Editorial Guide

As a writer for Seattle Colleges, your content is our voice to our partners, staff, faculty, and most importantly, current and prospective students. To ensure an appropriate, compelling, and consistent tone for that voice, the Seattle Colleges Communications Offices have provided this editorial style guide to promote appropriate use of terminology, abbreviations, spelling and punctuation across district and college publications and websites.

The Style Guide is generally based on the Associated Press Stylebook used by news organizations across the country. Please consult with district or college communications offices if you have any questions.

For for events or meeting times, use lowercase a.m. and p.m. with periods.

On the hour, do not include “:00” (e.g., 10 a.m.; 2:30 p.m.; 4 p.m.).

If it is a time range, use only a.m. or p.m. once within the same time of day (e.g. 9-10 a.m.; 2-3 p.m.). Use both a.m. and p.m. if it spans a morning and afternoon (e.g., 9:30 a.m.- 2 p.m.). Use "to" instead of a hyphen or en dash (-) when space allows (e.g. 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

In general, spell out the first reference to an abbreviated word or words and place the abbreviation or acronym in parenthesis directly after the word or words.

Example: State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC)

  • Capitalize and use period when abbreviating: A.A., A.A.S., A.S., B.A.S., B.A., B.S., M.A., M.B.A., M.F.A., M.S., Ph.D., Ed.D., R.N.
  • When used after a name, set off by commas: Greg Clark, Ph.D., gave the keynote address.
  • Formal written degrees have no apostrophes: Associate of Arts, Associate of Applied Science, Associate of Science, Bachelor of Applied Science, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts, Master of Business Administration, Master of Fine Arts, Master of Science, Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Education, Registered Nurse.
  • There is no apostrophe in the informal associate degree or baccalaureate degree.
  • Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, master’s degree.
  • Capitalize when referring to academic quarters: Fall, Winter 2023, Spring Quarter.
  • Use lowercase when referring to seasons of the year: There is no summer breeze in the fall.
  • Capitalize and write out a title before a name: Assistant Professor Chris Jones, Associate Dean Gerardo Lopez, President Olivia Owen.
  • Do not capitalize when it appears after the name, but DO capitalize the department: Rob Fulton, vice president of Instruction; Rosetta Mitchell, dean of Humanities and Fine Arts.
  • Advice (n.): opinion, help
  • Advise (v.): to offer counsel, to inform
  • Advisor: person who gives counsel; advisor is preferred over adviser.
  • Affect is commonly used as a verb, meaning “to influence or change”.
  • Ex. “Your score on the exam will affect your final grade.”
  • Effect is most often used as a noun, meaning a result or outcome.
  • Ex. “The effect of the new program was immediately noticeable.”
  • Avoid using effect as a verb, meaning “to cause or to bring about”, which can cause confusion.

Find guidelines for including a college’s affirmative action statement in documents a. Consult with the college or district communications director if you are unsure of its use.

Never alright.

  • Alum is singular; alumni is plural.
  • Alums (plural) is acceptable and gender-neutral.
  • Use these terms consistently OR use the correct Latinate forms, but don’t mix the two styles.
  • Latin: alumnus (singular, male); alumni (plural, male/female); alumna (singular, female); alumnae (plural, female)
  • Symbol is generally used for courses and programs: Issues & Trends in Early Childhood Education.
  • Use in text only if it is part of an official name: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Denote contractions: it’s, isn’t; or possession: Juan’s coat, Katie’s hat
  • Apostrophe is not used to denote plural words: assignments, not assignment’s.
  • Do not capitalize board of trustees unless used as part of the formal title.
    Ex: the board of trustees, the board, Seattle Colleges Board of Trustees
  • Capitalize the title trustee when formal titles are used before a name: Trustee Anna Garin
  • Use lowercase when the title follows the name: Sam Cohen, trustee of...
  • In lists use alphabetical order, with “chair” after the appropriate name: Louise Chernin, chair

A boilerplate is a concise statement, usually no more than a paragraph, that highlights essential information about an organization. It is intended to offer a quick overview that can be used in various situations where time is short and space is limited.

District Communications has the most current boilerplate for Seattle Colleges.

Chair preferred, regardless of gender.

Use complete name on first citation, shorten thereafter. See Style Guide for additional uses.

  • Seattle Central College; Seattle Central or Central
  • North Seattle College; North Seattle or North
  • South Seattle College; South Seattle or South

Use abbreviated coreq and prereq in catalog and course descriptions

Never course work or course-work

Use numerals, even in text, with hyphen: 3-credit course, 6-hour course.

