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 (AP 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.

This guide contains selections from the Associated Press Stylebook as well as University-specific entries. Using language that respects and honors everyone is paramount. When in doubt, ask. Members of communities related to the topics below often have preferred language for themselves and/or their groups.

Below are key guidelines that apply broadly to anything produced by or for the University of Nevada, Reno. Each section will have additional guidelines specific to that topic that should also be consulted. The AP Stylebook has a great guide on Inclusive Storytelling that we encourage you to consult.

General guidelines include:

  • People-first language: Use people-first language where appropriate and always check with interview subjects for personal pronouns and terms.
  • Content warnings: Consider using content warnings for stories on sensitive subjects. Always use approved language from University press releases, police reports, etc., when available.
  • Relevance: In many scenarios, going beyond a person’s relationship to the University (e.g., a student, a professor, etc.) in the text won’t be relevant, but it’s important to get things right when details are necessary and when the focus of the story is about an individual’s or group’s affiliation.
  • AP Stylebook: Follow AP Style in all University communications for overall guidance and updates to preferred terminology. Consult the AP Stylebook for further details on all entries listed below and especially for inclusive language guidelines.

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 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).

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.”


  • Avoid using generalized references to a generation when referring to the student body (i.e., Gen Z).
  • Use gender-neutral academic terms unless necessary to the story and you know the person’s preferred gender identification.
  • Acceptable: first-generation, first-year student, freshman/freshmen, student.
  • Avoid: kid, child, girl, boy (in reference to students even in a parent/child context), nontraditional student, chairman/chairwoman, councilman/councilwoman, Mr., Ms., Mrs.

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.
  • Capitalize when using the full mention of the academic degree: Mary earned her Master of Arts degree in literature.
  • 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.

Age and ageism

Specific age should be listed rather than assigning a category (e.g., young, elderly, middle-aged) or generation (e.g., Millennial, Baby Boomer).

Avoid using age-related terminology to describe a situation metaphorically or in a patronizing way.

Acceptable: specific age, elder or older person/adult, a person’s preferred terminology.

Avoid: the aged, the elderly, senile, senior, geriatric (unless in “geriatric medicine”), kid, girl, boy, child (when referring to University students), nontraditional student.

Alumna, alumnus, alumnae, alumni

  • Alum or alums = gender neutral term for 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.


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)


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.


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.

Composition titles

Apply these guidelines to the titles of books, movies, plays, poems, albums, songs, operas, radio and television programs, lectures, speeches, and works of art:

Capitalize all words in a title except articles (a, an, the); prepositions of three or fewer letters (for, of, on, up, etc.); and conjunctions of three or fewer letters (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet, etc.) unless any of those start or end the title.

Put quotation marks around the names of all such works except the Bible, the Quran and other holy books, and books that are primarily catalogs of reference material. In addition to catalogs, this category includes almanacs, directories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, gazetteers, handbooks and similar publications.

See the AP Stylebook online for further detail including guidelines on magazines, newspapers and software.

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).

Criminal Justice

Use respectful and precise language regarding individuals affected by the criminal justice system.

Acceptable: underserved, neglected, due process, community safety, (formerly) incarcerated person, person affected by drug use, person with an addiction.

Avoid: poor, at risk, law and order, offender, addict.

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, separated by commas, and abbreviate months except for March, April, May, June, and July. Example: Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2004.

Spell out the month when it stands alone. Example: December 2004.

Omit commas when using just the month or season and year. Examples: January 2005; spring semester 2002; fall 2003.

Do not use the “th” suffix when including a date in a sentence. Incorrect: He attended the conference on Sept. 14th. Correct: He attended the conference on Sept. 14.

Use an en dash (–) to indicate a range, such as May 1–3. Use the full name of the month when it's alone or with a day, such as April 5–7.

Abbreviate Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. when used with a specific date, but do not abbreviate March, April, May, June, and July, such as Jan. 15–20.

