Skip to content

The Clark University Editorial Style Guide is a resource for frequently asked questions and is based on the Associated Press Stylebook, with minor alterations for Clark-specific usage. If you have any questions, or would like to add an entry, please contact Melissa Lynch, senior writer and content editor (x7440).

A few basics:

  • Headlines or titles of news articles should be written in sentence case, with only the first word and proper nouns capitalized.
  • Leave only one space after a period (or question mark, exclamation point, quotation mark — whatever punctuation ends your sentence). Two spaces between words used to be necessary to delineate the beginning of a new sentence because the spacing between words was uneven on a typewriter. That is no longer the case.
  • Clark’s style is to use the serial (or Oxford) comma, included after the penultimate item in a list of three or more items, before ‘and’ or ‘or.’ This decision was made to ensure clarity in all cases.
    • He will major in English, philosophy, or psychology. She dedicated the book to her parents, Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens.

And a note on gender-neutral language:

  • They, their, and they’re are generally plural, but are acceptable for use as a singular and gender-neutral pronoun. In fact, we prefer that you use “they” in place of the outdated “he/she” or “he or she.”
    • “They” always takes a plural verb, even when used in a singular context.
    • “The student wants to live on campus; they are planning to live in Wright Hall.” Do not use “themself.” When in doubt, rewrite the sentence.
  • advisor — Changed from “adviser” as of February 2023.
  • ALANA — An acronym that stands for African-, Latinx-, Asian-/Desi-, and Native/Indigenous-American. Use hyphens when spelling it out.
    • Some uses include additional heritages: African-, Latinx, Asian/Desi-American/Pacific Islander, Native/Indigenous- American, and Multiracial
  • alumni/a/ae/us
    • For more inclusive language, unless referring to a single person whose pronouns you know, we recommend “alum(s)” or “Clark graduate(s)”
    • alumna = female singular
    • alumnae = female plural
    • alumnus = male singular
    • alumni = male plural OR mixed-gender group
  • Board of Trustees
    • The Clark University Board of Trustees comprises 26 members, including six alumni-elected Trustees. Each elected member serves a six-year term; officers are elected each year, and new terms begin July 1. The full board typically meets in October, February, and May each year.
    • Current board members and officers »
    • Use Clark University Board of Trustees on the first reference; lowercase “the board” in subsequent references.
    • When referring to individual trustees, uppercase Trustee before the name, and lowercase after: Clark University Trustee Ron Shaich; Kevin Cherry, Clark University trustee; Kevin Cherry, member of the Clark University Board of Trustees; Ross Gillman, chair of the Clark University Board of Trustees; Board of Trustees Chair Ross Gillman
  • cocurricular — Never hyphenated.
  • Division of Student Success
  • Emerita/Emeritae/Emeritus/Emeriti
    • Denotes professors who have retired but retain their rank or title. Not all retired individuals have emeritus status.
    • Emerita = female singular
    • Emeritae = female plural
    • Emeritus – male singular
    • Emeriti = male plural OR mixed-gender group
  • faculty
    • Faculty is a collective noun taking a singular verb when referring to faculty as a group: The faculty is researching the topic.
    • When referring to faculty as a group, use “who,” not “that”: The faculty, who are researching the topic, gathered on Tuesday.
    • The plural can be expressed by using “faculty members”: Faculty members are gathering.
  • First-Year Intensive — A specific type of course that all Clark first-year students take; always hyphenated and capitalized.
  • first-year student — Always hyphenated.
  • grade-point average — Not grade-point-average or grade point average; GPA is acceptable in all references.
  • Higgins University Center — Home to the Higgins Café, the University’s dining hall.
  • liberal arts — Plural noun; hyphenate when used as an adjective if it precedes the noun it modifies: a liberal-arts education.
  • nonmajors
  • postgraduate, postdoctoral — One word; never hyphenated.
  • Presidents of Clark University
    • G. Stanley Hall — 1888–1920
    • Caroll D. Wright — 1902–1909 (Clark College, undergraduate)
    • Edmund D. Sanford — 1909–1920 (Clark College, undergraduate)
    • Wallace W. Atwood — 1920–1946
    • Howard B. Jefferson — 1946–1967
    • Frederick H. Jackson — 1967–1970
    • Glenn W. Ferguson — 1970–1973
    • Mortimer H. Appley — 1974–1984
    • Richard P. Traina — 1984–2000
    • John E. Bassett — 2000–2009
    • David P. Angel 2009–2020
    • David B. Fithian ’87 2020–
  • Professor — Not “Prof.”
  • Sackler Sciences Center — Not “Science.”
  • Shaich Family Alumni and Student Engagement Center
  • University — Capitalize when referring specifically to Clark.
    • All alumni of the University are invited to Reunion Weekend.
  • When referring to degrees in general, lowercase the first letter of the degree and use “degrees.”
    • They all had master’s degrees in engineering. He earned a doctorate. She received a Master of Public Administration. More than six hundred students received bachelor’s degrees. Did you earn a Bachelor of Arts or a Master of Science?
  • Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s or master’s degree, but no ’s in Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, or Master of Business Administration (note capitalization of formal degree names).
  • “Doctorate” or “doctoral degree’’ can be used in place of Ph.D. — but “Ph.D.” cannot always be used in place of “doctorate.”
  • Use periods for two-letter acronyms (M.A., B.A.); no periods for three or more (MBA, MSIT, MSF) except Ph.D., M.A.Ed.
  • In writing, all acronyms beginning with a consonant sound (el, em, en), such as M.A., MBA, MSF, etc., are preceded by “an.”

