Complete Edition of Style Guide

Editorial style: the guidelines a publisher uses for consistency includes the consistent use of spelling, punctuation, capitalization, abbreviations, numbers and headings.

Cal State LA, which publishes hundreds of publications annually, employs certain editorial conventions specific to the University. The University's Editorial Style Guide draws upon the Elements of Style, Webster's Third New International Dictionary and the Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual as a guide.

For guidance on usage matters not addressed here please contact Public Affairs at ext. 3-3050.


Use only official University abbreviations. See building names/abbreviations, course listings/titles, degrees and majors, and plurals.


Explain or spell out an acronym at first use for any audience that may not be familiar with it. In most cases, periods are not used after the letters that form an acronym.


Use full official names of offices, departments, and buildings in University addresses. Spell out names of buildings, as well as the words Street, Avenue or Drive. Use the following format:

California State University, Los Angeles
Department of Accounting
5151 State University Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90032-8000

Use the correct nine-digit-zip-plus-four code whenever possible. Note that just one space separates the state from the zip code.


The -er ending is preferred. (except for “advisory”)

African American, Black

Both terms are acceptable, but African American is usually preferred. If the individual or group about which you are writing expresses a preference, use that term. Do not hyphenate African American (or other compound nationalities, even when used as an adjective: an honored African American novelist). Note that the B in Black is uppercase. Hyphenate compounds with name fragments: Afro-American, Indo-European.


Use alumnus for an individual male, alumna for an individual female; alumni for a group of males, alumnae for a group of females; use alumni when referring to a group composed of men and women. Any individual who attended Cal State L.A. is considered an alumna/us. Use of alum and alums is acceptable in informal prose.

American Indian, Indian

See Native American.


Avoid this shortcut. Instead of writing "You may file change of major forms on Monday and/or Tuesday", write "on Monday or Tuesday".


Use A.S.I. as the abbreviation for the Associated Students, Inc. at Cal State L.A.

Asian American

No hyphen is used for either the noun or the adjective.

Biased Language

When the context requires gender pronouns, use plural forms of pronouns. If plural won't work, use he or she or his and hers, but avoid he/she, him/her, and s/he.

Use inclusive references such as humankind and human-made rather than mankind and man-made; use inclusive verbs such as to staff a table rather than to man a table.

Use generic nouns such as photographer, not cameraman; representatives not congressmen; supervisor not foreman; chair not chairman.

Replace stereotyped titles
professor not career woman; student not coed; doctor not lady/female doctor; nurse not male nurse; actor, not actress.

Writing about disabilities
The term disabled is preferable to handicapped. 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."

Building Names/Abbreviations

Administration -- ADM
Anna Bing Arnold Children's Center -- CHLDCTR
Annenberg Science Complex Wing B -- ASCB
Annenberg Science Complex La Kretz -- ASCL
Biological Sciences -- BS
Career Development Center -- CC
Engineering and Technology -- ET
Fine Arts -- FA
Golden Eagle -- GE
Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center --HDFSC
King Hall -- KH
Library North -- LIBN
Library Palmer Wing -- LPW
Music -- MUS
Physical Education -- PE
Physical Sciences -- PS
Salazar Hall -- SH
Simpson Tower -- ST
Student Affairs -- SA
Student Health Center -- HC
Student Housing Complex - PHASE I -- HOUS1,
Student Housing Complex - PHASE II -- HOUS2
Theatre Arts -- TA
University-Student Union -- U-SU
Welcome Center -- WELC
TV, Film, Media -- TVFM
Transit Center -- TRANS
Public Safety -- PUBS
NASA Space Lab -- NASA
Luckman Theatre -- LCKM
Luckman Gallery -- LCKMG
Hydrogen Station -- HYDR
High School, Stern -- MASS
High School, LACHSA -- LACHSA

California State University, Los Angeles

This is the University's full formal name: use it or Cal State LA in first references. Note that there are no periods in "LA" when it follows "Cal State."  We no longer use CSULA. Cal State Los Angeles; CSU Los Angeles; Cal State Univ., Los Angeles; CSU, LA or any other deviation is NOT acceptable.


Capitalize proper nouns. Words derived from proper nouns or associated with them are lowercased without loss of clarity or significance (as in Department of History, the history department, and the department). See additional examples below.

Execption: University is used as subsequest reference of California State University, Los Angeles.

Academic terms and class standing
Use lowercase for seasons, academic terms, and class standing.

  • the fall semester 1999; the spring term (not Fall Semester 1999 or Spring semester)
  • freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors (first-year students is an acceptable substitute for freshmen)

See course listings/titles.

