Writing and Editing Guide

The following guidelines for grammar and usage are intended to address questions of style that are frequently encountered in University publications. In addition to this guide, the office of publications uses The Associated Press Stylebook as its main reference for questions of style.

Academic degrees

In text: The preference is to use words instead of an abbreviation. For example, “Jane Doe earned a bachelor’s degree in botany in 1995,” not “Jane Doe earned a BS in 1995.”

Correct punctuation and use:

  • bachelor’s degree (but no apostrophe for Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science; both are also proper nouns so are capitalized)
  • master’s degree
  • “doctoral” as an adjective and “doctorate” as a noun: “They all earned doctoral degrees.” “They all earned doctorates.” The University breaks with Associated Press style to give the courtesy title “Dr.” to academic professionals with doctoral degrees. Give this title on first reference only (Dr. Jane Smith, then Smith on second reference).

In lists: Use abbreviations only when the need to identify many individuals by degree on first reference would make the preferred form cumbersome (i.e., long lists of faculty or Class Notes in Missouri State magazine). When you do use a degree abbreviation, do not set it off with periods:

  • BA, BS
  • BFA
  • MA
  • MBA
  • PhD
  • Plurals of all of the above take an “s” but no apostrophe: MAs, PhDs
  • When a name is followed by a degree abbreviation, set the abbreviation off with comma: John Smith, PhD

Academic credentials and certifications

Here is the preferred style for a list of staff or faculty when you want to name their degree and credentials, certifications and/or other associations:

  • Name (no courtesy title even if PhD because that will be listed after and a double listing would be redundant)
  • Highest degree a person has received
  • Certifications following a name should be avoided if they are vague to the general public. However, if they are to be listed they should go in order received. No periods.
  • Licensing/memberships/associations should be avoided if they are vague to the general public. However, if they are to be listed they should go in alphabetical order. No periods.

For example:

  • Betsy Ross, PhD, CPA, AICPA
  • George Washington, MBA, CFP


Use United States Postal Service style for addresses, which means abbreviation of directional (N. instead of North) and street (Ave. instead of Avenue). Use the postal-code abbreviation for states in an address (MO instead of Mo. or Missouri).

Correct: Missouri State University, 901 S. National Ave., Springfield, MO 65897


Use only when part of a formal name or other proper noun (i.e., Smith & Smith Law Firm) or in a list when space is at a premium (though this usage is discouraged). Do not use to substitute for the word "and" in text. Do not use in a University department name.


Use to show possession and omitted figures. Do not use with plurals of numbers or multiple-letter combinations (CDs, not CD's). Do not use with decades on any reference (i.e., 1980s becomes '80s in a second reference, not 80's).

Athletic teams

All Missouri State University athletic teams are named the Bears (always capitalize; do not place in quotes or italics). Proper team names are always capitalized, i.e., Lady Bears, Football Bears, Basketball Bears, Baseball Bears, Volleyball Bears. However, the sport is not capitalized when not used as part of the proper name – for example, “the Bears won the volleyball match” or “the Volleyball Bears won the match” are both correct.

Attribution of quotes

  • Best practice is to use "said" or "says." This is the verb of choice for quote attributions because it is a largely invisible, neutral, impartial word that doesn't call attention to itself and does explain exactly what the speaker did. Words such as "exclaimed," "declared," "remarked," "stated," etc., all have connotations that may distract from the person being quoted and insert the writer instead. Even "noted" calls itself into attention more than "said."
  • It's appropriate to include more info about how the person said their statement after the verb, i.e., "he said, while laughing," or "he said with a grimace." Those are facts and sound less stilted than "he laughed" or "he grimaced" since people don't laugh a sentence, they say it.
  • It's best to put the quoted person's name before the verb if possible (i.e., "Smith said," not "said Smith" and "she said," not "said she").

Bear mascot

Missouri State’s athletic mascot is the Bear. Always capitalize; do not place in quotes or italics.

Bear Line

The shuttle system for the campus of Missouri State. Not "BearLine" or "Bearline."


One word, "W" capitalized. Clothing and accessories from Missouri State featuring the University's name, logo, the Bear head, etc. Every Friday is BearWear Friday on campus and the surrounding community.

Board of Governors

Missouri State University is under the general control and management of a nine-member Board of Governors, representing each of Missouri's nine congressional districts. Capitalize Board of Governors on first reference. Further references may be to "the Board," also capitalized.

Class years

When abbreviating years to two digits, put an apostrophe (’) in front of the years of classes.

  • John Smith, ’09

When referring to a class, use all four digits.

  • Class of 2009


Numbers – Use a comma with figures higher than 999. Don’t use commas in street address numbers, broadcast frequencies, room numbers, serial numbers, telephone numbers, years and temperatures.

