Editorial Standards

Editorial style refers to a set of guidelines that editors use to help make words as consistent and effective as possible. Bellevue College uses the Associated Press Stylebook as the official editorial guide for all publications. This guide is widely used by academic, public relations and news media authorities in determining grammar, punctuation and capitalization. Unless otherwise noted, default to the rules and regulations of the Associated Press Stylebook and the American Heritage Dictionary.


The first mention of any organization, agency or group should be spelled out. If the organization is not well known, indicate the abbreviation (with periods) or acronym (without periods) in parentheses immediately following the first reference and refer to the organization by its abbreviation thereafter.

  • Examples: There is no need to spell out the name of the federal agency known as the CIA because it is well known. A Bellevue College department is not well known off campus, so use Disability Resource Center (DRC), with no periods because it is also an acronym, and use DRC throughout the remainder of the document.
  • Use abbreviations for Dr., Gov., Lt. Gov., Rep., Mr., Mrs., 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.) Use Mr. and Mrs. in direct quotation only: “Mr. Smith said he would arrive at 8 p.m.”

Academic Degrees

If mentioning an academic degree is necessary to establish an individual’s credentials, the preferred form is 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 at Pembroke.

Abbreviate degrees when they appear after a full name on second reference, or when the need to identify many individuals by degree on first reference would make the preferred form cumbersome.

  • When used after a name, the academic abbreviation is set off by commas: John Jones, M.D., has practiced
  • Do not use a courtesy title (Mr., Mrs., 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:
    • Bachelor of Science (BS)
    • Master of Science (MS)
    • Master of Arts (MA), Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
    • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)
    • Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (BAIS)
    • Associate in Science (AS).
  • The terms, “bachelor’s degree” and “master’s degree,” require apostrophes.


Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding “’s”: Jeff’s pencil. One exception to this rule is singular proper nouns ending in “s” for which only the apostrophe can be used: Dickens’ computer.

  • 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
  • Plurals of words should not contain apostrophes.
    • Keep up with the Joneses
    • Thousands of items, not thousand’s


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

Academic departments, administrative offices and facilities are capitalized when the complete office and official designation is used. They are lowercase on second reference:

  • first reference: Division of Student Affairs; second reference: the division
  • first reference: Department of Sociology; second reference: sociology department

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

  • biology
  • English

Lowercase academic degrees:

  • bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate

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.
  • All words except articles (the, a, an), conjunctions (and, or, for, nor) and prepositions (of, in, on) in the titles of books, plays, lectures, etc.

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 or as part of a title.
  • 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; 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.


Comma usage in sequence is one example of how the college’s editorial style for its publications, following Associated Press Style, differs from MLA style used by faculty and students for essays or APA (American Psychiatric Association), the standard for most scientific writing.

  • Use commas to separate elements in a series, but do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series:
    • The flag is red, white and blue.
    • He would nominate Tony, Mary or Carol.
  • Put a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series when there is more than one conjunction in that series:
    • We invited professors from the biology, English, and philosophy departments.

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


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.
    • The events of December 2015 are posted online.
    • The celebration on Dec. 31, 2015, will be exciting.
    • Use 2015-16, not 2015-2016 with an en dash.
  • In most promotional flyers or posters, 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://”
  • 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
  • do not hyphenate the word “email”

Commonly used computer and Internet terms, acronyms and software programs include: Bluetooth, download, e-book, email, e-reader, Facebook, Foursquare, Google, Googled, hashtag, IM, Instagram, iPad, LinkedIn, metadata, online, Pinterest, RSS, smartphone, social media, tablet computer, text message, trending, Tumblr, Twitter, Vine, voice mail, VoIP, WAP, webcam, webcast, webmaster, website, Web, webpage, web feed, widget, wiki, Wikipedia, YouTube


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

  • He works full time.
  • He has a full-time job.
  • 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?


Spell out:

  • numbers zero through nine; use numerals for 10 and higher. Use either all numerals or all words when several numbers appear together in a passage.
  • 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.
  • fractional amounts that are less than one in text copy; using hyphens between the words: two-thirds, three-sixteenths

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

  • 22 years old, a 40-year-old man (note the hyphens)
  • 10 billion
  • $5, $22.50, 10 percent (spell out percent)

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

Following AP style, percentages in BC style are always in numerals and percent is always spelled out:

  • The football coach told The Watchdog reporter, “Our team is giving 110 percent!”
  • Well-nourished children experience a 200 percent growth rate in one year.

As in APA (American Psychiatric Association) style, the symbol % is used in scientific, technical and statistical copy. In documents where percentages are heavily used, it may be used for faster reading and to save space, particularly if it is a lengthy document.

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?”


Capitalize a title when it appears before a person’s name. Lowercase a title following a person’s name, or when it stands without a name.

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.

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

States and Addresses

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

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

Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah are never abbreviated.

Use Postal Service state abbreviations with no periods in addresses. 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


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

Time of Day

Use lowercase noon and midnight, not 12 a.m. or 12 p.m. Use 5 a.m., not 5:00 a.m.

Do not capitalize a.m. or p.m. Use periods after each letter.

Do not use a.m. at the end of a sentence.

Use a comma after a.m. or p.m. when used in a sequence with day, date and location: The show will start at 5 p.m., on Friday, Dec. 7, in Chapel Hill.

For a span of time, either 5-7 p.m. or 5 to 7 p.m. is acceptable.

Last Updated February 10, 2016