See degrees and majors.

Colleges, Departments, and Majors
Capitalize when using the official name of a specific college, department, school, office, or committee, but lowercase second references. Do not capitalize the names of disciplines, majors, or programs unless they are proper nouns, derivatives of geographical references, or part of a designated degree.

  • The College of Natural and Social Sciences offers courses in biology, chemistry, geology, mathematics and physics.
  • astronomy program; courses in history; economics major; English major; courses in American history; courses in Asian political systems
  • He has a B.A. in international relations and a minor in African American studies.
  • the Department of Economics; the economics department;
  • the Office of Admissions and Records; the admissions office
  • the Academic Status Committee; the committee

The California State University System

  • the Board of Trustees of the California State University; the Board of Trustees


Geographical terms
Geographical terms commonly accepted as proper names are capitalized.

  • Northern California (but northeastern California)
  • the North State

See titles of works and titles of people.

Chicano, Hispanic, Latino, Mexican American

While dictionaries provide distinct definitions for these terms, they are often interpreted and applied differently, according to individual preference. Generally, Chicano is used to refer to an American of Mexican descent (but some persons of Central and South American heritage also consider themselves Chicanos). Chicana is the feminine form of Chicano. Latino or Latina refers to a person of Latin American heritage. Mexican American is used to refer to a native-born or naturalized American of Mexican heritage. If the individual or group about whom you are writing expresses a preference, use that term.


Use the full official name of the college on first reference.

  • College of Arts and Letters
  • College of Business and Economics
  • Charter College of Education
  • College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology
  • College of Health and Human Services
  • College of Natural and Social Sciences

Capitalize the official college name. Lowercase unofficial versions (the College of Natural and Social Sciences; the college). Use the acronym NSS (not CNSS) in an index, table, or chart but not in text. (College abbreviations: AL, BE, ED, ECST, HHS, NSS)


A colon is used most often to introduce a list, statement, quotation, or summary. It is also used to introduce a clause relating to the preceding clause. (see lists)

  • Jane does not study for enjoyment: It is expected of her.
  • Participants should bring the following items: pens, paper, pillows and coffee.

The colon should not be used after an incomplete sentence.

  • The metals excluded were mercury, manganese and magnesium.


Use a comma to set off a nonrestrictive appositive (a noun or noun phrase that renames a noun).

  • Professor Chao's most recent book, Interpersonal Communication, has received favorable reviews.

Commas in a series
In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, use a comma after each term except the last.

  • grades of A, B and C

Coordinating conjunctions
Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction (and, but, so, or, nor, for, yet) joining two independent clauses.

  • These examples do not include all possible violations, but they do provide a sample of behavior that will result in disciplinary action.

Introductory clause or phrase
Use a comma to set off an introductory clause or phrase.

  • When faculty suspect students of cheating, they may bring formal charges

Parenthetical elements (i.e., amplifying, explanatory, or digressive elements)
Use commas to set off parenthetical elements that retain a close logical relationship to the rest of the sentence.

  • The work is, on the whole, very satisfactory.
  • The last sample we collected (under difficult conditions) was contaminated.

Note: Use parentheses to set off parenthetical elements where the logical relationship to the rest of the sentence is more remote. Parentheses tend to minimize the importance of the part set off.

Compose, comprise, constitute

  • Compose means to put together: The committee is composed of faculty and staff.
  • Comprise means to contain, to include all, or embrace: The committee comprises faculty and staff. (not The committee is comprised of…)
  • Constitute means to make up the elements of the whole: Faculty and staff constitute the committee.

Course listings/titles

Refer to specific courses only by their official identification, using the abbreviation and course number. Capitalize, no quotation marks.

ENGL 001, POLS 055, HIST 155 (not English 1, Poli Sci 55, or History 155)

Course work

(two words)


Use dashes to set off a parenthetical element that is very abrupt, that denotes a sudden break in thought, or that has commas within it. Dashes tend to emphasize the elements being set off. The em dash is a longer dash that is found in the character set of most software programs.

  • The professor—small, old and frail—spoke to the class for the last time.
  • Remember: dashes separate; hyphens join.

The other specialized dash is the en dash. It is primarily used for inclusive dates and number sequences, as well as denoting the minus sign in grades (see grades). It is slightly longer than a hyphen.

  • 1994-96
  • chapters 12-14
  • pages 3-15


Spell out months and days of the week. If necessary for space, you can abbreviate Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. Use no punctuation if listing only the month and the year, but set the year off with commas if listing the day of the month as well.

