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Wording Guidelines

The overall tone of Cabrini communications should be warm and welcoming, clear and concise, putting our stories first.

Break up content into brief paragraphs and use section headers, bulleted lists, quotes, columns, photos, graphics, and other styling.

Use the following wording guidelines to maintain consistency and clarity in communications, following best practices.

Academic Degrees and Names
Use abbreviations such as PhD or EdD only after a full name, never after just a last name.

Do not include non-doctoral degrees like B.A. or M.A. or use 'Dr.' for an academic degree.

Abbreviate 'Jr.' and 'Sr.' in names with a period after and no comma before.

Titles should follow the name, set off with commas:

  • John Doe, PhD, is adjunct professor -not- Dr. John Doe MA PhD is adjunct professor.

On second reference to a person with any degree, use last name only. Capitalize titles when preceding names, but not when listed as a position:

  • Associate Professor of History John Doe has been at Cabrini since 1990.
  • John Doe, associate professor of history, has been at Cabrini since 1990.
  • John Doe is an associate professor of history at Cabrini.

Use an “apostrophe s” in bachelor’s degree and master’s degree, but not in master of science, etc.

Capitalize formal degree titles (Master of Accounting), but not informal descriptions (his master’s).

Avoid using unfamiliar acronyms, jargon, or insider terminology.

Clarify acronyms in parentheses on first reference; do not use acronyms unless there are multiple references.

  • Capitalize acronyms, and only use periods in academic degrees (user ID -not- userid; PDF -not- Pdf or P.D.F.).
  • Pluralize acronyms with an 's' and no apostrophe (DVDs, ATMs, ATVs).
  • Do not follow acronyms with words that are part of the acronym (PIN -not- PIN number; ATM -not- ATM machine).

Alumni, Alumnus, Alumna, Alumnae
Use 'alumni' to refer to graduates from a specific institution ('alumnus' for a male and 'alumna' for a female).

For plurals, use 'alumni' unless all are females, in which case 'alumnae' is preferred.

  • Use an abbreviated phrasing for Cabrini graduation years with in parentheses: 
    John Doe (’87)
  • Use a comma between multiple Cabrini degrees: John Doe (’87, MEd’94, EdD’20)
  • Use prospective year of graduation for current students: John Doe (’16).
  • Use an HON for honorary degrees, and a P for parents of Cabrini students.
  • List degrees in chronological order (including parents and honorary degrees).

For non-Cabrini degrees and Esq., follow the name directly, offset in commas, with Cabrini class years following in parentheses. 

  • John Doe, PhD (’87) or Jane Doe, Esq. (’89, MA’93)

Use apostrophes for:

  • possesives (a student’s notebook, 2012’s biggest news stories, Founder’s Hall, Dean’s List)
  • punctuating years (the class of ’78, ’90s TV shows) - Note the direction, which should be closed [’], not open [‘].
  • individual letters or numbers (A’s on all my finals, 100’s on quizzes)

Do not use apostrophes for plurals (the 1800s, CDs, the ’60s, RAs, bananas).

Building Names
When referring to Cabrini buildings and offices, use the full name instead of an abbreviation and check for spelling, apostrophes, and other details.

Capitalize terms when referring to Cabrini or its facilities specifically, but not in general reference:

  • The Bookstore is next to The Cabrini Bean. Cabrini has a well-stocked bookstore and a cozy café.
  • The University is located in Radnor.

Capitalize and italicize Justice Matters and Education of the Heart as official titles for Cabrini’s core curriculum and mission.

  • Capitalize specific courses, but not general coursework (Math 113, British Literature, an accounting class).
  • Capitalize formal degree titles (Master of Accounting), but not informal descriptions (his master’s).
  • Do not capitalize areas of study, except languages: biology major, BA in philosophy, BAs in English and Spanish

Capitalize the following items:

  • names of specific offices (the Financial Aid Office, the Admissions Office)
  • acronyms and brand names (AIDS, PDF, HTML, FBI, FedEx, Google, Xerox, Scrabble, Frisbee)
  • terms with an initial letter and hyphen (T-shirt, X-ray, U-turn)
  • languages, nationalities, and ethnicities (English, American, Arab, Latino, Navajo)
  • religions, specific deities, ceremonies, and sacred books (God, Allah, Judaism, Mass, the Koran)
  • specific locations, but not general directions (the Middle East, south of the border)
  • holidays and special events (Christmas, Cabrini Day, Easter, Alumni Weekend, Yom Kippur, Diwali)
  • days, months, time periods, and events (Tuesday, April, the Renaissance, the Great Depression)

Do not capitalize seasons (fall semester) or the words internet, email, or website.