Clark offers the following degrees:

  • Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
  • Bachelor of Science (B.S.)
  • Master of Arts (M.A.)
  • Master of Science (M.S.)
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Master of Science in Finance (MSF)
  • Master of Public Administration (MPA)
  • Master of Science in Communication (MSC; formerly Master of Science in Professional Communication [MSPC])
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Capitalize and spell out formal titles such as president, dean, provost, chair, professor, etc., only when they precede a name. Lowercase elsewhere.

  • Dean of the College Betsy Huang is a member of English Department faculty. Betsy Huang, dean of the college, was present at the meeting. The dean approved the measure.
  • Professor Karen Frey studies arctic sea ice. Karen Frey, professor of geography, traveled to Siberia.
  • Clark University President David Fithian gave the keynote speech. David Fithian, president of Clark University, spoke at the event.

Academic subjects are not capitalized unless referring to a language.

  • She teaches chemistry. Her research is in screen studies. The student majors in environmental science. He teaches English. The students majored in Spanish.

Clark’s academic departments are part of six schools. They are:

  • Undergraduate Arts and Sciences
  • Graduate Arts and Sciences
  • School of Management
  • Becker School of Design & Technology
  • International Development, Community, and Environment
  • School of Professional Studies

Academic department names are capitalized.

  • This event is sponsored by the Visual and Performing Arts Department.
  • The English Department hosted the lecture.

The academic departments at Clark are:

  • Biology
  • Gustaf H. Carlson School of Chemistry
  • Economics
  • Education
  • English
  • Graduate School of Geography
  • History
  • Language, Literature, and Culture
  • Mathematics and Computer Science
  • Philosophy
  • Physics
  • Political Science
  • Frances L. Hiatt School of Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Visual and Performing Arts

Preprofessional advising programs at Clark:

