Like the rapidly changing technology around us at Georgia Tech, the English language is very dynamic — as are the style rules adopted by different organizations to govern the use of the language in written materials. It is, therefore, necessary to maintain current and appropriate editorial guidelines that will help us, as a large and diverse campus community, bring uniformity to our written communications.
The Institute's editorial style is based primarily on the Associated Press Stylebook. However, some guidelines have been borrowed from The Chicago Manual of Style, and there are some cases where usage reflects what has been established as the Institute’s preference.
This is why we refer to modified AP Style as our guide. Merriam-Webster online and the Webster’s New World College Dictionary (fourth edition) are our preferred dictionaries.
Although some variation in our established policy may be necessary (at the discretion of the author/editor), this guide, which addresses some of the most frequently encountered style issues, should be used as a reference for all written materials – except those such as legal documents, research reports, and invitations, which are governed by special guidelines.
Should you have any questions, call 404.894.0870 to speak with an Institute Communications editor.
Abbreviations, Acronyms, Initialisms
Abbreviation = any shortened word form.
Acronym = a word formed from the first letter or letters of a series of words: laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation); hazmat (hazardous materials); MOOCs (massive open online courses – not massively).
Initialism = made from the first letter of a series of words BUT not pronounced as a word: FBI, PR.
Use Georgia Institute of Technology on first reference. Thereafter, only Georgia Tech, the Institute, or Tech may be used. GT, GIT, the University, and Ga. Tech should never be used in running copy. Examples of exceptions: GT Dining is acceptable because the GT is part of the official unit name, in the same way as GT Minute is the official name of one of Admission's electronic newsletters.
Minimize the use of initialisms to increase readability. When used, however, spell out the entire name on first reference followed by the letters in parentheses. The shortened form, generally without periods (R.A.T.S. Week is one exception), can be used thereafter. Exception: Grade-point average need not be used on first reference. According to AP, GPA is recognized widely enough that it is acceptable even on first reference.
- The Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) solves tough technical problems for industry in Georgia, across the nation, and around the globe.
With schools and colleges, the entire name of the school/college should always be used on first reference. Thereafter, use of the School or the College (uppercase) is acceptable, as is the most commonly accepted shortened form of the name, or use of the initialism – once it accompanies the full name in the first reference. It is preferable to be consistent with the same abbreviation throughout a single communication instead of alternating between ISyE and the Stewart School, for example.
- The H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial & Systems Engineering (ISyE) has achieved national and international prominence through its tradition of unparalleled excellence and leadership. ISyE’s distinction is due to the School’s world-class faculty.
- The H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial & Systems Engineering has achieved national and international prominence through its tradition of unparalleled excellence and leadership. This distinction is due to the Stewart School’s world-class faculty.
Use periods in most two-letter abbreviations. Exceptions: AM, FM (systems of radio transmission)
Use all caps – but no periods – when the individual letters are pronounced: ABC, CIA, FBI, USA.
Use periods with initials in a name, but do not include a space between.
- T.S. Eliot
- G.P. "Bud Peterson
Abbreviate formal titles when used before a full name.
- Dr. James Jennings
- Gov. Vic Bryant
- Lt. Gov. Henry Radin
Note that Dr. is reserved for references only to medical doctors. Professor is a suitable alternative; however, it should be used only for full professors, not for associate or assistant professors.
The names of the 50 U.S. states should be spelled out whether standing alone or in conjunction with a city, town, village, or military base. The standard two-letter postal codes should be used in mailing addresses. Avoid using state abbreviations in headlines whenever possible.
Use the two-letter postal service abbreviations with full addresses, including ZIP code.
Avoid using state abbreviations in headlines.
In company names, omit the abbreviations Co., Inc., Ltd., PLC, LLC (unless they are relevant to the context).
For headlines, follow these guidelines:
- Capitalize the first and last words in titles and subtitles, and capitalize all other major words (nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and some conjunctions — see Bullet 4).
- Lowercase the articles the, a, and an.
