Communications Style Guide

academic degrees

If mention of degrees is necessary to establish someone’s credentials, the preferred form is to avoid an abbreviation and use instead a phrase such as: John Jones, who has a doctorate in psychology.

Do not precede a name with a courtesy title for an academic degree and follow it with the abbreviation for the degree in the same reference.

  • associate degree (no possessive)
  • Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science
    • bachelor’s degree or bachelor’s
    • B.A., B.S.
    • Examples
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication
      • bachelor’s degree in communication
    • Master of Arts, Master of Science, Master of Business Administration
      • master’s degree or master’s
      • B.A., M.S., MBA
      • Examples
        • Master of Science in Biology
        • master’s degree in biology
      • doctor, doctorate, doctoral degree, doctoral candidate, Ph.D.

Use AP Style:

  • Use Dr. in first reference as a formal title before the name of an individual who holds a doctor of dental surgery, doctor of medicine, doctor of optometry, doctor of osteopathic medicine, doctor of podiatric medicine, or doctor of veterinary medicine: Dr. Jonas Salk.
  • If appropriate in the context, Dr. also may be used on first reference before the names of individuals who hold other types of doctoral degrees. However, because the public frequently identifies Dr. only with physicians, care should be taken to ensure that the individual’s specialty is stated in first or second reference.
  • Do not use Dr. before the names of individuals who hold only honorary doctorates.
  • Do not continue the use of Dr. in subsequent references.

academic departments

Use lowercase except for words that are proper nouns or adjectives, or when the word “department” is part of the official and formal name.


  • Abbreviate , Blvd. and St. only with a numbered address.
    • 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
  • Spell out and capitalize when part of a formal street name without a number.
    • Pennsylvania Avenue
  • Lowercase and spell out when used alone or with more than one street name.
    • Massachusetts and Pennsylvania avenues
  • All similar words are always spelled out. Same rules apply for use without a number, alone or with more than one.
    • alley, drive, road, terrace, circle, court


Not adviser

building names

  • Use the proper official title of the building on first reference.
  • Second reference can be shortened version or building acronym.
  • Examples of U buildings in their long and short forms:
    • Willard Marriott Library
      • Marriott Library
      • the library
    • Jon M. Huntsman Center
      • Huntsman Center
    • Olpin Student Union
      • Union building
      • the Union
    • Rice-Eccles Stadium
      • Rice-Eccles
      • the stadium
    • Spencer Fox Eccles Business Building
      • Eccles Business Building
      • Business Building
    • J. Quinney College of Law
      • College of Law building
      • law building
    • Warnock Engineering Building
      • the Engineering Building
      • WEB

commas (serial)

  • No comma before the and/or in the list
    • First, second and third
    • First, second or third.

composition titles

  • Italics (AP doesn’t use italics, but we deviate for journals)
    • Journals
  • Quotation marks
    • Books
    • Games
      • Video
      • Computer
      • Board
      • Mobile
    • Movies
    • Operas
    • Plays
    • Poems
    • Albums
    • Songs
    • Radio programs
    • TV programs
    • Lectures
    • Speeches
    • Works of art
  • No quotation marks
    • Mobile apps
    • Social media platforms
    • Courses/classes
    • The Bible
    • Newspapers
    • Magazines
    • Catalogs of reference material
    • Almanacs
    • Directories
    • Dictionaries
    • Encyclopedias
    • Gazetteers
    • Handbooks
    • Software (WordPerfect or Windows)

course/class titles

  • Capitalize
  • Do not italicize or use quotation marks.
    • Example: The History of Hip-Hop will be taught this summer.


  • Use an em dash () for the following:
    • To denote an abrupt change in thought in a sentence. But avoid overuse of dashes to set off phrases when commas would suffice.
      • Example: Through her long reign, the queen and her family have adapted ¾ usually skillfully  to the changing taste of the time.
    • In datelines
    • Always put a space on both sides of a dash.


  • 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 when using alone, or with a year alone.
    • Examples: January 1972 was a cold month. Jan. 2 was the coldest day of the month. His birthday is May 8. Feb. 14, 1987, was the target date. She testified that it was Friday, Dec. 3, when the accident occurred.


            No apostrophes: 1990s


  • Spell out amounts less than one in stories, using hyphens between the words: two-thirds, four-fifths, seven-sixteenths, etc.
  • Use figures for precise amounts larger than one, converting to decimals whenever practical.
  • In tabular material, use figures exclusively, converting to decimals if the amounts involve extensive use of fractions that cannot be expressed as a single character.



 genus, species

  • Italicize (deviation from AP)
  • In scientific or biological names, capitalize the first, or generic, Latin name for the class of plant or animal and lowercase the species that follows: Homo sapiens, Tyrannosaurus rex.
  • In second references, use the abbreviated form: borealis, T. rex.


            No periods


            One word



 log-on vs. log-in

  • log-on means to visit a page
  • log-in means to sign in with username and password


  • Capitalize the names of months in all uses.
  • When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec.
  • Spell out when using alone, or with a year alone.
  • When a phrase lists only a month and a year, do not separate the year with commas.
  • When a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with commas.
    • Examples: January 1972 was a cold month. Jan. 2 was the coldest day of the month. His birthday is May 8. Feb. 14, 1987, was the target date. She testified that it was Friday, Dec. 3, when the accident occurred.

 MOU, memorandum of understanding

  • Lowercase memorandum of understanding.
  • MOU on second reference and in headlines.

 more than, over

Acceptable in all uses to indicate greater numerical value. Salaries went up more than $20 a week. Salaries went up over $20 a week.


  • Words: zero through nine
  • Numerals: 10 and above
  • Do not use superscript for numeral ordinals
    • Words: First, second, third…ninth
    • Numerals: 10th and above
    • Exception is in a title: He was a member of the 1st Marine Division.


Acceptable in all uses to indicate greater numerical value. The crop was valued at over $5 billion.


  • Use hyphens or ‘to’ for ranges of dates or times, but never a dash.


  • April 22-28 or April 22 to April 28
  • 2-4 p.m. or 2 to 4 p.m.
  • The form: $12 million to $14 million. Not: $12 to $14 million. Also: A pay increase of 12-15 percent. Or: A pay increase of between 12 and 15 percent.

 security bugs

            Capitalized, no italics, no quotation marks


One word (n. and adj.) to describe a new business venture. 

state names

Spell out the names of the 50 U.S. states when used in the body of a story, whether standing alone or in conjunction with a city, town, village or military base. No state name is necessary if it is the same as the dateline. This also applies to newspapers cited in a story.


  • Use 2 p.m., not 2:00 p.m. But 2:30 p.m. is fine.


  • academic titles
  • Capitalize and spell out formal title such as chancellor, chairman, etc., when it precedes a name.
  • Lowercase elsewhere.
  • Lowercase modifiers such as department in department Chairman Jerome Wiesner.


            Not “towards”

 “under” can also mean “less than”

University of Utah, university, U

  • University of Utah on first reference.
  • The university or the U on subsequent references.
  • Never the University.


  • webcam, webcast and webmaster
  • Short form for World Wide Web and in terms with separate words, the web, webpage and web feed.
  • Do not put full URL or www in stories. Do one of the following:
    • Link to partial website: edu
    • Link to the word here or website: For more information, click here. For more information, visit the website.