Style Explanations

articles (a, an, and the) with abbreviations and acronyms
Use the appropriate article (a, an, or the) with abbreviations and acronyms when you would use that article in speech. In general, if an acronym like NASA or NATO is pronounced as a word rather than as a series of letters (the AFL-CIO), you do not need an article when the acronym is used as a noun. The choice between using a or an with an acronym or abbreviation is governed by how the acronym or abbreviation is typically spoken.

abbreviations: defining
Spell out the abbreviation or acronym on the first use and follow with the abbreviation in parentheses to prepare readers for your subsequent use of the abbreviation. Do not use abbreviations or acronyms for subsequent references if they follow at a great distance from the spelled out version. Ask whether the readers who are least familiar with your document's content would understand the abbreviation if they came upon it at a later point in the document.

abbreviations of more than two letters
Normally, do not use periods with abbreviations of two or more letters.

Acronyms are abbreviations that are pronounced as a word, such as NASA, CAD, and ASP. Rewrite copy that's peppered with acronyms. Restrict abbreviations and acronyms to situations where they enhance comprehension, such as when your copy refers repeatedly to a lengthy name or term that has a commonly accepted abbreviation.

African American and Black
Use these terms interchangeably, with preference for "African American." Capitalize "Black."

African American: hyphenation
Do not hyphenate "African American" (or other compound nationalities), even when used as an adjective: "an African American novelist." However, always hyphenate compounds with name fragments: "Afro-American," "Indo-European."

In written materials intended for a general audience, avoid references that make assumptions about age-related abilities, maturity, or immaturity. For example, do not assume that all junior employees are young and all administrators are older, or that college and university students are always between the ages of 18 and 22.

Acronym for (simian) acquired immune deficiency syndrome. AIDS is acceptable in all references for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. For SAIDS, use simian AIDS on first reference; the acronym is acceptable thereafter.

a lot
Do not use for "many" in formal writing. Do not confuse with "allot," meaning to apportion.

American Indian, Indian
Currently, these are preferred to “Native American” in business writing. Distinguish "American Indian" from "East Indian." “American Indian” is a proper noun, so do not hyphenate it, even when you use it as an adjective: "An exhibition of American Indian artwork."

Do not use the ampersand (&) as a replacement for and. Use the ampersand only when it is part of an official name of a company, product, or other proper noun, or on covers at the discretion of a designer.

Outside of the legal world, it is neither necessary nor logical. Try using one word or the other.

and also
This is redundant.

Sometimes used as a synonym for "because." Prefer "because." "As" has other meanings while "because" has only one. For example, "As we were in the park, we saw many squirrels" could mean either "because we were in the park" or "while we were in the park." Using "because" eliminates the ambiguity.

as best as
Colloquial. Do not use this in business writing. Instead, write, "Answer the question as well as you can."

as to whether
The single word "whether" will suffice.

as well as
Don't use "as well as" to mean "and."

basically, essentially, totally
These words seldom add anything useful to a sentence. Try the sentence without them; almost always, you will see the sentence improve.

being that or being as
These words are non-standard substitutes for "because." Instead of "Being that I was the youngest child," write, "Because I was the youngest child."

Enclose corrections, explanations, or comments within quoted material, or editor’s notes in brackets: He wrote, “They are furnished separate but equal [workout] facilities.” [No one was willing to take credit for that quote—-Editor.]
Use brackets as parentheses within parentheses: "One of the previous employees (who was employed in manufacturing [1990–1992] and maintenance [1992–1998]) presented the history of the project."
Use brackets to enclose phonetic pronunciation: "We asked for a shiatzu [she-aht-sue] massage."

capitalization: direction
Lowercase north, northeast, and other compass directions. Capitalize the words when they refer to regions: the Midwest, the South, the North Side.

For captions, prefer to use full sentences. A caption should do more than reiterate what is obvious in the photo; it should enhance and clarify what is not immediately obvious in the photo. If the photo or illustration is a person or object, insert the name of the individual or object with no period. In all other instances, use a period to conclude all captions, even those written in headline style (as incomplete sentences).

captions: tense
Use present tense in captions because the caption describes what is going on at the moment in the photo. However, do write captions in past tense when you are writing about conditions that no longer exist. Don't mix tenses within the same caption: not "Jones accepts the award while his colleagues watched" but "Jones accepts the award while his colleagues watch."

car pool
Two words.

