University style guide

The University Style Guide is designed to help writers and communicators across campus with matters of grammar and style, whether writing for the University’s internal or external audiences. This guide includes an alphabetical listing of frequently used words and phrases, including University-specific terms. Students and faculty doing academic writing would likely be better served by consulting style guides specific to their disciplines or more general grammar and style guides. For all media relations writing and on the University website, we use the Associated Press Stylebook as our official editorial guide.

We recognize that different types of publications and different audiences require different approaches. Please use your best judgment to determine the appropriate style for your writing project and determine for yourself when deviating from guidelines makes more sense than following them.

The ultimate goal for University communications – whether an event listing, a web page or a magazine feature article – is to create consistency and convey the message effectively.

A - B - C - D - E - F - G - I - J - L - M - N -O - P - Q - R - S - T - U -V - W



Abbreviations and acronyms

  • Avoid abbreviations in general. Spell out words commonly abbreviated in everyday speech, such as laboratory, agriculture and mathematics. 
  • Avoid using unfamiliar acronyms. Spell out the name of the organization on first reference, followed by the acronym in parentheses. On second reference, use the acronym only. 
  • Use periods only with acronyms of two letters: U.N., U.S., M.D., R.N. (Although periods are still used in many abbreviations, often they may be omitted: CPA, GPA, MBA, ACT, SAT, LSAT, GMAT, GRE).
  • Do not abbreviate the words department, institute or association in narrative text.

Abbreviating the University of Nevada, Reno:

  • For first reference, use the following: The University of Nevada, Reno (This is the official name of the University.)
  • On second reference, use “the University.”

Academic degrees

  • If necessary to mention someone’s degree, try to avoid using an abbreviation and use a phrase such as: “John Smith, who has a doctorate in engineering.”
  • Use “Dr.” only for medical doctors.
  • Spell out academic degrees when space allows. Don’t capitalize them: John Smith earned his bachelor of arts  degree in history in 2004.
  • Uses with master or bachelor to form the possessive: He earned his master’s degree in music; She graduated with a bachelor’s in English.
  • When used after a name, an academic abbreviation is set off by commas: John Smith, Ph.D., spoke to students today. Use these abbreviations only after a full name — never after just a last name.
  • Some examples of common academic degrees:
    • bachelor of science – B.S.
    • master of arts – M.A.
    • doctor of philosophy – Ph.D.
    • doctor of education – Ed.D.
    • doctor of medicine – M.D.

Academic departments

Uppercase formal department names: the Department of Mathematics. Lowercase otherwise: the history department.

Academic honors

Terms such as cum laude, magna cum laude, with distinction, are used lowercase. The honors for cum laude distinction, in descending order, are: summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude. Italicize these names.

Academic titles

Capitalize formal titles such as chancellor or chairman when they precede a name. Lowercase elsewhere.

Academic years

Lowercase: freshman; sophomore; junior; senior; graduate, postgraduate, postdoctoral.


Not advisor.

Alumna, alumnus, alumnae, alumni

  • Alum or alums = gender neutral term who an individual or individuals who have graduated from the University
  • Alumna = woman who has graduated from the University
  • Alumnae = a group of women graduates
  • Alumnus = a man who has graduated
  • Alumni = a group of men, or group of men and women

Alumni, referring to in print

  • At the University of Nevada, Reno, six credits qualifies an individual to be classified as an alumnus.
  • If at all possible, identify alumni of the University using the following conventions:
    • For holders of bachelor’s degrees, use an apostrophe followed by the person’s class year with the person’s degree field in parentheses, lower case unless a proper noun such as English. No need to specify whether it was a B.A. or B.S.
    • John Smith ’98 (history) spoke to a group of high school students. (Note: This is a “right” curly apostrophe, NOT a single open-quote mark (‘).)
    • For holders of graduate degrees, use the same convention if an academic specialty can be determined: John Smith ’98M.D. (dermatology), Sally Jones ’81M.A. (anthropology). With the MBA, it is not necessary to specify “business administration” in parentheses because there is only one possible specialty within an MBA, i.e., business administration. Note: There is no space between year and degree.
    • Use a comma to separate two or more degrees: John Brown ’85 (English), ’88M.A. (sociology) arrived on Friday. No need to set off the string of degrees with commas.


Spell out “and” in most instances. Use only if part of an official title: Environmental Health & Safety (ampersand is part of official title); Music and Dance (ampersand is not part of official title).


