Writing Style


Which is it: St. Olaf or Saint Olaf? Is it email or e-mail? What about commas — should you put one before the “and”? Does it matter?

Yes, it does matter. Consistency in writing style lets the reader concentrate on the content without being distracted by variations in spelling and punctuation from one page to the next. Having a manual keeps writers and editors from having to reinvent rules every time a new project comes along. Adhering to an agreed-upon style gives each campus publication a voice that harmonizes with those from other areas of the college — and makes their use by other media as easy as possible.

This style guide is offered to bring consistency to non-scholarly, mass-media publications and correspondence written for and about St. Olaf College. It addresses many of the frequently asked questions about style and some of the common errors. In general, it looks to The Chicago Manual of Style for guidance on word usage, spelling, grammar, capitalization, and punctuation. The dictionary of record is Webster’s New World Dictionary. It should be consulted for spelling, hyphenation, and word breaks.

What this guide covers

Within this guide you will find information on the following topics. If you do not find an answer to your question here, please consult the references noted above or email Kari VanDerVeen in the Office of Marketing and Communications at vanderve@stolaf.edu.

  • The name of the college
  • Use of the college logo, seal, and athletic marks
  • St. Olaf-specific terms
  • Abbreviations
  • Academic terminology
  • Capitalization
  • Computer and Internet terminology
  • Numbers/numerals
  • Punctuation
  • Religious terminology
  • Titles: academic, courtesy, and religious
  • Troublesome words and terms
  • Writing about music: A style sheet

All About the College

The official name of the college is St. Olaf College, or, on second use in a publication, St. Olaf. Never spell out the word “saint” as part of the name of the college.

Use of the college logo, seal, and athletic marks

To better understand our approach and proper use of the college logo, seal and athletic marks, please refer to our brand manual. All questions related to use of the college logo should be directed to the Office of Marketing and Communications.

St. Olaf-specific terms

The following St. Olaf-specific words and terms are commonly misspelled or referred to incorrectly. The correct spelling and usage is below. Please note the placement of apostrophes, hyphens, and commas.

Campus Site Names

  • Ade Christenson Complex
  • Boe Memorial Chapel
  • Buntrock Commons
  • Christiansen Hall of Music
  • Center for Art and Dance
  • the Hill (“the” isn’t capitalized unless it’s at the beginning of a sentence: She loved her time on the Hill.)
  • Kings’ Dining Room
  • Lion’s Pause
  • Manitou Field
  • Manitou Heights
  • Mellby Hall
  • Memorial Tower
  • Norway Valley
  • Old Main
  • Regents Hall of Natural and Mathematical Sciences
  • Rølvaag Memorial Library
  • Skifter Hall
  • Skoglund Center
  • Skoglund Center Auditorium
  • Skoglund Field House
  • St. Olaf Bookstore
  • Theater Building
  • Tostrud Center

Departments, majors, and academic programs

  • American Conversations program
  • Asian Conversations program
  • the Great Conversation (“the” is not capitalized unless beginning a sentence)
  • the Science Conversation (“the” is not capitalized unless beginning a sentence)
  • Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science (MSCS)


  • Baccalaureate
  • Celebration Weekend
  • Commencement, Commencement 2011 (exception: lowercase in general references, such as “commencement exercises”)
  • Founders Day
  • Homecoming and Family Weekend (do not use ampersand)
  • St. Olaf Christmas Festival
  • Week One

General, administrative

  • Alumni and Parent Relations (do not use ampersand)
  • Board of Regents
  • Board of Regents Student Affairs Committee
  • Board of Regents Student Committee (BORSC)
  • Bon Appétit Management Company
  • Class of 2011 (“Class” is always capitalized in this case: the Class of 2014, the Class of 1955)
  • Dean of Students Office
  • Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP)
  • Howard and Edna Hong Kierkegaard Library
  • Information and Instructional Technologies (IIT)
  • International and Off-Campus Studies Office
  • Lilly Endowment Program
  • Lilly Program for the Discernment of Lives of Worth and Service
  • Multicultural Affairs, Office of (MCA)
  • Norwegian-American Historical Association (NAHA)
  • President’s Office
  • Recreation, Exercise Science, and Athletics (RESA)
  • Registrar’s Office
  • Shaw-Olson Center for College History
  • Student Support Services program (SSS)
  • Telecommunications Office
  • Treasurer’s Office
  • TRiO Programs
  • Upward Bound (UB)


