Oakland University Style Guide

This style guide has been constructed to give Oakland University students, faculty and staff the proper support when formulating content. For any topics not covered within this manual, please refer to the most current edition of the Associated Press Stylebook. Consider carefully when deciding whether to identify people by race, color, religion, creed, age, marital status, national origin, mental or physical disability, political belief or affiliation, veteran status, sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. Reporting and writing about specific races, religions, gender identity, etc. requires thoughtful consideration, precise language and discussions with the subject and others of diverse backgrounds. Include these details only when they are clearly relevant and that relevance is explicit in the story.

For event content questions, view the Invitation Style Guide

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Academic Degrees

When mentioning degrees, the preferred form is to avoid abbreviations and completely phrase the name of the degree.

Example: John Smith holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

Abbreviated Degrees

Use periods between letters when abbreviating academic degrees with two letters (M.D., D.O., B.S.) in all copy. Do not use periods between letters for degrees with three letters (MBA, MPA) or certifications. Exceptions: RN, CRNA, PA, Ph.D.


Abbreviate in standalone addresses only: name of state (MI), avenue, boulevard, street and road. Include complete ZIP code in standalone addresses, e.g., Rochester, MI 48309-4482. Otherwise, spell out.

Academic Standing

Do not abbreviate and do not capitalize unless beginning a sentence.

Example: freshman, sophomore, junior and senior

Acronyms and Abbreviations

Spell out on first reference in an article or document, followed by acronym in parenthesis. On following references in the same article or document, the acronym can be used alone. Look up Oakland University acronyms with the OU Acronym Tool.

Active Voice

Use an active voice whenever possible. Active voice means, in general, avoiding forms of “to be.” Use present tense in all publications that are not news releases, e.g., “says” “explains.”

Affect and Effect

Do not use “effect” as a verb. “Effect” is more commonly used as a noun. “Affect” is the verb meaning to modify or take on.

All-University Fund Drive

Spell this out on first reference and use the acronym AUFD on second reference. When spelling this out, there should be a dash between the words “All” and “University.” The first letter of each word should also be capitalized.

Example: John Smith participated in the All-University Fund Drive. It is great to see what the AUFD can do for the community.


Use “alumnus” for non-gender singular or “alumni” for non-gender plural. Can use “alum" in informal writing, but avoid overuse.

Alumni Association

On first reference, use Oakland University Alumni Association (OUAA). On following references, use OUAA.

Alumni Designation

When including the year someone graduated and from which school or college, this should be set off by commas when it is used with the person’s name. For unit-specific publications only: the designation should be by department (i.e. John Smith, ME '13, ...)

Example: John Smith, SECS ’13, is vice president of the company.


Avoid use.


Do not use this construction.


Do not use the term “first annual.” Instead, use “inaugural” or “first.”

Athletics O’rena, Basketball Court, Blacktop

Only the “O” in “O’rena” is capitalized. The basketball court in the O’rena is referred to as “blacktop” (one word).


On first reference, refer to auxiliaries after the use of the full university name.

Example: Oakland University’s Meadow Brook Hall


Black and Gold

Black and Gold should be capitalized when the term is standing in as a proper noun.

Example: The Black and Gold will lead the way to victory.

Board of Trustees

Uppercase if formal reference with full title. Use full title on first reference: Oakland University Board of Trustees or Board of Trustees. Lowercase informal, shortened reference.

Example: The Oakland University Board of Trustees will meet on Tuesday. The Board of Trustees plans to adopt revised guidelines for Oakland University investment strategies. The board tabled the matter until administrators can provide additional information. None of the trustees were available to comment.

Building Names

On first reference, use full name of building with abbreviation in parenthesis. All other references can be shorted to abbreviation or the building.

Bullet Points

Do not use the word “including” or the phrase “as follows” before a bulleted list. If the list is a part of the previous sentence, do not capitalize. If the list includes full sentences, capitalize with punctuation. For single words or short phrases, use capitalize with no punctuation.


Click Here

Do not use. Integrate the hyperlink into appropriate text that is unique to the specific hyperlink.


One word.


The standard rules for capitalization should be followed. Each sentence should begin with an initial cap. All proper names should be capitalized.

