When pen hits the paper and fingertips strike the keys, this is how we say what we mean.



AP style does not use the serial comma in a simple series. This means that in order to stay within OSU brand guidelines, instead of writing, "Benny likes Star Wars, Star Trek, and Stargate," you'd write, "Benny likes Star Wars, Star Trek and Stargate." There's no comma before "and Stargate" in the style OSU uses.

As of June 1, 2016, the AP Stylebook calls for "internet" to be written with a lowercase 'i' (except at the start of a sentence), which means we use a lowercase 'i' to stay within OSU brand guidelines. This is a change from the previous guide, which called for internet to be capitalized.

The AP Stylebook and Oregon State University recommend Webster's New World College Dictionary for spelling and definitions. For spelling, generally, the first choice offered is the one to use.


Tone is all about communicating who we are as an organization; Not with content or style, but by saying exactly what we mean in just the right way.

The Oregon State University brand guide outlines the following statements as core tenants of our voice.

We’re worldly but not above it all.

We’re serious but not stuffy.

We’re passionate but not fanatical.

We’re focused but not fastidious.

We’re selective but not snobby.

We’re visionary but not head-in-the-clouds.

We’re authoritative but not closed-minded.

We’re knowledgeable but not know-it-alls.

We’re big-picture but not detail-agnostic.

We’re easygoing but not pushovers.

We’re unwavering but not unresponsive.

We’re questioning but not contrary.

We’re nerdy but not geeky.

We’re humble but not self-deprecating.

We’re confident but not cocky.

We’re proud but not prideful. 

University Editorial Style

The official editorial style manual for Oregon State University communications is The Associated Press Stylebook. The book is easy to use and is a storehouse of good information about grammar and usage. It covers most questions campus writers will have about style issues. All university units are expected to follow AP style.

Style also requires a good dictionary for spelling and usage issues not covered in the AP Stylebook. The AP-recommended dictionary is Webster's New World College Dictionary, online at m-w.com. In most cases, the first spelling choice listed in the dictionary should be used.

Accommodations for Disabilities

Posters and other notices for all campus events must include an accommodations for disabilities statement at the bottom: Accommodations for disabilities may be made by contacting 541-737-XXXX or email@oregonstate.edu. When appropriate, use: Accommodations for disabilities or dietary restrictions may be made by contacting 541-737-XXXX or email@oregonstate.edu. It is up to the event organizer to provide the phone number and email address for coordinating accommodations requests.

All printed materials must include the following accommodations for disabilities statement: This publication will be made available in an accessible alternative format upon request. Please contact [sponsoring department contact name], 541-737-XXXX or email@oregonstate.edu

Exceptions to AP Style

Because writing for higher education is not the same as writing for the news media, there are a few exceptions to AP style:

academic degrees

Generic degree terms such as bachelor of arts and master of science are not capitalized at Oregon State. Capitalize, however, when the formal name of the degree is used: Master of Science in Chemical Engineering.


A deviation from AP style to reflect the spelling used in academia.

African American
African American (not hyphenated) is the term used at Oregon State. For more, see the Cultural Sensitivity section below.


Use the nonsexist terms chair or chairperson, depending on the preference of the unit. AP prefers chairman or chairwoman, but don't use those unless they are part of an official title.

College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences

An exception to the serial comma rule per the college's request.

AP Style Quick Reference

The guidelines below regarding word use, punctuation, capitalization, numbers and cultural sensitivity provide a convenient reference for the most common style issues you're likely to face while writing or editing materials for the university's audiences.

Word Use


Acronyms should be in capital letters with no periods: GPA, ID cards, ROTC, USA. With the exception of well-understood acronyms and abbreviations, such as B.A., M.S., Ph.D., GPA and ROTC, spell out the full name or title on first use, followed by the letters in parentheses, if they are to be used repeatedly in the text.
Many students take advantage of the University Exploratory Studies Program (UESP) during their first year at Oregon State. UESP offers new students the opportunity to explore before committing to a major.

advance, advanced

When used as adjectives, advance means "ahead of time" and advanced means "beyond others." Thus, it would be advance tuition deposit, but advanced standing.

alumna, alumnae, alumni, alumnus
Alumna is the feminine singular form. Alumnae is the feminine plural. Alumnus is the male (or nonspecific gender) singular. Alumni is the masculine or mixed-gender plural.

and, but
And or but may begin a sentence. This approach can be useful in providing a transition between closely related sentences. But it shouldn't be overdone.