  • Um! Yah! Yah! (A popular phrase from — and title of — the St. Olaf fight song; note that an exclamation and space follows each word)
  • Fram, Fram, Kristmenn, Krossmenn (the motto of St. Olaf College; it means “Forward, Forward, People of Christ, People of the Cross”)
  • Fram! Fram! St. Olaf! (A popular phrase and title of the college hymn)

Select student groups and ensembles

  • Gay, Lesbian, or Whatever (GLOW!)
  • St. Olaf Band, Choir, and Orchestra (only capitalized when it’s St. Olaf Band, St. Olaf Choir, or St. Olaf Orchestra; “band,” “choir,” or “orchestra” in reference to the ensemble is lowercased)
  • St. Olaf Garden Research and Organic Works Farm (STOGROW)


Abbreviations and acronyms

When in doubt, spell out the word. In general, avoid using acronyms that aren’t well-known, and avoid using a number of acronyms in one article. Do not follow an organization’s full name with an abbreviation or acronym in parentheses if there is no second reference to the organization. Names not commonly known to the public should not be reduced to acronyms solely to save a few words. Use periods with abbreviations that appear in lowercase letters (e.g., a.k.a., etc.) but do not use periods with abbreviations in capital letters (NATO, AIDS, MIAC).

Right:     St. Olaf is a member of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC). The MIAC is highly competitive, and members regularly see post-season regional and national competition.
Wrong:  The meeting brought together members of the CDC, the FBI, and the APWU.

With dates or numerals

Use the abbreviations a.m., p.m., A.D., and B.C. These abbreviations should only be used following a number.

Right:     In 450 B.C.; at 9:30 a.m.
Wrong:  This a.m. she lectured on Laban’s system of movement.

In numbered addresses used in running text

  • Do not abbreviate avenue, boulevard, and street in numbered addresses:

Right: He lives at 1520 Manitou Street.

  • Abbreviate NW, NE, SW, SE (do not use periods in the abbreviation)
  • Names of numbered streets should always be in numeral form (this is a departure from The Chicago Manual of Style)

Right: The store is located at 214 1st Street NW.


Do not abbreviate names of months or days of the week. They are always spelled out, whether alone or in dates. When a year accompanies the date, it should be set off by commas.

Right:     May 26, 2008, was a sad day for film buffs.


Names of states should always be spelled out when standing alone and when they follow the name of a city. When following the name of a city, the state should be followed by a comma.

Right:     Lake Bluff, Illinois, was incorporated in 1895.

Academic Terminology

Every profession has specialized terms that are understood well within the field but not outside of it. Academia is certainly no exception. Indeed, academic disciplines themselves have varying requirements for professional publications. The guidelines that follow, therefore, are not intended to supplant the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association or the ACS Style Guide, but to make the college’s communications with general audiences as clear and effective as possible.

Academic titles: For more about academic titles, including proper usage and capitalization, see Titles later in this guide.

Degrees such as bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, and master of arts are general rather than specific degrees and should not be capitalized in text.

Right:     He earned a bachelor of arts degree in 1995.
Right:     She earned a bachelor of science with a major in biology.

Use an apostrophe with bachelor’s degree and master’s degree.

Right:     He holds a bachelor’s degree.

Abbreviations of academic degrees should be used sparingly in material for the mass media, where they are not easily translated and where distinctions between degrees of various sorts are not well understood. When they are cited, use periods and form plurals by adding “s.” Avoid the possessive form.

Right:     B.A., M.A., Ph.D., LL.D.
Right:     B.A.s, M.A.s, Ph.D.s, LL.D.s
Wrong:   BA, BAs, PhD, PhDs

Academic honors such as cum laude (with honor), magna cum laude (with great honor), and summa cum laude (with highest honors) should be italicized.

Right:     A summa cum laude graduate of St. Olaf, she majored in art.



In general, avoid unnecessary capitals. When too many words are capitalized, they lose their importance and no longer attract attention.


Capitalize the proper names of addresses. Capitalize words like “avenue” and “street” when used with more than one street name.

Right:     Elm Street, St. Olaf Avenue, Northfield Boulevard
Right:     Elm and Oak Streets, Northfield and Cannon City Boulevards

Academic majors, degrees, and honors

Except for languages (English, French, Norwegian, etc.) and studies related to geographical areas, the names of academic disciplines are not proper nouns and should not be capitalized. This includes references to disciplines in major fields of study, programs, and concentrations.

