Points of Style

This section of The University of Akron Style Guide covers points of style not specific to the University or related to technology. 

addresses – The abbreviations Ave., Blvd. and St. are used with a numbered address (always use figures for an address number): 185 Hickory St. Spell out street names in addresses without numbers: the building is on Hickory Street. The similar words alley, drive, road and terrace are spelled out in all instances. Spell out and capitalize First through Ninth when used as street names; use figures for 10th and above: 1500 Fourth St., 25 15th Ave. See campus addresses.

ages – Use when relevant, and always use figures: The girl is 12 years old. Use hyphens for ages expressed as compound modifiers or as substitutes for nouns: The 150-year-old building. See hyphen. The child is 7 but behaves like a 2-year-old. When age is implied by context, set off figure with commas: Kevin, 42, has a brother, Jeff, 38.

among or between – Use among when there are more than two items, and between when there are exactly two items: The candies were divided among the three children. Although Frank and John are twins, there is not much in common between them.

amount, number – Use amount for things that cannot be counted individually: the amount of water in the bucket, the amount of joy she felt on her wedding day. Use numbers for things that can be counted individually: the number of cats in the alley, the number of words on the page. Use less for things that cannot be counted: less sunshine, less risk. Use fewer for things that can be counted: fewer pencils, fewer pounds.

city – Capitalize city if part of a proper name or a regularly used nickname: New York City, Kansas City, Windy City, Rubber City. Lowercase elsewhere: the city of Akron, city government.

collective nouns – Nouns that denote a unit take singular verbs and pronouns: class, committee, faculty, group, orchestra, staff, team, etc. Example: The faculty is pleased to welcome its newest member.

comma, serial (,) – Generally, do not put a comma before the conjunction in a series unless clarity requires it: Her children are Sam, Harry and Betty. But: She will divide her estate equally among Sam, Harry, and Betty. (The construction Sam, Harry and Betty might suggest, misleadingly, that Sam is to receive 50 percent of the estate, while Harry and Betty are to share the other 50 percent, rather than each receiving one-third.) It is preferable to use a comma before the conjunction in a complex series of phrases: You may retake your exam if you have no missing assignments, if you send me an email before Thursday requesting the retake, and if you are available to take the exam immediately after school Friday. See the entry on commas in the most current AP Stylebook for additional usages.

company names – For a company’s formal name, consult the national stock exchanges: the New York Stock Exchange, www.nyse.com, or Nasdaq, www.nasdaq.com. Do not use a comma before Inc. or Ltd., even if it is included in the formal name. Use the abbreviations Co., Cos., or Corp. when a business uses the word Company, Companies, or Corporation, respectively, at the end of its formal name.

complementary, complimentary – Not interchangeable. Complementary items complete or enhance each other: The complementary voices of the choir. Something is complimentary if it is given free of charge, as a gift or courtesy: The complimentary breakfast at the hotel.

composition titles – Capitalize principal words in titles, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters. Use quotation marks around titles of the following: books, movies and plays; short stories and poems; magazine, journal and newspaper articles; musical compositions; lectures and speeches; art exhibits or individual paintings; television and radio show titles; titles of individual episodes of a show; and computer and video game titles. The names of magazines, newspapers, reference works and journals are used in editorial text without quotation marks around them.

contractions – Generally reserved for informal speech and writing. Use with care.

dash (-) – Use dashes to denote an abrupt change in thought or an emphatic pause: The teacher rambled, the students dozed – and suddenly the fire alarm sounded. Use dashes to set off phrases containing a series of words separated by commas: Many have suspected that the author – brooding, fretful, cold and distant – patterned his protagonists after himself. Put a space on both sides of a dash.                              

dates – See months and years.

days of the week – Capitalize them and abbreviate only for tabular formats. These three-letter forms are used without a period: Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat and Sun.       

decision-making – Hyphenate.

dictionaries and spelling – For spelling, style and usage questions not covered in this guide, consult Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fifth Edition, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston and New York, 2016. Use the first spelling listed, if there are multiple.

dimensions – Use figures and spell out inches, feet, yards, etc. Hyphenate compound forms used before nouns: she is 5 feet 5 inches tall; the 5-foot-5-inch woman; the 20-foot python; he ran 64 yards for a touchdown; 2 inches of rainfall; the 3,000-square-foot building. See hyphen.

directions and regions – Lowercase compass directions such as north, northwest, south, southern, east, etc., and capitalize geographic regions — the Midwest, Northeast Ohio, the East Coast, Southern states, Western culture.

each other, one another – Two people talk to each other, while more than two people talk to one another.

e.g. – Abbreviation of Latin phrase exempli gratia, meaning “for example,” always followed by a comma.

ellipsis ( … ) – Use an ellipsis to indicate the omission of one or more words from a quotation. It is constructed with three periods, without spaces between them, and with one space on both sides of the ellipsis: “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us … that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain … and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Ellipses should not be used to distort or misconstrue the meaning of the quoted text. They may also indicate a thought that the speaker or writer does not complete: What was I going to say? Let me see …

grade, grader – Hyphenate in combining forms: a seventh-grade student, an 11th-grade student, third-grader, 10th-grader. See hyphen. But: She is in the fourth grade. See numerals.

