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Why a Style Guide?

Just as language itself is always evolving, issues of style are also in constant flux—is it email or e-mailadvisor or adviser? Our goal is to provide clear, simple guidelines for capitalization, punctuation, spelling, grammar, and usage in materials produced by and for Smith College.

The purpose of this style guide is to:

  • Take the guesswork out of editorial style decisions.
  • Help create campuswide messaging that is clear, consistent, and professional.
  • Support the diversity of our community by promoting the use of inclusive language.
  • Avoid debates about thorny issues like comma placement and hyphen use.

In most instances, our entries are based on the Associated Press Stylebook. For topics not addressed here, please consult the AP Stylebook (for style or grammar) or Merriam-Webster (for spelling or word usage).

Ask the Editor

Have questions, comments, or suggestions about our style guide? Share them with us by sending an email to Lil Knight ’94, communications editor, at

We update our guide regularly and welcome input!

To search for a term on this page, press “Control+F” (or “Command+F” for a Mac) on your keyboard.


  • In general, capitalize the full formal names of college departments and offices, course titles, committees, divisions, associations, prizes, programs, institutes, grants, awards, buildings, and rooms.
  • Use lowercase when the names are shortened and for generic terms (Smith College, the college; Office of Admission, admission office; Botanic Garden of Smith College, botanic garden).
  • Also lowercase the common noun elements of names in plural uses (the Connecticut and Mill rivers; Amherst and Mount Holyoke colleges).
  • When in doubt, use lowercase.

See Names & Titles and Smith-Specific Terms for additional guidelines.

academic degrees: Use lowercase and spell out degrees mentioned in text: associate degree (not associate’s degree); bachelor’s degree, baccalaureate, bachelor of fine arts; master’s degree; doctorate, doctoral degree. See also this entry in Smith-Specific Terms.

academic departments: Capitalize only when the full formal name is used (Department of Biological Sciences, biological sciences department). Formal and informal names may be used interchangeably, though audience sensitivity should be exercised. See also Departments & Programs.

academic disciplines: Use lowercase for academic subjects, majors, minors, concentrations, and courses of study—except in cases that include a proper noun (English language and literature, Africana studies, medieval studies).

awards: Capitalize names of awards, prizes, and grants; however, some generic terms used with the names are lowercase: a Nobel Prize winner; the Nobel Prize in literature; a Nobel Prize–winning physicist (note the en dash, see En Dash); the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. The MacArthur Foundation awards fellowships colloquially known as “genius grants” (lowercase). The official name of Smith’s annual teaching award is the Kathleen Compton Sherrerd ’54 and John J.F. Sherrerd Prize for Distinguished Teaching, but it is acceptable to use the Sherrerd Prize for Distinguished Teaching and Sherrerd teaching award on first reference. See also Awards & Prizes and fellow, fellowship and scholar, scholarship.

building names: Capitalize the names of specific buildings; use lowercase for generic terms (Neilson Library, the library; Brown Fine Arts Center, the center). See also Buildings & Places.

class year: Lowercase when spelled out: class of 1934 (note lowercase “class”). Always lowercase terms for undergraduate years (sophomore, junior, and senior). See also this entry in Punctuation and academic degrees in Capitalization and Smith-Specific Terms.

fellow, fellowship: Lowercase when used alone. When used with a proper noun, it may be capitalized or lowercase, depending on the award name (MacArthur Fellowship/Fellow but Fulbright fellowship/fellow).

geographic locations: General compass points and terms derived from them are lowercase if they simply refer to direction or location (western Massachusetts). Regional terms are generally capitalized (a Southern accent, East Coast, the Northeast, Western Hemisphere). General terms are always lowercase (the coast). Capitalize legendary and popular names (the Big Apple, the Happy Valley). See also addresses in Buildings & Places and state names in States.

historical periods: A descriptive designation of a period is usually lowercase (colonial period). Exception: “Renaissance” is capitalized to avoid ambiguity. Names of prehistoric periods are generally capitalized: Ice Age, Bronze Age. Consult the “historical periods and events” entry in the AP Stylebook.

major, minor, interdepartmental major and minor: Lowercase these terms and the names of academic fields (minoring in biological sciences, a Jewish studies major).

offices on campus: Capitalize the full names of all administrative offices (Office of College Relations, Office of the Class Deans, Office of Human Resources); lowercase generic references (human resources, human resources office). See also Offices & Services.

ombudsperson: Use “Office of the Ombudsperson” or “ombudsperson” on first reference when referring to the Smith office/position; “ombuds” is acceptable for subsequent references to “ombudsperson.”

quad, quadrangle: Lowercase (generic description).

rooms: Capitalize official room names on campus (Klingenstein Browsing Room) but use lowercase when they are simply locations or informal names (Ainsworth lounge). When in doubt, use lowercase.

scholar, scholarship: Lowercase when used alone. When used with a proper noun, it may be capitalized or lowercase, depending on the scholarship (Ada Comstock Scholar but Rhodes scholar and Fulbright scholar). See also Smith Scholars Program in Departments & Programs.

seasons: Use lowercase (fall, spring, winter).

semesters: Use lowercase (fall semester, first semester, interterm). See also interterm in Smith-Specific Terms.

web: Use lowercase in all instances (webpage, website, webcam).

ZIP code

Inclusive Language

The Smith community is diverse and represents a vast range of identities. Be inclusive by using language that is respectful, bias-free, and welcoming of all audiences. Keep in mind that it’s important to:

  • Be aware of and sensitive to issues related to race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical ability, age, socioeconomic status, and the like, and avoid references to these unless it’s relevant to the topic.
  • Emphasize the individual, not the characteristic, by using person-first language (“a person with a disability” rather than “a disabled person”) unless identity-first language is preferred.
  • Use gender-neutral language (student, player, housemate) when it is possible to do so. Note that in official college communications (admission materials, diplomas, etc.), language will be geared toward a specific gender audience—women, in this case.
  • Ask individuals what they use for descriptors—such as pronouns, ability and disability, and what they call their partner/spouse—whenever possible. When in doubt, rewrite the sentence.

African American: No hyphen. Acceptable to use in referring to a person of African descent; follow individual preference. When used as a modifier for a collective noun, use a plural noun (African American communities, African American cultures) to reflect the complexity and diversity of those included under the broader term. See also Black.

alumna, alumnae, alum(s): In official college communications, use alumna (feminine singular) and alumnae (feminine plural). In other communications, consider using alum/alums to avoid citing gender.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Notice the lowercase “with” here.

Asian American: No hyphen. Acceptable for an American of Asian descent. When possible, refer to a person’s country of origin or follow the person’s preference (Filipino American, Indian American). When used as a modifier for a group, use a plural noun (Asian American communities, Asian American cultures) to reflect the complexity and diversity of those included in the broader term.

Black: Uppercase when used as an adjective referring to people, cultural identity, movements, or politics. When used as a modifier for a group, use a plural noun (Black communities, Black cultures) to reflect the complexity and diversity of those represented by the broader term.

chair: Avoid using “chairman.” Consider substituting “presiding officer,” “coordinator,” or “convener.”

deaf: With a lowercase “d,” “deaf” generally describes a person with total or severe hearing loss. Others, who often have some limited physical hearing ability, use “hard-of-hearing (HoH).” The term “Deaf” (uppercase “D”) is generally used when indicating the cultural/linguistic identity of an individual in a sign-language-using community, and is also appropriate when focusing on a whole community rather than a medical condition. Avoid “hearing impaired,” “partially deaf,” and “hearing loss.” See also disabled person.

disabled person, persons with disabilities: In general, use person-first language; however, some people object to “people first” (“persons with ...”) and prefer “identity-first” terminology because they see their disability as central to their identity. Follow individual preference. Do not use “the disabled,” “handicapped,” or “the impaired.” The term “accessible” is preferred over “handicap-accessible.” “Neurodiverse” is often preferred as an all-inclusive term for conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), learning disabilities such as dyslexia and dyscalculia, and a number of other categories; some autistic people strongly prefer identity-first language; “developmentally disabled people” or “intellectually disabled” are acceptable. Avoid euphemisms and terms that evoke pity, such as “victim of,” “afflicted with,” or “suffers from.”

ethnicity and nationality designations: Try to use the preferred, specific identifications. Dual-heritage identifiers do not require hyphens, even when used as modifiers (African American communities, Irish American newspaper).

first generation: A college student who is the first in their immediate family to attend college or finish an undergraduate degree in the United States. In immigration contexts, this may refer to the first generation of a family to live or be born in another country. Hyphenate as an adjective before a noun (first-generation student).

first-year, first-years, first-year student: Avoid the word “freshmen.” See also this entry in Hyphenation of Specific Terms.

immigrant/migrant: “Immigrant” generally refers to people who move to a different country with the intention of settling there. “Migrant” generally refers to those who are on the move, either within one country or across borders; it may also be used for refugees or asylum seekers or those whose reason for leaving their home country is not clear. See also refugees.

Indigenous: Capitalize when referring to original inhabitants. See also Native Americans, Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous Peoples Day: See also Native Americans, Indigenous Peoples.

international students: Use “international” when referring to people (avoid the term “foreign”).

Latino/a: The Smith academic department uses “Latin American and Latino/a studies.” The gender-neutral “Latinx” may also be used if an individual prefers. When used as a modifier for a group, use a plural noun to reflect the complexity and diversity of the population (Latino/a communities). Whether to use “Hispanic” or “Latino/a” should also follow personal preference, but in general “Hispanic” refers to language (those from primarily Spanish-speaking places) and “Latino/a” to geography (those from Latin, Central and South America and some of the Caribbean Islands).

LGBTQ+: Acceptable in all references for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer and/or questioning, plus other sexual and gender minorities. Fewer or additional letters can be used to be more inclusive or in quotations and names of organizations and events, such as LGBT or LGBTQIA. Use LGBTQIA2S+ when specifically including Indigenous People who identify as Two-Spirit (2S).

low income: Coming from a background that earns wages well below the median income level. Hyphenate as an adjective.

minority: Try to avoid this word and focus instead on diversity. Use specific identification (“Chinese American”) if relevant or “underrepresented groups” if applicable and specifics are not known. See also Black, ethnicity and nationality designations, Latino/a, and Native American entries in this section.

multiracial, biracial, mixed race: Use “multiracial” or “biracial” for a person who identifies with two or more racial groups. Use “mixed race” only when the individual identifies with this term; hyphenate when used as an adjective (a mixed-race person).

Native Americans, Indigenous Peoples (pl., general) Indigenous Person (sing.), Native Person: All are acceptable terms for general references to those in the United States; follow individual preference. When referring to individuals, use the name of the group or tribal nation if possible. Note that some Native groups and tribal nations use “member”; others use “citizen.” If in doubt, use “citizen.” Be mindful that some Native Americans say the terms “people of color” and “racial minority” fall short by not encompassing their sovereign status and, similarly, BIPOC also conflates racial and political categories. “First Nations” is the preferred term of native peoples in Canada; “Indigenous Peoples” is most appropriate for referencing global Indigenous groups.

nonbinary: Use without a hyphen. Indicates a gender identity that is neither masculine nor feminine, or is a combination of both. Use only if this is the term someone uses for themselves or as a category: “nonbinary students/faculty/staff/people, etc.”

nontraditional-aged students, students of nontraditional college age. Use when referring to Ada Comstock Scholars; avoid saying “older students.”

pronouns: Respect the pronouns that individuals use for themselves. Avoid references to “preferred” pronouns; refer to “pronouns” only. (“Preferred” suggests that other pronouns are also acceptable, while most individuals do not feel that way.) Commonly used third-person singular pronouns are listed on Smith’s Gender Identity & Expression webpage. Please note that it is by no means an exhaustive list; new pronouns are coming into use all the time.