Right:     He is a music major who also pursued Russian area studies.
Right:     He majored in American racial and multicultural studies and completed a concentration in management studies.

Academic courses

Capitalize and use Arabic numerals. Put the formal name of the course in italics.

Right:     History 642: America in Vietnam
Right:     Great Conversation 113: The Tradition Beginning: The Greeks and the Hebrews

Academic departments, divisions, and disciplines

Capitalize the full, formal names of academic departments, faculties, and divisions. Do not capitalize the names of academic disciplines.

Right:     the Department of History, the History Department
Right:     the Department of English, the English Department
Right:     She teaches mathematics.
Right:     She became the academic administrative assistant of the Mathematics Department in 2001.
Right:     He presented his findings to the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Faculty, one of the five divisions of the college’s academic program.

Academic and administrative programs and committees

Avoid capitalizing these unless using the full formal name of a committee, center, group, program, or initiative.

Right:     She will visit the Center for Integrative Studies this afternoon.
Right:     She will visit the center this afternoon.
Right:     He is the chair of the Curriculum and Educational Policies Committee.
Right:     She coordinates the benefits program at the college.

Administrative offices and divisions

Capitalize the formal names of administrative offices and divisions. Lowercase casual references. (Exception: In address blocks, directories, and tabular formats, the casual name may be capitalized.)

Right:     The staff in the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations is very helpful.
Right:     Her work in alumni and parent relations is very satisfying.
Right:     That will be handled by the Office of Human Resources.
Right:     The office that oversees annual giving is part of the Advancement and College Relations Division.

Centuries and decades

Use numerals when describing centuries and decades (this is a departure from The Chicago Manual of Style). Lowercase the word “century” except when it is part of a title. Be sure to use a hyphen when “century” is modifying a noun.

Right:     the 20th century
Right:     18th-century literature, in the course 19th-Century Myths


Do not capitalize individual class designations: first-year student, sophomore, junior, senior. (Note the hyphenation of the words “first” and “year” when used as an adjective modifying a noun.) Do not capitalize generic references, e.g., the senior class. Do capitalize the formal names of organized entities: the Class of 1979, the Class of ’92 Reunion Gift Committee.

Conferences and Events

Full names of meetings, conferences, etc., are capitalized. A “the” preceding the name is lowercased even when part of the official title. Terms like “society” and “conference” should be lowercased outside the formal name. Put substantive titles of individual conferences in quotation marks.

Right:     Republican National Convention
Right:     The annual convention of the American Medical Association will be held in August.
Right:     She really enjoyed the International Reading Association’s Chicago convention, “Great Teachers Inspire the World.”

Ensembles, teams, etc.

The words “band,” “choir,” “orchestra,” “football,” “soccer,” etc., are not capitalized on second reference to one of those organizations.

Right:     A member of the St. Olaf Band, he was pursuing an independent major through the Center for Integrative Studies.
Right:     A member of the band, he could usually be found at the center.
Wrong: A member of the Band, he was also a familiar sight at the Center.


Capitalize the formal names of specific events occurring at the college: Commencement 2002, Fall Open House, Honors Day 2002, the Center for Art and Dance Dedication.

Right:     New York City firefighter Brenda Berkman was selected to be the keynote speaker for

Commencement 2002.

Right:     Her parents will attend Commencement at St. Olaf.
Right:     Fall Open House will be held October 15.

Nationality, ethnicity, and dual heritage

Capitalize names of national and ethnic groups of people. Compound proper nouns — even in adjective form — are not hyphenated.

Right:     American Indian, Latin American, Arab, British
Right:     She has a strong voice in the African American community.
Right:     There’s a really good Japanese American restaurant just around the corner.

Publications and other titles

Italicize the names of newspapers and magazines and the titles of books, journals, movies, television and radio programs, photographs, plays, art exhibitions, and collected works when they are in text; enclose the titles of articles, poems, and episodes of television programs in quotation marks. (For questions related to musical titles, see the music style sheet at the end of this guide.)

In titles of works and names of publications, capitalize the principal words, including all nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and subordinating conjunctions (if, because, as, that, etc.). Articles (the, a, an) are lowercased unless they are the first or last words in a title.

Right:     The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Of Mice and Men, Gone With the Wind
Right:     Atlantic Monthly published his article titled “Life in a Small Town” in January.

