Editorial Standards

Editorial style refers to guidelines used by editors to make writing clear and effective. Bellevue College uses The Associated Press Stylebook (also known as AP style) and The American Heritage Dictionary as official guides for all communication and publications. 

Our editorial standards address: 

  • Frequently asked questions about style 
  • Rules specific to Bellevue College 
  • Common errors 

Abbreviations 

Avoid abbreviations and acronyms if possible. Use words (the committee, association, office, center, institute, program) instead. 

If you use an abbreviation: 

  • Identify programs, organizations, and associations by their full name in the first reference. Use the abbreviation (with periods) or acronym (without periods) in parentheses immediately after.  
  • You can then use the acronym for the rest of the article.  

Associated Student Government (ASG) participation provides leadership skills. ASG has been active at the College since its inception. 

Today Bellevue College (BC) announced the launch of a new writing program. BC anticipates thousands of students to enroll for the first quarter.  

There is no need to spell out the name of widely recognized abbreviations.  

Use CIA, not Central Intelligence Agency 

Abbreviations for laws (FERPA, HIPAA) and financial aid programs (FAFSA) may be used, but only after the full name has been introduced. 

Use abbreviations for Dr., Gov., Lt. Gov., Rep., the Rev., Sen., and certain military designations when used before a full name.  

You may abbreviate company, corporation, incorporated and limited when used after the name of a corporate entity. 

Academic Degrees 

Abbreviation 

If mentioning an academic degree is necessary to establish a person’s credentials, try to avoid an abbreviation and use the full degree title. 

John Jones earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of North Carolina. 

Abbreviate degrees when the need to identify many individuals by degree would make the sentence cumbersome. 

John Jones earned a BA in history, Samantha Smith a BA in English, and Rachel Mason a Ph.D. in accounting.  

An academic abbreviation is set off by a comma after the full name.  

John Jones, M.D., has practiced… 

Do not use a courtesy title (Dr., etc.) with an academic degree and then follow the name with the degree abbreviation.  

John Smith, Ph.D., not Dr. John Smith, Ph.D. 

Except for Ph.D. and similar compound abbreviations, all degree abbreviations should be written without periods. 

  • Associate in Science (AS) 
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) 
  • Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) 
  • Master of Science (MS) 
  • Master of Arts (MA) 
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) 

Apostrophes 

  • The terms, “bachelor’s degree” and “master’s degree,” require apostrophes.  
  • The term “associate degree” does not. 

Capitalization  

  • General references, such as associate, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree, are not capitalized.  
  • Academic degrees are capitalized only when the full name of the degree is used, or the subject area is a language. 

He earned a Bachelor of Applied Arts in 1988. 

She’s pursuing an associate degree in English. 

Apostrophes 

Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding “’s.”  

Have you seen Lisa’s pencil? 

One exception to this rule is singular proper nouns ending in “s” for which only the apostrophe can be used.  

That’s Dickens’ book.  

Plural possessives are formed by adding “s’” unless the word has a special plural construction that does not end in “s.” 

Students’ rights 

Women’s studies 

Plural forms of words should not contain apostrophes. 

Thousands of items, not thousand’s of items 

Bullet Points 

Start with the same part of speech for each item (in this example, a verb). 

  • Use the same voice (active or passive) for each item. 
  • Use the same verb tense for each item. 
  • Use the same sentence type (statement, question, exclamation) for each item. 
  • Use just a phrase for each item, if desired. 

Introduce the list with a short phrase or sentence. 

These are our partners: 

  • The Disability Resource Center 
  • The Center for Career Connections 

If bulleted items are complete sentences, begin each item with a capital letter and finish it with a period or other appropriate punctuation. 

Capitalization 

Bellevue College style follows the basic rules of The American Heritage Dictionary for capitalization. 

Capitalize when the complete office and official designation is used in the first reference. Use lowercase after. 

  • First reference: Division of Student Affairs; Second reference: the division 
  • First reference: Department of Sociology; Second reference: the sociology department 

Lowercase fields of study except when a proper noun is part of the name. 

biology 

English 

Capitalize the following: 

  • When the complete title is used, lowercase on second reference: 
  • Agencies 
  • Boards and Committees 
  • Programs 
  • Course titles 
  • Named awards 
  • Official names of organizations and major historical events. 
  • Capitalize all words in a title except articles (a, an, the); prepositions of three or fewer letters (for, of, on, up, etc.); and conjunctions of three or fewer letters (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet, etc.) unless any of those start or end the title. 
  • When referring to a quarter at Bellevue College. 