refugees: Refers to people compelled to leave their home or country to escape war, natural disaster, or persecution on the grounds of race, religion, nationality, political beliefs, or other grounds.

they/them/theirs: These take plural verbs even when used as a singular pronoun, but be sure it’s clear from the context that only one person is involved (“Taylor takes cream and sugar in their coffee”).

transgender: Use as an adjective—transgender students/faculty/staff/people, etc. (not “transgendered” or “a transgender”). In informal writing, it’s also acceptable to use “trans,” provided the meaning is clear to the audience or in keeping with individual preference.

undocumented: Do not use the terms “illegal alien,” “alien,” “unauthorized immigrant,” “irregular migrant,” “an illegal,” or “illegals” (except when quoting people or government documents that use these terms). Acceptable variations include “living in or entering a country illegally” or “without legal permission.” For people, use “immigrants lacking permanent legal status.”

upper-class students/upperclassmen: Avoid these terms. When practical, replace with “returning students” or “upper-level students” or consider using “sophomores, juniors, and seniors” if it doesn’t seem too wordy.

Names & Titles

The following are brief guidelines. Because italics are preferred for most composition titles, please consult The Chicago Manual of Style for more detailed information.

Awards & Prizes

see also Awards and Medals

Use headline capitalization (initial caps). Generic terms that accompany these should be lowercase (Nobel Prize winner). See also awards in Capitalization.


Capitalize the names of specific buildings; use lowercase for generic terms (Neilson Library, the library; Brown Fine Arts Center, the center). Consult the Smith College map online for accurate names of campus buildings. See also Buildings & Places and house in Smith-Specific Terms.

Colleges & Universities

For universities with several campuses, follow the preferred punctuation for each campus (see individual university websites). For example, University of Massachusetts Amherst; University of California, Berkeley; University at Albany, State University of New York. Use shortened names (UMass, MIT) only in informal references (exception: Do not abbreviate “Mount” in Mount Holyoke College).

Corporations & Companies

On first reference, use the corporation’s full formal name (Ford Motor Company); the shortened name can be used for subsequent references (Ford). Do not use a comma before Inc. or Ltd., even if it is included in the formal name. To confirm the actual name, consult the AP Stylebook under “company names,” look at the online Nasdaq listing, or look at the copyright notice at the bottom of the corporation’s home page. Capitalize “The” if it’s part of the official name. Do not use all capital letters (Ikea) unless the letters are individually pronounced (BMW).


Use initial caps for full titles of courses; do not use italics or quotation marks (Cell Biology; an introductory history course; AAS 245 The Harlem Renaissance).

Events & Lectures

The names of events, including conferences and campaigns, should be set in roman, not italic (except for plays), with initial caps.

The names of individual lectures should be capitalized and set in quotation marks. The lecture series should be capitalized only. Exception: Do not use quotation marks in headlines, only in running text.

Headlines & Compositions

Capitalize the principal words—nouns, verbs, adverbs, pronouns, and interjections.

Capitalize only those conjunctions and prepositions consisting of four or more letters (because, while, since, though, above, after, down, inside, over, with, from, etc.).

Capitalize “To” in a title when used as an infinitive (What I Want To Be When I Grow Up) or part of a phrasal verb (What To Look For in a Mate).

For hyphenated compounds, the same general capitalization rules apply to the elements following the hyphen. If the first element of the hyphenated compound is a prefix that cannot stand by itself as a word (anti, pre, etc.), do not capitalize the second element (Anti-intellectualism) unless it is a proper noun or proper adjective.

Use single quotes rather than double quotes for titles in headlines when appropriate.

Laws, Regulations, & Policies

Use initial caps (Lemon Law).

Legal Cases

Use italics (Roe v. Wade; Roe is acceptable on subsequent references).


Use quotation marks for song titles; use italics for citing full works (containing multiple pieces or songs, such as CD titles, album titles, and operas—see The Chicago Manual of Style for details). Use capitalization only (and no additional treatment) for titles that are generic descriptions (Concerto for Orchestra, Piano Sonata). Lowercase modifiers such as “flat” or “sharp” following musical key symbols (E-flat Concerto). If part of the title, capitalize number (Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony) and “Major” and “Minor” (Fantasy in C Minor).

Newspapers & Magazines

Capitalize these titles and set the publication title in italics (not the generic description); the title should appear exactly as it does in the masthead of the printed publication or on its website, including punctuation and preceding article (The New York Times, Time magazine).

Online Sources

blogs, podcasts, web series: Set main title in italics; enclose titles of individual entries or episodes in quotation marks (In Episode 3 of the Jungian Files, entitled “The More You Know,” the hosts discussed philosophy using the lens of Neanderthals).

online books, newsletters, or journals: Use italics (Notes From Paradise, the newsletter from the Office of College Relations; Digitalis, the botanic garden’s monthly newsletter; Nature, the world’s leading scientific journal).

web addresses: Remove the “www” and set web addresses in roman (i.e., no quotation marks or italics), leaving all words lowercase (,

websites: Use initial caps for names of websites (Facebook, Google, The Huffington Post); articles or titled sections of a website should be set in quotation marks.


academic titles: Use lowercase in text, but capitalize when a title precedes a name (Associate Professor Judith Cardell). Long titles should appear after names and be set off by commas. Exception: Named professorships and full formal titles denoting academic honors are always capitalized, even when following a name or standing alone (William Allan Oram, Helen Means Professor of English Language and Literature). See also emerita and professorship.

emerita (feminine, singular); emeritae (feminine, plural); emeritus (male, singular); emeriti (male, plural): As in all titles of people, lowercase when used as a generic description but capitalize when used before a name or as an official part of a named professorship (Professor Emerita Susan Waltner, Elsie Irwin Sweeney Professor Emeritus of Music). Note: This entry may be revised as nongendered alternatives evolve.