When newspapers and periodicals are mentioned in text, an initial “the,” even if it is part of the official title, is lowercased (unless it begins a sentence) and is not italicized. Foreign-language titles, however, retain the article in the original language — but only if it is an official part of the title.

Right:     She reads the Chicago Tribune on the train.
Right:     We read Le Monde and Die Zeit while traveling in Europe.
Right:     Did you see the review in the Frankfurter Allgemeine?

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

Right:     Los Angeles Times Book Award
Right:     Tribune Tower

Seasons, days of the week

The names of the days of the week and the months of the year are always capitalized. The four seasons are not capitalized when standing by themselves. They are capitalized when part of proper names.

Right:     Homecoming takes place in the fall.
Right:     There will be a number of information sessions during Fall Open House 2002.


Do not capitalize fall semester or spring semester; Interim, however, is always capitalized.


In running text, titles are capitalized only if they directly precede the name of the individual. A title following the name of an individual or a title by itself is not capitalized. However, titles used in event listings or programs are capitalized in all instances. (For specific information about academic, courtesy, and religious titles, see Titles later in this guide.)

Right:     President Lars W. Boe will speak at the event.
Right:     Ole E. Rølvaag, professor of Norwegian, will speak at the event.
Right:     The president, Clemens M. Granskou, will speak at the event.
Right:     The crowd stood as the president of the United States entered.

David R. Anderson ’74, President

Matthew Marohl, College Pastor

Mary Walczak, Professor of Chemistry

Exception: Titles of the holders of named professorial chairs are always capitalized in full, whether they appear before or after the holder’s name:

Right:     Anton Armstrong ’78, the Harry R. and Thora H. Tosdal Professor of Music
Right:     Tosdal Professor of Music Anton Armstrong ’78
Right:     James Bobb is the Elliot and Klara Stockdal Johnson Chair of Organ and Church Music

Exception: The names of academic degrees and honors should be capitalized when following a personal name, whether abbreviated or written in full:

Right:     Clyde M. Haverstick, Doctor of Law
Right:     Martha Hershall, M.D.
Right:     Lee Wallek, Fellow of the Royal Academy

Exception: Some words identifying occupations or professions should not be capitalized even if they precede the name. Do not capitalize in instances such as:

Right:     attorney Clarence Darrow
Right:     pianist Van Cliburn
Right:     music faculty member F. Melius Christiansen
Right:     basketball coach Pat Summitt

Computer and Internet Terminology

Listed below are common computer and Internet terms along with preferred spelling and capitalization. These rules pertain in general to text in print. Please note exceptions for web use regarding email addresses and URLs.

email: Always use “email” without a hyphen. Do not capitalize the word unless it appears at the beginning of a sentence or list.

When including an email address in text in print, set the address in lowercase letters and italicize.

When including an email address in text on the web, do not italicize the address. Instead, hyperlink the address. If an email address is used at the end of the sentence, use a period, but do not hyperlink the period.

e-newsletter, e-communication, e-article, e-commerce, e-marketing, e-zine

home page: Two words spelled in lowercase letters except at the beginning of a sentence.

Internet: Capitalize in all instances.

online: one word, no hyphen

URLs, web addresses: When including a URL in text in print, set the address in lowercase letters and italicize. Do not put “www” at the beginning of URLs. It isn’t needed when typing in an address and looks antiquated. Avoid including a complex URL in print that is difficult for readers to retype (such as fusion.acc.stolaf.edu/inside/index.cfm?fuseaction=PastIssues). If you can’t provide a simple URL, direct readers to a main page and then give them instructions for finding the information (Example: Visit stolaf.edu/admissions and select “Request More Information” in the lower left-hand corner).

If a URL falls at the end of a sentence, use a period. If an address breaks between lines, split it directly before a slash or a dot that is part of the address, without an inserted hyphen.

When including a URL in text on the web, do not italicize the URL. Instead, hyperlink the address. If an Internet address falls at the end of a sentence, use a period, but do not hyperlink the period. Try to avoid “link here” structures and instead hyperlink a word or phrase within the sentence.

Right:     Visit us on the web at stolaf.edu.
Right:     For complete details on the event, visit stolaf.edu/admissions.
Right:     View the concert online. (With “online” hyperlinked.)


web page: is two words, not hyphenated, both in lowercase letters

website: The preferred St. Olaf style is website — one word, lowercase

webmaster, webcam, webcast: One word spelled in lowercase letters except at the beginning of sentences

World Wide Web: Capitalize in all instances


In text, spell out whole numbers below 10; use figures for 10 and above (this is a departure from The Chicago Manual of Style).

