Editorial style guide

SMU follows AP style for its communications, with some exceptions listed below. If you cannot find your specific issue listed in this guide, adopt AP style. (If you do not have an online AP stylebook account, please visit SMU Libraries with your faculty, staff or student ID for access.)

For style guidance for academic writing, contact your school or department.

For best-practice writing that embraces equity, diversity, and inclusion, we recommend and follow the Inclusive Language Guidelines of the American Psychological Association.

For grammar questions, the Purdue University Online Writing Lab is an excellent resource. Other valuable resources are GrammarBook.com and the Journalist’s toolbox presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. 

Merriam-Webster is our primary dictionary. In following AP Stylebook guidance, we rely on Merriam-Webster’s digital content, which is more up to date than print versions.

If you have further style questions that are not addressed in this guide, please contact styleguide@smu.edu.

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In text, do not use abbreviations except in special publications and sports schedules that call for abbreviated months/dates, with company names because of space considerations, and with addresses as they appear on mailings.

On campus maps, abbreviations may be used for common terms (Ave, Rd, Blvd, St, etc.), and punctuation is not used after the abbreviation. Abbreviations of this type should not be used in general publications.

academic degrees

SMU follows AP guidelines for academic degrees (see examples below for capitalization and abbreviations of degrees – these are taken directly from AP Stylebook).

  • If mention of degrees is necessary to establish someone’s credentials, the preferred form is to avoid an abbreviation and use instead a phrase such as Fatima Kader, who has a doctorate in psychology.
  • Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, a master’s, etc., but there is no possessive in Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science.
  • Use such abbreviations as B.A., M.A., LL.D. and Ph.D. only when the need to identify many individuals by degree on first reference would make the preferred form cumbersome. Use these abbreviations only after a full name – never after just a last name.
  • Do not precede a name with a courtesy title for an academic degree and follow it with the abbreviation for the degree in the same reference.
  • Master of Arts, Master of Science, Master of Business Administration:
    • Abbreviated M.A., M.S., but MBA. A master’s degree or a master’s is acceptable in any reference.
  • Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science:
    • A bachelor’s degree or bachelor’s is acceptable in any reference.
    • Abbreviated B.A. or B.S.
  •  Doctorate:
    • The preferred form is to say a person holds a doctorate and name the individual’s area of specialty.
    • Do not use Dr. before the names of individuals who hold other types of doctoral degrees. Instead, when necessary or appropriate: Cassandra Karoub, who has a doctorate in mathematics, was lead researcher.
    • When listed after name: Jane Smith, Ph.D.

academic titles

Capitalize and spell out formal academic titles such as “professor,” “chair” and “dean” when the title immediately precedes a name:

  • Dean Craig C. Hill.
  • Assistant Professor Vishal Ahuja.

Lowercase when the title follows a name unless the title is an endowed chair or professorship.

  • Jennifer Collins, dean of Dedman School of Law.
  • Dinesh Rajan, chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering.
  • David D. Blackwell, W.B. Hamilton Professor of Geological Sciences.


Avoid the use of acronyms, particularly in communications with external audiences. Acronyms may be used on second reference, but try to use “the center,” “the institute” or simply a shortened version of the center or institute’s name if possible: “The Bridwell Institute for Economic Freedom is a research institute in Cox School of Business. The institute studies…” See centers and institutes.

When you do need to use acronyms (such as in longer internal documents), use them only after the full name has been used at least once previously.


Within narrative copy, use commas and spell out the state in an address. “Visit the George W. Bush Presidential Center at 2943 SMU Boulevard, Dallas, Texas.”

For envelopes and other mailings, format the mailing address consistent with postal regulations, using no punctuation:

Office of Public Affairs
PO Box 750174
Dallas TX 75275-0174



Singular, not plural, when it refers to SMU Admission.

  • Office of Undergraduate Admission


Preferred to “adviser,” contrary to AP style.

African American

See race entry.


Use the hyphen when abbreviating Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center.


  • Alumni is used for both male and female (plural) graduates.
  • Alumnus is used for a single male graduate.
  • Alumna is used for a single female graduate.
  • Alumnae is used for plural female graduates.
  • Alum or alums is acceptable in casual usage.


