This guide helps University communicators follow a style that is consistent and appropriate for print and online materials written for and about the University.
We use The Associated Press Stylebook for our published content. The AP Stylebook is used broadly by other Universities for communication and news writing. The most important principle in applying any style is to maintain a consistent editorial approach within a specific piece.
This abbreviated style guide covers items not mentioned in The AP Stylebook, notes items you will most likely encounter, or indicates exceptions Princeton makes to the stylebook.
The AP Stylebook is updated periodically. When that occurs, we will update this guide.
Have a question? Contact the editorial team at CommsEditorialTeam@Princeton.EDU in the Office of Communications.
- A, An, And
- Abbreviations and Acronyms
- Academic Degrees
- A Cappella
- Cities and States
- Culture/Ethnic Designations
- Dates and Times
- File Formats
- Fundraising and Fundraiser
- Inclusive Language
- Menu Links and Headers
- Nondiscrimination Statement
- Possessives Ending in 'S'
- Princeton University
- Telephone Numbers
- That and Which
- Web Terminology
- Wide (as a Suffix)
A, An, And
Use the article "a" before consonant sounds and "an" before vowel sounds:
- a historic event
- an honorable person (the h is silent)
Abbreviations and Acronyms
An acronym is the grouping of a series of initials, or initial letters, for an entity or organization that make up a unique word used as the shorthand for the name of that organization (OPEC, MENSA, NATO, NASA, etc.), as distinct from abbreviations, which are a series of initials used as the shorthand name for that organization (FBI, CIA, etc). Acronyms and abbreviations often are used in a similar manner.
In general, avoid "alphabet soup" — unnecessary use of acronyms or abbreviations — whenever possible:
- The European Language Resources Association has awarded two Princeton psychologists this year's Antonio Zampolli Prize. The biannual award, named for the first president of the association (not ELRA), honors outstanding contributions to the advancement of language resources.
When necessary, spell out the first reference followed by the acronym or abbreviation in parentheses; the acronym or abbreviation may be used for subsequent references:
- There are two main ways to get involved in the Undergraduate Student Government (USG): through elected positions or appointed positions. USG elections occur twice a year, at the end of the fall and spring semesters. (But perhaps better to omit the parenthetical reference and write: "Student government elections occur …," or simply "Elections occur …").
Acronyms and abbreviations may be used for the first reference if they are widely recognized:
- SAT, NASA
Use periods in two-letter abbreviations. Use all caps, but no periods, in longer abbreviations:
- U.S., U.N., Ph.D. (even though it has the small "h"), BSE, YMCA, CIA
The preferred form is to spell out degrees and avoid abbreviations.
|Formal Use||General Use 1||General Use 2||Abbreviated Use|
|Bachelor of Arts||bachelor's degree||bachelor's||A.B. (Princeton)|
|Bachelor of Arts||bachelor's degree||bachelor's||B.A. (Other Institutions)|
|Bachelor of Science||bachelor's degree||bachelor's||B.S.|
|Bachelor of Science in Engineering||bachelor's degree||bachelor's||B.S.E.|
|Master of Arts||master's degree||master's||M.A.|
|Doctor of Philosophy||doctoral degree||doctorate||Ph.D.|
The word "degree" should not follow an abbreviation:
Use two words and no italics to refer to the groups that sing without accompaniment:
Avoid using only class years behind the names of students and alumni (e.g., Jane Jones '20) unless the material is designated primarily for an internal audience, and/or there is a long list and it is clear that these are students and alumni.
- Preferred style for undergraduates: senior Jane Jones; Jane Jones, a senior; Jane Jones, a member of the Class of 2020; or, in the summer, Jane Jones, a rising senior.
- Preferred style for long lists of undergraduates: Several undergraduates were selected to serve on the committee: senior Jane Jones, sophomore David Smith, first-year student John Doe and junior Betty Anderson. Also acceptable, such as with a list of alumni: Several undergraduates and alumni were selected to serve on the committee: Betty Anderson '84, John Doe '15, Jane Jones '20 and David Smith '67.
- Preferred for alumni in external publications:
- Wendy Kopp, a 1989 Princeton alumna, is the founder of Teach for America, one of the most popular and influential public-service programs in the country. Or, Wendy Kopp, a 1989 Princeton graduate, is the founder…
- Suggested style for alumni in internal publications: Sally Lee MPA '85, Ph.D. '87. The asterisk (*) is used for graduate alumni for internal audiences.