Right:     They had three sons and two daughters.
Right:     They had a fleet of 10 station wagons and two buses.
Right:     They built four four-room houses, 10 three-room houses and 12 10-room houses.

Ages are an exception to these guidelines: Always use figures to indicate the age of a person, except at the beginning of
a sentence. Ages expressed as adjectives before a noun or as a substitute for a noun should use a hyphen.

Right:     A 5-year-old boy … The girl is 2 years old. The 31-year-old researcher …
Right:     Two-year-olds are not noted for their patience.
Wrong:  2-year-olds are not noted for their patience.
Right:     The professor, a woman in her 50s, recounted the changes brought about by the Title IX legislation passed in 1972.

When referring to decades, use numerals in full words or abbreviate the numerals, inserting an apostrophe before the
two-digit number to indicate numerals that have been omitted.

Right:     the 1920s, the Roaring ’20s
Right:     the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s
Wrong:  the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s
Right:     She enjoyed ’70s music.
Right:     In the mid-1960s, she took up jogging; before she knew it, she was running in marathons.

Percentages should always be in numeral form (unless they’re at the beginning of a sentence), and “percent” should be spelled out rather than indicated with a symbol.

Right: The percentage of classes at St. Olaf with fewer than 20 students increased from 49 percent to 60 percent.

When large numbers must be spelled out, use a hyphen to connect a word ending in “y” to another word; do not use commas between other separate words that are part of one number.

Right:     twenty; thirty; twenty-one; thirty-one; one hundred forty-three; one thousand one hundred fifty-five

Spell out numerals occurring at the beginning of a sentence or recast the sentence. There is one exception — a numeral that identifies a calendar year may be used to begin a sentence.

Right:     Last year, 993 first-year students entered the college.
Right:     Forty-five students entered the competition.
Wrong:  993 first-year students entered the college last year.
Right:     1999 was a very good year for job seekers.

For ordinal numbers (first, second, etc.), spell out first through ninth when they indicate sequence in time or location. Starting with 10th, use figures.

Right:     first base, the Fifth Amendment
Right:     He was 11th in line.

Use 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc., when the sequence has been assigned in forming names. Principal examples are geographic, military, and political designations.

Right:    1st Ward, 7th Fleet, 1st Sgt.

Numbers in dates

Always use Arabic figures, without “st,” “nd,” “rd,” or “th.” (When referring to things connected with the events of September 11, 2001, however, it is permissible to use September 11th.)

Right:     October 16
Wrong:   October 16th

When using two years to show a period of time, separate the numbers with an “en” dash (a punctuation mark that is longer than a hyphen — see PUNCTUATION later for more details). Do not repeat the century and do not insert an apostrophe. (Exceptions include the 1999–2000 academic year, because it spanned two centuries, and anything else spanning centuries, e.g., 1985–2002.)

Right:     the 2000–01 academic year
Wrong:   the 2000–2001 academic year
Wrong:   the 2000–’01 academic year

In a sentence, use the word “to” or “and,” not a hyphen or an “en” dash.

Right:     She worked here from 1998 to 2000.
Wrong: She worked here from 1998–2000.
Right:     American culture changed greatly between 1950 and 1960.

Numbers in class years

When identifying current students or alumni by their class years, the two-digit year is preceded by an apostrophe. Do not insert a comma before the year.

Right:     John Smith ’87, Jane Doe ’00
Wrong: John Smith, ’87, Jane Doe, ’00

Identify alumni who have changed their names since birth, through marriage or otherwise, as follows:

first name / birth name / present last name / class year. Do not set off birth names with parentheses.

Right:     Jane Doe Smith ’70
Wrong: Jane (Doe) Smith ’70

Identify alumni couples who share a last name as follows: first partner’s first name / birth name (if different) / and class year followed by second partner’s first name / birth name / the couple’s present last name / and second partner’s class year.

Right:     John ’47 and Jane Doe Smith ’45
Wrong: John and Jane Doe Smith ’47, ’45
Right:     John Smith ’90 and Jane Doe-Smith ’90

Typesetting note: Most word processing programs will automatically insert the apostrophe curling the wrong way (e.g., ‘01). Type a space in after the year, and it will curl the apostrophe the correct way (e.g., ’01).

Numbers in academic grade years

Spell out and use ordinal numbers: “She coaches the ninth-grade girls soccer team.”

