Editorial style & standards


The University Marketing & Communications Style Guide contains the suggested writing guidelines for University of Washington publications. Although individual schools, colleges and units across our three campuses may follow their own style, the topics included here are intended to guide word choice and usage to ensure consistency and support our collective effort to express the university brand.

As noted in the Editorial Guidelines, when communicating about the UW, follow these guidelines:

  • Use familiar and user-friendly language; avoid highly-scientific and jargon-laden descriptions.
  • Communicate in a friendly and conversational tone. This helps us be accessible to the target audience.
  • Follow the guidelines suggested for Communicating the UW brand story. Be sure to focus on students, lead with a shared human concern for challenges being addressed by UW students and faculty, and reflect on the University’s importance in the region.

The following editorial guidelines evolved from a combination of sources: The Associated Press Stylebook, The Chicago Manual of Style, The Gregg Reference Manual, Webster’s New World College and Collegiate dictionaries. This document will change and develop as issues need clarification and revision. If you have suggestions, please e-mail jeanmh@uw.edu.

Updated May 2012

University-related terminology

University of Washington and all campuses

Upon first reference, spell out University of Washington; after, the abbreviation UW (no space, no periods) is acceptable. Use University of Washington when referring to the university as a whole or in statements which apply to all three campuses. When referring to the Tacoma or Bothell campuses, use University of Washington Tacoma (no commas, no hyphen), UW Tacoma, University of Washington Bothell (no commas, no hyphen) or UW Bothell. Do not use the term “branch campus” when talking about UW Tacoma and UW Bothell. Tacoma campus and Bothell campus are acceptable; however, campus is not part of the official name and, therefore, is never capitalized. Do not use a hyphen, dash or comma to separate University of Washington and Tacoma or Bothell. Avoid using UWT or UWB except in internal documentation.

academic courses

Capitalize (but do not enclose in quotation marks) simple names of academic courses: History of Architecture. Enclose more descriptive names of courses in quotes and use standard rules of capitalization: “The Arts of Japan: A Visual and Cultural History.” Capitalize course titles when used in text: She is taking Basic Concepts of New Media this term.

academic degrees

The correct form is Master of Science in X, Master of Arts in X, and master’s degree in x, bachelor’s degree in x (lowercase and possessive (‘s), not plural). Use periods when abbreviating: B.A., M.A., M.B.A., Ph.D. UW brand style prefers the less formal master’s degree in xx, bachelor’s degree in xx.

Avoid degree labels unless it is absolutely necessary, and instead chose words that will help humanize the work UW faculty are undertaking: UW gynecologic oncologist Jane Doe. When an academic degree is essential to the story, separate it from the name with a comma: Joe Husky, Ph.D., addressed the group. Do not combine a courtesy title with an academic degree in the same reference: never Dr. Victor Victoria, M.D.

alumnus, alumni, alumna, alumnae

Use alumnus (alumni in the plural) when referring to a man who has attended a school. Use alumna (alumnae in the plural) for similar references to a woman. Use alumni when referring to a group of men and women.

Within text, include the graduation year(s) after the name of an alumnus: Michael Smith, ’79, or Michael, ’79, and Pamela, ’76, Smith. A year alone always refers to the year the bachelor’s degree was awarded. If an alumnus has received a graduate degree, indicate the degree preceded by a comma: Jim Jones, J.D. ’71.  If an alumnus has received a bachelor’s degree and one or more graduate degrees, list the year the bachelor’s degree was awarded, followed by the graduate degree(s) and year(s) awarded: Michael Smith ’79, M.D. ’83, J.D. ’83.

Long narrative (ex. letter, article)

Sample sentence listing Bachelor’s degrees: “Last Friday, Michael, ’79, and Pamela, ’76, Smith, attended the Governor’s Ball.”

Sample sentence listing compound degrees: “Last Friday, Michael, ’79, and Pamela, ’76, J.D. ’82, attended the Governor’s Ball.”

Brief narrative (ex. photo caption, Class Notes)

Sample: Michael, ’79, and Pamela, ’76, Smith

Sample: Michael, ’79, and Pamela, ’76, ’82, Smith

Identification (ex. nametags)

Sample: Michael Smith, ’79

Sample: Pamela Smith, ’76, J.D. ’82

For occasions when more detailed information about a degree is desired, please use the following format:

Michael Smith, B.A., English ’79, Ph.D., Chemistry, ’76

To designate alumni who attended either UW Tacoma or UW Bothell, please use the abbreviations UWT and UWB following the degree.

