Commonly Used Titles & Terms

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San José State University

The proper spelling of San José State University includes the accent over the "e" in José, when printing the name in both title case and in all capitals. First reference to the university should be its full name: San José State University. Accepted second references are San José State, SJSU and "university."

Do not capitalize "university" when used alone as a second reference.

San José State University


It is preferable to avoid abbreviations of schools, programs and organizations, except in tables, headlines and other situations where space is limited. Your copy will read better if you avoid abbreviations. When you do need to abbreviate, here are some reminders:

All-capital abbreviations or acronyms

All-capital abbreviations or acronyms do not take periods, except when referring to nations, states, cities or people.


Abbreviate grade point average in all capitals with no spaces: GPA.

Names of organizations

Names of organizations should be spelled out on first reference. In general, do not follow an organization's name with an abbreviation or acronym in parentheses or set off by dashes (except legal documents). If an abbreviation or acronym would not be clear on second reference, do not use it.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association recently certified the San José State University athletics program. The SJSU program was certified on its first participation in the NCAA review process.

Addressing envelopes

Capitalize a person's title.

Spell out one-digit addresses: One Washington Square.

Abbreviate and capitalize compass points: 1130 Dupont Circle, NW.

Capitalize and spell out First through Ninth when used as street names. Use numerals with two letters for 10th and above.

Spell out Avenue, Street, Lane, etc., unless space does not permit.

Use the two-letter U.S. postal abbreviations for states: CA, PA, MD

Mr. John Chambers
Chief Executive Officer
Cisco Systems
170 W. Tasman Drive
San José, CA 95134

African American

No hyphen. Acceptable for an American Black person of African descent. The term African American is not necessarily interchangeable. Americans of Caribbean heritage, for example, generally refer to themselves as Caribbean American. Follow a person’s preference. 


Ages should always appear in numerical form, except when starting a sentence. Ages used as nouns or adjectives before a noun require hyphens. References to an age range for a decade require no apostrophes.

The student is 20 years old. 

Twenty-one students gathered outside the auditorium. 

The playground is for 3-year-olds. The 24-year-old student ran for office.

The instructor was in her 30s. Not 30's.

She grew up in the 1950s. Not 1950's.

All About Alum-

After graduation, former SJSU students may be referred to using the following terms.

Alumnus: singular male graduate or former student

Alumna: singular female graduate or former student

Alumnae: plural female graduates

Alum(s): may be used as an inclusive term to refer to former student(s)

Alumni: plural graduates or former students, all or some of whom are male

As an alternative, "graduate" may be used.

a.m., p.m.

Use "a.m." and "p.m." in lowercase with periods.

American Indian, Native American, Indigenous

American Indian and Native American are acceptable terms in general references for those in the U.S. when referring to two or more people of different tribal affiliations. Whenever possible use the specific name of the tribe; if that information is not immediately available, try to obtain it. 

Examples from AP Stylebook:
He is a Navajo commissioner. She is a member of the Nisqually Indian Tribe. He is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Some tribes and tribal nations use the term member; others use citizen. In Alaska, the Indigenous groups are collectively known as Alaska Natives.

First Nation is the preferred term for native tribes in Canada.

Indian is used to describe the peoples and cultures of the South Asian nation of India. Do not use the term as a shorthand for American Indians.

Indigenous is used to refer to the original inhabitants of a place. Capitalize when referring to a specific group of people. 


Avoid the use of "&" unless it is part of a company or institution's legal name, such as Procter & Gamble. The ampersand may be used in charts and lists where space is limited.

Asian American

The term should be used with no hyphen. Acceptable for an American of Asian descent. When possible, refer to a person’s country of origin or follow the person’s preference.

Filipino American or Indian American.

Black(s), white(s)

Black(s), white(s) (n.)

Do not use either term as a singular noun. For plurals, phrasing such as Black people, white people, Black teachers, white students is often preferable when clearly relevant. 