In general, not a substitute for the word “and” in narrative copy. In narrative copy, use only when part of a formal name: “AT&T,” “Barnes & Noble.” The only formal name at SMU with an ampersand is “Robson & Lindley Aquatics Center.”

Ampersands may be and are recommended for use in logos for consistency in branding across schools.


Always use “smart” (or curly) quotes and apostrophes. Occasionally, computer systems will automatically insert straight quotes or apostrophes, which should be corrected.

Armstrong Foundation, The

“The” is part of the foundation’s name and should always be capitalized, regardless of location within a sentence.


Always capitalize when referring to the SMU department. It is “Director of Athletics” or “Athletics Director” (not “Athletic Director”) when used before a name and “director of Athletics” following a name. “Director of Athletics” is preferred over “Athletics Director” whenever possible. As a general term, “athletics” is lowercase.

  • SMU Giving Day witnessed a new record in Athletics giving.
  • The donors to this project are investing in the future of SMU Athletics.
  • SMU is continuing to gain momentum at the highest levels of collegiate athletics.

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Black (updated March 2023)

The Associated Press changed its style on June 19, 2020, to capitalize the “b” in “Black” and explained its reasoning here.

Following the lead of the AP and other major news organizations, SMU now capitalizes the “b” in “Black” when the word is used in a racial, ethnic or cultural context. The modification aligns “Black” with long-standing identifiers such as Latino, Asian American and Native American.

Do not use “Black” as a singular noun. Use the capitalized term as an adjective in a racial, ethnic or cultural sense: Black people, Black culture, Black literature, Black studies, Black colleges. African American is also acceptable for those in the U.S. The terms are not necessarily interchangeable. Americans of Caribbean heritage, for example, generally refer to themselves as Caribbean American. Follow an individual’s preference if known and be specific when possible and relevant.

  • Minneapolis has a large Somali American population because of refugee resettlement.
  • The author is Senegalese American.

Use of the capitalized “Black” recognizes that language has evolved, along with the common understanding that especially in the United States, the term reflects a shared identity and culture rather than a skin color alone.

Beyond AP Stylebook guidelines for best-practice writing that embraces equity, diversity, and inclusion, we recommend and follow the Inclusive Language Guidelines of the American Psychological Association.

Board of Trustees

References to SMU’s Board of Trustees are in uppercase:

  • He is on the Board of Trustees.
  • She is on the Board.
  • She is a member of SMU’s Board of Trustees.
  • SMU Trustee Joe Smith.
  • But: He is an SMU trustee.

Boards, Committees

Capitalize when part of a proper name:

  • Simmons School Executive Board.
  • Campaign Steering Committee.

Boulevard, Boulevarding, the Boulevard

  • Boulevarding takes place on the Boulevard before each home football game.
  • We don’t tailgate, we Boulevard!


Use the names listed on the interactive campus map.

Bush, President George W.

President Bush

For donor relations: George W. Bush and Laura Welch Bush ’68

George W. Bush Presidential Center

Use the full name for first reference to the entity that includes the library, museum and institute. Alphabetize under “B” instead of “G” on campus maps.

  • “Bush Presidential Center” on second reference.
  • “Bush Center” for more informal contexts after first and second references.

George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Use on first reference when referring only to that joint entity. Alphabetize under “B” instead of “G” on campus maps, etc.

  • “Bush Library and Museum” on second reference.
  • Use “library and museum” in casual contexts after first and second references. See centers and institutes.
  • The library and museum should generally be treated as a single entity.

George W. Bush Foundation

Use on first reference to the foundation alone. There is no “The” in the foundation name. Alphabetize under “B” instead of “G.”

    • “Bush Foundation” on second reference.
    • Use “the foundation” in more informal contexts after first and second references.

George W. Bush Institute

Use on first reference to the institute alone. Alphabetize under “B” instead of “G” on campus maps, etc.

  • “Bush Institute” on second reference.
  • Use “the institute” in more informal contexts after first and second references.

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Italicize the names of SMU’s comprehensive campaigns (Campaign years are shown below as reference only; they should not be included when naming a campaign).

