Quick Reference

Abbreviations and Acronyms

Avoid acronyms and initials on first reference unless they are so well known that most readers will recognize the meaning, such as ACT, SAT and IQ.

Instead, spell out words on first reference followed by the abbreviation or acronym in parentheses.

  • Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS)
  • Ashland Community and Technical College (ACTC)
  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
  • English as a second language (ESL)


Associate degree is singular – no S. Use an apostrophe S in bachelor’s and master’s degree. Use upper case when using the degree name.

  • Associate in Arts
  • Associate in Science
  • Associate in Applied Science
  • Bachelor of Arts
  • Master of Science

Do not use Dr. before the names of individuals who hold doctoral degrees. Instead, when necessary and appropriate for a specific audience: Cassandra Jones, who has a doctorate in mathematics, was lead researcher.

In a list: Stephanie Smith, Ph.D.

When used after a name, an academic abbreviation is set off by commas.

  • John Snow, Ph.D., delivered the commencement address.


Use lowercase except for words that are proper nouns.

  • English department
  • history department
  • the department of history

Upper case is used when the department is part of a formal name.

  • University of Connecticut Department of Economics

Lower case course/program names.

  • air conditioning technology
  • business administration
  • family law
  • medical office terminology

ACTIVE VS. PASSIVE VOICE and the Julie Persona

Passive voice is prominent in academic writing, but for most audiences, writing in active voice is preferred. This includes all documents created for students/prospective students, websites and news releases.

  • Active: The class read the book.
  • Passive: The book was read by the class.

Use the Julie persona for all student/prospective student communications. Julie’s voice is:

  • Approachable
  • Conversational
  • Empathetic
  • Knowledgeable
  • Authentic

Here are some examples of Julie/not Julie.

  • Not Julie: More information can be found in the student section.

Julie: Got questions? Give us a call. We’re here to help!

  • Not Julie: Please utilize the correct form.

Julie: We’re happy to walk you through the process of filing out your paperwork.

Remember: YOU (faculty and staff) are not the target audience. Julie’s voice is used to help students/prospective students understand the academic world.


Use the abbreviations Ave., Blvd. and St. only with a numbered address: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Spell them out and capitalize when part of a formal street name: Pennsylvania Avenue.

Lower case and spell out when used alone or with more than one street name: Massachusetts and Pennsylvania avenues.

All similar words (alley, drive, road, terrace, etc.) always are spelled out.

Always used figures for address numbers.


Do not use in place of and.

  • College of Arts and Sciences
  • Center for Religion and Public Discourse

The exception is if it is part of a company or institution’s legal name.

  • Procter & Gamble, AT&T

Ampersand (instead of AND) should only be used graphically on KCTCS printed and digital materials such as ads, viewbooks, posters, brochures and fliers, but NOT on news releases and other formal communication, such as letters and emails.

Ampersands are acceptable in social media posts due to space requirements and the less formal nature of posts.


Make abbreviations plural by adding ’s.

  • MBA’s, R.N.’s, B.A.’s

No apostrophe is needed for decades.

  • 1990s, 1980s

For a singular noun ending in S, form the possessive by adding ’S.

  • Hostess’s invitation

Use only an apostrophe for singular proper names ending in S.

  • Agnes’ book
  • Achilles’ heel


When using full sentences or paragraphs as list items, ensure the grammar is correct as for any sentence and list each normally.

  • This is the first sentence of my list.
  • This bullet has two sentences. Again, just make sure to use proper grammar with your list items.
  • This is just a third sentence to make the list look better.

When using single words and phrases as bulleted items, always capitalize the first letter and use no punctuation.

  • Software contracts
  • Bookstore operations
  • Café hours


Campus names are considered proper names, so use upper case for the entire name.

  • Whitesburg Campus
  • Technology Drive Campus

When referring to multiple campuses, lower case campuses.

  • Cooper, Newtown, Danville, Lawrenceburg and Georgetown campuses


In general, the serial or Oxford comma is not used in AP Style.

Use a comma to separate words in a list, but do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series.

  • Red, white and blue flags
  • Every Tom, Dick or Harry

However, AP does allow an Oxford comma if omitting it could make the meaning unclear.

  • Merle Haggard invited his two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson.

