Clear and consistent writing contributes to successful communication and strong branding. Most issues covered here are not a matter of right or wrong usage, but simply of consistent practice, which we want to encourage across the college’s communication outlets. The University of Illinois Writing Style Guide is the basis for most of the uses suggested here. If questions cannot be answered through the U. of I. Writing Style Guide, please reference the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook.
Referring to the Urbana-Champaign campus:
- First reference: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
- Subsequent references: U. of I. or Illinois (OK to use UIUC internally)
- Do not capitalize university when the word is used alone as a noun or an adjective.
Examples: The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is a world-class research university. The university is one of the largest recipients of National Science Foundation funding.
Referring to the College of ACES:
- First reference: College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
- Subsequent references: College of ACES, ACES
- Do not capitalize "college" when the word is used alone as a noun or an adjective.
- Do not place a comma after Consumer in the college name. It is an exception to our serial comma rule. The college name should be listed as College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
Commonly used style guidelines:
- Abbreviations and acronyms: Use abbreviations and acronyms only when they are familiar to your readers. Avoid whenever possible. If needed, use the full version in the first reference and follow it with the abbreviated form or acronym in parentheses. Subsequent references should be the abbreviated form or acronym. Example: National Science Foundation (NSF)
- a.m./p.m.: Use periods in a.m. and p.m. and put a space after the time. Take out any unnecessary zeroes. Refer to 12 p.m. as noon. Also, time of day should come before date and place for event communications. Example: Join us at 1 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 9, 2023, at the Stock Pavilion.
- Ampersand (&): Use the ampersand only when it is part of a company’s formal name or composition title, or if space is limited in a heading or title. (Example: Procter & Gamble) Otherwise, spell out ampersands as words. Examples: Agricultural and Biological Engineering; College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
- Bullets/lists: After each bullet or dash in a list, capitalize the first word and use a period at the end of each item.
- Capitalization: In general, avoid unnecessary capitals. Do not capitalize freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior unless part of a formal name.
- Academic departments, majors, titles, and programs: Use lowercase as a general rule. Capitalize proper nouns, titles, and acronyms and use lowercase for informal, shortened, or generic terms. Examples: the Department of Food Sciences and Human Nutrition; the food sciences and human nutrition department; the department. The Office of International Programs; OIP; the international programs office; this office. Professor Jonathan Beever; Jonathan Beever, professor of animal sciences; the professor.
- Directional indicators: Lowercase except when they refer to specific geographic regions or popularized names for those regions. Examples: midwestern, the Midwest, the Northeast, south of I-80.
- Presentation titles and headlines: Use sentence, not title, case; capitalize the first word and proper nouns only. Example: University of Illinois partners with Perdue Farms on food safety project
- Proper nouns: For a shorthand reference to a proper noun (including university and college), use lowercase. Examples: The college annually awards millions of scholarship dollars. Please direct your inquiry to the advancement staff.
- Room: Capitalize the word room when used with the number of the room or when part of the name of a specially designated room. Examples: Room 315, the Carson Room
- Seasons: Lowercase spring, summer, fall, winter, and derivatives such as springtime unless part of a formal name.
- Commas/Oxford Commas/Serial Commas: In a series of three or more phrases or words, separate all parts of the series with commas. Examples: Jessica, Cait, and Amar presented their student research. If the parts of the series themselves have commas or are complex, separate with semicolons to prevent misreading (though this construction is preferably avoided).
- Corporation names: The full form of a company’s name should be used. Inc. and Ltd. may be dropped.
- Typically degrees can simply be referred to in narrative text as bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and doctoral degree or doctorate. In sentence format, do not use degree abbreviations. Example: She earned her master’s degree at Oregon State and her doctorate at the University of Hawaii.
- If stating a specific degree by name, use a capital letter and the form of the degree without an apostrophe. Example: She earned her Master of Business Administration at Oregon State.
- If abbreviating the degree or using credentials, use periods. Examples: B.S., M.A., Ph.D.
- Hyphens and dashes: Hyphens are used to join words to create compound modifiers and to separate syllables of a single word. Exception: compounds with “ly” adverbs are not hyphenated. Examples: well-prepared lecture; commonly heard phrase. Do not use a hyphen in place of to in a range of values. Examples: 25 to 50 mm; three to five years. An em dash is used to indicate a change in thought, similar to a colon. Do not use spaces before or after an em dash. Do not use more than one pair of em dashes in a sentence.
- Months and dates: When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate. Spell it out when used alone or with a year. Use a comma before the year only if it is preceded by month and date. Reminder: if it is necessary to list the time of day, time should come before date and place. Example: Join us at 1 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 9, 2023, at the Stock Pavilion; February 2023 was warmer than previous years.
- Names: Use first and last name the first time someone is mentioned. On second reference, use only last name with no title. Do not use courtesy titles such as Dr., Mr., Mrs., Miss, or Ms., unless they are part of a direct quotation.