Only capitalize the word 'the' to begin a sentence or if part of the official name of a publication.

Cities and States
For all U.S. cities, list the city and state abbreviation (KansasCity, Mo. and Kansas City, Kan.).

Spell out Alaska, Hawai`i, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, and Utah.

Do not include the state for Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, or Washington.

Class Years
Capitalize “Class of...” but not words like sophomore and junior.

To refer to students, use:

  • first-year student (not freshman), sophomore, junior, or senior (John Doe, a sophomore communication major)
  • the abbreviated year of graduation or expected year of graduation (John Doe ’16)

Use a G for graduate students, an HON for honorary degrees, and a P for parents of Cabrini students:

  • John Doe G’87, Mary Smith HON’02, John Doe P’14

For a list of three or more items, include a comma before 'and' or 'or' to avoid confusion with an appositive:

  • Unclear: He lived with his parents, a dog and a hamster (unless the animals are the parents).
  • Preferred: He lived with his parents, a dog, and a hamster.

Use a comma:

  • to introduce direct quotations (He said, “It can’t happen!”)
  • to separate appositives and independent clauses (My sister, Keisha, is an alumna, like I am.)
  • in numbers more than one thousand ($1,000 -not- $1000)
  • in dates (between day and month, as well as before and after the year)
  • after 'etc.' except when ending the sentence (Bring paper, pens, folders, etc., to the workshop.)
  • before and after 'i.e.' and 'e.g.' (Bring supplies, e.g., paper, pens, folders, etc.)

Do not surround 'Jr.', 'Sr.', or 'III' in names with commas.
Do not use a comma between a season or month and a year (January 2016 started the spring 2016 semester).

Format dates as month/date/year (Oct. 15, 2016, -not- 15 Oct. 2016).

  • Do not include 'th', 'nd', 'st', or 'rd' after a date (Oct. 15 -not- Oct. 15th).
  • When used with a date, abbreviate all months except March, April, May, June, and July (Feb. 1–March 1).

Spell out the full month with no comma when written alone or with a year but no date:

  • the month of August -not- the month of Aug. / August 1990 -not- Aug. 1990 or August, 1990,

Use an apostrophe for abbreviated years (the class of ’78, ’90s TV shows). Do not use an apostrophe for plural years (the 1800s, a very ’50s haircut).

For date spans with the first two digits the same, do not repeat them (1873–75 -not- 1873–1875).

Set off dates and years with commas (D-Day happened on Tuesday, June 6, 1944, at Normandy).

Hyphenate phrases acting as adjectives (study-abroad program, first-year students, state-of-the-art TV).

  • Do not hyphenate 'very' or words ending in 'ly' (brightly colored shirt, very late dinner).
  • Use suspensive hyphens (a 12- to 15-year project, on- and off-campus students).
  • Use a hyphen with the prefix 'self-' or 'co-' (self-sustaining, co-sponsor).

Use em dashes to emphasize separate clauses (The program—introduced just last month—is already very popular.)

Do not hyphenate ethnicity terms (Native Americans, African American students, Irish American organizations).

Do not hyphenate the words email, fundraising, nonprofit, website, homepage, database, or online.

Inclusive, Person-First Language
Avoid descriptions of ethnicity, age, ability, sexual orientation, marital status, gender, etc., when not relevant.

  • Avoid outdated terms (sexual preference, colored, crippled, retarded, handicapped, hermaphrodite).
  • Use gender-neutral terms (chair or police officer -not- chairwoman or policeman).
  • When possible, use terms preferred by the person or group of people concerned.

Avoid gender-specific pronouns in uncertain situations:

  • Wrong: Each office’s supervisor should inform his staff.
  • Preferred: Each office’s supervisor should inform his or her staff. / Office supervisors should inform their staff.

