Editorial Style Guide

Marketing and Communications has established a tiered system of style resources for reference, listed below in order of priority:

  • Purdue University’s Editorial Style Guide (see below): This resource answers questions specific to Purdue that other style resources do not address. It also lists Purdue-specific exceptions to the rules in the resources named directly below.
  • The Associated Press Stylebook: More than just a collection of rules, the AP Stylebook is part dictionary, part encyclopedia and part textbook. It is an eclectic source of information for writers and editors of all publications. Unless an exception is listed in the Purdue style guide, the AP Stylebook should be followed. The paid-membership online version is available at apstylebook.com; print copies are also available for purchase.

Note: If you have a style question that is not addressed in the resources mentioned above, please contact Marketing and Communications.

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ABBREVIATIONS IN PARENTHESES AFTER NAME: Within sensible practice, this is acceptable (an exception to AP). This applies to various kinds of abbreviations such as:
• Initialisms: “… grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).”
• Acronyms (pronounceable as a word): “… Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) ….”
Sensible practice helps all likely members of the audience in question, and thus exercises caution about relying too much on abbreviations. Some factors:
• Don’t use a parenthetical abbreviation if the abbreviation will not appear again in the piece.
• Be sure to show the relationship if the abbreviation doesn’t look like the name (C3Bio).
• Don’t weary the reader with abbreviations. Saying “at the center” works fine too.
• Also good: “… the Military Family Research Institute, or MFRI, ….”
• Also good: “… the Department of Technology Leadership and Innovation. Last year, TLI initiated ….”
ABBREVIATIONS INSTEAD OF NAMES: This is a judgment call based on level of familiarity:
1. Acceptable in all uses: NASA, FBI, LGBTQ. Consult AP for non-Purdue entities.
2. Acceptable for first reference with spelled-out name to follow: STEM. At Purdue West Lafayette, CERIAS, EPICS. For some limited audiences, no full reference may be needed, but be wary of leaving any readers confused. Also, sometimes an abbreviation makes a headline more compact but the name needs to appear very early in the body copy.
(added May 2019)
academic units
Use capitalization when listing an academic unit by its formal name (e.g., College of Liberal Arts). Capitalize a shortened form (e.g., Liberal Arts) if and only if it refers to the unit in the administrative sense versus a field of study. Example: “…. There are seven departments in Science. Job options are especially plentiful for computer science graduates.” On first reference, use the actual name, not an inverted name such as “the physics department.”
Do not capitalize “college” or “school” in subsequent or generic references such as “the college” or “the school.” Do not capitalize the words “colleges” or “schools” when referring to more than one individual school or college, e.g., “the colleges of Pharmacy and Agriculture.” (From “plurals” in AP.)
Alphabetize by discipline, not by categories or person’s names in the unit’s title. See list for examples. Use the word “and.” The official names of all academic units at the West Lafayette campus (except Bands & Orchestras) use the word “and,” not an ampersand (&). By AP, “and” and “&” are not interchangeable in official names. A few units have a serial comma in the name, and that is to be retained where possible. (renamed and revised May 2019)
List of colleges/schools at Purdue West Lafayette and their schools, departments and divisions
In return addresses and in running text, treat addresses with the style indicated in the “addresses” entry of The Associated Press Stylebook (hereafter referred to as AP Stylebook). For mailing addresses for campus buildings, see the campus map at purdue.edu/campus_map.
Note: When addressing an envelope to someone for a bulk mailing, use U.S. Postal Service style — all capital letters and no punctuation.
“All-American” Marching Band
Alumni Association, Purdue
The full name is Purdue Alumni Association, which is chartered separately and is not a unit of Purdue University. That full name should be used in formal letters, invitations and first reference in running text. Second reference can be the alumni association, the association or Purdue Alumni, as suits the kind of publication. The abbreviation “PAA” should not be used. (updated October 2017)
alumnus, alumni, alumna, alumnae
Use alumnus (alumni in the plural) when referring to a man who has attended a school. Use alumna (alumnae in the plural) for similar references to a woman. Use alumni when referring to a group of men and women.


