The KCTCS Editorial Style Guide provides guidelines for PR directors, staff, employees and other writers on our campuses. The purpose is to help produce consistency throughout KCTCS publications and the Web site.

The guidelines are based on the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook, Webster's New World Dictionary, and local usage. In cases of conflict, the KCTCS Style Guide supersedes the AP Stylebook and AP supersedes Webster's. Entries address questions that may commonly arise when writing about KCTCS, such as building and place names and proper reference to various KCTCS entities. Please consult the AP Stylebook or Webster's Dictionary for further reference.



Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s and master’s degree. There is no possessive in Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science.

Also: associate degree with no S

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

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 are not the target audience.


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.


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 nouns ending in s, form the possessive by adding’s.

  • Columbus’s voyage
  • 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


Use a comma to separate words in a list, but do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series. Note: This is an AP Style rule. The serial or Oxford comma is not used in AP Style.

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

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 following a person’s name, qualifiers such as Ph.D. and M.D. are preceded by a comma. A second comma follows the qualifier in running text.

  • Ross Dalbey, Ph.D.
  • The opening remarks by Ross Dalbey, Ph.D., set the tone for the conference.

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.


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.


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 exception to this is modifiers that follow forms of the verb "to be."

  • 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.


For singular nouns ending in s, use add apostrophe s to make it possessive.

  • Columbus’s


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.


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.


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.


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

Italicize the titles of books, plays, films, long poems, long musical compositions, works of visual art, magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, and radio and television programs.

  • The Great Gatsby
  • The New York Times
  • All Things Considered
  • Game of Thrones


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