Editorial Style Guide

Writing for the Web

Follow these best practices for Web writing and presenting information:

  • Use Spell Check and proofread the content prior to posting
  • Make your text “scannable” — say less (half the word count of conventional writing)
  • Put more important content first (inverted pyramid)
  • One idea per paragraph
  • Use only one space following punctuation at the end of a sentence
  • Use clear headlines and subheads
  • Consider the users’ goals
  • Use active voice
  • Integrate graphics and other media content

When creating content for your pages, keep in mind that you may be addressing multiple audiences (such as prospective students, current students, current faculty, prospective faculty, members of the community, media, parents, etc.). Write copy that speaks to many different groups, some of whom may know nothing about your department. The main page of your site needs to be especially friendly and informative.

Towson University follows the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook and defers to the Chicago Manual of Style for issues not ruled upon by AP. For terminology that is unique to TU, the university has developed the following style guidelines.

Academic terms

Always term (never semester) when referring to academic periods at TU. Use Minimester when referring to the January academic term. Use summer session when referring to the summer term.

    The course is offered in the spring and fall terms.
    The study abroad program will take place during Minimester.

Alumnus, alumni, alumna, alumnae

Alumnus is singular for a male graduate. Alumni is plural for a combination of male and female graduates or male graduates. Alumna is singular for a female graduate; alumnae is the plural when referring to only female graduates.

And, &

Use the ampersand (&) when it is part of a company’s formal name or composition title. The ampersand should not otherwise be used in place of and.


Never abbreviate. Capitalize the proper names of buildings, including the work building if it is an integral part of the proper name.

    The Help Center is located in Cook Library.


Always chair (never chairman, chairwoman or chairperson).

Core curriculum

Use Core Curriculum in first and subsequent reference (never University Core or Core Requirements).

Avoid referring to individual Core Curriculum categories by their number; instead refer to them by content area. However, when space is a concern, the Core Curriculum number is acceptable.

    A Towson education is girded the university’s Core Curriculum.
    This history course satisfies the Core Curriculum Global Perspectives requirement.
    The department offers programs that satisfy Core Curriculum categories 2, 4, 9 and 14.


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.

    The conference will be held on Jan. 1.
    The project will be complete in January 2008.
    Let’s meet May 1.
    We will reevaluate in October.

Do not use suffixes with dates.

    Right: Oct. 14
    Wrong: Oct. 14th

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.

Days of the week are never abbreviated when used in conjunction with a date. If the date is used in a tabular format, an abbreviation is okay.

    Right: The meeting is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 19, 2012.
    Wrong: The party is set for Fri., Oct. 19, 2012.


Omit academic degrees from names; the academic degree should not be used as a title. If the mention of a degree is necessary to establish someone’s credentials, avoid abbreviation unless space is a concern.

    He expects to graduate next spring with a bachelor’s degree in history.
    Professor White, who earned a doctorate in chemistry, will be the keynote speaker.

Capitalize official designations of academic degrees when used as official designations such as Bachelor of Science.

    Students in the major may pursue the Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science.

Common-noun variations of degree names: associate degree (no apostrophe), bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, doctorate.

When abbreviation is required, academic degrees are always punctuated with periods except the Master of Business Administration, which receives no punctuation.

    B.A., M.S., MBA, M.F.A., Ph.D.


Use lowercase except for words that are proper nouns and adjectives:

    The Department of History or the history department
    The Department of English or the English department

Use lowercase letters for informal and shortened versions of all such names.

    The College of Liberal Arts has more than 2,500 undergraduates.
    The college has more than 2,500 undergraduates.


Email is one word with no hyphen.


Do not capitalize majors, programs, specializations or concentrations of study when they are not part of an official department name or title. Exception: English and foreign languages.

    She received a bachelor’s degree in history.
    He is pursuing a major in English.


In first reference, include first and last names. In second and subsequent reference, include the last name only.

    Marge Mead is an assistant professor of anthropology. Mead’s latest ethnography will be in bookstores this fall.


Offline is one word, no hyphen, and lowercase. This rule also applies to online.

Seasons and terms

TU has replaced “semester” in favor of “term” in all official publications. Do not capitalize seasons or term unless part of a formal name.

    Towson will hold the first annual Winter Olympics this January.


Use the abbreviated title of Dr. only to identify a medical doctor; omit when referring to a non-medical degree, such as a Ph.D. Instead, identify faculty and staff members by academic rank or position. Omit all courtesy titles (e.g., Mr., Ms., Mrs.).

    Professor Jones will teach three classes this fall.

Capitalize formal titles used directly before an individual’s name.

    Towson University President Kim E. Schatzel will host the reception.

Lowercase and spell out titles that follow a name, are set off by commas or appear without a name.

    Adam Smith, associate professor of economics, will deliver the lecture.
    She is an assistant director in the Office of Student Affairs.

There is no style standard that dictates whether a title should appear before or after an individual’s name. Editorial context and consistency should guide these choices.

The titles of specific courses should be capitalized but not italicized or set in quotation marks.

    Students in the Theatre Studies Track will need to take at least one course in performance creation (either Playwriting or Ensemble Theatre Laboratory).

Towson University

Spell out Towson University in first reference. In subsequent references, TU or the university are equally acceptable forms of abbreviation.

For references to Towson University’s athletic programs, Towson Tigers and Tigers are acceptable forms.


Units (never credits, hours, credit hours, or unit hours) when referring to the measure of course work at TU. Credit may only be used as a general term.

    To be eligible for graduation, students must complete at least 120 units.
    Students can earn course credit for completing the internship.

Credit is the appropriate term when referring to the specific measure of coursework earned outside of TU.

    She transferred to TU after completing 30 credits at community college.


Do not capitalize the word university when it stands alone.

    The university is highly regarded.


Website is one word (exception to Webster’s preference: web site). A website is a location on the World Wide Web that maintains one or more pages at a specific address.


Webpage is one word, with a lowercase “w.”