This style guide provides a standard for clear and consistent writing in Sacramento State publications, websites and other communication products. Using certain elements consistently helps convey a positive image for the University.
This guide is not intended to answer every question, but to addresses issues commonly encountered at the University. It contains recommendations for style as they relate to Sac State.
It should be considered a local supplement to the Associated Press Stylebook and Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. In cases of conflict, the University Style Guide supersedes the AP Stylebook and AP supersedes Webster's. Topics already well covered by AP and the dictionary have been avoided in this style guide.
bachelor of arts
bachelor of science
master of arts
master of science
doctorate of philosophy
master of business administration
executive master of business administration
Preferred usage is the type of degree—bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, doctoral degree—not the letters. Use bachelor's, master's and doctoral when including the type of degree. Example: Professor Wilson has both a master's and a doctoral degree.
Sacramento State does not traditionally use "Dr." before an individual's name unless on special occasions or for people who have earned a medical degree.
Acronyms– Avoid using acronyms if possible unless they are very well known. Examples:, ASI, MBA, ROTC. If you must use an acronym the first time (for instance, an organization with a very long title), use the full name followed by the acronym in parentheses the second time.
Academic departments- Only capitalize the name of academic departments when using the full name of the department. Example: The Department of Computer Science will sponsor the annual contest, but the biology department will provide prizes. Lower case when used as a nonspecific reference. Example: There will be a department meeting in the auditorium tomorrow.
Academic Honors– Lowercase cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude.
Admissions Office– No apostrophe.
Adviser/Advisor– Use "advisor" in all instances.
Alumni– Alumni is plural for those who have attended or graduated from the University. An alumnus is a male graduate (singular) and an alumna is a female graduate (singular). Alumnae refer to a group solely composed of women. “Alum” should not be used in print, unless it is part of a direct quotation. In Advancement publications, include the alumnus’ year and major in parentheses after their name: Mary Hornet (’89, Journalism), for alumni with more than one degree it is year, major and year, major: Mary Hornet (’89, Journalism and ’94, MBA).
Annual– Do not use the term, “first annual.” An event cannot be described as annual until it has been held in at least two successive years. The first-ever event is the premier event.
a.m., p.m.– Lower case and use periods after each letter.
Ampersand/And– Use “and” in written communications, except for when the ampersand (&) is part of the proper name. Example: Information Resources & Technology helped me with my monitor and printer.
Art items– Italicize the titles of individual pieces. Place names of art shows in quotations.
Articles– Place the name of the article within quotation marks. Example: An article titled, “Making the most of college,” was in Friday’s Sacramento Bee.
ASI– Acronym for “Associated Students, Inc.” However, in most cases, the “Inc.” is not used.
Books, journals and other written publications– Italicize the titles. Example: Professor John Smith’s article was published in the Psychology Today.
Broad Fieldhouse– On first reference, should be called the Eli and Edythe Broad Fieldhouse.
Capital, capitol– Sacramento is the capital of California. The California Legislature meets in a building called a capitol. The U.S. Capitol is in Washington, D.C.; the U.S. capital is Washington, D.C.
Center– Center should only be capitalized when it is used in the proper name; in other uses it should remain lowercase. Example: The Sacramento State Aquatic Center rents kayaks and canoes. You may also borrow life jackets from the center.
Chair– Do not use chairman, chairwoman or chairperson. Lowercase when used alone.
Classroom– One word.
Co- Typically, a hyphen is used when forming nouns, adjectives and verbs that indicate occupation or status. Example: Mary Jones and Edward Lopez are co-chairs of the department that will select a co-pilot. Do not use a hyphen in other combinations such as coeducation and coexist.
College– There are seven colleges at Sacramento State. Always uppercase the full name. Example: The College of Arts and Letters traditionally has the most graduates of all the colleges. Uppercase “College” on second reference when referring specifically to any of the seven colleges.
Comma– Do not include a comma before the last item in a simple series. Example: Red, white, blue and yellow. However, if the list is complicated you may include the serial comma if it will make the sentence read more clearly: The College of Arts and Letters contains the departments of art, music, design, and theatre and dance.
Communication (degrees)– There is no “s” at the end of communication. Example: He is studying organizational communication in hopes of receiving a communication studies degree.
CSU– California State University. The CSU is the largest system of senior higher education in the country, with 23 campuses including Sacramento State. The Chancellor is the chief executive officer of the system. The CSU chancellor’s office is located in Long Beach, Calif. Typically, CSU is spelled out on first reference.
CSUS– Should not be used as an abbreviation for California State University, Sacramento. The preferred use when referring to the University is “Sacramento State” or “Sac State.”
