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Editorial Style Guide

Western Colorado University’s Editorial Style Guide is based loosely on The Associated Press Stylebook and is intended to provide a reference resource for communicators producing consistent and professional written content for, or about, Western. Every effort should be made to use AP Style in communications intended as communications in the press or intended to be used by those institutions where AP Style is the standard to avoid a process of re-editing by the recipient.

While the AP Stylebook informs the Western Colorado University Style Guide, it does not preclude modifications and alterations to the style found in this resource that are intended to help Western communicate to its audience with clarity across platforms. If questions about punctuation, capitalization, abbreviations, or inclusive language are not answered in this guide, communicators should refer to The AP Stylebook or find correct spellings in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

The following are commonly used styles or styles that differ from the AP Stylebook in some way.



A vs An

  • Words that start with a consonant sound should be preceded by an “a.” (i.e., a historic, not an historic).
  • Words that start with a vowel sound are preceded by “an.” (i.e., an honor)


  • State names should not be abbreviated when they stand alone (New York and New York City, not NY or NYC). Abbreviate using postal abbreviations when they accompany the name of a municipality. (Albany, NY).
  • Do not use abbreviations as part of a formal title (i.e., President Baca, instead of Pres. Baca)
  • Consider common usage when deciding where abbreviations should and shouldn’t be used. (i.e., St. Louis, not Saint Louis. Mount Rushmore, not Mt. Rushmore).
  • Abbreviate “avenue,” “street,” and “boulevard,” when included with a numbered address. Do not abbreviate when they stand alone. (i.e., 123 Main St., Main Street).

Academic degrees or titles

  • Do not abbreviate degrees mentioned to establish someone’s credentials.
  • Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree or master’s degree, but not in Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science, etc.
  • Distinguish those with academic titles by using an apostrophe after the name, followed by the abbreviated title. If more than one title is absolutely necessary, list them in the order in which they were received. (i.e., Jessica Young, Ph.D.).
  • Avoid overly formal titles. Upon the first reference of an individual, include the academic degrees and professional positions preferred by the subject after their name. After the first reference of an individual, use the last name only.


  • Use acronyms in parentheses after spelling out the first use of the term. It is acceptable to use the acronym thereafter.
  • Common acronyms do not need to be spelled out on the first reference (i.e., MBA, PhD, MFA, GPA, etc.)


  • See Race


  • Use “alumni” when referring to a male or female graduate of the institution.
  • Use “alumnus” in the plural form.
  • Use the feminine “alumna” if that is the subject’s preference.

Ampersand use

  • Do not use an ampersand to replace the word “and” in the text. It should only be used as a stylistic choice in headlines or in the formal name of an organization that uses an ampersand (Paul M. Rady School of Computer Science & Engineering).


  • Possessives of singular words are normally formed by adding ’s. (i.e., the man’s shirt, James’s friend, etc.)
  • Plural possessives ending in “-s” or “-es” are formed by adding an apostrophe only. (i.e., the leaders’ views, etc. referring to multiple leaders with multiple views)
  • When possession is joint, use an apostrophe only with the last owner. (i.e., Mike and Kate’s house, etc.)
  • When the possession is individual, use an apostrophe after each owner. (Mike’s and Kate’s cars are both broken, etc.)
  • Do not use an apostrophe when referring to someone with multiple degrees. (i.e., She has two PhDs)
  • Use an apostrophe when referring to multiples of a single letter. (i.e., She got all A’s last semester.)



Bias-free language

  • Always defer to the subject’s preference when referring to an individual.
  • Use “first-year student” instead of freshman.
  • Use “Junior” and “Senior” instead of “upperclassmen.”
  • Use gender-neutral language. (i.e., Crewed instead of manned. Police officer, instead of Policeman. Department
    chair or board chair instead of chairman, etc.)
  • Use “international student” instead of “foreign student.”
  • Use “actor” to refer to male or female performers.

Board of Trustees

  • Capitalize when referring to Western’s Board of Trustees.

Branding and naming – see the brand style guide available on Inside Western



Capitalization –

  • Formal organization or department names, such as the Borick School of Business, are capitalized, whereas an
    informal reference to the business school is not.
  • Capitalize any title that comes before a name. Titles used as descriptors that follow a name should not be
    capitalized. (President Brad Baca. Brad Baca, president of WCU.)
  • Capitalize geographic areas (i.e., the Midwest, the South, East Coast, etc.)
  • Seasons (spring, summer, fall, winter) should not be capitalized.
  • Capitalize the names of languages and dialects.
  • Capitalize holidays, special days, and special weeks. (i.e., Christmas, Veterans Day, Breast Cancer Awareness
    Week, etc.)
  • Capitalize ages and eras unless they are merely descriptive (Stone Age, Pleistocene, Renaissance, etc. vs.
    computer age, Eisenhower era, etc.)


