General Style Guidelines

The following guidelines cover general word usage.

We welcome and encourage questions about any of these style and usage rules.

acronyms: abbreviations of academic degrees usually use periods. Abbreviations of companies, institutions or organizations usually do not. She earned a B.A. and is now doing research at MIT while pursuing a Ph.D. She wants to work for the FBI.

addresses: when writing an address for the purpose of indicating where mail should be directed, use the ME postal state abbreviation for Maine with no comma between the city and state: Contact the Bates Communications Office, 141 Nichols St., Lewiston ME 04240. See states.

African AmericanFrench Canadian: No hyphen in noun or adjective uses for these and similar constructions.

alphabetizing names: see lists and rosters.

ampersand: Do not use the ampersand as a substitute for and. Only use the ampersand if it is a formal part of a company’s name: Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, or the Bates Parents & Family Association.

commas: Do not use serial commas in a simple series: He owns a Dodge, a Plymouth and a Chevy. Use a comma before the last element in a complex series of phrases: We must anticipate that sunny weather will please the parents of our students, warm the crowds attending the various games, and increase consumption of bottled water. Exception: Bates Magazine does use serial commas.

courtesy titles: avoid including academic or professional degrees or courtesy titles in text or rosters unless their inclusion is relevant. Avoid titles (Mr., Mrs., Dr., Ph.D.,) in listings of alumni.

dash: Place a space on either side of an em (long) dash: She went to Bates — and thrived. Use an en (short) dash mostly to connect numbers: Her good work, 1995–99, impressed the college.

dates: When referring to the month and date an event occurred, abbreviate the months of Jan., Feb. Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., Dec., and use Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3): He arrived Sept. 6, 1995. I caught cold Dec. 4. Note: When writing just the month and year, do not abbreviate the month and do not place a comma between the two: October 2001 was a very dry month.

email: no hyphen.

fundraising: No hyphen in any construction: He is a fundraiser. Fundraising is fun. They planned a fundraising campaign.

Internet: note capitalization.

intranet: note capitalization.

Jr., Sr., III: never precede by a comma: Thurston Howell III.

numbers: spell out zero through nine and use figures (10, 11, 12) thereafter. Exceptions: Bates’ 5th Reunion uses figures. And use figures when referring to ages of people and animals, but not inanimate objects: Our children are Jack (4), Susan (2) and Sam (2 months). Also, spell out numbers at beginning of sentence.

online: no hyphen.

periods: Just one space, not two, after a sentence-ending period. Word-processing and layout software provide the appropriate spacing.


  • decades: the early 1920s or the early ’20s
  • acronyms without period: several IOUs
  • acronyms with periods: M.A.’s, Ph.D.’s
  • single letters: Oakland A’s

president: capitalize only when used before the name: President Clayton Spencer.

phone numbers: No parentheses around area code, e.g., 207-786-6330.

the Rev.: use the, because unlike Mr. or Dr., reverend is not a noun. As such, do not say someone is “a reverend.” The person’s doctoral degree or academic title is often includes after the Rev.: The Rev. Professor Peter J. Gomes received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Since religious affiliation is often relevant when referring to clergy, the courtesy title is often used.

time: use numbers plus a.m. and p.m. (note periods), except for noon or midnight. Do not include the :00 for 10 a.m., 11 a.m.

  • correct: He arrived at 10 a.m.
  • correct: The 10:30 p.m. deadline came and went.
  • wrong: He left on the 10:00 a.m. bus.
  • correct: He ate lunch at noon.
  • wrong: At 12 noon, he was unhappy.
  • redundant: He had breakfast at 9 a.m. in the morning.

states: use Associated Press abbreviations, not postal abbreviations, in place-state constructions, such as Boston, Mass. But, spell out states when used alone:

  • correct: He was born in Salem, Mass., in 1963.
  • wrong: He works in Portland, ME.
  • correct: He works in California.
  • Abbreviations: Ala., Ariz., Ark., Calif., Colo., Conn., Del., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Kan., Ky., Md., Mass., Mich., Minn., Miss., Mo., Mont, Neb., Nev., N.H., N.J., N.M., N.Y., N.D. Okla., Ore., Pa., R.I., S.C., S.D., Tenn., Vt., Va., Wash., W.Va., Wis.
  • Eight state names are always spelled out: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio ,Texas and Utah. Exception: when providing contact information in a document, use postal state abbreviations with no commas, since this style is USPS preference: For more information, please contact Kelly Kerner, Vice President for College Advancement, Bates College, 2 Andrews Rd., Lewiston ME 04240. See addresses.

titles, academic or administrative: capitalize the full faculty member’s or staff member’s title before the name, lowercase after (see exception for lists/rosters below). Capitalize a professorial title in all cases if it is an endowed professorship: John R. Cole, Thomas Hedley Reynolds Professor of History, gave a talk. Do not use “professor” or other academic or administrative title as a courtesy title.

  • correct: Professor of Political Science Douglas Hodgkin met with Sawyer Sylvester, professor of sociology.
  • avoid: Professor Douglas Hodgkin met with Vice President Nancy Cable.
    • In a list or roster (of committee members, panel participants, etc.) titles can be uppercased, except for “student”:

Meg Kimmel, Assistant Vice President for Bates Communications
William Karz ’03, student
John Pribram, Professor of Physics

titles, business: lowercase business titles after names and when used alone. Lowercase even before names if titles are generic:

  • wrong: I will be working as a School Psychologist.
  • wrong: I will be meeting School Psychologist Mary Edwards.
  • correct: I am a school psychologist.
  • wrong: I am the Curriculum and Content Manager for an online company.
  • correct: He is the chief financial officer.

U.S.: use as adjective and noun: The U.S. is in the Northern Hemisphere. The U.S. foreign policy is evolving.

university names: when referring to a university and its campus, you may employ this space-saving style using en dashes: UMaine–Machias, UMass–Amherst, UC–San Diego.

World Wide Web: website, webcam, webcast. But: the Web, Web page and Web feed.

years: if describing inclusive years with an en dash, do not use a preposition:

  • correct: He served as trustee from 1975 to 1985.
  • correct: His 1975–85 trustee service produced great things.
  • wrong: He served as trustee from 1975–85.

When describing an academic year, fund-raising year, or fiscal year, use the following style:

  • correct: The 200001 giving year was the greatest ever.
  • exception: All digits are included when the year is included in a title: Bates College Catalog 20012002.
  • exception: When the inclusive number includes two different centuries, include all digits: The 19992000 academic year.