Cascade Range

Not Cascades Range or Cascade Mountains. Cascades is acceptable in most cases; however, Cascade Range should be used on first reference for material distributed outside the Pacific Northwest.


Not catalogue.


Don't use this term to refer to a female student. It can be used to indicate both sexes, however, such as in coed residence hall.

compose, comprise

These words are often misused. Comprise means "include" or "encompass." The whole comprises the parts, but the parts are composed of the whole.
The College of Liberal Arts comprises 14 departments.

The College of Liberal Arts is composed of 14 departments.


Although contractions may be discouraged in formal academic writing, they are acceptable in most instances for university news, marketing pieces and websites.


Use a hyphen so it's not confused with coop.

course numbers

Use Arabic numerals and capitalize the subject when used with a numeral. Otherwise, lowercase.
I'm taking MTH 111 College Algebra this fall.

I'm taking college algebra this fall.

course work

Two words. Not coursework.


This is the accepted term at Oregon State. Don't use credit hours or hours.


One word.


Don't use a hyphen. This is a recent change to AP style. Don't capitalize unless it starts a sentence or is before the email address in a vertical list.

flier, flyer
Flier is the preferred term for a handbill or an aviator. Flyer is the proper name of some trains and buses: The Western Flyer.

freshman, freshmen
First-year student and first-year students are the preferred terms.

farther, further

Use farther to describe a physical distance. C Zone parking lots are farther from the center of campus. Use further to describe a figurative distance. Taking on an international internship pushed her further beyond her comfort zone.


Use the capital letters, A, B, C, etc., with no quotation marks. Plurals are made by adding s, except in the case of A, which has an apostrophe to avoid confusion with the word as: A's, Bs, Cs, etc.


Not grey. But: greyhound.

GPA, grade-point average

Either is acceptable. GPAs normally have two numbers after the decimal, e.g., 3.00, 4.25.

international students

Not foreign students.

land grant

These words are closely linked, as are sea grant and space grant, so there is no need to hyphenate. Don't capitalize unless referring to its formal name, the Morrill Land Grant Act.
Oregon State is a land, sea, space and sun grant university.

Marys River, Marys Peak

These are spelled without apostrophes, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which is responsible for place names.


Words with the prefix non are generally not hyphenated unless the prefix is directly before a proper noun:nondegree, nonresident, noncredit, non-English speaking. The dictionary contains a long list of words with the non prefix and their appropriate spellings.

Off campus, on campus

Hyphenate when using as an adjective, not as an adverb.
Off-campus housing is plentiful during the summer.

It's difficult to find housing off campus during the fall term.


One word, no hyphen.

Oregon State University, Oregon State, OSU

Use Oregon State University on first reference. Use Oregon State as the shortened version for the name of the university. Avoid using OSU to prevent confusion with other institutions that share our initials. Exceptions are where OSU is part of a formal name (e.g., The Campaign for OSU, OSU Cascades, OSU Extension Service, OSU Foundation, OSU Alumni Association.

Oregon State University – Cascades, OSU-Cascades

Use OSU-Cascades as the shortened version for the campus in Bend. Note that there are spaces around an en dash in Oregon State University – Cascades, but no spaces in OSU-Cascades. Do not refer to the Bend campus as Cascades or OSU-Cascades Campus.


