MSU Editorial Style Guide

(Updated March 13, 2018)

This guide is based on the philosophy that punctuation and style should follow function and clarity. It was developed for use by anyone creating nonacademic print or electronic text pertaining to Michigan State University (other than materials created specifically for use by the news media, which follow the most current edition of The Associated Press Stylebook). The Chicago Manual of Style, Sixteenth Edition, and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, are the primary style and spelling references for MSU text creation, unless superseded by entries in this guide.

Questions or comments about this guide are welcome.
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academic degrees

Spell out and lowercase names of degrees when referenced generically in running text: He earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s in history, a master of business administration, and a doctorate.

Capitalize degree abbreviations without periods and set off with commas when following a name: John Doe, PhD, was the guest speaker.

academic titles

Academic titles are capitalized when they immediately precede a personal name and lowercased when following a name: Associate Professor John Doe; Jane Smith, assistant professor.

When an academic title is used in apposition before a personal name as a descriptive tag, it is lowercased: The team was led by history professors William Green and Susan White.

The term “professor” should not be used simply to indicate “faculty member.” (Use of “professors” in the example above indicates that Green and White are, indeed, full professors, not just members of the history faculty.)

The forms for MSU titles are vice president “for”; dean “of”; chair or chairperson “of”; professor, associate professor, and assistant professor “of”; and instructor “in”—followed by the applicable field or unit.

See also University Distinguished Professor.

accommodation versus accommodations

Accommodation refers to something supplied for the convenience of accessibility: Accommodation for persons with disabilities is available. Accommodations generally refers to lodging and related service arrangements: The hotel offered first-class accommodations.

acronyms and initialisms

Acronyms (read as a single word, such as AIDS) and initialisms (read as a series of letters, such as HIV) are abbreviations that generally are less cumbersome to use than the complete name of the entity they represent. Avoid coining new ones to address isolated situations.

Generally, acronyms and initialisms are based on the initial letter of the words in the name of the entity they represent and are formed using capital letters without periods. Plurals are formed by adding “s” (e.g., SATs) or “’s” for terms ending in “S” (e.g., SOS’s).

An acronym or initialism is enclosed in parentheses following the first text reference to the complete name for which it stands: The College of Human Medicine (CHM) is expanding into Grand Rapids. An acronym or initialism should not be provided if there is no subsequent reference, unless it is better known than the term for which it stands or there is a desire to promote its use.

Acronyms and initialisms commonly understood by the intended audience (e.g., GPA, ACT, SAT with prospective students) can be used on first reference.

The first reference to Michigan State University in institutional pieces need not be followed by (MSU) even when MSU is used in subsequent references.

MSU acronym anomalies include: Project GREEEN (Generating Research and Extension to meet Economic and Environmental Needs), SOuthern Astrophysical Research (SOAR).


The correct order for campus address information below the individual’s name, title, and unit is:

Building name
Street number and name Room number
East Lansing, MI 5-digit ZIP

Natural Science Building
288 Farm Lane Room 104
East Lansing, MI 48824

adjectives, coordinate

If two adjectives can be joined by “and” without affecting the meaning, they are coordinate and should be separated by a comma: It was a long, arduous exam.

adjectives, phrasal

A phrasal adjective (also called a compound modifier) functions as a unit to modify a noun. It is generally hyphenated if it appears before the noun: well-trained athlete. It is generally unhyphenated if it follows a verb: The athlete is well trained.

A two-word phrasal adjective that begins with an adverb ending in “ly” is not hyphenated even when preceding the noun: sharply worded reprimand.

If two phrasal adjectives end in a common element, the first phrase should end with a hyphen and the second with a hyphen and the common element: first- and second-place trophies.

Open compounds are not hyphenated even when preceding a noun: health care system, high school student, Nobel Prize winner. An en dash is used in place of a hyphen in a phrasal adjective when one of its elements is an open compound: Nobel Prize–winning author.


preferred spelling

affirmative-action statement, MSU

Michigan State University is an affirmative-action, equal-opportunity employer.

alumna/alumnus, alumnae/alumni

The plurals of alumna and alumnus are alumnae and alumni, respectively. While alumna and alumnae refer specifically to a woman or women and alumnus refers specifically to a man, alumni can be used to refer to both men and women and should be used for the general plural term. Do not use “alums” as a substitute.

