Writing Style Guide
Overview of Meredith Style
Consistency of writing style is as important to Meredith’s identity program as consistency of design. The Office of Marketing & Communications uses the Associated Press Style Guide, which is the preferred style for journalistic publications and media outlets, as its primary reference for writing style rules.
The Meredith College style guide answers frequently asked questions and identifies guidelines that are specific to Meredith.
Official Meredith College publications, including “Meredith Magazine” and the College web site should follow these style rules. Academic departments may use the accepted style guide for their field for more formal academic publications.
General guidelines for writing at Meredith:
When writing for official Meredith publications, please keep in mind the following basic guidelines.
- Articles are typically written in third person unless in journal or essay format.
- Do not use courtesy titles. (See section 12 for more.)
- On second reference, use last name only. Do not use Dr. except in direct quotes.
- On first reference, use Meredith College. On subsequent references, use Meredith or the College. (Exception: do not capitalize “the College” in news releases.)
- News articles are written in inverted pyramid style, with the most important information in the first paragraph. The lead sentence for each news article should include the five Ws: Who, What, When, Where, Why.
- Aim to be as concise as possible.
- News articles should be written from an objective viewpoint, without editorializing or including opinion. This rule does not apply to opinion pieces or marketing materials.
- Attribution: When including a direct quote, use the verb “said” or another neutral verb rather than verbs such as “claimed” or “implied”. “Said,” a neutral verb that does not unintentionally influence the reader’s interpretation of the quotation, is usually the best choice.
- Use only one space after periods.
- Use 1.5 line spacing for news releases.
- Use single line spacing for all other articles.
- The preferred font and point size for news releases is Garamond, 12 pt.
- The preferred font for web site articles is Verdana, 12 pt.
- Type articles (other than news releases) with no indention but with a line break between each paragraph.
Note: News releases must be written and distributed by the Office of Marketing & Communications. For more information, call 919-760-8455.
Special Meredith Style Rules
Refer to academic departments at Meredith by the correct names as stated in the Meredith College catalogue.
A former undergraduate student of Meredith is an “alumna”.
All former undergraduate students of Meredith are “alumnae”.
“Alumni” refers to graduates of co-educational programs. Meredith’s graduate school admits both women and men, so when referring to graduates of the John E. Weems Graduate School at Meredith, alumnus (singular) or alumni (plural) should be used.
Use a comma, followed by a left-facing apostrophe before the number when abbreviating college classes. There is a space between the comma and the apostrophe.
Example: New York First Lady Silda Wall Spitzer, ’80
Set off the class year with commas when the alumna’s name is followed by more text.
Example: Hilary Allen, ’01, is Meredith’s director of alumnae and parent relations.
For graduate program alumnae, use the same style, followed by the graduate degree abbreviation.
Example: Jeannie Morelock, ’95, MBA
The person who heads a committee is the committee chair or chairperson.
The person who is appointed to chair an academic department is called the department head.
The only named program at Meredith is the John E. Weems Graduate School.
At Meredith, the professional titles are “vice president for” and “director of.”
Examples: Bill Wade is the vice president for business and finance. Heidi Fletcher is the director of admissions.
The Teaching Fellows Program and the Honors Program are both capitalized, as is Teaching Fellows and Honors when used as adjectives.
Example: Teaching Fellows at Meredith collaborated with students in Honors courses to create a service project for a local elementary school.
Technology Words: In keeping with Meredith style, please use the following rules for words relating to technology.
• Lower case “internet”
• Use two words for “web site”
• No hyphen in “email” or “online”
When including a direct quote, use the verb “said” rather than other verbs such as claimed, implied, stated or reported. “Said” is a neutral verb that does not unintentionally influence the reader’s interpretation of the quotation.
Use abbreviations sparingly in text material; in all cases, spell out any word whose meaning may be clouded by abbreviation.
In first reference, spell out the name of an organization that may be abbreviated in subsequent references. Also in first reference, identify in parentheses the abbreviation to be used later.
Examples: Cooperating Raleigh Colleges (CRC), Student Government Association (SGA)
Exception: YWCA and similar acronyms that are more widely used than the words they represent.
Use capitals but omit periods and spaces when abbreviating names or using acronyms of familiar organizations such as those cited above. In those few exceptions where abbreviations traditionally call for periods, omit spaces between letters and periods.
Examples: Ph.D., M.A., B.F.A., a.m., p.m. (lower case)
Capitalize official names of academic departments, administrative divisions, names of offices when used in their entirety, and names of committees, but avoid excessive capitalization.
Examples: Department of Art; art department
Board of Trustees; the board
Office of Marketing and Communications; marketing and communications office
Exception: On second reference in Meredith publications, it is preferred to use “Meredith,” or “the College.”
Exception to the exception: Do not capitalize “the College” in news releases.