Big Ten Conference
In this phrase, “Ten” is always spelled out. Generally speaking, first reference is “Big Ten Conference.”
The Big Ten, established in January 1895, currently has 14 conference members: University of Illinois, Indiana University, University of Iowa, University of Maryland, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska, Northwestern University, The Ohio State University, The Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University, Rutgers University and University of Wisconsin.
It is acceptable and common to use the forms above, rather than, e.g., “the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign” or “the University of Wisconsin-Madison,” unless there is need to distinguish from other places or to be formal.
B1G — This Big Ten logo is intended mainly for athletic purposes. No one at Purdue outside Intercollegiate Athletics can use B1G without the conference’s permission; consult Purdue’s Trademarks and Licensing group. Also outside Athletics, do not use the B1G logo (or the group of characters) or any similar logo as a word in a sentence or headline. (revised October 2017)
Board of Trustees/board of trustees
Capitalize “Board of Trustees” in reference to the Purdue University Board of Trustees; thereafter, use “the board” or “the trustees” when referring to that specific group. Do not capitalize “board of trustees” in conjunction with a company name.
When including Purdue’s nickname in text, prefer the term “Boilermakers.” Intercollegiate Athletics prefers the use of “Boilermakers” to the shortened form, “Boilers,” but understands that there are exceptions, such as headlines and cheers.
Boilermaker Special
The Boilermaker Special, Purdue’s official mascot, resembles a train locomotive. The latest version, Boilermaker Special VII, was dedicated on Sept. 3, 2011. A smaller version is called Boilermaker Xtra Special and also can be used for indoor events. The latest version, Boilermaker Xtra Special VIII, was dedicated on Oct. 7, 2017. The Purdue Reamer Club has been entrusted by the University to be the caretaker of the Boilermaker Special and Boilermaker Xtra Special. (revised April 2018).
building names
See the campus map for building names, abbreviations and mailing addresses.
In mailing addresses and running text, it is acceptable to use short forms of building names, e.g., “Beering Hall” instead of “Steven C. Beering Hall of Liberal Arts and Education.” If your client voices a preference for listing the whole name or using an alternate short form such as “Beering Hall of Liberal Arts and Education,” defer to the client and be consistent in this usage across the client’s publications.


Lowercase the “c” in “campus” whenever referring to particular Purdue locations — e.g., “West Lafayette campus,” “Fort Wayne campus,” etc.
campus names
The university system is named Purdue University. The full names of its campuses (use hyphens where shown, not en dashes, and without spaces):
  • Purdue University West Lafayette. In appropriate contexts, when no confusion should arise, it is acceptable to follow the general public perception that this is Purdue University, or Purdue.
  • Purdue University Northwest
    • Purdue University Northwest-Hammond Campus
    • Purdue University Northwest-Westville Campus
On second reference, generally Purdue Northwest or PNW. In all references, do not distinguish between Hammond and Westville unless the distinction is important, as in the location of an event. Second references can be Hammond campus, Westville campus, or simply at Hammond or at Westville.
    Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Abbreviation is IUPUI. Purdue operates and manages certain programs.
  • Purdue University Fort Wayne. Second reference is Purdue Fort Wayne; the abbreviation “PFW” should not be used.
This became an official institution on July 1, 2018, concluding the legal separation of Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, known as IPFW. Purdue Fort Wayne offers most of the academic and associated programs at Fort Wayne, as well as athletics.
   Also becoming official July 1, 2018, was Indiana University Fort Wayne, which operates and manages health sciences programs (nursing, dental education, and medical imaging and radiography) at Fort Wayne. Second reference is IU Fort Wayne.
   Avoid casting the restructuring as a name change. It involved realignment of programs, property and administration. Also, references to the institution, its people and its operations and activities up through June 30, 2018, should call it IPFW and include any needed explanation of that usage.
(updated July 2018) Purdue system
This term should be hyphenated in all uses to avoid misreading.
In general, avoid unnecessary capitals. See AP Stylebook for guidelines. See also “titles” and “professor” in this guide.
When referring to a group of juniors and/or seniors, “upperclassmen” may be used. When referring to a group of first-year students and/or sophomores, “underclassmen” may be used. Do not use “upperclass students,” “lowerclass students” or “underclass students.”
Purdue’s colors are old gold and black. It is acceptable in many uses to say “gold and black.” It is not appropriate to reverse the order and say “black and gold.” A school’s colors are an identity, not merely a list. (added October 2017)
course names
It is acceptable to abbreviate a subject field when followed by the course number in text: ENGL 56000
When listing the whole course name, use the following treatment: ENGL 56000 (Modern American Poetry)


