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Editorial Style Guide

Having an editorial style guide helps us speak in a consistent, unified voice and provides a better experience for our readers and visitors. We’ve included Steinhardt-specific rules here, along with highlighting rules from NYU’s editorial guide and our main outside reference guide, The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS). If you have questions about style or grammar that aren’t included here, CMS should have the answer.

For words not mentioned here, use the first-listed option in Merriam-Webster Online.

Where these resources disagree, this is the order of authority for NYU Steinhardt:

  1. NYU Steinhardt editorial style guide and web writing guidelines, then
  2. NYU editorial guide, then
  3. Chicago Manual of Style, then
  4. Merriam-Webster

As an example, we at NYU Steinhardt prefer the spelling "advisor," while the NYU editorial guide lists "adviser." You would therefore use "advisor," because our School-specific guide has higher authority here.

    School, University, and Academic References

    • Use "New York University" for formal occasions and international audiences. Otherwise, use "NYU."
    • Never use periods in "NYU."
    • Capitalize "University" when referring to NYU, but lowercase when used generally: "The University has a number of exciting baccalaureate events in Washington Square Park" vs. "She attended a four-year university."
    • Refer to "NYU's campus in New York," not "NYU New York."
    • Capitalize the full, formal names of centers, divisions, administrative offices, buildings, monuments, and formal groups, as well as generic terms that are part of the names; do not capitalize generic terms used descriptively.
      • Formal names: Registrar's Office, Office of Undergraduate Admissions, Office of Financial Aid, Kimmel Center, Bobst Library, Graduate Student Organization
      • Generic terms: the library, the gym, the admissions office, the financial aid office
    • Use the full name of the School on the first use for formal and academic occasions: "Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development." Always include commas after both "Culture" and "Education."
    • On subsequent references and in less formal circumstances, use "NYU Steinhardt."
    • Capitalize "School" when referring to NYU Steinhardt specifically but lowercase for schools in general: "A focus on inclusion is one of the School's hallmarks" vs. "She did her student teaching in a local school."
    • For email signatures, include either “NYU Steinhardt” or “NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development” along with your office, department, unit, or program name.
    • Do not use periods when abbreviating degree programs: MA, PhD, BM
    • Use lowercase when spelling out degrees: bachelor of science, doctoral degree or doctorate, master of arts.
    • Use “bachelor’s” and “master’s” as adjectives (lowercased, with apostrophe included): bachelor’s students, master’s students, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, not bachelor degree or master degree or bachelors or masters program.
    • When spelling out the full name of a degree don't use apostrophes: bachelor of science, master of arts, doctor of philosophy.
    • Use “doctoral” with degree, “doctorate” without: “He received his doctoral degree from NYU Steinhardt. His doctorate is in English education.”
    • Capitalize specific professional titles when they immediately precede a personal name (like Ms., Mr., Mrs., Mx., or Dr. would be used): “We spoke with Professor of Anthropology J.D. Doe.” Do not capitalize when titles are more descriptive and general, rather than specific or official, even when they precede a name: “The event will be hosted by former senator J.D. Doe.” “This play was written by author William Shakespeare.”  
    • Do not capitalize professional titles when they are used in place of a personal name: “The program director has arrived.”
    • Do not capitalize professional titles when they follow a personal name or are used in parentheses, separated by commas, or follow a verb: “J.D. Doe, professor of anthropology, spoke last Monday.”
    • Capitalize named professorships: “Mary Smith is the Carroll and Milton Petrie Professor of Fine Arts.” Always capitalize “University Professor,” which is a special University-wide title.
    • “Dr.” should not be used in addition to a professor title: avoid “Dr. Assistant Professor J.D. Doe” or “Professor Dr. J.D. Doe.”
    • Use standard headline capitalization for course titles; do not use quotation marks or any additional formatting: “I’m taking History of Infectious Diseases in the Fall semester.”
    • Do not capitalize names of fields of study: “J.D. Doe was hired to teach History of Infectious Diseases in the undergraduate program in biology.”
    • Capitalize “program” when it is part of the name of a distinctive NYU program: Liberal Studies Program, Core Program, the Honors Program. Lowercase “program” when it is identifying an area of study: the MCC program, the Developmental Psychology program.
    • Capitalize the names of NYU degrees, programs, and departments: “the MA in Dance Education, All Grades: Initial Certification,” “the Art Therapy master’s program,” “Department of Occupational Therapy.”
    • Use lowercase when referring to general academic majors, minors, and concentrations with the exception of languages, which are proper nouns: “He is majoring in physics." "Their minor is English.”
    • Lowercase terms for academic years: senior, graduate student, first-year student
    • Capitalize seasons when referring to an academic term/semester: “I’m graduating in the Spring semester.” “Apply now for Fall term.” but “What are you doing this summer?”
    • Use the gender-inclusive "alum" for singular and "alumni" for plural. Avoid "alumnus," "alumna," or "alumnae."
    • An alum is anyone who attended NYU for at least one semester. A graduate earned a degree from the school.
    • When referring to alumni, put their degree information in parentheses starting with the degree, then the year, then the program of study (or any combination thereof): “J.D. Doe (BS ’89) recently finished their first film.” “J.D. Doe (’08) has a show opening at MoMA PS1.” “J.D. Doe (MA ’99, Early Childhood Education) is currently working at the Department of Education.”
    • Make sure the apostrophe is set correctly (swooping away from the numbers)!
    • When writing about alumni from multiple NYU schools, specify the year of graduation and the school of study: “J.D. Doe (Steinhardt ’07) lives in Oakland, California.” “The conference will be led by J.D. Doe (GSAS ’11).”
    • Capitalize “class” when referring to a specific graduating class: the Class of 2014.