These terms can mean either persons who have attended or those who have graduated from an institution. Clarification should be made if relevant to the context.

among versus between

Among is used for undefined or collective relationships. Between is used for one-to-one relationships. Between also is appropriate for more than two objects if multiple one-to-one relationships are understood from the context: collaboration between members of the consortium.


Do not use “&” in place of “and” in running text, even in the names of units or organizations that use an ampersand.


The apostrophe replaces missing letters (e.g., doesn’t) and missing numbers (e.g., class of ’71). The curved (or “smart”) version is preferred unless it is standing for feet in a measurement: 6' 8".

If use of straight apostrophes is the convention for a website, consistency is key.

apostrophe, for possessives

The possessive of most singular nouns is formed by adding “’s”; the possessive of most plural nouns is formed by adding an apostrophe only. This general rule covers most proper nouns, including names ending in s, x, or z, in both their singular and plural forms: Dickens’s novels, the Lincolns’ marriage.

When the entity possessed is the same for closely linked nouns, only the second noun takes the possessive form: I visited my aunt and uncle’s home. When the entities are different, both nouns take the possessive form: I appreciate my aunt’s and uncle’s specific talents.

artist in residence

three words


Direct and indirect quotes require attribution. The preferred attribution is “says.”


Big Ten

MSU is a member of the Big Ten (not Big 10) conference, which has 14 members. Other members are: Indiana University, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University, Rutgers University, University of Illinois, University of Iowa, University of Maryland, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska, and University of Wisconsin.


When black is used in reference to African Americans in running text, it is lowercased (as is white in reference to Caucasians): The rally included both black and white students.

Board of Trustees

Board of Trustees is capitalized in both explicit and implicit references to Michigan State University. Secondary references, such as “the board” or “the trustees,” are lowercased.


The complete building name is used on first reference: Biomedical and Physical Sciences Building, Communication Arts and Sciences Building.

Buildings named for a person use only the last name: Breslin Student Events Center, Hannah Administration Building, Smith Student-Athlete Academic Center, Wharton Center for Performing Arts.

Residence halls (never referred to as dorms or dormitories) do not include “residence” in their names: Case Hall is located near the Daugherty Football Building. Do not include directional indicators for halls with two sides unless relevant to the text: The James Madison College dean’s office is located in South Case Hall.



one word

See hyphen.

capital versus capitol

The seat of government is a capital: Lansing is the capital of Michigan. The building where a legislature meets is a capitol: The legislature cannot meet until renovations to the capitol are completed.


The general rule is that official names are capitalized; unofficial, informal, shortened, or generic names are not: Department of History, history department; Department of English, English department. This rule applies to names of offices, buildings, schools, departments, programs, institutes, centers, and so on.

capitalization, following a colon

In running text, the word following a colon should be lowercased unless it is a proper noun or the beginning of a series of sentences or questions: The results were clear: the treatment was successful.

capitalization, of a common element

When a common element applies to two or more names and precedes them, it is capitalized: Departments of History and English. When a common element applies to two or more names and follows them, it is lowercased: Wharton and Breslin centers.

capitalization, of geographical references

Regional terms (often based on compass points) that are accepted as proper names are usually capitalized: Midwest, Southeast Michigan, West Michigan. Adjectives or nouns derived from such terms are usually lowercased: midwestern, midwesterner, southeastern Michigan, western Michigan.

capitalization, of internal questions

Direct questions within a sentence are normally preceded by a comma but generally are not capitalized at their beginning unless they are long or contain internal punctuation: The question, how are we going to tell her? was on everyone’s mind. (An indirect question is not capitalized nor does it require a comma: The question is what to do next.)

capitalization, of titles with names

Civil, military, religious, and professional titles are capitalized when immediately preceding a name: Governor Rick Snyder, Governor Snyder. Titles following names, normally set off in apposition with commas, are lowercased: Rick Snyder, governor of Michigan, was elected in 2010.

captions (cutlines)

Captions (cutlines) appear adjacent to and explain photos and artwork. They are generally written in present tense and follow standard capitalization and punctuation if they contain complete sentences. A caption that is an incomplete phrase begins with a capital letter but has no closing punctuation.