Capitalize names of degrees except when they are used in general terms. Do not capitalize the major.
Examples: Bachelor of Music, bachelor's degree in music, Bachelor of Arts in history, Master of Business Administration, master's degree in nutrition
Capitalize direction of specific locations, but lower case if the directional reference is general.
Example: Meredith College, located in western Raleigh, is the largest private college for women in the Southeast.
Lower case seasons of the year and semesters.
Example: Meredith’s spring semester begins in January following winter break.
NUMBERS AND DATES
Use figures for numbers above 10 and spell out lower numbers. (In formal manuscripts, it is correct to spell out numbers between one and one-hundred)
Examples: Her son is four and is already reading.
She enjoys her Honors class, which has 11 other students.
Exception: Always spell out a number that introduces a sentence.
Example: Forty-five seniors registered for the seminar.
Telephone numbers: The preferred method for listing a telephone number in a Meredith publication is (Area Code) XXX-XXXX.
Example: The number to the Meredith switchboard is (919) 760-8600.
For internal publications, such as “In A Nutshell,” it is acceptable to use the extension only.
Example: The number to the Office of Marketing and Communications is ext. 8455.
Dates: Use a comma between the day of the month and the year, as well as between the year and the rest of the sentence. Omit the comma if only month and year are indicated.
Examples: August 30, 2007, but August 2007
When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate January, February, August, September, October, November and December.
The convocation will take place on Monday, Sept. 10. The summer camp will begin on Monday, June 5.
Add “s” to form the plural of figures. This does not require an apostrophe.
Example: This new identifier takes Meredith into the 1990s.
The following list includes some unusual plural forms that are likely to be used on a college campus.
In forming the plural:
- thesis becomes theses
- hypothesis becomes hypotheses
- alumna becomes alumnae (female graduates)
- alumnus becomes alumni (male graduates or graduates of coeducational programs)
- criterion becomes criteria
- medium becomes media
- datum becomes data
- curriculum becomes curricula
- symposium becomes symposia
- memorandum becomes memoranda
To form the possessive of a singular noun, including the possessive of a proper name, add “’s”.
The possessive of a singular noun ending in “s” may be formed by simply adding an apostrophe.
Professor Ellen Williams' CD (preferable)
Professor Ellen Williams's CD (acceptable)
If two or more names show joint possession, the last name mentioned receives the possessive form.
Example: We went to Beth Jarvis and Megan Deane’s class meeting.
Use “its” to form the possessive of it. “It’s” is a conjunction meaning “it is”.
Use a colon to introduce a formal statement or an extract.
Examples: In a nutshell, the plan is this:
I quote from the convocation speaker: “Another place, another time...”
Use a colon to introduce a series if the preceding clause can stand as a sentence, but omit the colon following a verb.
Examples: A recent poll reveals the three most popular sports: basketball, football and soccer.
A recent poll reveals that the three most popular sports are basketball, football and soccer.
Use a colon after the salutation in a letter, between the figures representing hours and minutes of time, between place of publication and the publisher, and in Biblical references.
Dear Dr. Hartford:
Chapel Hill: Algonquin, 1988
In keeping with Associated Press style guidelines, Meredith publications do not use a comma before and in a simple series, except when the last item in the series includes a conjunction.
Examples: Meredith’s athletics teams include basketball, tennis, soccer and volleyball. The student took classes in the departments of music, English, dance and theatre, and biology.
Use a comma between the day of the month and the year, but omit the comma if only month and year are indicated.
Examples: August 30, 2007, but August 2007
Also omit the comma between the season and the year.
Use a comma before the conjunction in a compound sentence.
Example: Robin Colby taught the class, and Betty Webb monitored the exam.
Use a comma after an adverbial clause and after a verbal phrase.
Examples: As she studies, the theory becomes clearer.
Since she needed a B, she rewrote the paper.
Use dashes in a sentence to set off a break in thought.
Example: The influence of her professors—faculty members Smith, White and Jones—could be seen in her reaction to the people with whom she works.
Use hyphens sparingly, but use them to avoid confusion.
Examples: nondiscriminatory policy
re-create (to create again) to avoid confusion with recreate (to play, to refresh mentally)
Generally speaking, use a hyphen when a prefix ends in the same vowel that begins the word that follows.
Exception: cooperative education
Use a hyphen in a compound modifier when it precedes a noun, unless the modifier ends in “ly”.
Example: More than 70 percent of the full-time faculty members have earned doctoral degrees.
She teaches part time.
Do not hyphenate the title vice president.
Do not use hyphens where dashes should be used.
Use periods in abbreviating academic degrees.
Examples: A.B., B.S., Ph.D.
Always use commas and periods inside quotation marks.
Example: Her Chaucer students read “The Wife of Bath’s Tale.”