Greater Akron – Capitalize.

headlines – In headlines, capitalize the first word, proper nouns and the first word after a colon.

health care – Two words.

holidays – Always capitalize: Thanksgiving, Easter, Groundhog Day, etc.

hometown – One word.

hyphen (-) – Use hyphens to join words to prevent confusion: small-business owner, not small business owner; an aged-wine enthusiast, not an aged wine enthusiast. When a compound modifier precedes a noun, use hyphens to link words in the compound, except in the case of “very” and adverbs that end in –ly: first-rate player, well-known lawyer, career-ready students, one-of-a-kind program, very persuasive salesman, an extremely difficult exam. This principle also applies to compounds used after forms of the verb “to be”: the intern is well-equipped to succeed. The attacker was wild-eyed. Suspended compounds require hyphens: first- and second-generation college students. See full time, full-time or part time, part-time.

ID – Acceptable abbreviation for identification on all references: Zip ID. Do not use as a verb: the police officer ID’d the suspect.

i.e. – Abbreviation of Latin phrase id est, meaning “(that is) to say,” always followed by a comma.

junior (Jr.), senior (Sr.) – Abbreviate as Jr. and Sr. and do not precede by a comma: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

lay, lie – Lay is a transitive verb: Lay the book on the table. Its past tense and past participle is laid: We laid bricks. Many soldiers have laid down their lives. Its present participle is laying: The prosecutor is laying the blame on the gardener. The word lie is an intransitive verb meaning to recline along a horizontal plane: I would like to lie on the bed and rest. Its past tense is lay: The child lay in the grass all morning. Its past participle is lain: Grandpa has lain on the beach since noon. Its present participle is lying: He is lying down. This is to be distinguished from the other verb lie, meaning to tell a falsehood, which is conjugated lie, lied, and lying.

like, such as – Like is used to introduce a similarity: The world is like a box of chocolates. Have you ever tasted anything like this before? The term should not be used to introduce examples: I enjoy fast-paced sports like basketball and soccer (this statement denotes that the speaker enjoys sports that are similar to basketball and soccer, and not necessarily basketball and soccer themselves). Instead, the term such as should be used to introduce examples: I enjoy fast-paced sports such as basketball and soccer.

lists of sentence fragments – Introduce the list with a colon, and capitalize sentence fragments after the bullet point. Conclude each with a semicolon, except for the second to last, which should use “and” after the semicolon, and the final item, which takes a period. Think of these lists as extended paragraphs, with capitalization used to make the items easier for the reader. Example: 


Film study majors will:

  • Learn the fundamentals of filmmaking;
  • Develop effective oral and written communication skills; and
  • Become analytical thinkers, problem solvers and decision-makers.

lists of sentences – Similar to the sentence fragment, except the introductory sentence and individual points should be constructed to use periods, rather than a colon and semicolons. Example:

The Department of Film Study offers students many benefits.

  • Students have access to career-specific scholarships.
  • Student-to-faculty ratios are 10:1.
  • Students receive hands-on training with the latest in filmmaking equipment.

lists of words or short phrases – Introduce the list with a colon, and unless your words are proper nouns or the titles of departments, do not use caps. Do not use semicolons, periods or other punctuation after each item. Example: 

The Department of Film Study offers:

  • scholarships
  • internships
  • practicums
  • cooperative education
  • work-study

military titles – Capitalize military ranks used as formal titles before an individual’s name. On subsequent references to the individual, do not continue using the title; use only the last name. See the entry on military titles in the most current AP Stylebook for abbreviations and additional information.

money – Use figures for all monetary units. Spell out the word cents and lowercase for amounts less than a dollar: 10 cents, 25 cents. Always lowercase the word dollar: folded dollar bills. Use the $ sign and decimals (if necessary) for amounts larger than a dollar: $5, $12.50, $29.99, $125. It is preferable to spell out million, billion or trillion: $10 million, $325 billion. Use decimals where practical, but do not exceed two decimal places: $1.5 million, $7.65 billion, $8,406,200, $2,972,650,000. In headlines, abbreviate millions and billions as M and B, respectively: $5M raise, $25.8B deficit.

months – The following months are abbreviated when used with a specific date: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. Spell out the month when using alone or with a year; no comma is needed between the month and year: November 2017. When editorial copy includes a month, day and year, place a comma after the day and year: On Jan. 1, 2008, UA's mascot, Zippy, won the Capital One Bowl Mascot of the Year Challenge.

