Editorial Style

This compilation of guidelines and resources is designed to help writers, editors, and proofreaders in the Division of Marketing and Communications in the production of quality print and Web-based  communications. Even though the activities we undertake here are many and varied, it’s important to be unified in the way we present WPI to the outside world. Spelling/grammatical errors and inconsistencies in style can distract readers. Our collective goal is always to maintain the highest standards in communications for the university.

Although some publications (posters, formal invitations, for example) may not necessarily adhere to these guidelines, there is a campus-wide effort to unify our publications. Standards have been set within this document to improve the level of consistency across campus.

The creators of this guide aspire to demonstrate a level of consistency among WPI writing projects. It is based in large part on two widely respected reference works—The Chicago Manual of Style and the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, with some exceptions to those rules. It also lists terms that are unique to WPI.  (If we have missed any, please let us know.)

Please think of it as a work in progress. Our plan is to update it often, both to reflect current usage and to keep up with changes on campus. We hope others will also find it useful and, in fact, encourage input from all members of the WPI community as to how to make it more relevant and/or complete. It is organized alphabetically, with cross-references to make searches easier. Some entries are listed simply to clarify spelling. Please contact us with questions or updates.

WPI Marketing and Communications

A / B / C / D / E / F / G / H / I / J / K / L / M / N / O / P / Q / R / S / T / U / V / W / Y / Z / Appendix

A’s (B’s, etc.)

She earned straight A’s at WPI.

a cappella
Means “without instrumental accompaniment.” A cappella is not italicized.

The a cappella group Simple Harmonic Motion performed on campus last Sunday.

a lot, alot

A lot of people attended the concert. (There is no such word as alot.)

a, an
Use a before consonant sounds, an before vowel sounds.

a historic event
a one-year term
an energy crisis
an honorable man
an NBA record

academic degrees

See degrees, academic

academic titles

See titles

academic years
Academic years are lowercased, but years (classes) that act as proper names should be capitalized.
The preferred style for freshman is first year student.

She is a first year student at WPI; her brother is a senior.
John is a member of the Class of 2009.

accent marks

See foreign words and phrases

Acronyms are abbreviations that spell out pronounceable words.
Some acronyms tend to become lowercase (or initial cap) with frequent use.

Alcoa, ARCO, NATO, NAFTA, radar, scuba, UNICEF

If the acronym could be unfamiliar to your readers or if it spells out an existing word, there are two ways to accomplish this (on first reference).

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology)

Some acronyms don’t have a full version and are referred to only by the acronym


See WPI abbreviations and acronyms

Spell out and capitalize Avenue, Boulevard, Building, Court, Drive, Lane, Parkway, Place, Road, Square, Street, and Terrace when they are part of an address or name. Lowercase these words when they stand alone or are used collectively following two or more proper names.

Boynton and Dean streets

Capitalize (but don’t spell out) the abbreviations used in some city addresses after the street name (no comma):

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Building numbers are most always given as figures:

20 Trowbridge Road; 100 Institute Road
WPI exception: One Drury Lane (president’s residence)

See addresses on envelopes and postcards; addresses in running text

addresses, fax, web, email
While it is necessary to make distinctions between telephone numbers and fax numbers, it is no longer necessary to call special attention to an e-mail or Internet address. For consistency, use these terms in the same order throughout documents. Use fax: to distinguish from a telephone number. It is not necessary to indicate telephone, email, website, Internet with these elements.

Department of Physics
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
100 Institute Road
Worcester, MA 01609-2280
fax: +1-508-831-5886

addresses in running text
Use standard abbreviations and not postal abbreviations for state names; use commas to separate units:

He is a Worcester, Mass., native.

Exception: If a zip code is provided with an address in running text, use the postal abbreviation but no comma between city and state:

For information on the next conference, write to WPI, 100 Institute Road, Worcester MA 01609-2280.

See state names, standard abbreviations

addresses on envelopes and postcards
USPS prefers addresses to be in capital letters with no punctuation. Use state postal codes and z+4 codes whenever possible. Print country name by itself on last line.

John Boynton
100 Institute Road
Worcester, MA 01609-2280

See state names

administrative departments and programs

Air Force and Aerospace Studies
Biology and Biotechnology
Biomedical Engineering
Chemical Engineering
Chemistry and Biochemistry
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Computer Science
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Fire Protection Engineering
Humanities and Arts
    Music Division
    Theatre and Theatre Technology
Interdisciplinary and Global Studies (IGSD)
    Industrial Engineering (MG)
Mathematical Sciences
Mechanical Engineering
    Aerospace Engineering
    Manufacturing Engineering Program (ME)
    Materials Science and Engineering Program (ME)
Military Science (Army ROTC)
Naval Science (NROTC) (at Holy Cross)
Physical Education and Athletics
Social Science and Policy Studies

Use advisor (not adviser) for WPI faculty and staff who work with students.
Affect (verb) means to influence:

The decision will affect the cost of insurance.

Affect (noun) is a term used primarily in psychology to describe an emotion.

He exhibited no affect when I spoke to him.

Effect (verb) means to cause:

He will effect many changes in the company.

Effect (noun) means result:

The effect was overwhelming.

African American
No hyphen

African American students volunteered to work with children in local schools.

See ethnic and racial designations

Always use numerals—

He is 30 years old; he has a 2-year-old son.

The correct adjective is All-America.
An individual team member is called an All-American.

John is an All-America quarterback. Jane is an All-American.

all right
Two words
alum, alums
Use only in direct quotations.
alumna, alumnae, alumnus, alumni
Alumna is feminine singular; alumnae is feminine plural.
Alumnus is masculine (or nongender) singular; alumni is masculine (or mixed-gender) plural.

Joan is an alumna of WPI. Joan and Linda are alumnae.
Henry is an alumnus. Henry and George are alumni. Joan and George are alumni.
Each alumnus will receive an invitation.

alumni class years
In running text:

John Smith, a 1927 WPI graduate, was there.
Please welcome 1927 graduate John Smith.
Her dad is John Smith ’27, ’29 (MS)

Identify all alumni who appear in WPI publications with class year:

John A. Smith ‘68
Mary W. Jones ‘92 (MS)
Alfred E. Neuman ‘85 (PhD)
John A. Smith ‘68, ‘71 (MS), ‘75 (PhD)
John A. Smith ‘68, ‘71 (MS ECE), ‘75 (PhD ECE)

Use full years for graduates of the early 1900s (to avoid confusion with 21st century alumni/students).

John Smith 1906

When crediting an accomplishment to two or more alumni, list them chronologically.

Jack Smith ’72, Steven Jones ’74, and Mary Brown ’75 received the highest award.

When two people are listed as a couple and only one is a graduate, the class year is listed after the graduate’s last name; if both are alumni, list each year:

Mary and John Smith ’52
Jack and Joan Jones ’83
Susan ’99 and David Clark ’98

Note: Use apostrophe with class year (not single quote, which faces the opposite direction).

See time

among, between
Among implies more than two objects; between is used for two.

They distributed gifts among the children.
They divided the money between Sharon and me.

ampersand (&)
Use only when it is an official part of the name or title.

Johnson & Johnson; Procter & Gamble
Department of Humanities and Arts


See Punctuation Appendix


See ethnic and racial designations

assure, ensure, insure
Assure: to make a person confident of something
Ensure: to make sure something happens.
Insure: to issue an insurance policy.


See games, athletics

In running text, if the word Award is part of the name, it is capitalized.

The team received the Provost’s MQP Award; last year Mary was awarded the Two Towers Prize.


Salisbury Prize
Two Towers Prize
Sigma Xi Awards in Engineering and Science
President’s IQP Awards
Provost’s MQP Awards
Marietta E. Anderson Award
Bonnie-Blanche Schoonover Award
Ellen Knott Award
Wilmer L. and Margaret M. Kranich Prize
Gertrude R. Rugg Award
United Technologies Corporation Minority Award
United Technologies Corporation and the Society of Women Engineers Award
Board of Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Academic Advising
Board of Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Teaching
Board of Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Scholarship
Denise Nicoletti Trustees’ Award for Service to Community
Romeo L. Moruzzi Young Faculty Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Education
Herbert F. Taylor Alumni Award for Distinguished Service to WPI
Robert H. Goddard Alumni Award for Outstanding Professional Achievement
John Boynton Young Alumni Award for Service to WPI
Ichabod Washburn Young Alumni Award for Professional Achievement
William R. Grogan Award for Support of the Mission of WPI
WPI Award for Distinguished Service
Humanitarian Leadership Award

The degree of bachelor conferred by some universities (though not WPI).
An annual event at WPI, held the evening before Commencement.