DEGREE TYPES. When writing about degrees, use these terms in lowercase: doctoral degree or doctorate, master’s degree, bachelor’s degree, associate degree. NOT: doctorate degree. NOT: associate’s degree.
DEGREE NAMES. The actual name of a degree is capitalized: Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts, Master of Science.
Most degree names do not include the subject area, which if mentioned is lowercase unless the word is a proper noun. Examples: Bachelor of Arts degree in history; Master of Arts in Spanish literature. But when using the generic degree type: a bachelor’s in English; a master’s degree in agronomy.
Some degree names include the subject area, which means the subject area is part of what is capitalized; the best clue often is the abbreviation: Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN; Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering, or MSME.
DEGREE ABBREVIATIONS. An exception to AP style: Degree abbreviations do not require periods no matter how many letters in them: BA, MS, PhD, DVM, PharmD
USE OF DEGREE INFORMATION. Most communications will identify a person’s position and should not mention degrees or other qualifications. However, profiles, previews of a coming speaker, alumni identification in alumni publications or University pieces to a University audience — such things may warrant mention of degrees.
Example using parentheses: Goldie Smith (BS communication ’88) says she watches all Boilermaker basketball games.
Example using nonessential clause: Lou Scannon, who earned her bachelor’s in communication in 1988, went on to earn a law degree at UC Berkeley. (Cf. AP Stylebook “essential clauses, nonessential clauses; especially the examples.)
MULTIPLE DEGREES. When listing multiple degrees, it’s usually most efficient to include them within a parenthesis, separated by comma. Thus: Neal Downe (BS biology ’88, MS biology ’90, DVM ’94)
SUPERSEDED DEGREES. When referring to a degree that’s no longer offered at Purdue, make an effort to cite the degree earned by the individual, not the modern form of it. For example, before 1959, students could earn a degree in metallurgical engineering, abbreviated as MetE, from the School of Chemical Engineering. In 1959, the study of metallurgy was incorporated into the newly forged School of Materials Engineering.
Pre-1959: Natalie Klad (BSMetE ’55)
1959-today: Phil S. Stein (BSME ’79)
(updated and renamed May 2019)
The wording is “students with disabilities,” which places emphasis on the person, not the disability. In certain contexts, “students with special needs” might be the best phrasing.
Follow the guidelines used in the AP Stylebook with the following exceptions.
It is acceptable to use “Dr.” with the last name in first and subsequent references. However, depending on audiences and use of the piece, the use of the last name alone is preferred.
If an honorific is required, it is preferred (if the person has a PhD and is on the faculty) to use “Professor” rather than “Dr.” on these subsequent references. Dr. is to be used for medical doctors, dentists, optometrists, osteopaths, podiatrists and veterinarians.
Example:John Smith, professor of biology, oversaw the research project. Smith’s previous research on this subject has been published in several scientific journals, and he is considered an expert on the topic. (Preferred, especially in news releases.)
John Smith, professor of biology, oversaw the research project. Professor Smith’s previous research on this subject has been published in several scientific journals, and he is considered an expert on the topic. (Preferred, when honorific is required.)
See also “professor.”
Do not use. The preferred terminology is “residence hall” or “residence.”


