Editorial Style Guide



This guide helps Santa Monica College communicators follow a consistent style appropriate for print and online materials written for and about the College.

We use The Associated Press Stylebook for our published content, with very few exceptions. The AP Stylebook is used broadly by other colleges and universities for communication and news writing. The most important principle in applying any style is to maintain a consistent editorial approach within a specific piece.

This abbreviated style guide covers items not mentioned in The AP Stylebook, notes items you will most likely encounter, and indicates exceptions Santa Monica College makes to the stylebook.

Have a question? Contact Grace Smith, Public Information Officer at

A, An, And

Use the article "a" before consonant sounds and "an" before vowel sounds:

  • a historic event
  • an honorable person (the h is silent)

Avoid using the ampersand (&) except in specific business names (e.g., Tiffany & Co.) or to shorten Web menu headings.

Abbreviations and Acronyms

An acronym is the grouping of a series of initials, or initial letters, for an entity or organization that make up a unique word used as the shorthand for the name of that organization (OPEC, NATO, NASA, etc.), as distinct from abbreviations, which are a series of initials used as the shorthand name for that organization (FBI, CIA, etc). Acronyms and abbreviations often are used in a similar manner.

In general, avoid "alphabet soup" — unnecessary use of acronyms or abbreviations — whenever possible:

  • The California School Employees Association has awarded two SMC employees a commendation. The association (not "CSEA") represents classified or non-teaching employees statewide.

When necessary, spell out the first reference followed by the acronym or abbreviation in parentheses; the acronym or abbreviation may be used for subsequent references:

  • There are many ways to get involved in the Associated Students (AS). The AS Board of Directors' positions are open to applicants for the 2018-2019 academic terms, which run from July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019. The Student Trustee's term is from June 1, 2018 through May 31, 2019.

Acronyms and abbreviations may be used for the first reference if they are widely recognized:


Use periods in two-letter abbreviations. Use all caps but no periods in longer abbreviations:

  • U.S., U.N., Ph.D. (even though it has the small "h"), BSE, YMCA, CIA

Academic Degrees

The preferred form is to spell out degrees and avoid abbreviations.

Formal Use General Use 1 General Use 2 Abbreviated Use
Bachelor of Arts bachelor's degree bachelor's B.A.
Bachelor of Science bachelor's degree bachelor's B.S.
Bachelor of Science in Engineering bachelor's degree bachelor's BSE
Master of Arts master's degree master's M.A.
Doctor of Philosophy doctoral degree doctorate Ph.D.

The word "degree" should not follow an abbreviation:

  • She has an A.A. in Film Production.
  • She has an Associate's Degree in Film Production.


Use the abbreviations "Ave." "Blvd." and "St." only with a numbered address: "1600 Cedar St."

  • Spell these words out when used without a number: "Ocean Park Boulevard."
  • These three terms are the ONLY ones that can be abbreviated. Related terms such as "alley", "drive", "road" and "terrace" must always be spelled out.
  • Always use and capitalize First through Ninth when referring to a street name: "Third Street".


Please use "Adviser" (with an "e").


Avoid using only class years behind the names of students and alumni (e.g., Jane Jones '12) unless the material is designated primarily for an internal audience, and/or there is a long list and/or it is clear that these are students and alumni within the context of the material.

  • Preferred style for undergraduates: Refer to "lower" and "upper" division, or "First Year" students, "transferring" students and "continuing" students. SMC's Alumni Association refers to current students as "Future Alumni" and "Future Alums."
  • The following variations are used for alumni: (Male) alumnus, singular; (Female) alumna, singular; we also use "alum" and "alumni" to refer to either male and or female.
  • Preferred for alumni in external publications: Inonge Wina, a 1962 SMC alumna, is Vice President of Zambia. She is the first woman to hold the position. (The year of graduation may be eliminated if not known, or if the alum was a transfer student, etc.)
  • Preferred style for alumni who did not graduate: Sara Jones, who attended Santa Monica College from 2008 to 2011…

Note: The SMC Alumni Association considers anyone who’s taken a class at SMC—regardless of whether they graduated or not—an alum.

Ampersand (&)

The ampersand may only be used in the title of a program or division. e.g. "The Center for Wellness & Wellbeing."


