Voice and Tone
Use this guide to advise you on writing copy representing the university, including specifics to incorporate our standard editorial style, personality attributes, and tips for the use of inclusive language.
A common editorial style is an important component of the university’s organizational identity. Niagara’s style guide is based on the standards of The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law. It addresses common editorial questions related to spelling and usage, capitalization, abbreviation, and punctuation.
For questions related to writing style that are not covered in this style guide, Niagara uses the latest editions of The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law, and Webster’s New World College Dictionary.
Overall, through its curricular and extracurricular programs, Niagara University seeks to develop the whole person—mind, body, heart and soul—for the benefit of one’s personal and professional life. This transcends into our brand personality and should come through in every communication we create.
Confidence - Promoting a spirit of inquiry that looks to solve complex problems guided by strong faculty advisement that gives students confidence.
Clarity of Direction - Engaging the Catholic intellectual tradition with career-related experiences as a lens to examine self and world, while providing clarity of direction.
A Heightened Sense of Purpose - Preparing students for personal and professional success while committing to its Vincentian values, helping them gain a heightened sense of purpose.
Like people, organizations can be described as having distinct personalities and character, and these are reflected in how they present themselves to the world. The communication from the organization should therefore represent these attributes.
For Niagara University, the tone should be:
Niagara University seeks to create an inclusive environment by using language of diversity that is accurate, authoritative, and sensitive to all that associate with our campus. We look to The Diversity Style Guide, a project of the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism, based at the Journalism Department at San Francisco State University.
“The guide includes terms and phrases related to race/ethnicity; religion; sexual orientation; gender identity; age and generation; drugs and alcohol; and physical, mental and cognitive disabilities. No one person can determine the correct usage of a word; this guide takes wisdom and advice from leaders in the field who have researched and considered the cultural, political and linguistic meanings of words.”
Access this comprehensive resource:
Niagara University should appear by its official name on first reference. Subsequent references can be made using the official name, the abbreviation NU (without spaces or periods), or the word Niagara.Do not capitalize the word university when it appears alone.
Can be used when referring to where the campus is located. “The Ridge” is also acceptable upon second reference.
Lowercase the names of all academic departments except those that are proper nouns.
- the department of history
- the history department
- the English department
Uppercase the names of official offices in all instances.
- the Office of Admissions
- the Admissions Office
- the Office of Academic Support
- She is a member of the Campus Ministry staff.
- He is the director of Student Life.
Lowercase and use the possessive for master’s and bachelor’s degrees. Formal names of degrees are not capitalized. Abbreviate degrees using periods with no spaces. Do not follow abbreviated degrees with the word degree.
- She has a master’s degree in communication.
- Niagara University awarded 100 bachelor’s degrees in accounting.
- John Doe has a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry.
- B.A., B.S., M.A.
Lowercase courses and generic programs, uppercase specific courses or programs.
- cooperative education program
- social work program
- honors program
- interdepartmental social science program
- international studies program
Uppercase when a title precedes a person’s name, lowercase when it follows.
- The Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University
- (On second reference, use Father where applicable.)
- John Doe, chair of the department of mathematics
Courtesy Titles/Academic Titles
In general, do not use the courtesy titles Miss, Mr., Mrs., or Ms. Do not put a courtesy title before an individual’s name if a degree title follows. Use abbreviations only after a full name, never after the last name only. Lowercase titles unless they precede a name. Use last name only on second and subsequent references. The title Dr. should be used before the name of an individual who holds a doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathy degree. It can also be used, if appropriate in the context, on first reference before the names of individuals who hold other types of doctoral degrees. It should not be used with the names of individuals who hold honorary doctorates.
- Vice President for University Advancement John Doe
- Jane Smith, vice president for university advancement
- Professor John Doe
- Jane Smith, professor of economics
- Dr. John Doe
- Jane Smith, Ph.D.
In internal publications, the Eagle alumni magazine, and other publications as selected, courtesy titles
The words faculty and staff take the singular verb.
- The mathematics faculty has accomplished many goals this semester.
- The staff of the department of education is highly qualified.
- Faculty members are well-known for their expertise.
- and first names can be used.
Alumnus refers to a singular male, alumna a singular female. Alumni is the plural form of a group featuring multiple genders, while alumnae is plural for a group of women. Alum, can be used for informal writing.
Use Class of 1998, or abbreviate using ’98.
- The Class of 1998 was the largest in Niagara University’s history.
- Jane Doe, ’21, is a manager now.
- John Doe, ’98, has been hired as auditor for XYZ Corp.