There will be two speakers at Baccalaureate next year.

See degrees, academic

bachelor’s degree

See degrees, academic

beside, besides
Beside means by the side of.

He rested beside the pool.

It is also used in idioms.

That’s beside the point.
I was beside myself with rage.

Besides means in addition, or in addition to.

The dean remained silent on the issue; besides, she was there only to observe.
Besides Fred, nine professors attended the meeting.


See among, between

between you and me
Use objective case me (object of preposition).

John gave gifts to Elizabeth and me.

See I/me


See ethnic and racial designations

board of trustees
On first reference to the university, capitalize board of trustees. Any other reference should be lowercase.

The WPI Board of Trustees decides on policy issues.
The university has a board of trustees.
The board decided to increase salaries.
The board of trustees decided it was time to increase salaries.
He is a trustee on the hospital board.
WPI trustee Judy Nitsch was at the meeting.
A motion was made by Trustee Nitsch.

bring, take
Bring implies motion toward the speaker or writer.

Bring the book to me when you come.

Take implies motion away from.

Take it with you when you leave.

When the point of view doesn’t matter, either term can be used

Silk worms were brought [or taken] from China to France.

buildings/properties of WPI, date erected *See also student housing

16 Elbridge
22 Schussler
25 Trowbridge
Alden Memorial, 1940
Alumni Gymnasium, 1916
Atwater Kent Laboratories, 1907
Bartlett Center, 2006
Boynton Hall, 1868
Rubin Campus Center, 2001
Daniels Hall, 1963
Earle Bridge, 1940
East Hall, 2008
Founders Hall, 1984
Fuller Apartments, 1972
Fuller Laboratories, 1990
Goddard Hall, 1965
Gordon Library, 1967
Haas Technical Center
Harrington Auditorium, 1968
Higgins House, 1923
Higgins Laboratories, 1941
Hughes House (the provost’s residence)
International House
Institute Hall, 1989
Jeppson House (One Drury Lane, the president’s residence)
Kaven Hall, 1954
Morgan Hall, 1958
Olin Hall, 1958
Power House
Project Center (formerly Foundry), 1902
Reunion Plaza and Fountain, 1996
Salisbury Laboratories, 1889
Sanford Riley Hall, 1926
Stoddard Complex, 1969
Stratton Hall, 1894
Skull Tomb (formerly Magnetics Lab), 1886
Unity House
Washburn Shops, 1868
WPI Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center (Gateway Park), 2007


See Punctuation appendix


capital, capitol
The word capital (lowercase c) refers to the city where a seat of government is located; when used as a financial term, it describes money, equipment, or property used in a business. Capitol (uppercase C) is the building in Washington, D.C.
Avoid the unnecessary use of capital letters. If there is no listing in this style guide for a particular word or phrase, consult M-W. Do not capitalize WPI majors, minors, programs of study, departments, or offices unless referring to an official title:

Joan is a physics major.
The Department of Physics is located in Olin Hall.
The Office of Admissions is in Bartlett Center.
Please speak with someone in the admissions office.

See faculty rank, academic titles, offices

Write captions in the present tense. A caption may be a complete sentence or a simple form of identification (name only; name, title). No need for period at end.

President Dennis D. Berkey
President Berkey introduces the evening’s guest
Sara Smith, winner of the Two Towers Prize
Sara Smith, left, receives this year’s Two Towers Prize

If there are only two people in a photo, it’s not necessary to use both left and right—

Mary Jones, left, and John Smith review plans for this year’s Strawberry Festival.
Company founders (from left, Miller, Davis, and Smith) meet once a year.



Lowercase and spell out numbers under 10.

the first century, the 21st century, 19th-century art

chair, chairman, chairperson
Chair is used as both a verb and a noun. Use chair, chairman, chairwoman, or chairperson, depending on the preference of the person who holds the position.

She chaired the meeting.
The chair recognizes the senator.
Janet Smith, chair of the finance committee, cast her vote.

Avoid circumlocution (a roundabout or redundant way of saying something).
Instead of: Use:
at the conclusion of after
at this point in time now
during the time that while
in this day and age today
in order to to
in the event that if
in the course of during
join together join
prior to before
the fact that because
12 noon noon
cities and towns
Always spell out the names of cities; avoid such forms as LA and Philly. In general, the name of a city should be followed by the name of its state (with commas), using state abbreviation. Use two-letter postal codes only in mailing addresses.

Worcester, Mass., is home to WPI.
WPI, 100 Institute Road, Worcester MA 01609

It is often unnecessary to use state names with the following well-known cities:

Albuquerque, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Hollywood, 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

civil titles

See titles, civil

class year
Lowercase terms designating academic year: first year, freshman, sophomore, junior, senior.

Mary Jones, a junior in physics
John Smith, a second-year MBA student

See alumni class year


See Merriam-Webster for list of commonly used words beginning with this prefix
See also co-op

Capitalize when referring to a specific WPI event.

The governor will speak at Commencement in May.
They serve as ushers at commencement ceremonies.

company/corporation names

See names of organizations

compose, comprise
If in doubt, substitute make up, or make (for compose); is made up of, or consists of (for comprise)

The United States is composed (made up) of 50 states.
The United States comprises (consists of) 50 states.


See Punctuation Appendix: hyphens, hyphenated words

congressman, congresswoman
Gender-inclusive alternatives to congressman include member of Congress and representative.
Acceptable titles for elected female representatives:

congresswoman, assemblywoman, councilwoman, and selectwoman.

See civil titles and offices

co-op, cooperative
WPI offers a cooperative education program.

She completed a co-op in B-term.



corporate titles and offices
Following are examples of how various corporate titles and offices might appear in running text—

We invited chief executive officer John Smith to the meeting.
John Smith, chief executive officer, Smith Inc., attended the reunion.
the president and chief executive officer
Mary Jones, chair and chief financial officer, MRH Corp.
the chairman of the corporation
the chairman

Full titles or acronyms are acceptable for the following: chief executive officer or CEO, chief financial officer or CFO, chief information officer or CIO, chief operating officer or COO.

See names of organizations

course names
Do not italicize or place course names in quotation marks.

He teaches the course CS 1101, Introduction to Program Design.

course work

criterion, criteria
A decision can be based on a single criterion or on several criteria.
currently, presently
Currently means now; presently means soon.
curriculum, curricula
The curriculum of the WPI Plan encourages involves projects. The curricula of New England colleges don’t.
dais, podium
A raised platform used for public speaking

on a dais, on a podium (behind a lectern)

See lectern

Use with plural verb

The data are complete.

When referring to a specific database in running text, capitalize it but do not use italics or quotation marks.

He used information from BiblioLine, SearchBank, and Lexis-Nexis for the report.

Use cardinal numbers (, not ordinals (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th)

November 3, 2007

In running text, dates should be written in the sequence: month-day-year; day-date-time.
Spell out days of the week.

April 20, 2007, or Tuesday, April 20, 9 a.m.

Avoid 4/20/07, 4-20-07, 20 April 2007. When a phrase refers to a month, day, and year, set off the year with commas; when only month and year, use no comma between them.

Saturday, February 19, 2007, was their wedding date.
The hospital was built in March 2000.

Write 1998-99, 2010-20, but not 1999-00 if you mean 1999-2000.

See decades; times; numbers

Use either words or numbers, but be consistent. There is no apostrophe before the s.

He was born in the 1960s.
She graduated in the ’80s.
The sixties and seventies were times of huge change.


See temperature

degrees, academic
Capitalize the names and abbreviations of academic degrees whether they follow personal names or stand by themselves.

John Q. Smith, Doctor of Law
Mary A. Jones, PhD
She recently received an MBA.
John A. Smith ‘68
Mary W. Jones ‘92 (MS)
Alfred E. Neuman ‘85 (PhD)
John A. Smith ‘68, ‘71 (MS), ‘75 (PhD)
John A. Smith ‘68, ‘71 (MS ECE), ‘75 (PhD ECE)

—If the abbreviated class year might be misunderstood, use a four-digit year.