Use language that focuses on the person first (people with schizophrenia -not- schizophrenics). Avoid generalizing terms for groups (people who are disabled -not- the disabled).

Avoid using terms like 'normal' to refer to people without disabilities. 

Avoid negative, exaggerated terms:

  • Wrong: He is stricken with cerebral palsy and wheelchair-bound.
  • Preferred: He has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.

Avoid using visual layout descriptions in references:

  • Use 'preceding' and 'following' instead of 'above' and 'below' to reference other content.
  • Refer to 'navigation menu' or page numbers instead of using phrases like 'on the left' or 'at the top.'
  • Provide the link itself, rather than directing to the link through a visual description.

Spell out 'one' through 'nine', and use numerals for '10' or more.
Spell out 'first' through 'ninth', and use numerals for '10th' or more.
Use numerals without endings like 'th' or 'rd' in times and dates.

Spell out numbers if beginning the sentence (Eleven days later, she had returned with 11 books).

Spell out generalized numbers (a million-to-one shot, thousands of people, a hundred times).

Use numerals for ages, dollar amounts, and centuries (She is 49, 5-year-old twins, $30, 16th Century art).

Use numerals and denominations for very large numbers (2.75 million).

Phone Numbers
List the full phone number with periods:

  • 610.902.8100 -not- 8100 or x8100 or (610) 902-8100 or 610-902-8100


  • Pluralize acronyms with an 's' and no apostrophe (PDFs, SATs, ABCs, CEOs).
  • Pluralize individual letters or numbers with an apostrophe and 's' (C’s on my report card, 100’s on quizzes, B-’s and A+’s).
  • Pluralize the noun in complex phrases (brothers-in-law, trustees emerita, attorneys general, passers-by).
  • Do not pluralize terms that are already plural (deer, halibut, corn, series, sheep, species, scissors, hors d’oeuvres).
  • Use plural verbs with plural nouns, including irregular plurals (data are, curricula were available, syllabi are offered).

Special Characters and Styles

  • Do not use the @ symbol in place of 'at' except in email addresses.
  • Do not use the & symbol in place of 'and' in sentences.
  • Do not use the ~ symbol in place of a hyphen or / symbol in place of 'and' or 'or'.

Spell out 'degrees,' 'percent,' 'cents,' 'feet,' and 'inches,' instead of using °, %, ¢, ', or " symbols.

Do not use superscripted text for 'th', 'nd', 'st', or 'rd' after a number.

Spell out words like 'first' and 'third.'

  • For dollar amounts greater than 99 cents, use a dollar sign and numeral: $10
  • For round-number dollar amounts, do not include zeros: $7 -not- $7.00

Use special letter characters (é in café, ñ in quinceañera, ` in Hawai`i, ä in Häagen-Dazs).

  • Use a closed apostrophe before alumni years (John Doe ’16).
  • Use only one space between sentences and only one exclamation point or question mark.
  • For online text, do not underline for emphasis; reserve underlines for hyperlinks.

Use asterisks*, daggers†, and double-daggers‡ only for footnotes, appearing after the word and any punctuation, annotated at the bottom of the page, not for emphasis or formatting.

Use ellipses (to indicate words left out of a quote) as three periods ( ... ) with a space before and after.

Do not use "http://" or specific page locations like "index.html" in websites, unless necessary. Do not use a colon before websites or emails or wrap them with special characters:

  • Wrong: Visit their website: < http://www.cabrini.edu/admissions.aspx/ >
  • Preferred: Visit www.cabrini.edu/admissions.
  • A full list of shortened aliases is available at www.cabrini.edu/Alias.

Italicize the names of publications (The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Post).

For online content—for readability and to keep time details on the same line of text—format times with ':00' or ':30', etc., and include 'AM' or 'PM' in uppercase without periods and without a space before:

  • 3:00PM -not- 3 PM or 3 p.m. or 3p

Do not repeat AM or PM for a time range (12:30–6:30PM -not- 12:30PM–6:30PM).

For time spans, use either 'from' and 'to' or a dash, but not both:

  • Wrong: The meeting is from 3:00 - 5:00PM.
  • Preferred: The meeting is from 3:00 to 5:00PM / The meeting is 3:00–5:00PM

Do not use 'o’clock' except in quoted material or special contexts, such as formal invitations.

