Santa Clara University

Office of Marketing and Communications

SCU Editorial Style Guide


a, an

Use "a" before a pronounced h:

  • a historian
  • a horse
  • a hysterical joke

Use "an" before an aspirated h:

  • an hour
  • an honest man

Remember this rule by the following example:

  • They  will go on a hike up a hill in an hour.

See time.


A few universally recognized abbreviations are required in some circumstances. Some others are acceptable depending on the context. But in general, avoid alphabet soup. Don't use periods for three-letter or longer abbreviations.

  • SCU
  • NATO
    Two-letter abbreviations use periods
  • U.S.
  • U.C.
  • S.J.

In general, avoid using abbreviations on first reference. If an abbreviation is acceptable in all references or on second reference, it does not mean its use should be automatic. Let the context determine, for example, whether to use Federal Bureau of Investigation or FBI.

When an abbreviation will be used on subsequent references, but not the first, put the abbreviation in parenthesis after the first reference.

  • The Santa Clara Community Action Program (SCCAP)

Also see academic degrees.

academic degrees

Lowercase: bachelor of arts, bachelor’s degree, juris doctor, master’s degree, honorary doctorate.

Abbreviations of two letters should use periods:

  • B.A., M.A., J.D., M.S.

No periods for abbreviations with three or more letters (BSEE, MBA), EXCEPT for Ph.D., M.Div., Th.M., and  LL.M. In a sentence, use:

  • Joe Smith, who earned a bachelor of arts degree from Santa Clara University, has been appointed CEO of ABC company.
  • NOT Joe Smith, who earned a B.A. from Santa Clara University…

Include the two-digit year of graduation after a name to indicate that a person has earned an undergraduate degree from Santa Clara. Do not include an accronym such as B.A. Note that the apostrophe faces away from the numerals.

  • Joe Smith ’57

For alumni who have earned a graduate degree, precede the year of graduation with an accronym indicating the degree. This rule does not apply to law school publications, where J.D. is default.

  • Joe Smith MBA ’59

If a person has earned more than one degree from SCU, list the undergraduate degree year first, others after. Each degree is separated by a comma.

  • Joe Smith ’57, M.A. ’59 -- note that the apostrophe faces away from the numerals.

If more than one graduate from the same family is mentioned, write:

  • Joe ’43 and Mary Smith ’45, attended the Grand Reunion with their children.
  • NOT Joe ’43 and Mary ’45 Smith…

If a degree from a school other than Santa Clara University is mentioned in a title, list the degree without the year of graduation. If the year of graduation must be mentioned, offset the school's name with parenthesis:

  • PREFERRED Joe Smith '43, J.D.
  • Joe Smith '43, J.D. (Stanford University) '46. In this case Joe Smith graduated from Santa Clara University in 1943, and received a juris doctor from Stanford in 1946.


academic departments

(also see capitalization)

Lowercase unless using the formal title or proper nouns.

  • Students can get more information about the tour in the Department of Civil Engineering, the English department, the history department or the education department.


  • College of Arts and Sciences
  • School of Education and Counseling Psychology
  • Leavey School of Business
  • School of Engineering
  • School of Law
  • Jesuit School of Theology

Lowercase references to disciplines unless they are part of proper names:

  • He is studying music.
  • He is taking a couple of courses this quarter in the Music Department.
  • He is a law professor.
  • She majored in business.
  • Jane Smith, a philosophy major, won first place.
academic titles

Capitalize and spell out before names; lowercase after:

  • I am studying chemistry with Assistant Professor John Smith.
  • John Smith, assistant professor of chemistry.


If the name of an office, department, or college is part of the title, capitalization rules apply:

  • Jim Smith, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences
  • Mary Lewis, professor in the history department

Faculty titles

  • assistant professor
  • acting assistant professor
  • associate professor
  • professor

Other faculty titles

  • lecturer
  • senior lecturer
  • visiting faculty: holds equivalent rank at another college or university. Appointments are usually for one year and in no case for more than three years.
  • adjunct faculty: part-time appointments
  • special appointments: Distinguished artists, scholars, scientists, engineers, executives, statesmen, and others may be granted appointments-in-residence from time to time, as approved by the provost.
  • professor emeritus: A tenured associate or full professor, upon retirement from outstanding service at Santa Clara University, is eligible for this title, which is awarded by the president.

Student, faculty, and staff card used for identification and admittance to certain campus locations. It is also a library card, dining payment method, and flex account debit card. Note that the entire word “ACCESS” is capitalized.


An acronym is a word formed from the first letter or letters of a series of words: laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation). An abbreviation is not an acronym. In general, do not use acronyms in first reference that the reader would not quickly recognize. Some examples of readily recognizable acronyms include:

  • LAN (acronym for local area network)
  • radar (a lowercase acronym for radio detection and ranging)
  • CD-ROM (acronym for compact disc acting as read-only memory)

DO NOT use an apostrophe to pluralize acronyms: FAQs, RLCs.