Not “catalogue.”

An American of Mexican descent; however, persons of Central and South American heritage may also consider themselves Chicanos. Chicana is the feminine form of Chicano. Plural forms are Chicanos and Chicanas.

citation or attribution
Attribute any statement that is not a widely known fact or that is a matter of opinion and subject to potential disagreement. Be careful about verbs for attribution. Forms of the verb “say” are impartial and appear objective. Use words such as "noted," "commented," "claimed," "suggested," "charged," "denied," and "asserted" with precision, not just for variety. "Stated" and "told" can make a source sound dogmatic.

city of
Do not capitalize “city” in “city of” constructions: "the city of Dallas."

commas and periods with quotation marks
In American English, periods and commas always go inside the quotation marks, even if only one letter is in quotation marks, such as the letter "a." In British English, commas and periods may go inside the quotation marks or outside. They usually go inside the quotation marks if the comma or period fits with the preceding words. If the comma or period fits with a larger section of the text, of which the text in quotations is only a part, the British tend to put the quotation marks before the comma or period.

Comprise means "to contain, to include all or embrace," so never write “comprised of." You may write, "The report comprises three sections" or "The report is composed of three sections."

considered to be
Eliminate the "to be" and, unless it's important to know who is doing the considering, try to eliminate the entire phrase.

convince, persuade
With “convince,” use “that” or “of”; with “persuade,” use “to”: "She is convinced that the market is not there." "His contract convinced her of his intention to finish the project early." "She persuaded him to work with the committee."

copyright on the Web
Just because something appears on the Web doesn't mean it's public domain. Assume that anything on the Web is copyrighted by someone, including printed matter or photographs.

Place no spaces before and after the dash. Do not mistake a hyphen (-) for a dash (—). Typists often use two hyphens to represent a dash. The two types of dash most commonly used are the em dash (—) and en dash (–). Use the em dash to show a sudden break in thought in a sentence that causes an abrupt change in sentence structure: "Will he—can he—obtain the necessary signatures?" Use the en dash to show ranges of numbers and dates: "The activity continued for four years (1999–2002)."

Originally a plural noun. The singular was "datum." Use either plural verbs with "data" or singular ("the data are corrupted" or "the data is corrupted"), but be consistent in using one or the other all the time.

data base
Spell as "database," one word.

Write dates as Arabic figures, without "st," "th," "rd," or "d." Do not place commas between months and years: "October 1997." When using the name of a day, set the date within commas: "On Wednesday, October 5, she will appear."

Use periods in degrees: "B.A.," "M.B.A." When spelling out degrees, use lowercase: "bachelor of arts," "master of business administration," "bachelor's degree," "master's degree," "doctorate."

Don’t use a disease as a descriptive adjective in connection with an individual. For example, don’t write: “He is a diabetic," but rather, "He has diabetes." One acceptable variation is "survivor of," as in "She is a survivor of cancer"; it should be used only with individuals who are overcoming severely debilitating or life-threatening diseases.

When writing about individuals with disabilities, use "person first" language (as in "person who uses a wheelchair"). Similarly, write "blind employees" rather than "the blind." Do not capitalize "blind, deaf," or any other term relating to people with disabilities. Use "disability" rather than "handicap" for persons with disabilities ("disability parking," not "handicap parking"). The phrase "people with disabilities" is preferable to "the disabled." Don’t write “afflicted with” or “is a victim of"; write, "He has muscular dystrophy." Don’t write “wheelchair-bound" or “confined to a wheelchair"; write, "She uses a wheelchair or walks with crutches."

The preferred spelling for CDs and CD-ROMs (optical or laser-based media) is disc. Disk is preferred for floppy and hard drives (magnetic storage media).

Avoid the title "Dr." before the names of professionals who have earned a doctorate. "Dr." may be used in reference to a medical doctor. Caution: Not all professors, psychologists, or other such professionals hold doctorates.

