Writing Style Guide

Addresses, Zip Codes, Phone Numbers

Return address:

Lake Superior State University
Public Relations/Graphics
650 W. Easterday Ave.
Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783-1699

Zip +4: LSSU’s four-digit code is 1699 in most cases. Other four-digit codes are used for business reply items.

Telephone numbers: listed as follows: 906-635-2211 (no parenthesis for area code)

State abbreviations: If you abbreviate, use the narrative abbreviated form (AP).

Discrimination Clause

Lake Superior State University has a standard non-discrimination statement. This statement meets the minimum requirements of the federal regulations enforced by the Offi ce for Civil Rights and state of Michigan regulations. It must appear in bulletins, announcements, publications, advertisements, applications and recruitment pieces. Please check with the Graphics Department for content and usage.

“It is the policy of Lake Superior State University that no person shall be discriminated against, excluded from participation in, denied the bene fi ts of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination in employment, or in any program or activity for which the University is responsible on the basis of race, color, national origin or ancestry, gender, age, disability, religion, height, weight, sexual preference, marital status or veteran status.”


  • Academic Subjects
    • Do not capitalize academic subjects unless the subject is a language or is used in the formal name of a department.
    • Examples:
      • Students must take four mathematics courses to graduate.
      • Students must take five English courses to graduate.
      • The Department of Psychology requires majors to take three courses a semester.
  • Degrees
    • Academic degrees and honors should be capitalized when they follow a name, whether they are abbreviated or written in full. When academic degrees are referred to in general terms, they are not capitalized.
    • Examples:
      • Susan Jones, Ph.D.
      • Susan Jones, Doctor of Philosophy
      • Susan Jones also holds a master’s degree in psychology. (Notice that the academic subject is not capitalized. Languages are the exception, i.e. master’s degree in English.)
  • Abbreviations and Acronyms
    • When a degree abbreviation follows a name, use periods to separate the letters. If the abbreviation is used as an acronym for the degree,
      do not use periods.
    • Examples:
      • Jane Davis, M.A.
      • Jane Davis earned an MA in English
  • Headlines and Page Titles
    • The key to capitalization in headlines and page titles is consistency. This applies to web pages, advertising, direct mail and other pieces at the designer’s discretion.
    • Examples:
      • LSSU students go for the gold at BPA.
  • Second References
    • The last name is used for a second and subsequent reference to people mentioned in copy.
    • Examples:
      • Joe Smith, professor of marketing, achieved his bachelor’s degree at Mountain State University. Smith then attended Cornell, where he received his master’s and doctorate degrees in marketing.
    • Exceptions:
      • Informal copy with a friendly style, such as communications to current students or alumni, can use the first name as a second reference.
  • Schools and Departments
    • Capitalize schools and departments when they are used as formal names. When used informally, do not capitalize. Formal department and school names vary from college to college.
    • Examples:
      • The Donald W. Maine School of Business was established in 1980.
      • There are 550 students enrolled in the business school.
      • The School of Health Professions is launching a new nursing program.
      • Students interested in studying abroad should contact Professor Smith in the business department.
      • Students who wish to enroll should contact admissions.
    • Exception:
      • Capitalize University when referring to LSSU.
      • When mentioning all three schools, always list them in this order: Business, Technology and Health.
  • Titles of Individuals
    • Capitalize a title when it immediately precedes a name. If a title follows a name or stands alone, do not capitalize.
    • Examples:
      • Professor Smith has been teaching math for 20 years.
      • Joe Smith, a math professor, has been teaching for 20 years.
      • Students must get permission from the professor to register for the math course.
      • Dean Smith will hire two staff members this year.
      • Joe Smith was appointed dean four years ago.
      • Personal titles such as Mr., Mrs. or Ms. are not used.

Nondiscriminatory Language

Minority Groups

  • Use lowercase for “black” and “white.” Use capitals for identification when using geographic words, such as “African American.” Appropriate references to minorities are evolving.

Non-Gender Specific Language

  • Avoid language with potentially discriminatory connotation.
  • Examples:
    • Use chairperson, chair or department chair rather than chairman.
    • Use staffing, not manning.



  • For all text, use the month-day-year sequence. Note: Spell out the day of the week and the month of the year. Abbreviations are acceptable where necessary (charts, schedules, etc.).
  • Examples:
    • Today is Tuesday, January 29, 2011.

Grade Point Average (GPA)

  • Spell out on first reference. Use numerals and capitalize all letters when abbreviating.
  • Examples:
    • Susan’s grade point average is 3.6. For admission, students need a GPA of 3.5.


  • Use $25, 30 cents, $4.50, etc.


  • Percentages are written in numerals, followed by the word “percent.”
  • Examples:
    • The exam is 20 percent of your final grade.


  • Phone numbers are separated by dashes, not periods. Delete “1” before “800.
  • Example:
    • 800-555-1212

Spelling Out Numbers vs. Using Numeral

  • Whole numbers from one through nine are spelled out. Use numerals beginning with 10 and up. If the first word of a sentence is a number, spell it out. Numerals should be used in scientific or tabular data.


  • Use 4 p.m. (NOT 4:00 p.m.), 5:30 a.m., noon, midnight, etc. Use an “en” dash, not a hyphen between the hours.
  • Examples:
    • We will be there between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
    • Brunch is served from 10 a.m. to noon.
  • Exception:
    • When used in a list.
    • The open house will be held on:
    • Escanaba Campus 1 – 4 p.m.

Web and Email Addresses

Web Page Navigation

  • Sometimes it’s necessary to guide readers even if hyper links will take them to a desired page. When a “bread crumb trail” is needed, use “>” with a single space on either side.
  • Example:
    • Go to lssu.edu > Public Relations > Communications Resources > Templates > Letterhead


Em Dash

  • Use the em dash to represent a break in thought or sentence structure, to add emphasis to a phrase or to separate two clauses. Note: The “em” dash is so-called because it is the width of the lower-case letter “m.” Put a space on either side of an em dash in text.
  • Examples:
    • We use the em dash in our communications — not a hyphen.

En Dash

  • Use the en dash to represent a range of something — such as time or other elements. Note: The “en” dash is so-called because it is the width of the lower-case letter “n.” Put a space on either side of an en dash in text.
  • Examples:
    • The event is scheduled to run from 4 – 6 p.m.
    • The graduates were lined up from A – M and N – Z.


  • Use hyphens sparingly and only when needed for clarity, such as when using a compound adjective before a noun.
  • Examples:
    • Bob took graduate-level courses last semester.
    • Bob took courses at the graduate level last semester.

Possessive vs. Plural

  • Use an apostrophe for words that show possession. Do not use an apostrophe for plural words.
  • Examples:
    • The chemistry department’s textbooks have arrived.
    • The departments in the University order textbooks in the summer.

Serial Comma

  • Use serial commas only when necessary for clarity.
  • Examples:
    • Art majors can choose classes in drawing, painting and photography.
    • The most popular photography classes at our university are Nature Photography, Photojournalism, and Black and White Photography.

Text Link

  • When linking in text to other pages or material, use embedded links that integrate with the text. Avoid using “Click here for …” whenever possible.
  • Examples:
    • Cluetrain Manifesto author Doc Searls gives an excellent example of markets as conversations in a recent blog post.