- Preferred style for alumni who did not graduate: Jack Jones, who attended Princeton from 2004 to 2006…
Avoid using other letter and class year designations behind names (H, h, S, etc.) unless the audience is extremely familiar with these designations. The preference is to write out what they mean so all can understand (the recipient of an honorary degree, an honorary class member, the spouse of an alumnus/a, etc.).
While the AP Stylebook does not make provision for bullets, the Princeton Office of Communications recognizes the value of using bullets to present lists in some instances. Here are our guidelines:
Use a colon to introduce a list only when the text following the colon does not flow naturally from it.
Here are examples of punctuation:
- The students in the Tuesday afternoon seminar were asked to
- read a chapter in a novel from the 18th century;
- write an essay comparing it with a chapter in a novel from the 20th century; and
- complete both assignments by 5 p.m.
- The students in the Tuesday afternoon seminar have three assignments:
- Read a chapter in a novel from the 18th century.
- Write an essay comparing it with a chapter in a novel from the 20th century.
- Complete both projects by 5 p.m.
Bulleted items may be capped or lowercase, depending on preference. Be consistent throughout the document. Generally, items that are complete sentences should be capped, and those that are fragments should be lowercase.
Capitalize a job title when it immediately precedes a person's name. The title is not capitalized when it is an incomplete designation, follows a name or is on second reference:
- Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber
Christopher L. Eisgruber, president of Princeton University
- Professor of Molecular Biology Jane Flint
Jane Flint, professor of molecular biology
professor Jane Flint
Endowed professorships are capitalized, even when the title follows a name. If following the name, it is preceded by a "the" or "Princeton's" to avoid confusion:
- Anthony Grafton, the Henry Putnam University Professor of History, moderated the panel.
- Cornel West, Princeton's Class of 1943 University Professor in the Center for African American Studies, Emeritus, is the author of "Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud."
Departments, Offices, the Board of Trustees
- Capitalize the formal names of departments and offices, as well as the Board of Trustees; do not capitalize informal names and incomplete designations:
Department of Chemistry
the chemistry department
- the Office of Admission
the admission office
Facilities Organization: refers to the organizational unit at Princeton encompassing Building Services, Conference and Event Services, Office of Design and Construction, Dining Services, Facilities Engineering, Facilities Finance and Administrative Services, Grounds and Building Maintenance, Housing and Real Estate Services, Life Safety and Security Systems, the Office of Real Estate Development, and the Office of the University Architect.
While "The Trustees of Princeton University" is the legal title of the corporation that is empowered to "conduct a university not for profit," the group is informally referred to as the Board of Trustees in other materials:
- The Princeton University Board of Trustees
the Board of Trustees
In copyright statements, write:
- Copyright © 2020 by The Trustees of Princeton University (note the "T" on "The" is capitalized)
Buildings, Places, Centers
Capitalize the word "University" whenever referring to Princeton University, even though the word Princeton may not precede it. When referring to Princeton's history and the College of New Jersey, the word "College" is capitalized (note that "the" is not capitalized).
Capitalize the formal names of buildings, places and centers. Use the formal name on first reference and, in most cases, use lowercase on second reference:
- Princeton University Chapel
the University Chapel
- Princeton University Art Museum
the art museum
- Bobst Center
The center has five rooms.
- The University allows ... (capitalize the "U" when referring to Princeton University)
At any university, students will ...
Omit the first name of the person for whom a building or center is named, unless the reference is for memorial or ceremonial purposes:
- Burr Hall
- Thomas Laboratory
- Davis International Center
For buildings or centers that have additional identifiers with their names, use those whenever possible on first or early reference, and the last name only on subsequent references:
- Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding (Fields Center on subsequent references)
- Keller Center for Innovation in Engineering Education (Keller Center on subsequent references)
In general, put the building name first followed by the room number:
- McCosh Hall, Room 50
For large auditoriums, put the room first followed by the building name:
- Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall
- Taplin Auditorium in Fine Hall
Identify Princeton's residential colleges as such in the text — unless it's clear from the context — to avoid confusion with other independent colleges and universities:
The formal names of special events are capitalized:
- Alumni Day
- Class Day
- Opening Exercises
Cities and States
Use commas to separate the name of a state when it follows a city:
- The train ride ended in New Brunswick, New Jersey, at 5 p.m.
Spell out the names of the 50 U.S. states when they stand alone and when a state is listed with a city, town, village, etc.