  • SMU Ignited: Boldly Shaping Tomorrow (2021–).
  • SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign (2008−2015).
  • Pony Power: Strengthening the Stampede (2017−2020).

In certain circumstances, campaign names are used without the tagline: SMU Ignited, SMU Unbridled, Pony Power. When in doubt, check with the project manager/author and remain consistent throughout a project.


SMU capitalizes major events and other common-to-SMU words and phrases when used in reference to the University. Some examples are listed below; others may be listed separately within the style guide.

  • Academic Year – capitalize only when used with a year, e.g., Academic Year 2022–23.
  • Class of XXXX (for example: Class of 2022).
  • Commencement, Commencement Weekend.
  • Convocation.
  • Hilltop (in reference to SMU: “Welcome to the Hilltop”).

centers and institutes

Spell out the full name on the first reference:

  • Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility.
  • John Goodwin Tower Center for Public Policy and International Affairs.

Subsequent references and beyond may use “the center” or “the institute” (not capitalized).


According to SMU guidelines on the use of gender-neutral/gender-inclusive language, use chair – not chairman or chairwoman – for SMU Board members and department heads. Follow the corporation’s nomenclature for positions outside of SMU.

Collegiate Georgian architecture

The architectural style of SMU buildings. Capitalize “Collegiate” and “Georgian.”


AP style does not use the serial comma, e.g., “Professor Smith teaches economics, market behaviors and statistics,” NOT “Professor Smith teaches economics, market behaviors, and statistics.”

composition titles

Apply these guidelines to titles of books, movies, operas, plays, poems, podcasts, songs and television programs, as well as lectures, speeches, exhibitions and works of art, including sculptures (an exception to AP style).

Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters. Capitalize an article – the, a, an – or words of fewer than four letters if it is the first or last word in a title.

Titles of books, including reference books, and periodical titles are italicized, except for the Bible.

  • Journal of Air Law and Commerce.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • U.S. News & World Report.
  • The New York Times.

Use italics for titles of movies, television programs, songs, podcasts, operas, exhibitions and works of art.

  • The Sound of Music.
  • The Walking Dead.
  • Varsity.
  • The Magic Flute.
  • Bach’s Suite No. 1 for Orchestra. (This is an exception to AP style.)

course titles

Class and course titles should be lowercased except when using a specific title or the name contains a proper noun or numeral. Do not use quotation marks around course/class names.

  • He took Philosophy 209 last term.
  • The professor teaches The Arts in Their Cultural Context: The City of the Imagination.
  • Our biology class is studying meiosis, and I have an essay due in English tomorrow.


One word.

courtesy titles

In general, avoid using courtesy titles such as Dr., Miss, Mr., Mrs. or Ms. except in direct quotations or when it enhances the quality of the writing in an article to avoid repetition or redundancies (use editorial discretion and maintain consistency within projects). When it is necessary to distinguish between two people who use the same last name, use the first and last name.

  • The exceptions are on first reference to: academic titles (see professor and academic titles), clergy such as “the Rev. Dr.” or “the Rev.” (see religious titles) and with elected officials such as Sen., Congresswoman, etc. (for legislative titles, refer to the AP Stylebook legislative titles entry).
  • Additional exceptions may include individual preferences, particularly in development and donor publications/lists. Cultural dictates may also override SMU style in some cases.)

curriculum, curricula

Curriculum is the singular form, while curricula is the plural form. Common Curriculum is capitalized.

cyber security

Two words (a variation from AP style).

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D Magazine

“Magazine” is capitalized and italicized.

Dads’ Club


When used in datelines, the city name stands alone with no state.

deans, endowed deans

Capitalize and spell out “Dean” when the title precedes a name:

  • Dean Robin Poston, Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies.
  • Dean Matthew B. Myers, Edwin L. Cox School of Business.

Lowercase “dean” when the title follows a name, except when it is an endowed title:

  • Holly Jeffcoat, the dean of SMU Libraries.
  • Paul Krueger, dean ad interim, Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering.