Robert H. Goddard, Class of 1908, is known as the father of modern rocketry.

—Do not use degree designations with names of people unless the degrees are relevant to the story (which they ARE in our publications). Refer to it as a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, a doctoral degree, or an associate degree—not his or her degree

He received a master’s degree in art.
She has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.

—Do not capitalize doctorate, doctoral, bachelor’s, master’s, master of science, and other degrees. The plural form of a degree is the same as the singular.

They received master’s degrees.
She received a bachelor’s degree.

—Dr./PhD in text
Refer to a person as doctor (Dr.) only if a medical doctor. Refer to a person with a PhD degree as professor if she/ he holds that title, or add PhD after the name.

On the panel of experts were Jane Carlson, PhD, and Mark Collins, MD.
Dr. Collins served as moderator.

Doctoral is an adjective, doctorate is a noun; a person with a doctorate has earned a doctoral degree.
A doctoral degree isn’t necessarily a PhD; it could be JD (juris doctor) or MD (medicinae doctor).—master’s

She is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration. She received an MBA degree.


Use bachelor’s degree, not baccalaureate.

punctuation with degrees (use NO periods with all degree abbreviations (per Chicago):
AA associate of arts
AAS associate in applied science
BA bachelor of arts
BFA bachelor of fine arts
BMus bachelor of music
BS bachelor of science
EdD doctor of education
JD doctor of law (juris doctor)
MA master of arts
MBA master of business administration
MD doctor of medicine (medicinae doctor)
MFA master of fine arts
MLS master of library science
MMus master of music
MPA master of public administration
MS master of science
MSW master of social work
PhD doctor of philosophy
ScD doctor of science

See names of offices and departments

In running text, use figures.

9 by 12 feet
300- by 900-foot skating rink
3 1/2 by 2 1/2
3.5 inches by 2.5 feet

The Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps has developed author guidelines that state, in part: “Words such as the handicapped and the retarded should never be used as nouns. In general, phrases such as persons with severe disabilities and children with autism are appropriate, emphasizing the person first, rather than the disability.”
doctoral, doctorate

See degrees, academic.

dormitory, dorm
Use instead the term residence hall.
Earle Bridge
Named after WPI’s sixth president, Ralph Earle, the footbridge is located between Alden Memorial and Boynton Hall.
Capitalize when referring to the proper name of the planet; otherwise, use lowercase.

The shuttle commander guided the craft back to Earth.
She is down-to-earth.


See affect/effect

e.g., i.e.
The first is an abbreviation for exempli gratia (for example), the second for id est (that is). Since e.g. indicates a partial list, it is redundant to add etc. at the end of a list introduced by this abbreviation.

Important female poets of the period (e.g., Sylvia Plath) are neglected in this anthology.
He attacked dissidents, i.e., those whose opinions differed from his own.
Note: use a comma following each.

either, neither
Use singular verbs.

Neither of them intends to leave.

either…or neither…nor
When one element of a compound subject joined by either…or (or neither…nor) is singular and the other is plural, the verb agrees with the subject that stands closest to it.

Neither he nor his children are here.

elected officials

See congressman, congresswoman or civil titles and offices.


email address
Within running text, use lowercase letters for addresses.

She found the answer at admissions@wpi.edu.

Place emeritus (or emerita for feminine) after the formal title.

William R. Grogan is professor emeritus of mechanical engineering.
Professor Emeritus William R. Grogan



See assure

et al.
The abbreviated form of et alii means and others. Since al. is an abbreviation, the period is required. If used in running text, place a comma before it. Do not italicize it.

Professors Jones, Smith, et al. attended the meeting.

See etc.

The abbreviated form of et cetera means and so forth. It implies a list of things too extensive to recite.
If used in running text, place a comma before it; do not italicize it.

Each song in the cycle celebrates a day of the week—Monday, Tuesday, etc.


See racial and ethnic designations

everybody, everyone
Everybody and everyone take singular verbs. However, they or their are both acceptable second references.

Everyone remembered to return their books.

Use exhibit as a verb, exhibition as a noun.

She exhibited paintings in Gordon Library
Spring at Giverny
, an exhibition of Monet’s works, includes the magnificent Waterlilies.

(Note: names of exhibitions and works of art are italicized.)

faculty, staff
Each refers to groups of people, and may take singular or plural verbs depending on context:

The faculty has appealed the resolution.
The faculty disagree among themselves.
The staff decides for everyone.
The staff need a sounding board.

When writing about individuals, use the following:

a faculty member, a member of the staff

faculty rank
In running text, all faculty are referred to as professors. In formal list of faculty members, be sure to include specific titles.

Mary Smith, professor of biology
John Jones, assistant professor of physics
Robert Johnson, instructor of English


See addresses, fax, web, email

fellow, fellowship
Lowercase except when used with proper names.

Professor Jones was a fellow at Cambridge University.
He received a Goddard Fellowship.
She applied for a fellowship at WPI.

See academic titles

fewer, less
Use fewer when referring to objects that are identifiable by number:

We have fewer students this year.
Fewer than 100 members voted.

Use less for bulk or quantity:

I have less patience for naysayers.
They gave me less than their best.

foreign words and phrases
Some foreign words and phrases are universally accepted in English; they may be used without explanation if they are clear in the context (bon voyage, faux pas). Italicize isolated foreign words and phrases if they are too uncommon to treat as English words:

pro forma, tête-à-tête

As foreign words and phrases become familiar, they tend to lose the accent marks they once had; do not use accent marks on the following words:

cafe, cliche, detente, expose, resume

Note: Some word processing programs automatically include the accent mark on some of these common words.

Retain accent marks needed to indicate pronunciation. Use accent marks in names when it is the preference of the individual:

Gabriel García Márquez

Accent marks are not used when letters are uppercased.

for example (e.g.)

See e.g., i.e.

foreign student
Use international student
Hyphenate the written form of fractions and compound numbers from 10 to 99.
When a fraction appears in running text, spell it out.

half an inch
one-half inch
two-tenths of a mile

When a fraction appears as part of a full number, it should be expressed in figures.

5 1/3


See class year

fundraiser (noun), fundraising (adj.)

The group held a fundraiser in March.
They plan to hire a fundraiser.
The organization launched a fundraising campaign.

games, athletics
When pairing the names of two competing schools, use a hyphen:

This week’s WPI–Clark game is away.

See school names

Use woman when referring to a female 18 years old or older.
When using this abbreviation for grade point average. Use figures to at least one decimal point:

3.0, 2.8, 2.75


See letter grades.

Graduated from is preferable to was graduated from.

He graduated from WPI in 1988.
The college graduated 50 students.

Note: do not say, She graduated college.

graphic identity, WPI
There is an established official graphic identity program for using WPI’s logo and seal and other identifying marks in print and electronically.

Online, refer to target=_blank>wpi.edu/+identity

he, she
Avoid constructions like he/she and s/he. When necessary, use she or he as the nongendered pronoun form, but when possible, avoid awkwardness by rephrasing.

If quoting a faculty member, use the style he or she prefers.

can be rephrased as

If quoting faculty members, use the style they prefer.

Capitalize the first letter of each word except articles (a, an, the), conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet), and prepositions (at, in, to, with).

WPI Offers the First Bachelor’s Degree in the Nation for Robot Enthusiasts

the Hill
Reference to the WPI campus, usually by alumni.

Alumni are excited to return to the Hill for Reunion.

historic, historical

An event that makes history is historic.
Something that is based on history is historical.

See a, an



Abbreviate Honorable unless it is preceded by the.

Hon. James Walsh, the Honorable James Walsh

honorary degrees

See alumni class year.

Adverb meaning in a hopeful manner. Do not use it when meaning it is hoped.

The dog looked hopefully at the pot roast.
He hoped they’d give him some.




See punctuation appendix

Use I as the subject and me as the object of a sentence.

He and I are going to lunch.
The server brought lunch to him and me.


See e.g.

imply, infer
To imply means to suggest; to infer means to draw from

The evidence strongly implied her guilt.
They inferred from the evidence that she was guilty.

Place a space between them.

John W. M. Smith


See assure

international student
Use instead of foreign student.
Capitalized; on second reference, the Net is acceptable.