Use the $ sign with figures. Bagels cost $2. For $1 million or more, do not link numerals and words with a hyphen: The $20 million building will open today.

due to the fact that
"Because" is a much clearer word. "Due to" is acceptable after a linking verb. ("The team's failure was due to illness among the stars.") Otherwise, avoid it.

Few people know that "e.g." stands for a Latin phrase, exempli gratia, which means “for example.” Do not confuse it with "i.e.," which means “that is.” If you use it, follow it with a comma. However, prefer the plain English words, "for example" for "e.g" and "that is to say" or "in other words" for "i.e."

each and every
One or the other, but not both.

Space between the periods that make up the ellipsis. "The example . . . was brief."

e-mail, email, E-mail
Use "e-mail" without a capital "e."

em dash
The most common dash is the em dash, used to indicate a sudden break in thought that causes an abrupt change in sentence structure: "Will he—can he—obtain the necessary signatures?" Use an en dash in ranges of dates or numbers: "1900–1925." It is slightly shorter than an em dash. Be careful not to call a hyphen a dash. Hyphens are the short lines on the same key as the "underline" symbol. Use hyphens between words only.

en dash
Use the en dash to indicate continuing or inclusive numbers, such as dates, times, or reference numbers: "1968–1972," "May–June 1973," "10 a.m.–5 p.m.," "pages 38–45." Note, in inclusive numbers, “from” requires a “to”: "from 1990 to 1992" or "in 1990–92," not "from 1990–92." Also use the en dash in place of a hyphen in a compound adjective, one element of which consists of two words or of a hyphenated word: "New York–London flight." To show interruptions in thought, use the em dash.

equally as
Something can be equally important or as important as, but not equally as important.

This abbreviation often suggests a kind of laziness. It might be better to provide one more example, thereby suggesting that you could have written more, but chose not to. Use the plain English words "and so on" to explain what "et cetera" stands for.

ethnic groups
For hyphenation, see African American, Asian American.

every day/everyday
Every day is a noun; everyday is an adjective. ("Traffic jams are becoming an everyday occurrence." "Every day, drivers complain about the increase in traffic volume."

ex officio
Do not italicize. Hyphenate when used as an adjective: "the ex-officio member."

Acceptable substitute for the noun "facsimile" (the electronic transmission of printed matter). Do not use as a verb, as in "We will fax it to you." The acceptable verb form is to "send a fax" or to "transmit a facsimile."

Use a capital letter for corporate or governmental agencies that use the word as part of their formal names: "Federal Trade Commission," "Federal Express." Lowercase the word as an adjective to distinguish something from state, county, city, town, or private entities: "federal assistance," "federal court," "the federal government," "a federal judge."

The word "figuratively" means metaphorically or as a representation of. The word "literally" means "actually" or "word for word," but people often mistakenly use it to mean "figuratively" or "imaginatively." Avoid both words in business writing.

firstly, secondly, thirdly, and so on
Number things with first, second, third, and so forth, not with these adverbial forms.

foreign words and phrases
For foreign words and phrases, use italics on the first references for all but the most familiar, and follow, if necessary, with an English definition of the word in parentheses or the translation of the phrase within quotes: "schlampig (laziness)." Use familiar foreign words without explanation (bon voyage, versus, et cetera), but place more obscure words within quotations and provide an explanation: “ad astra per aspera,” a Latin phrase meaning “to the stars through difficulty.”

For fractions and percentages, the verb agrees with the noun following the “of”: "Three-quarters of the apple was eaten." "Three-quarters of the employees are at a seminar today."

full time, full-time, part time, part-time
Do not use a hyphen normally. However, hyphenate when used as an adjective.

Hyphenate in all uses.

gender neutrality
Do not use gender-specific terms and titles such as policeman, waitress, chairman, stewardess, foreman, mankind; instead, use police officer, server or food server, chair, flight attendant, supervisor, humanity, or humankind. Use the same standards for men and women when deciding whether to include specific mention of personal appearance or marital and family situation. If you wouldn’t describe a professional man as having “soft shoulders” and “twinkling blue eyes,” don’t characterize women that way either. Don't express surprise about the professional achievements of a woman. You wouldn’t write “a powerful attorney and her young male colleague teamed up to defend . . .” In the same way, don’t write “a powerful female attorney and a confident young lawyer teamed up.” Avoid superfluous gender references; instead of “He is a male nurse,” just write "He is a nurse." (The needless gender modifier seems to suggest he is not a real nurse.) In sports reporting, strive for equality. If you refer to the women’s basketball team, the other basketball squad should be called the men’s basketball team.