Other punctuation marks go within quotes only when they apply to the quoted matter.
Example: Did you enjoy reading Browning’s “Pippa Passes”?
Use figures except for noon and midnight. It is not necessary to say 12 noon or 12 midnight.
State times in the following style:
It is not necessary to include :00 for times.
Use titled rather than entitled when referring to names of compositions.
Example: The 2004-05 annual report is titled “A Global Vision,” in conjunction with the College’s theme for the academic year.
Apply the guidelines listed here to titles of books, computer games, movies, operas, plays, poems, songs, television programs, lectures speeches and works of art.
Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters.
Do not italicize titles, instead put quotation marks around the names of all such works except the Bible and books that are primarily catalogs of reference materials (almanacs, directories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks and similar publications.)*
*Source: The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual
Courtesy titles (Mr., Mrs. etc.) are only used in cases in which they are needed to distinguish among people with the same last name.
First and last names are used on the first reference. Last names are used on subsequent references.
President Maureen Hartford spoke at orientation. Hartford welcomed the new students to Meredith.
In keeping with Associated Press style guidelines, the academic title of Dr. is not used in Meredith publications except in direct quotations. The faculty member’s academic rank is used instead. Last names are used on subsequent references.
Ex. Professor of Music David Lynch serves as department head.
Dr. should be used on first reference as a formal title only before the name of an individual who holds a doctor of medical.
Capitalize titles that precede names, but spell out titles that follow names.
Meredith College President Maureen Hartford led the seminar on leadership.
Maureen Hartford, president of Meredith College, led the seminar on leadership.
The Rev. Sam Carothers, campus minister, spoke at the worship service last Wednesday.
John Mecham, professor of biology, is also head of the department.
Do not hyphenate the title vice president.
Frequently Misspelled or Misused Words and Phrases–
• Advisor is preferred at Meredith, rather than adviser.
• Affect, effect: While “affect” and “effect” can be used as both nouns and verbs, affect is most often used as a verb. Effect is most often used as noun.
“Affect” is a verb meaning influence. “Effect” is a noun meaning the result.
Examples: The bad weather affected voter turnout.
Her cold had a negative effect on her breathing.
• Among, between: “Between” refers to two items. “Among” refers to more than two.
Examples: Voters chose between Bush and Gore in the 2000 presidential election. The mother divided the prize money among all three of her children.
• Compose, comprise: “Compose” means to create or put together. It can be used in both the active and passive voice.
Ex. The United States is composed of 50 states.
“Comprise” means to contain, to include all or to embrace. It is best used only in the active voice, followed by a direct object. Ex. The zoo comprises many animals.
• Course work rather than coursework
• Currently: It is not necessary to use “currently” with the verb “is,” which by definition means a current action.
• Fewer, less: In general, use “fewer” for individual items, “less” for bulk or quantity. Fewer refers to items that can be counted. Less refers to things that can be measured, such as time or amounts.
Examples: She has less than one hour to finish her project.
You need to have fewer than 10 items to use the express check-out lane.
• Full time, full-time, part time, part-time: Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier.
Examples: She works full time. He has a part-time job.
• Fund raising, fund-raising, fundraiser: Hyphenate the adjective not the noun.
Example: Fund raising for student clubs can be difficult. The club held a fundraiser. The Campaign for Meredith is a fund-raising effort.
The profession is hyphenated.
Example: She is a fund-raiser for Meredith.
• Use include to introduce a series when the items that follow are only part of the total.
• Infamous is not a synonym for “famous” or “well-known.” Infamous means “to have an extremely bad or evil reputation.”
• Use impact as a noun, not a verb.
Example: The professor’s words had an impact on my life.
Not: The professor’s words impacted my life.
• Its, It’s: Use “its” to form the possessive of it. “It’s” is a conjunction meaning it is.
• Like, as: Use “like” as a preposition to compare nouns and pronouns. It requires an object. Use “as” to introduce a clause.
Examples: She sings like an opera star.
She plays the piano as her teacher taught her.
• That, which, who, whom: Use “that” and “which” when referring to inanimate objects and to animals without names. Use “who” and “whom” to refer to people and to animals with names.
“That” should be used for essential clauses, while “which” introduces non-essential clauses and must be preceded by a comma.
• Presently: Use “presently” to mean “in a little while” or “shortly” but not to mean “now”.
When the state stands alone, spell out the names of the state.
Punctuation: Place one comma between the city and the state, and another comma after the state unless ending a sentence.
Eight states are never abbreviated: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah.
Preferred abbreviations for the remaining states
New Hampshire: N.H.
New Mexico: N.M.
New York: N.Y.
North Carolina: N.C.
North Dakota: N.D.
Rhode Island: R.I.
South Carolina: S.C.
South Dakota: S.D.
Source: The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual.