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Editorial Style Guidelines

Last Updated: July 2021

The Clarke University Editorial Style Guide is a reference tool for campus communicators to use when preparing content for print and electronic distribution. The University’s editorial style generally adheres to The Associated Press Stylebook.

If looking for a rule on anything not listed below, consult the most recent edition of the Associated Press Stylebook.

For more information, contact the Marketing & Communication Office at (563)588-6318.

acronyms — On first reference, you may write an acronym in parentheses after spelling out the name. Only the acronym should be used in following references. Be considerate that external audiences such as prospective students may benefit from writing out the full name throughout early communications to help them learn the organization. Ex: Clarke Activities Board (CAB) plans student activities. CAB has 50 members. Do not use periods to separate the letters in an acronym.

administrative office names

adviser /advisor — Both accepted spellings of the noun meaning one who advises or counsels, though “advisor” is preferred in an academic context.

alumni — Alumnus refers to a male graduate. Alumna refers to a female graduate. Alumnae is multiple female graduates. Alumni refers to multiple male and/or female graduates.

ampersand (&) — Spell out the word “and” unless the ampersand is part of a proper name – Cottingham & Butler. This is most important in text-based pieces like press releases. Some exceptions may be made when used as a design element in flyers, postcards, etc., but these are reserved for when the ampersand provides clarity and visual aesthetic. See Formal names of Clarke University offices, rooms, and buildings below. 

a.m., p.m. — Lowercase, with periods. Avoid the redundant 10 a.m. this morning.

art exhibits — Surround name of exhibit in quotation marks. Ex: Senior Kyle Majerus presented his senior art exhibit entitled “Intoxication.”

apostrophe (‘) – Commonly used to note possession, contractions and omitted letters. Apostrophes do not indicate plurals with the exception of plurals of a single letter: Mind your p’s and q’s. He learned the three R’s and brought home a report card with four A’s and two B’s. The Oakland A’s won the pennant. See the full list of examples of apostrophe use at

award names — Capitalize the formal title of an award: The Meneve Dunham Award for Excellence in Teaching.

book and composition titles — Use quotation marks around the titles of books, songs, movies, plays, operas, television programs, lectures, speeches and works of art. Do not use quotation marks with reference works, such as Encyclopedia Britannica, or around names of magazines, newspapers or professional journals.

chair — Use the word “chair” for all department heads. Ex: She is chair of the chemistry department. Capitalize as a formal title before a name, Chair of Science and Mathematics Karen Glover, Ph.D.

Clarke values – The official order of Clarke University values are education, charity, justice, and freedom.

class names — Capitalize actual class names: Cornerstone I or Introduction to Life Science. Do not capitalize classes as in senior, junior, sophomore, freshman/first year. Ex: The senior class and not the Senior class.

comma usage — Use commas to separate elements in a series, including before the conjunction to ensure clarity: Please bring me a pencil, eraser, and notebook. Commas should always be placed inside quotation: “Clarke University is the best school in the country,” he said. Do not use a comma after a question mark or exclamation point as in the following example: “How many students attend the university?” the student asked.

degree types — BA, MA have no periods. Ph.D. has periods. These are both correct: She will earn her master’s degree in social work. She is working toward her Master of Social Work degree. Most of the time master’s and bachelor’s degrees are considered possessive (‘s), however there is no possessive in Master of Science or Bachelor of Arts.  An associate degree is never possessive.

department names — Capitalize department names: Clarke University Business Department or Business Department. Only academic departments should be referred to as “departments.” Administrative offices should always be referred to as “office.” Ex: Business Office refers to the administrative office, while Business Department refers to the academic department. See Formal names of Clarke University offices, rooms, and buildings below. 

email — Email is one word, no hyphen.

esports — Acceptable in all references to competitive multiplayer video gaming. Use alternate forms like eSports or e-sports only if part of a formal name, like an organization or arena. Capitalize at the start of sentences. Like other collective nouns that are plural in form, esports takes singular form when the group or quantity is regarded as a unit: Some gamers are finding esports is a viable profession; nine esports were added to the competition. It is also acceptable to refer to individual esports events as games or events.