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 without a number:

  • Pennsylvania Avenue

Lowercase and spell out when used alone or with more than one street name:

  • Massachusetts and Pennsylvania avenues

Spell out streets using First through Ninth, use figures for 10th and above:

  • Fifth Avenue
  • 12th Street

Aside from Ave., Blvd., and St., as noted above, do not abbreviate other street names even when used with a numbered address:

  • 2700 Homestead Road
  • Accolti Way


  • the governor’s administration
  • the president's administration
  • the Obama administration
admission, admissions

Use the singular, not the plural, for Undergraduate Admission.

Use plural in a sentence:

  • Learn more about the admissions process…

Use plural for all graduate programs’ admissions offices:

  • Admissions, Leavey School of Business Graduate Programs
  • Admissions, School of Engineering Graduate Programs
  • Admissions, School of Education and Counseling Psychology
  • Admissions, School of Law
  • Admissions, Graduate Program in Pastoral Ministries
  • Admissions, Jesuit School of Theology

NOT adviser. This is an exception to AP Stylebook.

affect, effect

In general, affect is used as a verb (meaning to influence) or adjective (influenced by); effect is generally used as a noun (meaning result). When you affect a situation, you have an effect on it.

  • The game will affect the standings.
  • The effect of the program was tremendous.
  • The storm had no effect on power systems.

Although both words have other meanings, these are the most common usages. Avoid other uses when possible to prevent confusion.

African American

Only hyphenate as a modifier. Ex. African-American students. Her ethnicity is African American.

The term is acceptable for an American person of African descent, but be careful not to apply it indiscriminately. For instance, Caribbean descendants generally refer to themselves as Caribbean Americans. The term black is also acceptable. The way ethnicity is described can be a sensitive matter. If possible, consult with the person in question to see what racial reference he/she prefers.


See numbers.

Age of Santa Clara University

Santa Clara University was founded in on March 19, 1851. When refering to the age of the University, update on March 19 (Founder's Day) of each calendar year. 

For example, as of January 1, 2014, SCU can be refered to as 162 years old. On March 19, 2014, SCU can be refered to as 163 years old.

alumni organizations

Alumni Association Official name of the organization for all SCU alumni, both undergraduate and graduate. Includes the National Alumni Association Board of Directors (elected officials who oversee the association programs) and the Gianera Society (for alumni whose class graduated 50 years ago or more).

Capitalize when using proper name, lowercase on second reference:

  • The Alumni Association hosted the Grand Reunion from Oct. 15-18 last year. The event was a huge success for the association.

Alumni Office The University office of alumni programs and affairs, located in Donohoe Alumni House. May sometimes be referred to as alumni relations, although Alumni Office is the preferred term at SCU.

Alumni Online DirectoryThe Alumni Association's directory for basic contact information searches.This directory is also the location where alumni can update their contact information, indicate their interests or opt out of specific e-mail communications.

inCircle The Alumni Association's exclusive online community. This community is primarily used for professional networking and career search as well as social connection. Note mixed-case spelling of inCircle.

alumnus, alumni, alumna, alumnae

Any student who completed either a minimum of one undergraduate year or earned a graduate degree is categorized as an alumnus/alumna.

  • Alumnus is a man who attended SCU.
  • Alumni refers to a group of men, or a group of men and women.
  • Alumna is a woman who attended SCU.
  • Alumnae refers to a group of women who attended SCU.


ampersand (&)

Do not use in text copy unless it is part of a company's or law firm's proper name. Don't substitute for the word and.

EXCEPTION: it may be used as a design element or as part of a brochure title.


Lowercase in general but capitalize when saying the Twelve Apostles.


See punctuation.


Short for application. A program that runs inside another service. Many cell phones allow applications to be downloaded to expand their functions. App is acceptable on second reference.


Not appendices.


Lowercase except when used as part of a proper name:

  • the Archdiocese of San Jose
area codes

No parentheses or periods. Use a hyphen to separate area code: 408-554-0000


Associated Student Government. Refers to student government on campus. May also be abbreviated as ASGSCU.

Asian American

Only hyphenate as a modifier. Ex. Asian-American students. His ethnicity is Asian American.

The term is used to describe a person of Asian birth or descent who lives in the U.S. When possible, refer to a person's country of origin.

For example: Filipino-American or Indian-American.

The way ethnicity is described can be a sensitive matter. If possible, consult with the person in question to see what racial reference he/she prefers.

assistant, associate

Never abbreviate. Capitalize only when part of a formal title before a name. See academic titles.

awhile, a while

Awhile means for a short period of time, whereas a while refers to an infinite period of time.

  • After the heavy lunch, John slept awhile.
  • He plans to stay for a while.
the Adobe Wall

Always capitalize.

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