Do not use as a synonym for "man"; do not use "lady" as a synonym for "woman."

Many business people frown on using "got," so you should avoid it. "I have got to finish the report" should be "I must finish the report." "I have gotten two e-mails from her" should be "I have received two e-mails from her."

government agencies
Capitalize the full proper names of governmental agencies, departments and offices, but lowercase their modifiers: The U.S. Department of State, the Indiana Conservation Corps, the Clairton City Council, the Pittsburgh Fire Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Iowa State University, the State Lands Commission. Do not capitalize "state" and "city" when in names such as these: the state Office of Emergency Services, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, the city Department of Public Works.

Use "gray" rather than "grey."

had ought or hadn't ought
Write "You should not . . ."

hard copy
Not "hardcopy."

The preferred style is to capitalize only first and last words and all words with four or more letters. Lowercase articles (a, an, the), coordinate conjunctions (and, or, for, nor) and prepositions (of, to) with three or fewer letters.

Using "he/she" with a slash or "(s)he" to avoid gender bias looks odd to readers and becomes obtrusive if it appears often. Use "he or she," "his or hers," and so on. Pluralize where appropriate so you can avoid the problem of the gender-specific pronoun altogether. Change from "Each employee should file his or her report" to "Employees should file their reports." Some suggest writing "her or his" to present the pronouns alphabetically, but that makes the reader pause because the common phrase is "his or hers." Increasingly, companies are permitting employees to use plural pronouns for individuals, as in "Each person should file their report." That is commonly done in spoken English. Check with your company before using it in business writing, however.

The people, speech, or culture of Spain, Portugal, or Latin America. The plural form is Hispanics. A Mexican American is a native-born or naturalized American of Mexican heritage. Since Mexican American is a proper noun, do not hyphenate it, even when used as an adjective: "A collection of Mexican American historical artifacts."

home page
Not "homepage."

high school
No hyphen is needed, even when it is used as an adjective: "He attends high school." "She interviewed a high school principal."

high tech
No hyphen is needed, even when it is used as an adjective: "a high tech device."

Few people know that "i.e." stands for a Latin phrase, id est, which means “that is.” Do not confuse it with "e.g.," which means “for example.” If you use it, follow it with a comma. Prefer the plain English words "that is" or "meaning."

information superhighway

in house
No hyphen. However, hyphenate when it immediately precedes a noun: "We will print the brochure in house." "We have an in-house attorney."

in order to
Just use "to."

in regard to
Not “in regards to.”

Not "inter-disciplinary."

One of the least interesting words in English. If you show us why something is interesting, you're doing your job.

in terms of
See if you can eliminate this phrase.

Capitalize "Internet," "World Wide Web" and "Web" when referring to the Internet.

Do not capitalize when you are using it as a generic term for a network of connected networks that is not the World Wide Web Internet. However, today, most internal networks are referred to as "intranets" because Internet has become reserved for the World Wide Web.

No capitalization for a private or in-house network.

No one word will get you in trouble with the boss faster than this one. It is not used in standard English.

Do not italicize acronyms or abbreviations even if they are the official title of a printed piece.

Use only when you need it, as in "just the right amount."

kind of or sort of
These are permitted in informal situations, but in formal, business writing, substitute "somewhat," "rather," or "slightly." "We were (kind of) rather pleased with the results."

Do not use as a synonym for "woman"; do not use "gentleman" as a synonym for "man."

Use the word to describe only buildings or sites that have been officially declared landmarks. "Rhodes House has been designated a landmark by Cleveland."

Latino (feminine form: Latina)
A person of Latin American lineage; Latin America consists of all the territories in the Americas south of the United States, but some Mexicans may prefer to call themselves Chicanos or Hispanics rather than Latinos. Plural forms are Latinos and Latinas.

letter format
Click here to see the standard business letter format.