Oregon State intercollegiate athletic teams participate in the Pacific-12 Conference. It can be shortened to Pac-12 in all uses. Pac is not an acronym, however, so it should not be in all caps.

pre and post

These prefixes generally don't take hyphens unless they come directly before proper nouns. The dictionary contains a list of words with appropriate spelling. Use preregister, premedicine, preveterinary,postbaccalaureate, postdoctoral, pre-Columbian.

range of time, day or date

The preferred form in body copy is to spell out to, and/or through when referring to a range of time or days of the week. For a range of dates and in tabular material, use an en dash. The seminar is scheduled for April 1-3.

Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

World War II lasted from 1939 to 1945.

residence hall

This is preferred to dorm or dormitory when referring to housing units at Oregon State.


The preferred spelling includes the diacritical marks and helps avoid confusion with resume.

state names

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 (e.g., Vancouver, Washington). This is a recent change to AP style. Check the AP Stylebook for the appropriate abbreviations of states. Always use the postal service abbreviation (e.g., OR, WA, CA) and zip code in a complete address. Do not include the state name in the body of a story for cities that stand alone in datelines (e.g., San Francisco, but Redding, California).


Acceptable on second reference for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A way to get around the awkward construction of the names and the acronym on first reference is to use ...the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.


Not towards.


One word.


It isn't necessary to include http:// or www. in a URL when it is clear that it's a web address. Some sites do, however, require one or both elements of the URL, so test it first. When listing web addresses, try to get the URL to fit on a single line. If it is necessary to break the URL, try to break it before a slash or period. Don't allow the URL to break itself by adding a hyphen because that could change the address. Use appropriate punctuation after a URL. If it finishes a sentence, place a period after it.


One word, lowercase.

University-wide is hyphenated. Most words with wide as a suffix are closed, though, unless they are long and cumbersome. If in doubt, check the dictionary.


Hyphenate; capitalize only when using the formal designation: Federal Work-Study Program.


One word.



It's best not to use an ampersand in place of the word and in text unless it is an official part of a name: College of Public Health and Human Sciences, Department of Nutrition and Food Management, but AT&T. An ampersand may be used in specific instances such as campus banners where space for text on a single line is very limited.

Bulleted lists

When making a bulleted or numbered list, be sure that capitalization, punctuation and structure are consistent. If items in a list are complete sentences, end each one with appropriate punctuation. Do not use semicolons at the end of bullet list items or the word and before the last list item.


The colon is used to indicate something is following that will complete or amplify the previous material. It isn't necessary to capitalize the word immediately following a colon unless it begins a complete sentence of its own or is a proper noun. Don't use unnecessary colons in sentences.

Correct: Visit the website at oregonstate.edu.

Incorrect: Visit the website at: oregonstate.edu.

Use a colon when the sentence isn't complete without it.
Be sure to visit the Oregon State website: oregonstate.edu.


Do not use a serial comma in a series of more than two items unless it is necessary to clarify the meaning. If more than one series is used in a sentence, separate the series by semicolons if necessary to clarify the sentence.

Correct: Oregon State is one of only two land, sea, sun and space grant universities in the nation.

Incorrect: Oregon State is one of only two land, sea, sun, and space grant universities in the nation.

Set off the name of a state with commas when it follows the city name in a sentence: Corvallis, Oregon, is the home of Oregon State University.

Dates are punctuated with commas setting off the year in a complete date: June 17, 2001, marked Oregon State's first outdoor graduation ceremony. There is no comma if only the month and year are used: Oregon State's first outdoor graduation ceremony was in June 2001. Don't use ordinals such as 1st, 4th, or 23rd in dates.

Jr., Sr., II, III, etc., in names are not set off by commas: Martin Luther King Jr., Thurston Howell III.


The en dash (named because it is the width of the letter "n") is wider than a hyphen and is used between ranges of numbers or dates and between adjectival phrases containing two-word concepts: 2001–2004, pages 206–220, Portland–San Francisco flight. There are no spaces before or after the en dash. In text, however, use the missing words instead of a dash: He was at Oregon State from 1993 to 1998. (Not: He was at Oregon State from 1993–1998.) If the en dash is unavailable, it is acceptable to use a hyphen in its place.