Common Mistakes and Preferred Wording

accept / except
Use 'accept' with an 'a' as a verb meaning 'to take.'
Use 'except' with an 'e' as a preposition meaning 'other than.'

advice / advise / inform
Use 'advice' with a 'c' as a noun and 'advise' with an 's' as a verb.
Unless actually offering advice, use 'inform.'

a lot / allot
Spell 'a lot' as two words; 'alot' is not a word. Use 'allot' as a verb meaning 'to distribute.'

a part / apart
Spell 'a part' as two words to mean 'a piece of something.' Spell 'apart' as one word to mean 'separated.'

anxious / eager
Use 'anxious' to imply anxiety and a negative feeling. Use 'eager' for a positive feeling.

beside / besides
Use 'beside' to mean 'next to' and 'besides' to mean except or also.

between / among
Use 'between' for two things and 'among' for three or more.

breath / breathe
Use 'breath' as a noun and 'breathe' with an 'e' as a verb.

choose / chose
Use 'chose' with one 'o' as a past-tense verb of 'choose' with two 'o's.

complement / compliment
Use 'complement' and 'complementary' with an 'e' for things that match or go together well.
Use 'compliment' and 'complimentary' with an 'i' for praise or flattering comments.
Use 'complimentary' with an 'i' for things that are free of charge.

conscience / conscious
Use 'concsience' and 'conscientious' to mean 'a sense of right and wrong.'
Use 'conscious' and 'consciousness' to mean 'aware or deliberate.'

due to / because of
Use 'due' for paperwork, payments, and deadlines (Due on the first of the month to the office).
Use 'because of' for cause and effect (Because of bad storms not Due to bad storms).

dessert / desert
Use 'dessert' with a double 's' for an after-dinner meal or delicious food.
Use 'desert' with one 's' for a dry location or as a verb meaning 'to abandon' (as in an empty desert).
The phrase 'just deserts' (that which is justly deserved) has one 's.'

different from / different than
Use 'different from' instead of 'different than.' Use 'than' only for comparatives like 'bigger than' or 'stronger than.'

effect / affect
Use 'effect' with an 'e' as a noun and 'affect' with an 'a' as a verb, with the following exceptions:

  • Use 'effect' with an 'e' as a verb in the expression 'to effect change' (to create an effect).
  • Use 'affect' with an 'a' as a noun meaning an outward and usually false or forced display.

e.g. / i.e.
Use 'e.g.,' before a list of examples and 'i.e.,' before a clarification or restatement.
Italicize 'e.g.,' and 'i.e.,' and include a comma before and after.

eminent / imminent
Use 'eminent' with an 'e' for something extraordinary, primary, or of note.
Use 'imminent' with an 'i' for somethign immediately happening or impending.

ensure / insure
Use 'insure' with an 'i' only in relation to insurance.

everyday / every day
Use 'everyday' as one word only as an adjective (an everyday occurrence). Otherwise, it’s two words.

farther / further
Use 'farther' with an 'a' for physical distance and 'further' with a 'u' for time, amount, or intensity.

good / well
Use 'good' as an adjective and 'well' as an adverb (a good dog that hunts well).
In usage meaning 'healthy' or 'fine,' both 'to feel well' and 'to feel good' are acceptable.

hers / his
Do not put an apostrophe in the words 'hers' or 'his' (This jackets is hers, but the hat is his).

historic / historical
Use 'historic' to imply importance and 'historical' for things related to history or time.

I / me
Use 'me' instead of 'I' after a preposition (It's important to her and me not to she and I).

if / whether
Use 'whether' when talking about options or choices (I can't decide whether I want pizza or tacos).
Use 'if' when talking about possibility (If I'm thirsty, I'll drink some water).

in / during
Use 'in' for physical proximity and 'during' for time (during the ’80s).

it’s / its
Use 'it’s' with an apostrophe to mean 'it is' (It’s bad that your car got smashed).
Use 'its' without an apostrophe as a possessive, belonging to “it” (Its hood is dented).

lay / lie
Use 'lay' when a noun follows (Chickens lay eggs) and 'lie' in the expression 'to lie down.'
In the past tense, 'lay' is 'laid' (also spelled 'layed') and 'lie down' is 'lay down' or 'had lain down.'

