CALS Marketing & Communications Style Guide

The Office of Marketing and Communications uses The Associated Press Stylebook as its chief reference on questions of editorial style, with certain exceptions. The following guide is a brief look at acceptable style rules to be used when creating print and web publications for the college.

A few notes about writing for the web: Users generally do not read websites, but scan them for the most relevant information. Therefore, it is important to keep the following rules in mind:

  • Text should be short and concise (300-500 words is a good rule of thumb)
  • Use hyperlinks to further elaborate a point, not text
  • Keep information no more than three clicks away from the user
  • Organize based on how users would navigate through the site, not departmental structure

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When in doubt, spell it out!

Do not abbreviate the following:

  • Given names, such as George, William, and Charles.
  • The words association, avenue, boulevard, department, institute, street, etc.
  • The name of an organization the first time it is used; spell out and put the acronym in parentheses. If the term appears only once, do not add the acronym:
    College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS); thereafter, CALS.
  • Assistant and associate and professor when used in a title:
    assistant professor of bacteriology
  • Names of buildings in running text:
    Room 109 Russell House, not 109 RH

Commonly understood acronyms, such as USDA, FBI, or CIA, do not need to be spelled out, even on first reference.

Note: Abbreviations may be used more freely in tabular matter

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Academic Titles and Degrees

  • Capitalize academic titles when they immediately precede personal names:

    Vice President Thomas Bruce
    Professor Gore
    Dean Boor
  • Lowercase titles when they are used as occupational identifiers:

    vice president for university relations, Joel Malina
    Joel Malina, vice president for university relations
    William Fry, dean of the faculty
    Catherine Thompson, director of the Office of Multicultural and Diversity Programs
    professor of entomology Anthony Shelton

Named Professorships

  • Capitalize the titles of named professorships and fellowships:

    the Ernest I. White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters

Academic Degrees and Rank

  • Abbreviate the degrees Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, Master of Arts, and Doctor of Philosophy to B.S., M.S., M.A., Ph.D. Do not use periods for DVM or MBA.
  • Capitalize the names and abbreviations of academic degrees, whether they follow personal names or stand by themselves:

    Jonathan R. Macey, Doctor of Law
    His MBA is from the Johnson School.
    She recently received her Ph.D.
  • Do not capitalize doctorate, doctor's, bachelor's, master's degree, master of science, etc.
  • In text, refer to persons as doctor rather than M.D., and professor, rather than Ph.D. (unless, of course, the person is not a professor)
  • In formal listings of faculty members, such as course catalogs, always indicate rank:

    Andrew H. Bass, professor of neurobiology and behavior
    Anurag Agrawal, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology
  • When it is necessary to use them, abbreviate complimentary titles, such as Mr., Mrs., and Dr., but, as a rule, do not use them, and do not use them in combination with any other title or with abbreviations indicating scholastic or academic degrees.

    Paul Huston, Ph.D., not Dr. Paul Huston, PhD
    Carol Green, M.D., or Roger White, DVM,
    not Dr. Carol Green, M.D., or Mr. Roger White, DVM


  • Use the right word for gender. Emerita is the feminine singular form. Emeritus is the masculine (or nongender) singular. Emeriti is the plural:

    Barbara Peckarsky, professor emerita of entomology
    David K. Bandler, professor emeritus in the Department of Food Science
    They were active in the Cornell Association of Professors Emeriti

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  • Designate all alumni who appear in alumni publications. Elsewhere, use alumni designations only when they are relevant.
  • Use the right word for gender. Alumna is the feminine singular form. Alumnae is feminine plural. Alumnus is the masculine (or nongender) singular. Alumni is masculine or mixed-gender plural:

    Joan is an alumna of
    Joan and Linda are alumnae of
    Henry is an alumnus of
    Every alumnus will attend Homecoming.
    Henry and George are alumni of
    Joan, Linda, Henry, and George are alumni.
  • In running text, use the following forms for class-year contractions:

    John Skeeter, a 1927 College of Agriculture and Life Sciences graduate
    1927 graduate John Skeeter
  • When alumni status is obvious from the context, use class-year contractions, set off by commas:

    John Skeeter, M.S. '27,
  • Designate Cornell undergraduate degree with year only; designate graduate degree with contraction and year:

    John Skeeter '75, M.S. '80,
    John Skeeter '75, M.S. '80, Ph.D. '84
  • Use the words alum or alums only in direct quotations.