  • May 24, 2005<
  • May 2005
  • the class of '05
  • the sixties
  • the 1980s
  • December 4, 2005, was…

Degrees and majors

Capitalize the full degree title; lowercase the shorter form.

  • Bachelor of Arts degree
  • bachelor's degree
  • baccalaureate or baccalaureate degree
  • Master of Arts
  • master's program in public administration
  • doctorate

In general, do not use abbreviations for degrees after a person's name (e.g., Joel Stein, Ph.D.), unless necessary to establish her or his credentials.

Use periods in abbreviations of academic degrees.

  • B.A., B.S., B.F.A., M.A., M.S., M.B.A., M.F.A., M.P.A., M.S.W., Ph.D., Ed.D.

When referring to degrees in general, lowercase the first letter of the degree and use 's.

  • Seventy people hold master's degrees.
  • She earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics.
  • The word degree should not follow a degree abbreviation.
  • He has a B.A. in history. (not He has a B.A. degree in history.)

Note: Some degree titles do not follow this pattern (e.g., Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Public Administration).


Use the full official name on first reference.

  • Department of Chemistry


See biased language.


Use three spaced periods to indicate an omission within a phrase. To indicate an omission after a complete sentence, use four spaced periods (an actual period plus the ellipsis).
* Each semester, register in advance… and pay fees by the deadline.


See titles.


Choose one form of emphasis (italics or bold with lowercase are most common) for consistency.

  • Avoid: You must meet the deadline or YOUR REGISTRATION WILL BE CANCELED!

Wherever possible give directions in courteous, positive terms.

  • Please turn out the lights. (not DON'T LEAVE LIGHTS ON!)


Etc. sometimes masks an imprecise or incomplete thought. Omit when possible, but if used, don't say “and etc.” since et cetera means “and the rest.”

Ethnic groups

See African American; American Indian; Asian American; Chicano, Hispanic, Latino, Mexican American.

Fall/fall quarter

Lowercase references to seasons and academic terms (see seasons).

Founders Week

Note the absence of the apostrophe.


When referring to a grade, use a capital letter, but no quotation marks. Use an en dash to indicate a minus sign.

  • a B- average; a CR/NC course; She earned A's and B's this semester.


See Chicano, Hispanic, Latino, Mexican American.


A compound is hyphenated when it comes before the noun, but not after it.

  • She directs their computer-assisted reference services. (but Almost all our services are computer assisted.)
  • He lives in off-campus housing. (but His home is off campus.)
  • She is a well-respected professor. (but Professor Thomas is well respected.)

A compound such as high school is left open when used to modify a noun, especially if the compound is a familiar one.

  • high school students, not high-school students
  • grade point average, not grade-point average

Use a “suspended” hyphen when a base word, a suffix, or a prefix is doing double duty.

  • second- and third-year students; self-initiated and -implemented projects

The suffix -wide is hyphenated only after a base word of three or more syllables.

  • university-wide, but campuswide, statewide, collegewide

Many words beginning with common prefixes are closed.

  • extracurricular, interlibrary, interdisciplinary, midyear, minicomputer, multicultural, nondegree, postdoctoral, preregistration
  • socioeconomic, subcommittee

For guidance on hyphenating specific words, see Webster's Instant Word Guide or The Chicago Manual of Style.

i.e. or e.g.

These often are confused: i.e., id est, means that is e.g., exempli gratia, means for example.

  • Only the department's tenured faculty (i.e., full, associate and assistant professors) are entitled to vote.
  • The university has exchange programs with universities in many European cities (e.g., Paris, London, Florence and Stockholm). If specific speaking of Cal State L.A. The University …


It's is a contraction meaning it is. Its is a possessive pronoun (hers, his, its).

  • It's a requirement that each department have its own chair.

-ize words

Use -ize words (nouns made into verbs by adding -ize) sparingly and only if they are words found in the dictionary. Consider these substitutes:

  • agendize—to place on the agenda
  • finalize—sign; agree to
  • prioritize—list; rate; rank
  • utilize— use


See Chicano, Hispanic, Latino, Mexican American.


Use fewer when referring to items that can be counted; use less when referring to quantity, value, degree, or amount.

  • Fewer students failed the entrance exam.
  • Los Angeles got less rain this year.


It is most common to alphabetize the entries in a list, but other methods include organizing according to importance, size, cost, rarity, or position in space and time. If the method of order is not obvious, explain the order.