names: Do not use courtesy titles (Dr., Ms., Mrs., or Mr.), unless the person has a medical degree, in which case “Dr.” may be used. On subsequent references, use last names only—not first names. Use Jr., Sr., II, and so on with complete names only and eliminate the preceding comma. See also alum names in Smith-Specific Terms.

official titles: Capitalize official titles that appear before names (President Sarah Willie-LeBreton, Dean of the College Susan Etheredge, Professor Brown, Professor of Anthropology Donald Brown). Lowercase informal descriptive titles and occupational titles used before names (historian Ellen Richter; coach Ellen Smith but Athletic Director Ellen Smith). In running text, all faculty members at any rank may be generically referred to as “professor,” provided their full, accurate title is cited beforehand in the text.

professorships (named): Full titles of named professorships are always capitalized, even when they appear after the professor’s name (Martha A. Ackelsberg, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Government and professor of the study of women and gender).

religious titles: The first reference to a clergyperson should typically include a capitalized title before the individual’s name (Cardinal John McClosky, Rabbi Bruce Bromberg Seltzer). In many cases, “the Rev.” is the designation that applies before a name on first reference; include the article “the” before the title (the Rev. Richard Phillips; not Rev. or Reverend Phillips). Use last name only in subsequent references. For more guidance on specific titles and descriptive words such as “priest,” “minister,” “sheikh,” “guru,” etc., consult the AP Stylebook.

titles appearing after names: Use lowercase (Sarah Willie-LeBreton, president of the college). Exceptions: Titles in display (in mastheads and other headings) or in formal usage (programs and announcements) are often capitalized without regard to these rules. For long titles, move to follow names whenever possible (Alexis Callender, associate professor of art). See also academic titles, emerita, and religious titles.

titles standing alone: Use lowercase (the president, the dean, the director of graduate study).


state names: Spell out in text (She was born in Massachusetts in 1960; She was born in Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1960). Set off state names with commas before and after when used after a city in a sentence. Note: Use the two-letter postal abbreviations only when citing full mailing addresses and ZIP codes.

United States: Spell out when used as a noun; abbreviate the adjectival form (U.S. Senator Carol Moseley-Braun, U.S. currency, an ally of the United States). See also addresses in Buildings & Places and state names.

Works (printed materials, art, film, television, theater)

Italicize titles of books, magazines, newspapers, films, television series (see “episodes”), full-length plays, as well as paintings, statues, works of art, and art exhibitions. See also Newspapers & Magazines.

Enclose in quotation marks the titles of short stories, poems, booklets, flyers, and specific television episodes in a series (with the series title in italics). (In the West Wing’s season finale, “The Long Goodbye,” C.J. finally confronts her past obsessions.)

Numbers, Dates, & Times

academic credits: Use numerals (2 credits).

academic year: See En Dashes.

ages: Always use numerals (a 5-year-old; the 3-year-old child; women in their 20s; parents of two kids, ages 3 and 5). See also Hyphen.

centuries and decades: Use an s without an apostrophe to indicate spans of decades (1930s, the ’30s) or centuries (1800s); hyphenate adjectival forms of centuries (18th-century architecture); the letters in ordinal numbers should not appear as superscripts. See also eras in this section.

dates: Capitalize the names of months in all uses. When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. Do not abbreviate months when used alone or with a year alone (January was a cold month, but January 2023 was the coldest month ever). Always spell out days of the week, and use a comma to offset days from specific dates (Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2004). When using a day-month-year construction, commas must be used to set off the year, both before and after the year appears (On Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2004, they participated in an experiment). Do not use a comma when writing a month and year only. Avoid using a dash with “from” or “between” (incorrect: from May 7–April 14; correct: from May 7 to April 14). Use an en dash when citing a range of dates; it is not necessary to repeat the month: May 7–14). Use cardinal numbers (Aug. 7, not August 7th). See also En Dash, centuries and decades above, and eras.

dimensions: Use numerals and spell out inches, feet, yards, etc., to indicate depth, height, length, and width (the storm left 5 inches of snow). Hyphenate adjectives that come before a noun (the 5-foot woman) but do not hyphenate feet (the rug is 9 feet by 12 feet; the 9-by-12 rug).

eras: C.E. and B.C.E.—Common Era and Before the Common Era are the preferred terms (considered to be more inclusive than A.D. and B.C.).

fractions: Use figures for all fractions larger than one; spell out for less than one (1-1/2; two-thirds). See also Hyphen.

millions, billions, trillions: Use a figure-word combination (4 million people). See also money and Hyphen.

money: Use numerals, not words, for all dollar amounts, and eliminate zeros when possible. Use numbers and words when citing more than six figures: $6 million drive, $40 billion. See also Hyphen.

numbers: Spell out numbers one through nine; use figures for 10 and above, even when this means mixing words and numerals in the same sentence. This rule holds for school grades (fourth grade; 11th grader) and for ordinals (first place; the 12th floor); the letters in ordinal numbers should not appear as superscripts.

Spell out numbers when they appear as the first word of the sentence or recast the sentence (preferred). Use commas in numbers of four or more digits (2,367) except in dates, addresses, and page numbers. Large rounded numbers should be spelled out (nearly a thousand people; 2 million residents).

percentages: Use numerals for percentages. Use the % sign when paired with a number, with no space, in most cases. Spell out zero percent.

plus: Use the word “plus” instead of the symbol (They expect 200-plus people, She’s been teaching for 20-plus years).

telephone numbers: See Hyphen and extension in Smith-Specific Terms.

temperature: Always use numerals. Spell out “minus” (do not use the symbol) to indicate temperatures below zero, and spell out “degrees” (minus 20 degrees, 7 degrees below zero).

time of day: Use numbers, eliminate unnecessary zeros, use “a.m.” and “p.m.” (lowercase with periods). Use “midnight” and “noon” (lowercase) instead of “12 a.m.” and “12 p.m.” (8–11:30 a.m.; 7 a.m.–midnight; 8 a.m.–1 p.m.) Spell out durations used in running text (An eight-hour workday. The class meets at two o’clock.)