- Lowercase prepositions, regardless of length, except when they are used adverbially or adjectivally (up in Look Up, down in Turn Down, on in The On Button, to in Come To, etc.) or when they compose part of a Latin expression used adjectivally or adverbially (De Facto, In Vitro, etc.).
- Lowercase the conjunctions and, but, for, or, and nor.
- Lowercase to not only as a preposition but also as part of an infinitive (to Run, to Hide, etc.), and lowercase as in any grammatical function.
- Lowercase the part of a proper name that would be lowercased in text, such as de or von.
Capitalize professional titles used directly before an individual's name.
- President G.P. “Bud” Peterson
- Dean Jerry Mander, College of Engineering
Astrophysics Research Center Director John Smith
Lowercase and spell out professional titles when they are not used with an individual's name.
- The president welcomed the students to the year-end celebration.
Lowercase professional titles that follow an individual’s name. There is one exception: Names of endowed chairs and professorships are always uppercased.
- G.P. “Bud” Peterson, president of Georgia Tech
- Mara Jackson, director of Development
- Jerry Mander, dean, College of Engineering
- John Smith, director of the Astrophysics Research Center
- Rafael L. Bras, Georgia Tech’s provost, holds the K. Harrison Brown Family Chair
Capitalize references to unit names following a title only if the reference is, in fact, the formal name of a unit.
- Shawn Smith, senior director of strategy, is expected to speak.
- Gail Roark, vice president of Auxiliary Services, is expected to speak.
Lowercase and spell out professional titles in constructions that set them off with commas.
- The provost, Rafael Bras, will accept the award on behalf of the president.
Capitalize a degree only when it is part of the official degree title.
- She earned a Master of Science in Chemistry
- doctoral degree, master’s degree, bachelor’s degree
Capitalize an academic subject only when it is the name of a language, part of a unit name, or a specific course title.
- He majored in chemical engineering with a minor in Russian.
- Georgia Tech offers courses in architecture, Chinese, engineering, French, Japanese, business, and science.
- He is a professor in the Department of Modern Languages and also teaches classes in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
- She teaches Business 3300 at 10 a.m.
Capitalize Library when referring specifically to the Institute’s facility — even when Georgia Tech does not precede it.
Capitalize Progress and Service when referring to Georgia Tech’s motto.
Capitalize Institute when referring specifically to Georgia Tech. Do not capitalize institution.
- For more than a century, the Institute has pursued the highest goals.
- Georgia Tech is an institution of higher learning.
Always capitalize Commencement, Convocation, and Homecoming when used in reference to Georgia Tech. For the formal name of a specific ceremony, capitalize all elements. Lowercase commencement and convocation when referring to ceremonies other than Georgia Tech’s.
- Due to the discontinuation of Georgia Tech’s summer Commencement, graduating students will have the opportunity to participate in the Fall 2013 Commencement Ceremony.
- The Spring 2013 Bachelor’s Commencement Ceremony will be split into two events.
- Many commencement ceremonies across the U.S. are now ticketed events.
- At yesterday's Convocation ceremony, the Georgia Tech Glee Club welcomed 2,778 students.
Always capitalize Employee Resource Groups.
Always capitalize President’s Residence when it is used in reference to Georgia Tech. Never use Residence without President’s.
Always capitalize Campanile – even if Kessler doesn’t precede it.
Always capitalize Quality Enhancement Plan.
Always capitalize Strategic Plan when referring to Tech’s 25-year plan.
Words such as school or college should be capitalized only when used as part of an official title, or when they take the place of the full title. Do not treat department and office the same way.
- The College of Architecture was established in 1908.
- The College grants the Master of Architecture degree.
- Georgia Tech was among her top college choices.
Capitalize adjectives formed from proper nouns (unless common usage has obscured the connection).
- Keynesian economics (John Keynes)
- Boolean algebra (George Boole)
- pasteurize (Louis Pasteur)
- diesel engine (Rudolf Diesel)
For room numbers, always capitalize Room and use figures.
- Room 3
Capitalize organized groups of students if the organizational designation is permanent. But do not capitalize student group designations that are transient.