  • Major cities do not necessarily need to be followed by the state they are in unless the same placename can be
    found in multiple states (Portland, Kansas City, etc.)


  • Use as an abbreviation of coeducational, meaning the education of both sexes at the same institution. Do not use
    the term when referring to a female student.


  • Capitalize when referring to Western’s Commencement.

Computer Science

  • see Western-CU Boulder Partnership Program

Crested Butte

  • Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte are the names of the municipalities. Crested Butte Mountain is the name of a
    Mountain, although it is officially a laccolith.



Dates and Times

  • Follow the month-day-year sequence when writing dates in the text. The year is set off by a comma unless no day is specified. (i.e., July 4, 1776, or July 1776)
  • Dates should not be written as ordinal numbers. (i.e., July 4th)
  • Biannual means twice per year. Biennial means every two years. Bimonthly means once every two months.
    Semimonthly means twice per month. Weekly occurrences follow the form of monthly occurrences.
  • When referencing an alumni’s class year, include the last two digits of the year preceded by an apostrophe.
    (i.e., Smith, ’71)
  • C.E. is preferred over B.C., although both are acceptable and occur after the date. (i.e., 476 B.C.E.) C.E. is
    preferred over A.D., although both are acceptable and occur before the date. (410 C.E.)

Departments and programs

  • Official department and program names should be used on the first reference and capitalized. Unofficial,
    lowercase names should be used thereafter. (Department of Music, music department)



  • Use a person-first approach to communicating about people with disabilities (i.e., a person with Down’s
    syndrome, people with cerebral palsy, etc.). Notable exceptions to this are the American Deaf community (use
    “deaf person”) and the Autistic community (use “Autistic person” or the plural “Autistics”), who understand
    their conditions to be an inherent part of who they are and prefer not to refer to either condition as being a
  • Whenever possible, maintain separation between a person’s identity and their circumstance.
  • Understand that the use of capitalization denotes an associated group, such as the “Deaf” community, which has a
    different connotation than the use of the word “deaf,” which refers to a state of being.
  • Of course, outdated or crass terms cannot be used when communicating about people with disabilities. If you are
    uncertain about how to refer to people or communities with disabilities, refer to the National Center on Disability and Journalism.
  • Do not use the term “normal” to refer to people without disabilities. Use “typical” instead.
  • Do not confuse diseases or injuries (something you contract from the environment) with genetic conditions
    (something you are born with).
  • Do not use language that implies pity, like “afflicted with” or “suffers from.”

Diversity – always communicate with respect and sensitivity. This guide is not the place to list all the language used
to describe the rich tapestry of humanity. There are too many terms related to disability, ethnicity and race, gender
identity, geography, immigration status, sexuality, and all the other ways we distinguish people. Please refer to the Diversity Style Guide for specific language.


Electronic Media


  • Use a sequence of three periods with a space at either end ( … ).
  • If a sentence ends with ellipses, include a period at the end of the line as well ( …. ). However, ellipses
    should only be used at the end of a sentence in rare circumstances, such as a sentence that trails off


  • Refers to a professor of either gender who retains their title after retiring or otherwise leaving the
  • Use the lowercase “professor emeritus,” not “emeritus professor.” (Jane Doe was named professor emeritus of
  • Use emeriti as the plural.


  • Refers to the Partnership Program housed in the Paul M. Rady School of Computer Science and Engineering.
  • See Partnership Program

Exclamation point

  • Consider how the use of exclamation points has changed in recent years. Also, consider your audience when using
    it. There is a generational divide between those who use it sparingly and those who use it more broadly. While
    the exclamation point can be overused, it does not necessarily denote yelling and can also be used to convey a
    sense of excitement, joy, interest, or gratitude.



Farther, Further

  • Farther refers to a physical distance. Further refers to time or degree.

Follow up

  • “Follow up” is a verb. “Follow-up,” with a hyphen, is a noun.

Foreign words

  • Be sure to include all phonetic and accent marks. Italicize only if

Full time

  • “Full time” is an adverb. “Full-time” is an adjective



Game Day

  • These are two separate words. Not Gameday.


  • See Sexual Orientation


  • Biological male and biological female
  • Transgender, non-binary



Historic, Historical

  • “Historic” refers to something that makes history. (i.e., It was a historic day.) “Historical” refers to the
    study of history. (i.e., She provided a historical analysis.)