- Numbers: Spell out the numbers one through nine and use numerals for 10 and up. Exceptions: Spell out a number at the beginning of a sentence. Use numerals in percentages or with other units of measure (4%, 15 mg). If more than one number is used in a sentence, spell them out unless all are 10 and over.
- Prefixes: Don’t hyphenate a word with a prefix unless misreading is likely. Examples: postdoctoral; anti-inflammatory
- Science vs. sciences (in departmental, school, and journal names): Pay close attention to the correct form. Courses are offered in computer science and animal sciences. The College of ACES stands for Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
- Spaces: Use single spaces, not double, between sentences and after colons. (The use of double spaces has been superseded by the advent of word processing and proportional spacing.) Example: I love the University of Illinois. It is a great place to learn and grow.
- States and countries:
- When they stand alone, spell out the names of states and U.S. territories and possessions. Spell out the names of states, territories, or possessions when they follow the name of a city or other capitalized geographical term. Example: Chicago, Illinois.
- When it is necessary to save space, the abbreviations listed below can be used: Ala., Ariz., Ark., Calif., Colo., Conn., Del., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Kan., Ky., La., Md., Mass., Mich., Minn., Miss., Mo., Mont., Neb., Nev., N.C., N.D., N.H., N.J., N.M., N.Y., Okla., Ore., Pa., R.I., S.C., S.D., Tenn., Tex., Vt., Va., Wash., W. Va., Wis., and Wyo.
- Do not abbreviate Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, or Utah.
- Spell out the names of countries. The abbreviation U.S. is acceptable when used as an adjective. Examples: foreign policy of the United States or U.S. foreign policy.
- For news releases, no state name is necessary if it is the same as the dateline. Example: URBANA, Ill. – The IPT Bull Sale will be held in Dixon Springs.
- Telephone numbers: Use hyphens to separate, not parentheses or periods: 217-333-1000.
- Trademarks: All registered trademarks are capitalized. In most cases, generic terms can be substituted. Examples: Xerox/photocopy, Ping-Pong/table tennis, Kleenex/tissue. Where a trademarked name is necessary, do not use the trademark symbol.
- University of Illinois Extension: After the first use or if University of Illinois is referenced alone earlier in the story, shorten to Illinois Extension. When University of Illinois Extension is used as a noun, do not use the word “the” before the name. When the phrase is used as an adjective, do use “the” beforehand. Capitalize as part of “University of Illinois Extension.” Lowercase when used alone, in a generic sense. Examples: The event is sponsored by University of Illinois Extension. The event is being held at the University of Illinois Extension office in Springfield. She wants to become an extension educator.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) guidelines:
Consider the sensitivity around words and phrases that relate to ability, culture, race, gender, etc. For an exhaustive treatment on this topic, refer to the Diversity Style Guide, a resource to help journalists and other media professionals cover a complex, multicultural world with accuracy, authority, and sensitivity.
In general, be specific about what communities you are referencing and wanting to serve, for example, Black/African-American, Hispanic/Latinx, or Native American/American Indian/Indigenous American. Avoid lumping all groups together into "underrepresented minority" (URM) or "people of color" (POC).
Use gender-inclusive language, including using people's correct pronouns. The singular use of "they" or "them" is appropriate when gender is unspecified or if a person uses they/them pronouns. Alternatively, use a person's name. For more information on pronoun usage, refer to pronouns.org.
Above all, respect and use the identities used by the individuals you are writing about. Follow their lead, rather than adhering to strict style guides.
Note: Language and practices around diversity, equity, and inclusion are subject to change; these guidelines should not be considered static. Although the current guidelines may not cover all situations and preferences, Marcom feels it is important to provide potentially imperfect tools to help us work toward more thoughtful, empathetic communications. We welcome your feedback.
Various words and phrases:
alumna/alumnae, alumnus/alumni: Alumnus is the singular form for a man who has attended a school; the plural is alumni. Alumna is the singular form for a woman who has attended a school; the plural is alumnae. Use alumni as the plural when referring to both men and women who have attended a school. In an informal context, alum(s) is acceptable usage.
Black; white: The Associated Press updated its capitalization rules for these racial/cultural terms in 2020.
child care center
email: Do not use a hyphen.
emerita/emeritus: Use emeritus when referring to male professors, emerita when referring to female professors. Note that this term should not be substituted for “retired.” Emeritus/emerita is a special status that must be officially approved by the university.
farmdoc: always lowercase and italicized
fundraising: One word in all cases.
health care system
I Hotel and Conference Center
land-grant: Hyphenate when used as an adjective. Example: The University of Illinois is a top land-grant institution.
minority: Avoid unless part of a formal name, such as Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS), or when a person self-identifies as such.
underrepresented, underresourced: Avoid. Use historically marginalized communities or specify the groups you are referencing and wanting to serve.