Capitalize “Dean” when the title follows a name if the deanship is part of an endowed deanship:

  • Stephanie L. Knight, Leon Simmons Endowed Dean, Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.
  • Thomas DiPiero, Elisabeth Martin Armstrong Dean of Dedman College, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.
  • Sam Holland, Algur H. Meadows Endowed Dean, Meadows School of the Arts.
  • Jason P. Nance, Judge James Noel Endowed Dean, Dedman School of Law.
  • Craig C. Hill, Leighton K. Farrell Endowed Dean, Perkins School of Theology.

When “dean” is used without a name, lowercase in general references, but capitalize when part of an official title:

  • Matthew B. Myers is the ninth dean of the Edwin L. Cox School of Business.
  • Office of the Dean of Students.

Dedman Foundation, The

“The” is part of the foundation’s name and should always be capitalized when using, regardless of location within a sentence.


The Office of Undergraduate Admission maintains a complete list of offered majors and minors. See academic degrees for styling guidelines. Academic majors and minors are written in lowercase with the exception of Languages.

  • She is a physics major.
  • He is an English major.

department, division

SMU departments and divisions are capitalized. Class subjects, areas of study and job descriptions are lowercased.

Capitalize the word “department” when used with a specific SMU academic department (or “division” in Meadows School of the Arts), no matter the order of the sentence, but lowercase when naming multiple departments/divisions. Use lowercase for the words “department” and “division” when they stand alone.

  • The Department of English.
  • The English Department.
  • The Division of Theatre.
  • The Anthropology and Biological Sciences departments are sponsoring a forum.
  • The divisions of Advertising and Theatre are part of the Meadows School.

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email addresses

Do not break email addresses across two lines. If an email address comes at the end of a sentence, punctuate accordingly. “To learn more, contact Joe Smith at jxsmith@smu.edu.”

email subject lines

Use sentence case:

  • A message to University faculty, staff and students
  • Smithsonian has extended ‘Sea Monsters Unearthed’


This word is often added to formal titles to denote that individuals who have retired retain their rank or title. Do not italicize. When used, place “emeritus” after the formal title:

  • Darwin Payne, professor emeritus (lowercase when it follows a name).
  • Professor Emerita Alessandra Comini (capitalize when it precedes a name).

en dash

An en dash (–) is wider than a hyphen (-) and narrower than an em dash (—). Use an en dash with spaces for explanatory breaks in thought:

  • Gould’s work focuses on the concept of punctuated equilibrium – the idea that evolution is not a gradual process.

Use an en dash without spaces for continuous numbers or dates or time frames:

  • 1974–1982.
  • Pages 7–10.
  • June 12–15.
  • June 15–July 7.
  • 4−6:30 p.m.

endowed chairs and professorships

Capitalize, including when listed after the name of the professor:

  • Matthew B. Myers, dean of the Cox School and Tolleson Chair in Business Leadership.
  • Marcia Armstrong, Harold M. Brierley Endowed Professor, Edwin L. Cox School of Business.

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A collective noun that takes a singular verb. Refers to an entire group of educators who staff a department or school. When not referring to the whole group, use “faculty members.”

  • The faculty is meeting here.
  • Faculty members are meeting here.
  • The Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences faculty has considered the proposal.
  • Faculty members of Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences made the decision.

Faculty in Residence

Abbreviated FiR.

Faculty Senate

Federal Pell Grant

“Federal” is capitalized.

First Lady

Capitalize when used as a title before Laura Bush’s name. Otherwise, lowercase in all uses.

  • The former First Lady Laura Bush.
  • Laura Bush, the first lady during George W. Bush’s presidency.
  • They recognized former first lady Lady Bird Johnson.

first-year, first year

Use first-year student in all references to a student in his or her first year of studies. Do not use the gendered term “freshman.” Hyphenate as an adjective, no hyphen when used as a noun.

  • Most first-year students live in Residential Commons.
  • All first years are encouraged to meet with their academic advisors.

Undergraduate admission marketing materials may still use the term “freshman” when referring to ninth graders, as this is the common term still used for most high schools.


This gathering space is south of the Main Quad.

foreign words

If a foreign word is listed in Merriam-Webster’s digital content, it is not necessary to italicize.

