Have you ever written copy for your website or created a poster for an event and wondered, “Is it 19th century or nineteenth century?” or “Should I use the Oxford comma?” Well, there’s a style guide for that! The Communications Office has created an exhaustive document that includes answers to such questions (and many, many more).
Why is this important? Like our recently refined logo and forthcoming visual identity rules, the consistency of the College’s written messaging helps reinforce a coherent image (because all communication reflects on Haverford as a whole), avoids confusing our audiences, and shows unity of purpose.
While we hope that everyone who creates copy—from an email to a publication—will bookmark and refer to the style guide, we wanted to share a few quick tips, our “greatest hits” if you will, that can help all Haverford-related communications be better unified.
1) Title Capitalization. In academic writing (according to MLA style) lots of things get capitalized, but for ease of the reader, we rely on the less-caps-heavy AP Style Manual as our guide. That means capitalize a title only if it precedes a name (Professor of Mathematics Jane Smith) not if it follows one (Jane Smith, professor of mathematics).
2) The Oxford Comma. We are now using the Oxford comma, which means in a list of things, always include the comma before the final “and.” (She took classes in art, biology, and music.)
3) Numbers. All numbers between one and nine should be spelled out, numbers above 10 should appear as numerals. The same rule applies for ordinal numbers (first, 11th) and centuries (ninth century, 19th century), but please never put the “th” in superscript. An exception to this rule: if the number starts a sentence. (Twelve alumni earned awards at the ceremony.)
4) Hyphens, em-dashes, and en-dashes. There are three different marks that are often confused for the same thing. A hyphen (-), the shortest of the three, is generally used to link compound adjectives. (She is a full-time professor. He is a first-year student.) The en-dash (–), the medium sized mark, should be used to show a range of numbers. (The conference runs from October 3–6.) The em-dash (—), the longest mark, is used to indicate a break in thought, similar to a semi-colon or parenthesis. (No one—not even the professor—thought the exam would take so long to finish. Many academic clubs—the Pre-Vet Society, the Microfinance Consulting Club, the Pre-Law Society, and Women in Science—meet in the evenings.)
5) Time and dates. Aside from noon and midnight, all other times should be written as numerals, with a.m. and p.m. written in lower case with periods (10:00 a.m., 11:45 p.m.) Dates should always use numerals, not ordinal numbers (Nov. 10, not Nov. 10th). Always capitalize the names of months. When the month is used with a specific date abbreviate Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. Spell out all month names when using alone or with a year alone. (Feb. 4, 1980. February 1980. He was born in February.) Always put a comma between a day, a month, and a year. (Thursday, July 18, 2013, the grounds crew will be spraying for pests.) And lastly, if you are referring to a decade, please put the apostrophe before the numerals (the ’90s). Apostrophes only go after the number if the decade is possessive of something. (The ’90′s fashion included lots of flannel.)
Got other questions? You can always refer to the College Style Guide or contact someone in the Communications Office.