Details and examples from AP Stylebook:
White officers account for 64% of the police force, Black officers 21% and Latinx/a/o officers 15%.  

Black (adj.)

Black and white are acceptable as adjectives when relevant. Use the capitalized term as an adjective in a racial, ethnic or cultural sense. Use of the capitalized Black recognizes that language has evolved, along with the common understanding that especially in the United States, the term reflects a shared identity and culture rather than a skin color alone.

Also use Black in racial, ethnic and cultural differences outside the U.S. to avoid equating a person with a skin color.

Black people, Black culture, Black literature, Black studies, Black colleges.

African American is also acceptable for those in the U.S. The terms are not necessarily interchangeable. Americans of Caribbean heritage, for example, generally refer to themselves as Caribbean American. Follow an individual’s preference if known, and be specific when possible and relevant. 

Details and examples from AP Stylebook:
Minneapolis has a large Somali American population because of refugee resettlement. The author is Senegalese American.

Campus Locations and Addresses

Building names are abbreviated only in class schedules, on maps and in other formats where space is limited. To abbreviate, use the building's initials, capitalized without periods or spaces. 

To describe campus locations, use the building name followed by the appropriate room number. There is no need to use "room" before the room number.

SJSU Cares is located in Clark 140.


Academic degrees

Academic degrees are capitalized only in specific references, such as Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, Doctor of Philosophy, etc. They are not capitalized in general references, such as bachelor’s degree, master's, doctorate. The word degree is not capitalized. Capitalize degrees when they are referred to by initials: BS, MA, PhD. When using the abbreviations with a name, follow the name with a comma and then the abbreviation.

His objective is a Bachelor of Arts in history. 

The university offers several master's degree programs.

One of these is the Master of Public Administration.

Frederick A. Chin, PhD

When writing for external audiences, such as a media outlet, San José State does not use Dr. before a faculty member’s name. Instead, use their academic title either capitalized directly before their name or lowercase after their name. If you are using an academic degree in the title, do not use both Dr. and PhD.  Likewise, using Dr. and PhD is not necessary when a person's academic or administrative title implies these credentials. 

Dr. Jane Koch or Jane Koch, PhD

Professor Laura Hoola

Jane Koch, professor of mathematics

Building names

Building names are capitalized.

Yoshihiro Uchida Hall or Uchida Hall

Class-level references

Class-level references are not capitalized.


A group of seniors provided tutoring for freshmen. The class of 2021 donated a gift of $50,000 to the university.

Colleges and departments

Colleges and departments are capitalized only when used as a formal title/name. Refer to the college or department’s website if unsure of the formal title.

The Department of Chemistry is part of the College of Science.

The mechanical engineering department is a part of the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering.

Directions and regions

Directions are not capitalized if they refer to a compass direction. They should be capitalized, however, if they refer to a region, are part of a proper name or denote a widely known section of a city or state. When in doubt, use lowercase.

Professor Mendoza's move east took him as far as the Midwest, where his Northern California customs were the source of much amusement.

Disciplines, majors and programs

Disciplines, majors and programs such as art, accounting, geography and engineering are capitalized only when referring to a specific department or course. However, disciplines derived from proper nouns, such as French, German and Spanish, are always capitalized.

She is planning to major in geography.

The Department of Geography offers many courses. One of these is Geography 101.

Rory earned a bachelor’s degree in history.

Seasons and semesters

Seasons and semesters are not capitalized.

We are looking forward to summer vacation after the spring semester.

State and Federal

"State" when used as a generic adjective or as a noun is not capitalized. "Federal" is capitalized as part of the formal names of corporate or government bodies. Use lowercase when it is used as an adjective to distinguish something from state, county, city, town or private entities.

Inform the people of the state of California.

Professor John Jones received a federal grant.

The Federal Communications Commission has awarded several grants.


Titles are capitalized only when they precede a person's name.

