LMC Writing Style Guide
Do not use periods for acronyms.
Use apostrophes only for possessive constructions, not in the plural form.
Example: All POs are due Monday; the NCAA's rules
When an acronym will be used throughout, put the full title in parenthesis after the first reference.
Example: The PACE program (Program for Accelerated College Education)
Some very well known acronyms are acceptable in all references.
- CD (not compact disc)
- PC (not personal computer)
- DVD (not digital video disk)
* Note: This is an exception to AP style, which calls for periods in most two-letter acronyms; see the AP Stylebook for acronym and abbreviation rules in news writing.
In running text, use the following format:
- Office of Instruction, Los Medanos College, 2700 East Leland Road, Pittsburg, CA 94565
As a return address, use a multi-line format:
- Office of Instruction
Los Medanos College
2700 East Leland Road
Pittsburg, CA 94565
Note: When addressing envelopes for bulk mailing, use U.S. Postal Service state abbreviations – all capital letters and no punctuation.
This spelling, as opposed to adviser, is an exception to many dictionaries and style guides.
Affect vs Effect
Although both words have other meanings, these are the most common usages. Avoid other uses when possible to prevent confusion.
Alumni / Alumnus
This plural and gender-neutral noun refers to any group of students who graduated from a school. Use alumnus when referring to a man in the singular, and alumna for a woman. Though rarely used, alumnae is also acceptable to refer to a group of exclusively female graduates.
- Los Medanos College has more than 60,000 alumni.
- Doug Beavers, a prominent alumnus of LMC
- NOT: John Doe, an alumni of Los Medanos College
In generic references to a graduate, rather than a specific person, alumnus may be used as a gender-neutral term (e.g., LMC's Teacher of the Year award).
Avoid the colloquial "alum" when possible; it is permissible in the names of awards (e.g., the Young Alum of the Year) or feature headline treatments, though the preferred shortened form for news headlines is "grad." Alum is acceptable in quoted material.
For LMC alumni, list the two digit year of graduation with an apostrophe immediately following the name with no commas offsetting:
- Doug Beavers '94 has won two Grammy awards.
In modern American grammar, it is acceptable to begin sentences with these conjunctions, though it is best to avoid overuse.
Refer to the Los Medanos College department as "Athletic Department," not simply as "Athletics."
Board of Trustees
Capitalize "Board of Trustees" on its first use with the name of the organization it serves, such as "Contra Costa Community College District Board of Trustees" or "Los Medanos College Foundation Board of Trustees."
The LMC location in Brentwood is official named “Brentwood Center”.
It is not a campus.
In mailing addresses, it is acceptable to use short forms of campus buildings. In running text, use a complete name on first reference.
Uppercase when referring to a specific Los Medanos College location.
- LMC’s Pittsburg Campus
- LMC's Brentwood Center
Lowercase otherwise. Classes held off campus.
Campus names and locations
The following are the full names of Los Medanos College and its locations.
- Los Medanos College
- Los Medanos College Pittsburg Campus
- Los Medanos College Brentwood Center
Do not refer to the Brentwood Center as a campus. It is officially a center.
- references to campuswide
- Do not hyphenate or capitalize.
- Write as two words. The term is acceptable on first reference for cellular or mobile telephones.
The word is not capitalized, but should be hyphenated when used as part of an adjective. It is used with numerals and ordinals (an exception to Chicago style).
- The 20th century, 17th-century art
This term is used for LMC's academic department heads. Lowercase and use after the faculty member's name and title.
- Professor A’kilah Moore, chair of the mathematics department, said...
This is the formal title for the head of the Contra Costa Community College District. As of January 2009, the current chancellor is Helen Benjamin. On first reference, use her full name and title:
- Contra Costa Community College District Chancellor Helen Benjamin
- Helen Benjamin, chancellor of Contra Costa Community College District
- In subsequent references, use Chancellor Benjamin or last name only in news stories.
The word College should be capitalized in instances where it stands in for the longer phrase Los Medanos College and lowercase when referring to another school or a college environment in general. Note that capitalized references are always preceded by the word "the."
- Several famous athletes have graduated from the College.
- Los Medanos College is a public community college.
- Los Medanos College is one of the prominent community colleges in the region.
- When referring to Los Medanos College, capitalize and hyphenate in all uses.
In a list: Use commas to separate multiple items in a list, including the serial comma before the final entry. Commas should also separate all phrases in a more complex series.
- I am taking classes in chemistry, economics, French, and philosophy.
- The College was founded in 1974, began holding classes in fall of 1974, and opened the Brentwood Center in 1998.
Separating clauses: When a sentence has two separate, related clauses with different subjects, separate the clauses with a comma and a conjunction. If the clauses share a subject, there is no comma before the conjunction.
- The student turned in the form, and the dean signed it.
- The student finished the test and turned it in.
Multiple adjectives: Use a comma between two or more adjectives that directly and equally modify the following noun. If the meaning does not change when the adjectives are reversed in order or separated by the word "and," they are considered coordinate adjectives and require a comma between them.
The long, sharp knife
- Long and sharp both describe the knife with no relation to the other; the phrase would mean the same thing if it were written as "the sharp, long knife" or "the long and sharp knife," so a comma is required.
The warm summer sun
- Summer modifies only sun, and warm modifies the resulting compound. It could not be written as "the warm and summer sun" or "the summer warm sun," so there is no comma.
See the entries for hyphenation and serial comma.
It is acceptable to abbreviate a subject field when followed by the course number in text.