The em dash (named because it is the width of the letter "m") is used to indicate a break in thought or a strong parenthetical phrase: Two professors — what a contrast in styles — share the teaching duties. There are spaces before and after the em dash. An em dash is indicated by two hyphens in typed material.


Use the dictionary to determine the appropriate place for breaking and hyphenating words. Break words at the end of syllables, but consider the sound of the word. Some words are best not broken at certain syllables. Compound words that are hyphenated should not be broken in a second place at the end of a line: president-elect, not presi-dent-elect.

The trend is moving away from using hyphens in permanent compound words. The dictionary can help you determine the appropriateness of a hyphen in many cases. Don't use a hyphen after an adverb ending in ly: She is an overly zealous recruiter.

Some words that normally would be solid should be hyphenated for clarity: co-op (as opposed to coop), re-signed (as opposed to resigned) or for easier reading when the root word begins with a vowel: re-enrolled, re-admitted.


If a dependent clause or other sentence fragment is in parentheses, the final punctuation goes outside the parentheses. If the parenthetical matter is an entire sentence, the final punctuation goes inside the parentheses. In the latter case, be sure to properly punctuate the preceding sentence leading up to the parentheses.

If parenthetical matter is included within another set of parentheses, brackets [ ] should replace the inner parentheses.


If a sentence ends with a URL or an email address, the closing punctuation, usually a period, should be included. There is no longer any real danger of web users trying to make the sentence-ending period part of the URL, but if you are concerned, use a different font for the actual URL or make it bold.

The use of periods in degree abbreviations is preferred: B.A., M.S., Ed.D., Pharm.D., Ph.D. Note also that there are no spaces in the degree abbreviations. For a cleaner appearance, it is acceptable to use degree abbreviations without periods in long listings or in text where degrees are repeated often.

There are no periods in OSU.

Quotation marks

Quotation marks are placed outside of commas and periods, but inside of semicolons and colons. Question marks and exclamation marks are placed inside or outside the quotation marks, depending on whether they are part of the quote.

Avoid using quotation marks around a word to call attention to it or because there isn't a better word to use: She uses "air quotes" constantly in her presentation, which is very annoying.


academic and administrative titles

Capitalize a title when it appears before the person’s name: Professor Richard Jones. Do not capitalize a title when it follows a person’s name:, Richard Jones, professor of mechanical engineering. The exception to this rule is for a named chair or professorship that contains the academic title or for a faculty member who has earned a title such as Distinguished Professor: Jane Lubchenco, Distinguished Professor of zoology.

academic areas

Don't capitalize areas of instruction unless the area is a proper noun: physics, English, forest engineering, nutrition and food science. The exception is when a formal department name is used: Department of Chemistry, chemistry department.

Capitalize the names of university units when the complete title is used: Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, Oregon State University, College of Liberal Arts. Lowercase other uses: financial aid office, the university, the college, liberal arts. Don't capitalize a generic term that follows or precedes more than one name: colleges of Liberal Arts and Agricultural Sciences.

Names of majors, minors, options and programs are lowercase: chemical engineering, international business, gerontology.

academic terms

Lowercase, even when used with a year: fall term, winter term 2017. Summer session is capitalized when referring to the Summer Session Office, but lowercase otherwise: summer session 2017.

baccalaureate core, bacc core

Lowercase these except when preceded by Oregon State or Oregon State University: bacc core requirements, Oregon State Baccalaureate Core courses.

bachelor's degree/master's degree

These are lowercase and possessives, not plural. Use an apostrophe in bachelor's degree, a master's, etc., but there is no apostrophe in bachelor of arts or master of science.

course titles

Capitalize course titles when used in text: She is taking Cultures in Conflict this term.


Don't capitalize the subject area unless it is the formal name of the degree: B.S. in Physics, Honors Baccalaureate in Political Science, Bachelor of Science in Biology, bachelor's degree in biology.

headlines, headings and subheads

Capitalize the first word only along with any proper names. This makes it easier to maintain consistency as well as avoid questions about whether articles or prepositions (e.g., the, of, with, when) should be capitalized in a heading.


Capitalize only when referring to the OSU Homecoming.