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Articles (as in a, an, and the)

  • Capitalize an article if it is part of the name of a formal publication:

    The New York Times

    Delete or lowercase it when the title is used as an adjective:

    I bought the New York Times best-seller.
  • If you pronounce the h sound in a word beginning with the letter h, treat the h as a consonant:

    a historic event

    If you do not pronounce the h, treat it as a vowel:

    an hourly charge

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Credit and Grades

  • The term credit hours is redundant; use credits. The abbreviation for grade point average is GPA.
  • When listing grade point averages, carry the figure after the decimal point out to the hundredths, e.g., 3.00, not 3.0.
  • Don't italicize letter grades or place them within quotation marks:

    Frank received one A and five Bs.

Dates and Times

  • Use a.m. and p.m. with periods and lowercase letters. In tabular matter, the periods may be omitted to save space. Avoid such constructions as He gets up at 5 a.m. in the morning to jog. (As opposed to 5 a.m. in the evening?)
  • Use noon or midnight not 12 a.m. or 12 p.m.
  • Abbreviate Eastern Daylight Time as EDT.
  • Days of the week: Never abbreviate.
  • Days of the month: omit rd, th, st, nd.

    April 6, June 1
  • Months: Only abbreviate the longer ones–Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. If the month stands alone without a day of the week, then spell out the full name.

    He was born July 23, 1951, and died Aug. 30, 2001.
    He was hired in September 2005, but left this November.
  • Figures in the thousands should employ a comma:

    5,000 years
    1,000 tickets

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Divisions of the University

The University

  • University is not capitalized unless part of the formal name, Cornell University.
  • CU is the correct abbreviation for Cornell University.
  • On second reference, refer to Cornell University as Cornell, the university, or CU.
  • if using an acronym after first reference, make certain to parenthetically reference it along with first mention, e.g., the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).

Colleges and Schools

  • Capitalize the names of colleges and schools.
  • The second reference to a college or school is the college or the school, not the field of study:

    A survey of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty reveals that teachers in the college favor the proposal.
  • It is also acceptable to use the college's acronym on such reference, such as CALS or ILR.

Offices, Departments, Other Divisions

  • Capitalize office, department, division, section, program, institute, center, etc. in official titles:

    the Office of the Dean
    the Admissions Office
    the Career Development Office
    the Section of Horticulture
  • Otherwise, lowercase office, department, division, section, program, institute, center, etc.:

    the dean's office
    the alumni relations office
    the program
    the Horticulture section

Specific units

  • Cornell Botanic Gardens

    Write out full name on first reference and do not use "the" to precede the name. 

    On second reference, use "botanic gardens" (lower case) or “the botanic gardens” where usage makes “the” necessary or to make the language flow more naturally.


Other Colleges and Universities

  • Use the full name of the college or university in a first reference:

    University of Pennsylvania
    Notre Dame College
  • On second reference, use the short name of the college or university; or use an acronym or abbreviated name if one exists:

  • Lowercase college and university when they are used in the plural:

    Cornell and Princeton universities
  • When referring to the state system, use the State University of New York on first reference and SUNY in second references.
  • When referring to individual campuses, follow these examples for first and second references:

    the State University of New York at Oswego
    SUNY Oswego
    Exception: The second reference to SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry is simply ESF.

Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management

The Dyson School is a shared unit between the SC Johnson College of Business and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Upon first reference, use the full name of the school as "The Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management." Second references depending on use case can be either Dyson, the Dyson School, or the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.  The formal name and logo include a stylized use of the word "The," but it should not be capitalized in running text except where grammatically necessary. Example: " a student at the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management." Alumni from the program should all be referred to as Dyson School alumni. 