President Mary A. Papazian

Mary A. Papazian, president of the university

Dean Shannon Miller

Shannon Miller, dean of the College of Humanities and the Arts

Assistant Professor Shaun Fletcher

Shaun Fletcher, assistant professor, journalism and mass communications

The proposal presented by the college deans and department chairs is subject to approval by the president.

San José, the city

Do not capitalize "city" when used in conjunction with San José, except when referring to the city as a formal title and/or an employer.

Mayor Liccardo represented the city of San José at the library's celebration.

She works for the parks and recreation department for the City of San José.

Chicanx/a/o (See also Latinx/a/o)

Chicanx/a/o is a preferred term at SJSU. Chicana/o is a term sometimes used by Mexican Americans in the U.S. to describe their heritage. Chicanx, Chicana or Chicano can be used if requested by the individual, and should be accompanied by a short explanation. Chicanx/a/os can be used to represent more than one person.

Elena Hernandez prefers to be referred to as Chicana.  

The club represents Chicanx/a/os at SJSU.


This is the list of the official names of colleges with preferred second references, where applicable.

Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering; Davidson College of Engineering
Lucas College and Graduate School of Business; COB
College of Graduate Studies
College of Health and Human Sciences; CHHS
College of Humanities and the Arts; H&A (informal)
College of Professional and Global Education; CPGE
College of Science
College of Social Sciences
Connie L. Lurie College of Education; Lurie College of Education; Lurie College or College of Education


San José State does not use serial commas. Use commas to separate items in a simple series but not before the final conjunction. However, do use a comma to separate items in a complex series (before the conjunction) if there is a possibility of confusion without it.  When used with quotation marks, commas and periods are always enclosed within the quotation marks.

Simple series: The items on the dean's agenda included sabbaticals, collective bargaining and parking.

Complex series: Among those attending the conference were the deans of social sciences, health and human sciences, and humanities and the arts.

With quotation marks: "The parking lot is crowded," he said. "I should have taken a distance education course through the College of Professional and Global Education."

Company, corporate, product names

In general, follow the spelling and capitalization used by the company: inCircle, eBay, iPod, MasterCard, Macintosh, Kmart. Use ampersands as the official company or product name dictates. Abbreviate Co. and Corp., and delete references to Inc., unless doing so makes the name confusing.

Examples: Procter & Gamble, Microsoft Corp., the San Jose Mercury News

To check the formal names of companies, consult the national stock exchanges: New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ or the American Stock Exchange.

Compound words

When two or more adjectives are used to express a single concept in modifying a noun, they become compound modifiers. Compound modifiers are linked with hyphens.

Long-term assignment

Full-scale investigation

Part-time or full-time worker

Computer, information technology terms

Do not capitalize the word "internet." Spellings of some computer- and internet-related words are below:


When writing website addresses and URLs, in most cases there is no need to prefix the web address with http:// or www. However, always confirm that the URL launches without the prefixes.

Course work

Course work is two separate words.

cum laude

Written as cum laude, all italics and lowercase. It is Latin for "with honors."

Also, magna cum laude (with high honors) and summa cum laude (with highest honors).


Dashes are longer than hyphens. Single hyphens should not be used in the place of dashes. 

Em-dashes (—) can be used to denote a change in thought or to add emphasis to a pause; to set off a list of items in place of commas because the extra punctuation would be confusing; or to set off the attribution of a quote. Use spaces around either side of an em dash.

The fall semester — starting in August — is the first semester of the academic year.

En-dashes (–) are used to denote a range. Do not use spaces around en dash. 

8 a.m–9 a.m.

Pages 12–30

Hyphens (-) are joiners. Use them to avoid ambiguity or to form a single idea from two or more words.




Dates and times

For readability and clarity in text, express dates of events in the sequence of time, day, date and place. Abbreviate all months except March, April, May, June and July when used with a specific date. Spell out months when used alone or only with the year. When using a month, day and year, set off the year with commas.