The word "literally" means "actually" or "word for word," but people often mistakenly use it to mean "figuratively" or "imaginatively." Avoid both words in business writing.

One word.

man, mankind
Avoid using when referring to men and women. Use "person," "humanity," or "humankind."

One word.

master plan
Lowercase in all uses.

media, medium
Use as a plural noun: "The media arrived" or "We spoke to the media." Use "medium" for singular: "The newspaper is one medium we will use for our campaign."

metric measures
If you are writing for an international audience (for example, writing a letter to a foreign division or company), include metric measurements.



When you express a relation between two or more similar amounts, do not repeat the dollar symbol, but use a hyphen to denote range. If you write fractional amounts over one dollar, be consistent and use numbers after the period throughout, even if it's a zero amount. ("Company caps are available from $14.95 to $24.00." "We added $1-2 million to the budget.")

The preferred spelling is now Muslim.

Mother Nature
Avoid this term; simply write "nature" or restructure the sentence as necessary.

movie names
Names of movies should be italicized.

The preferred term (favored over “Moslem”) to describe followers of Islam.

Use a person’s first and last name in the first use. In subsequent uses, use last name only: "Martin Jischke has just been appointed president of Purdue University. Jischke is an IIT alumnus."  

nationalities and races
Do not hyphenate compound nationalities such as "African American," even when used as an adjective: "He is a Mexican American; she is a prominent African American author." But always hyphenate compounds with name fragments: "Afro-American," "Indo-European."

Native American
“American Indian” and “Indian” may be used interchangeably, depending upon the wishes of the individual(s) cited in the story. When using “Indian,” be careful to distinguish from East Indian. Since “Native American” is a proper noun, do not hyphenate, even when using it as an adjective: "An exhibition of Native American artwork."

"Managers of an extroverted nature." Change to "Extroverted managers." See if you can get rid of this word. "Movies of a violent nature" are just "violent movies."

Avoid using this word.

newspaper names
Set the names of newspapers and sections of newspapers published separately (such as The New York Times Book Review) in italic type. Capitalize “the” in a newspaper’s name if that is the way the publication prefers to be known, unless the story mentions several papers, some of which use “the” as part of the name and some of which do not. Where location is needed but is not part of a newspaper’s name, use parentheses: the Huntsville (Alabama) Times, The (Portland) Oregonian.

Most words beginning with non do not use a hyphen: nonlocal, nonnative, nonlegal, nonrefundable, nonresident. Exceptions include cases where the following word is a proper noun and when the resulting word would be unclear or confusing. Look the word up in a dictionary to see whether it has a hyphen.

non-discrimination statement
Include a non-discrimination statement at the end of all documents having to do with personnel issues. Use this format: "The company does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status in employment and advancement in the company. The company takes action to increase equal opportunity to all employees."

non-discrimination statement one-line version
"The company is an equal opportunity/nondiscrimination employer."

Do not put a 12 in front of it. See time of day.

on account of
Use "because" instead.

Not "on-line."

Check for correct placement. Don't write "He only kicked that ball ten yards" when you mean "He kicked that ball only ten yards."

Not "on-screen." However, if you are writing, "We saw the film on screen," do not join the words.

ordinal numbers
Spell out ordinal numbers from first to ninth ("fourth" not "4th").

The new students become "oriented," not "orientated." The same principle applies to "administrate," as in "We administrate a project." Instead, write "We administer a project."

Use "according to" instead. For "as per your request," write "as you requested."

Spell out in copy. In charts, graphs, and tables, the % sign is acceptable. Not “per cent,” unless you are using British spelling in general in your writing for a British reader.

periodicals and books
Set titles and subtitles of published books, pamphlets, periodicals, newspapers, newsletters, and sections of newspapers published separately in italics: The New York Times Book Review. Place titles of newspaper or periodical articles, titles of book chapters, and titles of short stories and essays in quotation marks. Capitalize “the” in a newspaper’s name if that is the way the publication prefers to be known, unless the story mentions several papers, some of which use “the” as part of the name and some of which do not.

periods in abbreviations
The general trend is away from using periods in abbreviations, unless confusion might result.