While the AP Stylebook does not make provision for bullets, Santa Monica College's Institutional Communications department recognizes the value of using bullets to present lists in some instances. Here are our guidelines:

Use a colon to introduce a list only when the text following the colon does not flow naturally from it.

See punctuation:

  • The students in the Tuesday afternoon seminar were asked to
    • read a chapter in a novel from the 18th century;
    • write an essay comparing it with a chapter in a novel from the 20th century;
    • and complete both assignments by 5 p.m.
  • The students in the Tuesday afternoon seminar have three assignments:
    • Read a chapter in a novel from the 18th century.
    • Write an essay comparing it with a chapter in a novel from the 20th century.
    • Complete both projects by 5 p.m.

Bulleted items may be capped or lowercase, depending on preference. Be consistent throughout the document. Generally, items that are complete sentences should be capped, and those that are fragments should be lowercase.

Terminal punctuation for the bulleted items is optional for phrases, and is preferred for complete sentences — again depending on the style of the document; consistency is the key.



Capitalize all words in a title or headline except articles (a, an, the) and prepositions (of, on, to, at, in). Do not use all caps. (Students Engage in Community Outreach).


Capitalize a job title when it immediately precedes a person's name. The title is not capitalized when it is an incomplete designation, follows a name, or is on second reference:

  • Santa Monica College President Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery
  • Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery, president of Santa Monica College
  • the president
  • Professor of Psychology Lisa Farwell
  • Lisa Farwell, professor of psychology
  • professor Lisa Farwell
  • the professor

Departments, Offices, the Board of Trustees

  • Capitalize the formal names of departments and offices, as well as the Board of Trustees; do not capitalize informal names and incomplete designations:
  • Department of Earth Science
  • the business department
  • the department
  • the Admissions & Records Office.
  • the office

Buildings, Places, Centers

Capitalize the word "College" whenever referring to Santa Monica College, even though the word Santa Monica may not precede it.

Capitalize the formal names of buildings, places, and centers. Use the formal name on first reference and, in most cases, use lowercase on second reference:

  • The Santa Monica College Library
  • the College Library
  • the library
  • Santa Monica College Pavilion
  • the pavilion
  • Drescher Hall
  • International Education Center
  • The center has six rooms.
  • The College allows ... (capitalize the "C" when referring to Santa Monica College)

In general, put the building name first followed by the room number:

  • Drescher Hall, Room 220

For large auditoriums, put the room/auditorium first followed by the building or campus name:

  • The Edye at the SMC Performing Arts Center.


The formal names of special events are capitalized:

  • Transfer Fair
  • Earth Day
  • Commencement
  • SMC Everywhere

Cities and States

Use commas to separate the name of a state when it follows a city:

  • The flight landed in San Diego, California, at 5 p.m.

Spell out the names of the 50 U.S. states when they stand alone and when a state is listed with a city, town, village, etc.

Note about use of United States: Use "U.S." only as an adjective; otherwise, spell it out. "She studied U.S. culture of the 1950s." "She studied the culture of the United States from the 1950s."

Do not use states in narrative text with these U.S. cities:

  • Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Oklahoma City, Washington.

Do not use country names with these cities:

  • Amsterdam, Bangkok, Beijing, Baghdad, Beirut, Berlin, Brussels, Cairo, Djibouti, Dublin, Geneva, Gibraltar, Guatemala City, Havana, Helsinki, Hong Kong, Islamabad, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Kuwait City, London, Luxembourg, Macau, Madrid, Mexico City, Milan, Monaco, Montreal, Moscow, Munich, New Delhi, Panama City, Paris, Prague, Quebec City, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore, Stockholm, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto, Vatican City, Vienna, Zurich.

Note: While the guidelines above apply to external communications—for e.g. news releases—it is best to be specific in a communication that’s targeted at students.


Capitalize the word "Class" in

  • the Class of 1982

Culture/Ethnic Designations

Use "people of color" or "underrepresented" in stories where it is appropriate to identify people by race; avoid using the term "minority," if possible.

Do not use a hyphen when African American is used as a noun or an adjective. This applies to all such ethnic classifications.

Dates and Times

Use figures for days of the month. Omit the ordinal designations of nd, rd, st, th.

Place a comma between the month and the year when the day is mentioned:

  • On April 27, 2017, Santa Monica College brought together hundreds of people.

