When all of us adhere to one writing style, our web pages will be clear and consistent across the college.
This section outlines AHS style for the most common written elements for which hard rules don’t apply and format is a matter of choice. The primary source for this document is the UIC Terminology and Punctuation Guide, which is based largely on the Associated Press Stylebook.
In a few rare cases, AHS style departs from recommendations found in either the UIC or AP guide. To answer your style questions, refer to these documents in order until you find your answer:
You can use Merriam-Webster to check spellings.
Write for all readers. Some people might read every word you write, but many will just skim. Help everyone read more easily by grouping related ideas together and using descriptive headers and subheads.
Focus your message. Create a hierarchy of information. Lead with the most important point(s).
Be concise. Use short words and sentences. Avoid unnecessary modifiers.
Be specific. Avoid vague language. Avoid jargon, abbreviations and acronyms.
Be consistent. Stick to the copy patterns and style points outlined in this guide.
Abbreviations and acronyms
With very rare exception (see below), never use an abbreviation or acronym on first reference. You may use a shortened form on subsequent references if you’re confident the reader will recognize it.
First use: Americans with Disabilities Act
Second use: ADA
First use: Model of Human Occupation (MOHO) Clearinghouse
Second use: MOHO
EXCEPTION: A few abbreviations and acronyms are so well known that their long form is virtually unknown (e.g., HTML, ATM, AAA, NASA). In those cases, use the short form even on first reference.
Use active voice as much as possible. Avoid passive voice.
In active voice, the subject of the sentence does the action. In passive voice, the subject of the sentence has the action done to it.
Active: Submit your application by January 15.
Passive: Your application must be submitted by January 15.
Words like “was” and “by” may indicate that you’re writing in passive voice. Scan for these words and rework sentences as needed.
We use a few different forms of capitalization. Title case capitalizes the first letter of every word except articles, prepositions and conjunctions. Sentence case capitalizes the first letter of the first word.
When writing out an email address or website URL, use all lowercase.
Don’t capitalize random words in the middle of sentences. Here are some words that we never capitalize in a sentence.
They’re great! Standard contractions give your writing an informal, friendly tone. Use them as you see fit.
With a few exceptions (see below), spell out a numbers that are less than 10. Spell out any number that begins a sentence. Otherwise, use the numeral. This also applies to ordinals.
- Ten new employees started on Monday, and 12 more start next week.
- I ate three cookies at the orientation lunch.
- Meg won first place in the 2016 competition.
- We hosted a group of 10th graders who are learning to code.
Numbers over three digits take commas:
EXCEPTION: Numerals are always used to represent:
Ages: At the age of 32, John decided he needed a master’s degree.
Dates (without st, nd, rd, th): May 10
Times: 4 p.m.
Millions, billions, etc.: The CEO made a $1 million donation.
Class year and degree
First, when contracting a class year from four digits to two, be sure you use an apostrophe, not a single quotation mark.
When it is preferable or necessary to indicate class year and degree, use the following format. Note the lack of commas separating any elements:
- John Jones ’11 MS BVIS
When student/alumnus status is not obvious from the context, use a more narrative construction, such as :
- John Jones, who earned his master’s in biomedical visualization in 2011, …
- Lisa Jackson, who will graduate in 2017 with a bachelor’s in kinesiology, …
When a person has multiple degrees, list each one in chronological order, separated by commas.
- Michael Garcia ’97 BS HIM, ’00 MS HI
For more complex constructions, such as listing multiple alumni in one sentence, refer to the “class year, class year abbreviations” entry in UIC’s Terminology and Punctuation Guide.
Dates for events in our calendar will be automatically formatted.
If you are referring to dates in narrative text, spell out the day of the week and abbreviate the month, unless you’re referring only to the month or to the month and the year.
- Saturday, Jan. 24
- Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015
- Jan. 24
- January 2015
Always use numerals, without -st, -nd, – rd or -th.
- DO NOT USE: Jan. 24th, Jan. 1st
Avoid the following constructions: 1/24/16, 1-24-16, 24 Jan 2016
News entries on our site will be automatically dated. Therefore, it is safe to omit the year in the narrative portion of the news piece.
- Professor Jackson presented the research at conference on June 11. (not June 11, 2016.)
Decimals and fractions
Spell out fractions.
Use decimal points when a number can’t be easily written out as a fraction, like 1.375 or 47.2.
When writing about U.S. currency, use the dollar sign before the amount. Include a decimal and number of cents only if the cents are more than 0.
When writing about dollar values in the millions, follow this format:
Use dashes without spaces between numbers.
- (555) 867-5309
Be mindful that five-digit UIC extensions will be inadequate for anyone calling from a noncampus phone. Always include all 10 digits when writing a phone number.
Use numerals and a.m. or p.m. Don’t use minutes for on-the-hour times.