For grades 9–12 and for college levels, use the terms sophomore, junior, and senior, but not “freshman.” Always use “ninth grade” and “first-year student.”

Telephone numbers

In text, local telephone numbers are written with hyphens: 507-786-2222.


Use figures except for noon and midnight. A figure alone without zeroes is sufficient for the top of the hour. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes. Do not put a 12 before noon and midnight. Do not omit the periods in a.m. and p.m.

Right:   11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m., midnight
Wrong:    2:00 p.m., 5pm



Use the ampersand (&) only when it is part of a company’s formal name. The ampersand should not otherwise be used in place of the word “and.”

Right:     Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, U.S. News & World Report
Right:     the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations
Wrong:  the Office of Alumni & Parent Relations


Apostrophes indicate where letters or figures have been omitted in contractions and class years.

Right:     Class of ’77
Right:     Robert Smith ’77
Right:     rock ’n’ roll, Lunch ’n’ Learn


Use commas to separate elements in a series, and do put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series.

Right:     The flag is red, white, and blue.

When “etc.” is used at the end of a series (and it should be used sparingly), set it off with commas.

Right:     The professor discussed dates, tests, extra help, etc., during her opening remarks.

Use a comma for most figures greater than 999. The major exceptions are: street addresses, broadcast frequencies, room numbers, serial numbers, telephone numbers, and years.

Commas always go inside quotation marks.

Right:     “When we arrive,” she said, “I want to go snorkeling.”


There are two primary kinds of dashes, varying from one another in length.

The most commonly used dash is the “em” dash, so called because it is equal in length to a typeset lowercase “m.” Use an “em” dash — with a space on either side — to indicate an interruption, explanation, series within a phrase, or break in faltering speech or to give emphasis.

Right:     “Rosebud — ” The glass ball slipped from his lifeless hand.
Right:     Smith offered a plan — this was unprecedented — to raise revenues.
Wrong:   Smith offered a plan – – this was unprecedented – – to raise revenues.
Right:     We will fly to Paris in June — if I get a raise.

“En” dashes are the same length as a typeset “n.” They are used primarily to indicate continuing, or inclusive, numbers in dates, time, or reference numbers. Use an “en” dash — without a space on either side — to indicate the passage of a period of time. Do not precede such a phrase with the word “from,” which should only be used together with the word “to.”

Right:     The growing seasons were shorter in 1995–2000. In May–June 2001 there were 12 incidents.
Right:     The reception will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Kings’ Room.
Wrong:  The reception will take place from 1–3 p.m. in the Kings’ Room.
Right:     The scripture reading for the day was Ruth 1:16–17.

Use an en dash followed by a space when the concluding date of an expression is in the future: John Doe (2001– )

The en dash is also used in place of a hyphen in a compound adjective, one element of which consists of two words or a hyphenated word:

Right:     In the post–Civil War period …
Right:     On the New York–London flight
Right:     a quasi-public–quasi-judicial body


Use an ellipsis to indicate the deletion of one or more words in condensing quotes, texts, and documents. Leave one full space on both sides of an ellipsis, which should consist of three periods.

Right:     I … tried to do what was best.

If the words that precede an ellipsis constitute a grammatically complete sentence, either in the original or in the condensation, place a period at the end of the last word before the ellipsis. Follow it with a regular space and an ellipsis.

Right:     I no longer have a strong enough political base. … I will not seek reelection.


In text, follow a period with a single space before beginning the next sentence. Omit periods in vertical lists unless one or more of the items are complete sentences.

Titles (Academic, Courtesy, and Religious)

In text, titles are capitalized if they directly precede the name of the individual. A title following the name of an individual or a title by itself is not capitalized. However, titles used in event listings or programs are capitalized in all instances.

On second reference to a person, use only the last name unless another person mentioned in the document has the same last name. In that case, use first name and last name to avoid confusion.

Right:     Pastor Matthew Marohl gave the sermon. Marohl focused on the issue of discrimination.

Academic titles

Academic ranks and titles are specific and not interchangeable. It is not appropriate to bestow the title “Professor” upon someone who holds the rank of instructor — or vice versa. A person is “Professor of,” “Associate Professor of,” or “Assistant Professor of” a discipline or “Instructor in” a discipline.

Right:     Associate Professor of Biology Jane Doe
Right:     Jane Doe, associate professor of biology, will be the keynote speaker.
Wrong:  Jane Doe is Associate Professor of Physics and Director of the Center for the Study of UFOs.