Do not place a comma between the month and the year when the day is not mentioned:

  • In April 2017, SMC brought together hundreds of people.

When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate the month according to AP style: Jan., Feb., Aug. Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. (all others spelled out). Spell out when using alone or with a year alone:

  • Nov. 23, 2014
  • November
  • November 2014

Use figures for years without commas:

  • 2014

Use the year, a hyphen and the last two digits to refer to a period of time within the same century as an adjective, but full years joined by a hyphen when the range crosses into another century:

  • the 2017-18 academic year
  • the 1999-2000 academic year

Use "to" instead of a hyphen when the year or time is a noun:

  • from 1989 to 2005
  • The meetings will take place from 8 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday.

When abbreviating years to two digits, put an apostrophe in front of the years:

  • the Class of '76
  • the summer of '66

Dates following a day of the week should be set apart by commas:

  • He decided that Friday, Oct. 12, would be a convenient date.

Times generally come before days and dates:

  • The performance will take place at 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12.

When emphasizing the exact time, or when using a.m. or p.m., use figures (omitting 00 for on the hour), a space following the figures, and include periods in a.m. and p.m.:

  • 7 p.m.; 7:30 p.m.

    12 a.m. should be referred to as midnight; 12 p.m. should be referred to as noon.

Spell out the units of measurement in time sequences:

  • "40 hours, 25 minutes, 14 seconds."

Hyphens may be used with dates, and should always be used with dates when both days of the week and dates are included.

  • The workshop is set for Monday through Thursday, July 18-21.

    The Office of Institutional Communications recognizes that some publications, such as posters and invitations, call for a design treatment that demands the more elegant presentation offered by Chicago style (such as spelling out a month).

Centuries and Decades

  • Noun: the 20th century
  • Adjective: 20th-century literature
  • the 1960s
  • '60s fashion


In general, do not describe an individual as disabled or handicapped. If it is relevant to the material and you must use a description, try to be specific:

  • Muhammad Ali, boxing hero and former Olympic champion, defied the symptoms of Parkinson's to light the torch in a rare public appearance.

Use "accessible parking," rather than disabled or handicapped parking.

File Formats

If a file format acronym is being used in a sentence, it should be set in all caps.

  • I used three GIF images in my design.

If a file format acronym is being used to indicate the type of downloadable file in a link, it should be set in lowercase with a "." preceding it.

  • The image (.gif) is available for download.
  • Commencement 2011 press release (.pdf)

Fundraising and Fundraiser

Always one word

Inclusive Language

Use nonsexist language and follow these recommendations:

Don't say "he" when referring to an unspecified person. Instead, recast the sentence into the plural, or avoid the use of pronouns altogether.

  • (Incorrect) Each student is expected to turn in his paper by the deadline.
  • (Correct) Students are expected to turn in their papers by the deadline.

If it's impossible to solve the problem using these approaches, remember that "he or she" is preferable to "he/she."

Use "they" for individuals who do not wish to specify "he" or "she."

Avoid gender-specific titles or terms, such as:

Instead of Use
chairman chair
businessman business executive, manager
cameraman camera operator
coed female student
congressman representative, senator
fireman firefighter
foreman supervisor
founding fathers founders
mailman mail carrier
to man to staff, to run, to operate
mankind people, humanity
manpower workforce, employees
policeman police officer

For organizations outside Santa Monica College, use the language exactly as in their official title.


As a general rule, use only first name and last name unless the person is widely known and identified in professional or industry circles with an initial or middle name. Always use the College President's first name, middle initial, and last name on first reference. Formal names (not nicknames) are preferred, unless the tone of the material is very informal.

  • President Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery
  • Michael Tuitasi, vice president of student affairs


Spell out numbers one through nine and general numbers in narrative text:

  • There were eight people at the meeting.
  • There were 33 students in the class.
  • There are approximately 62,000 students.
  • There are a thousand reasons.

When a number is the first word of a sentence, spell it out.

In a series, apply the appropriate guideline:

  • There are 120 students in the history department, eleven in the film department, and eight in the modern languages department, making a total of 139 students in the three departments.