em dash
An em dash (—) should be placed in text with a space before and after. Note: To create an em dash in Microsoft Word (on a Macintosh platform), hold down the shift and option keys, then press the hyphen (-) key. If the computer or output system isn’t able to produce an em dash, use a double hyphen instead.
en dash
Use a hyphen instead of an en dash in accordance with AP’s practice.
equal opportunity statements
Every Purdue University print and online publication, including but not limited to websites, magazines, banners, posters, mailers, invitations and billboards, must include an equal opportunity statement. There are two such statements — with the specific parameters of usage explained below.
All pieces that relate to faculty/staff employment and recruitment must use the following statement in full: Purdue is an EOE/AA employer. All individuals, including minorities, women, individuals with disabilities and veterans, are encouraged to apply.
All other Purdue materials — not pertaining to faculty-staff employment and recruitment — must include one of these statements: An equal access/equal opportunity university or EA/EOU
(updated and renamed April 2019)


The phrase “first-year student” is preferred; however, “freshman” is still used in cases where a distinction needs to be made between a beginning college student and someone who has transferred but is in his/her first year at Purdue. “Freshman” also is acceptable in headlines and in phrases such as “freshman class” (it is not “freshmen class”).


gender: adjectives/nouns
When you need to specify gender, use “female” or “male” as the adjective and “woman” or “man” when you need a noun.
Greater Lafayette
When referring to the Lafayette-West Lafayette community, use “Greater Lafayette.” (updated December 2017)


This is an acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (i.e., people pronounce it as a word, Hipp-uh). It is acceptable on any reference, but depending on context, also use the title of the act and/or an explanatory phrase such as health information privacy law or the federal law restricting release of personal medical information. (added July 2018)


Intercollegiate Athletics
Refer to this Purdue entity as “Intercollegiate Athletics,” not as Athletic Department, Department of Intercollegiate Athletics or Athletics. In addition, leave out the words “division of” in references to this area.
Neovision is the official eye care provider for Intercollegiate Athletics.
Internet of Things
This widely accepted capitalized form is normally the first reference. Second reference is the same thing or IoT. For a few audiences, “IoT” may be enough, but be careful of assuming familiarity among general readers. An explanatory phrase or sentence might be this: “The Internet of Things is the connection of devices of many types, including home and vehicle devices used by most people, via an internet such that devices can signal one another without additional direct human action.” (added July 2018)


Krannert School of Management
Because the Krannert School of Management is a named school, do not omit the word “Krannert” on first reference. On second reference, use “the Krannert School,” “the school” or “Krannert.”


land-grant/land grant
Requires a hyphen when used as an adjective. No hyphen is needed when used as a noun. This rule applies to “sea-grant/sea grant” and “space-grant/space grant” also.
When using all three together follow this order:
Purdue is a land-, sea- and space-grant university.
Use a lowercase “l” when using this term, as is the practice of Wired Style.


In running text, do not capitalize the names of majors unless the major itself is a proper noun, e.g., forestry, English, American studies. However, in tables or bulleted lists at the start of a bulleted line, it’s acceptable to capitalize majors.
She is majoring in mathematics education.
He is an English major. (updated October 2017)
master’s degrees
Generic references to these degrees are lowercase and include an apostrophe followed by an “s.” Formal references use initial capital letters and no possessives.
Master of Arts
master’s degree
middle initials
Avoid the use of middle initials unless there is an exception for clarification or in more formal programs.


Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering
When referring to Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering a second time or in shortened form, use “Neil Armstrong Hall” instead of “Armstrong Hall.” This reminds people, especially outsiders, which Armstrong this is. “Stanley Coulter Hall” is the other building for which Purdue retains a person’s first name in general use. (revised December 2017)
nondiscrimination policy statement
See Purdue’s Nondiscrimination Policy Statement


October break
A single word alone on the last line of a paragraph must have five or more letters.