  • With full date place a comma after the day and year: March 23, 1963, was his last day.
  • With month and year spell out the month and do not use a comma: He left for Texas in June 2013.
  • Acceptable abbreviations for long month names: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., Dec.
  • Spell out short month names: March, April, May, June, July.
  • Spell out days of the week.

See academic degrees.

See Seattle Colleges.

Use districtwide as one word, no hyphen, not district-wide. Example: The new policy was adopted districtwide.

  • Doctoral (adj.): doctoral program
  • Doctorate (n.)

With hyphen when “e” stands for electronic, (except email): e-Business Solutions, e-marketing, e-learning.

  • African American (n.); African-American leaders (adj.); black is acceptable for a member of a black race.
  • Asian or Asian American (n.); Asian-American students(adj.); or identify origin such as Chinese, Filipino, Japanese
  • Asian Pacific Islander
  • Caucasian or white: white is preferred
  • Latino (male) or Latina (female). Latinx is an accepted gender-neutral variant.
  • Native American (n.); Native-American employees (adj.)
  • Nationalities, peoples, races, tribes should all be capitalized: Arab, Chinese, Eskimo, Jewish, Sioux

Exclamation points should be used sparingly. Include only to add emphasis where appropriate.

Ex. Fire!

Use lowercase and spell out: admissions form, registration form.

Use with hyphen when an adjective: full-time faculty, full-time student

Do not use hyphen when an adverb: She works full time at a the college.

  • Seattle University (SU)
  • State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC)
  • Trustees Association of Community and Technical Colleges (TACTC)
  • University of Washington (UW) or UW Bothell or UW Tacoma; occasionally UW Seattle if the Seattle campus is specifically intended
  • Washington Association of Community and Technical Colleges (WACTC)
  • Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC)

Capitalize periods in U.S. history: Colonial, Reconstruction.

When used as adjectives, these words need hyphens:

  • higher-education (opportunities)
  • high-wage, high-growth, high-demand, high-quality (fields, industries)
  • fully-online (courses) four-year (institutions)
  • direct-transfer (agreements)
  • career-progression (opportunities)
  • fastest-growing (...)
  • open-entry (classes)
  • work-entry (assistance) work-study (student)

Electronic images come in a variety of formats.

  • .gif, GIF (Graphics Interchange Format): lower resolution images often used on the web for logos, icons, symbols
  • .jpg, JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group): high-resolution, multiple colors used for complex images and photographs; most common file for photographs
  • .png, PNG (Portable Network Graphics): similar to .gif; patent- and license-free, supports multiple layers of graphics
  • .tif, TIFF (Tagged Image File Format): high-quality graphics

No space between initials: J.B. Nguyen is a student.

Refers to external websites.

Refers to internal websites.

Intro is used in course descriptions for brevity.

This is not a word. Use regardless.

  • Italicize grant names, books, plays, newspapers and magazines, albums, CDs, TV shows, or movies.
  • Use quotation marks for book chapters, individual music titles, magazine articles, or any portion of a composition.
  • its = possessive: The coat sagged without its lining.
  • it’s = it is: It’s late. Do you know where it’s located?

For both genders; preferred over journeyman

  • Capitalize formal titles before names: Senator Dave Pascal, Representative Li Chiu, U.S. Senator Elena Santiago.
  • Lowercase titles after names: Bob Brown, state representative from Clallam County; Kim Park, member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

"Log in" is a phrase that serves as a verb. "Login" can be an adjective or noun.

When you log in, you log in to a computer or some online software or tool.


  • It is important to remember your login ID and password. (login as adjective)
  • What is the link for the login page? (login as adjective)
  • The browser remembers your password from your last login. (login as noun)
  • You'll need to log in to Canvas to access the course. (log in as verb)
  • Have you been able to log in to ctcLink to register? (log in as verb)
  • She forgot her login information, so she hasn't been able to log in to the student portal. (login as adjective, log in as verb)
  • The users logged in to their online banking accounts to access their financial information. (log in as verb)


Licensed practical nurse, registered nurse; plural is LPNs or RNs.

  • Spell out an individual’s full name on first reference, last name only thereafter.
  • Applies to both male and female
  • Avoid Mr., Ms., Mrs.

Standard practice is to omit the hyphen with the prefix “non-“ in American English.

Ex. Nonprofit, nongovernmental, nonentity

  • Spell out numbers from zero to nine.
  • Use figures for 10 and above.
  • Avoid starting a sentence with a number; when necessary, spell it out.

Hyphenate as an adjective before a noun.

Ex: She has an on-campus job. They have both online and on-campus classes. He paid for on-campus parking.

Otherwise, leave as two words.

Ex: He works on campus. She went to the library on campus.