Express all percentages as figures. Do not use the % sign, except in charts or graphs:

  • 4 percent; 140 percent

For very large sums of money, use figures with a dollar sign; spell out million or billion:

  • $1.7 million
  • between $1 and $2 billion

Place a comma after digits signifying thousands, except when reference is made to temperature:

  • 1,360 students
  • 2400 degrees Fahrenheit

Possessives Ending in 'S'

For most possessives, simply add an apostrophe and an "s"

  • The horse's shoe is loose.

Follow the AP style rules for possessives ending in "s":

For plural nouns ending in "s," add only an apostrophe:

  • the horses' shoes

For singular common nouns ending in "s," add an apostrophe and an "s" unless the next word begins with an "s":

  • the bus's tire
  • the bus' seat

For singular proper names ending in "s," use only an apostrophe:

  • Achilles' heel
  • Dickens' novels
  • Tennessee Williams' plays



Use a colon to introduce long lists — see section on Bullets

Leave a colon outside quotation marks unless it is part of a quotation.

Follow the colon with a single space.

Use a colon to introduce a direct quotation if it is more than one sentence.

Capitalize the first word after a colon if it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence; make the first word lowercase if it is part of a sentence.

  • His reason for staying was simple: The snowstorm had shut down all routes out of town.
  • There were three reasons to stay: the warmth of the fireplace; the friendliness of the company; and the aroma of the food.


Here are guidelines for some common uses of the comma.

  • Three or more items in a simple list: The event is for students, alumni, parents, families, and friends. (OXFORD COMMA: While AP style does not require the use of Oxford comma – the Oxford or serial comma is the final comma in a list of things – SMC generally adheres to the use of the Oxford comma for ease of comprehension.)
  • Three or more items in a complex list: President X doubled the size of the faculty, created an administrative structure, and revised the curriculum to include general studies. (Use a comma before the last item in a series to improve comprehension.)
  • A series of adjectives equal in importance: Santa Monica College is an open-access, diverse institution.
  • Complete sentences that are combined with a conjunction: The event is open to the public free of charge, but reservations are required.
  • An introductory phrase from the rest of a sentence: First, we must double the amount of external support.
  • A nonessential phrase (a phrase that is not essential to the meaning of the sentence) from the rest of a sentence and days from dates: The SMC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Brian Stone, will perform on Friday, Oct. 30, at the Broad Stage.
  • More on nonessential and essential phrases: "SMC provides many intercollegiate sports, such as basketball, football, and soccer," (phrase is nonessential information), but "Sports such as soccer are played in the spring" (phrase is essential information).
  • Direct quotes: "We must support students in any way we can," Dr. Jeffery said.
  • Cities from names of states: John Jones, of Newark, Delaware, is the president of the organization.
  • Yes and no; and names/titles in a direct address: Yes, officer, I'll obey the traffic laws.


Use an em dash to relay a break in thought. This is the longer dash ("—") as compared to the shorter en dash ("–") or two hyphens ("--"). Em dashes are created by holding down the SHIFT+OPTION+MINUS SIGN keys on a Mac or the ALT+CTRL+MINUS SIGN keys on a PC.

  • Founded in 1929 as "Santa Monica Junior College"—as a pioneer of the uniquely American community college movement—Santa Monica College continues to be a leader among two-year colleges nationwide.

An em dash can be used to set off elements within a sentence.

  • The materials used by the artist—wood, steel, and plastic—created a powerful contrast.
  • In titles, use an en dash instead of an em dash. Place a single space on either side of the en dash. En dashes are created by holding down the OPTION+MINUS SIGN KEYS on a Mac or the CONTROL+MINUS SIGN keys on a PC.


In a sentence, add a space before and after a three-dot ellipsis:

  • She reported what the speaker said ... and then followed up with her own comments.


Hyphen: - ("-" on keyboard)

Do not hyphenate words beginning with non, unless if there is a proper noun:

  • non-American; nonscholarship

Do not place a hyphen between the prefixes pre, semi, anti, sub, etc., and nouns or adjectives, except before proper nouns, but avoid duplicated vowels or consonants:

  • reapply
  • semidetached
  • antiwar
  • pre-enroll

Use hyphens to connect compound modifiers, being careful about meaning:

  • white-hot metal or white hot metal (depending on which is meant)
  • calculator-wielding graduate student

Do not use a hyphen on adverbs ending in -ly:

  • an easily hit ball
  • a badly cooked egg
  • a loudly ringing phone

Hyphenate part-time and full-time only when used as adjectives:

  • She has a full-time job at SMC. She works at SMC full time.