Founders’ Day

Founders’ Day is the annual University celebration marking the creation of SMU. As this has become a spring homecoming, the series of events is referred to as Founders’ Day Weekend. Founders’ Day is acceptable when referring to the designated Friday.

  • The groundbreaking will be held on Founders’ Day.
  • All alumni are invited to Founders’ Day Weekend.

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gender-neutral/gender-inclusive language

In general, use terms that can universally apply to any gender. AP Stylebook offers a more thorough explanation, along with examples of preferred usage and this advice on gender-neutral language: “Balance these aims with common sense, respect for the language, and an understanding that gender-neutral or gender-inclusive language is evolving and in some cases is challenging to achieve.”

We follow the guidelines of AP Stylebook and for best-practice writing that embraces equity, diversity, and inclusion, we recommend and follow the Inclusive Language Guidelines of the American Psychological Association. Examples include:

  • Chair instead of chairman or chairwoman.
  • First-year student instead of freshman.
  • Police officer instead of policeman.

Golden Gala

The culminating event of Reunion Weekend for 50-year reunions.

Golden Reunion

50-year reunion

grade-point average

Spell out on first reference:

  • His grade-point average is 3.8.

Abbreviate on second reference:

  • His high GPA earned him many awards.

graduation years

  • All SMU alumni and current student names are followed by two-digit class year preceded by a “smart” apostrophe, e.g., “Joe Smith ’99 and Janet Jones ’79, ’82.”
  • Use only the abbreviated year; do not name the degree.
  • Use only on the first reference within an article.
  • In printed text, make sure the degree year does not break to a separate line from the name.
  • Current students should be listed with their expected graduation year.
  • For couples where both partners are SMU graduates, both names should be presented with each corresponding graduating year, e.g., “Jane Smith ’75 and Joe Smith ’74.”
  • For alumni whose graduating year dates back 100 years or more, use the full year to denote grad year to avoid confusing between centuries (example: Beryl Goodwin 1921).


Capitalize when used in reference to a Greek-letter fraternity or sorority.

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Use sentence case:

  • A message to University faculty, staff and students
  • Mustangs stay Mustang Strong
  • Smithsonian has extended Sea Monsters Unearthed

Hilltop Society

Recognizes donors who make gifts and pledge payments two fiscal years in a row.

Homecoming/Homecoming Weekend

Capitalize when referring to SMU’s Homecoming festivals that take place each fall.

  • Homecoming Weekend culminates with the Homecoming game.
  • Be sure to visit Reunion Village after the Homecoming parade.

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income-related language

Income indicators and socioeconomic status should never be used as adjectives. We should avoid using terms such as “Pell-eligible” and “low income.” The preference is to always use person-first language, which emphasizes the person before the circumstance (good or bad). Examples of preferred income-related language are listed below:

  • Access SMU scholarships cover the cost of college for Texas’ highest performing students from families with limited incomes.
  • The peer mentoring phase of LTSP launched in fall 2021, involving a cohort of 29 first-year students who are eligible for Federal Pell Grants.

inclusive language

It is important that the words we use create messages that are inclusive, respectful, and welcoming. For best-practice writing that embraces equity, diversity, and inclusion, we recommend and follow the Inclusive Language Guidelines of the American Psychological Association to avoid unintentionally causing harm or disrespect toward members of marginalized communities through our communications. This includes, but is not limited to, using gender-neutral/gender-inclusive, person-first language and avoiding the use of terms and language that can be considered pejorative.

Insiders Letter

Communication sent by President Turner. “Insiders” is plural, not possessive.

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Jr., Sr.

Abbreviate as “Jr.” and “Sr.” only with full names. Precede by a comma (a variation from AP style, unless the subject requests that no comma be used):

  • Paul B. Loyd, Jr.
  • Edwin L. Cox, Sr.

The notation “II” or “2nd” also may be used if it is the individual’s preference. Use a comma before II and III, etc., unless the subject requests that no comma be used.

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lecture titles

Capitalize and use quotes (no italics) for their formal titles:

  • Archaeology Professor Mike Snyder will present “A Study of Iron Age Inhabitants of the Northeast Texas Area.”

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“M” Award

Capitalize the “M” and A and put the M in quotation marks.

