Writing Style Guidelines 

Resources

Strategic Communications recommends the following publications as guides:

  • “The Associated Press Stylebook”
  • “Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary”
  • “Strunk & White’s Elements of Style”

The following recommendations are LSU style as decided by Strategic Communications. Unless otherwise noted below, LSU style defaults to AP Style.

  • When referring to a college, it is acceptable to say either “The College of Engineering” or “LSU’s College of Engineering.”
  • Use an ampersand (&) instead of “and” within college/department/unit names: “Department of Geography & Anthropology.”
  • On first reference, use the full, official name of a unit, college or department. If the same unit is frequently referenced, subsequent references may be abbreviated: “The College of Humanities & Social Sciences houses the Department of English. Humanities & Social Sciences also maintains research units like the English Language & Orientation Program.”
  • There are no periods or spaces in “LSU.” Refer to the university as “LSU,” not as “LSU and A&M College.” When speaking to an international audience, use the full name “Louisiana State University.”  
  • Unless it is within the full name of the university (i.e., Louisiana State University), lowercase “university” when referring to LSU (i.e., the university).
  • Both Louisianan and Louisianian are acceptable. Whichever you prefer to use, be consistent within your document.
  • Use “telephone” instead of “phone.” Standard telephone structure is 225-578-1234. To indicate a facsimile number, specify “Fax” before the number.
  • Avoid using courtesy titles (Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr.) within paragraph text or cutlines. On first reference, use “PhD” or a professor’s title to establish expertise. Use a husband’s and a wife’s first names: “John and Mary Smith,” never “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.” Courtesy titles are allowed in donor lists to satisfy donor wishes.
  • When referring to grades, put letters in quotes to avoid confusing the reader. For example: He made an “A.”
  • Use “Did You Know?” rather than “Did U Know?”
  • Use “first-year” or “first-time” student rather than “freshman.”
  • Use “advisor” rather than “adviser.”
  • Use “students” rather than “coeds.”
  • When addressing international students, be aware of cultural differences. While American students may identify with the Memorial Tower, Tiger or school colors, for example, those symbols may have different meanings for international students.
  • Use gender-neutral language such as “chair” or “chairperson” (rather than “chairman”), “police officers” (rather than “policemen”), and so forth.
  • Use “people with disabilities” rather than “handicapped people.”

  • Correct spelling and capitalization standards are as follows:
    • email
    • home page
    • Internet
    • online
    • web
    • website
    • web page
    • web address
    • webmaster
  • As a general rule, use the shortest URL possible to link to your destination. For most web addresses, “www” is not required. When writing web addresses, you should include “http://” only if the address does not begin with “www” or if it includes a variation of “http://.” Examples: Did you know you can visit https://www.google.com/accounts/ to register for a Google account? Students may complete applications for admission and student aid online at lsu.edu/admissions, the website for LSU’s prospective students.
  • Check all website addresses for accuracy.
  • Do not underline web addresses. You may bold the address if you find that it is “buried” in the copy.
  • Verify the suffix—.com, .edu, .gov, .net, .org—of websites before printing them.
  • Web addresses should not be separated onto multiple lines of text. If a line break occurs at a web address, move the entire address to the following line.
  • When writing a web address in your copy, avoid placing the address at the end of the sentence, as the end punctuation can confuse the reader: “Visit www.lsu.edu to view the latest LSU Highlights.”
  • The @ symbol should only be used in association with e-mail addresses or Twitter handles, never as a substitution for the word “at” in general body copy or headers (e.g., “The forum is at LSU.” not “The forum is @ LSU.”).

  • For dates, use the following forms:
    • 2004–05; not 2004–2005
    • 4 p.m.; not 4 PM
    • May 10, 2005; not 10 May 2005
    • 1990s; not 1990’s
    • avoid superscripts: 10; not 10th
  • Spell out whole numbers below 10. Use numerals for 10 and above.
  • Within text, spell out “percent” but use numerals: “7 percent.” For statistical data relayed in charts or graphs, the percentage symbol (%) is appropriate.

  • Position and job titles of persons should be lowercase unless followed by a name: “The president,” “the dean,” “professor,” but “President Alexander,” “Dean Smith,” “Professor Jones.”
  • Degrees should be capitalized when the complete name of the degree is given, as in “Bachelor of Arts, Master of Science, Doctor of Law, Doctor of Medicine.” If the complete name is not given, use lower case: “He earned a bachelor’s degree.”
  • Use “gpa” lowercase and without periods, or spell out “grade point average.”
  • Use lowercase for seasons, as in “fall semester 2019.”
  • Capitalize “residential college” only if the full name is given: “Visual & Performing Arts Residential College” but “He is enrolled in a residential college.”
  • When referring to academic disciplines, only names of languages are capitalized: “She’s an English major,” but “My major is chemistry.”

  • For clarity, use an Oxford or serial comma before the conjunction in a series of three or more items: “LSU, North Carolina State, and Auburn.” Exception: If you are writing for news media (e.g., press releases), it is acceptable to forgo Oxford commas, as is the standard for such communication.
  • No comma is necessary before an ampersand, even if it is the serial comma before the last item in a list.
  • No comma is necessary before “Jr.,” “Sr.,” or any numeral suffix.
  • There should only be one space after periods and colons.
  • When abbreviating academic degrees, do not use periods: “BA, PhD, MS, MBA, JD.”
  • It is not necessary to write “degree” if the full name of the degree is given. For example, it is sufficient to say “Master of Science” rather than “Master of Science degree.”
  • “African American” and “Native American” do not need hyphens.
  • The following words should be hyphenated:
    • first-year or first-time students
    • on-campus and off-campus (as adjectives)
    • pre-professional and other academic fields beginning with “pre”
  • “ly” compounds are not hyphenated: “recently written” (as adjective) not “recently-written.”
  • Use a colon to introduce items in a series that rename or amplify material that precedes the colon. If the items are lengthy, use a semicolon to separate them; otherwise, use the semicolon only as a “weak period” to separate closely related independent clauses (as in this sentence).
  • When hyphenating words, the second word should only be capitalized if it is a proper noun (i.e., non-Louisiana). (Chicago 8.169)
  • Commas and periods are placed inside quotation marks; colons and semicolons are placed outside. Depending on meaning, question marks can appear either inside or outside quotation marks.
  • When using a dash to amplify a phrase or show a break in thought, use an em dash (—) rather than an en dash (–) or hyphen (-).
  • No space is needed between dashes or slashes and surrounding text. For example, use “and/or” rather than “and / or”; “Alzheimer’s disease destroys many lives—and families—every day” rather than “Alzheimer’s disease destroys many lives — and families — every day.

  • Whether you write in second person (you) or third person (he or she) depends on your audience. Whatever the case, be consistent throughout your document.
  • Whatever the purpose of your publication, assume an audience of intelligent nonspecialists. Avoid technical jargon and abbreviations (unless identified at least once in the beginning of the document).
  • When a specialized vocabulary is unavoidable, be sure to define terms clearly in lay language.
    Avoid redundancy. State your message once in the strongest, most precise language possible.
  • Remove unnecessary phrases from your copy. For example, there is no need for the phrase “in order” in this sentence: “In order to participate, students must attend the informational workshop.”

University Approval

If your publication contains academic course or degree information, text should be approved by the Office of the University Registrar. Reputation-defining materials (as outlined in PS-10) should be sent to approvals@lsu.edu for review and approval prior to printing.

Visual Identity & Graphic Standards

All LSU publications are required to have the LSU logo, wordmark or signature on the cover or front panel. Consult the LSU Logo Usage Guidelines for proper logo use.