Style Guide

In general, publications and marketing materials at PennWest California should follow rules laid out in the Associated Press Stylebook. (Exceptions will arise when writing text for programs used at special events and certain other publications, especially for formal occasions, produced at the direction of the President’s Office.) Scholarly writing will, of course, follow the style guide appropriate to the discipline. 

The rules listed here are, for the most part, exceptions to those in the AP Stylebook; most are unique to PennWest California. A few entries are included here in an attempt to prevent all-too-common errors.

Acronyms – When an acronym is in common use as a substitute for a proper name – or when the acronym substitutes for that name on second reference – place it in parentheses immediately after the name. Example: The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) sponsored an exhibition about giant squid.

Alternatively, work it into the story: The students formed TWERP — Teens Who Eat Raw Produce — to lobby for a salad bar in the school cafeteria.

Avoid the parenthetical information if the proper name is readily recognized and the acronym does not appear elsewhere in the story.

adviser – Follow AP style; do not use advisor except in the official title of certain groups that use this spelling specifically. (Note: Advisory is correct.) 

alma mater Latin for “fostering mother,” it refers to the school where you attended or graduated. No italics. Cap for the song. Example: She often visited her alma mater. Please rise and join us in singing the Alma Mater. 

alumnus, alumni, alumna, alumnae Follow AP style: alumnus (plural is alumni) for a man who has attended the school, alumna (plural is alumnae) for a woman. Use alumni when referring to a group of men and women, or where a non-gendered noun is appropriate.

Alumni abbreviations – Identify PennWest California graduates by noting the year of graduation immediately after the name, following this style: Gary Olderman ’52 … Karen Laude ’89 … Henry Newton ’08. Use commas if there are two or more degrees to note: Lenora Angelone ’92, ’95, ’97.

If confusion is likely, use the four-digit year in text: The building was named in honor of Martha Donor, who graduated in 1909. Note the direction of the apostrophe!

Artist-in-residence – Use hyphens in all cases. Example: As an artist-in-residence, Dandy Dinmont will both write and direct the play. Artist-in-residence Blythe Spirit will lead weekly workshops in set construction and costume design.

Board of Governors – Capitalize when referring to the governing body for Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education.

Bulleted lists – Lists should be parallel; i.e., each item begins with the same part of speech and the same style is followed in all items. Each item has an end mark (per AP Style). Examples:

  • Determine a strategy.                                         •  Reading, to build comprehension.
  • Implement a plan.                                                  •  Writing, to develop fluency.
  • Measure progress.                                                •  Listening, to gain understanding.
  • Report results.                                                         •  Speaking, to reinforce language skills.

PennWest California — Always two words, uppercase/lowercase (not “CAL U”). Use on second/subsequent reference in materials going outside the University. Acceptable on first reference for internal communications. In cases where the full name of the University creates an awkward lede, PennWest California is permissible; use the full University name as soon as possible thereafter. 

PennWest California; PennWest California In most cases, use the full name on first reference in publications being read primarily by those outside the campus community, or in formal documents. Use the shortened form (PennWest California or PennWest California) in internal communications and informal documents, and on second and subsequent references in all but the most formal usage. Never use “” unless space limitations require it. This is a general rule; style may vary to suit the publication or the complexity of the sentence. Web rules vary, too, and permit greater informality.

California, Pa. Use to distinguish the home of PennWest California, a borough in Pennsylvania, from the U.S. state. 

College – Capitalize when referring to an academic unit within the University, in order to distinguish it from a generic institution of higher education. Example: Dr. Highbrow teaches in the College of Liberal Arts, the smallest College at PennWest California. She used to teach at a college in Ohio.

Commencement – Capitalize when referring specifically to the May and December graduation ceremonies on the PennWest California campus. Example: We dressed in our best for Commencement. 

Conference presentations – Use quotation marks to distinguish the title of a conference presentation from a book title, film title, etc.

Example: Dr. Wilford D. Comma will discuss “Grammar: The Dying Art?” during the English Department’s 2018 symposium.

Dates - Never use 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. in dates. Instead, follow AP style:
- For complete dates, use month, day, year in that order, with proper abbreviation for the month. Examples: Jan. 8, 1985; Feb. 2, 1993; March 23, 2010, etc.
- When a date includes only the month and year, the month is written out in its entirety: January 2001, October 2015, December 2020, etc.

dean’s list – Lowercase as both noun and adjective.

Example: Andy Scholar made the dean’s list again. He’s been a dean’s list student for five semesters in a row. 

