Writing style guide

Appalachian State University uses The Associated Press Stylebook as its editorial guide, which is in keeping with the communications industry. The following list of common uses and the A-Z Index include highlights of AP style and provide policies for consistently representing Appalachian in your communications.


Common AP Stylebook uses

  • Academic degrees – Bachelor of Science degree, bachelor’s degree; Master of Arts, master’s degree
  • Class/course titles – capitalize titles of classes and courses (Ex: Exploring Medieval History; Gothic Literature: A Monster in the Castle)
  • Comma – no comma before “and” or “or” in a series; also, no comma before Inc. or Jr. (Ex: Appalachian State University Foundation Inc.; John F. Kennedy Jr.)
  • Composition titles – use quotation marks around them, no italics (Ex: Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”); names of academic journals, magazines and newspapers, however, use no quote marks
  • Days of the week – always spelled out
  • Dollar amounts – used without zeros (Ex: Tickets are $12.)
  • Department or center names – uppercase on first reference (Ex: Department of History); lowercasing on second reference, such as history department, is acceptable
  • Dr. – If the person has a doctorate, say so, and be consistent for all doctoral-level names within a document. For individuals without a doctorate, no courtesy title is used.
  • Job titles – uppercase before the name and lowercase after the name (Ex: Provost Heather Hulburt Norris, or Dr. Heather Hulburt Norris, the university’s provost)
  • Months – abbreviate Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. when used with a specific date; except spell out all when used alone. The others – March, April, May, June and July – are always spelled out.
  • Numbers – spell out nine and under, use numerals for 10 and above; use a comma in 1,000
  • Telephone numbers – dashes between sets, no parentheses around area code (Ex: 828-262-2342)
  • Time of day – use periods in p.m. and a.m., no zeros needed (6 p.m. is right, 6:00 p.m. is wrong)
  • State names – always spell out in a story, even when paired with a city or town
  • University name – always Appalachian State University on first reference; App State or university (lowercase) on second reference. See A-B and Abbreviations below for further instructions


A-Z Index


  • adviser
  • African American
  • All-American
  • academic programs (lowercase, unless it is the name of a language such as English or French)
  • alumna (female)
  • alumnus (male)
  • alumni (plural)
  • ampersand (&) - "and" is always preferred, except in advertising, signage or title marks where space is an issue or if "&" is part of an official name
  • App State Community
  • App State Experience
  • Appalachian State University (full name on first reference, App State on second reference.) ASU is not acceptable. Questions? Contact University Communications.
  • Asian American
  • Bachelor of Arts degree
  • baccalaureate
  • bachelor's degree
  • Belk Library and Information Commons (library on second reference)
  • Bell Ringers Society


  • campuswide (adj.)
  • Chancellor Sheri Everts (Chancellor Everts or just Everts on second reference; chancellor when used alone)
  • checklist
  • Class/course titles – capitalize titles of classes and courses (Ex: Exploring Medieval History; Gothic Literature: A Monster in the Castle)
  • college (not uppercased)
  • comma (do not use before "and" or "or" in a series)
  • cocurriculum
  • co-sponsor
  • composition titles follow these rules: books, movies, plays, poems, songs, TV/radio programs, recordings, lecture titles and works of art (except sculptures) have quote marks around them; magazines, newspapers and professional journals, as well as reference materials such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, bibliographies and almanacs have no quotes and no italics.
  • decision-making (n. and adj.)
  • degree names (lowercase in most uses)
  • department names (uppercase on first reference, such as Department of History; lowercasing on second reference, such as history department, is acceptable)
  • doctorate
  • dorm (residence hall is preferred)


  • email
  • emerita (female)
  • emeritus (male)
  • fax
  • first-year (adj.)
  • Founders Day
  • freshman (singular)
  • freshmen (n. plural)
  • full-time (adj.)
  • fundraising


  • grade-point average (GPA)
  • graduation year after a name is used this way: Jim Smith ’09
  • harassment
  • high-quality (adj.)
  • Hispanic


  • iBackAPP
  • i.e. (that is)
  • internet
  • it's (contraction for it is)
  • its (possessive pronoun)
  • intercollegiate
  • interdisciplinary


  • long-term (adj.)
  • -ly (do not use a hyphen between adverbs ending in "ly" and the adjectives they modify; wrong: a nationally-recognized program)
  • Master of Arts degree
  • master's degree
  • multicultural


  • Native American
  • Nonresident (out-of-state student is preferred)
  • off-campus (adj.)
  • on-campus (adj.)
  • online


  • part-time (adj.)
  • postbaccalaureate
  • pre-professional (adj.)
  • preregistration
  • prerequisites
  • program names (lowercase in most uses)


