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Editorial Guide: Spelling, Word Usage and Numbers

Spelling

 

Adviser, not advisor

It is University style and the first listing in Webster's.

British spellings

Don't use them in University publications, except for theatre, which should be spelled as shown to conform to University style.

Capital, capitol

Capital can refer to several things, including (1) a city serving as a seat of government; (2) net worth; (3) something that is serious or important; and (4) a style of alphabet letter.

Capitol refers to a building or group of buildings in which the functions of the state legislative government are carried out. When capped, it refers to the building in Washington, D.C. where the U.S. Congress meets. Capitol Hill refers to the legislative branch of the U.S. government.

Catalog

Use this spelling in all cases.

Class years

It is University style to always capitalize the word "class" in reference to a specific year.

  • Kathleen Flaherty was a member of the Class of 1930.
  • Donna Pace chaired the Class of 1950 Gift Campaign.

Columbia/Colombia

Be aware of the difference between Columbia (the school) and Colombia (the country). Also, it's precolumbian art (prior to Columbus' 1492 voyage).

Company names, abbreviations with

Abbreviations such as Bros., Co., Corp., Inc., Ltd., and & are commonly used in names of firms. In straight text it is best to spell the name in its full form, but Inc. or Ltd. is usually dropped:

  • A. G. Becker and Company
  • Kyle Publishing Company

In notes, bibliographies, lists, etc., the abbreviations above may be freely (if consistently) used:

  • Ginn & Co.
  • Norfolk & Western Railroad
  • Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co.

Course work

Course work is two words.

Data, datum

Data is plural; datum is singular

Database

This is typically listed as one word.

Ensure or insure

The dictionary says these two are synonymous with each other and with guarantee, assure, and secure. But only insure can be used with anything pertaining to insurance. It's less confusing for readers to use ensure in noninsurance matters and insure for insurance.

Foreword

A brief introduction in a publication (usually written by someone other than the author and used only in lengthy publications) is called a foreword-NOT a forward. It's easy to remember if you think about what it is-a few words before the main text.

Media/Medium

Media is plural; medium is singular. Never use mediums as a plural form.

Page/Volume

Use p. to abbreviate page; pp. to abbreviate pages.

When referring to the volume number of a publication, use vol. (do not cap).

Plurals of names

Make a plural out of a name by adding s or es-no apostrophe.

  • After trying to keep up with the Joneses, we decided to settle for running slightly behind the Smiths.

Possessives, plurals

Make singular nouns possessive by adding 's and make plural nouns possessive by adding only an apostrophe.

  • The pigeon's wing appeared to be broken.
  • The pigeons' refuge was a small ledge that was part of the stone work on the old bank building.

When a plural noun ending in s is more descriptive than possessive, it is permissible to omit the apostrophe. (This is University style.)

  • She looked forward to attending the Girls Volleyball Sports Camp.
  • West Texas State University began as a teachers college.

Possessives of singular and proper nouns that end in s

If a singular noun ends in an s, add only an apostrophe to make it possessive. Use the same rule for names. (This is University style.)

  • Every space was empty in the Alvernia Campus' parking lot.
  • Sherlock Holmes' reasoning abilities did not fail him.

Proper nouns as adjectives

Generally, when a proper noun is used, it is spelled out. When a proper noun or phrase is used as an adjective, it may be abbreviated.

  • After their move, they spent a lot of time adjusting to the United States. (United States is noun.)
  • U.S. policy in Europe was the topic of discussion. (U.S. is adjective.)

USA, however, when used has no periods.

Résumé

Use two acute accent marks, one on each e. This spelling is University style.

"Saint" names and prefixes to geographic names

Place names beginning with Saint or Sainte should be spelled out in full. (In French "Saint" names, the Saint is almost always hyphenated.)

  • The conference is scheduled for August in Saint Louis, Missouri.

When Saint is part of a personal name, the named person's preference should be followed.

  • Ruth St. Denis danced to the music of Camille Saint-Saëns.

Double-check the names of universities, hospitals, and churches with Saint in their names:

  • Saint John's University is in Minnesota, but St. John's University is in New York.