  • Use a hyphen to join two or more words to form compound adjectives that precede a noun. The purpose of joining
    words to form a compound adjective is to differentiate the meaning from the adjectives used separately (i.e.,
    up-to-date merchandise, copper-coated wire, fire-tested material, lump-sum payment, and well-stocked cupboard,
    etc.). Beware of adverbs that modify an adjective, which will not be hyphenated, such as “a brightly lit room,”
    not “a brightly-lit room.”
  • Use a hyphen with all compound numbers between twenty-one through ninety-nine, and when writing fractions as
    words. (i.e., fifty-six, two-thirds)
  • use a hyphen with the prefixes all-, ex-, and self-, and with the suffix -elect. (i.e., all-inclusive,
    ex-president, self-righteous, governor-elect, etc.)
  • Use a hyphen to join a prefix to a capitalized word. (i.e., un-American, pre-Christmas, etc.)
  • Use a hyphen to avoid doubling vowels. (i.e., re-elect, semi-independent, etc.)




  • Italicize the titles of academic papers, albums, articles, artwork, books, compositions, journals, proceedings,
    or other published material.
  • Whenever possible, use italics instead of underlining.
  • Do not italicize commonly used foreign terms or abbreviations.





K (measurement)

  • Use K as an abbreviation for kindergarten only in reference to a range of grade levels.
  • Use the capital K with no space after the numeral for measurements of computer transmission speed.
    (i.e., 56K modem)
  • Use the capital K with no space after the numeral for measurements of distance. (i.e., The 5K run.)
  • Do not use K in place of “one thousand.” (i.e., $45,000, not $45K)



Latino, Latina, Latinx, Latine

  • See Race




  • The Mathematics Department is housed in the Paul M. Rady School but is separate from the Partnership Program.


  • Do not capitalize majors, minors, specializations, or concentrations of study.
  • Capitalize the formal names of departments or programs.
  • For details on the courses of study available at Western, visit …


  • Use numerals for measurements, but spell out inches, feet, and other units of measure, except in technical
    subject matter or where space is limited. Hyphenate adjective forms before nouns. (i.e., He’s 5 feet 9 inches
    tall, The 5-foot-6-inch man is walking ahead, The 4-pound, 3-ounce toad is a record size, etc.)
  • When using feet or inch marks in technical contexts, place periods and commas outside the marks, and use the
    marks with both dimensions. (Note: This rule does not apply with single or double quotation marks, which always
    go outside periods and commas.
  • Percentages are treated as singular nouns when standing alone or when a singular word follows “of.” A percentage
    is treated as plural when a plural word follows “of.”(i.e., The maintenance department said 60 percent of the
    grass is cut. He said 50 percent of students are there.)
  • Always use figures (Arabic numerals) for percentages. For amounts less than 1 percent, precede the decimal with
    a zero. Repeat the percent for each separate figure.
  • Do not use “a” in place of “per.” (Americans generate millions of tons of waste per year.)



  • There should be a space between the figure and the word. (i.e., 45 million people)
  • Do not use M in place of “million” or B in place of “billion” (i.e., use $100 million, not $100M)
  • Spell out in all casual uses (i.e., Not in a million years.)
  • Use decimals instead of fractions when writing some portion of million/billion. (3.65 million people




Native American

  • See Race


  • Spell out whole numbers one through nine and use figures for 10 and above. Always use figures for specific
    quantities such as dimensions, percentages, ages, weights, distances, addresses, computer storage capacities,
    and room numbers. Spell out grade levels one through nine.
  • Always use figures for the ages of people and animals but not for inanimate objects less than 10 years old.
    (i.e., A 5-year-old boy, The book was published eight years ago, etc.)
  • Spell out “thousand,” “million,” etc. Do not use “K,” or “M” as signifiers. (e., use $45,000, not $45K, or use
    $100 million, not $100M)
  • Spell out numbers when they begin sentences, except for years. Hyphenate only numbers
    between twenty-one and ninety-nine, and do not use “and” between the parts of a number. Use Roman numerals as
    appropriate to the source or context. Never spell out dates or other serial numbers.
  • To describe mountains of 14,000 feet or higher in Colorado, use the figure and the suffix –er. In the plural form, add only s, no apostrophe.
  • Spell out numbers that indicate the order in a series “first” through “ninth” and use figures with appropriate
    letter suffixes for 10th and above. Whenever possible, use ordinal numbers without superscripts (10th instead of
  • Use a comma for figures in the thousands.
  • Use figures and words for quantities in the millions and greater. There should be a space between the figure and
    the word. Avoid line breaks that separate the figure from the word.
  • When approximating figures, use “more than” and “less than” (or “fewer than” or “nearly”) instead
    of “over” and “under.”
  • “Over” refers to spatial relationships. Use “greater than” or “more than” when using figures and quantities.
  • In general, use “fewer than” for individual items that can be counted and “less than” for bulk or quantity.
  • 9/11 should be used to refer to September 11, 2001. 911 is an emergency number.




