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Northwest Style Guide basics

The following are basic style rules related to writing content for non-academic University publications. For a more comprehensive guide, review the Northwest Missouri State University Style Guide or "The Associated Press Stylebook."

  • When writing news releases or promotional content, use Northwest Missouri State University in the first reference to the institution. Use "Northwest" on second reference, although "Northwest" is acceptable on first reference for internal communication. Never use "NWMSU" or "NMSU" as an abbreviation of the school's name.
  • Beware of all "be" verbs. They signal that you are using the passive voice.
  • There is never a "first annual" event. Use "inaugural" to describe the first year of an event.
  • Know the difference between "that" and "which." If you can't remove a clause from a sentence without substantially changing its meaning, use "that." If you can remove the clause - or can easily place it inside parentheses - use "which." Daryl thinks the beret that Tom wears when it's cold outside looks silly. Daryl thinks Tom's beret, which he wears when it's cold outside, looks silly.
  • When abbreviating names of states, don't use postal abbreviations for mailing addresses. Instead, use Mo., Kan., Neb., Penn., Mass., etc.  Iowa, however, is always spelled out, as are Ohio, Utah, Hawaii, Maine and Texas. See the "The Associated Press Stylebook" for a complete list of state guidlines and abbreviations.
  • Do not use "entitled" to mean "titled." Someone is entitled to special privileges. Mark Twain's most famous novel is titled "Huckleberry Finn."
  • Use "toward," not "towards" and "afterward," not "afterwards."

Names and titles

  • Capitalize University when referring to Northwest. Capitalize Foundation when referring to the Northwest Foundation Inc. Use full titles on first references.
  • Always look up job titles in the Northwest directory. When titling a member of the faculty or staff include both their title or academic rank and department or office name. Northwest does not use the courtesy titles Mr., Mrs. and Ms., but do use Dr. for those who have earned that distinction. Don Davis, associate director of facility services, leads the initiative. Dr. Jane Everett, associate professor of chemistry and physics, directs the project.
  • If the person's title appears before his or her name, capitalize it. If it appears after the name, don't capitalize it. Vice President for External Relations Dr. Lonelle Rathje or Lonelle Rathje, vice president for external relations.
  • Coaches are an exception to the above rule. The title "Coach" is capitalized before a name when it stands alone. For example, Coach Mark Rosewell. It is not capitalized when used with adjectives -- such as head football coach Rich Wright.
  • When quoting individuals, "said" should appear after the quoted person's name. "I covered that in the first part of the presentation," Larabee, a professor of history, said. "His viewpoint is unique," Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Matt Baker said.

Time, dates and places

  • When describing when and where an event takes place, use the order of time, date, place. Note that "st," "nd," "rd" or "th" are not used in dates. The show begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 15, in Mary Linn Auditorium at the Ron Houston Center for the Performing Arts.
  • Abbreviate the months of Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. when used with a date. Spell out when using alone. Always spell out March, April, May, June and July.
  • Use the forms a.m. and p.m. with all times except noon and midnight; do not use 12 a.m. or 12 p.m. Events occurring on the hour do not require :00, but those occurring between the hour should take that form (10:30 a.m., 4:10 p.m.). Avoid redundancies like 10 a.m. this morning.
  • Do not use "held" in references to the timing of events; use words such "hosted," "take place." Northwest will host the lecture in the Studio Theatre at the Ron Houston Center for the Performing Arts. Tonight's basketball game will take place at 7 p.m. in Bearcat Arena.

Numbers and data

  • Use "more than," not "over" in references to numerical data. More than 2,000 people attended Career Day.
  • Telephone numbers use periods, not dashes. For example, 660.562.1704.
  • When expressing even dollar amounts, use the numeral without zeroes: $5 not $5.00.
  • Spell out numbers through nine, but use figures for numbers 10 and higher. Always use figures for ages and percentages. Consult the "AP Stylebook" for additional guidelines. The boy is 5 years old. The faculty and staff will receive a pay increase of 4 percent. The faculty and staff will receive a 4-percent pay increase.

Punctuation and capitalization

  • Use one space after a period when punctuating a sentence.
  • Do not place a comma before the "and" that precedes the last item in a series. His favorite sports are football, basketball, rugby and baseball.
  • Periods and commas always go inside quotation marks. Colons and semicolons go outside quotation marks unless they are part of the quote.
  • Do not use exclamation marks in formal writing.
  • Do not capitalize the word "web," and "website" is one word. Email is not hyphenated.
  • Lowercase spring, summer, fall and winter. Such phrases as fall semester are lowercased as well. The course begins in fall 2020.
  • Do not hyphenate fundraiser and fundraising.
  • Do not use "&" unless it's part of a company's proper name.
  • Use an apostrophe in phrases like bachelor's degree and master's degree. Avoid abbreviations referencing academic degrees, such as B.S., B.A., B.S.Ed., M.S., M.S. Ed., M.A., Ed.D., Ph.D.
  • Use a department's or office's full name on first reference and capitalize: the Office of University Advancement, the Department of Fine and Performing Arts. When not using the formal name, do not capitalize: the fine arts department. Proper nouns should be capitalized: the English department.
  • Use a comma between independent clauses separated by a conjunction, such as "and" or "but." An independent clause is one that can stand alone as a sentence: I'm going to the Regents' meeting, and I won't be back until 5 p.m. Note that both I'm going to the Regents' meeting and I won't be back until 5 p.m. could be written independently. Conversely, I'm going to the Regents' meeting and won't be back until 5 p.m. contains a single independent clause and needs no comma before the word "and."