American English is a richly varied language, full of choices. A style guide is not an effort to anoint one of two or more choices as being "correct." That is not the point. A style guide is simply a list of the choices that have been made, mainly for consistency. The choices made in this style guide resulted from participation by University Relations staff members; consultation with various segments of the university; and consideration of the preferences, needs, and requirements of our several audiences.
This style guide notes specific rules and usages to be followed by authors and editors in the Office of University Relations and other campus communicators. It contains exceptions to both the "Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual" and "The Chicago Manual of Style." Where conflicts exist between this guide and other guides, this style guide takes precedence. For other general rules, use a primary style guide that pertains to the publication you are writing or editing.
"The Chicago Manual of Style" is used specifically for books, proceedings, papers, and articles for professional journals. "The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual" is used specifically for news releases, Virginia Tech Magazine, other university magazines, brochures, and most documents targeting a general audience.
For more detail or when the "AP Stylebook" does not address a topic, use "The Chicago Manual of Style."
Additional questions regarding this style guide may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-231-9468.
About our name
Our official name is Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, but using the full name is cumbersome. Thus, "Virginia Tech" is preferable in all but formal uses. Virginia Tech is used in news releases, feature articles, academic journals, and publications and on the Web.
When using the full name of the university, never use an ampersand instead of "and." Never use VPI&SU, VPI and SU, VA Tech, or Virginia Tech University. "Tech" is acceptable after a first reference to "Virginia Tech," but it should not be used repeatedly or solely. "VT" and "Va. Tech" are acceptable only in limited, informal situations, such as a news headline where space is tight. Do not use "VT" or "Va. Tech" in body copy, in titles of publications, on signs (if space permits), or in any "formal" publication.
"VPI," which was the university's acronym/nickname from 1896 to 1970, should be used only in historical contexts. The same is true for "VAMC," the university's acronym/nickname before 1896.
While abbreviations or acronyms are appropriate in some situations, particularly when dealing with a long college name or title, please refrain from turning your press release, feature article, or publication into something that resembles alphabet soup. Attempt to find other ways to identify the subject rather than repeatedly using an acronym. When they are used, you should usually spell out names first followed by the acronym in parentheses, although sometimes using the acronym first reads better or makes sense. If you do use the acronym first, use the full name or title shortly after.
As per AP, all degree abbreviations take periods.
B.A., B.S. (no space after first period) bachelor of arts, bachelor of science
M.A., M.S. master of arts, master of science
Ed.D., Ph.D. doctor of education, doctor of philosophy
M.B.A. (Exception: MBA is allowed in Pamplin publications) master of business administration
Do not add the word "degree" after an abbreviation of the degree.
Wrong: She'll receive her Ph.D. degree this fall.
Right: She'll receive her Ph.D. this fall.
Wrong: She has a B.A. degree in chemistry.
Right: She has a bachelor's degree in chemistry.
Right: She has a bachelor of science in chemical engineering.
(See Capitalization for more on academic degrees)
Do not use accreditation abbreviations (Examples: CFA, CRRA, CPA, AIA) after names in news releases or general university publications.
Colleges in second, third references
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: CALS
College of Architecture and Urban Studies: CAUS
College of Engineering: COE
College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences: CLAHS
College of Natural Resources and Environment: CNRE
Pamplin College of Business: the Pamplin College, Pamplin
College of Science: COS
Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine: vet med, VMCVM
Casual references may drop "college of." She is a senior in engineering.
Several departments have cumbersome official titles. Spell out the official name on first reference and revert to abbreviations afterward if desired.
Nova, NoVa, NOVA
Do not use under any circumstances as an abbreviation for Northern Virginia. (Note: Northern Virginia Community College is referred to as Nova.)
State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV)
Spell out on first use.
The names of the 50 states should be spelled out in body copy, whether standing alone or used in conjunction with a city, town, or military base. Class notes in the Virginia Tech Magazine will still use abbreviations to save space.
AP state abbreviations (states not listed have no abbreviation):
U.S. (with periods) is acceptable in all uses.
Right: He came to the U.S. to get an education.
Right: Extension is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
This is the abbreviation preferred by the University of Virginia.
Our preference is to follow AP and downstyle.
Do not capitalize formal names of degrees. This includes degrees that read more like titles, such as "water: resources, policy, and management." A program by the same name would be capitalized, however.
Right: He was the fourth generation of McKenzies to earn a master of arts in economics at Virginia Tech.
When referring to degrees in general, downcase and use the possessive for bachelor's degree and master's degree. However, bachelor of science, master of science.
Right: More than 1,000 students earned bachelor's degrees.