The colloquium will be held at 4 p.m. 

Wednesday, Sept. 1, in Clark Hall 201.

My birthday is Jan. 15.

January 1989 was the coldest month on record.

June 6, 1944, was D-Day.


Emeritus is not a synonym for retired. The titles emeritus (male) or emerita (female) are bestowed on many, but not all, retiring faculty members. A group of men or both men and women is called emeriti and a group of women is called emeritae. Place the word emeritus after the formal title.

Professor emeritus of biology

Professor emerita of business management


When referring to the faculty of the university, college or department as a unit, faculty is a singular noun and takes a singular verb. To refer to faculty members as individuals, add the word "members" and use a plural verb.

The faculty is represented by the Academic Senate.

Many faculty members are part of the volunteer group.

Several members of the geology faculty are among the presenters.

She is a faculty member in the English department.


To avoid gender bias, the term first-year student is acceptable. As an adjective, use freshman, not freshmen, which is always a noun. 

Fundraising, fundraiser

It is one word in all forms and uses. Do not hyphenate.

Graduation year and major

Always note the graduation year and major of a San José State current undergraduate or graduate student and alum. (For current students, using the expected graduation date is acceptable.)

Follow the Spartan's name with the two-digit graduation year and major. San José State does not reference the type of undergraduate degree (e.g., BA, BS, BSBA).

When referring to graduates of advanced degree programs, include the degree abbreviation in addition to year and field of study without periods. Do not include an undergraduate year in this case, unless the individual also received their undergraduate degree from SJSU. 

If the individual received multiple degrees from SJSU in the same field of study, it is acceptable to omit the first reference to the subject area. 

Wanjiru Kamau, ’65 Social Sciences

David Chai, ’95 Graphic, ’00 MA Art

Kenneth Habecker, ’63 BA, ’71 MA Spanish

health care

Two words, no hyphen, unless when used as an adjective/modifier.

Health care is a benefit that is covered by my employer.

Health-care environments

Jr., Sr.

Abbreviate as Jr. and Sr. and do not precede by a comma. If it is the individual’s preference, use II or 2nd following their name also without a comma. However, II and 2nd are not necessarily the equivalent of junior.

Jim Smith Jr. went to school.

Ryan Turtle III is watching television.

Latinx/a/o, Hispanic 

Latinx/a/o is the preferred term at SJSU. Latina/o is a term sometimes used to refer to a person or persons from, or whose ancestors were from, a Spanish-speaking land/culture or from Latin America, as well as non-Spanish-speaking indigenous peoples from Latin American countries. Latinx, Latina or Latino can be used if requested by the individual, and should be accompanied by a short explanation. Use a more specific identification when possible, such as Cuban, Puerto Rican, Brazilian or Mexican American. Latinx/a/os can be used to represent more than one person. 

Elena Hernandez prefers to be referred to as Latinx. 

The club represents Latinx/a/os at SJSU.


At SJSU, Hispanic is only used to refer to a formal title. Hispanic is a historical term preserved in the titles of some organizations and governmental agencies. Please note: when referring to Chicanx/a/o and Latinx/a/o individuals, even within the context of these organizations’ work and activities, “Hispanic” should not be used to refer to people. Use Latinx/a/o or, more specifically, Latino, Latina or Latinx, depending on an individual's preference. Latinx/a/o is the preferred term used at SJSU. Use a more specific identification when possible, such as Cuban, Puerto Rican, Brazilian or Mexican American.

Hispanic Heritage Month, Hispanic-Serving Institution, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. 

Library, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library

First reference to the library should be its full name: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library. Accepted second references are King Library and MLK library. Do not capitalize "library" when used alone as a second reference.

Main Campus (See also South Campus)

Capitalize Main Campus when referring to the central location of San José State’s campus at One Washington Square. 