    Accessibility Rules and Guidelines

    Creating an accessible website is essential to keeping our content inclusive; it’s our responsibility to make our content available to the greatest number of people possible. For a refresher on all of our accessibility requirements and guidelines, check out our accessibility quick tip sheet.

    • Be thoughtful about your hyperlinks. Don’t use full URLs on the page, keep your hyperlinked text descriptive and brief, and do not use phrases like “click here.” Check out Writing Text for Links in our writing guidelines for more.
    • Set your headers, subheaders, and lists correctly. Use the text editor to make sure they are correctly tagged, not just styled.
    • Use headers and subheaders like an outline. Subheaders should relate to the headers directly before them, and both should accurately represent the content that follows them. 
    • Avoid jargon, and define acronyms on first use. Make sure a visitor from outside academia (or your industry, unit, center, program, and so on) can follow what you’re saying.
    • Only upload videos with captions – and make sure the captions are accurate!
    • Provide accurate text descriptions for all images. If you add an image to a page make sure you accurately describe the image in the alternate text.
    • Avoid using the exact same content on more than one webpage, or using the same name for multiple webpages. This confuses search engines and makes it harder for visitors to find the information they need.
    • If you can’t keep it brief, keep it concise. Don’t distract from your meaning; be as straightforward and clear as you can.
    • Start with a brief summary. Give visitors an immediate understanding of your page, so they know right away if it matches what they’re looking for.

    General Grammar Rules

    • Don’t use hyphens in words with prefixes (nonprofit, preexisting, cofounder) except when two “i”s or “a”s come together (anti-inflation, meta-analysis) or the word has a capital letter (sub-Saharan).
    • Don't hyphenate words ending with "-like" unless they are formed from proper names (Gandhi-like) or words ending in "ll" (shell-like)
    • Multicultural, fieldwork, email, eNews, editor in chief, bestseller/selling, fundraising, healthcare, policymaker/making, preprofessional: no hyphen
    • Hyphenate an adverb or adjective compound before the noun, but not after:
      • Before: lesser-known works, well-known author, part-time study, five-year-old child, 3-credit course
        • Exception: -ly adverbs are not hyphenated, as in "highly proficient alum"
      • After: a professor who is well regarded, studying part time, started their degree at fifty years old, this course is three credits
    • Use the en dash (–) for parenthetical remarks, with one space before and after. To make the en dash, use Option + - on a Mac and Alt + 0150 on a PC.
      • “We enroll nearly 6,400 students each year – 2,500 in undergraduate and 3,900 in master’s programs – to create a highly diverse mix of students.”
    • Use standard headline capitalization for headlines, headers, and page titles, as well as all the capitalized terms noted in the School, University, and Academia References section of this guide.
      • Explore Our Undergraduate and Graduate Programs for Fall Semester through Our Website
      • In hyphenated compounds, always capitalize the first word or prefix. Capitalize following words by the standard capitalization rules: Seventeenth-Century Literature, Out-of-the-Way Neighborhood, Anti-Racism
    • Review CMS’s rules on names, terms, and titles of works for guidance on when to use italics and when to use quotation marks.
    • Spell out numbers one through nine, and any number that begins a sentence.
    • Use numerals for 10 and up.
    • Ratios: use “2-to-1 ratio."
    • Use numerals for academic credits: “This is a 3-credit course.” “The major requires 42 credits.”
    • Use comma after thousands in a numeral: 3,210
    • In phone numbers, use hyphens: 212-992-7650. Do not include the “1” that needs to be dialed before the area code. 
    • We use a single space after a period or a colon. (We know a lot of people learned to double space and it’s a hard habit to break, but across the board style guides recommend a single space now.)
    • Use the serial/Oxford comma in lists.
      • "Would you like a donut, a cookie, a muffin, or all three?"
      • "The Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development"
    • Use "'s" (apostrophe + s) after the possessive of singular nouns, even if they end in an s already.
      • the School's faculty, Charles's research projects
    • Don't use an ampersand (&) in text, headings, or titles as a replacement for "and," except in the following cases: 
      • Company names: AT&T, Crown & Co.
      • Common shorthand expressions: R&D, country & western, rhythm & blues

    Other Rules, Tips, and Guidelines

    • Avoid using gendered language whenever possible, e.g., avoid using "policeman" instead of "police officer" or "alumna" instead of "alum."
    • Use singular they/them when speaking about a hypothetical person: “If a student cannot attend the seminar, they can watch the captioned video a week later.”
    • Use specified pronouns! Our goal is for everyone in our community to feel included and represented. If someone asks you to use specific pronouns and/or a specific gender identity to refer to them, be sure to respect that request.
    • actor-director
    • advisor
    • after-school (adjective)
    • African American, Chinese American, etc. (adjective or noun)
    • artist-scholar
    • bestseller/bestselling
    • course work
    • diverse: only used for groups (“diverse student body” is okay, but “diverse student” is not, as a single student cannot on their own be diverse)
    • e-book, e-commerce, e-newsletter but email and eNews
    • editor in chief
    • fieldwork
    • first-come, first-served
    • fundraising
    • healthcare
    • Internet
    • multicultural
    • policymaker/policymaking
    • risk-taker
    • theatre
    • website, webpage

    Additional Writing Resources

    Writing for the Web

    Creating a website? Writing content that will be available online? Please follow these best practices and general tips for writing for the web.

    Read More about writing for the web

    Writing Accessible Content

    For a refresher on all of our accessibility requirements and guidelines, check out our accessibility quick tip sheet.

    Read More about writing for accessibility