend nearly 60 percent of their budget on printing projects.


Use the US-preferred styling: month, day, and year. Do not use ordinal numbers in dates. When listing a month, day, and year, set off the year with commas. When listing only a month and a year, do not separate the year with commas.

  • Spring commencement will be held on May 2, 2015.
  • Undergraduate course registration begins on March 23, 2015, at 8 am.
  • The awards were announced in November 2014.


Spell out fractions less than 1, using hyphens between the words.

  • Two-thirds of the class was late.
  • A four-fifths majority voted in favor of the proposal.

Inclusive Numbers

When dealing with ranges of numbers (such as page numbers and years), carry over all the digits that change and include at least two digits for the second number. Use an en dash rather than a hyphen between the numbers.

  • Pages 1,004–05
  • 2013–14

Unless the century changes, inclusive years should be styled with only the last two digits of the second number.

  • 2007–12, but 1947–2011

In running text, the en dash is not an acceptable substitute for the word to unless the numbers are in parentheses.

  • He taught piano from 1972 to 2011.
  • He taught composition courses at Writing Community College (1992–2002), Reading University (2000–2010), and The School of Really Liberal Arts (2010–present).

Units of Money

Do not include .00 for even dollar amounts (without cents).

  • The student activity fee is $210.
  • The toner for the printer cost $10.85 cents.
  • Printing charges are 10 cents per page.
  • Advancement hopes to raise $1 million for the Cairn Fund by June 30, 2015.

Ordinal Numbers

Spell out ordinal numbers from first to ninth. Do not superscript the letters.

  • They placed sixth out of 150 teams competing at the national level.
  • The 21st was fodder for many imaginative novelists and entrepreneurial visionaries.

Room Numbers

Campus room numbers should be referred to with the abbreviated name of the building and the room number, in that order. Include a space between the abbreviation and the number.

  • The Faculty and Staff Prayer Service is held in BL 210.
  • The office of the magazine editor is in AD 227.

In a Series

Apply the standard guidelines.

  • She has 10 nieces, six nephews, and 15 cousins.

Telephone Numbers

Do not put the area code in parentheses, and use periods (not hyphens): 215.702.4315.


Use figures with am or pm (small caps or lowercase letters) to indicate specific times.

  • The ceremony will begin at 10 am.
  • The meeting starts at 2:30 pm.

Use 4 pm, not 4:00 pm, etc.


Use an s without an apostrophe to indicate spans of decades or centuries.

  • the 1800s
  • the ‘80s

Use the correct placement for A.D. and B.C. (all caps).

  • Hannibal died in 183 B.C.
  • King George IV died in A.D. 1830.

For ranges of dates, see “Inclusive Numbers” in this section.


In General

Use a single space after punctuation at the end of a sentence and after colons and semicolons.

Unbold punctuation following a bolded word.

  • Jamie Gleason WWC’97/’00 and his wife, Charlotte WWC’97/’00, recently celebrated 15 years of marriage.


When indicating the possessive for names, use an apostrophe followed by an s unless the name ends in s.

  • Jesus’ blood
  • Arius’ heresy
  • Brenda’s ideas

With a few exceptions, the possessive of a singular common noun is formed with the addition of an apostrophe and s, and the possessive of a plural noun by the addition of an apostrophe only.

  • the horse’s mouth
  • the puppies’ tails
  • the children’s program
  • Exception: the campus’s newest addition

Do not use an apostrophe to indicate plurals, including the plurals of acronyms and abbreviations, except in the case of single letters (as in the first example).

  • There are five s’s in that word.
  • There are five 5s in that number.
  • The fashion was popular in the 1930s.
  • There are six PhDs in that department.
  • Five NGOs were represented at the conference.
  • His speech had too many “ifs,” “ands,” and “buts.”
  • Learn to accept God’s “yeses,” “noes,” and “not yets.”

Apostrophes are required for bachelor’s degree and master’s degree.

Avoid apostrophes in titles of events.

  • Church Leaders Conference
  • Kids Day


Use a colon to introduce a series or a list, especially a list preceded by as follows or the following. When introducing a bulleted list in AP style, a complete sentence before the colon is not required. Adding as follows or the following is preferable in some cases where it reads more naturally.

  • If you deposit before April 1, you will receive:
    • a sweatshirt
    • a University pennant
    • the satisfaction of ending your college search

Use a colon to introduce an explanatory phrase or sentence. Capitalize the first word after a colon only if it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence.

  • Notice who is in the boat: two figures wearing buckskin trousers and moccasins, an African American, a man in a Scottish bonnet, and a woman.
  • In addition to the teacher’s comment, the painting itself was a turning point in Fujimura’s life: “By drawing this painting, I did not realize I would be literally drawing out my life’s calling.”