- 7 a.m.
- 7:30 p.m.
To express a time range in running text, use “from” and “to”:
- The luncheon presentation will run from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
A hyphen is acceptable when the time range stands relatively alone:
- Department meeting: Noon – 3 p.m.
Use “noon” or “midnight” to indicate 12pm or 12am, respectively.
If both times in a range are in the morning or in the afternoon/evening, use am or pm only once
- The class is offered from 2:30 to 4 p.m. every Monday.
- The class is offered from 11:30 a.m. to 1pm every Monday.
It is not necessary to specify time zone for most events. Our site users will assume Central time.
If abbreviating a decade, omit the apostrophe.
- the 00s
- the 90s
Don’t use ampersands unless one is part of a company or brand name.
- Ben and Dan
- Ben & Jerry’s
Apostrophe (to form possessives)
The apostrophe’s most common use is making a word possessive. If a word already ends in an s and it is singular, you also add an ‘s. If the word ends in an s and is plural, just add an apostrophe.
Singular noun not ending in s: Add ‘s.
- the school’s needs
Singular common nouns ending in s: Add ‘s unless the next word begins with s.
- the hostess’s invitation, the hostess’ seat
Singular proper names ending in s: Use only an apostrophe.
- Achilles’ heel
Plural nouns not ending in s: Add ‘s.
- the alumni’s contributions
Plural nouns ending in s: Add only an apostrophe.
- the schools’ needs
Nouns plural in form, singular in meaning: Add only an apostrophe.
- mathematics’ rules, measles’ effects.
Nouns the same in singular and plural: Treat them the same as plurals, even if the meaning is singular.
- both deer’s tracks, the lone moose’s antlers.
Joint possession, individual possession: Use a possessive form after only the last word if ownership is joint. Use a possessive form after both words if the objects are individually owned.
- Fred and Sylvia’s apartment
- Fred’s and Sylvia’s bodies
Use a colon (rather than an ellipses, em dash or comma) to offset a list.
- Erin ordered three kinds of donuts: glazed, chocolate and pumpkin.
You can also use a colon to join two related phrases. If a complete sentence follows the colon, capitalize the first word.
- I was faced with a dilemma: I wanted a donut, but I’d just eaten a bagel.
When writing a series, do not use the serial comma (also known as the Oxford comma).
Yes: David eats vegetables, whole grain and protein at every dinner.
No: David eats vegetables, whole grain, and protein at every dinner.
EXCEPTION: When one of the items in the series contains a conjunction, use the serial comma.
Yes: David’s favorite sandwiches are turkey, roast beef, and peanut butter and jelly.
No: David’s favorite sandwiches are turkey, roast beef and peanut butter and jelly.
Dashes and hyphens
Use a hyphen (-) without spaces on either side to avoid ambiguity by forming a single idea from two or more words, especially to modify a noun.
- first-time user
- second-semester sophomore
Use an em dash (—) without spaces on either side to offset an aside. Make sure it’s a true em dash, not one ore more hyphens (- or –).
- The professor—along with the six students—presented a poster at the conference
To express a range in running text, it is preferable to use “from,” “through” and “to,” rather than a hyphen.
- The course will run from August through mid-December.
- The class is offered from 2:30 to 4pm every Monday.
Ellipses are primarily used to indicated that words have been omitted from a quote. Use them with a space on both sides.
“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union … do ordain and establish this constitution … .”
Use exclamation points sparingly, and never more than one at a time. They’re like high-fives: A well-timed one is great, but too many can be annoying. When in doubt, don’t.
Punctuation goes outside parentheses when the parenthetical statement is part of a larger sentence, and inside parentheses when the parenthetical statement stands alone as a complete sentence.
- I ate a donut (and a bagel).
- I ate a donut and a bagel. (The donut was Sam’s?)
Use quotes to indicate direct quotations and titles of short works (like articles and papers).
Periods, commas and exclamation marks always go inside quotation marks.
- Christy said, “I ate a donut.”
- The article, “Donuts’ deliciousness might be dangerous,” was published last month.
Question marks go inside quotation marks when the quote itself is a question. The go outside quotation marks when the whole sentence is a question.
- She asked, “What are you reading?”
- Can you believe he responded, “none of your business”?
Use single quotation marks for quotes within quotes.
- Who was it that said, “A fool and his money are soon parted”?
- Brad said, “There’s that famous expression, ‘A fool and his money are soon parted.’”
Semicolons are useful to indicate a greater separation of information than a comma can convey but less than that a period implies.
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.
Use semicolons to separate items in a series when the those items are long or when the items contain content that also must be set off by commas
- He is survived by his children John Smith, of Chicago; Jane Smith, of New York; Mary Smith, of Denver.