- Class of 1925
- senior class
Do not capitalize terms such as freshman, senior, or graduate student when they refer to a stage of study or the classification of a student.
- She was a freshman.
Do not capitalize the words government, federal, city, or state unless the word is part of the formal name of the governmental entity.
- Georgia Tech is located in the beautiful city of Atlanta.
- The City of Atlanta has reduced its budget by 5 percent.
- Georgia Tech is the highest-ranked university in the entire state of Georgia.
- The State of Georgia is responsible for issuing driver’s licenses to its citizens.
Always capitalize the Board of Regents, Regents Professor/Professorship (note omission of apostrophe – usage is descriptive rather than possessive), Georgia State Legislature, Congress, the House of Representatives, the House, and the Senate.
Capitalize the formal names of federal or state agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense. But lowercase the department when it stands alone.
Capitalize South, Southeast, North, Northwest, etc., when referring to a region of the country, but lowercase when indicating a direction.
- Georgia Tech is the South’s largest industrial and engineering research institution.
- The airport is south of Atlanta.
Lowercase seasons unless the season is part of a formal name or referring to a particular semester (e.g., Fall 2016).
- Co-op students may begin in the summer or fall semester.
- He’s staying on campus for spring break.
- One of the most popular plays at Tech was Summer and Smoke.
Lowercase earth unless referring to the proper name of the planet.
- The astronauts returned to Earth.
- He is down-to-earth.
Articles, coordinate conjunctions, and prepositions (a, and, at, the, on, under, between, etc.) should not be capitalized in headings unless they appear as the first or last word in the title.
- Composite Structural Specimen in the Materials Laboratory
- Density Fluctuation between Two Super Sonic Flows
- The Freshman Class and the National SAT Scores
Italicize the titles of: books, computer games, movies, operas, plays, poems, albums, songs, radio and TV programs, journals, periodicals, newspapers, lectures, speeches, presentations, blogs, YouTube videos, exhibitions, and works of art. In headlines, these titles should be enclosed in single quotes.
The following presents the preferred usage of a few of the more commonly used computer and internet terms.
- eBay (capitalize at the beginning of a sentence)
- iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch (capitalize at the beginning of a sentence)
- log in/log on, log off (as verbs); login/logon, logoff (as adjectives, nouns)
- real time (noun); real-time (adjective)
- Twitter (tweets)
- voice mail
- web, website, webpage, webfeed, webmaster, webcam, webcast (but web address and web browser)
Website addresses: Do not include http:// when listing website addresses. Exception: include it when there is an "s" (https://). Also, do not include the www at the beginning or the / at the end of a web address, even if it appears in the address when it’s in the browser. In some instances, it is acceptable — from a design point-of-view — to omit the period after a URL.
Do not use a comma between month and year or season and year; commas are used in dates when a specific day is given. When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. Spell out when using alone, or with a year alone. When a phrase refers to a day, month, and year, set off the year with commas.
- July 2012 was the hottest month in recent history.
- Friday, Dec. 13, 1987, was the date recorded in the police statement.
Use a hyphen for date ranges. But, if the construction is such that from precedes the date, then to instead of the hyphen is preferable. When a hyphen is used, insert a space before and after.
Note: Depending on the type of document/communication, the year should be omitted if the event is taking place in the current year.
- Parents are invited to join their students for FASET, May 2-5.
Include periods with some degree abbreviations:
- M.S., B.S, Ph.D. (when identifying faculty members assistant professor, associate professor, full professor, and chair] in print, web, and video, do not add Ph.D. after their names.
- Do not include periods with Master of Business Administration (MBA) and abbreviations of four or more letters:
- Bachelor of Science in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (BSEAS)
- Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design (BSID)
- Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA)
- Master of Science in Human-Computer Interaction (MSHCI)
- Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering (MSBE)
- Master of Science in International Affairs (MSIA)
- Some of Tech's master's degrees are offered entirely online, and they are abbreviated as follows:
- Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMS CS)
- Online Master of Science in Analytics (OMS Analytics)
The term graduate students refers to both master's and Ph.D. students. The word master's should be used only when referring exclusively to master's students and NOT Ph.D. students.