Place a comma between the day and year, but not between the month and year when no date is given. List dates in month, day, year order, and do not use letters with the date. Do not use st, nd, rd, or th with dates, and use Arabic figures.
- Dec. 21, 1998
- January 1999
- a Dec. 21, 1998, event
Abbreviate when using with a date. Do not abbreviate the months of March, April, May, June, or July.
- Dec. 25, 1998
- June 2, 1998
- May 1998
- Final exams are held in December and May.
Use Standard Time. The appropriate time zone for Niagara University is EST or EDT depending on the time of the year. Delete :00, use lowercase letters and periods. Use noon and midnight rather than 12 p.m. or 12 noon, 12 a.m. or 12 midnight. Use only numerals when referring to a date.
- 8 a.m. EDT
- 8:30 p.m. EST
- Jan. 1, not January first or January 1st
Lowercase fall, spring, summer and winter, including in reference to semesters, unless they are part of a formal name or organization.
- spring dean’s list
- winter formal
- Summer Olympics
- The fall 2021 semester
In this section, you will find words and phrases that are often used in higher education.
Do not use acronyms unless they’re widely known or are spelled out on the first reference. Do not follow the full name with the acronym in parentheses; use acronym only on subsequent references. Do not use periods or spaces between letters.
Do not use this symbol in text unless it is part of an official name.
Lowercase unless part of the official name of an event. For a first-time event, use the word inaugural rather than first annual.
- 12th annual NU Ball
- Annual Fund
- The Inaugural Power of Niagara 5K Run/Walk
Capitalize the names of awards when using the full name of the award.
- The Crystal Award of Excellence
- Admission Marketing Report Bronze Award
- Employee of the Month
- employee service award
Board of Trustees
Should be capitalized.
In general, avoid unnecessary capitals. Use a capital letter only if referring to a proper noun or a proper name. Common nouns that are capitalized as part of a proper name are not capitalized when they stand alone in subsequent references, or in plural uses.
- the Learning Center
- the Writing Center
- health background form
- residence hall agreement
- dining plan selection form
- student handbook
- bachelor’s degree in fine arts
Lowercase the names of certificate programs
- teacher certification in secondary education
- logistics management
Capitalize in formal use only.
Lowercase in all references.
- the admissions committee
Capitalize the names of regions, but lowercase when referring to compass directions. Spell out and capitalize if part of a city, state, or business, but abbreviate if part of a street.
- Western New York
- Southern Ontario
- southwest Alabama
- Head north on Route I-90
- North Dakota
- Delaware North Co.
- 1234 S.W. 125th St.
- The South
Use the singular when referring to an individual or the whole body of first-year students.
- John Doe is a freshman this year.
- This year’s freshman class is larger than last year’s class.
- Freshmen John Doe and Harry Jones are running for class president.
Fundraising, Fundraising, Fundraiser
One word in all instances.
Capitalize without spaces or periods.
Lowercase the full name of honors.
- cum laude
- magna cum laude
- summa cum laude
Use the symbol $ only for dollar amounts. Do not use .00 for full dollar amounts.
- 50 cents, not $.50
Generally, spell out numbers one through nine, use figures for 10 and above. Spell out fractions when they stand alone, use figures when they appear with whole numbers. Spell out any number if it’s the beginning of a sentence. Use figures for dimensions, percentages, ages, certain street addresses, and distances. Use figures with millions and billions in all but casual references.
- There are three girls and four boys in her class.
- He ate two-thirds of the pie
- It takes 1 ½ bushels of apples to make a pie.
- Her daughter was 7 years old.
- The goal is $25 million.
- I’d like a million dollars.
- Sixty-three years of memories were found in the photo album.
Do not hyphenate unless it is used to modify a noun.
- He will live on campus.
- She preferred on-campus housing.
The university recommended use of the Oxford or serial comma. An Oxford comma is the last comma in a list; it goes before the word “and.”
Use the % sign when paired with a numeral, with no space, in most cases.
- Average hourly pay rose 3.1% from a year ago
- Exception: 4 percentage points
Lowercase freshman, sophomore, junior, senior.
Use periods rather than hyphens in telephone numbers.
Use theater as a spelling in general references, theatre when referring to the Niagara University Theatre program (or if part of a proper name).
Titles of Works
Put quotation marks around the titles of books, computer games, movies, operas, plays, poems, songs, TV programs, lectures, speeches, works of art, papers, and short articles. Do not use quotation marks with the titles of reference works or journals.
- “The Star-Spangled Banner”
- “Of Mice and Men”
- “The Today Show”
- Webster’s New World Dictionary