The titles “artist in residence” or “writer in residence” are not hyphenated, even when placed directly before the faculty member’s name.

Right:     St. Olaf Artist in Residence David Hagedorn plays the vibraphone on the new Brian Setzer Orchestra CD.

Courtesy titles

Use courtesy titles (“Dr.,” “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” “Ms.,” “Miss”) only in formal materials such as invitations.

Do not use “Mr.” in an informal reference unless it is combined with “Mrs.”: Mr. and Mrs. John Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

On first reference, faculty members should be referred to by their full academic title and their first and last name. On second reference, their last name is sufficient. Do not use the courtesy title “Dr.”

Religious titles

The first reference to a clergyperson normally should include a capitalized title before the person’s name. The abbreviation Rev. is used when no “the” precedes the title. If “the” precedes the title, then Reverend should be spelled out. On second reference, use the person’s last name only with no title.

Right:     the Reverend William Sanborn
Right:     Rev. William Sanborn

Select Troublesome Words and Terms

The following words and terms are often misused.

Advisor, adviser: “Advisor” is the preferred St. Olaf spelling.

Afterward, backward, downward, forward, toward, upward: Note that there is no “s” at the end of these words (it is not afterwards, etc.)

Alumnus, alumna, alumni, alumnae: The word “alumnus” indicates a man who has attended or graduated from a school; an “alumna” is a woman who has done so. When referring to a group of men and women who have attended or graduated from a school or to more than one alumnus, use the word “alumni.” When referring to an exclusively female group, use the word “alumnae.” Do not use the phrase “alumni/ae” to refer to mixed groups. Avoid the word “alum.”

Between, among: “Between” refers to two people or things. (Mother split the bread evenly between the two of us.) “Among” implies collective relationships of more than two. (Among the students, there were only three who had done the homework.)

Book signing

Catalog: Do not use the spelling catalogue.

Chair: Not chairman/chairwoman/chairperson


Disc, disk: The preferred spelling for CDs and CD-ROMs is “disc.” “Disk” is preferred for floppy and hard drives.

Emeritus, Emerita, Emeriti, Emeritae

These titles are an honorable recognition of the service of those who have contributed substantially to the life and mission of the college. For faculty at St. Olaf, it normally is recommended by the dean of the college and conferred by the Board of Regents upon retirement. The word “emeritus” indicates a man who has retired from his rank or title; an “emerita” is a woman who has done so. When referring to a group of men and women who have retired from their rank or title or to more than one emeritus, use the word “emeriti.” When referring exclusively to a female group, use the word “emeritae.” The term should be included in academic titles as follows:

Right:              Professor Emeritus of Music Charles Forsberg
Right:              Professor Emerita of Biology Alice Burton
Right:              Associate Professor Emeritus of English Graham Frear

Foreign words and cities

Isolated words and phrases in a foreign language that are likely to be unfamiliar to readers should be put in italics (e.g., Honi soit qui mal y pense is the motto of the Order of the Garter). Foreign words and phrases familiar to most readers and listed in Webster (e.g., in vitro, a cappella) are not italicized if used in an English context. If confusion might arise, however, foreign terms are best italicized and spelled as in the original language.

For foreign place names, use the primary spelling in Webster’s New World Dictionary. If it has no entry, follow the National Geographic Atlas of the World.

Master class

Name tag

Over, more than: Generally use “over” when referring to spatial relationships: “The ball flew over the wall.” While “over” may, at times, be used with numerals (“He is over 30.” “She paid over $2,000 for the auction item.”), you should generally use “more than” with numbers and quantities (“She raised more than $300,000.”). Let your ear be your guide in these cases.

Percent: Percent is always one word. Do not use % except in charts or tabular material.

Staff: Use “staffed” as a transitive verb rather than “manned.”

Right:     She staffed the registration table during Homecoming and Family Weekend.

Theater, theatre

At St. Olaf, the theater major, the Department of Theater/Theater Department, titles of faculty members teaching in the department, the activities of the department or of its faculty and staff, and the dramatic arts in general all use the American spelling “theater.”

When referring to theatrical performance spaces, also use the American spelling “theater” — except where a formal name uses the British spelling, “theatre” (e.g., the Shubert Theatre and the Children’s Theatre, but the Guthrie Theater).