The plural is "Ph.D.s." Use the periods in the degree names now, but the trend is toward no periods.

phone numbers, punctuation
Preferred style for phone numbers in body copy is (312) 567-3104 or 312-567-3104. International style is 312.567.3104.

plurals of abbreviations and acronyms
Form plurals of abbreviations and acronyms by adding "s" alone: "All the department's Ph.D.s and TAs met to discuss the course offerings."

Don't use "plus" as a conjunction. Use "and" instead. Not "We located the office, plus we found the manager" but "We located the office and found the manager."

point in time
Use "now."

Most words formed with the "post" prefix are styled without a hyphen, unless the word begins with a capital or unless confusion would result: "postdoctoral," "postbaccalaureate," "postgraduate," "post-World War II."

postal abbreviations
Use the two-letter postal abbreviations only for mailing addresses with zip codes. Otherwise, use the standard state abbreviations (see state abbreviations).

Write most words formed with the "pre" prefix without a hyphen: "preprofessional," "preadmission" "preeducation," "prelaw," "premedicine," "prepharmacy." However, look the word up in a dictionary to be sure of whether it has changed from using a hyphen to using no hyphen.

prepositions at the ends of sentences
You may put prepositions at the ends of sentences ("Who are you meeting with?" rather than "With whom are you meeting?"). Most grammar books have done away with the rule that forced people into saying and writing odd-sounding sentences when, in fact, it's often better to let the preposition fall naturally. Normal rules of good writing apply, of course. If meaning, clarity, and emphasis are improved by ending a sentence with a preposition, do so. If a preposition at the end results in clumsy syntax or confused meaning, rewrite the sentence.

When used in "our previous discussion," use "earlier" or nothing at all.

prime ' and double prime "
The symbols that stand for feet and inches. Unlike apostrophes and quotation marks, they are not curved. To form them, turn off smart quotes in Word.

prior to
Use "before."

problem solving
No hyphen when used as a noun. Hyphenate only when used as an adjective before a noun: "Problem solving is an important ability." "Develop problem-solving behavior.")

proofreader's marks
Click here to see the standard proofreader's marks.

published work titles
In titles, capitalize first and last words and all words with four or more letters. Lowercase articles (a, an, the), coordinate conjunctions (and, or, for, nor) and prepositions (of, to) with three or fewer letters. Retain the spelling of the original title and add punctuation only if necessary for understanding.

Lowercase names of quarters: "first quarter."

race and ethnic names
Write the names of non-European Americans without hyphens, as in these examples: African American (Americans of African descent), Asian American (Americans of Asian descent), European American (Americans of European descent), Hispanic American (Americans with ancestors from Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, South, and Central America), Native American. Prefer these terms: American Indian (descendants of the original North, South, and Central Americans), Caucasian (commonly used to refer to anyone with light skin), Latino/Latina (people of Latin American descent—less broad than Hispanic and preferred by some to Chicano/Chicana), people of color (for any non-European Americans and their descendants).

Use a hyphen in compounds beginning with "re" only if the word following the "re" prefix begins with an "e" or confusion would result: "re-elect," "re-establish," "redo" "rewrite," "recover/re-cover."

reason is because
Use only "reason," as in "The reason is that . . ."

reason why
Use only "reason," as in "The reason is . . ."

Lowercase unless part of a formal name: "They went to the Spring Fling dance" and "The spring semester has begun." Note: no comma when used with a year, as in "spring 2000."

set up and setup
Use "set up" as a verb phrase: "We set up the camera." Use "setup" as a noun or adjective: "It was a nice setup" and "We followed the setup procedures."

sexual orientation
To avoid the appearance of bias based on sexual orientation, avoid "acknowledged, admitted," or "avowed" as adjectives preceding "homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, gay," or "heterosexual." Prefer "gay" over "homosexual" or "lesbian."

It means “so” or “thus.” In periodicals, use it within brackets, in italics, after a printed word or passage to indicate that it is intended exactly as printed, or to indicate that it exactly reproduces an original: He said, “I seen [sic] it all.” Because "sic" is a complete word and not an abbreviation, it does not require a period.

signs and notices
Specific wording of signs, notices, mottoes, or inscriptions within text should be capitalized but neither italicized nor quoted: "She has a No Smoking sign in her office." "The door was marked Authorized Personnel Only."