Right: Fewer than a dozen people hold doctorates in this field.
Capitalize University Distinguished Professor and Alumni Distinguished Professor (including the academic discipline, if provided) in all uses and Fellow when referring to a person being named a Fellow of a professional organization.
Capitalize and use the full names for professorships, endowed chairs, and scholarships.
Board of Visitors
The Board of Visitors of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; Virginia Tech Board of Visitors; the Board of Visitors; the board.
Capitalize formal names of colleges and divisions of the university. A shorthand reference to the proper name is also capitalized, but the word "college" or "division" when used alone would not be.
Right: College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences
Right: Division of Student Affairs, Student Affairs
Wrong: In the Business College, professors stress economics and quantum topics over management and human factors studies.
Wrong: In the Division, our mission is to put students first.
The formal full name of a department is capitalized but the informal reference is not. Department of History (but history department, English department).
Note: The College of Architecture and Urban Studies refers to "programs" rather than departments. In this case, program should be capped when it is part of an official name.
(See Odds and Ends for departments named after individuals.)
Commonwealth of Virginia
Capitalize the word "commonwealth" only when using the full proper name Commonwealth of Virginia. Lowercase when using alone. "State" is always lowercase except when used as part of the official name of another state, e.g., the State of North Carolina.
Cooperative Education Program
co-op program, co-op student. Do not use co-op in reference to Virginia Cooperative Extension.
Corps of Cadets
Lowercase when describing courses in general; uppercase the specific course or program.
Right: I took Organic Chemistry, Ancient Greek and Roman Mythology, General Physics Lab, and Elementary Calculus. I passed two of them but still was dropped from the Biochemistry Program.
Right: He is enrolled in a mathematics course, two literature courses, and a physical education class.
Dean, dean's list
dean (upper case only before a dean's name), dean's list
Uppercase, one word.
Capitalize when used in reference to members or programs of Virginia Cooperative Extension, i.e., an Extension agent. Do not use Extension Service. Do not use "co-op" in reference to Virginia Cooperative Extension.
One word, capital "B."
Hokie Nation, Hokie Stone, Hokie Spirit
Capitalize the words "Nation," "Stone," and "Spirit."
the Lyric Theatre
Not The Lyric Theatre.
Office of ...
Using "Office of " is standard for all campus offices unless otherwise noted. Check the University Directory for official names.
Example: Office of Undergraduate Admissions
Capitalize Pylons when referring to the entire edifice. Also capitalize the name of each pylon but not the word "pylon."
Right: A bugler played "Taps" at the Pylons.
Right: The eight pylons are Brotherhood, Ut Prosim, Leadership, Loyalty, Sacrifice, Honor, Service, and Duty.
Right: John is particularly fond of the Loyalty pylon.
Northern Virginia, Southwest Virginia (but southwestern Virginia), Tidewater, Southside (Southern Virginia is also allowed), Eastern Shore, Piedmont, Northern Neck
Titles preceding a personal name are uppercased. The title is lowercased when it stands alone or follows a personal name. Professor, assistant professor, and associate professor are capitalized before a name, which is an exception to AP.
Right: President Sands; Timothy Sands, president of Virginia Tech; the president
Right: Mark V. Barrow Jr., chair of the history department
Lowercase "resident advisor," but when it is abbreviated, use capitals: R.A.
Lowercase "university" when referring to Virginia Tech in text.
Capitalize Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets and Corps of Cadets. Otherwise, use lowercase: the corps, cadets. Do not capitalize "cadet" in front of a cadet's name.
Computer and Internet terms
|mouse||desktop publishing (DTP)||mouse||URL|
|e-book||email (singular and plural)||online||website|
|homepage||HTML||Really Simple Syndication (abbreviated RSS)||World Wide Web (but, the web)|
|laptop||logon, login, logoff|
Email and web addresses
The university no longer italicizes email or web addresses. The preferred style for web addresses that start with the protocol "http://" is to leave the protocol off if it is followed by "www." Use "http://" if it is not followed by "www" and use the protocol if it is something other than "http://." Individuals can always opt to use the protocol as long as they are consistent within a publication.
When a Web address ends a sentence, finish with a period.
Web and internet
The university is following AP and no longer capitalizes "web" or "internet."
University Relations follows the "AP Stylebook." Spell out whole numbers one through nine; use numerals for 10 and above. Fractions standing alone are spelled out. For fractions with whole numbers, use numerals.
Right: She has eight cats and 11 dogs. About one-fifth of her salary goes to buy 2 1/2 tons of pet food each year.
