University Marketing and Communications
Editorial Style Guide
Communications should be clear and appropriate to our target audiences.
This guide was created as a quick reference tool to help Fresno State communicators, affiliated groups and outside vendors follow a style that is consistent and appropriate for print and digital materials written for and about the university.
These guidelines will help bring stylistic uniformity to the university’s many publications, presentations and websites. The style used on campus is based largely on the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook. For questions not covered below, please refer to Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.
The Editorial Style Guide is not intended to apply to academic, scholarly or research writing, which rely on particular standards and guidelines. When questions of style arise in the preparation of certain types of publications and those in specialized subject areas, it is best to consult appropriate reference authorities.
(Revised: September 2023)
Academics, Departments and Divisions
Capitalize full name or shortened form:
- Department of Anthropology
- Anthropology Department
Lowercase "department" when used alone:
- The Economics Department is one of the best known at Fresno State. The department offers a range of courses.
- a department
Titles are capitalized only when they precede a person’s name:
- Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval or Dr. Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, president of Fresno State.
- The proposal presented by the school deans and department chairs is subject to approval by the president.
- the President of the United States.
- Finance Professor John Doe
- Dr. John Doe, professor of finance.
Use sentence case for content titles:
- Washington Monthly ranks Fresno State even higher among best national universities
Capitalize “university” when it refers to Fresno State:
- California State University, Fresno was founded in 1913. Today the University is known throughout the state for its excellent academic programs.
Do not capitalize college, school or department when used in the general sense or second reference:
- The College of Arts and Humanities is known for excellence. The college has many community partnerships.
Abbreviations and Acronyms
Spell out the name of an organization on first reference, followed by a shortened name on second reference.
- First reference: Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning.
- Second reference: Richter Center.
Avoid acronyms unless it is commonly recognized (NCAA, FBI, NFL).
Acronyms do not need periods: CATI, IBM.
Avoid alphabet soup. For example, avoid using KSOEHD when referring to the Kremen School of Education and Human Development. Instead, refer to it on second reference as Kremen School.
Abbreviate with periods with no spaces in between:
- Ph.D., Ed.D., M.S.W., B.A., M.S.
Do not use the ampersand in place of and, except in charts, graphs and tabular material or when it is part of a formal name:
Fresno State is acceptable in all references. California State University, Fresno is the official name, but should only be used for specific academic audiences or international audiences.
Do not use the following:
- Cal State Fresno
- CSU Fresno
- Fresno State University
Use the term chair to designate the head of an academic department or committee rather than chairman, chairperson or chairwoman. Capitalize chair when used as part of a formal title before a name:
- Academic Senate Chair Dr. Louise Professor said …
Lowercase all other instances.
- The chair of the Academic Senate, Dr. Louise Professor, said …
Lowercase the names of disciplines, majors and undergraduate and graduate programs:
- astronomy and astrophysics program
- courses in sociology
- sciences courses
- literature major
- master’s program in chemistry
- M.S. program in history
Capitalize disciplines when part of the department name:
- Anthropology 101
Capitalize proper names within the names of majors and disciplines:
- Armenian studies
- French literature
- Latin American studies minor
Spell out the entire name of each month when using it alone or with a year. If stating a month and a year after it, do not separate them with a comma:
- October 1990
- However, Jan. 6, 1996, is correct when the full date is used.
When a month is used with a specific date (e.g. Jan. 6), abbreviate only:
- Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec.
March, April, May, June and July are not abbreviated.
Do not use “th” in dates, (e.g. June 15th). Write it as June 15.
Do not capitalize seasons and semesters:
- We are looking forward to summer vacation after the spring 2018 semester.
Plurals and Gender
Use alumnus when referring to a man who has attended a school. Use alumna for similar references to a woman. Use alumni when referring to the plural form of both sexes and alumnae when referring to the plural form of women.
- He is a Fresno State alumnus.
- She is a Fresno State alumna.
- The two women are Fresno State alumnae.
- Members of the Class of 2014 are Fresno State’s newest alumni.
Do not hyphenate email. However, a hyphen should be used with e-book, e-business, e-commerce and e-portfolio.
Here are the correct spelling and capitalization rules for some common technological terms:
- eBay Inc. (use EBay Inc. when the word begins a sentence)
- e-book reader
- Google, Googling, Googled
- IM (IMed, IMing; for first reference, use instant messenger)
- Internet (after first reference, the Net)
- iPad, iPhone, iPod (use IPad, IPhone, or IPod when the word begins a sentence)
- social media
- Twitter, tweet, tweeted, retweet
Write URLs in their simplest form:
- Become a Bulldog. Visit fresnostate.edu for more information.