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  • Capitalize the names of recurring events when they are used in a specific sense:

    This year's Homecoming was unforgettable.
    Reunion Weekend, Orientation Week, Commencement Weekend
  • Lowercase the names of university events when they are used in a general sense:

    He attended countless reunions, strawberry festivals, and parent’s weekends.
  • When specifying the year in which an event took place, use the contraction for the year:

    Reunion '87
  • Lowercase names of seasons, including references to semesters.

    We are beginning the fall semester.
    He will graduate in the spring.

Note: Grammatical rules regarding capitalization are often bent for the sake of visual appeal, especially in headings or display type.

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Figures and Numbers

  • Write out numerals ten and under.
  • Use numerals for figures 11 or over, including ordinals, e.g., 122nd.
  • Write out figures at the beginning of a sentence, or rewrite the sentence so the figure does not come first.

    Forty-six thousand people attended the football game.
    A crowd of 46,000 attended the football game.
  • Use numerals for sums that are cumbersome to spell out, but spell out the word million.

    5 million
    17.9 million
  • In general, spell out the word percent, but in scientific, technical, or statistical copy use the symbol %.

    Of this year's student enrollment, 52 percent are men and 48 percent are women.
    Pittsburgh and Jersey City each lost 0.2% of their 1960 population.
    The greatest percentage growth was experienced by Las Vegas—115.2%.
  • Write phone numbers without setting the area code off by hyphens, but with parentheses, e.g., (800) 555-1212 or (412) 792-2075.
  • When listing grade point averages, carry the figure after the decimal point out to the hundredths, e.g., 3.00, not 3.0.
  • Use extended zip codes wherever possible.

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Genus and Species Names

  • Italicize genus and species names and capitalize genus names:

    E. coli
    Vincetoxicum rossicum

Geographical Directions and Designations

  • Lowercase east, west, north, south in such contexts as:

    He traveled west to find gold. Back east, they awaited his return.
  • Many examples can be found in the following paragraph:

    He drove north (direction) in the Southeast, drove south along the East Coast and throughout the West (a region) but went south whenever he was in the northeastern states or on the western United States (with name of a nation). But when he was in the Lower East Side of New York City (a widely known section), he took the bus.
  • Use U.S. (with periods) in running text as an adjective or a noun. In headlines, it's US (no periods).
  • The names of the 50 U.S. states should be spelled out when used in the body of a story, whether standing alone or in conjunction with a city, town, village or military base.
  • For datelines, use traditional state abbreviations (e.g., Ithaca, N.Y.) except Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah.
  • Do not abbreviate parts of geographic names, except Saint in St. Louis, St. Paul, etc., unless they are used in tabular matter.

    Fort Wayne, North Dakota
  • Use the two-letter postal abbreviation with a zip code only in addresses (e.g., Boston, MA). Do not use the postal abbreviation in running text.
  • Capitalize the following generic terms when used in place of the whole proper name: the Canal (Panama Canal), the Channel (English Channel), the Cape (Cape of Good Hope), the Falls (Niagara Falls), the Keys (Florida Keys), the Gulf (Gulf of Mexico), the Sound (Long Island Sound).
  • When referencing New York state, lowercase state, unless it is part of a person's title.

    New York State Senator John Smith works hard to benefit New York state.

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Headlines and Titles

For headlines of stories or headers on web pages, the college prefers to use AP style. Only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized.

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Land Grant

It is the college's style to always capitalize the words "Land" and "Grant" and hyphenate if the term is being used as a compound modifier.

  • For those who are unfamiliar with the term “Land Grant,” let me explain.
  • This idea led to the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 in which the federal government provided federal land that emerging universities could then sell to support the development of their campus.
  • We take very seriously our Land-Grant mission to deliver knowledge with a public purpose not only to the citizens of New York, but to all people across the U.S. and around the world.

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Commas, semicolons, colons, periods

The college follows The Associated Press Stylebook and does not use the serial, or Oxford, comma.

  • Place a comma after the digits signifying thousands, except when reference is made to temperature or to SAT scores.

    1,150 students, but 1100 degrees, and an SAT score of 1143
  • Follow a statement that introduces a direct quotation of one or more paragraphs with a colon. Also use a colon after as follows.
  • Introductory words such as to wit, namely, i.e., e.g. and viz should be immediately preceded by a comma or semicolon and followed by a comma.
  • When listing names with cities or states, punctuate as follows:

    George Andrews is a Camden, South Carolina, native.
    Carol Green, Columbia, is vice president.
  • When writing a date, place a comma between the day and the year as well as after the year.