  • The genitive case (indicating a possessor or source) requires an apostrophe or an “of” construction: Professor Smith has 15 years’ experience in microbiology.
  • When writing years, use an apostrophe in shortened versions: The 1960s are a hazy memory; The ’70s were known for disco music.
  • An apostrophe should be used in pluralizing single letters: He expects to get all A’s this semester. Don’t use an apostrophe for plurals of degrees: She has enough credits for two MBAs.


Artemisia is the correct spelling for the street on which Argenta Hall is located, the building on campus and the University yearbook.


ASUN, no punctuation, is the acceptable abbreviation for the Associated Students of the University of Nevada, the University’s undergraduate student government body. Spell out on first reference.


Capitalize award only when it is part of the name of an award. John Smith won the Student Employee of the Year award.



Board of Regents

The official name of the University’s governing board is “The Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education.” Use the following:

  • Nevada Board of Regents (first reference)
  • Regents or Board (second reference)
  • Regents’ or Board’s (possessive)

Book titles and magazine names

Use italics when writing names of magazines, such as Nevada Silver and Blue. It is becoming common practice to use italics
for the names of printed publications. Therefore, also italicize newspaper titles.


Capitalize the formal name of buildings: William N. Pennington Student Achievement Center; Frandsen Humanities. Capitalize building, auditorium, hall when used in the full, formal name of the structure.




No hyphen needed.


Don’t capitalize short forms of the names of University programs and facilities: the financial aid office; the medical school.
Use capitalization only for the official names of departments or programs, not for the names of disciplines: Department of Mathematics; she is studying algebra in the mathematics department.

Chairman, chairwoman

Capitalize as a formal title before a name: company Chairman Henry Ford; committee Chairwoman Mary Jones.
Where possible, don’t use gender-specific language if you can avoid it. Use chair, not chairman or chairwoman. (Similarly, use firefighter, not fireman or firewoman.) Don’t change the organization’s own titles, though.


Retain the hyphen when forming nouns, adjectives and verbs that indicate occupation or status: co-author; co-chairman; co-worker.


Capitalize when referring to a specific, one-time ceremony of this university: He spoke at Spring Commencement 2006. Don’t capitalize
when used generically: it rained during commencement.

Committees and subcommittees

Capitalize names.

Core Curriculum

Capitalize when used as formal title of program: the University of Nevada, Reno Core Curriculum; the University Core Curriculum. Lowercase when used generically: Bill Jones plans to take some core curriculum classes next semester.

Course listings

In an official listing, use caps (Introduction to English Literature). Don’t use quotation marks. For subject titles, lowercase (art, biology, music, unless a proper noun like French or Shakespeare).

Curriculum, curricula

Use curriculum when referring to a single educational program. Curricula is the plural form.




Use the sequence: day of the week, month, day, year. Separate by commas and abbreviate months. The months March, April, May, June and July are not abbreviated: Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2004. Spell out when the month stands alone: December 2004. Omit comma when using just the month or season and year: January 2005; spring semester 2002; fall 2003.

Don’t use “th” suffix when a date is included in a sentence. Wrong: He attended the conference on Sept. 14th. Correct: He attended the
conference on Sept. 14. 


Capitalize only when it precedes the individual’s name or is part of another official title.

Degrees, degree programs

The University offers degree programs. Individuals earn degrees. Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s and master’s degree. Doctoral degree or doctorate is preferable usage. Use Dr. only when referring to medical doctors. Note: Preferred style for medical doctors is to use M.D., D.O., after the name. The patient was referred to John Smith, M.D.

Use capital letters and periods after the initials in most abbreviated degrees: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Master of Arts (M.A.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D). However, note MBA does not use periods after the initials.

Departments, office, association, etc.

Should be capitalized only when used in the full, formal title: the Department of Chemistry; the chemistry department; he is a member
of the history faculty. 


Don’t capitalize unless derived from proper nouns: He studied history and English at Harvard; she is applying to the doctoral program in environmental sciences. 


Reserve this title only for medical doctors, not those holding doctorates. Avoid using a title on first reference. Instead specify what kind of doctor the person is: The society decided to honor Leonard Parr, a cardiologist who runs a clinic for indigent people.

Do not refer to professors as Dr. College professors are generally assumed to hold doctorates. Not all do, but it’s awkward to refer to some as Dr. and not others.




Lowercase the e and don’t hyphenate.