Spring Quarter, not spring quarter 

Fall 2020, not fall 2020 

Lowercase the following: 

  • The words “division,” “school,” “department,” “office,” “committee,” “board,” “college,” etc., on second and subsequent abbreviated reference. 
  • Names of seasons (summer, fall, winter, spring), except at the beginning of a sentence, as part of a title, or when referring to a quarter at BC. 
  • Software and company names as they have been trademarked.  

eBay not Ebay 

PowerPoint not powerpoint 

Curriculum-Related Content 

Descriptions or lists of required classes or any other aspect of curriculum, whether in print or on the website, must conform in all details to the information presented in the current version of the  BC catalog.  

This means titles must be exactly as named when created, with no abbreviations, truncated or dropped words.  

For example, do not use “Intro” instead of “Introduction” unless that is the name filed with the state and listed in our catalog.  

The department abbreviation in the title must be in caps and, if appropriate, the common course identifier (&) must be included, as in ACCT& 201.  

If naming the course in a publication, it must include the department abbreviation and course number in addition to the title. 

For example, ACCT& 201 Principles of Accounting I 

For special topics courses, you may put a colon (:) at the end of the official title and add a better explanation of the special topic. 

Commas 

Commas add clarity to writing. If a comma doesn’t make your writing clear, it shouldn’t be there. If omitting a comma could lead to confusion or misinterpretation, then use the comma. 

In a simple series, a comma is not needed.  

The flag is red, white and blue.  

He would nominate Tony, Mary or Carol. 

Include a final comma in a simple series if omitting it could make the meaning unclear. 

The governor convened his most trusted advisers, economist Olivia Schneider and polling expert Carlton Torres.  

  • (If Schneider and Torres are his most trusted advisers, don’t use the final comma.) 

The governor convened his most trusted advisers, economist Olivia Schneider, and polling expert Carlton Torres.  

  • (If the governor is convening unidentified advisers plus Schneider and Torres, the final comma is needed.) 

Put a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series if an integral element of the series requires a conjunction.  

  • I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast. 

Do not use semicolons in place of commas. Instead, semicolons are primarily used to connect two closely related sentences without an “and.” 

It heavily rained this morning; we managed to have a picnic anyway. 

Dates 

Spell out the name of a month when it stands alone or with the year only.  

When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. 

  • Put a comma before and after the year when used with month and date, but do not use a comma when a time period is expressed with month and year. 

The celebration will be held in March. 

We met in December 2015. 

The celebration on Dec. 31, 2015, will be exciting. 

  • For academic and fiscal years, use an en dash (–) with no spaces between years.  

Use 2015–16, not 2015-2016 or 2015 – 16 

  • Do not use ‘th” after a number directly following a month. 

The event will be held April 15, not The event will be held April 15th  

  • In most promotional flyers or posters, as well as BC’s Events Calendar and FYI postings, do not include the year when an event is coming up within the current year. 

Opening night is Sept. 5, not Opening night is Sept. 5, 2015 

  • In decades identified with their centuries, use figures and omit apostrophes. 

1950s 

The 80s 

Electronic Communications 

When using a URL or email address in a sentence: 

  • Drop the “http://www.” 
  • Break before or after the discrete units that begin the URL. 
  • Do not break with a hyphen. 
  • If a sentence ends with the URL, add a period to the end. 

Commonly used e-references include:  

  • e-commerce 
  • e-learning, except when referencing BC’s eLearning department 
  • email (no hyphen) 
  • homepage (one word, not capitalized) 
  • internet (not capitalized) 
  • login 
  • As a noun or adjective: one word, no hyphen, not capitalized.  

Enter your login information.  

  • As a verb: two words, no hyphen, not capitalized.  

Example: Log in to the portal.  

  • NetID 
  • webpage (one word, not capitalized, no hyphen) 
  • website (one word, not capitalized) 
  • webcam (one word, not capitalized) 
  • Wi-Fi (not Wifi or WiFi). 

Hyphenation 

Use a hyphen to connect two or more words used as a modifier: 

He has a full-time job. 

He works full time. 

She is teaching an off-campus course. 

She teaches off campus. 