The World Wide Web is a useful application that runs on top of the Internet.

information technology

See foreign words and phrases; punctuation appendix: quotation marks; and titles.

its, it’s
The first is a possessive pronoun. Like the other possessive pronouns (his, her, our, your, and their), its has no apostrophe.

A book can’t be judged by its cover.

The second is the contraction for it is and it has.

It’s a long book.
It’s all been said before.

Jr., Sr., III, 3rd, IV
Use no comma between the name and the abbreviation.

Harry Jones Jr.
William Jones III


Commonly used shorthand for kindergarten through grade 12.

See ethnic and racial designations.

Cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude, are not in italics or set off with commas.

Joan received a BS degree summa cum laude in speech communication.

A stand used to support a book in a convenient position for a standing reader.

See dais, podium.

legislative titles

See titles, civil.

letter grades
Capitalize letter grades. Do not use apostrophes for plurals, except with the letter A (to avoid being confused with the word as).

Frank received five A’s and two Bs.

Little Theatre (at WPI)
99-seat performance space in the lower level of Sanford Riley Hall
log in, log on, log off (verb)
To enter or exit a computer system.

To access the site, you must first log in.

login, logon (noun)
Account or username used to gain access to a computer system.

The login for that website is WPI.


See periodicals

maiden names

See names of people

master’s degree

See degrees, academic

media, medium
Media is the preferred plural form of medium; it is used with a plural verb.

The media are always under scrutiny.
WPI used various media to get out its message.

This is the preferred plural form (not memoranda)

See plurals


middle initial

See names and people

Not 12 midnight

See circumlocution

military titles

See titles, military

minority, minorities
When speaking demographically, use this term:

traditionally underrepresented groups

Use figures in references to money.

$9.50 $1,300 $20,000 $3 million $1.5 billion

A dollar total with no cents expressed is set without the decimal point and zeros.

Admission is $2 on Saturday.

Always capitalize the names of months. Do not abbreviate the names of months in running text. Do not abbreviate March, April, May, June, July anytime. If the day-date is not included, do not use a comma between the month and the year.

She graduated on May 20, 2006. He graduated in October 1995.

more than, over
More than generally expresses quantity.
Over refers to spacial relationships; however, it may be used with numerals.

Their salaries went up more than $20 a week.
More than 200 applicants showed up.
She is over 30.
I paid over $500 for this computer.

Note: Let your ear be your guide.

In running text, set off from rest of sentence with a comma.

The students spent a term in Venice, where, moreover, their project helped the city.



Not myriads; also avoid using a myriad of.

See I, me

names of offices and departments
Capitalize formal titles

Office of the President

For full list of WPI offices and departments,  Appendix X.

Lowercase informal forms

the dean’s office
the alumni office
the chemistry department
the program
the center
the school

names of organizations
On first reference to a company or other organization, use the organization’s formal name, just as you would for an individual; on second reference, a short form may be used.

Ford Motor Company’s earning exceeded expectations. As a result, Ford plans to raise its dividend.

For full and proper corporate names, the most authoritative source is the corporate website—look for the name used in the copyright notice at the bottom of the homepage, not in the logo. The formal titles of organizations and their departments and divisions are capitalized. Shortened versions of those titles are lowercase.

General Motors Corporation; General Motors; the corporation
the New York Stock Exchange; the stock exchange
Doherty High School; the high school;
Worcester Polytechnic Institute; the university

names of people
Use the middle initial whenever an individual prefers it, and to add formality.

President Dennis D. Berkey

Use the middle initial in personal names used as the titles of buildings and professorships.

George C. Gordon Library
the Frances B. Manning Professorship

Use Jr., II, 3rd, and the like only with a complete name. The abbreviations are not set off by commas.

Martin Luther King Jr.
Jacob A. Jacobs 2nd
Henry Wilson II

Note: In general, observe the following guides and consult the “Biographical Names” section of M-W for the correct form and spelling of many historical and contemporary names.

When individuals are referred to by initials only, no periods are used.


When possible, use both names of a married couple (instead of Mr. and Mrs.).

John and Betty Smith

Use the maiden name when a woman prefers that usage; use hyphen only if preferred.

Coretta Scott King, Camilla Parker-Bowles

Include the maiden name in alumni publications if it is known; the maiden name may be placed in parentheses in lists or class notes.

Carol (North) Smith ’57

If a nickname is used following a person’s first name, place it in quotation marks; familiar nicknames used in place of first names are not placed in quotation marks.

Professor Yi Hua “Ed” Ma
Babe Ruth

On second reference, use only their last names.

Ma served as department head for many years.

Names of planes, ships, spacecraft, trains
Italicize the names of spacecraft, planes, trains, and ships

the space shuttle Challenger; the Spirit of St. Louis; the 20th Century Limited, USS Iowa (USS is not italicized)

Native American

See ethnic and racial designations

In running text, set off from rest of sentence with commas.
newspapers, periodicals
Identify issues in the following manner:

the October 11 issue of The Towers
the Spring 2008 issue of Transformations

If the does not appear in the official title, don’t italicize or capitalize it.

the Worcester Telegram and Gazette
The Boston Globe

In first reference, include the name of the city of publication as part of a newspaper title, even if it is not part of the official name.

the New York Daily News

When the city name is not widely known, the abbreviation of the state should be given in parentheses.

the Oneida (N.Y.) Daily Dispatch

When the name of a newspaper or periodical is part of the name of a building, organization, prize, or the like, it is not italicized.

Los Angeles Times Book Award
Chicago Defender Charities
Tribune Tower

If running text appears in italics, place titles in Roman type.

Bob buys The New York Times every morning.

See titles; titles of compositions; punctuation appendix: quotation marks.
Note: For a full listing of dailies, go to onlinenewspapers.com.



See names of people

nonprofit, not-for-profit
These are interchangeable terms with the same meaning.
nonsexist language
Use these substitutes:

person, people, humankind, businessperson, firefighter, police officer, letter carrier, homemaker

See chair; congressman; he, she

Not (the redundant) 12 noon
not only
This should be followed with but or but also.

It is not only unwieldy but unworkable.
She not only helps raise money for the homeless but also volunteers at a local food pantry.

Spell out one through nine and first through ninth; use numerals for higher numbers.

the third man, the 21st century.
Mary bought two apples and 10 oranges.
He is a first-grade teacher; she teaches 10th grade.

Follow the same rule for round numbers in the millions and billions:

eight billion people, 11 million people

When the numbers are not round, use decimals.

2.5 million people

Always use numerals in scores, court decisions, legislative votes.

a 5-4 victory; a Senate vote of 64-36

Always spell out numbers at the beginning of a sentence, regardless of any resulting inconsistency.

Eighty-nine women and 78 men received degrees.

See ages; century; dates; decades; dimensions; fractions; quantities.

Offices and Departments

See Names, Offices and Departments

This is preferred to okay.

Oral means spoken; verbal can mean spoken or written.
over, more than

See more than

Parents Fund, Parents Weekend
No apostrophe (not possessive)
people, persons
Use people when referring to nameless masses.

“We, the people…”

Use persons when referring to more than one person whose names are (or could be) known.

missing persons, persons with disabilities, American Association of Retired Persons, persons with AIDS

percent, percentage
Use percent in running text and the percent sign (%) in scientific and statistical copy. The noun in the “of phrase” determines whether the verb is singular or plural.

Twelve percent of the members were present.
A small percentage of the membership was present.
We believe 99 percent of our students are going to graduate.

(note capitalization, use of apostrophes, and possessives). If the does not appear in the official title, don’t italicize or capitalize it.

While she read The Boston Globe Magazine, he glanced at a copy of Harper’s Magazine. The article appeared in Time magazine.


See degrees, academic

Capitalize popular and legendary names; do not place them within quotation marks.

the Bay Area, the Big Apple, the Delta, the Lone Star State, Twin Cities, the West Side, the Windy City, the States, Silicon Valley, the Back Bay

Some nouns and adjectives referring to regions within states are capitalized; others are not.

central Massachusetts, the Berkshires, the North Shore, upstate New York, the South, the Southwest, the Northeast, southern, southwestern

See state names, Worcester neighborhoods

plurals, Latin form

(singular, plural)
addendum, addenda
analysis, analyses
consortium, consortia
criterion, criteria
curriculum, curricula
datum (rare in general usage), data
medium, media (mediums for those who channel spirits)
millennium, millennia
phenomenon, phenomena
syllabus, syllabi
symposium, symposia
thesis, theses

plurals, Anglicized form

(singular, plural)
appendix (of a book), appendixes
colloquium, colloquiums
index (of a book), indexes
memorandum, memorandums
prospectus, prospectases

See alumna, alumnae, alumnus, alumni

Do not substitute for and, also, besides, or in addition.