    July 4, 1980, dawned clear.
    Tuesday, July 6, was rainy.
  • Do not place a comma between the month and year when the day is not mentioned.

    June 1980
  • Do not precede I, II, III, Jr., or Sr. with a comma.

    Please call Mr. William Case Jr. for the report.
    Contact Don James III for further information.
  • If you have a phrase in parentheses at the end of a sentence, place the period after the closing parenthesis. If a complete sentence is in parentheses, the period should be inside the closing parenthesis.
  • No word space should be used between the initials of an abbreviation or a person's name.

    U.S., J.B. White, Charles M.C. Lee


The college uses a slight variation on the style found in The Associated Press Stylebook.

  • Use only an apostrophe when making possessive a singular proper noun ending in s:

    Achilles' heel
    Palms' speech
    Dickens' novel
  • Use only an apostrophe when making possessive a plural noun ending in s:

    kids’ book
  • For nouns not ending in s, add an apostrophe s:

    kitten's claws
    David's hat
  • When indicating joint ownership, use a possessive form after the last word:

    Bob and Joan’s daughter

    If possessions are owned separately, use a possessive form after both words:

    Bill’s and Sharon’s legal bills
  • In making the plural of figures and multiple letters, do not use an apostrophe.

    The 1980s are here.
    Two DVMs
  • In making the plural of single letters, do use an apostrophe.

    Mind your p's and q's.
  • When using CALS as an adjective, do not use an apostrophe. When using CALS as a possessive, add an apostrophe at the end.

    Used as Adjective:
    CALS students
    CALS programs

    Used as Possessive:
    CALS' Land-Grant mission
    CALS' Department of Entomology
  • Punctuate years of college classes with an apostrophe (single closing quote). Use Ctrl + ' to create character on a PC.

    Class of '76
    John White '19
  • Bachelor's and master's degrees should always be written with an 's. Never write masters' degree.
  • Use primes (keyboard apostrophe and quotes) to designate inches and feet.

    12", 12'


  • Use the nonhyphenated spelling of a word if either spelling is acceptable.

  • Do not hyphenate the words vice president and words beginning with non, except those containing a proper noun.

  • Do not place a hyphen between the prefixes pre, post, semi, anti, multi, etc., and their nouns or adjectives, except before proper nouns or when two vowels with no hyphen separating them would be unclear.

    electro-optical, but preindustrial
  • Do not place a hyphen between the prefix sub and the word to which it is attached.

  • Hyphenate the word X-ray and use a capital X.
  • Hyphenate part-time and full-time when used as adjectives. Hyphenate any modifying word combined with well, ill, better, best, little, lesser, when preceding a noun. Do not hyphenate adverbs ending in -ly; do not hyphenate when the expression carries a modifier.

    well-built engine
    a moderately well built engine
    The engine is well built.
  • Hyphenate a compound in which one component is a number and the other is a noun or adjective.

    30-mile run
    10-year-old child, but 10 years old
    12,000-square-foot building
  • Use your dictionary to determine whether to hyphenate frequently used compound words such as leading-edge. Note that hyphenated words can be created for the sake of clarity. As a rule of thumb, hyphenate x-y z when x modifies y but not z.
  • Words compounded to make a single modifier are hyphenated:

    State-of-the-art facility
    face-to-face encounter
    crop-damaging insects
    Land-Grant institution
  • Whenever possible, avoid the hyphenation of proper names when breaking text lines.
  • Do not use a with a word ending in “wide,” such as worldwide, systemwide, universitywide


  • Use an en dash (–) with no extra space before or after:

    a) to indicate continuing (or inclusive) numbers, dates, times, or references numbers.

    1968-82 but from 1968 to 1982 (never from 1968-72)
    May-June 1967 from May to June 1967
    10 a.m.-5 p.m. between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.
    pp. 38-45 from pages 38 to 45

    b) in a compound adjective one element of which consists of two words or of a hyphenated word.