In most cases, “http”, “https” or “www” is unnecessary in Web addresses. Use them only when it is necessary for the URL to be functional. Be sure to test the URL first.
It is acceptable to prefix the URL with the “http://” or “https://” protocols when it is necessary to distinguish between standard websites (http) and secure website (https), especially when a subdomain is present.
In running text, try to avoid breaking long URLs over two lines. If it is necessary to break the URL, avoid doing so in the middle of a word, and do not add a hyphen. Be careful that the URL doesn’t break itself by adding a hyphen because it could change the address:
Use appropriate punctuation after a URL. If it finishes a sentence, place a period after it.
- Explore the campus at fresnostate.edu/tours/.
Insert a trailing slash (/) after any URLs that end in a directory. In some cases webpages may not load if a trailing slash is missing.
Use lowercase when writing URLs. The vast majority of pages on the World Wide Web use lowercase and it has become the most common format.
Do not capitalize words in a URL unless the resource doesn’t load without it. A web address is only case sensitive for anything after the root domain:
The term website is one word in all cases and lowercased unless it’s the start of a sentence.
- World Wide Web
- the Web
- the Net
Use quotation marks with titles of books, poems, plays, films, speeches, songs, works of art, subjects or lectures and magazine articles. Do not use them with newspapers or magazines. Do not italicize:
- The Fresno Bee
- Fresno State Magazine
- “The Star-Spangled Banner”
- “Mona Lisa”
- ABC's "Shark Tank"
Use apostrophes to form the plural of single letters but not figures or multiple letters:
- She earned four A’s.
- The early 1920s
- The temperature is in the low 20s.
Put the period inside brackets or parentheses when a complete sentence is enclosed in the brackets or parentheses. When the parenthetical expression forms only a part of the sentence, put the period outside the bracket or parenthesis:
- (The day was too cold for football.)
- The day was too cold for football (or skiing).
Always put the period and comma inside quotation marks. Put other punctuation marks inside when they are part of the quoted material:
- “I saw the play,” he said.
- He said, “I saw the play.”
- “Did you see the play?” he asked.
- Should I see “King Lear”?
Capitalize room, highway, etc. when followed by a number or letter.
- Thomas Administration, Room 118
- Interstate 5
- Park in Lot P5
Capitalize specific regions, but not the points of the compass:
- Central California, Central Valley, Midwest, the Pacific Northwest
- Head west for 10 miles to reach the campus.
- He moved from the Midwest to the Central Valley.
Do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series:
- Researchers are hardworking, innovative and creative.
When giving a numbered address, use the abbreviations Ave., Blvd., and St. and spell out Drive and Circle.
- The Jefferson Family Medicine Center is at 1315 Jefferson Ave.
When only a street name is given, spell out all words:
- The center is at Cedar Avenue and Herndon Avenue … or … at Cedar and Herndon avenues.
As a general rule, write out numbers from one to nine; numbers 10 and up are left in numerical form. Use commas in numbers higher than 999. Use numerals, however, when referring to sections of a book, units, grade point averages, ages, percentages and scores:
- “See page 6 … A GPA of 3.0 … A total of 5 percent … Game 2 of the World Series … Also, 9 units must be taken in residence at Fresno State.”
Spell out ordinal numbers first through ninth. Numbers above the 10th ordinal may use figures:
- First, second, 10th, 23rd, 31st (never 10th, 23rd, 31st).
With the exception of noon and midnight, use figures and lowercase letters. Always use the word “to” to separate times that denote the beginning and end of an event. Do not capitalize a.m. and p.m. (always use periods):
- The class began at noon and ended at 1 p.m. John Smith skipped the class because he worked from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. He went to bed at midnight.
The symbol ® is placed immediately after the trademark, either in superscript or subscript. If you don’t have the appropriate symbol keys in your word processing software, then using the symbols in parenthetical form is also permissible, (i.e., (R) or [TM]).
Use of these symbols is generally unnecessary for news stories, but required for marketing and/or printed materials. When possible, use a generic equivalent of the term (such as “artificial grass” instead of AstroTurf).
For information regarding the editorial style guide, email Eddie Hughes or call 559.278.4378.