SJSU Editorial Style

Updated July 2020

Our guide borrows heavily from The Associated Press Stylebook, which is used for print and digital platforms such as SJSU Newsroom, Washington Square, President Papazian's blog, college and department newsletters and other materials targeting a general audience. 

Send us your questions and comments about SJSU Editorial Style and this guide.


San José State University




Addressing envelopes

African American



a.m., p.m.

American Indian, Native American

Ampersand, And

Asian American

Black(s), white(s)

Campus Locations and Addresses | Full list of campus buildings

Capitalization: Academic degrees, building names, class-level references, colleges and departments, directions and regions, disciplines, majors and programs, seasons and semesters, state and federal, titles, San José, the city




Company, corporate, product names

Compound words

Computer, information technology terms

Course work

cum laude

Dashes: em, en and hyphens

Dates and time




Fundraising, fundraiser

Graduation year and major

Jr., Sr.

Latino/a, Hispanic


Numbers and numerical references

Telephone numbers

People with disabilities

Personal pronouns

Publication titles

Quotation marks


Students from low-income backgrounds



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. You can set Microsoft Word and other word-editing applications to have the accent automatically.

San José State University

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.


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.

Examples: SJSU, NFL, CBS, NSF

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.

Example: 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 (a 2019 AP Stylebook change for this and other dual heritage terms). Acceptable for an American Black person of African descent. The terms are not necessarily interchangeable. Americans of Caribbean heritage, for example, generally refer to themselves as Caribbean American. Follow a person’s preference.


Ages from one to nine should be spelled out. Ages 10 and above should be left in numerical form.

Examples: The student is 19 years old. The policy is four years old.

Ages used as nouns or adjectives before a noun require hyphens.

Examples: The racetrack features three-year-olds today. The 24-year-old student ran for office.

References to an age range for a decade require no apostrophes.


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

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


Alumnus refers to one male graduate or former student, or to a graduate or former student of unspecified gender.

Alumna refers to one female graduate or former student.

Alumni refers to two or more graduates or former students, all or some of whom are male. Alumnae refers to two or more female graduates or former students.

In general, avoid the use of "alum" as the term refers to a chemical compound. 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

Both are acceptable terms in general references for those in the U.S. when referring to two or more people of different tribal affiliations. For individuals, use the name of the tribe; if that information is not immediately available, try to obtain it. Details 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 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.


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

No hyphen (a 2019 AP Stylebook change for this and other dual heritage terms). Acceptable for an American of Asian descent. When possible, refer to a person’s country of origin or follow the person’s preference. For example: 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 percent of the police force, Black officers 21 percent and Latino officers 15 percent. The gunman targeted Black churchgoers. The plural nouns Blacks and whites are generally acceptable when clearly relevant and needed for reasons of space or sentence construction. He helped integrate dance halls among Blacks, whites, Latinos and Asian Americans. Black and white are acceptable as adjectives when relevant.

Black (adj.)

Use the capitalized term as an adjective in a racial, ethnic or cultural sense: 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.

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.

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.

Example: Student Involvement 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 bachelors degree, master's, doctorate. The word degree is not capitalized.

Examples: 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.

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.

Example: Frederick A. Chin, PhD

When 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
Jane Koch, professor of mathematics

Building names

Building names are capitalized.

Example: Yoshihiro Uchida Hall or Uchida Hall

Class-level references

Class-level references are not capitalized except when referring to the formal name of a group.

Examples: A group of seniors provided tutoring for freshman. The Senior Class donated a gift of $50,000 to the university.

Colleges and departments

Colleges and departments are capitalized only if the reference is specific.


Some colleges have many departments.
The Department of Chemistry is part of the College of Science.
The Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering has a great number of international students. Many alumni attended the banquet at the engineering college.

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.

Examples: 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 specific a department or course. However, disciplines derived from proper nouns, such as French, German and Spanish, are always capitalized.

Examples: She is planning to major in geography. The Department of Geography offers many courses. One of these is Geography 101.

Seasons and semesters

Seasons and semesters are not capitalized.

Example: 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.

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


A term that Mexican Americans in the U.S. Southwest sometimes use to describe their heritage. Some prefer the recently coined gender-neutral term Chicanx, which should be confined to quotations, names of organizations or descriptions of individuals who request it and should be accompanied by a short explanation. Details and examples from AP Stylebook: Hernandez prefers the gender-neutral term Chicanx. For groups of females, use the plural Chicanas; for groups of males or of mixed gender, use the plural Chicanos. Use only if it is a person’s preference.


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
College of Graduate Studies
College of Health and Human Sciences
College of Humanities and the Arts
College of Professional and Global Education
College of Science
College of Social Sciences
Connie L. Lurie College of Education; Lurie College of Education


Use commas to separate items in a simple series but not before the conjunction.

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

However, use a comma before the conjunction if there is a possibility of confusion without it.

Example: Among those attending the conference were the deans of social sciences, applied sciences and the arts, and humanities and the arts.

