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Editorial Style Guidelines

We use the following as guideposts when creating, reviewing, and editing our monthly newsletter.

Resources

  • The Associated Press Stylebook
  • Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary
  • Strunk & White’s Elements of Style

University Style

  • Choose either “The LSU Department of Mathematics” or “LSU‘s Department of Mathematics” when referring to a college.
  • In college/department/unit names, use an ampersand (&) instead of “and.” This is the only place in body copy where ampersands should be used.
  • On the first mention, use the full, official name of a unit, college, or department. Subsequent references may be abbreviated if it’s frequently mentioned.
  • Use “LSU” without periods or spaces. For international audiences, use “Louisiana State University.”
  • In “Louisiana State University,” lowercase “university” when referring to LSU.
  • Both “Louisianan” and “Louisianian” are acceptable; maintain consistency within your document.
  • Use “telephone” instead of “phone,” with the standard structure like 225-578-1234. For a facsimile number, specify “Fax” before it.
  • Avoid courtesy titles (Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr.) in paragraph text or cutlines. On first reference, use “PhD” or a professor's title for expertise. Use first names of a husband and wife, not “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.” 
  • When referring to grades, put letters in quotes to prevent confusion, e.g., He made an “A.”
  • Use "Did You Know?" instead of "Did U Know?"
  • Use "first-year" or "first-time" student instead of "freshman."
  • Use "advisor" instead of "adviser."
  • Use "students" instead of "coeds."
  • Use gender-neutral language, e.g., "chair" or "chairperson" instead of "chairman," "police officers" instead of "policemen," etc.
  • Use "people with disabilities" instead of "handicapped people."

Internet Standards

  • Correct spelling and capitalization standards are as follows:
    • email
    • home page
    • internet
    • online
    • web
    • website
    • web page
    • web address
    • webmaster
  • Use the shortest possible URL to link to your destination. In most cases, “www” is unnecessary. Include “http://” only if essential for functionality or if it has a variant. For instance, visit https://www.google.com/accounts/ to register for a Google account.
  • Double-check website addresses for accuracy.
  • Keep web addresses in lowercase, ensuring clarity in both print and digital formats.
  • Verify the suffix (.com, .edu, .gov, .net, .org) of websites before printing.
  • Avoid splitting web addresses across lines; shift the whole address to the next line or rephrase your sentence to prevent line breaks.
  • When including a web address in your text, refrain from placing it at the sentence's end, as it can confuse readers. For example, “Learn more at capitalareastem.org.”
  • Use the “@” symbol solely with email addresses or social media account/user names; do not replace “at” in general body text or headers. For instance, “The forum is at LSU,” not “The forum is @ LSU.”

Dates and Number

For dates, use the following forms:

  • 2004–05; not 2004–2005
  • 4 p.m.; not 4 PM
  • May 10, 2005; not 10 May 2005
  • 1990s; not 1990’s
  • Avoid superscripts: 10; not 10th
  • Spell out whole numbers below 10. Use numerals for 10 and above.
  • Within text, spell out “percent” but use numerals: “7 percent.” For statistical data relayed in charts or graphs, the percentage symbol (%) is appropriate.

Capitalization

  • Capitalize position and job titles before a name, e.g., “President Alexander.”
  • Capitalize complete degree names, e.g., “Bachelor of Arts,” but use lowercase for incomplete names like “bachelor's degree.”
  • Use lowercase for “gpa” or spell out “grade point average.”
  • Keep seasons in lowercase, e.g., “fall semester 2019.”
  • Capitalize “residential college” if the full name is used, e.g., “Mass Communication Residential College.”
  • Capitalize only language names when mentioning academic disciplines, e.g., “She’s an English major.”

Punctuation

  • Use an Oxford comma for clarity in lists of three or more items, but omit if writing a news release.
  • Skip the comma before an ampersand, even if it‘s the serial comma.
  • Avoid commas before “Jr.,” “Sr.,” or numeral suffixes.
  • Use a single space after periods and colons.
  • Don’t use periods in academic degree abbreviations like BA, PhD, MS, MBA, JD.
  • Skip “degree” when the full degree name is provided.
  • No hyphens in “African American” or “Native American.”
  • Hyphenate words like first-year students, on-campus, and pre-professional; compound “ly” adjectives are not hyphenated (e.g., “recently written”).
  • Use a colon to introduce amplifying series; use semicolon for lengthy items or closely related clauses.
  • Capitalize the second word when hyphenating, if it’s a proper noun (e.g., non-Louisiana).
  • Place commas and periods inside quotation marks, colons and semicolons outside, and question marks depend on meaning.
  • Use a hyphen (-) for compound words and joining words. Use an en dash (–) for indicating a range or connection between numbers or items. Use an em dash (—) to set off parenthetical phrases or create strong interruptions in a sentence.

Quick Tips:

  • Understand your audience: Write for a wide audience. Consider readers’ motivations and existing knowledge.
  • Organize your thoughts: Anticipate audience questions and ensure easy information access.
  • Summarize main points: Use headers and lists to highlight key information, helping readers save time by scanning.
  • Keep it concise: Aim for an average sentence length of 15 words. Focus each paragraph on one main idea.
  • Use everyday language: Connect with your audience using simple and relatable words.
  • Choose active voice: Keep subjects and verbs close for clarity. Avoid passive voice, as it can confuse.
  • Be clear and to the point: Every paragraph should have a clear topic sentence and develop one main idea.
  • Format effectively: Use headings, lists, and tables consistently.
  • Trim unnecessary details: Highlight achievements objectively.
  • Proofread carefully: Wait two or more days before reviewing or ask a peer for edits.

Updated: October 2023

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