In some cases, particularly when the primary purpose of a passage is to communicate university rankings or accomplishments, to make the salient information stand out, writers could either bold the numeral or ranking, or use "No. 2" instead of "second."
Use numerals for ages and dimensions.
Right: The boy was 2 years old.
Right: She is 7 feet tall.
Spell out the word "percent." Do not repeat the word in a range. Do not spell out the numbers in percentages; use numerals.
Wrong: More than 30% of the students were below average.
Wrong: Fewer than five percent of students own airplanes.
Wrong: The tuition remission will be between 15 percent and 40 percent.
Right: The tuition increase will be between 5 and 10 percent.
Note: Use % in tables and charts.
203 Robeson Hall is preferred to Room 203 Robeson Hall
Acceptable: (202) 555-4832
Extensions: 202-555-4832 ext. 123
We use the serial comma: "Basically, students will do course work in three major areas: economics, languages, and history."
M.S.'s, Ph.D.'s (plurals)
Plural of a single letter: A's, B's
Decade as a noun: The 1990s were a profitable time. The '90s saw a rise in enrollment.
Decade as a possessive: His thesis discusses the 1990s' cultural changes.
Follow AP style, which means no italics for composition titles. Use quote marks around book titles, computer game titles, movie titles, opera titles, play titles, poem titles, album and song titles, and the titles of lectures, speeches, and works of art. Names of newspapers, magazines, newsletters, journals and other compositions or publications are capitalized but do not take quotes. See AP entry for "composition titles" for more details.
For news releases, follow AP style on dashes, which calls for capitalizing the first word of each bulleted item and ending each one with a period, even if not a full sentence.
For publications, such as the Virginia Tech magazine, treat the bullets like graphical elements in a sentence.
Use a colon to introduce a list only when the text following the colon does not flow naturally from it. Generally, items that are complete sentences should be capped, and those that are fragments should be lowercase, but it depends on the context. In addition, terminal punctuation is optional for fragments. Be consistent within a list and a publication.
The students in the Tuesday afternoon seminar were asked to
- read a chapter in a novel from the 18th century;
- write an essay comparing it with a chapter in a novel from the 20th century; and
- complete both assignments by 5 p.m.
The students in the Tuesday afternoon seminar have two assignments and a deadline:
- Read a chapter in a novel from the 18th century.
- Write an essay comparing it with a chapter in a novel from the 20th century.
- Complete both projects by 5 p.m.
Do not use a comma before Jr., Sr., Inc., Ltd., or LLC.
Virginia Tech does not use double spaces between sentences in its publications.
Em dashes can be used either with or without a space before and after the dash, depending on preference. Usage must, however, be consistent within a document or publication.
- On-campus program, land-grant university (As a general rule, all compound modifiers should be hyphenated.)
- Vice president (no hyphen)
- Fundraising, fundraiser (preferred use is without a hyphen or a space)
- Highly developed (no hyphen with adverbs ending in "ly")
Nonprofit, postgraduate, preadmission
No hyphen with "non," "pre," "post," "sub," etc., compounds.
- When the second word in a pair is capitalized; e.g., non-English.
- Numbers; e.g., pre-1954.
- Re-create when used to mean create again; recreate is an awkward verb meaning to take part in recreation.
- When the last letter of a prefix is the same as the first letter in the second word, use a hyphen: anti-intellectual, pre-existing.
Use single quote marks in headlines and inside double quote marks to delineate quoted material.
Odds and ends
This is the standard format for a university address with a building name, including off-campus university offices. For other format examples, visit the street address site.
Department Name (MCxxxx)
Building Name, RM or STE XXX, Virginia Tech
XXX Street Name
Blacksburg, VA 24061
The internal postal code used by Virginia Tech must not be used as a plus-4 zip code extension in addresses. Currently, there are no plus-4 zip code extensions established for the university, and the internal postal code is not recognized by the U.S. Postal Service.
In a departure from AP style, the preferred spelling is "advisor," which is used more commonly in academe. "Adviser" is acceptable in releases going to organizations that follow AP style.
African American, black
Either is acceptable for an American of African heritage, depending upon the subject's preferences or the context of the document. Hyphenate African American when used as an adjective. Black is not capitalized. And remember that the terms are not always interchangeable, as not all black Americans trace their ancestry to Africa.
Alumnus, alumni, alumnae
Proper usage is as follows:
alumnus — one male graduate
alumni — more than one male graduate or a mixture of male and female graduates
alumna — one female graduate
alumnae — more than one female graduate
alum — informal use only, one graduate
alums — informal use only, more than one graduate
First-year student (avoid "freshman" when possible), sophomore, junior, senior, entering class, sophomore class, etc. But Class of 1940.