Other prefixes of most geographic names should be spelled out:

  • Fort Wayne; San Francisco; Port Arthur

Theatre

University style says spell this one tre unless it's part of a name that's spelled er.

Through

Not thru.

Under way

Two words:

  • Implementation of the new policy is under way.

Vita/Vitae

Vita is singular; vitae is plural. However, use curriculum vitae for the singular form, curricula vitae for the plural. See Webster's Tenth.

 

Word Usage

 

A, an

When referring to an abbreviation or acronym, use the appropriate article for the way the abbreviation is spoken, not spelled. Thus: an M.B.A., an M.S., an FBI agent. For more information, see Chicago 14.15.

Acronyms

Although people at Marywood University refer to various facilities and programs by acronyms in speech and internal publications (such as LRC for the Learning Resources Center), in University publications writers should not use acronyms except for those commonly used both inside and outside the University community (such as NASA and the FBI). If an acronym must be used to spare readers confusion, spell out the full name on the first mention, with the acronym in parentheses following.

Acronyms are made plural by adding an s if there are no periods in the acronym (IOUs) and adding 's if there are periods in the acronym (Ph.D.'s). See the Chicago Manual for more on the appropriate use of acronyms.

Alphabetizing

See the Chicago Manual for a guide to alphabetizing.

Chair; chairperson

Use chair or chairperson, even if you know the gender of the person involved.

Comprise

This word means include or encompass-so, the seminars may comprise undergraduate and graduate students, but the seminar is composed of students. The whole comprises the parts; the parts compose the whole.

Data, datum

Data is plural; datum is singular.

Disabled, handicapped

A person with disabilities is preferred over a disabled person for University publications. Handicapped is often used in government publications, but should be avoided for general use.

Etc.

When listing items following i.e. or e.g., it is not necessary to include etc.

  • Pat packed what was needed for the picnic (e.g., a blanket, plates, silverware).
  • Sheryl spent all of her money on school supplies (notebooks, pens, folders, etc.).

Ensure or insure

The dictionary says these two are synonymous with each other and with guarantee, assure, and secure. But only insure can be used with anything pertaining to insurance. It's less confusing for readers to use ensure in noninsurance matters and insure for insurance.

Faculty-Plural or singular?

Faculty, like other collective nouns, is used with the singular form of a verb when considered one unit and the plural form of a verb when considered as a group of individuals.

  • The faculty insists that students be allowed to speak.
  • The faculty include distinguished scholars in many fields.

Fewer/Less

Use less for a single quantity and fewer for number:

  • The new building has less floor space, yet it contains no fewer than 100 classrooms.

In some cases, even when a number is used, the thought is of a single quantity. For example:

  • Jennifer worked in our office for less than three years. (refers to a period of time, not individual years)
  • None of our professors earns less than $15,000 a year. (refers to a sum of money, not separate dollars)

Foreword

A brief introduction in a publication (usually written by someone other than the author and used only in lengthy publications) is called a foreword-NOT a forward. It's easy to remember if you think about what it is-a few words before the main text.

Media/Medium

Media is plural; medium is singular. Never use mediums as a plural form.

More than/Over

When referring to something that can be counted, use more than rather than over.

  • More than three hundred people attended (not Over three hundred people attended).
But:
  • Jason is over six feet tall.

Quality

The word quality should be qualified. To write that the college has built a quality program leaves open the question of degree of quality. For clarity, use high-quality as an adjective.

Sexual stereotyping

Avoid all sexual stereotyping, as in Today's secretary is a busy woman.

Use chair or chairperson rather than chairman or chairwoman, even if you know the person's gender.

Use he or she or, preferably, the sex-blind plural they.

Avoid terms such as maid service (make it housekeeping service); salesmanship (change to effective selling).

When impossible to change, use the slash method, such as foreman/forewoman. (But why not supervisor?)

That/Which-Which to use

There is a difference between that and which. Use that for restrictive clauses-clauses that are essential to the meaning of the sentence. Use which for nonrestrictive clauses-clauses that, if removed, would not change the meaning of the sentence. Set off the nonrestrictive clause with commas. (If a sentence has two thats in it, and the reader may be confused, it's OK to substitute a which for one of the thats.)