    New York-London flight
    post-Civil War period
    quasi-public-quasi-private judicial body
  • Use an em dash (—) with no extra space before or after:

    a) to denote a sudden break in thought that causes an abrupt change in sentence structure.

    Consistency—that hobgoblin of little minds.

    b) in defining or enumerating complementary elements.

    The influence of three musicians—Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven—was of great importance to his development as a musician.

    c) in sentences having several elements as referents of a pronoun that is the subject of a final, summarizing clause.

    Smith, Jones, and McCoy—all felt groggy on humid days.

Quotation Marks

  • The titles of books, plays, movies, radio and television programs, long musical compositions, pamphlets, periodicals, etc., should be italicized, while titles of book series, film series, radio and television episodes, songs, essays, lectures, and parts of volumes (chapters, title of papers, etc.) should be placed in quotation marks.
  • Use single quotation marks for quotations printed within other quotations.
  • If several paragraphs are to be quoted, use quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph, but at the end of the last paragraph only. No quotation marks are needed if the quote is set in smaller type and set off from the text by a space.
  • Set quotation marks after periods and commas and before colons and semicolons. Exclamation points and interrogation marks that are not part of the quotation should be set outside quotation marks.

    Emerson replied nervously, "There is no reason to inform the president."
    He had not defined the term "categorical imperative."
    A "zinc," or line engraving, will be made from the sketch.
    Kego had three objections to "Filmore's Summer": It was contrived; the characters were flat; the dialogue was unrealistic.
    The man cried, "They stole my new car!"
  • Use editor's brackets ([]), not parentheses, to set of editorial remarks within direct quotations. "Johnson saw it [the war] as a personal test of wills."
  • Use straight quote marks not "smart," i.e., curly quote marks.


  • In general, treat an ellipsis as a three-letter word, constructed with three periods and a regular space on either side of the ellipsis, as shown here ( ... ).
  • When the grammatical sense calls for a question mark, exclamation point, comma, or colon, the sequence is word, punctuation mark, regular space, ellipsis, e.g., "Will you come? ..."
  • When material is deleted at the end of one paragraph and at the beginning of the one that follows, place an ellipsis in both locations.
  • In writing a story, do not use ellipses at the beginning and end of direct quotes.

    "It has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base," Nixon said.


    ". . .it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base. . .," Nixon said.


  • Bullets are graphic devices that substitute for alpha-numeric designation of items in a list. In a bulleted list the graphic device obviates normal grammatical punctuation.
  • In bulleted lists within text passages, the bullet is the punctuation. No other punctuation is required to separate listed items. Do not use commas or semicolons at the end of each item.
  • If an item in the bulleted list is a complex sentence, then the first word should be capped and there should be a period at the end of the sentence. If the item is a nonsentence fragment, then the first word should be lowercased, with a period placed at the end of the last item in the list.
  • Avoid mixing sentence and nonsentence items in a bulleted list. Use parallel construction for items.

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Semesters and Courses

  • References to semesters should be lowercased:

    the spring 1992 semester
  • Capitalize the names of courses:

    He gives the introductory course, English Literature 101.
    He studied English literature.
  • When it is necessary to use a subject-matter designation and course number to identify a specific course, e.g., ENGL 101 Composition, use the official course code.

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Addresses and Telephone Numbers

  • When an address includes a name or a title, follow these models:

    Dean Kathryn J. Boor
    College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
    Cornell University
    260 Roberts Hall
    Ithaca, New York 14853-6201
  • When an address doesn't include a person's name or a title, follow this model:

    Office of the Dean
    College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
    Cornell University
    260 Roberts Hall
    Ithaca, New York 14853-6201
  • When addresses are given in running text, list elements in the same order as indicated above, separating them with commas:

    For information on the next conference, write to the Office of the Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University, 260 Roberts Hall, Ithaca, New York 14853-6201.
  • Telephone numbers should always include area code and are written with one hyphen and parentheses surrounding the area code: (607) 255-5555.

Room Numbers

  • Follow these examples for room-number designations:

    274 Roberts Hall
    B01 Classroom Level
  • Omit college, hall, building, etc. if the name of the building is known.