In a Series. Cairn uses the Oxford comma: a comma before the conjunction and final element in a series.

  • The flag is red, white, and blue.
  • Master’s degrees are offered in divinity, education, business and leadership, and counseling.

In Complex and Compound Sentences. Use a comma before a conjunction (and, but, or, nor, because, etc.) that introduces an independent clause. Note that you do not need a comma before every conjunction – if what follows the conjunction is not a complete clause, you do not need a comma. See also Nonrestrictive and Parenthetical Phrases.

  • The President’s Advisory Council is meeting on Thursday, and the Board of Trustees will arrive on Monday.
  • I like to go to soccer games and watch the fans.

With Appositives. Use commas with appositives that are nonrestrictive (not essential to the meaning of the sentence). Do not use a comma with appositives that are restrictive (essential to the noun it belongs to).

  • The former dean, Scott Cawood, was promoted to vice president of enrollment and student affairs in 2012.
  • Professor Palladino teaches the course American Pop Culture.

With Dates. When listing a month, day, and year, set off the year with commas. When listing only a month and a year, do not separate the year with commas.

  • Spring commencement will be held on May 2, 2015.
  • Undergraduate course registration begins on March 23, 2015, at 8 am.
  • The awards were announced in November 2014.

With Introductory Phrases. Use a comma to separate an introductory clause or phrase from the main (independent) clause.

  • When students returned to campus after the winter break, they discovered that Bookstore Butler had already delivered their textbooks.

With Nonrestrictive Phrases. Use commas to set off phrases which are non-essential to the meaning of the sentence.

  • The Global Mission Week, which takes place each January, intends to educate students to view their majors and careers in the context of God’s work around the world.
  • My office, located between the President’s and Provost’s offices, gets cold in the winter.

With Names of States and Countries Names of states (or countries) are enclosed in commas when they are preceded by a city (or state).

  • The international campus is located in Kandern, Germany, but students fly into Basel, Switzerland. The vast majority of instructors fly in from Philadelphia, PA.


En Dashes (–). Use en dashes between inclusive numbers.

  • You’ll find the examples on pages 223–26 of your text.

Em Dashes (—). Em dashes are used to denote a sudden break in thought that causes an abrupt change in sentence structure. Use no space on either side of a dash.

  • How much more robust was every leg of the hike—every view, every water source, every bird and flower and rock and tree—for us who know the One who made and sustains all things!


Use ellipses to indicate that material has been omitted from the middle of a quotation. Do not use ellipses at the beginning or end of a quotation, even if you start or stop in the middle of the quoted sentence. Ellipses are created with three period characters, with one space on either side of each character:

. . .   (not …)

  • “She gave me a pack of Magic Markers and asked me to copy . . . Emanuel Leutze’sWashington Crossing the Delaware,” Fujimura recalled.

When the omitted material includes a period, use a period plus ellipses:

  • Crouch charged, “We have the dignity of representing something greater than ourselves. . . . This [graduation] is a rehearsal, a practice.”


Most questions about whether to hyphenate can be readily answered by consulting a dictionary. Compound adjectives that precede nouns should be hyphenated when necessary to avoid ambiguity.

  • dual-level programs
  • dual-degree students
  • on-campus housing
  • on-site medical care
  • student-led initiatives
  • on-site medical care
  • second-semester freshman
  • second-grade classroom; fifth-graders

Do not hyphenate adjective phrases when used without a noun.

  • She had a part-time job, but her roommate worked full time.
  • Out-of-pocket expenses were limited. She could not afford to pay for it out of pocket.

Do not use a hyphen in a compound that begins with an adverb ending in ly.

  • This is a highly regarded program.

In general, use a hyphen in compounds beginning with re- only if the word following the prefix begins with an e or if confusion would result (re-entrant, re-elect, re-establish, redo, rewrite, recover/re-cover).

Quotation Marks

Commas and periods always go inside quotation marks. Colons and semicolons always go outside quotation marks. With question marks and exclamation points, it depends: If the punctuation is part of the quotation, put it inside the quotation marks; if it’s not part of the quotation, put it outside.

Use quotation marks:

  • to indicate the exact words that someone spoke or wrote
  • the first time you refer to a nickname
  • when you are introducing an unfamiliar term
  • around titles of articles, episodes, short stories, book chapters, poems, conference papers, presentations, musical compositions, essays, pages within a website, and individual blog posts.

If a direct quotation is more than a paragraph long, use open-quote marks at the beginning of the quote and at the beginning of each subsequent paragraph of the quote. Do not use close-quote marks until the end of the quote (not at the end of each paragraph).