Use a hyphen between numbers:

  • 231-29-0002
  • 2002-03


Use a single space after a period at the end of a sentence.

Quotation Marks

The period and comma always go inside the quotation marks:

  • "He will stop by tomorrow," she said.

The question mark goes inside when part of the direct quote and outside when applying to quoted material within an entire sentence.

  • "Will you explain distribution requirements to me?" asked the student.
  • What is meant by "distribution requirements"?

The semicolon goes outside quoted material within a sentence:

  • Refer to them as "conference participants"; all others should be known as "guests."

Use a comma to introduce a direct quotation when it is one sentence; use a colon when the quoted material is more than one sentence. Use single quotation marks for a quote within a quote (double quotation marks for the first quotation).


Use the semicolon to set off a series that includes commas:

The main offices are in Los Angeles, California; Scottsdale, Arizona; and Austin, Texas.

Santa Monica College

When shorter forms must be used, it is appropriate to refer to Santa Monica College as

  • SMC
  • the College

Scientific Terminology

Use italics for scientific terminology when referring especially genus and species, e.g., The professor spent five years studying the toxic and invasive plant, Solanum campylacanthum, in Kenya.

Telephone Numbers

Use area codes with hyphens for all telephone numbers, or at least once with a listing. This practice has become necessary because of the increasing use of cell phones:

  • 609-258-3000
  • For international numbers (country code, city code, telephone number): 011-44-20-7535-1515
  • For 800 numbers: 800-222-7474

While the AP Stylebook recommends the above format, please note that the parenthesis creates a short pause between the first three digits and the last seven when a user uses a screen reader. If your content will be chiefly accessed online, you may consider simply using the (XXX) XXX-XXXX format.

That and Which

If you're using which properly, it typically is preceded by a comma:

  • The announcement about his department's hiring efforts, which was reported in the media, pleased the director.
  • The director was pleased with the announcement in the media that reported on his department's hiring efforts.


Courtesy Titles

Do not use courtesy titles (Mr., Miss, Ms., Mrs.).

Names followed by Jr., Sr., or a Roman numeral do not have a comma after the last name:

  • John F. Kennedy Jr.
  • James Hart III

Publications, Course Listings, Films, Music, Works of Art

As a general rule, put titles of books and articles in initial caps and quotation marks:

  • "The Grapes of Wrath"

Put titles of newspapers, magazines, and journals in initial caps, and italics, with NO quotation marks: Los Angeles Times, Vanity Fair, The Corsair.

Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters.

Capitalize "the" in a publication's name, if that is how it appears in the masthead:

  • The New York Times

Do not capitalize the word after a hyphen in a title:

  • The professor's lecture is titled "An Introduction to 14th-century Franciscan Manuscripts."

Do not capitalize major areas of study, unless referring to a language:

  • The student is studying economics and French.

Capitalize the titles of lectures, theses, and dissertations:

  • The professor gave the lecture "In Pursuit of Flight" to the class of auditors.

Titles of songs are usually set in quotation marks:

  • "You are my sunshine."

Use quotation marks around a musical composition's nickname but not a composition identified by its sequence. If using quote marks, do not italicize the name.

  • Dvorak's "New World Symphony," Dvorak's Symphony No. 9

Titles of paintings, drawings, statues, and other works of art are put in quotation marks.

  • Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa"

For materials with bibliographic listings, it may be clearer to use The Chicago Manual of Style, which allows italics for major titles.

Web Terminology

  • email (or Email at the beginning of a sentence)
  • enews
  • Facebook page
  • homepage
  • internet
  • log in, log out (verb)
  • login (noun)
  • online
  • the web
  • webpage
  • Twitter feed
  • website


Use the shortest URL possible.

For root-level sites, do not use "http://" or the "trailing slash":

  •, not (link is external)

Email Addresses

Use the following format for SMC email:

Style on Social Media

Sometimes when text appears on Facebook and other social media sites, editorial style is more relaxed to save space on short posts.

Wide (as a Suffix)

Use hyphens: campus-wide, university-wide