See also addresses in Buildings & Places, dates in Numbers, Dates, & Times, and class year in Capitalization.


This section addresses only those questions related to Smith style and is not meant to be comprehensive. See the “Guide to Punctuation” chapter in the AP Stylebook for a more complete explanation. For more about dashes (hyphen, en dash, and em dash), refer to The Chicago Manual of Style.

class year: When stating a name and year of graduation, use a space after the last name and include an apostrophe with the year (Julia McWilliams Child ’34). Note the direction of the apostrophe (Jane Doe ’96, not Jane Doe ‘96). Master’s degrees should be specified (M.S.W. ’09) and set off by commas (Judy Patootie ’86, S.M. ’99; Bugs Bunny, M.F.A. ’40). For Ada Comstock Scholars, include “AC” after the names of alums (Susan Jones AC ’92). References between 1879 and 100 years before the present year should include the entire year (Ima Gurley 1892). See also this entry in Capitalization and academic degrees in Capitalization and Smith-Specific Terms.

Apostrophe (’)

holidays: For holidays that include the word “Day,” consult the AP Stylebook for guidance on specific days and whether to use an apostrophe (Mother’s Day and New Year’s Day but Veterans Day and Presidents Day). For Smith events, see Traditions.

plurals: Do not use an apostrophe for plurals of acronyms: SATs, DVDs. See Capitalization for plurals of common noun elements used with proper names. No apostrophe is necessary when pluralizing years, temperatures, or other sequences of more than two numbers (the 1930s; in the low 20s) or letters (know your ABCs; five VIPs were in attendance). However, use an apostrophe with single letters to avoid misreading (mind your p’s and q’s; she got two A’s on her report card).

possessives: Most possessive singular nouns (including singular nouns ending in s) use an apostrophe and an s (the bird’s beak; the witness’s answer); possessive plural nouns use an apostrophe only (the students’ discussion). Singular proper names ending in s take only an apostrophe (Williams’ speech).

Colon (:)

Capitalize the first word after a colon if it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence (She promised this: The team will go to nationals this year), otherwise lowercase (There were three issues with the project: expense, time, and feasibility).

Comma (,)

serial comma: Use the serial (or Oxford) comma after the next-to-last item in a list of three or more items, before “and” or “or.” This is to ensure clarity in all cases (He will major in English, philosophy, or psychology; She dedicated the book to her parents, Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens). When some items in the list contain internal commas, semicolons should be used between the items (and before the final conjunction).

Ellipsis ( ... )

An ellipsis is used to indicate missing words or phrases in quotations. It may also be used to indicate a thought that the speaker or writer does not complete (I never thought … ). See the AP Stylebook for more guidance. Treat an ellipsis as a three-letter word, constructed with three periods and one space on either end (She wanted more … but she stuck to her budget).

En Dash (–)

Use the en dash in number ranges (employees work 20–30 hours per week; office hours are every Wednesday, 10–⁠11 a.m.) and with a compound adjective when one of its elements consists of an open compound (the post–World War II years; the Academy Award–winning film; the cinnamon roll–flavored coffee). When citing academic years, use an en dash and do not repeat the century (2023–24). Note there is no space before or after the dash.

Em Dash (—)

Use the em dash to signal abrupt change, to set off a series within a phrase, before attribution to an author or composer in some formats, and after datelines. Note there is no space on either side of the dash (The jurors arrived at a verdict—guilty; Upon finding the errors⁠—all 114 of them⁠—the publisher recalled the book).

Hyphen (-)

In general, hyphenate compound modifiers when they precede nouns (an awe-inspiring sight, a well-prepared meal); leave open when they follow nouns (the sight was awe inspiring, the meal was well prepared). See also prefixes and African American and Asian American in Inclusive Language.

Do not hyphenate well-established compound modifiers (a high school play, the parking lot entrance).

Do not hyphenate modifiers containing an adverb ending in “ly” (mildly irritating fellow, highly complex question).

ages: Use hyphens for ages expressed as adjectives before a noun or as substitutes for a noun (5-year-old boy; The race is for 3-year-olds). See also this entry in Numbers, Dates, & Times.

follow up, follow-up: The verb form is two words with no hyphen while the noun and adjective forms are hyphenated (You should follow up with a phone call; I made a follow-up appointment with the doctor).

fractions: For spelled-out fractions, use hyphens between the words (two-thirds; four-fifths). See also this entry in Numbers, Dates, & Times.

full time, full-time (and part time, part-time): Open when used as a noun, hyphenated as an adjective (She worked part time at the court after she quit her full-time job with the law firm).

millions, billions, trillions: No hyphen should be used to link numerals and the word million, billion, or trillion (4 million people; $2 billion). See also this entry in Numbers, Dates, & Times.

prefixes: Compounds formed with prefixes are normally unhyphenated (multicultural, nonprofit, prelaw, prehealth, premedical, postdoctoral, postseason), but consult the AP Stylebook for exceptions and specific prefixes (co-author, co-worker, anti-racism).

No hyphen in “semiautomatic” and “semiautonomous.”

suffixes: If a word combination is not listed in Merriam-Webster, use two words for the verb form; hyphenate any noun or adjective forms. Exceptions for the suffix “-maker” are chipmaker, drugmaker, policymaker/policymaking, change maker, and coffee maker. Always spell out the suffix “-plus” (He has worked there for four-plus years). No hyphen with the suffix “-wide” (campuswide, collegewide, statewide, worldwide).

suspensive hyphenation: Used for phrasal adjectives sharing a common element (He received a 10- to 20-year sentence).

telephone numbers: Use hyphens with area code: 413-584-2700. See also extension in Smith-Specific Terms.