See time


See dais

This is usually treated as a singular noun:

Politics is a controversial subject.

But when politics is used to mean principles or activities, it may be treated as a plural:

His politics were offensive to her.



See punctuation appendix: hyphens, hyphenated words

presently, currently
Presently means soon; currently means now.
This is preferable to preventative; the extra syllable is unnecessary.
principal, principle
Principal is a noun and adjective meaning someone or something first in rank, authority, importance.
Principle is a noun that means a fundamental truth, law, doctrine, motivating force.

She is the school principal.
He was the principal player in the trade.
Money is the principal problem.
They fought for the principle of self-determination.

prior to
Use before

He prepared his remarks before addressing the crowd.

See circumlocution

professorships, named
Titles of named professorships and fellowships are capitalized. On second reference, it is permissible to use the shortened form of the title, which should also be capitalized.

He holds the Frances B. Manning Professorship.
He became the Manning Professor in 2000.

See list of professorships in undergraduate catalog.

proved, proven
Both are correct forms of the past participle of prove, but proved is preferred.

Her conclusions have been proved correct.

Leave only one space between sentences.

Erica was first. Christa and Ann were next. We don’t know who follows.

See punctuation entries in the appendix.

the Quad, the Quadrangle

In nontechnical text, physical quantities are expressed according to the rules for numbers entry.

two square feet, 20 miles, 240 volts, nine meters, 300 acres

Quantities consisting of whole numbers and fractions should be expressed in figures.

8 1/2 x 11-inch paper

If an abbreviation is used for the unit of measure, use figures:

3 mi., 8 rpm, 7 hrs., 55 mph

See numbers

In running text, quoted words, phrases, and sentences are enclosed in double quotation marks.

Baker observes, “The lessons of the past are a warning.”

He says and all its variations are set off by commas from the quoted text.

“The lessons of the past,” says Baker, “are a warning.”

Quoted matter may stand by itself (as in the examples above) or be worked into your own sentence.

Baker says that “the lessons of the past are a warning.”

Use single stroke quotation marks for quotations within quotations:

Baker says, “It was an Inca who observed, ‘The lessons of the past are a warning.’”

When a quotation is longer than one paragraph, use quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph but only at the end of the last paragraph.

John Baker spoke at the Historical Society meeting. “The lessons of the past,” he said, “are a warning.
“It was an Inca who observed this,” Baker continued.

block quotations
Material set off from the rest of the text as a block quotation is indented, left and right, and not enclosed in quotation marks. Quoted matter included within a block quotation should be enclosed in double quotation marks.

See Punctuation Appendix: ellipsis, quotation marks

racial and ethnic designations
National-origin identifiers such as Italian American, Polish American, and Japanese American are appropriate. Use the preferred ethnic designations—African American, Native American, Asian, and Latino/Latina— instead of other identifiers. Lowercase black and white when using them as ethnic and racial designations. Do not hyphenate these words, even when they are used as adjectives.

They are members of the Italian American Association.
A Japanese American newspaper ran an article on white culture in South America.

rank, academic

See degrees, academic; chair, chairman, chairperson; civil titles and offices; faculty rank; academic titles; military titles; religious titles; WPI titles and offices; titles


See Punctuation Appendix: hyphens, hyphenated words. Also, check the M-W listing.


See places

religious titles

See titles, religious

residence hall
Use instead of dorm or dormitory.
Capitalize when referring to an event, such as WPI Reunion.
room and board
Use housing and meals.
Do not add please. Since it is an abbreviation for repondez, s’il vous plait (French for reply, please), adding the word please is redundant.
Capitalize when referring to named scholarships.

Fulbright Scholar, Rhodes Scholar

Lowercase except when used with proper names.

He received an academic scholarship.
She applied for a Marshall Scholarship.

school names
On first reference use proper names.

Boston College, University of Connecticut, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

On second reference, colloquialisms may be used.

BC, UConn, RPI

In a sports context, team nicknames may be used as a second reference.

the Eagles, the Huskies, the Engineers

See games, athletics

Lowercase the names of the seasons unless they are part of a formal name or designate an issue of a periodical.

He graduated in the spring semester. She arrived in time for fall 2007 registration.
Winter Olympic Games, the Fall 2007 issue of Transformations.

Lowercase references to semesters.

the spring 2001 semester


See class year

sexist language

See nonsexist language

Use sic (which means intentionally so written) in brackets to indicate that an error in the quoted material is being reproduced exactly. Italicize sic; it is not followed by a period.

He writes that he is an admirer of President Brush [sic] and his family.

When used with a word or phrase, it implies that something is popularly or mistakenly given that designation.
The designation itself is not enclosed in quotation marks or set in italics.

He is the so-called champion of chess.

somebody, someone
These take singular verbs (but try to avoid the awkward his/her).

Somebody needs to drive his car to the store.
Someone should tell us her version of the story.


See class year


See Jr.


See faculty, staff

state names
Capitalize the names of states; lowercase the word state (commonwealth).

She’s from the state of New York. Exception: New York State
He lives in the commonwealth of Massachusetts

Names of states, territories, and possessions of the United States should be spelled in full in running text.
Use standard abbreviations for state names in running text, except the following (which are never

Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, Utah

state name, standard abbreviation, postal code

Alabama, Ala., AL
Alaska, Alaska, AK
Arizona, Ariz., AZ
Arkansas, Ark., AR
California, Calif., CA
Colorado, Colo., CO
Connecticut, Conn., CT
Delaware, Del., DE
District of Columbia, D.C., DC
Florida, Fla., FL
Georgia, Ga., GA
Hawaii, Hawaii, HI
Idaho, Idaho, ID
Illinois, Ill., IL
Indiana, Ind., IN
Iowa, Iowa, IA
Kansas, Kan., KS
Kentucky, Ky., KY
Louisiana, La., LA
Maine, Maine, ME
Maryland, Md., MD
Massachusetts, Mass., MA
Michigan, Mich., MI
Minnesota, Minn., MN
Mississippi, Miss., MS
Missouri, Mo., MO
Montana, Mont., MT
Nebraska, Neb., NE
Nevada, Nev., NV
New Hampshire, N.H., NH
New Jersey, N.J., NJ
New Mexico, N.M., NM
New York, N.Y., NY
North Carolina, N.C., NC
North Dakota, N.D., ND
Ohio, Ohio, OH
Oklahoma, Okla., OK
Oregon, Ore., OR
Pennsylvania, Pa., PA
Rhode Island, R.I., RI
South Carolina, S.C., SC
South Dakota, S.D., SD
Tennessee, Tenn., TN
Texas, Texas, TX
Utah, Utah, UT
Vermont, Vt., VT
Virginia, Va., VA
Washington, Wash. WA
West Virginia, W.Va., WV
Wisconsin, Wis., WI
Wyoming, Wyo., WY

When addresses are listed line by line, use the postal code without commas on bottom line.

WPI Office of Admissions
100 Institute Road
Worcester MA 01609-2280

See addresses in running text; addresses on envelopes and postcards; cities and towns; names of places

States, the

He returned to the States after a trip abroad.

See United States

student housing

16 Elbridge
22 Schussler
25 Trowbridge
Daniels Hall, 1963
East Hall, 2008
Founders Hall, 1984
Fuller Apartments, 1972
International House
Institute Hall, 1989
Morgan Hall, 1958
Sanford Riley Hall, 1926
Stoddard Complex, 1969
Unity House


 plurals, Latin


 plurals, Latin

telephone numbers
When printing telephone numbers that include area codes, use hyphens: +1-325-443-2870. Do not place telephone numbers or area codes in parentheses. Campus extension numbers should be written with a lowercase x followed by the number in text.

Her home number is +1-325-443-2870.
You may reach her at x5422.

Depending on the prospective audience of the piece, choose the most appropriate form (including international code, area code, full number, or simply the four-digit extension) and remain consistent throughout the publication.