Departments and offices – Capitalize the names of University departments and offices, even when PennWest California’s name is not included in the title. Do NOT capitalize academic programs, however, except for proper nouns, such as languages.

Example: He works primarily in the Department of Art and Design but teaches one class in the Athletics Department. The Office of Admissions asked the Communications and Development offices for help with creating a brochure. The parks and recreation program is administered by the Department of Earth Sciences. 

Degrees – Follow AP style for academic degrees: associate degree (no possessive), bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, doctor’s degree or doctorate (but never doctoral degree). Capitalize specific degrees such as Bachelor of Arts, Master of Science, Doctor of Humane Letters. Use periods with abbreviations – B.F.A., M.Ed., Ph.D., D.H.Sc. – except for MBA, PSM, BSW, MSW, BSN and MSN.

Dr. – Use the title, where applicable, on first reference for all those with a medical degree or doctorate in any field. On second reference, use the individual’s surname alone.

Email — No hyphen, following AP Stylebook.

Every day/everyday — “Every day” means each day: Read the PennWest California news every day. “Everyday” means ordinary or commonplace: “Hearing loud music was an everyday occurrence in Binns Hall.” 

GPA – Use grade-point average (note the hyphen) on first reference, GPA thereafter, for the measure of a student’s academic achievement.

Homecoming Capitalize when referring to the annual event on the PennWest California campus. Also cap Homecoming King, Homecoming Queen, Homecoming Day. But Homecoming parade, Homecoming weekend, Homecoming festivities, etc.

Majors — Lowercase, except in the case of proper nouns.

Example: As a business major, she spends a lot of time thinking about money. Senior Bob Smitley, a computer science major, accepted an internship with IBM. Emily Dickinson is an English major.

PA – Use ONLY in a mailing address, never as part of the University’s name.

Send your reminiscences to:         Milestones Editor
                                                                      PennWest California
                                                                      250 University Ave.
                                                                      California, PA 15419

PASSHE – No longer used as acronym for Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. Use full name (note the possessive) on first reference, where possible; short form State System (note caps) may be used thereafter. 

Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education – System comprising Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities. PennWest California is a proud member. Note the possessive. 

percent – In both print and online copy, use the % symbol when paired with a numeral. (New AP Style standard in 2019.) In casual usage, use words rather than figures or numbers.
Examples: Applications increased by 15% between Jan. 1, 2018 and Jan. 1, 2019.  Average hourly pay  for interns at his company rose by 5%. DJ Laz-ee has a zero percent chance of winning the Hustle Award.

Personal pronouns – Plural pronouns (they/their/them) may be used to promote gender inclusivity and avoid awkward constructions (e.g., he/she, his/hers). Examples: Someone left their umbrella in the Student Center.

Personal titles – Use "Dr." where appropriate for faculty members and others who hold a doctorate (as well as medical doctors). Otherwise, avoid personal titles that rely on gender (e.g., Mr., Mrs., Ms. and Miss). Instead, use the individual's full name on first reference and surname on subsequent references.

Phone numbers – Use hyphens (NOT periods or slashes) to separate numbers. Do NOT use a “1” with toll-free numbers. Example: For details, call 555-555-1234 or 866-123-4567 (toll-free). 

President – Uppercase when referring to President Jones. Follow AP style for all others, including the president of the United States.

Example: The President will meet with board members to discuss a number of academic issues. The president meets with Congress. He is the student government president.

President’s Commission for the Status of Women – Campus group that focuses on gender equity issues. (Note “for” in the name)

Professional Science Master — A graduate-level degree that incorporates practical learning in science and math, and that typically substitutes a capstone problem-solving experience for a thesis. Capitalized in all cases. Abbreviation is PSM (no periods).

Examples: PennWest California offers two PSM degrees: a Professional Science Master in Applied Mathematics and a Professional Science Master in Cybersecurity. The Professional Science Master’s degree is popular with working professionals. Earn a Professional Science Master’s degree at PennWest California! 

Professor – Capitalize when used as a title immediately preceding an individual’s name. Example: He found the answer in a lecture by Professor Robert Bobolink. The professor was known for his quick wit. The professor, Robert Bobolink, applied for a grant in 2010. 

Programs and concentrations — Lowercase program names and concentrations, even the complicated ones: fisheries and wildlife biology, graphics and multimedia, etc.  

EXCEPTION: Capitalize program names ONLY when the degree is included: The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies earned accreditation from the XYZ Commission. She earned a B.A. in English, with a journalism concentration. 