When used with quotation marks, commas and periods are always enclosed within the quotation marks.

Example: "The parking lot is crowded," he said. "I should have taken a distance education course through Extended Studies."

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

Capitalize the word "Internet" as a proper name to distinguish it from other kinds of nets. 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. No spaces are needed before and after dashes. When dashes cannot be produced, on the Internet for example, two hyphens may be substituted. If using two hyphens, insert a space before and after the pair.

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.

En-dashes are used to denote a range.

Hyphens are used to hyphenate.

Dates and times

For readability and clarity in text, express dates of events in the sequence of time, day, date and place.

Example: The colloquium will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday, September 1, in Clark Hall 201.

Abbreviate all months except March, April, May, June and July when used with a specific date.

Example: My birthday is Jan. 15.

Spell out months when used alone or only with a year.

Example: January 1989 was the coldest month on record.

When using a month, day and year, set off the year with commas.

Example: 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.

Example: Professor emeritus of biology


When referring to the faculty of the university, college or department as a unit, faculty is a singular noun and takes a singular verb.

Example: The faculty is represented by the Academic Senate.

To refer to faculty members as individuals, add the word "members" and use a plural verb.


Many faculty members are part of the organization.
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. Another acceptable term is frosh.

Fundraising, fundraiser

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

Graduation year and major

When noting the graduation year and major of a San José State graduate, follow the Spartan's name with the two-digit graduation year and major. For current students, using the expected graduation date is acceptable.


Wanjiru Kamau, '65 Social Sciences
David Chai, '95 Graphic, '00 MA Art
Kenneth Habecker, '63 BA, '71 MA Spanish

Jr., Sr.

A comma is not required when Jr. or Sr. follow a name. Commas, even when not used with the noninverted form, are always used with inverted names, which should appear in the following order:

Surname, Given Name, III
Deer, Jim G., Sr.

Latino/a, Hispanic 

Latino, Latina

Latino is often the preferred noun or adjective for a person from, or whose ancestors were from, a Spanish-speaking land or culture or from Latin America. Latina is the feminine form. Some prefer the recently coined gender-neutral term Latinx, which should be confined to quotations, names of organizations or descriptions of individuals who request it and should be accompanied by a short explanation. Details and examples from AP Stylebook: Hernandez prefers the gender-neutral term Latinx. For groups of females, use the plural Latinas; for groups of males or of mixed gender, use the plural Latinos. Hispanics is also generally acceptable for those in the U.S. Use a more specific identification when possible, such as Cuban, Puerto Rican, Brazilian or Mexican American.


A person from—or whose ancestors were from—a Spanish-speaking land or culture. Latino, Latina or Latinx are sometimes preferred. Follow the person’s preference. Use a more specific identification when possible, such as Cuban, Puerto Rican or Mexican American.

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

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. Use numerical figures, however, when referring to sections of a book, grade point average and scores.


A GPA of 3
An ACT score of 9

Spell out the word "percent" in text. Do not use the symbol "%" except in tables and technical text.

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

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

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

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

When describing time, do not use minute placeholders for whole hours. To avoid confusion, always use noon, not 12 p.m.

Telephone numbers

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

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's 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 (or, if necessary, use "non-disabled") when it's necessary to distinguish that someone doesn't have a disability. 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 healthcare 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.

Personal 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. They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy. However, rewording usually is possible and always is preferable. Clarity is a top priority; gender-neutral use of a singular they is unfamiliar to many readers.

In stories about people who identify as neither male nor female or ask not to be referred to as he/she/him/her: Use the person’s name in place of a pronoun, or otherwise reword the sentence, whenever possible. If they/them/their use is essential, explain in the text that the person prefers a gender-neutral pronoun. Be sure that the phrasing does not imply more than one person.

For more details and examples, see the AP Stylebook.

Publication titles

For newspapers, magazines, journals and other regularly occurring publications, use italics. Italics should also be used for names of books, movies, plays, operas and television programs. Quotation marks should be used for names of lectures, presentations, articles, songs and poems.

Capitalize only words that are part of the publication's formal name. Check the publication's masthead to confirm its formal name.

Although clever typographic elements may be part of the publication's nameplate, editorial content never uses graphic symbols or stylized font, including exclamation marks, quotation marks, plus signs, asterisks, bold type or italic type.

Quotation marks

Periods and commas, when used with quotation marks, always go within the quotation marks.

Example: The project is "long overdue," said Angela.

Dashes, semicolons, question marks and exclamation points go within quotation marks only when they relate to the quoted matter.

Example: Ask him, "How do you plan to implement the proposal?"


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 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, of course, 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 background. 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, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and Latinos, 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" is the preferred use, not "minorities"), and first-generation students, among others.

Races and ethnicities that are included: African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic/Latino, 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 is 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.

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


For decades, use an "s" without an apostrophe.

Example: 1960s and '60s. (Not 1960's and 60's.)

On first reference, use 1960s, not '60s.

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