less / fewer / under
Use 'fewer' for items that can be counted individually (fewer coins, less money).
Replace 'under,' 'below,' and other physical descriptions with 'less than' or 'fewer than' for amounts.

lose / loose
Use 'lose' with one 'o' as a verb (opposite of win or find) and 'loose' with two 'o's as an adjective (opposite of 'tight').

many / much
Use 'many' for items that can be counted individually (many storms, much damage).

may / might
Use 'may' for permission and 'might' for possibility, to reduce confusion.

media / mediums
Use 'media' as the plural of 'medium' and with a plural verb, except in the expression 'the media.'
Use 'mediums' to mean medium-sized objects or psychic fortune-tellers.

more / higher / above / over
Replace 'higher,' 'above,' 'over,' and other physical descriptions with 'more' for amounts, to reduce confusion.

  • Unclear: Profits this year are above last year’s (shown above on a chart, but a lesser amount).
  • Preferred: Profits this year are more than last year’s. / Profits this year increased from last year.

of / have
Use 'have' and not 'of' in phrases like 'must have' or 'should have' (You could have been great -not- You could of been great).

on / about
Use 'on' for physical proximity and 'about' to mean 'concerning' or 'related to,' to reduce confusion.

  • Unclear: a presentation on the Mansion (unless literally standing on top of the Mansion)
  • Preferred: a presentation about the Mansion

once / when / after
Replace 'once' with 'when' or 'after' if not meaning 'one time' as in “I once knew her.”

  • Unclear: Once you submit the application, you can attend the meeting.
  • Preferred: When you submit... / After you submit...

principle / principal
Use 'principle' with an 'le' as a noun to mean 'a law or standard.'
Use 'principal' with an 'al' as an adjective to mean 'important' or as a noun (principal of my school).

she and he / her and him
Use 'her' and 'him' instead of 'she' and 'he' after a preposition (It's important to her and me not to she and I).

should / if
Replace 'should' with 'if' in conditional cases, to avoid confusion.

  • Unclear: Should a student be expelled, he or she may not graduate.
  • Preferred: If a student is expelled, he or she may not graduate.

since / because
Use 'since' for timeframes, as in “Since I was a child, I’ve liked trains” and “He’s been here since noon.”
Replace 'since' with 'because' or other wording if meaning cause and effect, to reduce confusion.

  • Unclear: Since you’re up, you can finish your project.
  • Preferred: Now that you're up, you can finish your project.

stationary / stationery
Use 'stationary' with an 'a' to refer to something standing still and 'stationery' with an 'e' for paper.

then / than
Use 'than' for comparatives only (more than, better than, I’d rather do this than that).

there / they’re / their
Use 'they’re' with an apostrophe to mean 'they are.' Use 'their' as a possessive (their house).

there’s / theirs
Use 'there’s' with an apostrophe to mean 'there is.' Use 'theirs' as a plural possessive, belonging to them (it is theirs).

thru / through
Use 'through' instead of 'thru' in formal writing.

which / that / who

  • Use 'that' for clauses with necessary information (The class that she wanted was full).
  • Use 'which' for clauses with additional information (The program, which is new, has become very popular).
  • Use 'who' for clauses referencing a person (the person who took the last spot).

while / although
Use 'while' when talking about timeframes, such as 'while we were in class.'
Otherwise replace 'while' with 'although' or similar wording, to reduce confusion.

  • Unclear: While reporting harassment can be difficult, it is important to take action.
  • Preferred: Even though reporting harassment can be difficult, it is important to take action

who’s / whose
Use 'who’s' with an apostrophe to mean 'who is' (Who’s the boss?).
Use 'whose' without an apostrophe as a possessive (Whose child is this? Whose line is it?).

you’re / your
Use 'you’re' with an apostrophe to mean 'you are' and 'your' as a possessive (You’re wearing your new hat).

yours / ours
Do not use an apostrophe in 'yours' or 'ours' as possessives (They’re all yours; these are ours).

For all other general guidance in grammar and spelling, refer to Associated Press (AP) style. For more information and the AP Stylebook, visit www.apstylebook.com.