  • The book that she wanted was not in the library.
  • The books, which are on the kitchen table, are overdue at the library.

Title or entitle

Entitle means to give title to; title means to provide a title for or call by a title:

  • The author entitled the book last week; the book, titled How to Write Well, is here.

Unique

Avoid using the term unique as a descriptor-nothing is. Opt instead for terms such as individual, uncommon, special, rare, etc.

Who/Whom-Which to use

As Theodore Bernstein wrote in The Careful Writer, an easy way to determine which to use is to turn a clause into a sentence. Who is a nominative and therefore would match she, for example, in usage terms. Whom would match her.

  • Alice, who had been with the company for thirty years, was eligible for retirement. [She (not Her) had been with the company for thirty years.]
  • Whom should I ask? [Should I ask her (not she)?]

See The Careful Writer for a detailed clarification of who/whom usage.

 

Numbers

 

Numbers or words?

Spell out numbers lower than 20 in nonscientific text. If a number higher than 20 is rounded off or approximated, spell it out in nonscientific copy. Otherwise, 20 and higher are numerals in text. For charts and graphs, use numerals.

Treat numbers in the same sentence alike: if there's a three-figure number in the sentence, make all the numbers figures, as long as the figures all relate to the same items.

  • The students collected 114 books for the sale, 12 of which were first editions.
  • Conducting four meetings made it possible for the fifteen students to collect 114 used books.

Ages should be expressed in numerals. (This is University style.)

  • I have an 11-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son.
  • The student was 35 when he received his doctorate.
  • However: Dr. Foley celebrated her fortieth birthday.

Use either a figure or a word-not both. Five rooms, not five (5) rooms. Delete the parentheses and the 5.

Use the up-to-20-spelled-out/higher-than-20-numeral rule for ordinal numbers (first, second, 90th, 120th, 223rd, etc.). This applies to numbered street names as well: Fifth Avenue, Fourteenth Street, 42nd Street.

Addresses

In street addresses, building numbers are usually written in arabic numerals: 2300 Adams Avenue. However, when a building's name is also its address, the number is spelled out: One Park Place.

Class years

There has been much discussion regarding this topic. It has been determined that all class years of alumni or students should be written after the individual's full name (not between a woman's maiden name and married name). Do not use a comma between the name and the year.

It is important to note the reasoning behind this practice:

  • A class year applies to a person, not to the person's name. Even if a person changes his or her name, the class year still applies to that person.
  • Technically speaking, the class year is a modifier, and as such should never be placed in the middle of a proper noun, e.g. a person's name.
  • Automatic line spacing by computers often creates a situation where a class year could fall at the end of a line. If it were between a person's name, it would splice the person's full name. If a comma divided the class year and name, the class year would subsequently be separated from that person's name. In addition to being incorrect in format, these placements could cause great confusion for the reader.
  • Additionally, the prospect of pairing a class year next to a maiden or graduation name would mean that writers would need to evaluate every case to determine whether a person's name had been acquired prior to or after graduation before verifying a class year placement. This practice is tedious as well as erroneous.
  • Finally, aesthetics play a role - it simply looks better and more consistent to use a class year following the person's full last name.

 

Correct: 

  • Noreen Durkin Anderson '92
  • John Smith '04   

Incorrect:

  • Noreen Durkin '92 Anderson
  • John Smith, '04

Credits, units

Always use numerals: 3 credits; 18 credits in history; a 3-credit course; 4 units of English; 1 unit of geometry; 2 units of a foreign language. Also, use numerals when referring to credit hours.

(Note use of "in" with credits and "of" with units.)

Decades

No apostrophe: 1920s; 1980s; mid-1970s; spell out thirties; forties; fifties; sixties; etc.

A decade would only include an apostrophe if it was being used as a possessive modifier.

  • The actors wore 1950's clothing styles.

but,

  • The clothing styles featured in the revue were from the 1950s.

Please note that a.d. and b.c. are set in small caps (typeface about two points smaller than rest of text). Also note that b.c. follows the date, while a.d. precedes it.