See addresses, fax, web, email 

Do not use plus signs, minus signs, or the degree symbol when expressing temperatures in nontechnical copy. Use scale designations (Fahrenheit, Celsius) when necessary to avoid confusion. Follow whichever example is appropriate to your context:

The temperature fell to minus 20.
The temperature reached 7 below zero.
The temperature was 20 degrees Celsius.
The temperature was 20 degrees C.
It was 98 degrees Fahrenheit. It was 98 degrees F.

When expressed in technical text and lists, use figures, degree sign, and abbreviation.

68°F, 32°C, 15°C, minus 10°F

terms, academic
Include hyphen

A-Term, B-Term, C-Term, D-Term, E-Term


that, which
that is defining (restrictive); which is nondefining (nonrestrictive).
Nonrestrictive (which) clauses are, with few exceptions, set off by commas.

The dictionary that is too large for the shelf is at the reference desk.
(This statement tells which conference table is being referenced, and is restrictive.)
The dictionary, which is too large for the shelf, is at the reference desk.
(This statement adds a fact about the dictionary in question, and is nonrestrictive.)

This is the preferred spelling. Use theater only when it is part of a proper name.

See Little Theatre


 See punctuation appendix: comma; semicolon.

they’re, their, there
They’re is the contraction for they are.

They told their teacher that they’re going there.

Use figures except for noon and midnight. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes.

3:30 p.m.

In formal text (invitations, programs), times of day in even, half, and quarter hours are often spelled out.

seven o’clock, quarter to eight, half past eleven

When the exact moment of time is important, use figures with a.m. or p.m. The abbreviations a.m. and p.m. (ante meridiem and post meridiem) are always lowercase with periods

The discussion group meets Tuesdays at 9 a.m.
The course begins March 21 at 8 a.m.
The interview was broadcast at 7:45 p.m.

Never use a.m. with morning, or p.m. with evening; never use o’clock with a.m., p.m., or figures; and never use the forms 12 a.m. or 12 p.m. Follow these examples:

noon, midnight, 9:45 p.m., 3 a.m., three o’clock in the morning

Never use 12 midnight or 12 noon. Use 12:01 p.m. to denote one minute past noon.In running text, when using from, follow with to (not a hyphen, as in from 8:30–9:30)

The meeting runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; registration from 8:30 to 9 a.m.

In running text, when using from, follow with to (not a hyphen, as in from 8:30–9:30)

The meeting runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; registration from 8:30 to 9 a.m.

In lists, hyphens may be used between days and times, although the en dash is preferred.

Monday–Wednesday 9–11 a.m.
Tues.–Thurs. 1–5 p.m.

See dates

titles, people
Capitalize titles that are also used as forms of address when they appear directly before a name.

Governor Patrick, President Berkey, Professor Hart, Coach Bartley

Do not capitalize them when they follow the name or are used without a name.

John F. Kennedy, the president of the United States
Elizabeth II, the queen of England
Frederick Johnson, a professor of biology

Do not capitalize occupational descriptions or identifiers, even if they appear directly before a name (in many cases, constructions like this would be less awkward if the title came after the name):

The award was presented to assistant professor of biomedical engineering Janet Sherman.
The award was presented to Janet Sherman, assistant professor of biomedical engineering.

If a title applies only to one person in an organization, insert the word the in a construction that uses commas.

D’Anne Hurd, the general counsel, spoke at Gateway Park. The president, Dennis Berkey, listened intently.

Do not use the courtesy titles Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms., or Dr. In the first reference to an individual, use the individual’s complete name—and title, if appropriate. On second reference, use only the last name:

Ryan Cain accepted the Jostens Award; he was one of two students so honored.

titles, military
Abbreviate military titles when they are used with full names.

Brig. Gen. Robert Jones; Pvt. Jane B. Smith

The following list offers examples of how various military titles and offices might appear in running text.

Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff; General Shelton; the general.
Adm. John Paul Jones, the chief of naval operations; Admiral Jones; the admiral.
Col. David Berg, U.S. Army (ret.), director of the Army Comptrollership Program; Colonel Berg; the colonel.
Col. Eugene J. Famulare, commander of Air Force ROTC, Detachment 535; professor of aerospace studies; Colonel Famulare

WPI graduates are commissioned second lieutenants in the Army, Air Force, and Marines, and ensigns in the Navy.

For full list of military titles and abbreviations,  M-W.

titles and offices, civil
The following list offers examples of how various civil titles and offices might appear in running text. This includes other political positions, such as mayor and governor.

Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States
President Lincoln
the president of the United States
the president
the presidency
the Lincoln administration
the prime minister; Gordon Brown, the British prime minister

titles of compositions
The following guidelines apply to titles of books, movies, plays, poems, operas, songs, TV programs, lectures, and works of art. Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters. Capitalize articles (the, a, an) and prepositions and conjunctions of fewer than four letters if they come at the beginning or end of the title.

Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind
Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse
Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up

Italicize the names of books, long works and compositions, works of art and art exhibitions, legal cases, magazines, pamphlets, long poems, plays, movies, television series, television programs, symphonies, and operas.
Use quotation marks to enclose the titles of short poems, articles, stories, chapters of books, TV show episodes, and other short works.

Her favorite episode of I Love Lucy, was “Candy Factory.”

Titles of songs are in quotation marks, album names in italics.If running text appears in italics, place titles (as indicated above) and other words usually in italics, in roman type.

Jane Austen wrote Sense and Sensibility in 1811.

See italics

titles and offices

See faculty rank; WPI titles and offices.

titles, academic
The following list offers examples of how various academic titles and offices might appear in text:

Dennis D. Berkey, president of WPI
President Berkey
the president
the president’s office, but the Office of the President
John Smith, chair, Department of Biology
The department chair, John Smith, is away.
Professor Jones
the professor of English
a professor emeritus

Titles of named professorships and fellowships are capitalized.

He holds the Frances B. Manning Professorship.

See awards; degrees, academic; chair; civil titles; faculty rank; military titles; names of people; religious titles; WPI titles and offices; titles

titles, religious
The following list offers examples of how various religious titles and offices may appear in running text.

Pope Benedict XVI
the pope
the papacy
John Cardinal O’Connor
Cardinal O’Connor
the cardinal
the Most Reverend Robert J. McManus, Roman Catholic bishop of Worcester
Bishop McManus
the bishop of Worcester
Rabbi Joel Pitkowsky, Congregation Beth Israel
the rabbi
the Reverend Thomas R. McKibbens, senior pastor of First Baptist Church;
Mr. McKibbens
the pastor

Do not use Reverend (spelled out) without using the person’s first name. Abbreviate it when it is not preceded by the.

Rev. Nancy L. Bauer

Use instead of towards
Trademarks are proper nouns and should be capitalized; they should not be used in the possessive form; they are never verbs. Examples of registered trademarks:

Fiberglass, Frisbee, Heimlich Maneuver, Jeep, Kleenex, Liquid Paper, Listserv, Ping-Pong, Velcro, Walkman, Xerox

Note: it is not necessary to use a trademark symbols (™ or ®) in running text. Refer to the International Trademark Association (www.inta.org) or the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (www.uspto.gov/tmdb), which lists all registered trademarks and pending trademarks in the United States.


See Board of Trustees

UN, United Nations
Use UN as an adjective, but spell out United Nations as a noun.

a UN-sanctioned agreement

under way
two words

The project is under way.

United States, USA, US
U.S. traditionally appears with periods—however, periods may be omitted in most contexts. In running text, the abbreviation (in either form) is permissible when used as an adjective, but United States as a noun should be spelled out.

Many opponents of the United States applauded the US vote in the United Nations.

Use United States instead of America
See States, the

Since WPI is a university, on second reference, it is correct to refer to Worcester Polytechnic Institute as WPI, the Institute (uppercase I), or the university (lowercase u).
URLs, what to include
Current editorial usage is to exclude the http:// tag on URLs in publications. Many web browsers add it automatically. This also helps shorten the URL in print. Use a period, even when a URL or email address ends the sentence. Break URLs before a punctuation mark, carrying the punctuation symbol to the next line. Don’t break a URL at a hyphen. Don’t add a hyphen unless it appears in the address.

If colonial patriot Thomas Paine had a website, he surely would call it www.commonsense.com.