Use chair or chairperson in references to heads of departments and committees. An exception is Joel Ferguson of the MSU Board of Trustees, who prefers chairman.
See also academic titles.


Where the government rather than the place is meant, the words city and state are capitalized: This is a City of East Lansing ordinance. She works for the State of Michigan.

clause, nonrestrictive

A nonrestrictive clause—one that is not essential to the meaning of a sentence—is normally introduced with the word which and preceded by a comma: Olds Hall, which was built in 1906, burned in 1916.

clause, restrictive

A restrictive clause—one that is essential to the meaning of a sentence—is normally introduced with the word that and not preceded by a comma: Each day that it snows becomes a holiday for school children in East Lansing.

comma, serial

Use serial commas when separating items in a list of three or more items, including a comma before “and” or “or” preceding the final element in a series: The flag is red, white, and blue. The cafeteria offered a choice of cake, pie, or ice cream for dessert.

If the items in the series contain internal punctuation, especially commas, use semicolons between the items to make the distinct items clear: The letters in question are dated August 7, 1989; May 15, 1990; and January 4, 1991.

comma, with coordinate adjectives

See adjectives, coordinate.

comma, with conjunctions

When independent clauses—those with both a subject and a verb—are joined by a conjunction (e.g., and, but, or, so, yet), a comma usually precedes the conjunction: The president explained MSU’s land-grant history, and the provost outlined the university’s mission. If the clauses are very short and closely connected, however, the comma maybe omitted: The president was present but the provost was absent.

A sentence with two verbs governed by one subject does not include a comma at the conjunction: The president explained MSU’s land-grant history and outlined the university’s mission.

comma, with introductory phrases

An introductory phrase that contains two prepositional phrases should be followed by a comma: In Paris in 1929, the French government advised Germany to settle war reparations. Commas after short introductory phrases aren’t necessary, but consistency of use is essential within a document or publication.

comma, with parentheses and quotation marks

Commas go after an expression in parentheses (like this), and they always go inside quotation marks, except when a quotation mark stands for inches: The painting, entitled A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, an oil on canvas painted by George Seurat, 1884–86, measures 6' 8" x 10' 10", and is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago.

comma, with terms like as well as, including, namely, and such as

If “as well as” follows a phrase using serial commas in order to distinguish its content from that of the larger group, the general practice is for a comma to precede it: He ate apples, oranges, grapes, and cherries, as well as his sandwich. If the sentence structure is reversed, then no comma is used: He ate a sandwich as well as apples, oranges, grapes, and cherries.

A comma should not be used with “as well as” if the phrase is connecting only two things: He ate apples as well as oranges. In such instances, use of “and” instead of “as well as” is preferable.

Generally, the expressions “such as” and “namely” are preceded by a comma: The study involved the three most critical issues, namely, voter registration, voter turnout, and referendums. Can I silently change British spellings, such as “colour,” into American spellings in quotations?

Whether to use a comma before “including” depends on the intended meaning of the sentence. The presence of a comma makes the sentence nonrestrictive: He managed a variety of projects, including joint, combined, and contingency exercises. (Projects may include joint, combined, or contingency exercises or some combination of the three.) The absence of a comma makes the sentence restrictive: He managed a variety of projects including joint, combined, and contingency exercises. (Every project must include joint, combined, and contingency exercises.)

commas, with geographical units and time

Spell out and set off with commas the name of a geographical unit when it follows the name of a smaller geographical unit found within its borders: East Lansing, Michigan, is the home of MSU. London, England, is the home of Big Ben.