  • Orient is the American English spelling and pronunciation of the word. Orientate is used in British English.



Partnership Program

  • see Western-CU Boulder Partnership Program


  • Spell out “percent” and avoid using the % symbol, except in headlines or in charts and tables.

Photo Captions

  • People in captions should be identified whenever possible.






Race, Ethnicity, and National Origin

  • Always defer to the preference of the subject when referring to an individual.
  • Per the AP Stylebook, “Except in direct quotes essential to the story, use “illegal” only to refer to an action,
    not a person: “illegal immigration,” not “illegal immigrant.”
  • Always capitalize references to a person’s race, ethnicity, or national origin. (i.e., Black person, White
    person, African American, Mexican American, Pacific Islander, etc.)
  • Muslims are followers of the Islamic faith and can include people of any race or ethnicity. The term is not
    synonymous with people of Arab or Middle Eastern descent.
  • There are many terms identifying race and ethnicity that append “American,” thereby creating a regional or
    ethnic term, such as Asian American, Arab American, or Russian American. These should be written without a
    hyphen. This assumes the person was born in another region or country and is now living in the U.S. Whenever
    possible, be specific when referring to a person’s national origin (use Honduran American, instead of the
    generic Latin American, Chinese American, instead of Asian American, or Ghanaian American, instead of African
    American, etc.)
  • African American is an acceptable term for a Black American of African descent.
  • Black and White are acceptable as adjectives when relevant. Both should be capitalized when used to indicate
    skin color. Do not use the singular or plural form either as a noun.
  • Whenever possible, avoid language and sentence structures that indicate someone is a member of an out-group.
    (i.e., “Those assembled were a mixture of Southerners and African Americans.”)
  • Use “people of color,” to refer to a broad range of racial identities.
  • Do not use the term “Caucasian,” unless referring to people from one of the more than 50 diverse ethnic groups
    endemic to the Caucasus Mountain region of central Europe.
  • Do not use the term “mulatto,” when referring to someone of mixed race.
  • Use “Black,” “White,” “Biracial,” “Multiracial,” or “Mixed race.”
  • Use “Asian,” not “Oriental.”
  • The preferred term for Native People can vary by group. The National
    Congress of American Indians
    says, “There are 574 federally recognized Indian Nations (variously called
    tribes, nations, bands, pueblos, communities, and native villages) in the United States,” each of whom has a
    preference. Always defer to how Native People refer to themselves. Generally, use the capitalized Native
    American, American Indian, or Native.
  • Always defer to the preference of the subject when referring to an individual. “Latino” can be used to refer to
    a group of males or people of both sexes of Latin American descent, while “Latina” is used when referring to
    females of Latin American descent. The gender-neutral “Latine” is most commonly used among Spanish speakers. The
    gender-neutral “Latinx,” which is used most commonly in academic and corporate settings, should be used only
    when deemed appropriate by the subject and may warrant a short explanation (Hernandez prefers the gender-neutral
    term Latinx). “Hispanic” refers to people from Spanish-speaking countries (Brazilians, because they speak
    Portuguese, are Latino or Latina, not Hispanic).


  • Paul M. Rady School of Computer Science & Engineering on the first reference. The full name requires a period
    after the middle initial M and an ampersand between Computer Science and Engineering. “Rady,” “Rady Building,”
    or “Rady School” thereafter.
  • Refers to a building, not a department or program.
  • Although the Partnership Program (Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science) is housed in the Rady Building
    with Western’s Mathematics and Computer Science departments, they are separate entities.


  • Refer to the AP Stylebook for guidance on religious titles, places of worship, and religious holidays.
  • Do not use the term “Jew” as an adjective or as a noun. Instead, use Jewish, as in “Jewish teacher” or “Jewish
    people,” etc.
  • Those who follow the Islamic faith are Muslims, not “Islamic.”



Said, Says

  • When providing attribution for a quote, “said” is a safe neutral term. Sometimes people change their minds, and
    we should be clear that the quote is what the person said at the time. The alternative “says” suggests the quote
    is what they would say now and for as long as the published piece is available.
  • Keep in mind that the construction “Smith said” is an active phrase, while “said Smith” is a passive phrase.
    Both are acceptable, but active phrasing is always preferred.