  • Department names: Capitalize when using a departments official name only. Do not capitalize when referring to a department in general. Example: The Department of Music, the music department
  • Titles: All professional titles and formal academic titles should be capitalized when they immediately precede an individual’s name. Lowercase titles when they are used after a name; offset with commas. Example: Professor John Smith; John Smith, chemistry professor; the chemistry professor
  • Oakland University Capitalize as a proper name only. Lowercase "university" when used alone. Example: She enrolled at Oakland University. The university is in Rochester.
  • Sports Teams: Capitalize when using the official name of a sports team. Do not capitalize when referring to more generally.
  • Compositions titles: Capitalize all words in a title except articles (a, an, the); prepositions of three or fewer letters (for, of, on, up, etc.); and conjunctions of three or fewer letters (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet, etc.) unless any of those start or end the title. For titles that include hyphens, capitalize all words, i.e. “Star-Spangled Banner”
  • Headlines: Capitalize only the first word and proper nouns in headlines that use AP style.
    Exception: The first word after a colon is always uppercase in headlines.

Capstone Project

Lowercase when not used in reference to a specific experience or project.

College and Schools

Capitalize the names of the colleges and schools within the university. Abbreviate after first reference. Do not use ampersands. Do not use Oxford (serial) comma.

Example: College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), The Honors College (HC), Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine (OUWB), School of Business Administration (SBA), School of Engineering and Computer Science (SECS), School of Education and Human Services (SEHS), School of Music, Theatre and Dance (SMTD)

Credit or Credit Hours

Use the term credit hours.

Comma Usage

As with all punctuation, clarity is the biggest rule. If a comma does not help make clear what is being said, it should not be there. If omitting a comma could lead to confusion or misinterpretation, then use the comma. As a general rule, however, AP Style does not use Oxford (serial) commas. This means there is not a comma placed before the concluding conjunction in a simple series (a listing of three or more items) unless for clarity and subject changes.

Example: Don’t: Coffee, tea, and juice. Do: Coffee, tea and juice. Don’t: Coffee, tea, milk and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Do: Coffee, tea, milk, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Composition Titles

No italics. Quotation marks for books, book chapters, plays, works of art, journal articles. Do not quote journals, magazines or newspapers. Capitalize principal words of four or more letters. Lowercase words with fewer than four letters, unless at the beginning of the title.

Compositions titles: Capitalize all words in a title except articles (a, an, the); prepositions of three or fewer letters (for, of, on, up, etc.); and conjunctions of three or fewer letters (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet, etc.) unless any of those start or end the title. For titles that include hyphens, capitalize all words, i.e. “Star-Spangled Banner”

Example: Jane Smith had her debut in "MacBeth." She also wrote "The Book of Words," which was mentioned in the New York Times. Smith also performed "America the Beautiful" at today's event.

Contact Information

Do not use “Phone” or “Email” for contact information when it appears in block format. Instead put the phone number and email without.


Avoid excessive use in formal writing. However, the use of contractions is encouraged to make text friendlier to the reader on web and social media. Be careful not to overuse.


Cybersecurity is one word



Use sparingly. For design purposes, avoid the dash hanging at the end of a line.

  • Em dash: Use the em dash ( — ) with one space between words on either side. Use for emphasis, breaks in thought or explanatory comments.
    Example: It was one of those perfect fall weekends — the air was crisp, the leaves were falling and OU alumni were coming home.
  • En dash: No longer used in AP Style. Use a hyphen in place where you would have previously used an en dash.
  • Hyphen: Use a hyphen (-) for ranges, such as January 1-4. There should be no space surrounding a hyphen. Also use when a compound modifier precedes a noun, except adverbs that end in –ly.
    Example: full-time student, first-quarter touchdown, easily acquired position

Dates and Months

When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. Spell out when using alone or with a year alone. When a phrase lists only a month and a year, do not separate the year with commas. When a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with commas..


Use Arabic figures to indicate spans of decades or centuries (1920s, 1900s). Use an apostrophe to indicate numerals that are left out (‘20s). Show plural by adding an “s,” with no apostrophe, to the end (1920s).

Example: The 1990s, the ‘90s, the mid-1990s.


Uppercase and no possessive with official degree names. Lowercase and possessive in informal reference.

Example: Bachelor of Science, bachelor’s degree

Dorm, Dormitory or Residence Hall(s)

Use residence hall instead of dorm or dormitory.


EEO and Disability Statement

The EEO and disability statements should appear on most materials used for publicity, recruitment (of students, staff or faculty) or information to the public.