event happenings — State in order of day, date and time: The group will meet on Thursday, Oct. 7, at 6 p.m. in Rose O’Toole Hall. A comma should always follow the date in this format. When the day is listed, the month may be abbreviated according to the AP Stylebook abbreviations. Jan. Feb. Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec. (This is dependent upon the design.)

grade-point-average — Should be hyphenated and lowercase. Use GPA as a second reference.

graduation year — The graduation year of an alumna/us follows the last name and is set off with an apostrophe. Graduates with multiple degrees or advanced degrees should include a designation of “M” for Master’s, “D” for Doctorate : Jane Smith ’99; Tom Jones ’01, ’04M; Carrie Ford ’07D.

health care — is two words.

hometown — Include student’s hometown in stories when possible, to allow for sharing in hometown papers, social media, etc.  The hometown should always be listed in the following format: Olivia Weikum, of Paris, Texas, received the award.

hyphen vs. em dash — Whether to hyphenate a word can be tricky. For the rules, refer to the following entries in the AP Stylebook: prefixes, suffixes, hyphen, co-, extra-, pre-, post-, self-, and semi-. Compound modifiers should always be hyphenated if they are directly in front of the word they modify. Ex: well-known actor. Exception: Do not hyphenate compound modifiers if the first word ends in –ly. Ex: highly motivated student.

An em dash is a longer hyphen achieved with a key command (option or alt plus the – key, held down simultaneously). An em dash is used – not a hyphen – mid-sentence to insert a thought. ­

Inc. — When a business name includes, Inc. do not put a comma after Inc. in the middle of a sentence. For example, Pineapples Aplenty, Inc. is a place to purchase pineapples.

months — Abbreviate Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. before a specific date but spell out when cited without a date or when only with a year. Ex: Monday, Jan. 8, and November 2018. There is no comma between a month and a year: March 2018.

Movies/films — Surround the names of films and television shows in quotations: “The Forgotten People.”

music group or ensemble names — Capitalize the proper names of the groups but do not place in quotes or italicize: Clarke Brass Quintet or Clarke Collegiate Singers.

music titles — Surround the names of songs and longer works, such as operas, with quotation marks: “Ebbene Signor Figaro” (song) from Gioacchino Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” (opera).

numbers — Spell out whole numbers up to (and including) nine (e.g., zero, one, 10, 96, 104). Spell out casual expressions: A picture is worth a thousand words, but a really good one is worth a thousand dollars.

office — Capitalize “office” if part of a title — such as Clarke University Public Relations Office. Always use ____ Office, instead of Office of ____. Only administrative offices should be referred to as “offices.” Academic departments should always be referred to as “department.” Ex: Business Office refers to the Administrative Office, while Business Department refers to the academic department. See Formal names of Clarke University offices, rooms, and buildings below. 

parentheses — In general, use parentheses around logos, as shown in datelines, but otherwise be sparing with them.

The temptation to use parentheses is a clue that a sentence is becoming contorted. Try to write it another way. If a sentence must contain incidental material, then commas or two dashes are frequently more effective. Use these alternatives whenever possible. However, there will be some instances when parentheses can clarify, such as:

Your scholarship award is included ($1,500).

If material in parentheses ends a sentence, the period goes after the parentheses.

periods— Use only one space after periods.

phone numbers — Include area code before phone numbers and write in following manner: (563)588-6300. The only exception is business cards which use 563.588.6300.

plural words — When speaking of more than one, use the following words: alumni (a pair or group that contains at least one male), alumnae (more than one woman), emeriti (a pair or group that contains at least one male), emeritae (more than one female), first-year, curricula. See singular words entry.

President and University — In reference to this university and our president, always capitalize.

quotation marks — Punctuation always go inside quotation mark when part of the quoted material. As in “Jeff Lamb is the best coach.” Or “Mary Ellen is the queen of campus!”

However, semi-colons, colons, question marks and exclamation points go outside the quotation mark occasionally as in:
Do you actually like “Cajun Style”?
I can’t believe you lied to me about the ending of “The Sixth Sense”!