In a tabular format, these three-letter forms are used without a period: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov and Dec. (The only exception is in a formal invitation, where the month may be spelled out with the date and year: January 1, 2010.)

more than vs. over – More than specifies an amount: UA was founded more than 135 years ago. The word over refers to spatial relationships: The Goodyear Blimp often flies over campus.

nonprofit – No hyphen.

Northeast Ohio – Capitalize.

numerals – Spell out numerals used at the beginning of a sentence (with the exception of years). In text, spell out numerals one through nine and use figures for 10 and above: four books, 12 friends, seven-course meal, 11th grade, 5 million people. In a sentence where a series of numerals is used, follow the same guidelines: You can take four classes and earn 16 credits. Of the 10 people surveyed, three agreed. Always use figures in text for addresses, ages, centuries, course numbers, court decisions, credit hours, dates, decades, decimals, dimensions, distances, fractions larger than 1, monetary units, page numbers, percentages, rankings, ratios, room numbers, speeds, sports scores, telephone numbers, temperatures, times, weights, votes and years. See addresses; ages; alumna, alumnae, alumni, alumnus; campus addresses; dates; dimensions; grade, grader; grade point average; money; months; percent; room numbers; telephone numbers; temperatures; time; weights; and years.

percent – One word. In most uses, including text, spell out. Use figures before the word percent. Use the symbol (%) only in a table of figures.

real-world – Hyphenate as a compound modifier. See hyphen.

Rust Belt – Capitalize.

spacing – Use a single space, not two spaces, after a period at the end of each sentence.

spelling – See dictionaries and spelling.

state names – Follow Associated Press Style and spell out state names in text when they stand alone: California. Use standard abbreviations only when a city and state are included in the text: Scranton, Pa. In text, place a comma after the city name and state name: Nashville, Tenn., is home to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Eight states are never abbreviated: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah. Note: U.S. Postal Service two-digit codes are only used in addresses, such as OH for Ohio.

telephone numbers – Include the area code and use hyphens: 330-972-7100.

temperatures – Use figures for all except zero. Use a word, not a minus sign, to indicate temperatures below zero. Temperatures get higher or lower, not warmer or cooler. Examples: The day’s low was minus 15. School will not be canceled unless it is 20 below zero. Tomorrow’s high is 12. That’s 5 degrees higher than yesterday’s temperature. Temperatures are supposed to be in the 60s on the following day.

than, then – Than is a conjunction used in comparisons: Shakespeare was a better writer than Robert Greene. The word then is an adverb used to express temporal or logical sequence: I discovered Shakespeare and then decided to become a poet. If you like poetry, then you should read Shakespeare.

time – Use numerals in all cases, except for noon and midnight. Always lowercase a.m. and p.m. and use periods. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes: 1:30 p.m. Do not use zeros with on-the-hour times: 10 a.m. Use a hyphen to indicate spans: 2-5 p.m. But: use “to” for spans including both a.m. and p.m.: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Avoid redundancies: 7:30 p.m. tonight. It is acceptable, but not preferable, to use o’clock: 8 o’clock.

titled, entitled – These terms are not interchangeable. Title means “to name”: The book is titled “Pride and Prejudice.”  To entitle means “to designate rights or benefits”: This coupon entitles you to one free soft drink.

unique – One-of-a-kind, not permitting of degrees or comparison. Something cannot be somewhat unique, very unique, more or less unique, or most unique.

United States – Use periods in the abbreviation, U.S., within text, acceptable in all references. Use US, without periods, in headlines.

weights – Use figures: The puppy weighed 5 pounds, 14 ounces. The 350-pound linebacker sacked the quarterback.

years – Use figures, without commas: 2018. Set off month, day and year constructions with commas: Nov. 26, 1990, is his birthday. Use an s without an apostrophe when indicating spans of decades or centuries: the 1990s, the 1800s. Lowercase the word century (unless part of a proper name) and spell out numbers under 10: the third century, the 21st century. For decades, use an apostrophe to indicate omitted numerals: the ‘70s, the Roaring ‘20s. Years, unlike all other numerals, can be used to start a sentence: 1968 was a tumultuous year. See months.