  • He was born in 44 b.c.; she was born in a.d. 44.

Enumerations-Second, Third

In some cases, such as edition numbers in reference lists, ordinal numbers are expressed in numerals (4th ed., for example). Unlike the Chicago Manual, University style calls for second and third to be enumerated as shown: 2nd; 3rd. (Chicago Manual calls for 2d; 3d.) Spell out ordinal numbers in straight text: first, seventeenth, twenty-third.

Fractions

Fractions generally are too cumbersome to spell out and should be expressed in numerals, but judge each case on its own.

  • The obstacle was a 3 1/2-foot fence.
  • They had finished about one-third of the course.

Money

Spell out or use figures according to the general rule (one through nineteen spelled out, 20 and higher in numerals). If you spell out the number, then spell out the currency reference and vice versa.

  • They paid fifteen dollars for the picture at a rummage sale.

Only if an even dollar amount is in a sentence with a dollar/fraction amount do you use .00 after the amount.

  • The children paid $1.50 to enter; adults paid $3.00.

If you are preparing a brochure about a conference that has an application fee, use the dollar symbol and numerals. That's easier for readers to pick out when they're looking for the cost.

  • The $75 registration fee covers meals and learning materials.

More than/Over

When referring to something that can be counted, use more than rather than over.

  • More than fifty people attended (not Over fifty people attended).

but,

  • Jason is over six feet tall.

Multiple-digit numbers

Use a comma for four-digit and larger numbers (except dates): 3,500; 60,000.

 For very large numbers, use figure and word: 1.2 million, $90 million.

No. and number

Lowercase and use numeral with no. Whether to abbreviate or spell out depends on the nature of the publication. Spell out number in text, abbreviate in listings, charts, or graphs.

  • This is the number one priority among prospective students surveyed.
  • Name/Address/Social Security no.

Number is or number are

A number are available; the number is specific.

  • A number of textbooks are on back order.
  • The number of guests expected is fifty-six.

Numbers at the beginning of a sentence

Always spell out numbers at the beginning of a sentence. Rearrange the sentence if spelling out the number makes it cumbersome. Avoid putting numbers next to numbers-separate the numbers with words if possible.

Parts of books

Use numerals when you are referring to parts of a book.

  • Chapter 4; Table 2.5; page 4

Percent

Always use numerals; spell out percent in text: 15 percent; 9.2 percent. Use the % symbol in charts, graphs, and scientific and mathematical material.

Plurals of spelled-out numbers

Plurals of spelled-out numbers are formed like plurals of other nouns.

Quantities as numerals with abbreviations

If a quantity is used with an abbreviation, the quantity always should be expressed in numerals. If a symbol is used with the quantity, use a numeral. For two or more in quantity, the symbol should be repeated:

  • 3" x 5"; 30' x 50'; 80 km; 2 tsp.

Round numbers

Approximate figures in hundreds, thousands, or millions should be spelled out. Very large figures should be written as numerals, whether they are approximated or not.

  • The company distributed more than one million books.
  • The nation's population neared 2.3 billion.

Scientific text

In mathematical, statistical, technical, or scientific text, use figures. In ordinary text, treat the numbers according to University style as explained in this section.

Times of day

Although times of day are often spelled out in text, in most University material, the time of day is important for scheduling purposes; thus, University style has come to be the figure and a.m. or p.m. in both text and schedule listings. Note that a.m. and p.m. are not capitalized.

  • Classes scheduled for 5 p.m. and later have been canceled for today.

When possible, drop p.m. or a.m. rather than repeat it.

  • The meeting will be held from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

To avoid confusion, use noon and midnight rather than 12:00 p.m. (noon) and 12:00 a.m. (midnight). Don't capitalize noon or midnight unless it is the first word of the sentence.

  • I thought he said to meet him at midnight, but he meant that I should meet him at noon.

When preparing a conference agenda, if there are concurrent sessions that begin at the same time but end at different times, list the shorter one first:

10-11 a.m.:          Personal Effectiveness

10 a.m.-noon:     CQI: An Overview



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