States – Use the two-letter postal abbreviations for states ONLY within a mailing address. Otherwise, use the full name of the state if it stands alone, or the standard abbreviation (see the AP Stylebook) as part of a community name.

Examples: The club members drove from New Jersey, visited the campus, then spent a day whitewater rafting near Morgantown, W.Va. To apply for membership in the rafting club, write to: Alletta Drift, 101 Kayak Ave., Ohiopyle, PA 12345.

Steele Hall Mainstage Theatre — Primary performance space on campus; seats about 613.

Theatre/theatre — Use “theatre” in the official name of the department and the performance spaces on campus. Otherwise, use “theater.” The Department of Music and Theatre will hold auditions in Steele Hall Mainstage Theatre. Dancers should report to Blaney Theatre at 4 p.m. Six theater students traveled to New York City to attend a theater production workshop. 

Time – In text and on webpages, follow AP style: 5 a.m., 7:30 p.m., noon, midnight, etc.

In programs for events, you may use “celebratory” style — 5:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. — when requested.

Avoid the redundant “12 noon” or “12 p.m. midnight” in all cases. 

Titles – Use italics for the titles of books, films, plays and television shows in text (including the Journal and the PennWest California Review), following AP style for capitalization. In headlines and photo captions only, use single quotation marks instead.

underway – AP now uses it as one word.

University Always capitalize when referring to PennWest California.

Example: Many alumni return to the University during football season. Lowercase when referring to higher education institutions in general: Across the United States, university attendance is declining.

U.S. – Use in text as an adjective only; avoid U.S.A. except in quoted material. The noun form is United States.

Example: David Wu, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was born outside the United States. He became a U.S. citizen at age 6. 

Vulcan Flyer The shuttle fleet that transports students, faculty and staff between the main campus and Roadman Park, on the upper campus.

webpage — Lowercase, one word.

website – Lowercase, one word. This form was accepted as AP style in 2010. Continue to capitalize World Wide Web (which is not synonymous with Internet, but a subset). 

Work-study – Program that allows students to earn money while they complete their education. Hyphenate in all uses.

Example: He has been a work-study student in the Mathematics Department for two years. She credited work-study for allowing her to attend college without the need for student loans.

ADDENDUM: Style for Course Catalog ONLY


  • Capitalize Teacher Education Program (including P)
  • Capitalize General Education
  • Capitalize programs that include degree, for example B.S. in Elementary Education, MSN in Nursing Administration and Leadership


  • Use two digits after decimal GPAs (4.00, 3.28, etc.)

Course Descriptions

  • No italics in course descriptions (catalog only)
  • Leave repeat of subject for prerequisites: For instance, BIO 125 and BIO 248.


Ampersand – Avoid the “&” symbol whenever possible. Instead, use “and” in all constructions, unless the ampersand is part of a trademarked name. NOTE that ampersands can wreak havoc in some website uses; beware!

Example: The institute will become a part of the Eberly College of Science and Technology, but it still will have ties to the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

Dash – Use an en-dash, with a space before and after, to indicate an emphatic pause or an abrupt change in thought within a sentence. Use the same mark, with spaces before and after, to set off a series within a phrase, before an author or composer’s name at the end of a quotation or to introduce individual sections of a list. 

Example: The winner – a senior in the Biology Department – accepted his award with a smile.

Ellipsis – Always use a space before and after an ellipsis.

Example: “The key … is choosing the right words to omit,” the editor said.

Hyphen – Follow AP style. Never use a hyphen with an adverb ending in “ly.”

Example: Our economics professor is a highly trained mathematician who wears a perennially gloomy expression. 

Take special care with suspended hyphenation.

Example: The strategic planners set both long- and short-term goals.

Our first- and second-year students took part in workshops, while third- and fourth-year students set up experiments in the lab.

Quotation marks – Follow AP style. When a long remark by a single speaker is broken into two (or more) paragraphs, open each new paragraph with quotation marks, but do not use close-quotes until the end of the quotation.


“Our founders insisted on the right to free speech,” says Professor Alma Talcman, a Heritage Scholar and this year’s Constitution Day speaker. “They considered it essential.

“But when you abuse that right, you leave the door open to both censure and censorship.” 

Be sure to close quotes when the speaker changes, especially when quotes are not attributed.


“Who’s on first?” asked Laurel.

“I don’t know,” Hardy replied.

“No, he’s on third.”

“Who’s on third?”

“No, Who’s on first.”