  • Students may earn certificates in the following areas:
    Exercise Physiology
    Forensic Identification
    Literary Editing and Publishing
  • Cast (in order of appearance):
    Shirley Niven
    Victor Juarez
    Rasheeda Ross

Use numbers or letters only when indicating a priority or sequence to the items. When items of a list are numbered or lettered, follow each number or letter with a period. Otherwise, if the items in a vertical list need to be set off, use bullets. If one or more item in the list is a complete sentence, use a period at the end of each item. Otherwise, no punctuation is needed at the end of each item.

  1. Complete the Free Application for Federal Aid accurately and legibly.
  2. Send it to the processor as soon as possible after January 1.
  3. Respond promptly to requests for additional information.

Use parentheses to enclose numbers marking a division within running text.

  • You will qualify for admission if you are (1) a high school graduate, (2) meet test requirements, and (3) have completed the college preparatory subject requirements.

Make lists parallel by using the same sentence construction for each item.

The Student Culture Center provides tips to increase cultural identity:

  • Keep an open mind.
  • Learn more about cultures that are unfamiliar to you.
  • Remember the Golden Rule.

In running text, colons are often used to introduce a list, but should not be used to separate a verb from its object. This also applies to vertical lists (see colon)

  • Required courses include the following: ENGL 001, MATH 004, CMST 011.
  • Required courses include ENGL 001, MATH 004, CMST 011.
  • Alternative transportation in Los Angeles includes the following:
    Public Transit


See degrees and majors; also Colleges and Departments, under capitalization.

Man, mankind

Use human or humankind when referring to men and women.

Mexican American

See Chicano, Hispanic, Latino, Mexican American.

Native American

This term is usually preferred to American Indian. When possible, use the name of a specific tribe. Use Indian (not East Indian) to refer to the people of India.


In general, non takes no hyphen when used as a prefix (nonprofit, nonresident), except when the base word is a proper noun (non-Western) or begins with an n (non-native).

Northern California/ North State

Capitalize Northern and North State.
See capitalization.


In nontechnical text, spell out whole numbers from one through nine; use numerals for 10 or greater, except when used as the first word in a sentence.

  • Course requirements include reading nine novels.
  • There are 107 periodicals on order.

Consistency. Numbers applicable to the same category should be treated alike within the same sentence; do not use numerals for some and spell out others.

  • There are 9 graduate students in the philosophy department, 56 in the English department, and 117 in the religious studies department.

However, spell out all numbers that begin a sentence, regardless of any inconsistency this may create.

  • One hundred ten men and 103 women will graduate this semester.

Decimals/ Percents. Use numerals with decimals and percents. Use the word percent in nontechnical text. (Use the symbol % in statistical or technical text.)

  • Of the sophomores, 5 percent are undeclared majors.

Fractions. Quantities consisting of both whole numbers and fractions are expressed in numerals.

  • 8.5-by-11-inch paper

Money. Use the dollar sign and numeral for whole dollar amounts of U.S. currency when under $1 million. For dollar amounts beyond thousands, use the dollar sign, numeral, and appropriate word.

  • The late registration fee is $9.
  • Submit the application with the $100 fee.
  • The grant was $14 million.

The decimal and following zeros should be omitted if all amounts in the same statement are whole dollars. Fractional amounts over one dollar are set in numerals like other decimal fractions. Whole dollar amounts are set with zeros after the decimal point when they appear in the same context with fractional amounts.

  • Fees of $150 and $175 must be paid in advance.
  • Parking decals are $63.00 for an automobile, $15.75 for a motorcycle.

Pages of a Book. Use numerals for references to pages of a book, tables, illustrations and figures.

  • See Table 4 on page 7.

Round Numbers. Approximations used in place of exact numbers may be spelled out.

  • We get thousands of change forms each semester.
  • The population is about a thousand.
    (but We recorded 72,483 grades last fall.)

Round numbers over 999,999 may be expressed in numerals followed by million, billion, etc.

  • The population exceeded 50 million.


Hyphenate when used as an adjective (off-campus housing), but not when used as an adverb (he lives off campus).


The only nouns that take 's in the plural are abbreviations with more than one period and single letters.

  • M.B.A.'s; R.N.'s; A's and B's; x's and y's

Acronyms, hyphenated coinages, and numbers used as nouns (either spelled out or as numerals) add s (or es) to form the plural. An exception is an acronym ending in the letter s.

  • W-2s, 747s; FAFSAs; 1980s; Hi-Fis; follow-ups; and sixes and sevens; but SOS's


In general, don't hyphenate words with post or pre prefixes (postsecondary, prerequisite).