  • Pre-health (pre-med, pre-veterinary)
  • Pre-law


  • Abbreviate Ave., Blvd., and St. only with a numbered address.
    • Clark is on Main Street. Clark’s address is 950 Main St.
  • Use figures in address numbers.
    • The family lives at 5 Hawthorne St.
  • Spell out First through Ninth when used as street names. Use figures with two letters for 10th and above (e.g., 7 Fifth Ave., 100 21st St.).
  • Only use postal abbreviations for states (e.g., MA, NH, CA) when used with a mailing address that includes a zip code. In postal addresses, leave one space between the city and state, and two spaces between the state and zip code (per USPS guidance).
    • Clark University
      950 Main St.
      Worcester MA  01610
  • Within text, spell out the state name; if necessary for space, abbreviate as follows (but never abbreviate Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, or Utah):
Ala. Fla. Md. Neb. N.D. Tenn.
Ariz. Ga. Mass. Nev. Okla. Vt.
Ark. Ill. Mich. N.H. Ore. Va.
Calif. Ind. Minn. N.J. Pa. Wash.
Colo. Kan. Miss. N.M. R.I. W. Va.
Conn. Ky. Mo. N.Y. S.C. Wis.
Del. La. Mont. N.C. S.D. Wyo.
  • adviser — The only exception is if “advisor” is part of an official title (e.g., Senior Advisor to the President). In all other cases, we use “adviser.”
  • affect/effect — Affect is a verb, meaning “to influence” (as a noun, it is predominantly used in psychology). Effect is usually the noun, meaning “result,” but can also be used as a verb meaning “to cause.”
    • The game will affect the standings. He will effect many changes in the company. The effect was overwhelming. He miscalculated the effect of his actions.
  • afterward, backward, toward — No s.
  • cancel, canceled, canceling, cancellation — Not “cancelled.”
  • coursework
  • currently/presently — Currently means now; presently means in the near future.
  • farther, further — While generally interchangeable, farther refers to physical distance, while further is an extension of time or degree.
    • He ran farther than he had before. The doctor said he would investigate further.
  • fewer, less than, under— Use “fewer” for individual items (items that can be counted); use less than for bulk, time, or quantity; use “under” for spatial relationships.
    • Fewer than 100 students attended the meeting. I will be there in less than 10 minutes. The box is under the desk.
  • internet — Never capitalized.
  • login, logon, logoff (nouns); log in, log on, log off (verbs)
    • Enter your login details.
    • Please use your Clark credentials to log in.
  • over, more than — Use “over” for spatial relationships. Use “more than” for amounts that can be counted.
    • More than $100,000 was raised. I saw more than 10 students at the diner. The poster hangs over that desk.).
  • startup (noun and adjective); start up (verb)
  • web, website, webmaster, webcast — But web page is two words.

View a list of the official holidays at Clark University »

  • Presidents Day — Observed the third Monday of February. No apostrophe; the official name of this holiday is Washington’s Birthday.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day — Celebrated the third Monday in January. Note: no comma
  • St. Patrick’s Day — Celebrated every March 17. Never use “St. Patty’s Day”; the correct informal use is “St. Paddy’s Day” (abbreviating the Irish name Padraig), but that should be avoided.
  • Memorial Day — Celebrated the last Monday in May to honor those who died in active military service. It is a day of remembrance; do not write “Happy Memorial Day” under any circumstances.
  • Juneteenth — June 19 is the traditional commemoration date of the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States; if it does not fall on a Monday, the holiday is observed on the Monday after. Learn more about Juneteenth »
  • Independence Day — “July Fourth” and “Fourth of July” are also acceptable.
  • Indigenous Peoples’ Day — Celebrated on the second Monday of October to honor Native Americans; first officially observed in the U.S.  in 2021. Note: apostrophe after Peoples.
  • Veterans Day  — Observed every November 11, this day honors all veterans of the armed forces. Note: no apostrophe.

The use of hyphens is far from standardized. Clark is guided by AP Style and Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 5th edition.

These words are never hyphenated:

  • campuswide
  • cocurricular
  • dual heritage terms — African American, Asian American, Caribbean American, Pacific Islander, Native American, etc., are not hyphenated when used as nouns or adjectives.
  • email
  • nonprofit
  • online — Not to be confused with how to describe people waiting in a queue: They are in line.
  • peacemaker, peacemaking
  • policymaker, policymaking
  • postdoctoral, postgraduate
  • website

But these always are:

  • decision-making, decision-maker
  • e-book, e-newsletter
  • student-athlete
  • work-study

In general:

  • Compound modifiers before a noun should be hyphenated: first-quarter touchdown; bluish-green dress; full-time job; tuition-free year; liberal-arts college; high-school teacher; know-it-all attitude; fifth-year-free program.
  • No hyphen after very or adverbs ending in ly: very pretty girl; easily remembered rule.
  • Many combinations that are hyphenated before a noun are not hyphenated when they occur after a noun: She works full time. She is well aware of the consequences. The children are soft spoken. The play is second rate.

Spell out numbers one through nine.