Set off the year with commas when a specific date precedes it: March 1, 2009, was the deadline. Do not include commas when only a month precedes the year: March 2009 was the deadline.

compose versus comprise

To comprise is to be made up of or to include: The whole comprises many parts. Do not use “is comprised of.” To compose is to make up or to form: Many parts compose the whole. It is acceptable to use “is composed of”: The whole is composed of many parts. The phrase “comprised of,” although increasingly common, is considered poor usage. Instead, use “composed of” or “consisting of.”

continual versus continuous

That which is continual is intermittent or frequently repeated. That which is continuous is constant or uninterrupted.

course titles

Official course titles are capitalized: Latin America and the World, IAH 203: Latin America and the World.

course work

two words

credit hours

Use numerals to refer to credit hours: 3 credit hours, ANP 432: American Indian Women (3 credits), AL 493A: Arts and Letters Internship (1–6 credits).



Data is the plural of datum and requires use of a plural verb: The data are inconclusive.


one word


Spell out months and days of the week; use numerals for dates and years. Set off the date with commas if used with a day: Monday, September 14, celebration. Set off the year with commas if used with a month and date: September 14, 2009, celebration. Use no punctuation if using just a month and year: September 2009 celebration.

Decades may be referred to in any of the following ways: the 1960s, the ’60s, the sixties.

Centuries are referred to in ordinals—words for first through ninth and a combination of numbers and letters for 10th and later.

day care

two words always (noun or adjective)


Do not use “Dr.” as either a medical or academic title preceding a name. If needed for the context, follow a name with the appropriate degree: John Smith, MD; Jane Doe, PhD.


editor in chief

three words


To indicate “for example,” use e.g. set off by commas: The course will include many components, e.g., weekly reading assignments, a group project, a final exam.


An ellipsis (. . .) can be used to indicate an omission from a quoted passage as long as the omission doesn’t change the meaning or the author’s intent. The three dots in the ellipsis should be separated by spaces, and the ellipsis should be treated as a word with regard to space before and after: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth . . . a new nation . . . dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

em dash

The em dash (—) is used to set off parenthetical phrases, especially long or complex ones, where something stronger than a comma is effective: The building—one of MSU’s oldest—will be reroofed.


no hyphen 

emerita/emeritae, emeritus/emeriti

The plurals of emerita and emeritus are emeritae and emeriti, respectively. While emerita and emeritae refer specifically to a woman or women and emeritus refers specifically to a man, emeriti can be used to refer to both men and women and should be used for the general plural term. All references follow the noun: dean emerita of the college, professors emeriti.

These terms are honorary designations and should not be used simply to mean retired.

en dash

The en dash (–) is used to connect words or numbers to indicate “from this through this”: The Lansing–Chicago flight leaves early. He served as president 1995–2000. If “from” or “between” is used before the first of a pair of numbers, the en dash should not be used; instead, “from” should be followed by “through” and “between” by “and”: He served as president from 1995 through 2000. He served as president between 1995 and 2000.

The en dash is used in place of a hyphen to join two elements when at least one element contains two or more unjoined words: Nobel Prize–winning author.

The en dash is used by some universities to indicate a specific campus: University of Wisconsin–Madison.

ensure versus insure

Both ensure and insure mean “to make certain.” However, only insure refers specifically to insurance.


The abbreviated form of et cetera (meaning “and other things”), etc. implies a list of things (never people) too numerous to list. When used, etc. is not preceded by “and.”


See race/ethnicity.

Extension, MSU Extension

Extension is capitalized in all references to Michigan State University Extension.



The word fax is derived from the word facsimile; it is not an acronym, so it should not be expressed in all capital letters.

fellow, fellowship

Do not capitalize unless part of an official name: Jane Doe was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Jane Doe received a Hellman Fellowship in Science and Technology Policy from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

foreign words and phrases

Commonly used foreign expressions and their abbreviations (e.g., ex officio, et al., cum laude) are not italicized. If a term is listed in the foreign words and phrases section of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, it should be italicized.


Do not capitalize former when preceding a title: former MSU President Peter McPherson; Peter McPherson, former MSU president.


Full names of official forms and documents are capitalized: Free Application for Federal Student Aid.


The terms freshman and freshmen are the singular and plural nouns, respectively, that refer to students with 0–27 credits. The adjectival form is freshman: freshman year, freshman courses.

full-time, full time

Hyphenate as an adjective before a noun: She is a full-time student. Otherwise, leave as two words: He attends college full time.


For consistency with University Advancement, fundraising and its varying forms are spelled as one word.


grade point average (GPA)

Do not hyphenate or put periods in the initialism GPA.


When greater is used with the name of a city to denote a whole metropolitan area, it is capitalized: Greater Lansing.


health care

always two words (noun or adjective)

home page

two words


Use a hyphen to separate noninclusive numbers, such as telephone numbers: 517-355-1855, 1-800-942-7866 (1-800-WHARTON).

Use a hyphen in compound modifiers. See adjective, phrasal.

Most words formed with prefixes (e.g., midcareer, multidisciplinary, metadata) are not hyphenated. However, a hyphen is used when the prefix precedes a proper noun (mid-July) or to avoid double i’s (multi-institutional), double a’s (meta-analysis), and other combinations of letters or syllables that might cause misreading (re-cover versus recover).

Words formed with the suffix “wide” do not include a hyphen (e.g., campuswide) unless they have more than two syllables (e.g., university-wide) or include a proper noun (Lansing-wide).



To indicate “that is,” use i.e. set off by commas: That great American holiday, i.e., Thanksgiving, is almost upon us.


Use only as a noun, never as a verb.

Inc., LLC, Ltd., PC, etc.

See names, business.

international students

Use of the phrase international students is preferable to foreign students.


always capitalized

italics, for distinction

Use italics (or quotation marks) to set off a word being discussed or explained, but use one or the other consistently throughout a document or publication.

Avoid setting off a common informal expression: the dean’s get-together, not the dean’s get-together.

italics, with titles

Italics are used for the titles of books, magazines, journals, book-length poems, newspapers, movies, television shows, radio programs, operas and long musical compositions, and paintings, sculptures, and other nonphotographic works of art.

Do not italicize descriptors that are not part of a title: Newsweek magazine.

In running text, do not italicize or capitalize “the,” even if it is part of the title of a periodical or a newspaper: the New York Times.


Jenison Field House

three words

Jr., Sr., III, etc.

See names, personal.


preferred spelling


The terms junior and juniors are the singular and plural nouns, respectively, that refer to students with 56–87 credits.



hyphenated as a descriptor of MSU

like versus such as

This word and this phrase can generally be used interchangeably when introducing an example or series of examples, although “such as” is more generally used in formal prose. Comparisons, however, always call for the use of “like.”

lists (introduced by a complete sentence)

In running text, vertical lists are best introduced by a complete sentence followed by a colon. Items in a list should be parallel; that is, each item should be introduced by a verb, a noun phrase, or some other similar construction.

Items that are phrases are lowercase (unless capitalization is required for a proper noun), and there is no closing punctuation.

The following items must accompany your application:

  • three letters of recommendation, including one from a teacher
  • brief personal essay
  • check for $25
  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid form

Items that are complete sentences begin with a capital letter and end with a period.

Do the following to complete your application:

  • Provide three letters of recommendation, including one from a teacher.
  • Submit a brief personal essay.
  • Send a check for $25.
  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form.

lists (introduced by a phrase)

In running text, if a vertical list completes an introductory phrase, there is no colon following that phrase. Items are lowercase (unless capitalization is required for a proper noun) and are followed by punctuation (period after the final item and comma or semicolon after all others as appropriate). The word “and” is not required following the next-to-last item.

The Office of Admissions requires that applicants

  • provide three letters of recommendation, including one from a teacher;
  • submit a brief personal essay;
  • send a check for $25;
  • complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form.

Lower Peninsula (of Michigan)

always capitalized



always hyphened

Midwest, midwestern

References to the Midwest of the United States are capitalized. Derivatives, such as midwestern, are not.


Monetary amounts are expressed with numerals and accompanied by either ¢ or $: 5¢, 50¢, $500, $5,000. Large amounts can include words and should not be hyphenated: $5 million award, $50 billion deficit.


Months are not abbreviated in running text, nor should a comma be used if just the month and year are stated: September 2009.

See also dates.

MSU Libraries

MSU Libraries is a unit that encompasses the Main Library and numerous branch libraries, some located within the Main Library building and some in other facilities across campus.


The name of MSU's news website and TV show is one word.


See prefixes.


See prefixes.


names, business

Business name qualifiers, such as Inc., LLC, Ltd., and PC, are not set off by commas: Pfizer Inc. was founded in 1849.

names, personal

Personal name qualifiers, such as Jr., Sr., and III, are not set off by commas: John F. Kennedy Sr. was the 35th president of the United States.

Include a space between initials used instead of a complete name: W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

Enclose nicknames in quotation marks within the complete name: George Herman “Babe” Ruth.


See prefixes.


See prefixes.

nonsexist writing

He, him, and his should not be used to refer to both genders. Use the plural terms they, them, and theirs or revise the sentence to eliminate their use entirely. Humanity is preferable to mankind. Manufactured is preferable to manmade.

North Campus

This is the area of campus north of the Red Cedar River.


Use words for numbers from one through nine. Use numerals for numbers 10 and greater. Use commas in numbers 1,000 and greater, except in reference to SAT scores, which do not contain a comma.

Use words for ordinals from first through ninth. Use numerals for ordinals 10th and higher.

Use words for fractions: two-thirds, three-quarters.

Use numerals for percentages: 5 percent, 55 percent.

Use numerals for credit hours: 3 credit hours; 1–6 credit hours.

In general, maintain consistency in the use of words or numerals for items of the same category within a sentence. If one number of the group has a value of 10 or more, use all numerals: She read 4 of the 14 required books in just two weeks. However, inconsistent use of words and numerals for items of the same category has become increasingly common and is acceptable in publications with many number references.

See also dates.


off-campus, off campus

Hyphenate as an adjective before a noun: She has an off-campus job. Otherwise, leave as two words: He works off campus.

on-campus, on campus

Hyphenate as an adjective before a noun: He has an on-campus job. Otherwise, leave as two words: She works on campus.


one word


part-time, part time

Hyphenate as an adjective before the noun: She is a part-time student. Otherwise, leave as two words: He attends college part time.


Percentages are always given in numerals followed by the word percent: 5 percent, 55 percent, an increase from 5 percent to 55 percent. Use of the percent sign (%) is limited to tables, graphs, and the like.

phone numbers

Always include the area code with a telephone numbers and separate it from the number with parentheses, a hyphen, a slash, or some other symbol.


Although not strictly compound modifiers, words formed with prefixes are usually closed (e.g., multidisciplinary course, nonprofit organization, postdoctoral student), unless the prefix is followed by a capitalized word or a date (e.g., mid-July, un-American, pre-1950).

Compounds formed with prefixes are normally closed, whether they are nouns, verbs, adjectives, or adverbs. See Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, to verify.

A hyphen should appear, however, when a prefix or combining form stands alone: over- and underused, macro- and microeconomics.

president, MSU

The preferred name configuration for MSU’s current president is John Engler. Capitalize president when it immediately precedes the name and lowercase it when it follows the name: Interim President John Engler; John Engler, interim president of MSU.


quotation marks

The curved (or “smart”) version is preferred unless it is standing for inches in a measurement: 6' 8".

If use of straight quotation marks is the convention for a website, consistency is key.

quotation marks, for distinction

Use quotation marks (or italics) to set off a word being discussed or explained, but use one or the other consistently throughout a document or publication.

Avoid setting off a common informal expression: the dean’s get-together, not the dean’s “get-together.”

quotation marks, with quotes

Quoted material is enclosed in quotation marks. Quotations within quotations are enclosed in single quotation marks: “Shakespeare, who is often called ‘the Bard of Avon,’ will be the focus of this English course,” says the professor.