People, places and things
When writing street addresses, abbreviate directions and street types.
1919 W. Taylor St.
1640 W. Roosevelt Rd.
808 S. Polk St.
When writing UIC addresses, include building, room number and mail code on one line after the street address
901 W. Roosevelt Rd.
999 PEB (MC 194)
Chicago, IL 60608
or, if space does not allow for stacked lines:
901 W. Roosevelt Rd., 999 PEB (MC 194), Chicago, IL 60608
When referring to degrees in general terms, use all lowercase.
- bachelor’s degree
- master’s degree
- doctoral degree
Capitalize principal words of specific degrees and do not use an apostrophe.
- Bachelor of Science
- Master of Science
- Doctor of Occupational Therapy
Abbreviate without periods. When the degree abbreviation is extremely rare or is likely to be unfamiliar to your readers, spell out the degree.
When including a major or degree program in running text, capitalize only an official diploma title.
- She is earning a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.
- He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology.
- She received a Master of Science in biomedical visualization.
- He graduated with a bachelor’s in nutrition.
- She completed her PhD in biomedical and health informatics.
- He earned a doctorate in disability studies.
- She is a health information management major at UIC.
- He is a student in UIC’s physical therapy program.
When referring generally to a file extension type, use all uppercase without a period. Add a lowercase s to make plural.
When referring to a specific file, the filename should be lowercase:
Names and titles
The first time you mention a person in writing, refer to them by their first and last names.
On subsequent references: use first name only for students; use last name only for faculty and staff.
- Steve Peterson will graduate next year. Steve plans to go on to medical school.
- Professor Sam Davidson received the award. Davidson has been teaching in the program since 2010.
Capitalize a person’s title in running text if (1) you’re using it directly before the person’s name and (2) it is a title that would be used to address the person directly.
- The keynote will be delivered by Chancellor Michael Amiridis.
- hancellor Amiridis arrived only minutes before taking the stage.
Capitalize when the person’s complete name and title are standing alone.
- Michael Amiridis, Chancellor
Lowercase and set off with commas when the title follows the person’s name in running text.
- Michael Amiridis, chancellor , will deliver the keynote.
Lowercase if using generically.
- Michael Amiridis is the chancellor at UIC.
If a title is occupational, or if it is not a title that would be used to directly address the person, do not capitalize.
- physical therapist Kevin Johnson
- business manager Kate Miller
- associate professor of nutrition Andrew Lee
Proper names of people and places
Capitalize proper names, including common nouns that are an integral part of the official name of a place or thing.
- College of Applied Health Sciences
- Office of Student Affairs
- Millennium Park
- Brookfield Zoo
Lowercase these nouns when they stand alone in subsequent references
- The Office of Student Affairs is located in AHSB. The office opens at 8:30am.
- Millennium Park is a jewel of Chicago. Amazing public art pieces can be found in the park.
When writing the names of multiple institutions of the same type, lowercase the common noun:
- The Graduate and Honors colleges are located on the east side of campus.
If a person’s name includes “Jr.” or “III” or similar notation, omit the comma between it and the person’s name.
In general, when quoting someone as if from an interview conducted with that person, use the present tense to attribute quotes.
“Attending UIC was the best decision I ever made,” says (not said) Jamie Smith.
EXCEPTION: When the quote is directly tied to a specific moment in the past, use past tense.
On the day she graduated, Jamie Smith looked her husband in the eye and said, “Attending UIC was the best decision I ever made.”
States, cities and countries
Per AP Style, all cities should be accompanied by their state, with the exception of: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington.
United States can be abbreviated U.S. (with periods) even on first mention. However, for foreign countries or federations with a fairly well known abbreviations, spell out the full name on first reference (European Union, EU; United Kingdom, UK).
Titles of publications
Use title case and italics for titles of books, journals, magazines and newspapers.
Use sentence case and quotation marks around titles of chapters, papers and articles.
Capitalize the names of websites and web publications. Don’t italicize.
URLs and websites
Avoid spelling out URLs, but when you need to, leave off the “http://www.”
Writing about other organizations
Honor organizations’ own names for themselves and their products. Check their official websites to confirm you have it correct.
- iPad, not Ipad
- Yahoo!, not Yahoo
- Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, not Hull House
If an organization’s name includes “Inc.” or similar suffix, it is OK to omit the comma preceding it, even if it appears with a comma on the organization’s website.
Refer to a company or product as “it,” not “they.”
Don’t use underline formatting; it is confusing to users who expect underline text to be links.
Left-align text, never center or right.
Leave one space, not two, after punctuation at the end of sentences.
Use positive language rather than negative language. One way to detect negative language is to look for words like “can’t,” “don’t,” etc.
Yes: To get a donut, stand in line.
No: You can’t get a donut if you don’t stand in line.