For a full, current list of all Georgia Tech degrees, please refer to the Catalog.
Georgia Tech Units
Georgia Tech campuses are denoted with a hyphen and the location.
- Georgia Tech-Savannah offers a coastal campus for environmental engineers to study.
- Georgia Tech-Lorraine was founded in 1990.
The names of Georgia Tech units are uppercase (except for articles and prepositions) when the formal name of the unit is used. When the elements of a unit name are used to refer to a field of study, a professional discipline, or something other than the unit name itself, the words should be lowercase.
- The Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering is Georgia Tech’s oldest academic unit.
- She has decided to study mechanical engineering.
- The Office of Human Resources completed a salary study last summer.
- He needed more experience in the human resources field to be qualified for the job.
Capitalize the first word of each bullet. Use periods, not semicolons, at the end of each bullet point – whether it is a full sentence or not.
Lists containing bullets with just one or two words (as in the second item under Numbers) do not warrant capitalization or periods.
Numbers used to indicate order (first, second, 10th, 25th, etc.) are called ordinal numbers. Spell out first through ninth. Likewise, spell out only cardinal numbers one through nine.
Use figures for 10 and above and for number references in all tabular matter and in statistical forms.
Figures must also be used for:
- academic courses (History 6)
- addresses (but spell out numbered streets that are nine and under e.g., 5 Seventh Ave.)
- court decisions (The court ruled 5-4.)
- credit hours
- decimals (preferred over fractions), percentages, and fractions with numbers larger than one (3 ½ laps, but spell out fractions less than one, e.g., two-thirds)
- dimensions (but spell out kilograms, feet, inches, etc.)
- distances (She walked 9 miles.)
- highway designations (Interstate 5)
- mathematical usage (Divide by 3.)
- monetary units (along with the dollar sign instead of spelling out dollars)
- millions, billions, trillions
- planes, ships, and spacecraft designations (Apollo 9)
- political districts (3rd Congressional District)
- rank (She was his No. 1 choice.)
- speed (She could only get the speed up to 8 mph.)
- sports scores
- temperatures (except zero; it was 8 degrees below zero or minus 8.
- times (except with 12 a.m. and 12 p.m. – use midnight and noon instead)
- units of measure
- years (references to an academic year should follow a hyphenated format, with just two digits following the hyphen e.g., 2016-17)
Spell out numbers at the start of a sentence. Exception: Sentences that begin with a year, e.g., 1992 was a great year.
Use commas in numerals with more than three digits.
Georgia Tech style is to use periods – not hyphens – to separate the segments of telephone numbers:
With expressions denoting time, do not include the zeroes in top-of-the-hour references. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes: 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 9 - 11 a.m., 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. There should always be a space between the numbers representing the time and the a.m. or p.m. With time ranges, always insert a space before and after the hyphen.
An inclusive range of years falling within the same century should be abbreviated as follows:
- Franklin D. Roosevelt was president from 1933 - 45.
But when the range includes a transition to a second century, then all numbers must be used.
- Wayne Clough was president of Georgia Tech from 1994 - 2008.
Avoid using he to mean he or she. Instead, recast the sentence. In cases where a rewrite would result in a clumsy construction, the epicene they is acceptable.
- Instead of: A student applying for financial aid should file his application for admission by January 1.
- Try: Students applying for financial aid should file their applications for admission by January 1.
- Instead of: The student must have an overall GPA of at least 2.7 to satisfy the requirements of his school.
- Try: A student must have an overall GPA of at least 2.7 to satisfy the school’s requirements.
Writers may use they as a singular pronoun when rewriting the sentence as plural would be overly awkward or clumsy. They can also be used when referring to those who do not identify as either male or female.
In formal writing, third person (he, she, it, or they) is most commonly used. Avoid using first person (I, we) and second person (you). (Fundraising, recruitment, and website materials sometimes use first and second person to create a more personal tone. In any case, avoid shifting from one grammatical person to another within the same piece of writing unless there is a clear rationale for doing so.)