Visit WPI Gordon Library.
See computer terminology.

Replace with use or employ. Instead of: He utilized his knowledge to solve the problem, say: He used his knowledge to solve the problem.
Should be spelled out in general text but may be abbreviated to vs. in listings.
Use v. in legal cases (Roe v. Wade).

He considered going by plane versus going by bus.
WPI vs. Clark

See games, athletics


See oral


See addresses, fax, web, email




when, punctuation with
Use a comma before when if it is part of a nonessential clause.
Essential clause:

The new contract will become effective when the president signs it. (essential)
The new contract will become effective at noon tomorrow, when the president signs it. (nonessential)


See that, which


See racial and ethnic designations

whose, who’s
Whose is a possessive pronoun that can refer to persons or things:

She’s the author whose book caused a sensation.
She wrote the book whose sales skyrocketed.

Who’s is a contraction of who is

Guess who’s coming to dinner?


See nonsexist language.

Worcester neighborhoods
Capitalize City of Worcester. Capitalize these Worcester areas in text in stories discussing issues or events linked to them:

Greendale, Main South, the West Side

Use as an adjective, not a noun.

Federal Work-Study Program

work-study students

worker’s compensation
Not workmen’s compensation.


The correct abbreviation for Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Do not use periods.
WPI abbreviations and acronyms

See complete listing at wpi.collegeacronyms.org.

WPI academic departments

Air Force & Aerospace Studies
Biology and Biotechnology
Biomedical Engineering
Chemical Engineering
Chemistry and Biochemistry
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Computer Science
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Fire Protection Engineering
Humanities and Arts
Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division (IGSD)
Mathematical Sciences
Mechanical Engineering
Military Science
Physical Education, Recreation, and Athletics
Social Science and Policy Studies

WPI facts
For a current listing of facts about WPI including academic units; centers and institutes; number of students, faculty, staff, and alumni; tuition; student demographics; class rank and scores; and other information,

see wpi.edu/About/facts.html

WPI titles and offices



Use an en dash between inclusive years


your, you’re

 Troublesome pairs


zip codes
Not capitalized unless first word in sentence or on form where all is capitalized.

Zip codes are necessary for correct addresses.
The zip code for WPI is 01609-2280.

See addresses on envelopes and postcards

apostrophe —possessives and plurals
Use an apostrophe to indicate that a noun is possessive. If a noun does not end in an s, add ’s.

Mary’s hat

If the noun is singular and ends in s, add ’s.

Phyllis’s mother lives in New York City.

If a noun is plural and ends in s, add only the apostrophe.

Both actresses’ parts were humorous.

Words that are referred to as words form the plural by adding s. To avoid an awkward appearance, sometimes an apostrophe is needed.

Ifs, ands, and buts
dos and don’ts
threes and fours
yes’s and no’s

Joint possession and closely linked proper names may be treated as a unit in forming the possessive; use an apostrophe with the last noun only.

John and Mary’s house; Rodgers and Hart’s songs; my aunt and uncle’s house

To show individual possession, make all nouns possessive.

New York’s and Chicago’s transportation systems

The names of persons and other proper nouns form the plural in the usual way, by adding s. When the noun ends with an s, x, or z, add es:

keeping up with the Joneses

An exception is made for nouns of more than one syllable with an unaccented ending pronounced -eez:

Socrates’ theories, Euripides’ plays, Ramses’ tomb.

Use brackets to add explanations or corrections to quoted material:

“Before I knew what happened,” said the coach, “[Devlin] had scored.” Cramer writes, “Jones scored his first touchdown in the Notre Dame game of ’73 [the year was 1972].”

Use brackets as parentheses within parentheses:

The game has been immortalized in articles and a book (Harry Walters, The Game That Went Down in History [New York: Good Sports Press, 1965]).

Use the Latin word sic (which means intentionally so written) in brackets to indicate that an error in the quoted material is being reproduced exactly:

“On that day, Devlin was our own Baby [sic] Ruth!”

Note that sic is italicized and not followed by a period.

The punctuation for brackets follows the same rules as for parentheses.

See parentheses

Brackets are commonly used to set off the writer’s explanation within a quote, such as [sic] (which means intentionally so written, telling the reader that the writer is reproducing certain words exactly as they appeared or were said). Brackets can also be used when a word is inserted. Most other cases call for parentheses.

* The girl said she “d [sic] a rattlesnake.”
* “I went to the [convenience] store, but I couldn’t find the salt.”

Bulleted items that conclude an introductory sentence should be lowercase and punctuated with a comma or semicolon at the end of each item except for the last. Use the word and before the last bulleted item, and end the sentence with a period.When each item of a list completes the introductory sentence,
  • list items should begin with lowercase letters;
  • all but the last item end with a comma or semicolon;
  • the second-to-last item ends with and; and
  • the last item ends with a period.

    The camping list includes

    • tent,
    • hiking boots, and
    • bug spray.

    Bulleted items that are not part of an introductory sentence may be upper- or lowercase and may end with either periods or no punctuation. However, format should be consistent within any given context:

    Worcester-area residents enjoy a variety of seasonal recreational activities:

    • hiking
    • boating
    • skiing
    • picnicking
The colon is a mark of anticipation. It indicates that what follows the mark will complete or amplify what came before it. Use a colon to introduce a list or series.

The dean mentioned three likely candidates for the award: Shultz, Gomez, and O’Connor.

Do not use a colon between a verb and its complement or object.

The three candidates are Shultz, Gomez, and O’Connor.

Use a colon to introduce word groups that begin with for example, for instance, that is, and namely.

The campaign established some important principles: for example, the concept of “one person, one vote.”

Semicolons and commas are the usual link between independent clauses, but a colon may be used when the second clause explains or amplifies the first.

Her achievement remains etched in memory: It has not been surpassed in 50 years.

If a complete sentence follows a colon, capitalize the first letter of the first word. If the phrase following a colon is not a complete sentence, don’t capitalize the first letter of the first word.

See comma; semicolon.

Use a comma to separate elements in a series.

Now he had taken exams in algebra, trigonometry, and calculus.

Use a comma to separate independent clauses that are joined by and, but, for, or, nor, because, or so.

You should congratulate her, for she has performed splendidly.

If the clauses themselves contain commas, use a semicolon instead of a comma.

The dean, Nancy Olson, gave a persuasive presentation; but the faculty, weary of the issue, remained unpersuaded.

Use a comma after a long introductory word group.

After completing his most difficult examination, he went to a movie.

If the introductory element is short (rule of thumb is five words), don’t use a comma.

After the examination he went to a movie.

But use the comma if the sentence would be confusing without it.

The day before, he spent six hours reviewing his notes.

Use a comma to set off a word group that isn’t essential to the sentence.

Coyotes, which have always fascinated me, are different from dogs.
In the early days, when things were different, some colleges didn’t guarantee housing for first-year and sophomore

Use a comma to set off transitional words like however and moreover.

John was satisfied; however, Mary did not like the dinner.

Don’t use commas if the word group is essential to the meaning of the sentence.

Cheetahs live in various regions in Africa and Asia where they are able to find deer and antelope.

Use a comma to introduce a complete, short quotation, but use a colon to introduce longer quotations.

Henry said, “I know the killer’s name!”
The killer responded: “Do tell!”

Do not use a comma at the start of an indirect or partial quotation.

He said his victory put him “firmly on the road to a first-ballot nomination.”

If a quotation is introduced by that, whether, or a similar conjunction, no comma is needed.

Was it Stevenson who said that “The cruelest lies are often told in silence”?

Use a comma in direct address.

Nancy, please hand me the newspaper.

Use a comma between proper names and titles.

Jane Barker, president of Zenith, chaired the meeting.

Use a comma to separate elements of an address.

Barker comes from Jacksonville, Fla., and now lives in Hartford, Conn.

See addresses; addresses in running text.

Commas always go inside single and double quotation marks.

See semicolon.

There are two types of dashes: em dash and en dash. The em dash can be typed with two hyphens, though the keyboard command is preferred (option command hyphen). There should be no spaces between the words that precede or follow the em dash.

Use an em dash to emphasize what follows, which may be dramatic, ironic, or humorous.

I’ll marry you—when hell freezes over!

Use em dashes to enclose a word or word group that interrupts the main structure.