Periods and commas precede closing quotation marks. Colons and semicolons follow closing quotation marks. Question marks and exclamation points follow closing quotation marks, unless the question mark or exclamation point belongs within the quoted material.

quotation marks, with titles

Use quotation marks around titles of non-book-length poems, theses, dissertations, manuscripts in collections, articles in periodicals, book chapters, short stories within a book, conferences and symposia, songs, photographs, television episodes, and unpublished works.



In compliance with U.S. Department of Education mandates, MSU uses the following terms in reporting racial and ethnic data: American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian; Black or African American; Hispanic (of any race); Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; and White.



Lowercase seasons in all generic references: winter 2009, spring semester 2009. Capitalize when part of an official name: Fall Welcome activities.


Lowercase in all references: fall semester 2009. Note that summer semester options are session one, session two, and full session.


The most common use of the semicolon is between two independent but related clauses not joined by a conjunction: Terrie Taylor, University Distinguished Professor, intends to do more research in Africa; however, her timeline has not been finalized.

Semicolons are used to separate items in a series that include internal punctuation: The committee membership breakdown was as follows: professors, four; associate professors, two; and assistant professors, seven.


The terms senior and seniors are the singular and plural nouns, respectively, that refer to students with at least 88 credits.


always hyphenated


The terms sophomore and sophomores are the singular and plural nouns, respectively, that refer to students with 28–55 credits.

South Campus

This is the area of campus south of the Red Cedar River.

Southeast Michigan, southeastern Michigan

The geographic region is capitalized; the directional derivative is not.


Only one space follows any form of punctuation, including a period, comma, question mark, exclamation point, semicolon, colon, and the like.


Where the government rather than the place is meant, the words city and state are capitalized: She works for the State of Michigan. This is a City of East Lansing ordinance.


always hyphenated

study abroad

always two words



The definite article “the” should not be capitalized before names of either on- or off-campus entities, even if the entities capitalize it in their own materials: the School of Hospitality Business not The School of Hospitality Business; Ohio State University not The Ohio State University.

The Spartan

The statue that stands at the north end of Demonstration Hall Field is The Spartan. It is casually referred to as Sparty, as is MSU’s costumed mascot.

theatre versus theater

For consistency with MSU’s Department of Theatre, theatre is preferred in all uses except official names to the contrary.

Thumb (of Michigan)

always capitalized

time references

Time is written numerically followed by a.m. or p.m., as appropriate, except for noon and midnight: 8 a.m., 2 p.m. Inclusion of terms like “in the morning” or “in the afternoon” is redundant. If one time cited contains a minute designation, all times cited should have a minute designation for consistency: 8:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

titles, of people

Civil, military, religious, and professional titles are capitalized when they immediately precede a personal name and are lowercased when following a name or used in place of a name.

Do not use courtesy titles, i.e, Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss.

See also academic titles.

titles, of works

Retain the spelling of the original title, but spell out numbers usually spelled out in text and change “&” to “and.” If needed for clarification, add a colon between a title and a subtitle.

See also italics, with titles; quotation marks, with titles.


not towards


Like other titles, trustee is capitalized before a name and lowercased following a name: Trustee Joel Ferguson; Joel Ferguson, MSU trustee.

See also Board of Trustees.


United States/U.S.

United States is written out when used as a noun: The United States has a large population. U.S. should be used only as an adjective: The U.S. population is large.


Even in references to MSU, the word “university” standing alone is lowercased: The university is in East Lansing.

University Distinguished Professor

University Distinguished Professor is an official designation established in 1990. (It does not indicate recipients of MSU’s Distinguished Faculty Award.) It is always written with initial capitals: John Doe, University Distinguished Professor of history; John Doe, University Distinguished Professor, Department of History.



See hyphen.

Upper Peninsula (of Michigan)

always capitalized


Remove “http://” and “www.” from URLs if inclusion is not needed for connection to the website.


vice president

two words

See also academic titles.



one word and lowercased


one word and lowercased

West Michigan/western Michigan

The geographic region is capitalized; the directional derivative is not.


always hyphenated


hyphenated as a descriptor of MSU