Sexual Orientation

  • Use “sexual orientation,” not “sexual preference.” The most common terms for sexual orientation are “lesbian”
    (women attracted to women), “gay” (men attracted to men), and “bisexual” (people of any gender attracted to both
    women and men).
  • Regardless of sexual orientation, “husband” or “wife” is acceptable in all references to individuals in any
    legally recognized marriage. “Spouse” or “partner” also may be used.
  • Do not use “Lifestyle,” or “Homosexual” to refer to people attracted to the same sex.


  • Refers to a type of trail approximately the width of a person or bicycle. It is spelled as one word, not two, as
    in “single track” or “single-track.”

Slaves, Enslaved people

  • Use “slave” or “slaves” only as part of a quotation, unless the word “slave” is used to make a point about a
    person’s circumstance.
  • Use “enslaved person/people” whenever possible to separate a person’s identity from their circumstance.

Socioeconomic Status

  • When writing about efforts to address issues of income inequality, it is important not to reinforce negative
    stereotypes, no matter how well-intentioned the effort is. Consider how socioeconomic status merges differently
    with other characteristics such as ethnicity, race, age, gender, disabilities, etc.
  • Do not use terms that denote a person’s relative position, like “disadvantaged,” “low/high class,” “poor/rich,”
    less fortunate,” etc. unless as part of a quote. Instead, use terminology based on facts, like “below poverty
    level,” “low/high income,” “low/high socioeconomic status,” etc.
  • Do not use terms like ghetto, or barrio.


  • State names should be spelled out, not abbreviated.




  • “Theater” is the American English spelling of the word referring to the building, space, production, or
    profession. “Theatre” is the British English spelling referring to the same.

Titles (Legislative titles)

  • Abbreviate and capitalize representative,representatives, senator,
    and senators as formal titles before one or more names in regular text. Spell out and capitalize these
    titles before one or more names in a direct quotation.
    • Rep. Lauren Boebert spoke to the audience.
    • Reps. Lauren Boebert and Diana DeGette attended the event.
    • Sen. Michael Bennet cut the ceremonial ribbon.
    • Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper voted with the majority.
    • “Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper voted with the majority,” she said.
  • Spell out and lowercase representativeand senator in other uses.
  • Spell out other legislative titles in all uses.
  • Avoid the use of gender-specific titles, such as assemblyman, or assemblywoman. Instead, use
    assembly member.
  • Capitalize formal titles such ascity councilor, delegate, etc., when they are used before a
    name. Lowercase in other uses.
  • Add U.S. or statebefore a title only if necessary to avoid confusion. (i.e., U.S.
    Sen. Michael Bennet spoke with state Sen. Kerry Donovan.)
  • Generally, use a title such as Rep. or Sen. on first reference. It is not necessary, however,
    if an individual’s title is given later in the story. Omitting the title on first reference is appropriate when
    an individual is well-known. (i.e., Barry Goldwater endorsed President Gerald Ford. The senator said the
    president deserved another term.)

Titles (Organizational titles)

  • Professional positions should be capitalized only when used as part of an official title (Western Colorado
    University President Brad Baca) and not when used to describe a person’s position (Brad Baca, president of
    Western Colorado University, or Western’s president, Brad Baca).

Titles (Publication titles)

  • The title of an academic paper, album, article, artwork, book or other published material, composition,
    proceedings should be italicized




  • should be capitalized whenever it is used to describe Western (The event will take place at the University) and
    not when it refers to a common noun (She got her degree at a university).





Western Colorado University – spell out on first reference. Western or WCU thereafter

  • Western Mountaineers okay
  • Western shouldn’t be used on its own without including Colorado and University. Or if it’s it’s on its own, the
    W, Mad Jack Logo or just the word Mountaineers is acceptable. Avoid using Western by itself on merchandise.

Western – CU Boulder Partnership program

  • Use Western first, followed by CU Boulder, with an en dash between.
  • If the full name of one university is used, the full name of both universities should be used (Western – CU
    Boulder, or Western Colorado University – University of Colorado Boulder). Note the University of Colorado
    Boulder does not use any punctuation in the official name, such as between “Colorado” and “Boulder.”
  • The term “Partnership Program” should be capitalized and refers solely to those degree programs that allow
    students to attend Western while earning credits from CU Boulder faculty. As of the 2022-23 academic year, the
    Partnership Program offered degrees in mechanical engineering and computer science. Note that students can earn
    a computer science degree from Western apart from the Partnership Program.







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