  • re-admission
  • re-evaluate
  • reinstatement
  • residence hall, not dorm
  • Rivers Street
  • room numbers -- correct format is "Room 420 (Parkway Ballroom) in the Plemmons Student Union". See list of student union room numbers.
  • school (not uppercase)
  • service-learning (noun and adjective)
  • short-term (adj.)
  • spring/spring 2011
  • state-of-the-art (adj.)
  • student-athlete
  • study abroad (adj.)
  • the 3E's of sustainability (when referring to economics, equity and the environment)


  • university (While AP style dictates that "university" should not be capitalized except when used in an official title, Appalachian has traditionally used the uppercase "University" in certain official communications. When in doubt, default to using AP style.)
  • University Communications (UComm on second reference)
  • University of North Carolina System (UNC System on second reference)
  • titles are uppercase before the name, lowercase after the name (Ex: Dean Joe Smith, and Joe Smith, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences)
  • transgender
  • undeclared (adj.)
  • underrepresented (adj.)
  • unique (avoid)
  • universitywide (adj.)


  • vice chancellor
  • web manager
  • website
  • well-prepared (adj.)
  • well prepared (adv.)
  • work-study (n. and adj.)
  • X-ray



  • Cap academic titles only when they precede the name: Dean Sara Smith; Sara Smith, dean; Chancellor Sheri Everts; Sheri Everts, Appalachian's chancellor.

    Note, the title professor should appear lowercase before an individual's name; however, the conferred title Professor Emeritus/Emerita is capitalized before the name: Assistant professor John Smith; John Smith, assistant professor; Professor Emerita Jane Gordan; Jane Gordan, professor emerita.
  • Cap colleges/departments only when part of official title: the Department of History; the history department; the College of Arts and Sciences; the college's graduates; the university
  • lowercase cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude


  • ASU is not acceptable; see Appalachian State University
  • B.A., B.S.
  • M.A., M.S., MBA
  • Ed.D., Ph.D.
  • GPA
  • RNs (plural)
  • UNC System
  • U.S. (adj. and noun)
  • The following months when used with a date: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., Dec.


  • Spell out one through nine in text; use figures for 10–above
  • 2,800/17,000/14 million
  • $10 million
  • 5%
  • 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • noon, midnight (not 12 noon/12 p.m., or 12 midnight/12 a.m.)
  • Friday, June 10
  • November 2010
  • the sixties/ 1960s / Class of 2012
  • 18-year-old (adj.)
  • 18 years old
  • 828-262-2000
  • Joe Smith '89 or Joe Smith, a 1989 graduate of Appalachian
  • the 3E's of sustainability (when referring to economics, equity and the environment)


  • Commas
    • Do not use a comma before "and" in a series; for example, it is correct to write red, white and blue.
    • Set off appositives: Sarah Smith, chair of the economics department, said today...
    • Use a comma to connect two main clauses: The long semester is finally over, and now I can go home.
  • Colons
    • Main clause should precede colon.
      • Bring the following: paper, pen, books and interest.
      • Bring the following:
  • Dashes
    • Use an em-dash and make sure there is a space on either side: He listed the qualities — intelligence, humor — that he liked in an executive.
    • An en dash should be used in place of a hyphen in date/time ranges and sports scores. Examples: the 2019–20 academic year; the Mountaineers are 7–1; 10 a.m.–2 p.m.


  • As of 2017, AP Style says "they" is acceptable as a singular and/or gender neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy.

Race and culture

Reporting and writing about issues involving race/culture calls for thoughtful consideration, precise language and discussions with others of diverse backgrounds, whenever possible. Consider carefully when deciding whether to identify people by race and avoid generalizations and labels; race and ethnicity are just one part of a person’s identity. Always ask your subject how they prefer to be identified. These guidelines are provided by The Associated Press Stylebook (55th edition, May 2020).

  • Black (adj.) — Use the capitalized adjectival term in a racial, ethnic or cultural sense: Black people; Black culture; Black literature.
  • white (adj.) — The adjective white should appear lowercase.
  • brown (adj.) — Avoid this broad and imprecise term in racial, ethnic or cultural references unless as part of a direct quotation.
  • Caucasian (adj.) — Avoid as a synonym for white, unless in a quotation.
  • Indigenous (adj.) — Capitalize this term used to refer to original inhabitants of a place: Bolivia’s Indigenous peoples represent 62% of the population.
  • Hispanic (adj.) — A person from — or whose ancestors were from — a Spanish-speaking land or culture. Latino (masculine), Latina (feminine) or Latinx (gender-neutral) are sometimes preferred. Follow the person’s preference. Use a more specific identification when possible, such as Cuban, Puerto Rican or Mexican American.
  • American Indians, Native Americans (nouns) — 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 available: He is a Navajo commissioner. She is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Some tribes and tribal nations use member; others use citizen. If in doubt, use citizen. In Alaska, the indigenous groups are collectively known as Alaska Natives. First Nation is the preferred term for Canada’s native tribes.
  • Indian (adj.) — Describes the peoples and cultures of the South Asian nation of India. Do not use the term as a shorthand for American Indians.

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