Use of professor is preferred. Professor is an academic rank or title. A doctor (in academics) is one who has earned the highest academic degree (e.g., Ph.D.). Not all professors have doctorates, nor are all holders of doctorates professors. See titles of people.


(See colons, commas, dashes, ellipses, hyphens, and quotation marks)

Quotation marks

Use quotation marks to indicate a citation or direct quotation. Place commas and periods inside the closing quotation mark; colons and semicolons outside. Placement of a question mark depends on the meaning: Does it apply to the part quoted or to the whole sentence? Question marks that are part of a title go inside quotation marks.

The University Catalog says this about our satellite technology: “In 1993, the University installed a 10-meter Scientific Atlanta earth station on campus.”

  • “I can't attend,” she said.
  • Was she called “President”?
  • He asked, “Is it time to go?”
  • Read chapter 2, “Where from Here?”

A quote within a quote requires single quotations ‘ ’.
Quotes within a heading should be single quotation marks.


Use lowercase, even when referring to an issue of a publication (capitalize only if the season is part of the official title, as in The Update Fall).

  • the fall 2001 issue of University Reports


See biased language.

Singular/plural words

  • Criterion, parenthesis, phenomenon, medium, and memorandum are singular.
  • Criteria, parentheses, phenomena, media, and memorandums are plural words.

Collective nouns such as committee, faculty, and staff name a group. If the group functions as a unit, treat the noun as singular; if the members of the group function individually, treat the noun as plural.

  • The committee, at its last meeting…
  • The committee put their signatures on the document.

Telephone numbers

University convention calls for the area code to be followed by a hyphen.
323-343-1234 (x1234 in on-campus publications). When used in electronic signatures, the numbers are separated by periods: 323.343.1234.


Use numerals with a.m. and p.m. set in small caps. If you can't set type with small caps, use lower case a.m. Eliminate zeros if all time referred to in the statement is on the hour. Never use a.m. with “morning” or p.m. with “evening,” and never use “o'clock” with either a.m. or p.m. or with numerals. Avoid the redundancy of “The game is at 8 p.m. tonight.”

  • Office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
  • (8-9 p.m. is acceptable in tables and lists.)
  • Registration will occur 9:30 to 11:00 a.m.
  • eight o'clock; noon/midnight

Titles of people

Official personal titles immediately preceding a name are capitalized; those following a name or set off by commas are not. This rule applies to both academic and administrative titles. Distinguish between official titles and purely descriptive titles (e.g., Maintenance Supervisor Susan Smith; maintenance employee Susan Smith).

  • The latest discovery by Professor Anne Fisher
  • …; physics professor Anne Fisher…
  • James Allen, assistant professor of anthropology, has discovered…
  • A professor of engineering at CSU, Chico since 1990, Mary Roth studies…
  • Vice Provost Juan Garcia; Juan Garcia, vice provost since 1992,…
  • Professor Emerita Joan Levy; David Sachs, professor emeritus of art…

Titles of works

The following titles are set in italics: titles and subtitles of published books, pamphlets, proceedings and collections, periodicals, and newspapers and sections of newspapers published separately:

  • titles of collections of poetry and long poems
  • titles of plays
  • titles of motion pictures
  • titles of operas, oratorios, and other long musical compositions
  • titles of paintings, drawings, statues, and other works of art

The following works are set in roman (regular/plain) type and enclosed in quotation marks:

  • titles of articles and features in periodicals and newspapers
  • titles of short stories, essays, chapter titles, and individual selections in books
  • titles of dissertations and theses, manuscripts in collections, and lectures and papers read at meetings
  • titles of television and radio programs (unless it's a series; then italicize the program title and put the episode title in quotation marks—The X-Files, “Trust No One”)
  • titles of songs and short compositions

Exact titles of campus publications should be italicized.

  • The 2008-2009 University Catalog or The University Catalog


In general, don't hyphenate words with under as a prefix (underrepresented).


Unique means “without like or equal.” Thus, there can be no degrees of uniqueness, as in “the most unique… ”


Uppercase the “u” in “University” when referring to Cal State L.A. (See California State University, Los Angeles). No capitilization is needed when writing about a university or universities in general.

URLs and email addresses

Do not add punctuation to an Internet address. If an address won't fit on one line, break the address after a forward slash or before a period. Do not hyphenate.


Use the simple and direct word or phrase. Consider the following substitutes:

Wordy --- Preferred Usage
owing to the fact that --- since
in order to --- to
there is no doubt that --- no doubt
deadline date --- deadline
student body --- students
being as, being that --- since; because