Note about use of United States: Use "U.S." only as an adjective, otherwise spell it out. "She studied U.S. culture of the 1950s." "She studied the culture of the United States from the 1950s."
Do not use states in narrative text with these U.S. cities:
- Las Vegas
- Los Angeles
- New Orleans
- New York City
- St. Louis
- Salt Lake City
- San Antonio
- San Diego
- San Francisco
- Oklahoma City
Do not use country names with these cities:
- Guatemala City
- Hong Kong
- Kuwait City
- Mexico City
- New Delhi
- Panama City
- Quebec City
- Rio de Janeiro
- San Marino
- São Paulo
- Vatican City
Use "first-year students" instead of "freshmen"
Use "people of color" or "underrepresented" in stories where it is appropriate to identify people by race; avoid using the term "minority," if possible.
Capitalize "Black" and "Indigenous."
Dates and Times
Use figures for days of the month. Omit the ordinal designations of nd, rd, st, th.
Place a comma between the month and the year when the day is mentioned:
- On April 27, 2017, Communiversity brought together hundreds of people.
Do not place a comma between the month and the year when the day is not mentioned:
- In April 2017, Communiversity brought together hundreds of people.
When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate the month according to AP style: Jan., Feb., Aug. Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. (all others spelled out). Spell out when using alone or with a year alone:
- Aug. 27, 2011
- August 2011
Use figures for years without commas: 2011.
Use the year, a hyphen and the last two digits to refer to a period of time within the same century as an adjective, but full years joined by a hyphen when the range crosses into another century:
- the 2017-18 academic year
- the 1999-2000 academic year
Use "to" instead of a hyphen when the year or time is a noun:
- from 1989 to 2005
- The meetings will take place from 8 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday.
When abbreviating years to two digits, put an apostrophe in front of the years:
- the Class of '76
- the summer of '66
Dates following a day of the week should be set apart by commas:
- He decided that Friday, Oct. 12, would be a convenient date.
Times generally come before days and dates:
- The performance will take place at 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12.
When emphasizing the exact time, or when using a.m. or p.m., use figures (omitting 00 for on the hour):
- 7 p.m.; 7:30 p.m.
12 a.m. should be referred to as midnight; 12 p.m. should be referred to as noon.
Hyphens may be used with dates, and should always be used with dates when both days of the week and dates are included.
- The workshop is set for Monday through Thursday, July 18-21.
The Office of Communications recognizes that some publications, such as posters and invitations, call for a design treatment that demands the more elegant presentation offered by Chicago style (such as spelling out a month).
Centuries and decades
In general, do not describe an individual as disabled or handicapped. If it is relevant to the material and you must use a description, try to be specific:
- Muhammad Ali, boxing hero and a former Olympic champion, defied the symptoms of Parkinson's to light the torch in a rare public appearance.
If a file format acronym is being used in a sentence, it should be set in all caps.
- I used three GIF images in my design.
If a file format acronym is being used to indicate the type of downloadable file in a link, it should be set in lowercase with a "." preceding it.
Fundraising and Fundraiser
Use nonsexist language and follow these recommendations:
Don't say "he" when referring to an unspecified person. Instead, recast the sentence into the plural, or avoid the use of pronouns altogether.
- (Incorrect) Each student is expected to turn in his paper by the deadline.
- (Correct) Students are expected to turn in their papers by the deadline.
If it's impossible to solve the problem using these approaches, remember that "he or she" is preferable to "he/she."
Use "they" for individuals who do not wish to specify "he" or "she."
Avoid gender-specific titles or terms, such as:
|businessman||business executive, manager|
|to man||to staff, to run, to operate|
For organizations outside the University, use the language in their official title.
Menu Links and Headers
Initial caps for all words in menu links, page headers and subheaders.
Exceptions: short (less than four letters) conjunctions, prepositions and other words that do not come first, such as:
- the, in, but (exception: pronouns)
- see section on A, An, And
Use the University's informal motto in italics in inside front or inside back cover of materials.
As a general rule, use only first name and last name unless the person is widely known and identified in professional or industry circles with an initial or middle name. Always use the president of the University's first name, middle initial and last name on first reference. Formal names (not nicknames) are preferred, unless the tone of the material is very informal.