Sometimes used as a synonym for "because." Prefer "because." Use "since" strictly for references to time.

so as to
Use just "to."

spacing after colons
Place one space after a colon.

spacing before parentheses
Place one space before the opening parenthesis.

spacing between sentences
Keystroke one space between sentences.

Use an “s” without an apostrophe to indicate spans of decades or centuries: the 1980s, the 1900s.

split infinitives
You may split infinitives ("to boldly go"), but some may criticize you for it. As a result, prefer to write "to" phrases so the "to" stays with the verb ("to go boldly"). In all cases, however, avoid putting a number of words between the "to" and "verb." However, avoid split infinitives if an awkward construction results: "She was ordered to leave immediately on an assignment" is preferred to "She was ordered to immediately leave on an assignment."

state abbreviations
See USPS Abbreviations.

state of
Lowercase in all “state of” constructions, and when used as an adjective to indicate jurisdiction: "state Sen. John Doolittle," "the state Department of Transportation," "state funds." Capitalize when part of a formal name: "State Farm Insurance," "the State Lands Commission," "the State and Consumer Services Agency."

Always write about people as individuals, not as members of some stereotypical group. Do not, therefore, write about engineers as if they were all male or secretaries as though they were all female. Do not write about mail room employees as though they were young and uneducated or about upper-level administrators as though they were older and highly educated. Do not refer to the more recent stereotypes such as blondes or "burger flippers." They are demeaning to the individuals, none of whom fit the stereotype exactly.

Capitalize street when it is part of the street name: "10 West 35th Street." Lowercase street(s) when used generically: "The hall sits on the corner of 95th and State streets."

stylebook sources
The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual, ed. Norm Goldstein (Perseus Books, 1998). Essential if you write for the media.
The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th ed. (University of Chicago Press, 1993). The Bible of the book publishing world.
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association : Fifth Edition (July 2001).
MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 6th edition, Joseph Gibaldi.

suppose to, use to
The hard "d" sound in "supposed to" and "used to" disappears in pronunciation, but it shouldn't disappear in spelling. "We used to do that" or "We were supposed to do it this way."

telephone numbers
Do not use the numeral “1” before area codes. Proper form is: (530) 752-1930 or 555-1212, Ext. 11. Use a hyphen, not an en dash. International writers may use periods: 530.752.1930.

television shows
Names of television shows should be capitalized and placed in quotation marks.

In general, use present tense to paraphrase a line of thought that an individual continually expresses but prefer past tense in citing a literal quotation that an individual uttered at a specific time. Use present tense in captions because the caption describes what is going on at the moment in the photo. However, do write captions in past tense when you are writing about conditions that no longer exist. Don't mix tenses within the same caption: not "Jones accepts the award while his colleagues watched" but "Jones accepts the award while his colleagues watch."

"Theater" is the spelling for all generic references to auditoriums and the theatrical arts. Use the “re” ending (theatre) only if the word is part of a proper name of a performing arts facility or company.

the company
Do not capitalize "company" when referring to our company or "the company."

their for one person
"Their" is becoming more established and accepted as both a singular and a plural pronoun, but it is not acceptable in standard business writing yet.

This nonstandard spelling of "through" should not be used in business writing.

Use "thus" or "therefore" instead.

Don't use this word instead of "until" or "till."

time, date, place
Follow this order in notices of events: 6:00 p.m., August 23, 2003, Broadmoor Hall Auditorium.

time of day
Always use figures, except with noon and midnight. Use lowercase type and periods, but no spaces, with “a.m.” and “p.m.”: "11 a.m., 3:30 p.m., 3:30 that afternoon, noon, midnight, 10–11 a.m. (use an en dash for ranges), 10 a.m.–3 p.m., from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m."

Not "towards."