Main Quad

Capitalize the names of school quadrangles, including the Main Quad, the Law Quad, etc.

majors, minors

Academic majors, minors and areas of study are not capitalized, with the exception of languages.


Campus maps do not always follow the same rules regarding abbreviations and/or punctuation. Common map terms may be abbreviated (St, Blvd, Dr, etc.), but do not include periods after the abbreviations.

Martha Proctor Mack Grand Ballroom, The

“The” is part of the name and should be capitalized.

Meadows Foundation, The

“The” is part of the name and should be capitalized.


The term “minority” can be considered pejorative and is, in some cases, inaccurate. Therefore, refrain from using the term and use the specific name of the group or groups to which you are referring. When appropriate, you may use the terms underserved, underrepresented, or marginalized to describe populations, but use the specific group title when possible. For example: LGBTQ+ students, Black students, undocumented students, etc. (APA 2020b). For guidance on how to best handle writing about underserved, underrepresented, or marginalized groups, we recommend and follow the Inclusive Language Guidelines of the American Psychological Association.

Below are some examples of alternate phrasings that eliminate the use of “underrepresented minority.”

  • Recently, the economics profession has been in the spotlight due to its lack of diversity and support for underrepresented minorities historically underrepresented populations.
  • SMU undergraduate research assistants conduct oral history interviews with SMU alumni from underrepresented groups.
  • Black and Hispanic workers remain underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce compared with their share of all workers, including in computing jobs, which have seen considerable growth in recent years.
  • Access SMU is expected to increase the number of first-generation students and students from underrepresented groups who earn their undergraduate degrees at SMU.

Mothers’ Club


Always spell out. Do not abbreviate. This is a variation from AP style.

  • August 5, 1976.
  • September 11.
  • Monday, January 5.
  • Registration begins in September.


Capitalized when used in reference to the University. Lowercase for general use.

  • Let us help you map out your Mustang experience.
  • We’ve been working hard across campus to welcome our new and continuing Mustangs this fall!
  • SMU’s mascot is a mustang.


When referring to the resource in copy, use “my.SMU” When referring to the web address rather than the name of the site, use my.smu.edu without the capitalization used in the resource name.

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In text, and in general, spell out numbers one through nine. Use numerals for 10 and above. (Follow AP guidelines for numbers at the beginning of sentences).

Some exceptions are percentages, ratios, monetary amounts, temperature readings, ages, physical dimensions, millions and billions, and sports scores:

  • 9%.
  • $4.
  • 4 degrees Celsius.
  • They won the baseball game 4–2.
  • She is 4 years old.
  • There were 6 million people.
  • The porch is 9 feet by 11 feet.
  • Use a 9-by-12 pan.

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on-campus, off-campus

Hyphenate only when used as a compound modifier:

  • She used the sources available from the on-campus libraries.
  • He decided to live off campus.

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person-first language

Language should always emphasize the person/groups of people first, rather than using any identifying characteristic as the dominant identifier. For example:

  • Instead of “survivor” use “person who has been impacted by…”
  • Instead of “wheelchair-bound,” use “person who uses a wheelchair.”
  • Instead of “low-income families,” use “families with limited income.”
  • Instead of “brain damaged” use “person with a traumatic brain injury”

For a more thorough list of terms to avoid and suggested alternatives, see the person-first versus identity-first language section of the Inclusive Language Guidelines.

phone numbers

Phone numbers are written with area code preceding and divided by hyphens: 214-123-4567.

Pony Up!

Always capitalized and include the exclamation point.

  • “pony ears” is not capitalized.

President’s Associates

Recognizes donors who make gifts and pledge payments of $1,000 or more toward current-use funds during a fiscal year.

President’s Scholars

Singular possessive; apostrophe before s.


Never abbreviate and, as with other titles, capitalize only when it precedes a name:

  • Professor of Journalism Joe Smith praised the student for his excellent feature story.
  • Joe Smith, professor of journalism, praised the student for his work.

However, capitalize the formal name of an endowed chair or professorship whether it is placed before or after the name:

  • Harold W. Stanley, Geurin-Pettus Distinguished Chair in American Politics and Political Economy gave the lecture.