Numbers and numerical references

As a general rule, numbers one to nine should be spelled out; numbers 10 and above should be left in numerical form, except when used at the beginning of a sentence. Use numerical figures, however, when referring to sections of a book, age, grade point average and scores. (See also “Ages”)

There were four people in our group.

Twenty cows crossed the road.

She has a GPA of 3.8.

The final score in Saturday’s football game was 7–21 in favor of the home team. 

Ordinal numbers

Spell out ordinal numbers (first, second, third) first through ninth. For the 10th ordinal and above, use figures.

First, second, 10th, 23rd, 31st


When describing money, do not include the decimal places for whole dollars.

Tickets cost $5 for general admission, $3 for students and $2.50 for children under 12.


When describing time, do not use zeros with whole hours. Always use lowercase and periods with a.m. and p.m. Noon is also acceptable for 12 p.m. When referring to a range of time, use an en dash. 

1 p.m., 2–3:30 p.m.


Use the % sign when paired with a number, with no space, in most cases. Spell out “percentage” when referring to percentage points. For amounts less than 1%, precede the decimal with a zero. In casual uses, use words rather than figures and numbers.

Average hourly pay rose 3.1% from a year ago.

About 60% of students agreed.

His approval rating went up 4 percentage points.

The cost of living rose 0.6%.

She said he has a zero percent chance of winning.

Telephone numbers

When writing telephone numbers, use hyphens to separate area code and exchange. Always include the area code.

Example: 408-924-1000

People with disabilities

When writing about anyone with a disability — whether physical, intellectual or psychological/emotional — always strive to adopt people-first language. This means using words that put the person at the center of a description rather than a label, their status, or focusing on what the individual cannot do.

For example, you would refer to a graduate student who has epilepsy but not a graduate student who is an epileptic. As with any other area of sensitivity like this, please ask the individual how they prefer to be referred to and use this language as much as possible. Be sure if you are interviewing someone with a disability, whether visible or not, that they are aware of how much detail and information you will be sharing about their disability and/or ask them to review the content before it is published.

If the disability is not part of the story and there isn't a need to include it, don't.

Don't refer to someone who does not have a disability as able-bodied. You can simply say they do not have a disability when it's necessary to distinguish that someone doesn't have one. Avoid using the term normal.

Avoid sensationalizing a disability by using phrases like, but not limited to, "afflicted with," "suffers from," or "victim of."

Use accessible when describing a space, location or event that is modified to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

People with disabilities are typically not suffering from a disease or illness, therefore they should not be referred to as patients, unless under a health-care setting.

To show inclusiveness and sensitivity to students, you may want to refer to them as students who are receiving services, which may include physical or mental help, or students with a verified disability. Every CSU campus has services for students with disabilities and a wide variety of accommodations can be made if needed. The Accessible Education Center at SJSU is a good resource for information about these accommodations.

Personal pronouns

Use a person’s self-identified pronoun whenever possible. Avoid using s(he) as generic third-person singular pronouns. Do not presume maleness in constructing a sentence by defaulting to he/his/him. Usually it is possible, and always preferable, to reword the sentence to avoid gender.

In most cases, a plural pronoun such as they, them or their should agree in number with the antecedent: The children love the books their uncle gave them. 

When a person identifies as nonbinary or prefers gender-neutral pronouns, use their name and/or they/them/their. Introduce their preferred pronouns in parentheses following their name.

Pat Smith (they/them), ’20 Interior Design, published a design study.

For more details and examples, see the AP Stylebook.

Publication and composition titles

For newspapers, magazines, journals and other regularly occurring publications, capitalize the initial letters of the name but do not place it in quotes or italicize. Lowercase magazine unless it is part of the publication's formal title. Capitalize only words that are part of the publication's formal name. Check the publication's masthead to confirm its formal name.

The New York Times

Harper's Magazine

Newsweek magazine

Time magazine

Composition titles

Apply these guidelines to the titles of books, movies, plays, poems, albums, songs, operas, radio and television programs, lectures, speeches, and works of art:

— Capitalize all words in a title except articles (a, an, the); prepositions of three or fewer letters (for, of, on, up, etc.); and conjunctions of three or fewer letters (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet, etc.) unless any of those start or end the title.