Statement: Persons with disabilities who may need special accommodations should contact the university at (248) 370-3266 before their scheduled visit date.


Lowercase and do not hyphenate. Always include with contact information.

Exclamation Point

Do not use.



Acronym for Frequently Asked Questions. OK to use as acronym on the internet. Spell out in copy.

Fewer or Less

Use less when referring to something that can’t be counted or that does not have a plural (money, air, time, music).

Example: It’s a good job, but it pays you less money.

First-year student

Should be used in place of "freshman" to describe a first-year student. This helps to create separation from student type and class standing (as "freshman" is still used for class standing).

Flier or Flyer

“Flier” is preferred use when referencing a handbill or piece of paper with messaging on it.

Full Time, Full-time

Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier.

Example: She works full time. He has a full-time job.


Gender-neutral Language

Use terms that can apply to any gender. Such language aims to treat people equally and is inclusive of people whose gender identity is not strictly male or female.

For example, use terms such as chair or chairperson, councilperson or council member, and spokesperson unless the -man or -woman terms are specified by an organization. Additionally, use alumnus (singular) or alumni (plural) when referencing former graduate(s) - see “alumni” in the OU style guide for additional details.

Here are other examples of preferred usage. This list is not all-inclusive but can serve as a framework by which to consider other words. Multiple terms are not necessarily interchangeable. Choose what is appropriate and accurate in the context.

actor: Use this term for any gender. Use actress for a woman only in stories about the Oscars, Emmys or Tonys, all of which use the word actress in their awards.
business owner, businessperson: Not businessman/businesswoman.
crew, staff, workforce, workers, team members, employee: Not manpower.
dancer, ballet dancer: But ballerina is acceptable because of broad use by dancers.
firefighter: Not fireman.
first-year student: Freshman is acceptable. First-term student.
humanity, humankind, humans, human beings, people: Not mankind.
human-made, human-caused, artificial, synthetic: Not man-made.
police officer: Not policeman/policewoman or patrolman.
salesperson, sales associate, sales clerk, sales executive: Not salesman/saleswoman.
spouse: A gender-neutral alternative to wife or husband.

Grade Point Average

Do not use hyphens. Lowercase.


When referring to OU’s mascot, it is “the Grizz,” not “The Grizz,” unless this appears at the beginning of a sentence.

Grizz Card

Capitalize the “G” and “C.”

Golden Grizzlies

The word Grizzlies must always be accompanied by the word Golden: Golden Grizzlies.


Health Care

Two words except when the official name of a company dictates otherwise.

Help Desk

Two words.

Higher Education

Higher education is two words, not hyphenated, even if it's modifying a noun. Avoid using "higher ed" in formal writing. In informal writing, higher ed is not hyphenated.

Home Page

Two words, lowercase unless starting a sentence.


Hyphens are joiners. Use them to avoid ambiguity or to form a single idea from two or more words. Think of hyphens as an aid to readers’ comprehension. If it just adds clutter and distraction to the sentence, don’t use it. Rephrase sentence to avoid using excessive hyphens.

Example: It’s a guide about how to use hyphens wisely, not a how-to-use-hyphens-wisely guide.

compound modifiers: When a compound modifier — two or more words that express a single concept — precedes a noun. Do use a hyphen if it’s needed to make the meaning clear and avoid unintended meanings.

Example: small-business owner, better-qualified candidate, little-known song, French-speaking people, free-thinking philosophy, loose-knit group, low-income workers, never-published guidance, self-driving car.

Other two-word terms, particularly those used as nouns, have evolved to be commonly recognized as, in effect, one word. No hyphen is needed when such terms are used as modifiers if the meaning is clear and unambiguous without the hyphen.

Example: third grade teacher, chocolate chip cookie, special effects embellishment, climate change report, public land management, emergency room visit, parking lot entrance, national security briefing, computer software maker.

prefixes: Generally, do not hyphenate when using a prefix with a word starting with a consonant. Consult the dictionary if you are uncertain whether a given word is hyphenated.

Examples: premedical, disengaged, return, undecided.
Note: a hyphen is acceptable for courses or programs with pre-, if this is the official name of the program. However, if possible, please follow these guidelines on determining if a hyphenated prefix is necessary.

General guidelines for using a hyphen in prefixes:

  • Use a hyphen if the prefix ends in a vowel and the word that follows begins with the same vowel.
  • Use a hyphen if the word that follows is capitalized.
  • Use a hyphen to join doubled prefixes: sub-subparagraph.