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Quadrangles, Quads

Capitalize the names of school quadrangles, including the Main Quad, the Law Quad, etc.

  • Abbreviating “Quad” is an exception to the abbreviations rule.

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Include racial or ethnic details only when they are clearly relevant and when that relevance is explicit in the text. For more detail about writing about race, refer to AP Stylebook’s race-related coverage section and the race, ethnicity, and culture section of APA.org’s Inclusive Language Guidelines. We recommend and follow the Inclusive Language Guidelines of the American Psychological Association.

religious titles

The first reference to a member of the clergy normally should include a capitalized title before the individual’s name. In many cases, “the Rev.” is the designation that applies before a name on first reference. Only use “the Rev. Dr.” if the individual has an earned doctoral degree and reference to the degree is relevant.

Research One

The designation of a top-tier research institute using the Carnegie Classification system, a framework for classifying colleges and universities in the United States by their research activity. Use “R1” on second reference.

Residential Commons

Capitalize “Residential Commons” as a phrase and as individual Residential Commons names.

  • The 11 Residential Commons are:
    • Armstrong Commons.
    • Boaz Commons.
    • Cockrell-McIntosh Commons.
    • Kathy Crow Commons.
    • Crum Commons.
    • Loyd Commons.
    • Mary Hay-Peyton-Shuttles Commons (includes three buildings: Mary Hay Hall, Peyton Hall and Shuttles Hall).
    • McElvaney Commons.
    • Morrison-McGinnis Commons.
    • Virginia-Snider Commons.
    • Ware Commons.
  • Singular/plural: “Kathy Crow Commons is” but “the 11 Residential Commons are.”
  • Use “the Commons” (capitalized) without the donor name to refer to an individual Residential Commons or Dining Commons on subsequent references.
  • Do not start a sentence with “Commons” – use “The Commons” or “Residential Commons” or “The Residential Commons” instead.
  • Do not shorten to “Res Commons,” and avoid “RCs” in formal communications.
  • “Faculty in Residence” should be capitalized and not hyphenated, as shown. The acronym, “FiR” can be used after being defined on first reference and when using the acronym is appropriate, such as when “Faculty in Residence” would appear frequently in a document.

Reunion Weekend

Robson & Lindley Aquatics Center

Spelled with an ampersand.


Acceptable for all references to the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, a nationwide program offered at more than 1,700 colleges and universities across the country that prepares young adults to become officers in the U.S. military.

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said, says

Attribute with past tense “said” in gift announcements, news releases and campaign newsletters. Present tense “says” is preferred in other uses.

Scholars’ Den

school names

The degree of formality required should dictate use. For example, in most cases, “Cox School of Business” is acceptable upon first reference, though in more formal situations, “Edwin L. Cox School of Business” may be preferred. “Cox School” is acceptable on second reference.


  • Plays and concerts are produced regularly at Meadows School of the Arts.
  • He earned an MBA at Cox School in 2010.
  • She is a member of the faculty at Simmons School of Education and Human Development.
  • The program is a partnership among Toyota USA, the West Dallas community, Dallas ISD and Simmons School.

NOTE: It is possible that individual schools may make different decisions regarding usage on their own sites and publications.


Lowercase all seasons and seasonal terms such as fall, spring, winter, wintertime, etc., unless they are part of a formal title:

  • SpringFest.
  • Winter Olympics.
  • Fall Festival.
  • fall 2020.

sentence case

Headlines, subheads and email subjects should be in sentence case.

  • A message to University faculty, staff and students
  • Mustangs stay Mustang Strong

Dr. Bob Smith Health Center

Do not abbreviate. The whole name must be used in every instance. On second reference, may be referred to as “the health center.”

SMU Dads’ Club


SMU Mothers’ Club

socioeconomic status

See income-related language.

spring break

Not capitalized.

Student Senate


Lowercase subjects, unless a language or followed by a Roman numeral:

  • He took English.
  • They studied algebra and are enrolled in Algebra I in the fall.

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In general, use instead of semester.


“The” should not be capitalized unless it is part of an official title or at the beginning of a sentence.

theater vs. theatre

Use “theater” when making a generic reference:

  • I am going to the theater.