Single quotes inside of double quotes should be used like this: “When he said, ‘I see dead people,’ it sent a chill down my spine!”

resident assistant — May use RA on second reference.

room — Capitalize the word room if followed by a number or preceded by an actual name: Room 116A or Student Dining Room.

scholarship names — Capitalize the formal name of scholarships: Trustee Scholarship.

singular words — The following words always indicate one person or item: alumnus (male), alumna (female), emeritus (male), emerita (female), first-year, curriculum. See plural words entry.

states — Write out the full name of the state for clarity, with exceptions for mailing addresses, lists and tables, and political designations such as Joe Smith, D-Wisc. Find examples from the US Postal Service.

theater vs. theatre — Use “theater” in all cases.

times — From 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. OR 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Remember to use “noon” and “midnight” instead of “12 p.m.” and “12 a.m.” Always include periods in a.m. and p.m. and put a space between the time and the a.m. or p.m. Time ranges should be set apart with an en dash with no space on either side. Example: 11 a.m –2:30 p.m., 2:30–4:30 p.m. and 9 a.m.–noon are all correct.

titles — Include academic degrees after a name if appropriate but still follow with appropriate title, such as Sean Bradley, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Mathematics. Instructor titles need to be accurate. Check the online directory to determine whether the instructor is a professor, associate professor, assistant professor, or instructor. In general, capitalize titles – such as professor of Psychology – if used directly before or after a person’s name. Academic titles after a name should be abbreviated using periods in Ph.D., Ed.D., Ed.S. and D.Min., and writing all other degrees without periods: Daisy Halvorson, MBA; Kate Zanger, Ed.S.

Religious orders should be abbreviated without using periods. Joan Lingen, BVM, Ph.D. The abbreviation for sister is Sr. Only use one or the other when referring to a Sister, either Sr. Joan Lingen, Ph.D. OR Joan Lingen, BVM, Ph.D.

The president of the university should be referred to as Fletch Lamkin, Ph.D. on first reference.

There is no abbreviation for father when referring to a priest: Father Dennis Miller or the Rev. Dennis Miller.

website — Do not underline or boldface addresses. Do not use www for Clarke’s website. Simply use or as appropriate.

Formal names of Clarke University offices, rooms, and buildings

Academic Affairs Office
Admissions Office
Allendorf Classroom
Alumnae Lecture Hall (ALH)
Alumni Relations Office
Athletics Office
A.Y. McDonald Meeting Room
A.Y. McDonald Athletic and Recreation Field
Burrows Field
Business Office
Café 1843
Campus Ministry Office
Catherine Byrne Hall (CBH)
Catherine Dunn, BVM, Apartments (CDA)
Clarke Student Association Office
Center for Career, Compass, and Lifelong Learning
Conference & Event Services Office
Conlon Game Room
Counseling Center
Development Office
Engagement & Intercultural Programs
Eliza Kelly Hall (EKH)
Fabiano Conference Room (FCR)
Facilities Office?
Financial Aid Office
Foley Campus Ministry Lounge
Dining Services
Gallagher Lounge
Gantz Plaza
Haas Administrative Offices
Health Services Office
Information Technology Office
Instructional Resource Center
Jack & Rosemary Gantz Athletic Practice Facility
Jansen Music Hall
Keller Computer Center (KCC)
Lamberti Meeting Room
Lingen Technology Commons (LTC)
Barwick Eppel Mail Center
Marie Miske Center for Science Inquiry
Margaret Mann, BVM Academic Resource Center
Marketing & Communication Office
Mary Benedict Hall (MBH)
Mary Frances Hall (MFH)
Mary Josita Hall (MJH)
Mary Benedict Hall Formal Lounge
Mary Frances Hall Formal Lounge
Mary Josita Hall Formal Lounge
Nicholas J. Schrup Library
O’Connor Rare Book Room
Physical Activity Center (PAC)
Physical Plant Office
President’s Office
Quigley Gallery 1550
R.C. & Celeste Wahlert Atrium
Registrar’s Office
Residence Life Office
Robert & Ruth Kehl Center
Rose O’Toole Room
Sacred Heart Chapel
Safety & Security Office
Spittler Multicultural Center
Sister Lucilda O’Connor Language Learning Lab
Spires Room
Stoltz Student Life Wing
Student Accounts Office
Student Activity Center (SAC)
Student Activities Office
Student Dining Room
Student Life Office
Student Organization Office
Terence Donaghoe Hall (TDH)
Therese M. Mackin BVM ’50 Institutional Advancement Office
Wahlert Sports Complex
Welcome Desk
West Locust Dining Room
Whitlow Campus Store
Writing Center