When possible, use generic equivalents (photocopier rather than Xerox; tissue rather than Kleenex), but if a trademark is used for emphasis or effect, capitalize it. Symbols signifying a trademark (TM), a service mark (SM) or a registration with the U.S. Patent Office ® are primarily for the use of the owner to indicate rights; use of the symbols is not required in journalistic publications. Former trademarks that became generic terms through abuse include trampoline, raisin bran, linoleum, lanolin, yo yo, escalator, and nylon.

try and
It should be "try to" do something.

type style of punctuation
Punctuation marks should generally be printed in the same style or font type as the word, letter, character, or symbol immediately preceding them.

United States
Spell out when used as a noun. Use U.S. only as an adjective. Use periods for U.S. unless you are referring to currency ($45 US). Do not use periods with USA. Abbreviate the United States only when used as an adjective. Spell it out whenever it is used as a noun. ("Representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will meet with us.")

One word.

URLs and e-mail addresses
Put a space between a URL and a period at the end of a sentence to let the reader know the period is not part of the address. Do not add punctuation to an e-mail or Internet address. If a Web address won't fit on one line, do not break the address; break the line before it and put the entire address on one line, possibly preceded by a sentence ending with a colon. To avoid bad line breaks, you may wish to refer to the Web sites by name in text without giving the address, then list the addresses at the end or in an accompanying sidebar.
You may omit the http:// for brevity, but use the full URL form ( when the Web address does not begin with www. Do not hyphenate it.
It usually is not necessary to use boldface or italic type for URLs (although these are acceptable options). Treat them as you would phone numbers. If the URL seems awkward in the middle of a sentence, try rewriting the sentence to allow for placement at the end.

USPS state abbreviations
In textual material, always spell out state names when they stand alone. When used in conjunction with the name of a city or town, however, abbreviate states. (Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, and Utah are never abbreviated in copy.) Use the U.S. Postal Service format (two letters, no periods) only when you include the zip code. Otherwise, use the traditional state abbreviations.

The USPS and traditional state abbreviations follow.

USPS abbreviations:

Alabama -- AL
Alaska -- AK
American Samoa -- AS
Arizona -- AZ
Arkansas -- AR
California -- CA
Colorado -- CO
Connecticut -- CT
Deleware -- DE
District of Columbia -- DC
Federated States of Micronesia -- FM
Florida -- FL
Georgia -- GA
Guam -- GU
Hawaii -- HI
Idaho -- ID
Illinois -- IL
Indiana -- IN
Iowa -- IA
Kansas -- KS
Kentucky -- KY
Louisiana -- LA
Maine -- ME
Marshall Islands -- MH
Maryland -- MD
Massachusetts -- MA
Michigan -- MI
Minnesota -- MN
Mississippi -- MS
Missouri -- MO
Montana -- MT
Nebraska -- NE
Nevada -- NV
New Hampshire -- NH
New Jersey -- NJ
New Mexico -- NM
New York -- NY
North Carolina -- NC
North Dakota -- ND
Northern Mariana Islands -- MP
Ohio -- OH
Oklahoma -- OK
Oregon -- OR
Palau -- PW
Pennsylvania -- PA
Puerto Rico -- PR
Rhode Island -- RI
South Carolina -- SC
South Dakota -- SD
Tennessee -- TN
Texas -- TX
Utah -- UT
Vermont -- VT
Virgin Islands -- VI
Virginia -- VA
Washington -- WA
West Virginia -- WV
Wisconsin -- WI
Wyoming -- WY
Armed Forces Africa -- AE
Armed Forces Americas
(except Canada) -- AA
Armed Forces Canada -- AE
Armed Forces Europe -- AE
Armed Forces Middle East -- AE
Armed Forces Pacific -- AP

Non-USPS abbreviations

Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, and Utah are never abbreviated in copy.

Don't use this word. Write "use." (The same goes for "utilization.")

very, really, quite (and other intensifiers)
Like "basically," these words seldom add anything useful. Try the sentence without them and see if it improves.

Capitalize in all references to the World Wide Web.

Web site
Write "Web site," not "website" or "web site." Always capitalize "Web" when it refers to the Internet Web.

whether or not
Write "whether" without "or not."

One word.

Not "work load" or "work-load."

One word.

One word.

World Wide Web
Capitalize in all uses. Note: www in Web site addresses is always lowercase.

would of
Don't write "would of," "should of," or "could of." You mean "would have," "should have," or "could have."