Polytechnic High School, Purdue
Purdue Polytechnic High School is a charter school in downtown Indianapolis. This reinvented high school, with a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, opened its doors July 31, 2017. The first reference can include its location in nearby text: “in downtown Indianapolis “and should include “Indiana” when necessary.
Preferred second reference is “the high school.” It is acceptable also to call it Purdue Polytechnic High School Indianapolis.
(added July 2018) URL: Purdue Polytechnic High School
Polytechnic Institute, Purdue
The Purdue Polytechnic Institute, formerly the College of Technology, was renamed by the Board of Trustees in May 2015. On second reference, Purdue Polytechnic. Polytechnic is acceptable if the meaning, which includes the Purdue connection, is clear and the context is suitable. Do not use PPI.
The Polytechnic Institute is one of 10 academic colleges on the West Lafayette campus of Purdue University. Polytechnic also offers select degree programs in nine Indiana communities: Anderson, Columbus, Indianapolis, Kokomo, Lafayette, New Albany, Richmond, South Bend and Vincennes. To refer to a specific program location, it is Purdue Polytechnic , e.g., Purdue Polytechnic Anderson, Purdue Polytechnic Vincennes. Refer to them as locations, not campuses.
Polytechnic and its locations are separate from Purdue Fort Wayne’s School of Polytechnic, an academic unit formed in December 2017 by merger of academic units within PFW’s College of Engineering, Technology and Computer Science.
(updated July 2018) URL: Purdue Polytechnic Institute. See also Polytechnic High School, Purdue.
When adding a postscript to a letter, use capital letters and place a period after each letter.
P.S. Your participation is crucial to our goal of increasing participation in the Krannert Annual Fund by 500 alumni.
preeminent, preeminence
A spelling exception to AP (“pre-“) based on ongoing usage at Purdue. (added October 2017)
presidents, Purdue
The 12th president of Purdue University is typically identified as “President Mitch Daniels” on first reference; thereafter, use “Daniels” or “the president” or, in some types of communication, “President Daniels.” He began his term on Jan. 14, 2013.
In formal or official capacities, the president’s full name of “Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr.” is often appropriate. (The comma before “Jr.” is the president’s preference and is an exception to Associated Press style.)
President Daniels is married to Cheri Daniels. An example of the style for addressing them together in the same sentence is “President Mitch Daniels and first lady Cheri Daniels attended the event in Elliott Hall of Music.”
Recent presidents have been:
President Emerita France A. Córdova (11th; 2007-12)
President Emeritus Martin C. Jischke (10th; 2000-07)
President Emeritus Steven C. Beering (ninth; 1983-2000)
For a summary of Purdue’s past presidents, please see Purdue’s official past presidents page. (updated and renamed December 2017)
When referring to Purdue faculty members, use the title or rank given to them by the University. Apply the title “professor” only before or in reference to the name of a faculty member of professorial rank: professor, associate professor or assistant professor — not before or in reference to the name of a lecturer, teaching assistant or other staff member.
Do not abbreviate “assistant” or “associate” or “professor.”
Typical first reference: Kimberly Kinzig, associate professor of psychological sciences. Typical second reference: Kinzig.
In a quotation or other special usage or where context makes the “of” part entirely clear, “Professor Kinzig” or “Professor Kimberly Kinzig” is acceptable; the capitalization in this usage is an exception to the AP Stylebook. In such usages, omit “associate” or “assistant” unless part of the quotation.
DISTINGUISHED AND NAMED PROFESSORS (do not use “endowed” as a term for the whole group). When the title begins with a person’s name, use “the” to avoid the appearance of starting a list:
Mary Wirth, the W. Brooks Fortune Distinguished Professor of Chemistry
Thomas W. Hertel, Distinguished Professor of Agriculture
Tonglei Li, the Allen Chao Chair in Industrial and Physical Pharmacy
EMERITUS/EMERITA. This status is bestowed; it is not equal to “retired” (Office of the Provost has list). Indicate this status on first reference:
Thomas Clark, professor emeritus of physics and astronomy
Margaret Rowe, professor emerita of English
MORE THAN ONE TITLE: Include all titles on first reference if the sentence allows. Otherwise, list all titles in the first few sentences. This includes administrative titles. Start with the most relevant if possible.
Douglass Jacobs, the Fred M. van Eck Chair in Forest Biology and associate head of the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources.
Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, director of the Center for Families. MacDermid Wadsworth is also professor of human development and family studies, as well as director of the Military Family Research Institute and executive director of the Family Impact Institute. (updated October 2017)


