Writing for the Public

St. Cloud State University and University Communications follows the writing guidelines set by the Associated Press for all outward-facing written communications. UComm has also set up guidelines specific to St. Cloud State.

This page includes many of those most common writing occurrences. 

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Academic Writing Tips

Academic degrees (from AP)
If mention of degrees is necessary to establish someone’s credentials, the preferred form is to avoid an abbreviation and use instead a phrase such as: John Jones, who has a doctorate in psychology.

Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, a master’s, etc. However, there is no possessive in Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science.

Do not precede a name with a courtesy title for an academic degree and follow it with the abbreviation for the degree in the same reference.

Use adviser when referring to an employee who helps students plan a course of study or leads a student organization unless you are using a person's formal title and that title uses the spelling advisor. 

Alumni, Alumnus, Alumna
Use alumnus when referring to a man who has graduated. Use alumna when referring to a woman who has graduated. Use alumni when referring to a group of men and women, or a group of only men. Use alumnae when referring to a group of women. Use alum for an individual whose gender is not known.

Capitalizing department names
Capitalize formal names of departments, such as Department of Theatre and Film Studies or Department of Mass Communications. Do not capitalize informal names, such as theatre and film studies department or mass communications department.

Chairman, chairwoman
Capitalize as a formal title before a name: SCSU Foundation Board of Trustees Chairman Al Heinen, foundation Chairman Al Heinen. Do not use chair. Use chairperson only when referencing a position in general terms: The foundation is in the process of appointing a new chairperson.

Degree titles
A.S. – Associate of Science
A.A. – Associate of Arts
B.S. – Bachelor of Science
B.A. – Bachelor of Arts
M.S. – Master of Science
M.A. – Master of Arts
Ph.D. – Doctor of Philosophy

Doctor, Dr.
Use Dr. in first reference as a formal title before the name of a doctor with a medical degree. Dr. may also be used on first reference before the names of individuals who hold other types of doctoral degrees in internal communications only. Do not continue to use Dr. on second reference or after.

Use after the name and lowercase when possible: Stephen Frank, professor of political science. Uppercase professor and professor emeritus when used before a name: Professor Tracy Ore, Professor Emeritus Bill Morgan. Never abbreviate.

Capitalize when referring to the University as a proper noun.

Lowercase when referring to university as a general term unrelated to St. Cloud State or when used as an adjective. However, lowercase university when used alone in news releases and materials for media.

Correct (proper noun): The University is in St. Cloud.
Incorrect: The university is in St. Cloud.
Correct (adjective): This is a university publication.
Incorrect: This is a University publication.

General Writing Tips

Avoid using the “&” symbol, especially in body copy unless it is part of an official office or company title. The preferred university style is to spell out “and.”

Abbreviate a month when used with a specific date. Abbreviate: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. Spell out March, April, May, June and July. Spell out all months when used alone or with only the year.

Lowercase, one word, and no hyphen. 

Numerals lower or higher than nine
AP style spells out numerals nine and under and uses digits for numbers 10 and above:

Correct: The new plan has seven noteworthy features. There are 23 ways they can benefit you.


  • In headlines, editors often use digits no matter what the number.
  • Ages. Always use digits when referring to ages.
  • Grids. Use numerals throughout all grids.

Phone numbers
Use hyphens. Example: 320-308-0121. 

The names of the 50 U.S. states should be spelled out when used in the body of a story, whether standing alone or in conjunction with a city, town, village or military base. This rule is to align
with the change made by the Associated Press Style in 2014 to be consistent for domestic and international stories. International stories have long spelled out state names in the body of stories.

Do not use zeros after even hours and use a.m. and p.m. (lowercase and with periods). Avoid redundancies in your writing such as "9 a.m. this morning."

Write in the a.m./p.m. in both instances when an event goes from the morning to the afternoon (example: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.), but leave the first set out if the event is only during the morning or afternoon hours (example: 1-3 p.m.). There should be no spaces between the hyphen and the time or a.m./p.m. For times beginning/ending at noon or midnight the terms "noon" and "midnight" are preferred to 12 p.m. and 12 a.m. to avoid the possibility of confusion.

Correct: We have a meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Correct: The event is from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. with lunch from 1-2 p.m.
Incorrect: We have an event from 9:00-11:00 a.m. Monday morning.

Punctuation Tips

Avoid using ellipses ( … ) in headlines and body copy. Use a period (.) instead.

En dash
Use an en dash ( – ) rather than an em dash ( –– ) to separate ideas within a sentence. Keep in mind, however, than many writers and editors consider the en dash a weak way to convey multiple messages in a sentence.

Exclamation marks
Exclamation marks (!) are usually not necessary. If you must use an exclamation mark, only use one exclamation mark (!). Avoid using more than one together (!!!!).

Serial commas
Follow the Associate Press Stylebook rule and only use a serial comma when clarification is necessary.

Correct: Tables, chairs and books
Incorrect: tables, chairs, and books

SCSU-Specific Tips

Use Huskies instead of Husky (Huskies Athletics, Huskies Scholarships, Huskies Tales, etc.) unless it is an official title of a space, building or group that has been grandfathered in.

St. Cloud State University (our name) - first and second reference
Always spell out St. Cloud State University upon first reference. SCSU is appropriate upon second reference or after. 

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