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University Communications style guide

Style comprises the “rules of the road” that keep our writing consistent and easy to read and understand. Consistency reduces potential confusion and gives our website a unified feel. UComm follows the Associated Press Stylebook (with a few exceptions) and Webster’s New World College Dictionary Fifth Edition for CMU website content. Please keep these main CMU style guidelines to keep in mind while writing your CMU news stories.


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Academic colleges and departments — Capitalize the proper name

academic degrees — Lowercase associate degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctoral degree or doctorate (don’t use the abbreviation “Ph.D.”). Use capitalized nonpossessive form for specific degrees: Bachelor of Science degree, Bachelor of Applied Arts degree, Master of Arts degree, etc.

addresses — Abbreviate St., Ave., etc. and compass directions in full street addresses, but spell out in other uses, e.g. The office is at 123 E. Fourth St., just across West Fifth Avenue. Don’t abbreviate “Drive” or “Road” in addresses.

advisor — Not “adviser.”

alum, alumniAlum is singular and preferred over “alumnus” in all but formal contexts. Alumni is plural. In general usage, avoid the gendered Latin terms “alumna,” “alumnae,” etc.

and vs. “&” — Use and instead of “&” in CMU college and department names.

awards and honors — Capitalize award names, but not first and second place, etc. E.g. She took first place in the organization’s Awesomest Person Awards.

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Board of Trustees — Capitalize the name in full. When used alone, board and trustee(s) are lowercase. Capitalize Trustee as the title before a board member’s name.

bulleted lists — Begin each line item with a capitalized word, and end each with a period. This holds true for items as brief as two words but not to lists of one-word items or names. Do not end the second-to-last bulleted item (or begin the last bulleted item) with “and.”

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campuswide — One word, no hyphen.

capitalization rules — Capitalize the names of courses, schools, colleges and specific degrees. Lowercase names of departments except when stating proper names in full: biology department, but Department of Biology. Lowercase programs of study.

Centralis, Centralis scholar

Central Michigan University — Spell out on first reference in all stories. May be abbreviated as CMU in future references.

CEO — Acceptable in all references for chief executive officer. But spell out chief financial officer, chief operating officer and similar.

Chippewas/Chips — Use of the Chippewa name at CMU is part of a respectful understanding with the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. Use the name CMU Chippewas (not “Chippewas” on its own) for our students, staff, teams, etc. Use “Chips” only in the expression Fire Up Chips! and the band name Marching Chips. Avoid wordplay around Chip and Chippewa.

College of Medicine — in every use, use CMU College of Medicine or CMU's College of Medicine; never use CMED.

company — Abbreviate as Co. in all business names except The Dow Chemical Company and The Dow Chemical Company Foundation. Spell out in performance troupe names.

coach — Capitalize before name as a job title.


course titles — Capitalize with or without course number, and spell out department names instead of using the three-letter designators, e.g. Introduction to Public Relations, Biology 101.

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disabilities — Mention only if relevant, using person-first language that focuses on the person, not the condition:

  • Terry has diabetes, not “Terry is a diabetic.”

  • Pat uses a wheelchair, never “Pat is wheelchair-bound.”

dorm/dormitory — Do not use. CMU has residence halls.

DowThe Dow Chemical Company or Dow.

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exclamation points — Reserve them for exclamations, not for complete sentences that should take a period e.g. Fire Up Chips! but not “They loved the show!”

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faculty academic titles — For simplicity, use the terms faculty member or instructor rather than assistant professor, associate professor, professor, fixed-term instructor, etc. Unless a doctoral degree holder strongly prefers to use it, reserve the title Dr. for physicians. Subsequent references should use only the person’s last name e.g. Smith, not “Dr. Smith.”

Fire Up Chips! — Always capitalize; always include the exclamation mark. No comma (sorry, grammar sticklers.)

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graduate student — Lowercase. Also, grad student is fine in informal usage.

Greek — Capitalize in reference to the fraternity/sorority system.

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headlines — Capitalize only the first word and proper nouns.

health care — two words, except in the proper names of some organizations.

The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions — Use the full name on first reference, and capitalize The. Similarly: The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation.

Honors Program


hometowns and other place names — Include name of state, spelled out, except with Mount Pleasant (because it’s our home campus) and Detroit (because it’s AP style.)

hyperlinks — Use them within stories mainly to link to relevant CMU content, for example the program page for a major. Generally, avoid linking to non-CMU content, although there are exceptions to the rule, such as linking to a faculty member’s published journal article or media appearance. Link from story text rather than add “click here” language. E.g They are geology students instead of “For more about the geology major, click here.”

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identity – When referring to an individual’s racial, ethnic or cultural heritage, capitalize terms such as Asian American, Black, Indigenous, Latino, People/Person of Color, Student of Color


international student

intramural sports — Athletics played within CMU.

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John G. Kulhavi Events Center — full name on first reference, Events Center on subsequent reference.

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Kelly/Shorts Stadium

kickoff — Noun, adjective. The verb form is kick off.

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Leadership Safari

legislators — Omit hometown and party affiliation unless relevant.

LGBTQ Services

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MAC Scholar — Short for Multicultural Advancement and Lloyd M. Cofer Scholar. Work in the full name somewhere.

majors/minors — Except for proper nouns, names of programs of study are lowercase e.g. journalism major, English language and literature minor. Find lists and information in the undergraduate and graduate University Bulletins.

Martin Luther King Jr.Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on first reference, King on subsequent references.

MBA — Acceptable in all references to Master of Business Administration degree.

Mid-American Conference — spelled out on first reference, MAC on second reference.

Mount Pleasant — Spell out Mount except in the names of organizations that abbreviate it.

Multicultural Academic Student Services — spelled out on first reference, MASS on subsequent references.

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nonprofit — No hyphen.


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on-campus — Hyphenate as an adjective. Two words otherwise.

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Park Library — No “The” before the name.

Ph.D. — Do not use the abbreviation (or similar shorthand for academic credentials) after people’s names. Refer to the degree as a doctorate or doctoral degree.

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quotes and punctuation:

  • Enclose direct (word-for-word) written or spoken quotes in quotation marks: “Vigorous writing is concise,” Strunk said. Note that the comma is enclosed within the quotation marks. Do not use quotation marks around paraphrased (reworded) quotations.

  • You may make minor “cleanup” corrections within direct quotes to avert confusion or fix a speaker’s blunder — as long as your changes do not alter the meaning. If you have any doubt, get a second opinion.

  • Attribute quotes using the word said instead of “noted,” “remarked,” “laughed,” etc. Place it after the person’s name e.g. Strunk said. Exception: if including the quoted person’s lengthy job title or description, it’s acceptable to place “said” before the name e.g “Vigorous writing is concise,” said Strunk, E.B. White’s long-ago English professor.

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residential restaurant — Not “dining hall,” “food commons,” etc.

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semesters — Lowercase e.g. fall 2023 semester, spring semester.

Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe

STEM — Acceptable in all references for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. STEAM includes arts but is less familiar and should be explained.

students — If you can get the information, include academic year, major and hometown when identifying undergraduate students e.g. Jeff Johnston is a junior from Flushing, Michigan, majoring in journalism.

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Theatre — Use this spelling in all CMU facility and program names. Use theater generically.

time elements — Use time-date-place order e.g. 7 p.m. Dec. 1, 2022, in the Bovee University Center Rotunda. Include calendar dates rather than days of the week or “yesterday” and “tomorrow.” Hyphenate spans of days/dates/years in the following format: Tuesday-Thursday, May 15-16, 2022-27.

titles (compositions and periodicals):

  • Capitalize: Names of magazines, journals and newspapers.

  • Enclose in quotation marks: Titles of books, video games, films, TV shows, works of art, speeches, etc.

  • Italicize: Nothing.

titles (positions) — For titles that read awkwardly, such as “coordinator, delivery and support,” replace the comma with of. Use nongendered titles unless specified e.g. chair, not “chairman.”

the Towers — Capitalize in reference to the complex of seven high-rise residence halls. transfer student

transgender — A person is transgender, not “transgendered.”

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U.C. — Spell out Bovee University Center on first reference.

university — Lowercase on its own. 

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