Use the apostrophe only to indicate possession or when using contractions:
- Wide lapels were popular during the 1950s.
- Tim Tone is a Board of Regents Professor.
- The Board of Regents’ decision supported Tech’s curriculum change.
- They’re the best team we’ve had in years.
- It’s difficult to see from here. (The possessive case of the pronoun it is its; DO NOT use an apostrophe, e.g.: We couldn’t find its nest.)
For plural possessives ending in s, add an apostrophe after the s; do not add a second s (the Jones’ appointment, not the Jones’s appointment).
For singular proper names ending in s, use only an apostrophe after the s (Jesus’ life, Chris’ book).
For singular common nouns ending in s, add s unless the word following begins with s (the witness’s lies, the witness’ statement).
To avoid confusion, always use a serial comma, the comma that precedes the conjunction before the final item in a list of three or more.
A comma should not precede Jr. or Sr. or numerals in a surname:
- John F. Kennedy Jr.
- John D. Rockefeller III
Use a comma to separate two or more adjectives preceding a single noun, but only if the comma could be replaced by the word and without changing the sense:
- It was a long, hot summer.
- She had long brown hair.
Commas and periods should always precede closed quotation marks:
- He said “doctor,” and she said “physician.”
The dash is longer than a hyphen. An em (—) dash is preferred over an en (–) dash in body copy and should be surrounded by spaces. It is used to set off an amplifying or explanatory element, allowing it to function as an alternative to parentheses. A space should always precede and follow it.
- The influence of three impressionists — Monet, Sisley, and Degas — is obvious in her work.
- The chancellor — deprived of sleep — came down in an angry mood.
To type an em dash, press option, shift, and hyphen simultaneously.
Ellipsis ( ... )
Leave one regular space — never a thin one — on both sides of an ellipsis. If what follows is a complete sentence, the first word of that complete sentence should be capitalized.
Use the hyphen for date and time ranges. Include a space before and after it.
Hyphenate all compound words that begin with self.
- self-restraint, self-conscious, self-taught
Hyphenate compound words that being with ex and mean former.
- ex-president, ex-husband, ex-mayor
Hyphenate multiple words that function as single compound adjectives, unless their usage has become so commonly accepted as to render the hyphen unnecessary, or if omission of the hyphen would impair clarity.
- It is a two-day program.
- The MARTA station is only a five-to-ten-minute walk from campus.
Always hyphenate well-being.
Do not hyphenate compound words with an adverb ending in -ly:
- The newly appointed director discussed the health program with her new staff.
Do not hyphenate vice president.
The term upper class is hyphenated only when it functions as a compound adjective modifying a single subject. The nouns upperclassman and upperclassmen are never hyphenated.
- Enrollment in the course is restricted to upper-class students.
- The event is open to both upperclassmen and freshmen.
The suffix -wide should not be hyphenated unless the compound word is long and cumbersome.
- The changes to the curriculum were campuswide.
- The pope issued an archdiocese-wide policy.
Generally, if a prefix ends in a vowel and the word that follows begins with the same vowel, hyphenate it:
- pre-election, pre-exist, etc.
While the word preprofessional is not hyphenated, references to Georgia Tech’s educational programs in pre-health, pre-law, and pre-teaching are hyphenated. For other cases, follow Webster's New World College Dictionary, hyphenating if not listed.
Periods and commas are always placed inside closed quotation marks.
Dashes, semicolons, question marks, and exclamation points are placed inside closed quotation marks when they apply to the quoted material only. They are placed outside the closed quotation marks when they apply to the entire sentence.
Use the days of the week, not today, tonight, tomorrow, or yesterday, in print copy (Daily Digest excepted), using Monday, Tuesday, etc., for days of the week within seven days before or after the current date. Avoid such redundancies as last Tuesday or next Tuesday; the tense of the verb used usually provides adequate indication of which Tuesday is meant: He said he finished the job Tuesday. She will return Tuesday.
Use noon and midnight instead of 12 p.m. and 12 a.m.