Use with hyphen when an adjective: part-time faculty, part-time student, part-time job

Do not use hyphen when an adverb: He works part time to help pay the bills.

Spell it out: do not use % symbol in text.

Postsecondary - one word, no hyphen

As the name of a specific product, include capitalization as shown, never powerpoint.

Use abbreviated prereq and coreq in catalog and course descriptions.

  • Capitalize when it is a formal part of the title: International Programs, Women’s Programs.
  • Use lowercase when not a formal part of the title: Aviation Maintenance program.
  • principal: chief or most important; also head of K-12 school
  • principle: a rule, code or law

We have a whole series of programs that we label Professional Technical (without the hyphen) – more than 135 of them, so referring to them without the hyphen, whether in formal or informal use, is correct for our use.

See academic quarters.

See italics.

  • Capitalize regions: Northwest, Southern accent, East Coast, Midwest.
  • Use lowercase for directions: north, south, east, west.

Seattle Colleges Cable Television; SCCtv is the preferred abbreviation.

Use lowercase when indicating seasons: winter, spring, summer, fall; also see academic quarters.

  • Seattle Colleges, or “the district
  • Never use Seattle Colleges’ District, the Seattle Colleges, Seattle Colleges District, or the Colleges.
  • Use District VI when referring to specific legal information only (affirmative action regulations, disclaimers, some board of trustees information).
  • Do not abbreviate as SCC (Shoreline Community College has long used this abbreviation; not part of Seattle Colleges.)

Use the following references when describing the Seattle Promise program

  • Seattle Promise is the proper name of the Seattle Colleges scholarship and student success program. The words "Seattle" and "Promise" are always capitalized when referencing the name of the program.  
  • On second reference, the program can be referred to as the Promise program. 
  • Students in the program may also be referred as Promise scholars or Seattle Promise scholars.

Seattle Promise and Seattle Colleges

  • Seattle Promise is a program at Seattle Colleges. 
  • Seattle Promise students are admitted to one of the Seattle Colleges— North Seattle College, Seattle Central College or South Seattle College— and participate in the Seattle Promise program. 
  • Seattle Promise should NOT be referenced without its relationship as a program at Seattle Colleges. The program is NOT an institution unto itself. 

Insert a comma before the conjunction in any list of three or more items in a sentence. Ex. Julia is studying physics, astronomy, and mathematics.

Use one space—not two—following punctuation marks, including at the end of sentences.

  • Spell out the names of states when used alone: We live in Washington.
  • Abbreviate when paired with a city or location: Everett, Wash.; Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Following are state abbreviations, with a few states spelled out. Postal ZIP code abbreviations are in parentheses.
Ala. (AL) Hawaii (HI) Mass. (MA) N.M. (NM) S.D. (SD)
Alaska (AK) Idaho (ID) Mich. (MI) N.Y. (NY) Tenn. (TN)
Ariz. (AZ) Ill. (IL) Minn. (MN) N.C. (NC) Texas (TX)
Ark. (AR) Ind. (IN) Miss. (MS) N.D. (ND) Utah (UT)
Calif. (CA) Iowa (IA) Mo. (MO) Ohio (OH) Vt. (VT)
Colo. (CO) Kan. (KS) Mont. (MT) Okla. (OK) Va. (VA)
Conn. (CT) Ky. (KY) Neb. (NE) Ore. (OR) Wash. (WA)
Del. (DE) La. (LA) Nev. (NV) Pa. (PA) W. Va. (WV)
Fla. (FL) Maine (ME) N.H. (NH) R.I. (RI) Wis. (WI)
Ga. (GA) Md. (MD) N.J. (NJ) S.C. (SC) Wyo. (WY)

Avoid using terms that position whiteness as the standard. Use students of color instead of non-white students.

  • Their is possessive.
  • There indicates location.
  • They’re = they are.
  • They’re taking their tablets and going over there.
  • United States (n.)
  • U.S. (adj.)
  • Capitalize in a formal name: University of Washington.
  • Use lowercase when used generically: We have another university in town.

Universal Resource Locator: address of a website. If included in a story, it should be the last item in the story or paragraph.

  • The official name of the former Soviet Union, dissolved in 1991
  • For present day, use Russia or a specific post-Soviet state.

Voicemail (one word) is commonly used as a noun, describing an audio messaging system. Voice mail is an outdated spelling.

  • Capitalize World Wide Web, but use lowercase if referring to it casually as the web.
  • Include as part of web address when it adds clarity for the reading audience.
  • Current use allows for omission when the reference is clear: seattlecolleges.edu.
  • Website is one word, lowercase.
  • Webpage is one word, lowercase.

Use a hyphen when it is an adjective: work-study position.