MSU-Northern Style Guide
There are several excellent style guides available today. As a rule, MSU-Northern uses the Associated Press stylebook (https://www.apstylebook.com/) as a reference for common style questions. This document is a combination of some of the more common AP standards and some of the standards consistent with academic traditions. It supersedes the AP style guide for all official MSU-Northern publications. If no entry is found, then the AP style guide is the reference of choice. Refer questions to the Director of University Relations or the MSU-Northern Marketing Committee.
Most of MSU-Northern publications and correspondence are written in a casual, friendly style. For example, use the personal pronoun “you,” rather than the impersonal third person such as “the student.” Write in an active tense, using action words. For example, avoid “Joe has been named” or, “The concert will be held at 8 p.m.” Instead, use “Joe will manage the department,” etc. This reinforces our image as a personal place to live and learn.
Use the standard abbreviations and wording found in this style guide. Consistent writing styles help reinforce the University’s image in the minds of those who read, see, and hear about MSU-Northern.
The following publications provided information for some of the entries:
- The Associated Press Stylebook, 44th Edition, The Associated Press, 2009.
- Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, IDG Books Worldwide, 2001.
- Montana State University Style Guide, MSU Creative Services, 2019.
Style Notes and Common Word Usage
- Abbreviations: In most cases, acronyms have no periods: MSUN, ROTC, WAMMI, etc. For less widely known abbreviations, spell out the complete name in the first reference followed by the abbreviation in parenthesis. Student Support Services (SSS) and the College of Technical Sciences (COTS).
- Advisor: Use advisor not adviser.
- Alumnus, singular male; alumna, singular female; alumni, plural for all alumni or male; alums; alumnae, plural female.
- a.m./p.m. Not AM or PM, nor am or pm.
- Annual: an event is not annual until it has been held at least two successive years. There is no first annual event.
- Campus names:
- Montana State University *
- Montana State University-Billings
- Montana State University-Northern
- Great Falls College Montana State University
- Montana State University-Extension
- Montana Agricultural Experiment Station
- Montana State University-Northern in Great Falls
- The Montana State University Campuses
*The flagship MSU Campus in Bozeman is known only as Montana State University (not Montana State University–Bozeman)
The correct punctuation character to separate any instance of MSU and the city is a simple hyphen (-).
Never use MSUB for the Bozeman campus, or similarly for other campuses. The correct abbreviated style is MSU.
- Catalog: Use catalog not catalogue.
- Class rank: Name of class rank should be lowercase. He is a sophomore.
- Chair: Use chair, not chairman, chairwoman, chairperson.
- College names: Official names of colleges, schools and departments are capitalizedCollege of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, Alumni Association, etc.
- Course titles: Formal course titles are capitalized: i.e., COMM101: Fundamentals of Speech and can be abbreviated when the preferred form is too long.
- Course names: Generic course names should be lowercase. She has a junior standing in mathematics.
- Show plurals of decades by adding an s (not 's). 1920s, the mid-1990s
- All ranges of time or dates are set with en-dashes (–), not hyphens (-). October – December, 7:30 – 8:00 p.m., 3 – 5 years of age
- Daylight-saving time: Not savings. Note the hyphen. Lowercase in all uses.
- Dean’s list: Capitalize when it refers to a specific one or is part of a title i.e. the 2019 Fall Semester Dean’s List.Lowercase when it is part of a general statement. He is on the dean's list.
- Degrees, specific: Name of subject is lowercase, i.e., botany, economics, except English. There is no apostrophe. He or she has a Bachelor of Science in biology; also Master of Arts in English. He or she has a Bachelor of Science degree.
- Degrees, generic: Use an apostrophe when it represents a shortened form of a specific title, as it replaces “of Science” or “of Arts.” He or she had a bachelor's degree, a master's degree,
- Degrees, honorary: All references to honorary degrees should specify that the degree was honorary.
- Departments and titles:
- Official department names should be capitalized i.e. Department of Psychology
- Formal position titles are capitalized when they are the official title of a person. She is the Director of the Department of Psychology.
- Position titles are lowercase with informal department names in lowercase. He is the head of the chemistry department. The department offers several options. Waded Cruzado is the president of the university. She is a professor of chemistry.
- Use Dr. in the first reference before the name of an individual who holds a doctor of medicine degree. Use Ph.D as a reference for individuals who hold any other doctoral degree. Dr. Jonas Salk, Steven Hawking, Ph.D.
- Hyphenate: four-year program, grade-point average, lower-division, upper-division
- Major events: We Love Northern Ball, Spring Fling are capitalized
- Major awards: Capitalize names of awards like MSU-Northern Student Excellence Awards.