Lowercase the “I” unless it begins a sentence.



Latin Phrases Often Misused

Bona fides: good faith; credentials
De facto: Of fact; it is
Carpe diem: seize the day; enjoy the present
In loco parentis: in place of the parent Sic: thus; so it was
Sine quo non: without which, nothing; it is essential

Like and Such as

Avoid use of “like” for comparisons. Instead, use “such as.”

Login, Logon, Logoff

One word, lowercase, but use as two words in verb form.

Example: verb form: I log in to my computer.


Majors and Programs

Lowercase names of programs and majors. Exception: English or foreign language

Example: chemistry degree, bachelor’s in chemistry, Bachelor of Science in chemistry, Master of Arts in English, master’s in English

Meadow Brook Hall

Meadow Brook is two words. Use full name on first reference and hall (lowercase) on second reference.

Midnight Madness

Midnight Madnezz and Midnight Madness are acceptable.

Might and May

Use “might” when indicating something might happen that is a very long shot. Use may when it is more likely.

Example: Johnny may go to the dentist, then again pigs might fly.


Use figures with dollar sign in copy. For even dollar amounts do not add decimal followed by double zero. Spell out the word cents and lowercase, using numerals for amounts less than a dollar: 5 cents. Use the $ sign and decimal system for larger amounts ($1.05).

Example: The fee for activities is $25. The exact amount of the bill is $19.48.


One word.

More Than

Follow AP style: “More than” should be used when relating to numerals. When you refer to spatial relationships, use “over.”

Example: Numerals: Salaries increased more than 10 percent. Spatial: The plane flew over the city.

MSU-O, Michigan State University–Oakland

Use Michigan State University–Oakland on first reference and MSU–O on second reference. There should be an en dash (–) between the “U” and “O” and between the words “University” and “Oakland.”



The first reference should include the first and last name. If needed, precede full name first reference with abbreviated academic degrees set off by commas. If the subject has a doctoral degree, use “Dr.” on second reference with last name only.

Example: Jane Smith, M.A., Ph.D., teaches the course. Dr. Smith has been a professor for five years.

Nightingale Awards for Nursing

This requires a registered trademark symbol when the full name is used, not required for “Nightingale Award.”

Noon, Midnight

Use noon or midnight. Do not use 12 a.m. or 12 p.m.


General: Spell out numbers less than 10. Use figures for 10 or more. Use comma separator at 1,000. Use a figure-word combination for millions, billions, trillions. Spell out any number at the start of a sentence.

Example:An eight-hour day; The 50th anniversary; There were 12,000 people in attendance; The building cost $1.5 million; Forty to 50 people were lined up.

Phone Numbers: All phone numbers should include ten digits with a space after the ().

Example: (248) 370-2100

Room Numbers: Use figures. Capitalize “Room” when used with a figure.

Example: The seminar will be in Room 4B.

Ages: Use figures. Use hyphens for ages expressed as adjectives before a noun or as substitutes for a noun.

Example:the 50-year-old tradition; the building is 12 years old


Oakland University

Use the full name of the university on first reference. Second references may be Oakland, OU or the university. Headlines may also use OU or Oakland.

Oakland University in Macomb

Use Oakland University in Macomb on first reference and OU Macomb on the following. Do not use “Oakland University/OU at Macomb program.”

Offices, Departments, Divisions

Capitalize office, department, division, institute, center, etc., only when they are part of official titles. Otherwise, use lowercase.

Example: The Office of the Dean. The dean’s office.


One word in all cases for the computer connection term.

OU Bookstore, University Bookstore

Both OU bookstore and university bookstore (lowercase) are acceptable.

OU INCubator, OU INC

Use OU INC on all references.

OU President

The first reference should always be their full title. On second reference it is acceptable to use President _____. Lowercase if using title only.

Example: President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, President Pescovitz, the president



Avoid use, except when used to abbreviate term after first spelled out reference: College of Arts and Sciences (CAS).

Part Time, Part-time

Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier.

Example: He works part time. She has a part-time job.


Use the % sign when paired with a number, with no space, in most cases.

Example: The survey received a 73% response.


If requested by the subject or if relevant to the article context to include pronouns in marketing or editorial content, place pronouns only after first mention of full name. Ex. Kelli Warshefski (she/her) is a writer.