When used with a proper name, spell in accordance with the correct title of the facility:

  • Bob Hope Theatre.
  • Margo Jones Theatre.
  • Greer Garson Theatre.
  • Hughes-Trigg Theater.

Programs in Meadows School:

  • Division of Theatre.
  • Theatre Studies.


Use numerals with all times except for noon and midnight, which should stand alone. Use lowercase a.m. and p.m. (with periods between the letters). Avoid redundancies such as 4 a.m. in the morning.

When using times for events that occur at the start of the hour, do not include :00.

  • The meeting will begin at 11 a.m. and should last until 4 p.m.

For times that must include both the hour and the minute, use a colon:

  • 8:30 a.m.

Use an en dash (without spaces) when there is a set start and stop time, and avoid a.m. or p.m. redundancies:

  • 4−6:30 p.m.
  • 11:30 a.m.−2 p.m.


In general, lowercase professional titles unless they precede a proper name. SMU does not use courtesy titles (such as Dr.) but does use titles for clergy and elected officials on first reference, such as Bishop, Pastor, the Rev., the Rev. Dr.; Sen., the Hon.; President.

Sometimes, job descriptions, rather than official titles, are listed before a name. In these instances, the description would not be capitalized even though it is preceding the name:

  • SMU sociologist Andrea Laurent-Simpson examines this changing family structure in her new book.

When a job title is listed after a name and includes an academic or administrative department, division or office, that department, division or office is capitalized:

  • Rick Hart, director [job title/description] of Athletics [department].
  • Brad E. Cheves, vice president for Development and External Affairs.
  • Kacy Hollenback, assistant professor of anthropology [subject, not department].

When titles are after a name in signatures or display text such as in a pull quote or a listing in a program or invitation, capitalize the title.

  • Elizabeth G. Loboa, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
  • K.C. Mmeje, Vice President for Student Affairs

In programs or invitations, include the speaker’s title underneath the speaker’s name on first reference.

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underrepresented minority (URM)

Avoid using the term. See minority.


When referring to SMU, use “SMU” or “the University.” In news releases, use “Southern Methodist University” on first reference and “SMU” on subsequent references.

  • The University is scheduled to break ground on the new complex in December.
  • SMU is a nationally ranked global research university.

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, The

“The” is part of the name.

upper-division student

Use upper-division, not upperclassman, to refer to any undergraduate who is a junior or senior.

  • Jane, an upper-division student from Dallas, is a senior at SMU.
  • The upper-division student buildings offer great amenities for undergraduates who are juniors or above.

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If the final sentence of a paragraph ends with a website, best practice is to recast the sentence so that the URL comes earlier in that sentence (“Visit smu.edu/admission for more information.”) or use a hyperlink if publishing digitally. If neither recasting nor hyperlinking are feasible options, use editorial discretion and make a stylistic decision regarding punctuation following a website at the end of a paragraph.

If a sentence ending with a website comes earlier in a paragraph and is immediately followed by another sentence, punctuation is necessary to differentiate between sentences and should be used to eliminate confusion and/or run-on sentences.

No punctuation is necessary if a stand-alone sentence must end with a website URL: “For more information, visit smu.edu/admission

Do not break website addresses across two lines.

For digital publications, best practice is to avoid using URLs and instead link text, e.g., “Schedule a visit to tour our campus” rather than “Visit smu.edu/admission to schedule a visit.”


The Associated Press, which declared its policy on uppercasing “Black” and “Indigenous” on June 19, 2020, announced the following month it would continue to lowercase “white” in racial, ethnic and cultural contexts. SMU will follow this policy.


Generally use as a suffix without a hyphen.

  • Campuswide.
  • Statewide.

Use a hyphen with proper nouns, including “University-wide” in reference to SMU.

  • That is a University-wide policy.
  • The uniform requirement is Army-wide.

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Use figures without commas: 1991, 2005, etc.

When referring to decades or centuries, use an “s” without an apostrophe: the 1890s, the 1920s, the 1960s, etc.

Years are the lone exception to the general rule that numbers should not be used to start a sentence: 1989 was an extraordinary year (but try to avoid this construction and recast if possible).

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