The names of the theaters at St. Olaf are the Kelsey Theater and the Haugen Theater, located in the Theater Building, and the Viking Theater, located in Buntrock Commons.

Right:     She found her vocation at St. Olaf in Theater 110: Introduction to Theater. The Theater Department faculty provided an overview of theater history, as well as exposure to works of great dramatic literature.
Right:     The Guthrie Theater opened on May 7, 1963, with a production of Hamlet.
Right:     St. Olaf Professor of Theater Jane Doe directed the production.


Ultimate Frisbee

United States, U.S.: United States as a noun should be spelled out, but U.S. (with periods) is acceptable when used as an adjective.

Writing About Music: A Style Sheet

A cappella

Two p’s, two l’s, don’t italicize. Defined by Webster’s New World Dictionary as “without instrumental accompaniment; said of choral singing.”

“Conductor” vs. “director”

A “conductor” is “a director of an orchestra, choir, etc.,” according to Webster’s New World Dictionary, while a “director” is one “who directs a play, motion picture, etc.” Refer to the leader of a musical ensemble as “conductor” and to the person who oversees the production of a play — or the annual Christmas Festival — as a “director.”

Musical keys

Capitalize letters standing for musical keys.

Right:     middle C, the key of G major, the key of F-sharp minor

“Premier” and “premiere”

“Premier” (adjective or noun) means first in importance or rank, chief, foremost; any chief official. “Premier” (verb) means to exhibit or perform for the first time. “Premiere” (adjective or noun) is a first performance or showing of a play, movie, or musical work.

Right:     The premier collegiate choral ensemble/band/orchestra in America; the premier of British Columbia
Right:     The ensemble will premier the piece in Oslo.
Right:     The premiere of “Sonata for Sirens” was scheduled for late December.
Right:     The audience eagerly awaited the premiere performance of the piece.

Titles and subtitles of musical pieces

Generic titles (which use describers such as symphony, concerto, fantasia, etc., and often have an identifying opus or index number appended) are capitalized, but not italicized.

Bach: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565
Haydn: Baryton Trio No. 71 in A Major, Hob. XI: 71
Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 61
Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony

True titles (titles assigned by the composer) are italicized.

Rossini: La gazza ladra
Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique

Common names (widely recognized popular names) are in quotation marks.

Mozart: Symphony No. 41 in C Major (“Jupiter”)

If it is unclear whether to treat a title as a true title or a common name, use quotation marks.
the “Italian” Symphony
the “New World” Symphony

Song titles should be in italics.

La danza
L’Heure exquise

Arias drawn from operas are capitalized and put in quotation marks.

“Where’er You Walk,” from Handel’s Semele

The titles of Latin liturgical works are capitalized, as are their constituent movements.

Titles: Mass, Requiem, Te Deum.
Movements: Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, etc.

Movement titles are capitalized.


When an opus or catalog number is used as sole identification of the work, it is not preceded by a comma.

Trio op. 97
Adagio K. 411

Concert programs

The standard listing of a work in a concert program gives a formal title with key and index identifier, the composer’s full name, and the composer’s dates. Movements follow, with foreign words italicized. Movements should be indented.

Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major           Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750)

Gavotte I
Gavotte II

Four Dance-Episodes from Rodeo           Aaron Copland (1900–90)

Buckaroo Holiday
Corral Nocturne
Saturday Night Waltz
Hoe Down

For a movement identified by both a title and a tempo indicator, use a colon after the title.

Symphony No. 3 in Eb Major (“Eroica”), opus 55           Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)

Allegro con brio
Marcia funebre: Adagio assai
Scherzo: Allegro vivace
Finale: Allegro molto

It is appropriate to translate movement titles that might not otherwise be understood, particularly if they are not translated elsewhere in the program. The translation should follow the movement title in parentheses and should be in quotes but not italicized.

Concerto for Orchestra                         Bela Bartok (1881–1945)

Giuoco delle coppie (“Game of Paris”)
Intermezzo interrotto (“Interrupted Intermezzo”)

For first performances, give the date of composition and indicate the occasion

The Big Bang and Beyond (1985)            Steven Mackey (b. 1953)
(Premiere Performance)

For a work that tells a story, it can be helpful to list the incidents in the program

The Moldau (Vltava) from My Fatherland (Ma Vlast)                           Bedřich Smetana (1824–84)

The Two Sources of the Moldau
Forest Hunt
Moonlight: Nymphs’ Dance
St. John’s Rapids
The Moldau in Its Greatest Breadth