University trademarks

The symbols ® and ™, often used in ads and product packaging, should be noted on the first reference but are not necessary on subsequent references. For information on the UW’s trademark policies and guidelines, visit www.washington.edu/admin/pubserv/tdmks/.


In general, avoid unnecessary capitalization. This applies to things such as boards of directors (Joe Husky is on the board of directors at Unknown Corp.), department names (history department, art department) and titles when they follow the names (Phyllis Wise, UW provost). The following guidelines may be helpful in determining capitalization.

academic season and term

Lowercase academic terms including instances where the term is preceded with the season or followed by the year: fall term, winter term 2004.

departments, colleges, programs and centers

Capitalize the formal name of an academic department: the Department of Communication, College of Arts & Sciences. Lowercase the informal name (except for words that are proper nouns or adjectives): the geography department, the law school, the Italian department. Capitalize “program” when it is part of a name: Student Research Program, K-14 Outreach Program, Business Law Program, Latin American Studies Program.

committees, boards and leadership terms

Capitalize only when part of a formal name: the Arboretum and Botanical Garden Committee. Lowercase board of directors unless it’s part of a proper name: UW Alumni Association Board of Directors. The board of directors will discuss the issue.

places, buildings, thoroughfares and monuments

Capitalize: Suzzallo & Allen Library, Mary Gates Hall, The Quad, The Core, The Ave and University Bridge.

Washington state

Lowercase state when referencing the state of Washington. Use state of Washington or Washington state when it is necessary to distinguish the state from the District of Columbia. (Washington State is the name of a university in Pullman, Washington.)

Preferred Spelling, usage and terminology

Acronym/abbreviation usage

Spell out for first citation and follow with the acronym or abbreviation in parentheses: The Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching (CELT) adopted new procedures. CELT focuses its research on engineering education and improving engineering teaching.


Always spell out and unless the ampersand (&) is part of a formal name: Computing and Software Systems, College of Arts & Sciences.


Dates are indicated by cardinal, not ordinal numbers: April 1, not April 1st; July 4, not July 4th. Use a comma after the year if placing a date within a sentence. Example: They met on September 15, 2002, to discuss the plan. Do not use a comma after the month if only listing the month and the year: December 2000.


Lowercase academic quarters or terms: spring quarter, winter term. See also academic terms.


When referring to a particular ranking for the UW, use the following notation: The UW is ranked No. 1 in XXX. For rankings where the UW does not rank first, the preferred usage is “The UW ranks third…”

The following terms are always one word, never hyphenated:

  • fundraiser, fundraising
  • multimedia
  • nonprofit
  • underrepresented
  • campuswide
  • yearlong


  • health care – Write as two words. Hyphenate only when used as a modifier: health-care program.
  • student athlete – Always two words, never hyphenated.
  • university-wide – Hyphenate when used as an adjective.
  • work-study


composition titles

Italicize book titles, computer game titles, movie titles, opera titles, play titles, poem titles, long musical compositions, television program titles and names of newspapers: Antiques Roadshow, Seattle Times, Carmen, Two Wishes. Names of songs and television program episodes are quoted: “Rise Up with Pride for Washington.” Capitalize principal words in book titles and all words of four or more letters. Do not italicize: the Bible, the Constitution (of the United States) and the Declaration of Independence.


When referring to someone with a doctorate degree, you can use either “Dr. Jane Smith” or “Jane Smith, Ph.D.” Using both in the same reference (“Dr. Jane Smith, Ph.D.”) is redundant.

Suggested style

Serial comma

The preferred style for the UW is the Associated Press Style of no serial comma: red, white and blue.

Passive vs. active voice

Use active voice whenever possible. The passive voice lacks energy. Example: The gift was given by Mr. Jones (passive) vs. Mr. Jones gave the gift (active).

Gender-specific language

Avoid language that indicates gender unless it’s for an intended use, and never assume gender. Professors should encourage students in their (not his/her) classes. Use chair to refer to the head of a committee unless the official title is chairman or chairwoman or the gender is known: Was a new chair elected at the meeting? Use spokesperson instead of spokesman/spokeswoman, unless gender is known: Kathy Johnson, spokeswoman for the group, explained the resolution. Chris Smith, speaking for the group, explained the resolution.

Comments are closed.