Suspend hyphens in a series:  

Do you want first-, business-, or economy-class tickets? 

Numbers 

Spell out: 

  • Numbers zero through nine; use numerals for 10 and higher.  

Three out of 10 people in the U.S. are at risk for catching Covid-19. 

  • Numbers when they begin a sentence or rewrite the sentence to avoid having to spell out a large or hyphenated number, a monetary figure or a percentage. 

Grisham sold 400,000 copies of his new book the first day, not, 400,000 copies of Grisham’s new book sold the first day 

All it would take to repaint the car is $500, not, $500 is all it would take to repaint the car. 

  • Fractional amounts that are less than one in text copy; using hyphens between the words: two-thirds, three-sixteenths. 

One-fourth of all elementary school children live in single parent households. 

Ages, large numbers and monetary figures should be noted with Arabic numerals. 

22 years old, a 40-year-old man (note the hyphens) 

This will cost 10 billion. 

$5, $22.50, 10% 

Convert to decimals whenever practical: 4-3/16 should be 4.188. 

Percent, Percentage and Percentage Points 

The percentage symbol is acceptable when paired with a numeral in most cases. 

Average hourly pay rose 3.1% from a year ago. 

Her mortgage rate is 4.75%. 

About 60% of Americans agreed. 

He won 56.2% of the vote.  

For amounts less than 1%, precede the decimal with a zero.  

The cost of living rose 0.6%. 

In casual uses, use words rather than figures and numbers.  

She said he has a zero percent chance of winning. 

Quotation Marks with Other Punctuation 

Place a comma or period inside the quotation marks.  

The semicolon and colon are placed outside the quotation marks. 

Place question marks or exclamation points inside or outside quotation marks, depending on the quote. 

Did the president say, “The committee will meet this afternoon”? 

The president asked, “Will the committee meet in Conference Room B?” 

Titles 

Capitalize a title when it appears before a person’s name.  

President Jane Smith visited the campus Friday. 

Lowercase a title after a person’s name, or when it stands without a name. 

Jane Smith, president of Bellevue College, visited the campus Friday. 

The president visited the campus Friday. 

It’s preferred for the title to follow the name, but especially if the title consists of more than one word. 

Alice Monroe, director of marketing and alumni relations, designed the poster. 

Avoid courtesy titles, such as Mr., Mrs., Miss, or Ms. 

Titles (and, in most cases, first names) should be dropped on second reference and thereafter. Exceptions are familiar and frequently used occupational titles, such as coach or chancellor. 

Use quotation marks to designate titles of short stories, short poems, or articles, individual chapters in books; individual songs; conference presentations or papers; and radio and television shows. 

Your assignment is to read “The Tell-Tale Heart” tonight. 

Did you see last night’s episode of “Doctor Who”? 

Italicize titles of books, films, long poems, magazines, plays, record albums, large musical works, newspapers and continuing radio/TV series. 

He just got a subscription to The New York Times

States and Addresses 

State names should be spelled out in the body of stories. 

Abbreviations should be used in datelines, photo captions and lists. 

Use ‘state of Washington’ or ‘Washington state’ when needed to distinguish the state from the District of Columbia. ‘Washington State’ is the name of the university. 

Do not use Postal ZIP code abbreviations when abbreviating a state name in text copy. Use the abbreviations accepted by the AP: 

  • Calif., Minn., Wis., S.D. (instead of CA, MN, WS, SD) 

Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, and Utah are never abbreviated (except in tabular matter). 

Use Postal Service state abbreviations with no periods in addresses. Use the plus four digits whenever possible. The plus four digits are required by the post office if a postage indicia is used. Place items in the following order: 

  • Name 
  • Office, Agency or Center, if applicable 
  • Department 
  • Institution 
  • Street or Building, Room or Suite 
  • City, State, ZIP code 

Example: 

John Jones 
Arts & Humanities Division 
Bellevue College 
3000 Landerholm Circle SE 
Bellevue, WA 98007-6484 

Time of Day 

  • Do not capitalize a.m. or p.m. Use periods after each letter. 
  • Try not use a.m. or p.m. at the end of a sentence. 
  • For a span of time, either 5–7 p.m. using an en dash, or 5 to 7 p.m. is acceptable. 
  • Use lowercase noon and midnight, not 12 a.m. or 12 p.m. Use 5 a.m., not 5:00 a.m. 

Last Updated September 22, 2021