Series/serial comma – Do not use a serial comma, which is a comma before “and” or “or” in a series. Example: apples, oranges and pears NOT apples, oranges, and pears

Name abbreviations – Do not use commas before or after these: Jr.; Sr.; Inc. or II, III, etc. (Example: Bill Johnson Sr. NOT Bill Johnson, Sr.). An exception is made when the person requests the comma.

Dates and times

Spell out all months when they stand alone without a date: August 2009. Use abbreviation for January, February, August, September, October, November and December when they are used with a date: Aug. 29, 2009. Never abbreviate March, April, May, June, July. Do not use commas to set off the year when the month but not the day is used (September 2009 NOT September, 2009).

In time references, use figures with a.m. and p.m. consistently throughout ("9 a.m.," not "nine a.m." or "9 AM").

Days of the week are capitalized and not abbreviated (unless used in tabular form).

Grade point average

First reference in text should read "grade point average," no hyphen and lowercase. Second reference can be GPA, no periods. Use figures to express GPAs to one decimal place. Add extra decimal places when accuracy is essential. Examples: 3.8 GPA; GPA of 3.45.


Hyphenate the following when used as compound modifiers:

  • Full-time
  • Part-time
  • On-campus
  • Off-campus

Naming the University

The official name of the institution is Missouri State University. First reference of the University’s name should be “Missouri State University” or “Missouri State.” Subsequent references may be “Missouri State,” “the University,” “the institution” or “MSU.”

In situations that require use of the institution's former name in text, use "then" as a preface (i.e., then-Southwest Missouri State University; then-Missouri State Normal School).

In situations that have a list of a person's credentials, change to Missouri State (i.e.: Jane Doe, PhD, Southwest Missouri State University BECOMES Jane Doe, PhD, Missouri State University)

Naming the University's president

Missouri State University President Clif Smart (full name Clifton M. Smart III); if the title comes after the name, lowercase: Clif Smart, president of the University


Spell out numbers from zero to nine. Use figures for numbers 10 or higher, including ordinal numbers.

Percentages and decimals

The word "percent" should be spelled out in text (reserve the percent symbol, %, for use in graphics or statistics material). Use figures for decimal fractions and percentages. Example: 5 percent, not five percent or 5%; 3.5 percent, not 3 1/2 percent.

Preferred capitalizations, spellings and usage

academic degrees – Capitalize when part of a proper noun, lowercase when not. Examples: Bachelor of Arts in English, Master of Business Administration, bachelor's degree, master's degree

actor/actress – Use actor for both genders. Only use "actress" when it is part of an award title or other official title (i.e. Best Actress).

advisor – Not "adviser"

ages – Ages are numerals (25 years old, not twenty-five). Use "younger than" and "older than" instead of terms such as "over" (i.e., "students older than 18 may apply" is correct, not "students over 18 may apply").

Bear Line shuttle system – Not "BearLine" or "Bearline." Do not hyphenate.

BearPass (with BearPass card or BearPass login) – One word, B and P capitalized.

campus – Always lowercase. Examples: Springfield campus, West Plains campus

cellphone – One word, no hyphen

centers – Names of University centers are capitalized. Example: Center for Archaeological Research

coed – As a noun, this is an outdated term for a female college student; do not use the noun form. As an adjective, may be used to describe residence halls that offer housing for both genders, or intramural teams on which both men and women play.

colleges – Names of University colleges are capitalized. Example: College of Arts and Letters

Common Reader – The Common Reader is the book read by all first-year students.

course work – Two words; hyphenated when used as a compound modifier

curricular-learning communities – Three words, first two hyphenated, not capitalized. Can be CLC or CLCs on second reference.

departments – Names of University departments are lowercase when used in body copy. They are capitalized when used independently or in a list.

  • Elements of the art and design department are located in Brick City.
  • Department of Art and Design
  • Art and Design Department

dorm versus residence hallOur preferred term is "residence hall." May use "hall" on second reference. Avoid use of "dorm."

email – Lowercase “e” (unless beginning a sentence) and no hyphen. (But use a hyphen with other e-terms: e-book, e-business, e-commerce)

ensure, insure – Use ensure to mean guarantee and insure for references to insurance.

headings and subheadings – Capitalize first word and proper nouns in headings and subheadings. Examples: Congress votes to go with the plan; Board of Governors to meet with president

homecoming – Capitalize Missouri State Homecoming. Lowercase homecoming in general use.

impact – Use this word as a noun only (i.e., "had an impact on") not a verb (i.e., "this will impact students"). Impact as a verb is not a synonym for "affect" or "influence" – it means to strike forcefully (think meteor hitting Earth). Variations of the verb form, including "impactful," are not recognized by most dictionaries and therefore should not be used.

Internet – Capitalized

Kolkata – The Indian city formerly known as Calcutta

living-learning communities – Three words, first two hyphenated, not capitalized. Can be LLC or LLCs on second reference.

Missouri State University system – lowercase "system."

noncredit – Not non-credit. Most "non" words are one word, no hyphen. If in doubt, check Webster's Dictionary.

offices – Names of University offices are lowercase when used in body copy. They are capitalized when used independently or in a list.