school/college names
See “academic units” entry.
serial commas
Avoid serial commas unless it is part of an official name (Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences) or is needed to avoid confusion.
spring break/spring vacation
The official term used by the Office of the Registrar is “spring vacation”; however, “spring break” may be used also. Lowercase both terms in running text. Capitalization may be used when the terms are used in calendars, tables, etc.
Student Transition, Advising and Registration (STAR)
This is the full name and exact punctuation of the program formerly known as Day on Campus. The program is most often referred to by its acronym.
This term is perhaps the best adjective/adverb to use when talking about things that span all Purdue campuses/locations.


telephone numbers
Use 10-digit numbers with hyphens as separators: 765-494-xxxx per AP. In lengthy lists, it is permissible to give the area code once for the whole list. (updated and renamed October 2017)
Because the Patti and Rusty Rueff School of Design, Art, and Performance consistently refers to its academic area of study as “theatre” and its performance stages as “theatres,” all Rueff School-related references should use the “re” spelling. However, references to movie or other performing theaters — and other generic usages — should use the “er” spelling unless it involves an “re” proper name.
In general, place identifications after a person’s name and set off by commas with a title in lowercase. Confine capitalization to formal titles used directly before an individual’s name. Titles used apart from a name also are lowercase. See also “professor” in this guide.
For more information, see AP Stylebook under “titles” (note subsections on long titles and additional guidance) and the cross references at the end, especially academic titles. AP also has entries for courtesy titles and categories of people such as military, religious or legislative; there also is a general entry for composition titles (books, TV, movies, music, art, software, etc.). (revised April 2018)


If you need one word to describe a group of first-year students and/or sophomores, use “underclassmen.” Do not use “lowerclass students” or “underclass students.”
The word “University” should be capitalized in instances where it stands for the longer phrase “Purdue University.” Examples: the University, our University, your University, this University.
Several famous astronauts have graduated from this University.
The worldwide presence of our University alumni helps bring in many students.
But: Purdue is a land-grant university. Purdue is Indiana’s land-grant university.
She said she always wanted to teach at a flagship university.
(revised May 2019)
When referring to Purdue University, capitalize “University-wide” and hyphenate it in all uses.
A gender-neutral group of juniors and/or seniors. Do not use “upperclass students.”
URLs should be set in plain type, not underlined or set in italics, etc. The situation, placement and audience help determine how much of a URL to show. However, whatever is shown must suffice for reaching the website. Thus, for some uses “purdue.edu” or “purduesports.com” is enough. URLs should always be tested.
If a URL can’t be listed on one line, never break it with a hyphen; rather, break the URL after a period, slash or double slash. A sentence including a URL takes end punctuation as a sentence normally does. (updated October 2017)
Use periods when abbreviating “United States,” both in texts and in headlines. The latter example is an exception to AP.


West Lafayette
Do not abbreviate “West” in “West Lafayette.”
West Lafayette campus
The “c” should be lowercase in running text.


year in school
See “class” entry.
In cases where the century doesn’t change, inclusive years should be formatted as follows:
But: 1998-2002