  • Dr. Williams shared the following about the Forward Together National Tour: “We had a great crowd, including representatives from graduating classes spanning decades. We heard testimonies from former professors and current students.
    “At events such as this, it always strikes me that part of our institution’s history and legacy is that we have been changing almost from the moment we were founded—yet our core commitments to Jesus Christ, the gospel, and the inerrant Word of God have never changed.”

However, if the initial quotation is not a full sentence, use close-quote marks before beginning the full-sentence quote in the second paragraph:

  • He described the event as “an encouragement and a testimony to God’s faithfulness to us as individuals and as an institution.”
    “I am grateful to God, as we all are, for His continued providence and provision as He has led our University through over a century of change,” he said.


Use semicolons to separate closely related independent clauses. Also use to separate items in a series when at least one item contains a comma.

  • BOT members at the meeting included Ed Stillman, chair of the Advancement Committee; Dr. Jean MacFadyen, member of the Academic Standards Committee; and Elizabeth Mason Givens.

Religious References


The University’s standard Bible translation is the English Standard Version (ESV). Other translations may be used in select circumstances.



Capitalize all nouns referring to the Bible. Lowercase related adjectives.

  • Scripture, the Scriptures, the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God
  • biblical, scriptural

Capitalize “Gospel” when referring to any or all of the first four books of the New Testament. Lowercase in other references.

  • Please open to the Gospel of John…
  • the synoptic Gospels
  • Christians should be eager to share the gospel.

Do not say, “The Bible should guide their studies and careers.” The Bible should be presented at the core, not just as a guide.


Most pronouns (He/Him/His, Thee/Thou/Thine/Thy, You/Your/Yours) are capitalized when referring to God (or any of the three persons of the Trinity). Who/whom/whose are not capitalized when referring to God. Exception: pronouns are lowercase in formal publications (Cairn magazine and Triquetra journal) to match SBL style.

  • Praise God from whom all blessing flow. Praise His name!

Lowercase words such as godliness and godsend.


Capitalize as the formal name of a building, a congregation, or a denomination; lowercase in other uses.

  • Cornerstone Community Church
  • the Roman Catholic Church
  • a Roman Catholic church
  • the Catholic and Episcopal churches
  • the universal church

Lowercase in phrases where the church is used in an institutional sense.

  • She believes in the separation of church and state.
  • The pope said the church opposes abortion.

Lowercase churchgoer.

Life of Christ

Capitalize the names of major events in the life of Jesus Christ in references that do not use His name.

  • The doctrines of the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension are central to Christian belief.

Use lowercase when the words are used with His name:

  • The ascension of Jesus into heaven took place 40 days after His resurrection from the dead.

Religious Titles

The first reference to a clergyman normally should include a capitalized title before the individual’s name. On second reference, use only a last name.

  • the Rev. Billy Graham (on first reference); Graham (on second reference)

Use the Rev. Dr. only if the individual has an earned doctoral degree (doctor of divinity degrees frequently are honorary) and reference to the degree is relevant.

Do not routinely use pastor before an individual’s name.


Capitalize proper names for rites that commemorate the Last Supper:

  • the Lord’s Supper
  • Holy Communion
  • Holy Eucharist

Lowercase the names of other sacraments (baptism, matrimony, etc.).

Word List

  • angel – lowercase
  • apostle – lowercase
  • biblical – lowercase
  • devil – lowercase
  • fellowshipping – two p’s
  • godly – lowercase
  • Hades
  • heaven/heavens/heavenly – lowercase
  • hell – lowercase
  • priest
  • Satan
  • scriptural – lowercase
  • the Scriptures – capitalize
  • the Word – capitalized when referring to the Bible
  • worshiping – one “p” (American spelling)

Titles of Publications, Presentations, and Reports

Titles of books, periodicals, journals, movies, television and radio programs, musicals, plays, long poems, works of art, and campus publications are styled italic with initial caps. (See Capitalization for more information.) Note: Names of exhibits are only italicized when they are referred to in running text. 

Titles of articles, episodes, short stories, book chapters, poems, conference papers, presentations, musical compositions, and essays are styled roman (nonitalicized) and enclosed in quotation marks.

Titles of forms, reports, workshops, conferences, etc., are set in roman text with initial caps.

Titles of websites are styled roman and without quotation marks or underlining; pages within a website are placed in quotation marks. Titles of blogs and podcasts are italicized; individual blog entries are placed in quotation marks.

  • “New Every Morning” was the feature story in the Centennial issue of Cairn
  • Complete the Residency Certification Form shortly after moving to avoid paying year-end taxes.
  • The online version of Cairn magazine can be found at
  • Brian Luther, associate professor in the School of Divinity, presented a paper at the 66th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society on October 20th. The title of the paper was “Reading the Song of Songs as Scripture: The Necessity of Intertexts.

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