Hyphenation of Specific Terms

All-America: sports term (All-America Lacrosse Tournament); see also sports-related terms in Smith-Specific Terms.

all-college meeting

anti-racism: Use a hyphen.

antisemitism, antisemitic: No hyphen.

change maker (noun)

cross-country (noun and adjective)

cross-cultural (adjective), cross-culturally (adverb), cross-listed courses

email: No hyphen.

first-generation students: Hyphenate “first-generation” when it appears before a noun. See also first generation in Inclusive Language.

first-year, first-years, first-year student: See also this entry in Inclusive Language.

artist-in-residence: Hyphenate when describing a work position.

on campus/off campus: Hyphenate before the noun but not after.



re-create: (to create again), recreate (to take recreation)

startup (one word, no hyphen)

student-athlete (noun)

well-being (always hyphenated)

work-study (adjective and noun): Federal Work-Study Program, work-study students

Period (.)

Leave only one space after a period (or whatever punctuation ends your sentence).

Do not put a space between initials: C.S. Lewis; L.M. Montgomery.

abbreviations: Use periods, but avoid using abbreviations in running text. A few standard abbreviations may be used only when it’s customary (a.m., Ms., B.C.E.).

acronyms: Acronyms do not take periods and appear in full caps (NASA). Spell out acronyms on first reference unless they are well known (e.g., NAACP, NATO, FBI, and IRS). COVID-19 stands for coronavirus disease 2019—a disease caused by one strain in the family of viruses called coronaviruses. Use the term “COVID-19” when referring specifically to the disease (COVID-19 patients, COVID-19 deaths). The shortened form “COVID” is acceptable if necessary for space in headlines, and in direct quotations and proper names. See the AP Stylebook for more details.

Quotation Marks (“ ”)

Periods and commas generally go inside closing quotation marks. Colons, semicolons, question marks, and exclamation points follow closing quotation marks unless they are part of the quoted matter.

Semicolon (;)

Semicolons are most often used between two independent clauses not joined by a conjunction to signal a closer connection between them than a period would (The package was shipped last week; it arrived today). Place semicolons outside quotation marks. See also Comma.

Smith-Specific Terms

academic degrees: Abbreviate academic degrees only when they follow a person’s full name (Jane Wyley, M.A.), but write it out when possible (say “She has her doctorate” rather than “She has her Ph.D.”).

Note: Smith follows the tradition of using Latin degree names. The traditional undergraduate degrees awarded by Smith are the A.B. (Artium Baccalaureus) and S.B. (Scientiae Baccalaureus). For graduate degrees, the biological sciences diploma reads Magister Scientiae and the exercise and sport studies diploma reads Magister Scientiae in Corporibus Certaminibusque Colendis, both of which are Master of Science degrees and are, in Latin, abbreviated as S.M. The abbreviation for the Master of Arts in Teaching is M.A.T. (Magistralem in Artibus Docendi). The Master of Fine Arts in dance and theatre is an M.F.A. (Magistralem in Artibus Elegantoribus). The social work degree is the M.S.W. See also this entry in Capitalization and see School for Social Work in Departments & Programs.

acknowledgment (not acknowledgement)

adviser (not advisor), advisory

alma mater

alum names: For graduate alums, use a comma before the grad degree (Anna Hogeland, M.S.W. ’13; Anne Seifert, M.F.A. ’65). Undergraduate alum names are written first–maiden/undergraduate–married/last (Ruth Bernstein Gold ’49). If an alum has a nickname, it appears in parentheses after their first name: Ruth (Babs) Bernstein Gold ’49.

alumna, alumnae, alum: See Inclusive Language.

café (note the accent)

Campus Center Café

cancel, canceled, canceling, cancellation

catalog: preferred spelling (not “catalogue”). Smith College Course Catalog is the official title of the publication; do not capitalize “catalog” when used generically (college catalog).

decision plans: Early Decision I, Early Decision II, and Regular Decision.

eDigest (sent via email): The college’s official vehicle for providing important notices, college news, deadline notifications, and other information to the Smith community.

extension (phone): If space is limited, use “Ext.” but never “x.” See also telephone numbers in Numbers, Dates, & Times.

Faculty Council

First Tuesdays: Hosted by the Office of the President, this is a monthly event where students, staff, and faculty can get together for donuts and coffee.

Five College Consortium: Smith is a member of this consortium. On first reference, use the full name of the organization (Five College Consortium); “Five College” (capitalized) is acceptable in subsequent references; capitalize also when using the name of the organization as an adjective (the Five College area). Do not capitalize when referring to the five colleges in general (and not the consortium).

foreign words and phrases: Use italics for foreign words or phrases, except those that have been incorporated into everyday American usage. (Merriam-Webster is a good source for determining accepted usage.) When using a foreign term more than once in the same article, subsequent references should not be italicized.

Fulbright fellow (students), Fulbright scholar (professors and professionals)

fundraise, fundraising, fundraiser (one word in all cases)

gymnasiums: plural (preferred over “gymnasia”)

health care: Always two words, do not hyphenate as an adjective.

house: Smith-specific term for student residence building (avoid using “dorm” or “dormitory” when referring to Smith campus housing). Capitalize when it follows a proper noun or an official Smith house name (Park House, Albright House).

house system

ID, IDs, Smith ID: No periods; often doubles as OneCard. See also “OneCard.”

interterm: Do not use “intersession,” “January term,” or “J-term.”

judgment (not judgement)

judicial board or Student Government Judicial Board, SGA Judicial Board

lawn: Lowercase the names of all lawns on campus (Davis lawn, Seelye lawn, Burton lawn), as these are generic descriptions of locations, rather than official, endowed designations.

pass/fail grading option

Notes From Paradise: Smith’s weekly e-newsletter to alums and the campus community.

OneCard: A multipurpose photo ID card issued to eligible Smith community members.

Orientation: Capitalize when referring to Smith programs; otherwise lowercase.

Praxis internship


room and board: Use “food and housing” or “housing and meals” when referring to these programs at Smith.

satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading option; S/U grading option (on subsequent references only)

Seven Sisters: Acceptable to use in a historical context; otherwise, “Sister Colleges” is preferred (since there are no longer seven).

Smith College Archives, College Archives, the archives

Smith College Board of Trustees: Capitalize the full name only. Use lowercase for the generic reference, even when referring to Smith (the board of trustees).