Emeritus, emeriti, emerita

Emeritus is an honorary rank bestowed on retired University faculty. Always use the construction “professor emeritus” NOT “emeritus professor.” The title should be in lowercase; avoid constructions with the title before the name. Emeritus and emeriti are the preferred singular and plural terms of professors of any gender. The feminine term emerita may be used given the preference of the subject.

Experiment Station

University of Nevada, Reno Experiment Station (first reference); Experiment Station (second reference).


University of Nevada, Reno Extension (first reference); Extension (second reference).




Use the word faculty to refer to the entire group of faculty members at the University. In this sense, it is a single word: The faculty is going to be surveyed. If you wish to refer to a few members of the faculty, then say: Some faculty members will be surveyed.

Fundraising, fundraiser

One word in all cases.



Grade-point average

Always hyphenate. Use GPA, with no periods, after first reference. When giving a GPA, always use a decimal point and carry to at least one decimal place (two maximum): 3.0; 3.96.

Graduate School

Capitalize Graduate School, when referring to the Graduate School of the University of Nevada.


Capitalize when referring to members of the University’s fraternities or sororities.




Acronym for information technology. Spell it out on first reference.

Items in a series

No comma before conjunction (e.g. red, white and blue).



Joe Crowley Student Union

On second reference, use student union or the union.




Hyphenate when used as an adjective: Nevada’s land-grant university.


Don’t capitalize library when used alone, but use University Library when referring to the campus’ main library. The formal title of the University’s largest library is the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center. The formal title of the academic unit responsible for administering campus libraries is University Libraries.



Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center

Includes hyphen.


Do not abbreviate March, April, May, June or July. When a sentence uses only a month and year, don’t separate with a comma: March 2004 was unseasonably warm. When referring to a month, day and year, set off the day and year with commas: March 24, 2004 was a really warm day.



Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents

Official title.


Spell out whole numbers below 10, use figures for 10 and above. Spell out first through ninth when indicating sequence in time or location (first base, first in line). Starting with 10, use figures.



Offices of the University

The titles of University offices are capitalized. Office of the President. Lowercase when not a formal title: the admissions office is open today.

On campus/off campus

Two words. Hyphenate when used as adjective: on-campus housing is getting hard to find, so more students are living off campus.



Phone numbers

Put area code in parentheses, abbreviate extension: (775) 784-1581 ext. 18


Capitalize when it precedes a name. President Marc Johnson; Marc Johnson, president of the University.

Program names

Capitalize the names of programs in body text and headlines: Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener Program is attracting attention.




Capitalize, and no need to use quadrangle when referring to this University landmark.



Room numbers and names

Don’t capitalize room when it is followed by a number, unless it’s the first word in a sentence. Place the building before the room: The
meeting will be in Frandsen Humanities, room 3. 

Capitalize room and similar words when part of a proper or well-known name: The Student Lounge; the President’s Conference Room.

ROTC, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps

Note placement of the apostrophe. ROTC is acceptable in all references.




Capitalize when formal title. Do not capitalize when used alone in text: The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine; the nursing school has increased enrollment.


Do not capitalize the common names of semesters, terms, or academic sessions.




Use AP style: 1 p.m.; 3:30 p.m.


Capitalize academic titles when used before a name, lowercase when used after: Professor John Smith; John Smith, professor of chemistry; the president gave a speech. Do not capitalize if used in the general sense: He has risen to the rank of professor; she was appointed vice president.

Titles of works

Capitalize and italicize the titles of books, plays, movies, operas, published documents, newspapers, paintings, plays, periodicals, television series and journals. Capitalize and use quotation marks for titles of unpublished materials, part of published works, articles from journals, theses and dissertations, songs.




Capitalize University when it refers to the University of Nevada, Reno (formal name).

University of Nevada, Reno

This is the official name of the University and should be used on first reference. On second reference, please use “the University,” especially when the reader understands this refers to our institution. One exception to this rule is that the sports media and Intercollegiate Athletics refer to our institution as “Nevada” from long historical use.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Include comma, UNLV on second reference.

University of Nevada, Reno Foundation

This is the correct title of University’s fund-raising arm. 

University of Nevada Alumni Association

Correct title.



Vice president, vice dean, vice chancellor

Don’t hyphenate. Capitalize before a name.



Wolf Pack

Two words. Not Wolfpack.

The Wolf Pack

The Wolf Pack Family and The Wolf Pack Way should both always be capitalized, including “The.”  We are all part of The Wolf Pack Family. We encourage you to follow The Wolf Pack Way.