- President Christopher L. Eisgruber
- Jill Dolan, dean of the college
- Cecilia Rouse, dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs
- Pablo Debenedetti, dean for research
When the nondiscrimination statement is used, use this text in its entirety:
In compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and other federal, state and local laws, Princeton University does not discriminate on the basis of age, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, pregnancy, religion, national or ethnic origin, disability, genetic information, or veteran status in any phase of its employment process, in any phase of its admission or financial aid programs, or other aspects of its educational programs or activities. The vice provost for institutional equity and diversity is the individual designated by the University to coordinate its efforts to comply with Title IX, Section 504 and other equal opportunity and affirmative action regulations and laws. Questions or concerns regarding Title IX, Section 504 or other aspects of Princeton's equal opportunity or affirmative action programs should be directed to Michele Minter, Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity, Princeton University, 205 Nassau Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544 or 609-258-6110. Further, inquiries about the application of Title IX and its supporting regulations may also be directed to the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education.
Spell out numbers one through nine and general numbers in narrative text:
- There were seven people at the meeting.
- There were 36 students in the class.
- There are approximately 5,000 undergraduates.
- There are a thousand reasons.
When a number is the first word of a sentence, spell it out.
In a series, apply the appropriate guideline:
- There are 25 graduate students in the philosophy department, nine in the music department and eight in the comparative literature department, making a total of 42 students in the three departments.
Use the % symbol with numerals
- 3 %
For very large sums of money use figures with a dollar sign; spell out million or billion:
- $1.8 million
- between $1 and $2 billion
Place a comma after digits signifying thousands, except when reference is made to temperature:
Possessives Ending in 'S'
For most possessives, simply add an apostrophe and an "s"
- The horse's shoe is loose.
Follow the AP style rules for possessives ending in "s":
For plural nouns ending in "s," add only an apostrophe:
- the horses' shoes
For singular common nouns ending in "s," add an apostrophe and an "s" unless the next word begins with an "s":
- the bus's tire
- the bus' seat
For singular proper names ending in "s," use only an apostrophe:
When shorter forms must be used, it is appropriate to refer to Princeton University as
Use a colon to introduce long lists — see section on Bullets
Leave a colon outside quotation marks unless it is part of a quotation.
Follow the colon with a single space.
Use a colon to introduce a direct quotation if it is more than one sentence.
Capitalize the first word after a colon if it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence; lowercase the first word if it is part of a sentence.
- His reason for staying was simple: The snowstorm had shut down all routes out of town.
- There were three reasons to stay: the warmth of the fireplace; the friendliness of the company; and the aroma of the food.
Here are guidelines for some common uses of the comma.
- Three or more items in a simple list: The event is for students, alumni, parents, families and friends. (Do not include a comma before the last item in a series of items, unless it aids in comprehension.)
- Three or more items in a complex list: Selected students will receive a $1,500 grant, mentorship from staff and peers, access to skills-based trainings, and structured reflection. (Use a comma before the last item in a series to improve comprehension.)
- A series of adjectives equal in importance: Princeton is an independent, coeducational institution.
- Complete sentences that are combined with a conjunction: The event is open to the public free of charge, but reservations are required.
- An introductory phrase from the rest of a sentence: First, we must double the amount of external support.
- A nonessential phrase (a phrase that is not essential to the meaning of the sentence) from the rest of a sentence and days from dates: The Princeton University Orchestra, conducted by Michael Pratt, will perform on Friday, Oct. 30, in Richardson Auditorium.
- More on nonessential and essential phrases: "My wife, Anu, loves to golf" (you have only one wife), but "His brother Eddie is a sailor" (he has more than one brother); and "Princeton provides many intercollegiate sports, such as basketball, football and lacrosse," (phrase is nonessential information), but "Sports such as lacrosse are played in the spring" (phrase is essential information).
- Direct quotes: "We must support students in any way we can," Dolan said.
- Cities from names of states: John Jones, of Newark, Delaware, is the president of the organization.
- Yes and no; and names/titles in a direct address: Yes, officer, I understand the traffic laws.
Use an em dash to relay a break in thought. Place a single space on either side of the em dash. This is the longer dash ("—") as compared to the shorter en dash ("–") or two hyphens ("--"). Em dashes are created by holding down the SHIFT+OPTION+MINUS SIGN keys on a Mac or the ALT+CTRL+MINUS SIGN keys on a PC.
- Chartered in 1746 as the College of New Jersey — the name by which it was known for 150 years — Princeton University was British North America's fourth college.
An em dash can be used to set off elements within a sentence.
- The materials used by the artist — wood, steel and plastic — created a powerful contrast.
In a sentence, add a space before and after a three-dot ellipsis:
- She reported what the speaker said ... and then followed up with her own comments.