Smith College Medal, Smith College medalist

Smith College Network: This is a private alum directory and communication tool for Smith alums and students. The primary purpose is to support alums connecting with other alums and students connecting with alums. A shortened form of the name is The Network (always uppercase The). When referring to the app, use lowercase for “app”: The Network app or the Smith College Network app.

Smith College Travel Program: The college’s relaunched travel program. The full name should be used on first reference and “Smith Travel” should be used on subsequent references.

Smithie/Smithies: Can be used as a nongendered alternative to “Smith alumnae” and as a general reference to any Smith student.

Smith Quarterly: The Smith College alum magazine’s full name, “Smith Quarterly,” should be used on first reference; “Quarterly” or “the Quarterly” or “the magazine” should be used on subsequent references. 

Sophomore Push, Sophomore Push Committee (Push is acceptable on subsequent references)

special study (formerly independent study)

sports-related terms: All-American (n. or adj.); Easterns, nationals, regionals; NCAA divisions use Roman numerals (Smith’s teams are Division III); Region I; varsity eight (crew). See the AP Stylebook for a comprehensive listing.

Staff Council

STEM, STEAM: STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math and can stand alone. STEAM (adds “art”); spell out on first reference (not as familiar to audiences).

student activities fee

Student Events Committee

Student Government Association (SGA), SGA Cabinet, SGA Judicial Board

theatre: Use this spelling when referring to the department at Smith—Department of Theatre, theatre department. Use the “theater” spelling in generic use, unless the specific organization uses the "–re" spelling.

The Smith Fund: Always capitalize the “T.”

vespers, Christmas vespers

Visiting Year at Smith (not Visiting Student Program)

web: Anything with “web” should be one word—website, webpage, webcam, webcast, webfeed, webmaster, webpage—but use two words for web address and web browser.

See also Smith’s campus map and Smith Houses

addresses: In college addresses, state the building before the room (Neilson Library, Klingenstein Browsing Room). Spell out the names of college buildings. Avoid abbreviations in running text. See also building names in Capitalization and state names in States.

Ainsworth Gymnasium (building name), Ainsworth gym (the room)

Alumnae Gymnasium (houses library staff and spaces, next to Neilson Library)

Berenson dance studios: The Berenson wing of Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts has two named studios, Berenson Leeds (Berenson 2/BE2) and Berenson Cook (Berenson 3/BE3). 

boathouse: Smith College boathouse (one word, lowercase; a generic description)

bookstore: Smith College Bookstore

Botanic Garden of Smith College, botanic garden (capitalize only when using the full name).

Campus School of Smith College, Campus School (formerly Smith College Campus School)

central check-in, CCI

The Compass café in Neilson Library. Note the lowercase “café” (in keeping with the preference of the donor).

Ford Hall: Smith’s building for the sciences and engineering

the Gamut (in the Mendenhall Center for Performing Arts), upper Gamut, lower Gamut

Gold Key guide: Smith College tour guide

Graham Hall (the lecture hall in Hillyer Hall). Location should be listed as “Graham Hall, Brown Fine Arts Center.”

Grécourt Gates (plural “gates,” the structure in front of College Hall)

Happy Chace ’28 Garden (near the President’s House)

Helen Hills Hills Chapel (Hills is intentionally repeated in the name of this building)

Hillyer Art Library, Hillyer lounge

Indoor Track and Tennis Facility, ITT

Julia McWilliams Child ’34 Campus Center: Always use the full name, including class year, on first reference. On subsequent references, Julia Child Center or Campus Center may be substituted. For event listings, use the full name.

John M. Greene Hall, JMG

Louise W. and Edmund J. Kahn Liberal Arts Institute (also called the Kahn Liberal Arts Institute)


Kosher Kitchen (located in Cutter/Ziskind Dining Room), Kosher Co-op Kitchen, kosher food

Leo Weinstein Auditorium, Weinstein Auditorium

Lyman Plant House and Conservatory, the conservatory. It consists of 12 greenhouses and the Church Exhibition Gallery.

MacLeish Field Station: Use Ada and Archibald MacLeish Field Station on first reference.

McConnell roof observatory

Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts (Mendenhall on subsequent references)

Neilson Library (full name is William Allan Neilson Library), the college library. Houses special collections (lowercase): Mortimer Rare Book Collection, Mortimer Rare Book Room, Sophia Smith Collection of Women’s History, Smith College Archives (note: “College Archives” used alone is generally capitalized to avoid confusion). Endowed spaces: Klingenstein Browsing Room. Wings: Ruth J. Simmons Wing (or “Simmons Wing”), Mary Maples Dunn Wing (“Dunn Wing”).

Olin Fitness Center, fitness center

President’s House: Capitalization when referring to the residence of the president of Smith College.

Schacht Center for Health and Wellness (Schacht Center on subsequent references)

Scott Gymnasium, Scott gym


Smith College Museum of Art: Capitalize only when referring to the full name; use lowercase “museum” for generic references to the Smith museum. Introduce the acronym “SCMA” in parentheses immediately following the first spelled-out use and only if the acronym will be used on subsequent references.

Smith College Conference Center

Werner Josten Performing Arts Library, Josten Library

Center for Religious and Spiritual Life

Center for the Environment, Ecological Design, and Sustainability (CEEDS on subsequent references)

Jacobson Center for Writing, Teaching, and Learning (Jacobson Center on subsequent references)

Jandon Center for Community Engagement (Jandon Center on subsequent references)

Jill Ker Conway Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (Conway Center on subsequent references)

Lazarus Center for Career Development (Lazarus Center on subsequent references) Mwangi Cultural Center

Phoebe and John D. Lewis Global Studies Center (Lewis Global Studies Center on subsequent references)

Resource Center for Sexuality and Gender

Sherrerd Center for Teaching and Learning (Sherrerd Center on subsequent references)

Spinelli Center for Quantitative Learning (Spinelli Center on subsequent references)

The Boutelle-Day Poetry Center (use full name for first and subsequent references; capitalize “The” since it’s a part of the official name)

Wurtele Center for Leadership (Wurtele Center on subsequent references)

See also Academic Programs and the Smith College Catalog

Ada Comstock Scholars, Ada Comstock Scholars Program: Always capitalized. Indicated by “AC” after names of alums and then the class year, if known (Susan Jones AC ’92). Avoid using “Adas”; although this reference is fairly common, some consider it demeaning. See also nontraditional-aged students in Inclusive Language.