- Theater or Theatre: Use theater when referring to an indoor or outdoor place where movies or videos are shown. Use theatre when referring to a live dramatic presentation, an art or profession, or when used as part of a proper name like Montana Actors Theatre.
- Don't hyphenate:
- premedicine, predental, preforestry, preveterinary
- Any adverbs that end in -ly: Recently appointed dean. Newly completed arena.
- Non prefixes:
- Use no hyphen: nonmajors, nonresidents, nondegree, nonacademic
- Use hyphen: non-Greek, non-university
- Quotation marks: (" ") Commas and periods go inside quotes. Colons and semicolons go outside.
- Exclamation points and question marks go inside the end quotation marks if they apply directly to the quoted material; otherwise, they go outside the quotes: She asked, "Do I have to take the test?" Did she say, "I'm leaving now"?
- If a full paragraph of quoted material is followed by a paragraph continuing the quotation, don't put close-quote marks at the end of the first paragraph. Do put open-quote marks at the start of the second paragraph.
- If a paragraph doesn't start with quotation marks but ends with a quotation that's continued in the next paragraph, don't use close-quote marks at the end of the first paragraph if the quoted material forms a complete sentence. Do use close-quote marks if the quoted material doesn't form a complete sentence.
- Semicolon: ( ; ) Connects two closely related ideas: The conference drew participants from across the country; two came from as far away as Nome, Alaska.
- Use semicolons in a series when at least one of the items in the series includes punctuation:
My children are David, 5; John, 3; and Suzanne, 1. For clarity, you may also use semicolons
to separate items in a lengthy series in which no individual item includes internal
- University: Informal references to the university are lowercase. The university was founded in 1922.
Internet and Information Technology Terms: (Associated Press Style)
- Adobe Acrobat, Acrobat Reader : Capitalize.
- ASCII : For American Standard Code Information Interchange. Uppercase acronym.
- download : One word. Also, upload.
- CD-ROM : For compact disk as read-only memory. Uppercase acronym, with hyphen.
- cyberspace : One word, lowercase.
- database : One word.
- domain name : Two words, lowercase.
- dpi : For dots per inch. Lowercase acronym.
- DVD : For digital video disk. Uppercase acronym.
- e-mail : Lowercase, with hyphen. Also, e-book, e-business, e-commerce, e-shopping.
- end user, end-user : Two words as noun, hyphenate as adjective.
- FAQ : For frequently asked questions. Uppercase acronym.
- freeware : One word, lowercase.
- FTP : For file transfer protocol. Uppercase acronym, lowercase spelled out.
- GIF : For graphics interchange format. Uppercase acronym, lowercase spelled out.
- gigabyte : Abbreviate GB.
- home page : Lowercase, two words.
- HTML : For hypertext markup language. Uppercase acronym, lowercase in URLs. Generally spell out in sentence.
- hyperlink : One word, lowercase. Also, hypertext.
- Internet : Always capitalize.
- intranet : No capital, one word.
- IP address : For Internet protocol address. Uppercase acronym.
- IT : For information technology. Uppercase acronym. Generally spell out in sentence.
- JPEG, JPG : For joint photographic expert group. Uppercase acronym, lowercase spelled out.
- kilobyte : Abbreviate KB. No space used with number, as 400KB. Also, kilobit, abbreviate Kb, or Kbps for kilobits per second.
- listserv : One word, lowercase.
- login, logon, logoff : Lowercase, no hyphen.
- Macintosh : Capitalize. Also, Apple Macintosh, Mac.
- megabyte : Abbreviate MB.
- megahertz : Abbreviate MHz.
- online : No hyphen.
- OS : For operating system. Uppercase acronym, lowercase spelled out.
- portal : Lowercase.
- PDF : For portable document format. Uppercase acronym. Also, Adobe Acrobat PDF.
- Pentium processor : Capitalize, with Roman numeral, as Pentium III processor. Also, Intel Pentium processor.
- plug-in : Hyphenate.
- RAM : For random access memory. Uppercase acronym, lowercase spelled out.
- ROM : For read-only memory. Uppercase acronym, lowercase spelled out, with hyphen.
- search engine : Two words, lowercase.
- shareware : One word, lowercase.
- URL : For Universal Resource Locator. Uppercase acronym, capitalize when spelling out.
- Usenet : One word, capitalize.
- Unix, UNIX : Capitalize for generic use, uppercase acronym for trade name.
- World Wide Web or Web : Always capitalize.
- Web site : Two words. Also, Web page, Web browser, the Web.
- webmaster : One word, lowercase. Also, webcast
- workstation : One word.