It takes a cataclysm—an invasion, a plague, or some other disaster—to move them to action.

The principle use of the en dash (keyboard command: option hyphen) is to connect numbers and, less often, words. An en dash is used in place of a hyphen in a compound adjective when one of its elements is an open compound.

Gateway Park is helping to drive Worcester’s life sciences–based economy.
In 2007–08, WPI launched its First–Year Seminars.

See hyphen

An ellipsis—the omission of a word, phrase, paragraph, or more from a quoted passage—is indicated by ellipsis points (three periods without spaces, between them or before and after). If an ellipsis precedes a period or other punctuation, attach the mark, leaving no space:

“Ask…what you can do for your country.”
“He felt it was too late to go back….”

Note: Ellipses is the plural form. The second sentence contained two ellipses.
hyphens, hyphenated words
HYPHENS IN TITLESCapitalize both parts of a hyphenated compound in headlines if both are actual words:

Cease-Fire, Able-Bodied, Sit-In, Make-Believe. Capitalize the word after the hyphen if it is a noun or proper adjective, or it ms of equal importance to the first element: Blue-Green Eyes Are a Hazard, Non-Christian Thinking, Seventeenth-Century Literature, Tool-Maker Learns a New Trade.

In current usage, the trend is away from hyphenation. Even when a prefix ends and a root word begins with the same vowel, words tend to be written solid:

cooperative (but co-op)

See Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (10th ed.) and The Chicago Manual of Style for more examples.

See Dash

compound nouns
Many noun compounds are hyphenated, many are not, and many are written as one word:

day care
decision making
health care
lowest common denominator
problem solving
student athlete
vice chancellor
worldwide (exception: World Wide Web)

See ethnic and racial designations

compound numbers
Hyphenate the written form of fractions and compound numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine:

One-fourth of my income goes toward housing.
Five hundred and twenty-three people attended the gathering.

compound adjectives
Some compound adjectives are hyphenated, some are not, some are written as one word:

10-foot pole
6-foot-2-inch guard
17th-century philosophy
225-pound tackle
all-inclusive standards
blue-green eyes
best-selling book
cost-effective procedures
decision-making process
high-level job
long-lived species
matter-of-fact statement
problem-solving techniques
two-thirds majority
well-known man
central European countries
day care center
food service industry
health care plan
catlike movements
tenfold increase
statewide referendum

adverb and adjective
(hyphenated unless adverb ends in ly)

an ill-favored hero
a well-marked trail
a plainly marked trail

words with prefixes
When a prefix stands alone, it carries a hyphen:

full- and part-time
over- and underused
macro- and microeconomics

Words formed with co- also are usually spelled without a hyphen, but note some exceptions:


between prefix and proper name


When hyphenated words appear in titles and headlines, capitalize both words:

Blue-Green Water
Seventeenth-Century Literature

Use parentheses to add useful information for the reader:

Gresham’s Law (that bad money drives out good) applies as usual in this case.

Use parentheses to enclose letters or figures that mark items in a list (parentheses give the listed items more emphasis):
The additions may include
(a) illustrations,
(b) definitions, or
(c) information thrown in for good measure.

Newly admitted students should return the following items in the enclosed envelope by May 1:
(1) Intent to Register form
(2) Housing and meal plan application
(3) Sponsorship letters

See brackets; dash

punctuation with parentheses
(A sentence in parentheses, like this one, that does not stand within another sentence has the end punctuation
before the closing parenthesis.)
When a complete sentence in parentheses comes within a sentence (notice the punctuation of this one), it
needs neither a capital letter nor a period.
Periods and commas in the main sentence always follow the closing parenthesis (as they do here and in the
preceding sentence).
exclamation point
An exclamation point (which should be used sparingly to be effective) marks an outcry or an emphatic or ironic comment.

Look out!

An exclamation point rather than question mark may be used when a sentence is essentially an exclamation.

When will I ever learn!

Exclamation points and question marks belong inside the parentheses if they are part of the parenthetical
material; otherwise, they go outside:

Once again, Beckett’s play (a dialogue performed in trash cans!) proved to be the top box office draw.
Who could have foren Ibsen’s appeal (especially after the failure of The Lady From the Sea two seasons

Put one space after a period at the end of a sentence.
Use a period, even when a URL or e-mail address ends the sentence.
quotation marks
Use quotation marks to enclose a direct quotation:

He said, “I’m doing my best.”
“I’m doing my best,” he said.

Use single quotation marks for a quotation within a quotation.

He stated, “He meant it when he said ‘I was doing my best.’”

Enclose a word in quotation marks to show that the speaker or writer is using it in an ironic and not a conventional sense:

Their “dialogue” resulted in a boisterous free-for-all.

Quotation marks vs. italics with titles

Use quotation marks to enclose the titles of short works: articles, essays, poems, short stories, songs, chapters and parts of longer works, columns and departments in magazines and newspapers, episodes of radio and TV programs (but titles of radio and TV programs are in italics).

Italicize titles of long works: works of art and art exhibitions, titles of books, magazines, pamphlets, long poems, plays, movies, television series, symphonies, and operas.

Capitalize the names of courses, but do not italicize or place in quotation marks:

All students must take WRT 105, Introductory Writing.

Punctuation with quotations marks

Periods and commas precede closing quotation marks, whether double or single.
Colons, semicolons, question marks, and exclamation points all follow closing quotation marks unless a question mark or exclamation point belongs within the quoted matter.

The pupil said, “What did you ask me?”
Brian bored his friends with memories of long forgotten “triumphs”; yet his friends were understanding.
The dean promised “never to relent until we have proved ourselves”: that is, not before our three goals have been achieved.

When a quotation is longer than one paragraph, use quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph but only at the end of the last paragraph.

See quotations, block quotations

Use a semicolon when you want to separate two main clauses but keep them more tightly linked than they would be as two sentences:

She achieved every objective; we all were impressed.

Use semicolons to separate elements in a series when they are punctuated internally:

I can’t remember whether the opinion was expressed by Sundstrum, the chairperson; Cline, the presiding officer; or Romero, the secretary.

Use a semicolon to link independent clauses connected by however, moreover, therefore, consequently, nevertheless, and otherwise:

That legendary race ms as vivid as yesterday; however, it took place 50 years ago.
She excelled in all that she did; therefore, she attained the highest honors.

See colon; comma.



We will accept everyone except the three people who applied after the deadline.


You may gain access to the system, but be sure that your characters are not in excess of those allowed.


You'd better consult your attorney for advice on this matter; he will advise you to sign the contract, I'm sure.


Your decision will have no great effect on the outcome of the matter, but it may affect the way the two parties work out the details.

all ready

If the supervisor has already made up her mind, I know that you are all ready to cooperate with her.

all together

I am altogether sure that the companies are all together in their opposition to this matter.


She was under the illusion that you had made an unkind allusion to her performance this morning.


It will take a large amount of salt to kill the large number of slugs on the sidewalk.

any one

Anyone from the first floor may taste any one of the dishes on the table.


I always assure the people I talk to that the proper accident policy will insure them against loss, even though it cannot ensure that an accident will never occur.

a while

Please, stay awhile. I haven't n you in a while.


Al felt bad about breaking Mom's lamp. It was shattered badly by his carelessness.


Besides the three organizations I've already mentioned, there is one more that is located beside the river in question.


The cat chased the mouse hidden between two soup cans out into the field where it was lost among the weeds.


Bring me a glass of water, and then take what is left to Dad.


"Please, sir, can you show me your finest fabric?" "Why, yes. May I take you to our premiere rack?"


It didn't worry her conscience that he was not conscious.

every one

Everyone was concerned that we would not recover every one of the lost children.


Though fewer people are taking vacations, less time is spent at work.


The sauce smells good because it was made well.


It's crying because its paw is caught in a trap.


If the ball comes loose from your hands, you might lose the game.


In the past, you would have never believed a quarterback had passed the ball.


As Bob proceeded to sprint down the road, he figured to precede the other runners to the finish line.


There is no speedboat as fast as their rig. They're master nautical engineers.


Myrna went to the store, too. So, it was the two of us who carried back the 50 lb. bag of birdd.


Wallace was the man who told us the team that scores first will probably win the game.


Who is the nurse to whom the tray was given?


So, you're the one who spends all of your time in front of the mirror.

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