AEMES: Achieving Excellence in Mathematics, Engineering, and Sciences

concentrations and studies: Lowercase when citing Smith’s academic concentrations but uppercase proper nouns (archives concentration, concentration in archives; Buddhist studies; Global South development studies; Italian studies).

Department of Athletics and Recreation (formerly the Department of Athletics); athletics and recreation department. Note the plural “athletics.” See also sports-related terms above.

Department of Exercise and Sport Studies (note the singular “sport” in both the minor and the department)

Interdisciplinary Studies Diploma Program

Jean Picker Semester-in-Washington Program

Picker Engineering Program, the Picker program (not to be confused with the Jean Picker Semester-in-Washington Program)

Precollege Programs

Program for the Study of Women and Gender

School for Social Work (SSW on subsequent references). Set off with commas when citing the degree after a graduate’s name (Jane Kind, M.S.W. ’12).

Smith Scholars Program: use Smith Scholar when referring to an individual in the program.

Student Research in Departments (STRIDE) Program but STRIDE program, STRIDE students, a STRIDE scholar.

Study Abroad: The name of the general program. “Smith Programs Abroad” may be used when referring to the specific programs in Florence, Geneva, Hamburg, and Paris as well as PRESHCO. “Junior Year Abroad” should be used only in a historical context.

Zollman Scholarship

Note: This is not a comprehensive list

Accessibility Resource Center (formerly the Office of Disability Services; ARC acceptable for subsequent references)

Ada Class Deans Office

Campus Safety Department: Capitalize the formal name of the department. Lowercase the abbreviated version “campus safety.” Do not use “Campus Police.”

Facilities Management

International Students and Scholars Office (use full name on first reference; ISSO acceptable for subsequent references)

Office for Equity and Inclusion (note the use of “for” not “of”; use full name on first reference, OEI acceptable for subsequent references)

Office of Admission (note singular)

Office of College Relations (or College Relations)

Office of Human Resources (or Human Resources; use full name on first reference; HR acceptable for subsequent references)

Office of the Class Deans, class deans office (no apostrophe)

Office of the Registrar, registrar’s office

Smith Office for the Arts (note the use of “for” not “of”; use full name on first reference, SOFA is acceptable for subsequent references)

Student Financial Services (use full name on first reference; SFS acceptable for subsequent references)

See also Traditions

The following are Smith traditions and should be capitalized: Alumnae Parade, Collaborations, Commencement (only when referring to Smith), Reunion (only when referring to Smith), Discovery Weekend, Family Weekend, Illumination Night, Ivy Day (and Ivy Day Awards Convocation), Julia Child Day, Mountain Day, Opening Convocation, Otelia Cromwell Day, President’s Welcome Assembly, Rally Day, and Smith Arts Day.

Words Commonly Confused

aesthetic (not esthetic)

affect, effect: Affect is usually used as a verb meaning to influence (Pollution affects the environment). Effect is usually used as a noun meaning a result or consequence (The effect was overwhelming). Effect as a verb means to cause (We can effect change). Avoid affect as a noun.

amid (not amidst)

among, between: Between introduces two items and among introduces more than two.

assure, ensure, insure: Assure means to make sure or certain (They assured us that they could do it). Ensure means to guarantee (Studying ensures that I won’t fail the test). Insure is for references to insurance (The policy insures against loss caused by fire).

backward (not backwards)

complement, compliment: Complement refers to enhancing or completing something else (Orange complements blue on the color wheel). Compliment denotes praise or admiration (She received many compliments on her performance).

comprise, compose, constitute: Comprise means to contain, to include all of (The zoo comprises many animals). Compose means to create or put together (The zoo is composed of many animals; she is composing a poem). Constitute means to make up (Five men and seven women constitute the jury).

e.g., i.e.: These Latin terms are often mixed up, but e.g. means for example and what follows is not comprehensive: I love pastel colors (e.g., pale pink and mint green), while i.e. means that is and what follows should be all-inclusive: I used only two colors in my painting (i.e., green and blue). Both abbreviations are always followed by a comma.

farther, further: Use farther when being literal and discussing a physical distance (She went farther down the road). Further refers to an extension of time or degrees (I wanted to discuss it further, but we didn’t have time). As a verb, further also means to advance, as in “to further the project.”

fewer, less: Use fewer to describe countable items (Fewer treadmills line the floor of the gym); otherwise, use less (Less equipment lines the floor of the gym). Here’s a tip: In general, if the noun is plural, use fewer; if it’s singular, use less.

historic, historical: Historical is used as a general term for describing history (historical events). Historic is used to describe significant stories, records, objects, or people in history (historic artifacts). Both are preceded by the article “a” (not “an”).

principal, principle: Principal can be a noun that means a person in charge of certain things or an adjective that means original, first, or most important (The new principal changed the school’s rules; Money is the principal problem). Principle is always a noun and refers to a rule, a law, a guideline, or a fact (They fought for the principle of democracy).

that, which: That is used to introduce essential clauses and is never preceded by a comma (She took the course that fit her schedule). Which is used to introduce nonessential clauses and is always preceded by a comma (My refrigerator, which is only 3 years old, started leaking).

toward (not towards)

T-shirt (not tee shirt)

who, whom: Who should be used to refer to the subject of a sentence. Whom should be used to refer to the object of a verb or preposition. A simple trick is this: If you can replace the word with he or she (or another subject pronoun), use who. If you can replace it with him or her (or another object pronoun), use whom.