Dashes– In publications we use the “em” dash, with no space on either side. “Our nickname—Sac State—is often used on first reference in alumni publications.” To make an em dash, press Ctrl, Alt, minus (on keypad).
Dates and times– The preferred method is time, day, date and place: e.g. 4 p.m., Saturday, June 19, in Lassen Hall. Do not use a comma between the month and year if no day is included. Example, July 2012. Hyphenate inclusive times and dates. Example: Workshop hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Avoid using the words “from” and “to” for dates and times. Use a hyphen. Example: The conference is Nov. 10-11, and sessions are 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Do not use the word “on” before a date unless excluding it would be confusing. Example: Registration begins June 25, but the deadline is Saturday. Do not use “st,” “th,” or “rd” with dates. Example: Christmas is Dec. 25, and school resumes Jan. 3. Do not use the year unless the event is more than 12 months in the past or 12 months in the future.
Dean– Lowercase when not used in conjunction with the person’s name. Example: Mary Jones is the new dean of the College of Arts and Letters. She replaced Dean Alice Smith.
Email– No hyphen.
Emerita and emeritus titles– Use professor emerita for a retired female faculty member who retains her academic rank (plural is professors emeritae). Use professor emeritus for a retired male faculty member (plural is professors emeriti). Use professors emeriti for a group made up of both genders.
Enrollment– Always refers to the fall enrollment statistics from the current school year.
Events, festivals, etc.– Capitalize titles, but do not use italics or quote marks.
Fundraising– Is written as one word.
GPA– Grade point average. No hyphens, no periods.
Headlines– Only the first word of the headline and proper nouns are upper-cased. We also follow AP’s style of using single quotes for quotation marks.
Herky– The name of the school mascot.
Historical periods– Spell out first through ninth centuries and use numbers with 10th and higher. Lowercase century. Example: This is the 21st century.
Homecoming– Capitalize activities referring to Sacramento State’s Homecoming event.
Home page– Two words.
Internet– Do not include “http://www.” or “www.” when providing a website URL in print publications unless a web site will not work without them
Lectures– Place titles of lectures within quotation marks. Example: Professor John Smith is the guest speaker and will present a lecture titled “The Art of Healing.”
Library– Capitalize when referring to the University Library. Library (uppercase) is acceptable on second reference. Lowercase for all other libraries unless using the proper name. Example: The University Library is larger than most libraries in Sacramento.
Majors– Do not capitalize majors.
More than– "More than” is the correct wording when dealing with numbers. Example: More than 50 people applied for the position. "Over" is best used to describe a spatial relationship. Example: The water flowed over the dam.
Movies– Italicize the title. Example: The University Union is holding a Star Wars retrospective.
Mr./Mrs./and related– Typically not used except in rare cases such as “in memoriam” items to show respect.
Multicultural– Is how it is typically spelled. For the center on campus, it is spelled “Multi-Cultural.” Example: The heritage lecture is sponsored by the Multi-Cultural Center
Music– Italicize opera titles. Put song titles in quotes. When the title is a form and key (Symphony in G), no italics, no quotes. Example: One of my favorite classical pieces is Franz Schubert’s adagio from “String Quintet in C Major,” D. 956, op. post. 163.
Newspapers– Italicize the title. Example: Have you read the USA Today article on urban campuses?
Numbers– Spell out numbers “one” through “nine,” and when any number begins a sentence. Use Arabic numerals for everything equal to or greater than 10 (e.g., 40, 99). The exceptions are percentages or in headlines when numerals are always used: 8 percent. When using ordinal numbers, spell out “first” through ninth when they indicate sequence in time or location. Starting with 10th, use figures. Example: The 11th annual event will be held on the second floor.”
Office– Capitalize when using the complete name, but lowercase when used as nonspecific reference. Example: The Office of Water Programs meeting is in Modoc Hall where the office is headquartered.
Over– “Over" is best used to describe a spatial relationship. Example: The water flowed over the dam. Use “more than” when referring to an amount, e.g., there are more than 27,000 students at Sacramento State.
Online– One word, lowercase, do not hyphenate.
Paintings, drawings, statues– Italicize the title. Example: “A student painting called The Last One to Know placed first in a gallery showing.
Panels, workshop sessions, etc.– Place titles within quotation marks. Example: “The Office of Human Resources will hold a “Managing your Finances” workshop May 8.
Percentages– Write out the word percent after a number. Example: The results show that 50 percent of the students benefited from the program.