Lowercase. This is a recent change to AP style.

LGBT is acceptable on first reference for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. In quotations and the formal names of organizations and events, LGBTQ is also acceptable. Q can stand for questioning, queer or both.


Capitalize when referring to the MU Quad, but not other quads, such as the library quad.


Don't capitalize. It's state of Oregon, not State of Oregon. Use the same rule with city of Corvallis. Capitalize the name of a specific county or region, however: Benton County, Marion County, Eastern Oregon, West Coast.


Don't capitalize when it stands alone, even when it's used in place of Oregon State University: The university was awarded a record $336 million in research funding in 2016.


Lowercase. This is a recent change to AP style.


Spell out numbers of nine or less within text. Use numerals for higher numbers. Exceptions are made for ages, monetary units, percentages, credits and grade-point averages, which are always numerals unless they start a sentence: 8 percent, 3 credits, 3.50 GPA, 3-year-old daughter, 7 cents. It's acceptable to mix uses in a sentence: Oregon State has 17 intercollegiate athletics programs, 10 women's and seven men's. It is permissible to spell out numbers from one to 99 in formal or scientific writing.

Spell out percent instead of using the % symbol: 18 percent, not 18%.

Plurals of numerals are made by adding the letter s: 100s, 1990s. There is no apostrophe in the plurals. Contractions of years take an apostrophe: Class of '92.

Numbers containing four digits or more (except years) take commas between each series of three numbers: 4,000; 12,197; 12,297,865. For rounded numbers of more than six digits, it is appropriate to use a figure and a word: $14 million, 237 billion.

Use dollar signs and numerals for monetary references. It's not necessary to add .00 after whole dollar amounts, but it is permissible in a sentence that also contains fractional dollar amounts. If you are just discussing cents, use the word: 5 cents; 47 cents.

Telephone numbers are written with a hyphen between groupings: 541-737-1000; 800-291-4192. A "1" should not precede the area codes. Do not use parentheses to set off area codes.

Spell out numbers at the start of a sentence unless they represent a year. 1776 is the year the Declaration of Independence was signed is permissible, but it would be better to rewrite the sentence to avoid starting with the year: The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776.

Dates are indicated by cardinal, not ordinal numbers: April 1, not April 1st; July 4, not July 4th.

A series of years can be indicated by using the entire year in both cases or only the last two numbers in the second year: 2009-2010 or 2009-10. When the years cross a century mark, the entire year must be used:1999-2002, not 1999-02.

Cultural Sensitivity

Avoid all sexual or racial stereotyping and language. Use he or she or make the usage plural: they. Many words now have neutral alternatives: firefighter, police officer, chair, or chairperson. Use these rather than assuming a particular gender. Don't create words such as s/he, and use skillful writing to avoid putting two words together with slashes: he/she.

LGBT is acceptable on first reference for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. In quotations and the formal names of organizations and events, LGBTQ is also acceptable. Q can stand for questioning, queer or both.

Disabilities are handled according to the preference of the person or group. In writing about disabilities, stress the person, not the disability: persons with disabilities rather than the disabled. If you have questions, check with Disability Access Services, 541-737-4098. The ADA National Network also offers Guidelines for Writing About People With Disabilities.

Ethnic designations generally follow the preference of the person or group. Ask the person or group you're writing about how they want to be identified. The Office of Institutional Diversity, 541-737-1063, or the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access, 541-737-3556, can help with questions. As a general rule, identify ethnic groups by recognized ethnic designations. African American, Asian, Pacific Islander, Latina, Latino, Hispanic and Native American are acceptable identifiers.

When referring to ethnicity, the generic terms black and white aren't capitalized. However, if you capitalize one to conform to a particular group's preference, capitalize both.

News Media Contact Policy

To facilitate media relations, it is university policy that all news sent to the news media, and all media outreach, should be reviewed and approved by the Office of News and Research Communications. All press releases or formal, proactive media contacts by university employees should be routed through, handled by and/or coordinated in advance with news office. Download the complete News Media Contact Policy (.pdf).