— Put quotation marks around the names of all such works except the Bible, the Quran and other holy books, and books that are primarily catalogs of reference material. In addition to catalogs, this category includes almanacs, directories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, gazetteers, handbooks and similar publications.

Quotation marks

Periods and commas always go within the quotation marks. Dashes, semicolons, question marks and exclamation points go within quotation marks only when they are directly part of the quoted matter.

The project is “long overdue,” said Angela.

Ask him, “How do you plan to implement the proposal?”

Have you read the book “To Kill a Mockingbird”?

South Campus (See also Main Campus)

Capitalize South Campus when referring to the satellite location of San José State’s campus located 8 blocks from SJSU’s Main Campus in San José. South Campus includes Park and Ride lots, CEFCU Stadium, Simpkins Athletics Building, Simpkins Center and Athletic playing fields.


When referring to a student who is a member of an athletic team, use student-athlete with a hyphen.

Students from low-income backgrounds

The students served by the California State University (CSU) include many who come from low-income backgrounds. Recent research led by the CSU makes clear that many students — at the CSU and well beyond — struggle not only to pay for their college education, but to provide for even basic needs like housing and food. That said, it's important not to equate being low-income with struggling for basic needs. They are not synonymous.

The ways in which we talk and write about students who are low income should convey compassion, inclusion and sensitivity. Writing about poverty and those who do not have the money they need is a sensitive matter and sometimes a source of shame and stigma for the student.

Participation in programs targeted to students who are low-income or whose parents are low-income (e.g. Pell-eligible or receiving Pell) are common proxies for low income. Proxies are used primarily because measures related to students' economic well-being are often unobserved in the higher education context, as parental income/wealth is highly confidential.

While these categorizations or proxies can be helpful in demonstrating context, they are only proxies and not equivalent to low income. For example, only U.S. citizens and green card-holders are Pell-eligible, so this would not refer to undocumented students. Additionally, undocumented students are eligible for Cal Grants, which are subject to other eligibility criteria, such as minimum GPAs.

There are several terms that are often used in the context of discussing students of low-income backgrounds. These include:

Socioeconomic status (SES): Tends to refer to a combination of factors related to a student's social class. In the context of students, this typically includes family income, parental education (e.g., first-generation status), and parental occupation.

Underrepresented: Underrepresented refers to racial and ethnic populations that are represented at disproportionately low levels in higher education. Historically means that this is a 10-year or longer trend at a given school.

Underrepresented minorities (URMs) are African Americans and/or Black students, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and Latinx/a/os, who have historically comprised a minority of the U.S. population. The term is mostly used for reporting aggregate student data.

Underserved: Underserved students are defined as those who do not receive equitable resources as other students in the academic pipeline. Typically, these groups of students include low-income, racial/ethnic minorities (people of color or students of color are preferred terms, not minorities), and first-generation students, among others.

Races and ethnicities that are included: African American and Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Latinx/a/os, Indigineous and Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander.

Historically underserved students are defined as low-income students, those who are first in their families to attend college, and students of color. 

First-generation students refers to their parent's/parents' highest education level being a high school diploma or less.

There is no standard definition of what first-generation college student means, but it can be used to refer to students who are among the first in their family to go to college (e.g., their parents did not attend college) and/or students who are among the first in their family to graduate from college (e.g., their parents' highest level of education is some college).


Do not capitalize university, except when used in a proper name.

Classes begin at San José State University in August. The university will be closed for Veterans Day.

Years (See also Ages)

For decades, use an "s" without an apostrophe. On first reference, use full year, i.e. 1960s, not ’60s.

1960s and ’60s. (Not 1960’s and 60’s.)

For centuries, the preferred format is the 20th century, not the 1900s.