  • The office of publications is located in the Kenneth E. Meyer Alumni Center.
  • Office of Publications
  • Publications Office

online, not "on line" or "on-line"

over or more than? "Over" refers to a spatial relationship ("the light hangs over the table"). "More than" is a quantity ("more than 40 students came to class," not "over 40 students").

phone numbers – Use dashes, not periods. Correct style: 417-836-4142 or 800-000-0000

practicum/practica/practicums – A practicum is a course that gives students hands-on, practical application of theory. The plural is either "practica" (the traditional, Latin form) or "practicums" (the modernized plural now recommended by the Oxford and American Heritage dictionaries). Missouri State's preferred plural is practicums, though either is technically correct.

schools – Names of University schools are uppercase. Example: School of Social Work

season/semester – The names of the seasons and semesters are not capitalized (i.e., fall semester)

slide show – Two words; hyphenated when used as a compound modifier

smartphone – One word, no hyphen

state of Missouri – Lowercase “state" in this phrase

student-athlete - Hyphenated

student classification – Do not capitalize the words freshman, sophomore, junior, senior or graduate when referring to the classification of a student or to the year in which a course is taken.

theatre – Use this British spelling when referring to a proper name that uses this form. Otherwise, use "theater." The two spellings mean the same thing.

  • Tent Theatre
  • Theatre and Dance Department
  • Plaster Student Union Theater

The Founders Club – An organization for supporters of Missouri State. Capitalize the "T."

The Standard – The student-run newspaper of Missouri State. Capitalize the "T."

titles of people – Capitalize titles that appear before a name and lowercase titles that appear after a name. Examples: Missouri State University President Clif Smart OR Clif Smart, president of Missouri State University

titles of compositions – Use quotation marks around the titles of books, songs, television shows, computer games, poems, lectures, speeches and works of art. Examples: Alumnus and author Kevin Brockmeier read from his book “The Illumination.” They sang "The Scotsman" before the game. Do not use quotations around the names of magazine, newspapers, the Bible or books that are catalogues of reference materials. Examples: The Standard first reported the story. He reads the Bible every morning. Do not underline or italicize any compositions.

Under, fewer than or less than? “Under” refers to spatial relationships ("the dog is under the table”). “Fewer than” and “less than” are used with numbers and amounts. Use “fewer than” with things you can count (books, students, computers, etc.) and “less than” with mass nouns – things you cannot count individually (clutter, furniture, honesty, wisdom, etc.). If you cannot make the word plural (as in, “I have many honesties,”), it’s a mass noun.

University – In first reference, always use Missouri State University. Subsequent references may be Missouri State, University (uppercase) or MSU.

website – One word, lowercase

Public affairs terms

Our public affairs mission helps set Missouri State apart and is an important part of the University. Here are the styles for some public affairs events, awards and terms:

  • Citizen Scholar Award; Citizen Scholar(s)
  • Collaborative Diversity Conference
  • Common Reader
  • Community Engagement Project
  • ethical leadership, cultural competence, community engagement (the three pillars of the mission; not capitalized)
  • Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame
  • New Student Convocation
  • public affairs mission: No hyphen, lowercase unless it begins a sentence
  • Public Affairs Conference
  • Public Affairs Convocation
  • Public Affairs Week


Use only one space between sentences or after a colon.


The names of the 50 U.S. states should be spelled out when used in the body of a story, whether standing alone or in conjunction with a city, town, village or military base.

PUNCTUATION: Place one comma between the city and the state name, and another comma after the state name, unless ending a sentence or indicating a dateline: He was traveling from Nashville, Tennessee, to Austin, Texas, en route to his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She said Cook County, Illinois, was Mayor Daley’s stronghold.

CLARITY: Use "New York state" when necessary to distinguish the state from New York City. Use "state of Washington" or "Washington state" when necessary to distinguish the state from the District of Columbia.


Titles of people – Capitalize titles that appear before a name and lowercase titles that appear after a name.

  • Missouri State University President Clif Smart
  • Clif Smart, president of Missouri State University

Titles of publications – books, journals, newspapers, websites and magazines should be treated in italic fonts (Gone With the Wind, Wall Street Journal)

  • Titles of minor works – essays, songs, articles within periodicals, podcasts – are to be set off in quotation marks ("Singing in the Rain")

Web addresses

Best practices:

  • In print, start all website addresses with www as opposed to http:// – for instance: www.missouristate.edu, NOT http://www.missouristate.edu
  • Websites should be treated in italics to stand out against other text and represent a call to action. If italics style is not available, use bold.
  • Websites should not be written in sentences if possible. Make them stand out and don't force them to have a period after them. For example, change "You can learn more at our website, www.website.com." to this shorter, more glance-box style: "Learn more: www.website.com" This form also allows designers to pull out the websites in text as a glance box or visual element.