Ph.D. – Not normally included after a title. Instead, use “holds a doctoral degree in …” or “holds a doctorate in …”
Plays, musical productions, operas – Italicize the title. Example: Sac State put on a production of The Wiz in the spring.
President of Sacramento State– Is Robert S. Nelsen. In writing, he is referred to as Dr. Nelsen, Robert S. Nelsen or President Nelsen. Upper case “President” when referring to the President of Sacramento State, even without a name. When referring to the President and his wife, Jody, the preferred listing is “President Robert S. and Jody Nelsen.”
Professional titles– Capitalized when in front of the name: Provost Frederika "Fraka" Harmsen. The preferred use is the title after the name and lower case: Phil Garcia, vice president for Public Affairs and Advocacy. (except: see President)
Professor– Capitalize title before the name. The preferred use is after the name and with the field of study: John Smith, professor of history. Do not include Ph.D. after names. Sacramento State does not typically use “Dr.” before the name except for medical doctors.
Quotations– There are many quotation rules, but here are few of the most common writers have questions about. Generally, punctuation goes inside the quote. Example: “Do all birds fly south for winter?” she asked. Use single quotation marks for quotes within quotes. Example: The professor asked, “Who is credited with saying, ‘All is fair in love and war?’” (Also note the placement of the question mark.) Capitalize the first letter of a direct quote when the quoted material is a complete sentence. Example: Professor Smith visited Spain and said, “That was probably the most exhilarating and refreshing vacation I have ever had. Do not use a capital letter when the quoted material is a fragment or only a piece of the original material's complete sentence. Example: Professor Smith described his visit to Spain as “exhilarating and refreshing.”
Reentry– Not “re-entry” student.
Region– Capitalize “Region” when referring to the “Sacramento Region.”
Residence halls– At Sacramento State, student living areas are residence halls not dormitories.
Sacramento State– Is typically how the University should be referred to on first reference. On second reference, “University or “Sac State” can be used.
Seasons– Lowercase except when referring to a specific semester: Fall
Songs– Place titles within quotation marks. Example: Joan Smith, who sang “Age Before Beauty,” was the guest speaker for the event.
Speeches– Place titles within quotation marks. “I Have a Dream” is Martin Luther King’s most recognizable speech.
Television/Radio names– Use the call letters and the name: “KTXL Fox 40,” “KCRA Channel 3.”
Television and radio programs– Put titles within quotation marks. Creed Blanton of “The Office” is a Sac State alumnus.
Theater– Theater is typically the way the word is spelled, especially when referring to a nonspecific location. Example: They play silent movies at the theater on Sunday afternoons. However, here are several spellings unique to organizations and locations. The Theatre and Dance Department spells it “theatre.” There is a “University Theatre” and an “Outdoor Theatre.”
Time– Use figures, except for noon (12 p.m.) and midnight (12 a.m.). Do not capitalize “noon” or “midnight” unless part of a formal title. Example: Midnight Madness. Noon and 12 p.m. are the same, so do not use 12 p.m. noon. The same goes for the use of midnight. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes. Do not use :00 if the time is on the hour. Examples:
Toward– Not towards.
UC– University of California. Generally spell out on first reference, though in many cases “UC” can be used without spelling it out first.
University– It is always upper case when referring to Sacramento State, lower case when referring to another university. Example: The University signed an agreement to share graduation information with other universities.
UNIQUE– Is an acronym for “Union Network for Innovative Quality University Entertainment,” which is the organization that sponsors a number of events on campus. But don’t spell out the name.
University Union– Use the name of the building and the room of the event on most occasions. Example: The meeting will be held in the University Union Foothill Suite.
Uppercase– Generally, avoid uppercase. We do uppercase the names of all seven Colleges and the names of departments, when the whole department name is used: Department of History, but history department. Uppercase “President” when referring to the President of Sacramento State, even without a name. Uppercase “University” when referring to the University on second references and uppercase “College” on second reference when referring to any of the seven colleges.
U.S.– When writing text for an article, the abbreviation is acceptable as a noun or adjective for United States. Example: The U.S. economy seems to be picking up steam. When writing a headline, poster or flyer, use US (no periods). Example: US backs Mid-East resolution.
Website– Lower case as “website,” not “web site”
The Well– The formal name of the fitness and recreation center. Example: We will schedule our workouts at The Well.
Who’s, whose– The first word is a contraction for who is. The second is possessive. Example: Who’s going to the movie tonight and whose tickets are these?.
Years– An apostrophe is not needed for written periods of time such as “the 1950s,” however; it is needed for abbreviations, such as “the ’60s.”Beginning a sentence with numerals is acceptable but awkward. Try to rewrite the sentence instead.