If items in the series contain commas themselves, use semicolons between all items.

  • The letters she wrote are dated August 7, 1918; May 12, 1935; and January 4, 1965.

When a conjunction such as and or but link to clauses that could stand alone as separate sentences, use a comma before the conjunction in most cases.

  • We wanted to go to the picnic, but it was raining.

Qualifiers such as Jr., Sr., and III are not set off by commas.

  • Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Charles Smith III

Set off the year when using dates with commas on both sides if a day of the month precedes it.

  • January 29, 1996, is the deadline.
  • January 1996 is the deadline.

Set off a parenthetical (nonrestrictive) expression with commas on both sides. Note that states following cities are parenthetical and require commas before and after.

  • The study, it was believed, had been falsified.
  • The members of the class, generally speaking, were happy to be there.
  • They visited Springfield, Ohio, on their last trip.

Commas appear after, not before, an expression in parentheses (like this), and they always go inside quotation marks, except when a quotation mark indicates inches.

See AP Stylebook for more information on comma use.


A participle, particularly at the beginning of a sentence, must have a noun or pronoun it can belong to or modify. The participle should be immediately followed by the noun it modifies.

  • Driving along the road, the house came into view.

The phrase driving along the road does not modify house. Rewrite:

  • The house came into view as we drove along the road.


Use an ellipsis (three dots . . .) to indicate the omission of one or more words in condensing quotes and other textual material. Space before and after the ellipsis and between periods within the ellipsis. If the ellipsis occurs inside a sentence, it consists of three dots; if it occurs at the end of a sentence, follow the ellipsis with a period for a total of four dots.


Gender is not synonymous with sex. Gender refers to a person’s social identity while sex refers to biological characteristics.

Gender nonconforming is acceptable in broad references: The group is providing scholarships for gender-nonconforming students.

LGBT and LGBTQ are acceptable in all references for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning and/or queer.

Language is evolving in all of these areas. See AP Stylebook for more information.


Use a hyphen to avoid ambiguity and in the following situations:

COMPOUND MODIFIERS: In general, when two or more words modify a noun, use hyphens.

  • a three-year-old child, a well-known physician

DO NOT hyphenate when compounds include "very" or adverbs ending in "-ly."

  • a very delicate procedure, an expertly performed operation

Most compound modifiers are NOT hyphenated when they appear after a noun.

  • The program, well known for its success, is part of the School of Education.
  • The program is world renowned.

However, compounds with the prefix "well" are usually NOT hyphenated when they follow forms of "to be."

COMPOUND WORDS: Avoid hyphenating compound words whenever possible, unless hyphens are necessary to avoid confusing the reader or to avoid an awkward junction. Note: check the AP Style Guide or a current dictionary if you have questions about specific words.

  • coworker, freelance, inpatient, statewide, nonresident, noncredit, posttraumatic BUT co-opt, anti-utopian.

Certain compounds should be spelled as two words when used as adverbs or nouns (full time, part time, fund raising, off campus) but hyphenated when used as adjectives.

  • She has a part-time job in order to attend school full time.
  • On-campus housing is limited, and many students live off campus.

Use a hyphen when the base word begins with a capital letter.

  • non-American  

Use a hyphen when referring to first-professional degrees or levels of residency.

  • first-professional degree, second-year resident

BREAKS: If a word already contains a hyphen, do not break it at the end of a line.

  • self-knowledge NOT self-knowl-edge

Do not allow a single letter of a word to stand alone at the beginning or end of a line. NOT E-gyptian, NOT a-lone.


AP does not italicize words in news stories, so do not italicize in news releases.


When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. Spell out when using alone.

When a phrase lists only a month and a year, do not separate the year with commas: January 2016 was a cold month.

When a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with commas: Feb. 14, 2018, was the target date.


Use single space after a period at the end of a sentence.

Periods always go inside quotation marks.

Abbreviations using only the initials of a name do not use periods.

  • LBJ
  • MLK
  • JFK


Quotes within quotes: Alternate between double quotation marks (“or”) and single quotation marks (‘or’):

She said, I quote from his letter, “I agree with Kipling that ‘the female of the species is more deadly than the male. But the phenomenon is not an unchangeable law of nature,’ a remark he did not explain.”