If the words that precede an ellipsis make up a complete sentence, insert a period at the end of the last word before the ellipsis and follow it with a space and an ellipsis:
- The speaker said that he was happy to be running for office again. …
Hyphen: - ("-" on keyboard)
Do not hyphenate words beginning with non, except if there is a proper noun:
- non-American; nonscholarship
Do not place a hyphen between the prefixes pre, semi, anti, sub, etc., and nouns or adjectives, except before proper nouns, but avoid duplicated vowels or consonants:
Use hyphens to connect compound modifiers, being careful about meaning:
- white-hot metal or white hot metal (depending on which is meant)
- calculator-wielding graduate student
Do not use a hyphen on adverbs ending in -ly:
- an easily hit ball
- a badly cooked egg
- a loudly ringing phone
Do not use a hyphen for "fourth grade student" or "fourth grader"
Hyphenate part-time and full-time only when used as adjectives:
- She has a full-time job at Princeton. She works at Princeton full time.
Use a hyphen between numbers:
Use a hyphen, not a comma, to separate institutions from their city locations:
- the University of California-Berkeley
- the University of Texas-Austin
Use a single space after a period at the end of a sentence.
The period and comma always go inside the quotation marks:
- "He will stop by tomorrow," she said.
The question mark goes inside when part of the direct quote, outside when applying to quoted material within an entire sentence.
- "Will you explain distribution requirements to me?" asked the student.
- What is meant by "distribution requirements"?
The semicolon goes outside quoted material within a sentence:
- Refer to them as "conference participants"; all others should be known as "guests."
Use a comma to introduce a direct quotation when it is one sentence; use a colon when the quoted material is more than one sentence.
Use the semicolon to set off a series that includes commas:
- The main offices are in Mercer County, New Jersey; Marion County, Indiana; and Broward County, Florida.
Use area codes with hyphens for all telephone numbers, or at least once with a listing. This practice has become necessary because of the increasing use of cell phones:
- For international numbers (country code, city code, telephone number): 011-44-20-7535-1515
- For 800 numbers: 800-222-7474
That and Which
If you're using which properly, it typically is preceded by a comma:
- The announcement about his department's hiring efforts, which was reported in the media, pleased the director.
- The director was pleased with the announcement in the media that reported on his department's hiring efforts.
Do not use courtesy titles (Mr., Miss, Ms., Mrs.).
Use the title Dr. only when referring to a medical doctor.
Names followed by Jr., Sr. or a Roman numeral do not have a comma after the last name:
- Martin Luther King Jr.
- James Hart III
Publications, Course Listings, Films, Music, Works of Art
As a general rule, put titles of books and articles in initial caps and quotation marks:
- "The Grapes of Wrath"
Put titles of newspapers, magazines and journals in initial caps with NO quotation marks:
- The Princeton Packet
Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters.
Capitalize "the" in a publication's name, if that is how it appears in the masthead:
- The New York Times
In text, put the course name in quotation marks:
- The student selected "Introduction to Economic Dynamics" after meeting with his adviser.
Do not capitalize the word after a hyphen in a title:
- The professor's lecture is titled "An Introduction to 14th-century Franciscan Manuscripts."
Do not capitalize major areas of study, unless referring to a language:
- The sophomore is studying economics and French.
Capitalize the titles of lectures, theses and dissertations:
- The professor gave the lecture "In Pursuit of Flight" to the class of auditors.
Titles of songs are usually set in quotation marks:
- "Old Nassau"
Use quotation marks around a musical composition's nickname but not a composition identified by its sequence.
- Dvorak's "New World Symphony," Dvorak's Symphony No. 9
Titles of paintings, drawings, statues and other works of art are put in quotation marks.
- Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa"
For materials with bibliographic listings, it may be clearer to use The Chicago Manual of Style, which allows italics for major titles.
- email (or Email at the beginning of a sentence)
- Facebook page
- internet of things
- log in, log out (verb)
- login (noun)
- the web
- Twitter feed
Use the shortest URL possible.
For root-level sites, do not use "http://" or the "trailing slash":
- princeton.edu, not http://www.princeton.edu/main/
For folder-level sites, use "www," but only use words after the "trailing slash" if needed.
- www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S31/31/64C27/, rather than http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S31/31/64C27/index.xml?secti…
Should appear as we have it here:
- For more information, contact John Doe at 609-258-3000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Style on Social Media
Wide (as a Suffix)
Use hyphens: campus-wide, University-wide