For years, use the full year for both if the range is within the same decade, and use the full year for both if the range spans different decades, such as 1990–91 or 2005–2010. If a range starts with the year, repeat the year in the second part of the range only if the years are different, such as 2023–24 or 2022–2023.

Use days of the week for clarity if needed, but do not abbreviate them, such as Monday–Wednesday, Jan. 15–17.


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, offices, associations, 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. 


Disability is not a bad or forbidden word; use it appropriately without substituting with terms like "ability" or "diversability."

Use people-first language when appropriate but remember that many people prefer identity-first language (e.g., as a disabled person rather than a person with a disability). Check with your subject(s).

Acceptable: person with [specific disability], people with disabilities, a person’s preferred terminology.

Avoid: the disabled, mentally retarded, cripple or crippled, handicap or handicapped, differently abled.


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 the 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.



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.

Gender and Sexuality

Respect and use the language describing gender or sexuality that is preferred by the person being referenced and only when appropriate and necessary.

Substitute gender-neutral language when possible and appropriate.

Gender-neutral language examples: chair instead of chairman, police officer instead of policeman, door attendant instead of doorman, chair, firefighter, workforce… etc.


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




Image selection: Use images that represent the correct proportion of diversity on campus without depicting the campus unrealistically. Avoid stock photography.

Respect: Ensure individuals in photos and videos have control over how they are portrayed.

Active photos: Prefer active photos where subjects are performing activities.

Diversity: Show diversity in imagery through people and symbols (e.g., rainbow flag, braille signage).

Context: Ensure context for photography is representative and inclusive.

Alternative text: Inclusive alt-text does not assume gender or racial/ethnic affiliation based on physical presentation alone. Use generic descriptors unless identities are described elsewhere in the page content.


Use respectful and inclusive language that accurately reflects individuals' immigration status without derogatory terms.

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.

Lake Tahoe location

Please see entry for "University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe"


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.



Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents

Official title.



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.



Politics and religion

Handle topics related to politics and religion with sensitivity and respect for diverse viewpoints.

Battleground states: States (like Nevada) where candidates from both major political parties have a reasonable chance for victory in a statewide race or presidential vote.

Phone numbers

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


Capitalize when it precedes a name. President Brian Sandoval; Brian Sandoval, president of the University.

Program names

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




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



Race and ethnicity

Use language that honors and respects diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Avoid stereotypes and generalizations.

Native Nevadan: Refrain from using the term native Nevadan as a general term for people born and raised in Nevada as it is not respectful to Indigenous people who truly are native to the land here in Nevada. Instead, use phrases like born and raised or lived in Nevada their whole life.

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.

Sexual and domestic violence

Use precise and respectful language when discussing topics related to sexual and domestic violence. Avoid victim-blaming language.


Use language that respects individuals from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and avoids derogatory terms. Avoid deficit-based language and try to use a strengths-based perspective. For example, avoid “high school dropouts” and use something like, “people who have a middle school education.” Instead of achievement gap, use opportunity gap to emphasize how the context in which people live affects their outcomes or opportunities.




Use numerals except for noon and midnight. Use "noon" and "midnight" instead of 12 p.m. or 12 a.m. Examples: 1 p.m., 3:30 a.m., 10 a.m., noon, midnight.

Don't use ":00" for on-the-hour times. Example: 2 p.m. (not 2:00 p.m.)

For time ranges, use an en dash or "to" for ranges; use a.m. or p.m. once if both times are in the same period. Examples: 3–5 p.m., 9 a.m. to 1 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.




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, Reno at Lake Tahoe

Please use “the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe” upon first reference. When referring to this location, do not include the term “campus” after University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe, but use “location” if necessary. If you use the term “campus,” use “the Wayne L. Prim Campus” or the “Lake Tahoe Wayne L. Prim Campus.”

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Include comma, UNLV on second reference.

University of Nevada, Reno Foundation

This is the correct title of University’s fundraising nonprofit organization. 

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.