Placement with other punctuation:

  • The period and the comma always go within the quotation marks.
  • The dash, the semicolon, the question mark and the exclamation point go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only. They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence.


Consider carefully when deciding whether to identify people by race. Often it is an irrelevant factor and drawing unnecessary attention to someone’s race or ethnicity can be interpreted as bigotry.

Dual heritage – No hyphen for terms such as African American, Asian American, etc.

African American and black are not necessarily interchangeable terms. Follow a person’s preference.

The terms people of color and racial minority/minorities are generally acceptable. When talking about just one group, be specific: Chinese Americans or members of the Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida.

Biracial, multicultural – Acceptable, when clearly relevant, to describe people of more than one racial heritage. Avoid mixed race, which can carry negative connotations.

Chicano – A term that Mexican Americans in the U.S. Southwest sometimes use to describe their heritage. Use only if it is a person’s preference.

Latino, Latina – Latino is often the preferred noun or adjective for a person from, or whose ancestors were from, a Spanish speaking land or culture from Latin American. Latina is the feminine form. Some prefer the neutral term Latinx, which should be confined to quotes, names of organizations or descriptions of individuals who request it and should be accompanied by a short explanation.

  • Hernandez prefers the gender-neutral term Latinx.

Hispanic is also generally acceptable for those in the U.S. Use more specific identification when possible, such as Cuban, Puerto Rican, Brazilian or Mexican American.

American Indians, Native Americans – Both are acceptable terms in general reference to those in the U.S. when referring to two or more people of different tribal affiliations. For individuals, use the name of the tribe, if available.

First nation is the preferred term for native tribes of Canada.

Indian is used to describe the peoples and cultures of the South Asian nation of India. Do not use the term as shorthand for American Indian.

Orient, Oriental – Do not use when referring to East Asian nations and their peoples. Asian is the acceptable term.

See the AP Stylebook for more information on race-related writing.


In general, use the semicolon to indicate a greater separation of thought and information than a comma can convey, but less than the separation that a period implies. Use semicolons to separate elements of a series when the items in the series are long or when individual segments contain material that also must be set off by commas.

  • He is survived by a son, John Smith, of Chicago; three daughters, Jane Smith, of Wichita, Kan., Mary Smith, of Denver, and Susan Smith, of Boston; and a sister, Martha, of Omaha, Neb.

Use a semicolon when a coordinating conjunction such as and, but or for is not present.

  • The package was due last week; it arrived today.


In general, avoid awkward constructions that split infinitive forms of a verb. (Ex.: to leave, had left)

  • Awkward: She was ordered to immediately leave on her assignment.
  • Preferred: She was ordered to leave immediately on her assignment.


For times, use figures except for noon and midnight. Also, do not use 12 noon or 12 midnight.

Avoid other redundancies such as: 10 a.m. this morning, 10 p.m. tonight.

Use days of the week instead of the date within seven days before or after the current date.

Follow these examples for times:

  • 9 a.m.
  • 9:30 a.m.
  • 9-11 a.m.
  • 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.


In general, confine capitalization to formal titles used directly before an individual’s name.

  • President Jay Box (Note: Never President Dr. Jay Box)
  • Congressman Hal Rogers
  • Pope Francis

Lower case and spell out titles when they are not used with a name.

  • The president issued a statement.
  • The pope gave his blessing.

Capitalize and spell out academic titles when they precede a name, as illustrated above. Lowercase elsewhere. Always use the person’s exact title. For example, do not presume all instructors are professors.

  • Jay Box, president of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), is the second president of the system.
  • Jane Smith, director of financial aid, made a presentation at the conference.

Do not precede a name with a courtesy title for an academic degree and follow it with the abbreviation for the degree in the same reference.

  • NO - Dr. Jay K. Box, Ed.D.

Do not use Dr. before the names of individuals who hold doctoral degrees. Instead, when necessary or appropriate, for a specific audience:

  • Casandra Jones, who has a doctorate in mathematics, was the lead researcher.
  • In a list: Cassandra Jones, Ph.D.

Lowercase modifiers such as department in: department Chairwoman Christine Jones.

The following formal titles are capitalized and abbreviated as shown when used before a name.

  • Gov.
  • Lt. Gov.
  • Dr.
  • Rep.
  • Sen.
  • Certain military ranks