In most cases, a plural pronoun such as “they, them or their” should agree in number with the antecedent: The students love their courses. Clarity is a top priority; gender-neutral use of a singular “they” is unfamiliar to many readers.

In instances where people identify as neither male nor female or ask not to be referred to as he/she/him/her, use the person’s name in place of a pronoun, or otherwise reword the sentence, whenever possible. If they/them/their use is essential, explain in the text that the person prefers a gender-neutral pronoun. Be sure that the phrasing does not imply more than one person.



Consider carefully when deciding whether to identify people by race. Often, it is an irrelevant factor and drawing unnecessary attention to someone's race or ethnicity can be interpreted as bigotry. There are, however, occasions when race is pertinent, as in stories that involve significant, groundbreaking or historic events. Include racial or ethnic details only when they are clearly relevant and that relevance is explicit in the story.

Black (adj.): Use the capitalized term as an adjective in a racial, ethnic or cultural sense: Black people, Black culture, Black literature, Black studies, Black colleges. Use of the capitalized Black recognizes that language has evolved, along with the common understanding that especially in the United States, the term reflects a shared identity and culture rather than a skin color alone.

dual heritage: No hyphen for terms such as African American, Asian American and Filipino American, used when relevant to refer to an American person's heritage.

minority, racial minority: The term is acceptable as an adjective in broad references to multiple races other than white in the United States. This includes the term underrepresented minorities (URMs).

Latino, Latina: Latino is often the preferred noun or adjective for a person from, or whose ancestors were from, a Spanish-speaking land or culture or from Latin America. Latina is the feminine form and should only be used if specified by the subject. Some prefer the recently coined gender-neutral term Latinx, which should be confined to quotations, names of organizations or descriptions of individuals who request it.

Hispanic: A person from — or whose ancestors were from — a Spanish-speaking land or culture. Latino, Latina or Latinx are sometimes preferred. Follow the person's preference.

American Indians, Native Americans: Both are acceptable terms in general references for those in the U.S. when referring to two or more people of different tribal affiliations. For individuals, use the name of the tribe. First Nation is the preferred term for native tribes in Canada. Indian is used to describe the peoples and cultures of the South Asian nation of India. Do not use the term as a shorthand for American Indians.


Capitalize the names of specifically designated rooms.

Example: We will meet in the Gold Room.


Semester Term

References to semesters should be uppercase if paired with academic year. Otherwise, use lowercase.

Example: The Spring 2020 semester; she’s taking classes this spring

Southeast or Southeastern

Use Southeast, capitalize.

State Names

Spell out the name of the state unless used for a formal address.


Student-athletes requires a hyphen.


The Honors College

Capitalize “The” in reference to the official name of “The Honors College.”


Use a.m. and p.m. to designate day or evening times. Use midnight or noon instead of 12 a.m. or 12 p.m. For full hour times, use only the first number. Always include a space between numerals and the a.m. or p.m. designation in lower case.

Example: 8 a.m. not 8:00 a.m.


All professional titles and formal academic titles should be capitalized when they immediately precede an individual’s name. Lower case titles when they are used after a name; offset with commas. Lowercase and spell out titles when they are not used with an individual’s name.

Example: Assistant Professor John Smith; Jane Smith, associate director; the associate director

Toward or Towards

Use toward, not towards.


Capitalize the first “T” in “Trustees” only if this is before a name, otherwise it should be lowercase.



One word.

United States

Spell out when used as a noun. Use U.S. (no space, with periods) only as an adjective.


The “www” prefix should be eliminated from the formatting of all Oakland University URLs when used in copy.



Lowercase the “W” unless it begins a sentence.


One word, all lowercase


One word.

Which or That

If the sentence does not need the clause, then use which.

Examples: Our office, which has two lunchrooms, is located in Detroit. Our office has two lunchrooms and is located in Detroit.

Who or Whom

If referring to he or she, use who. If referring to him or her, use whom.

Work Force

Work force should always be two words.



Use commas only with a month and day: February 18, 2015, is a Wednesday. Years are the lone exception to the general rule in numerals that a figure is not used to start a sentence: 2010 was a very good year. When referring to two years from the same century, only indicate century on first year.

Example: 2015–16 not 2015 - 2016


One word.


Zip codes

Include complete ZIP code only in standalone addresses

My House
24345 Winner St.
Rochester, MI 48309-4482

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