Zone Improvement Plan
Use all-caps for the term ZIP (meaning Zoning Improvement Plan), but always lowercase the word code. Never insert a comma between the state name and the ZIP code.
Do not use the term driverless unless there is no person on board who can take control in an emergency. For vehicles that can do some but not all of the driving, use the terms semi-autonomous or partially self-driving.
Historic takes the article a not an.
When referring to Georgia Tech alumni, use the degree designator:
- George P. Burdell, ME 1931 (i.e., ME for Mechanical Engineering, plus the full four-digit year)
- John Johnson, ME 1931, MS PHYS 1933, Ph.D. PHYS 1935 (in cases of multiple degrees, the graduate designator must precede the field of study)
Flyer (NOT flier) for references to the handbill.
Health care is two words, per AP Style.
Use bullet points as separators between the various elements in the copyright line on print pieces.
Things to Avoid
Do not double space following a punctuation mark at the end of a sentence. Use a single space. Double spacing after periods is a defunct practice from the era of typewriters.
Do not use the ampersand in place of and, unless it is part of an official name.
Avoid sexist, racist, or other terminology that could be interpreted as offensive to an individual or group:
man, mankind, man-made, man-machine, foreigner
man: person, people, human race, human beings, individual mankind, humankind, people, humans, humanity
man-made: built, synthetic, artificial
foreigner: international or use of the specific nationality
Note: There is nothing offensive about using man when referring to a particular male, but the term can be inappropriate when used to encompass all members of society.
Avoid beginning sentences with There is or It is.
- Instead of: There are 35 colleges and universities in the University System of Georgia.
- Try: The University System of Georgia includes 35 colleges and universities.
- Instead of: It is Joe’s car that will win.
- Try: Joe’s car will win.
Avoid the passive voice. Your writing will be clearer and livelier if you ensure the subject is performing the actions rather than having the action being done to it.
- Instead of: The bill was approved by the House.
- Try: The House approved the bill.
While the use of nicknames is generally discouraged, their use is acceptable in cases where an individual is known primarily by a nickname or strongly prefers the use of the nickname. The format to be used is formal first name (or initial), middle name or initial (if desired), nickname enclosed by quotation marks, and last name.
- President G.P. “Bud” Peterson
- Georgia Tech Alumnus Francis S. “Bo” Godbold
Common Institute Terms
Alumna: a female alumnus.
Alumnae: plural of alumna, female graduates.
Alumnus: a person who has attended or is a graduate of a school; originally used for men only.
Alumni: plural of alumnus.
Institute Communications does not distinguish between male and female graduates, and, therefore, uses the term alumnus for both. If the writer is referring to a specific woman who has graduated, then it is appropriate to use the word alumna. Do not use the construction alumni/ae.) The term alum (a double sulfate of ammonium or a univalent metal, sodium or potassium, and a trivalent metal, aluminum, iron, or chromium) should NEVER be used as a substitute for alumnus. Likewise, alums should NEVER be used for the plural form.
Advisor: not adviser (Institute preference, as opposed to AP Style).
BuzzCard: one word with a capital C.
Coursework: one word in all cases (Institute preference, as opposed to AP Style).
Eco-Commons: uppercase and hyphenate.
Emeritus: retiree retaining the rank of the last office held. Emeritus members should be used as the plural form. When referring specifically to a female emeritus, it is appropriate to use the word emerita. Only uppercase the term professor emeritus when it precedes the individual’s name.
Faculty: members should follow this word if using a plural verb with it.
Gameday: one word in all cases (Institute preference AND AP Style)
Interdisciplinary Research Institutes (IRIs): uppercase when spelling out on first reference.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): never massively.
Master Plan: Uppercase only when referring to the plan specific to Georgia Tech (and the first reference should be Campus Master Plan).
Ramblin’ Wreck: The only exception to this spelling is those instances referring to the Ramblin’ Reck Club.
Regular Decision/Early Action: Uppercase these references to admission deadlines.
Serve-Learn-Sustain: Hyphens are now used as separators — no longer bullets.