  • Times: Use a.m. and p.m., lowercase, with periods.
    • To avoid confusion, always use “noon” and “midnight” instead of 12 p.m. and 12 a.m. (And never, ever write “12 noon” or “12 midnight.”)
    • 8 p.m., not 8:00 p.m.; 11 a.m., not 11:00 a.m.
    • If using a.m. or p.m., do not also use “this morning” or “this evening.”
  • Dollars: Use a “$” followed by a numeral. Do not include the cents (.00) if the figure is zero.
    • Admission is $5. The shirt cost $17.98. The goal is $100 million.
    • Use figures with million or billion in all except casual cases (I’d like to make a billion dollars).
  • Percent: Use a number with %.
  • Ages: Always use figures.
    • A 5-year-old boy; the boy is 5 years old. The boy, 7, has a sister, 10. The race is for 3-year-olds. The woman is in her 30s.
  • Phone numbers: Use hyphens only.
    • 508-793-7441, not (508) 793-7441, and not 508.793.7441.
  • Centuries: Do not spell out, except for the first through the ninth, unless it starts a sentence.
    • 21st century; 19th century (do not use superscript for st, th, rd). Eighteenth-century women were restricted in their behavior.
    • Hyphenate when used as a modifier (19th-century writer; 17th- and 18th-century fashion)
  • Dates: Always use Arabic figures without st, nd, rd, or th. When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. Spell out months when using alone, or with a year alone.
    • He joined the company in February 2016.
    • That event usually happens in November.
    • The event is planned for May 8.
    • Join us on Sept. 15, 2019.
  • Weights: Use figures.
    • The baby weighed 6 pounds, 7 ounces.
    • She had a 6-pound, 7-ounce boy.
    • The employee must be able to lift 50 pounds.


  • At Clark, we generally do not use ampersands, particularly in text and in the names of offices, departments, and programs, except in the case of the Becker School of Design & Technology at Clark University). Otherwise, only use the & symbol if it is part of a company’s or a non-Clark organization’s official, branded name; spell out the word and. Note: ampersands are acceptable for artistic use in graphics or in extreme cases where space is an issue (e.g., labels, website menu items, tweets).


  • Use to make nouns possessive. Never use an apostrophe to pluralize a noun (including names).
  • Singular nouns not ending in s: Add ’s (the church’s needs, the girl’s toys, the VIP’s seat)
  • Singular common nouns ending in s: Add ’s (the hostess’s invitation, the witness’s story, the bus’s engine)
  • Singular proper nouns ending in s: Use only an apostrophe (Achilles’ heel, Agnes’ book, Dickens’ novels, Jesus’ life, Kansas’ schools)
  • Plural nouns not ending in s: Add ’s (the alumni’s contributions, the women’s march, the children’s books)
  • Plural nouns ending in s: Add only an apostrophe (the girls’ toys, the horses’ food, the ships’ wake, states’ rights)


  • Always use the serial comma (aka “Oxford comma”) after the penultimate item in a list of three or more items, before ‘and’ or ‘or’ (He will major in English, philosophy, or psychology). This is a departure from AP style, which mandates the use of a serial comma only when needed for clarity.
  • In quotes, commas always go inside the second quotation mark — no exceptions.
  • Use a comma in numbers greater than 999: Clark has more than 2,000 students.


The en dash (–) and em dash (—) have specific uses and are not interchangeable with the hyphen. Put a space on both sides of the em dash, but not the en dash. (The use of the en dash is an exception to AP Style.)

  • Use the en dash to indicate a range: 2009–2020; 4–6 p.m.; May–July 2019. But if the range is introduced with “from,” do not use a dash: from 2009 to 2020.
  • Use the em dash to denote an abrupt change in thought in a sentence or an emphatic pause, or in place of parentheses: Through her long reign, the royal family has adapted — usually skillfully — to the changing taste of the time.
  • Use the em dash in place of commas to set apart a list in a sentence: He noted the qualities — intelligence, humor, independence — he liked in an intern.

Quotation marks

  • The period and the comma go within the quotation marks — always.
  • Use single quotation marks inside double quotation marks for a quote-within-a-quote. For a quote-within-a-quote-within-a-quote, use double quotation marks again. (Although rewriting the sentence is advisable to avoid confusion.)
    • “Tom told Karen, ‘I heard our classmate say, “You don’t have to do that assignment until next week,” but I don’t think that’s right,’ so Karen went to the professor to ask.”
  • The dash, the semicolon, the question mark, and the exclamation point go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only. They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence. “I can’t believe it!” she said. Is Robert Goddard the “father of modern rocketry”?


Contact Information

University Marketing and Communications

Office Location
  • 138 Woodland Street
    Main Office, Room 207
    Worcester, MA 01610

  • 1-508-793-7441
  • 1-508-793-7565 FAX