Note: The 1936 entering class is the Class of 1940. If using the term "entering class," always refer to the year corresponding to the fall that the class matriculated. If the students' first school year is 2003-04, they are in the entering class of 2003.
Right: The 1968 entering class had the highest average SAT score of any entering class in the previous 12 years.
For magazines and publications geared toward alumni audiences (which excludes the Research Magazine), the preferred style is to reference alumni degrees and class years in this manner: (biology '77). For alumni with degrees in the same discipline, style as (biology '77, M.S. '79). For alumni with degrees in different disciplines, style as (biology '77, M.S. chemistry '79). The preferred style should not be used for current students. Instead, write around it, using phrases like, "Joe Smith, a sophomore majoring in English, ... ."
Colleges, number of
Virginia Tech has nine colleges. Here is a sample paragraph:
The university offers bachelor's degree programs through its seven undergraduate academic colleges: Agriculture and Life Sciences, Architecture and Urban Studies, Engineering, Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Natural Resources and Environment, Pamplin College of Business, and Science. On the postgraduate level, the university offers master's and doctoral degree programs through the Graduate School, a professional degree from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, and medical degree through the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.
Copyrights in all publications published at Virginia Tech should list the university as the owner of the copyright regardless of the university college, department, program, center, institute, or other entity producing the publication. The copyright should appear as © followed by the year and the official name of the university — e.g., © 2007 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
In general, do not use Mr., Miss, Mrs., or Ms.
In a departure from AP, do NOT use Dr., even for medical doctors or veterinarians. Also attempt to avoid using abbreviations of degrees after names, opting instead to detail a person's credentials or education in the text.
Cranwell International Center
The building on Clay Street formerly known as the Cranwell International Center is now simply 417 Clay Street and it houses Division of Student Affairs administrative offices. The people and programs that make up the Cranwell International Center moved to Harper Hall.
Departments named for individuals
- Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
- Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
- Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering
EO/AA statement for publications
Version 1 (where space is not a consideration): Virginia Tech does not discriminate against employees, students, or applicants on the basis of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, or veteran status; or otherwise discriminate against employees or applicants who inquire about, discuss, or disclose their compensation or the compensation of other employees, or applicants; or any other basis protected by law.
Discrimination or harassment on any of these bases is prohibited by Policy 1025, "Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy."
The university is subject to Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; Sections 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; the Equal Pay Act; the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974; Federal Executive Order 11246; Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA); Virginia's State Executive Order Number Two; and all other applicable rules and regulations.
Information about campus and workplace violence prevention is available online.
Individuals with questions or concerns about Policy 1025, any of these regulations, or related issues should contact:
Senior Associate Vice President for Student Affairs
Interim Title IX Coordinator
Version 2 (where space is a consideration): Virginia Tech does not discriminate against employees, students, or applicants on the basis of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, or veteran status; or otherwise discriminate against employees or applicants who inquire about, discuss, or disclose their compensation or the compensation of other employees, or applicants; or any other basis protected by law.
For inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies, contact the Office of Equity and Access at 540-231-2010 or Virginia Tech, North End Center, Suite 2300 (0318), 300 Turner St. NW, Blacksburg, VA 24061.
Version 3 (where space is at a premium): Virginia Tech is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution.
Faculty member (not "faculty" when referring to one member thereof )
Founders Day does not have an apostrophe.
Avoid unless intended. For example, never assume someone is male: A professor should always control his classes.
Better: Professors should always control their classes.
Chair/chairman: Use chair to refer to the head of a committee unless the official title is chairman or chairwoman or the gender is known. Always use subject/pronoun consistency.
Right: Whom did they elect as chair of the committee?
Spokesman/spokeswoman: Avoid unless gender is known. Better to recast the sentence or use spokesperson.
Wrong: Who is the spokesman for our group?
Right: Who is the spokesperson for our group?
Right: Who speaks for our group?
Right: Cynthia Smith, spokeswoman for the group, explained the resolution.
Right: Chris Smith, speaking for the group, explained the resolution.
Graduate Life Center at Donaldson Brown
This is the official name and should be used on first reference. Graduate Life Center and GLC are acceptable second references.
Use hyphens. Do not capitalize in running text.
Always use the hyphen.
Not "Hoki" or "Hi."
The term "Fighting Gobblers" is no longer used by the university.
LumenHAUS is the official spelling of the house that won the international Solar Decathlon Competition in Madrid, Spain
Mission of the university
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University is a public land-grant university serving the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and the world community. The discovery and dissemination of new knowledge are central to its mission. Through its focus on teaching and learning, research and discovery, and outreach and engagement, the university creates, conveys, and applies knowledge to expand personal growth and opportunity, advance social and community development, foster economic competitiveness, and improve the quality of life.
Moss Arts Center, Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech
The Moss Arts Center is the entire building. The Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech is a professional presenting program that programs and operates the Moss Arts Center. The Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology is a university-level research center headquartered in the Moss Arts Center.
Outreach and International Affairs
Not "Division of" Outreach and International Affairs
Photos not taken by a university photographer should always include a credit, such as "Photo courtesy of..." or "Courtesy of..."
Laura P. Sands
Use the middle initial on first reference.
This is the preferred style on first reference.
Schiffert Health Center
Not Student Health Center or the Infirmary.
Steger Center for International Scholarship
This is the new name for the former Center for European Studies and Architecture in Switzerland.
Charles W. Steger
Use the former president's middle initial on first reference. His title is president emeritus.
The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center
Use the ampersand.
The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center
Spell out "and."
Use this spelling when referring to the department on campus and its productions.
University Honors Program
Use University Honors Program for full name. Also, University Honors, honors student.
Students graduate with honors or in honors. "With honors" denotes graduates of the standard system with high grade point averages. "In honors" denotes graduates of the University Honors Program.
In addition there is the Honor System and Honor Code, which have to do with student conduct.
The university motto is Ut Prosim, but we add the English translation to it in first reference. When adding the translation, it should be styled Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), with Ut Prosim italicized.
(but nationwide, statewide, worldwide)
Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute
The entire entity should be referred to as the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute. But when referring specifically to one or the other, it should be Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine or Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. Use VTC School of Medicine or VTC Research Institute for shorthand in informal applications and in second and subsequent references, and/or the acronyms VTCSOM or VTCRI as shorthand in body copy.
Year span style
Preferred style for a span of years is 2011-12. Also acceptable for design purposes is 2011-2012.
In a departure from AP style, use "zip code," not "ZIP code."
(This list might not include some newer buildings. See www.vt.edu/about/buildings/index.html for more information.)
Agriculture/Forestry Research Laboratory Facility
Air Conditioning Facility
Alexandria Research Institute
Alphin-Stuart Livestock Teaching Arena
Alumni Mall (was The Mall)
Ambler Johnston Hall
Aquatic Medicine Laboratory
Art and Design Learning Center
April 16 Memorial
Bioinformatics Phase I
Bioinformatics Phase II
Black Box Theatre
Burrows-Burleson Tennis Center
Corps Leadership and Military Science Building
Cranwell International Center (see entry under Odds and Ends)
Dairy Science Complex
Drillfield (in front of Burruss Hall; others are drill fields)
English Field at Union Park (baseball stadium)
Food Science and Technology
Fralin Life Science Institute
Garnett E. and Patsy T. Smith Career Center
GBJ (see Johnston Student Center)
Graduate Life Center at Donaldson Brown
Hahn Hall-North Wing
Hahn Hall-South Wing
Hahn Garden Pavilion and Horticulture Garden
Hahn Hurst Basketball Practice Center
Hampton Roads Center, Newport News
Hampton Roads Center, Virginia Beach
Harry T. Peters Large Animal Clinic
Health and Safety Building
Holtzman Alumni Center
Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center (see The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center)
Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building 1
Human Resources Annex
Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTASII)
Jamerson Athletic Center
Johnston Student Center (commonly called GBJ; not the student center, see Squires)
Liberal Arts Building
Life Sciences I Facility
Litton-Reaves Hall (named after two people; never Reaves Hall)
Major Williams Hall (not the same as Williams Hall)
Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center
Merryman Athletic Center
Moss Arts Center
New Cadet Hall
New Hall West
New Residence Hall East
Newman Library (Carol M. Newman Library)
North End Center
Oak Lane Community
Old Security Building
Parking Services Building
Perry Street Parking Deck
Pete Dye River Course of Virginia Tech
Public Safety Building
Rector Field House
Richard B. Talbot Educational Resources Center
Skelton Conference Center
Smith Career Center
Squires Student Center, the student center
Steger Center for International Scholarship
Sterrett Facility Complex
Student Services Building
The Grove (the president's house)
The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center
The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center
Virginia Bioinformatics Institute
Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute
Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center
Virginia Tech Research Center — Arlington
Virginia Tech Richmond Center
Virginia Tech Roanoke Center
Virginia Tech Southwest Center
Visitor and Undergraduate Admissions Center
War Memorial Chapel
War Memorial Hall
Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center
Whitethorne-Kentland Research Farm, the research farm
William E. Lavery Health Research Center
Women's Center at Virginia Tech
Women's Softball Field