When listing the whole course name, use the following treatment:
- COMSC-010 (Introduction to Computer Networking)
In running text referring to general academic work, lowercase areas of study, excepting those that are proper nouns.
- He teaches chemistry. She teaches English, history, and Greek philosophy.
Write as one word, not hyphenated.
Spell out the full name of the month and the numerical date. Do not abbreviate. Do not include the day of the week unless necessary in context. If the date is within the same year as the publication, it is not necessary to include it, but do so if it will improve clarity.
- The fiscal year ends June 30.
- He was born on February 29, 2000.
Express a range of dates in text with the word "through" rather than a dash.
- June 15 through 19, October through December
See entry for years.
On first reference, capitalize the title before the name and use the full names of the person and the Department.
- Dean Gil Rodriguez, Liberal Arts and Sciences
- Dean Kiran Kamath, Occupational Education
- Senior Dean Richard Livingston, Instruction
- Senior Dean Gail Newman, Student Services
On second reference, use Dean Rodriguez or last name only. Lowercase in the plural or generic forms.
- The college is searching for a new dean. The deans met last week.
Degree abbreviations should be formatted as follows, capitalized with no periods except as noted:
- AA for associate of arts
- AS for associate of science
- BA for bachelor’s of arts
- BS for bachelor’s of science
- MA for master's of arts
- MS for master's of science
- Ed.D. for doctor of education
- Ph.D. for doctor of philosophy (the graduate degree for most disciplines in arts and sciences)
Department and division names
Capitalize only when listing a department's full formal title:
- Department of Music
Lowercase when making generic or successive references:
- economics classes, the department office, the chemistry and biology departments
For named departments, try to use short forms as much as possible:
- philosophy department; English department; political science department
Generally, academic programs are considered departments; most non-academic administrative areas are called offices. Exceptions include the Department of Facilities Management and the Campus Police Department. See entry for offices.
Use "students with disabilities" as specified by the Office for Civil Rights, which places emphasis on the person, not the disability. In certain contexts, "students with special needs" might be preferable.
Hyphenate when using as an adjective to refer to an online business, usually selling retail goods and/or services to individual consumers.
Many graduates in the late 1990s were employed by dot-com companies.
Use the title Dr. only when referring to a doctor of medicine, dentistry, or veterinary medicine. Otherwise, append the degree following the name.
- Dr. Doug Ross of County General Hospital
- James Bond, Ph.D.
This common prefix standing for "electronic" is always hyphenated. Words that start with e-, such as e-mail, should be capitalized only at the beginning of a sentence or in a title. Breaks at the hyphen should be avoided with manual line breaks.
- e-mail, e-learning, e-commerce
- NOT: email, elearning, ecommerce
An em dash (—) should be placed in text with a space before and after. This dash separates short, non-essential phrases — like this one — from the remainder of the sentence. A single em dash can also separate a phrase for emphasis — a good technique for promotional writing.
On a PC: To create an em dash in Microsoft Word, hold down the Ctrl and Alt keys and press the dash (-) key on the numeric keypad at the right of keyboard.
On a Mac: To create an em dash in Microsoft Word, hold down the shift and option keys, then press the hyphen (-) key.
In HTML: The preferred code for an em dash is — although — or — are also accepted by many systems.
Ethnic groups and race
Capitalize the names of ethnic groups, but not references to skin color (i.e., black or white). Do not hyphenate compounds, such as African American or Asian American, even when used as compound modifiers.
- African American studies, Latin American music, Chinese American students
Ethnic and racial terms should generally be used as adjectives, rather than nouns.
- Asian communities, not Asians
Further information on styles and terms for ethnic groups can be found in the Chicago Manual, but as this can be a sensitive subject, consult individual subjects for their preferences on usage and spelling and use one consistently throughout the article or publication.
- African American / black
- Native American / American Indian
- Hispanic / Latino or Latina
Freshman is the singular term for one student and is also the adjective form. It is gender neutral. The plural form is freshmen, which refers only to more than one student; it is never an adjective. It is not capitalized unless beginning a sentence.
- The freshman class
- John Alexander, a freshman
- several freshman students, but six freshmen
This term is often used in cases where a distinction needs to be made between a beginning college student and someone who has transferred, but is in his or her first year at Los Medanos College.
In all uses, this compound is a single word, not hyphenated, according to both Chicago and AP.
- Fundraising is difficult. We are planning a fundraising campaign.
- NOT: They planned a fund-raiser.
- For news headlines, capitalize the first word and proper names only.
Write out as two words, lowercase. The term refers specifically to the first page of a given Web site or department within a site.
- LMC's home page is at www.losmedanos.edu.
- The high school student home page is at www.losmedanos.edu/highschool.
Do not begin sentences with "however" when you mean "but" or "nevertheless." Because "however" typically modifies other clauses, it is best kept behind the text it is modifying. Choose another word or rewrite the sentence.
- Most students, however, do not share this view.
- OR: But most students do not share this view.
- NOT: However, most students do not share this view.
Compound modifiers: When two or more words together are used to modify the meaning of another word, the modifying words should be hyphenated to improve clarity.
- one-way street,
- long-term contract,
- five-year-old computer
If the first of the modifying words is an adverb (ending in "-ly"), a hyphen is not used; the adverb already explicitly modifies the following word. If the second word is an adjective, the hyphen should link the first two terms.
- softly spoken words,
- gently folded blanket
- pet-friendly apartment
In line breaks: When proofreading printed text, words broken by hyphens must have two letters before a line break and three letters after. Do not allow more than two end-of- line hyphens in a row; revise the paragraph or create a manual line break.
Prefixes: Follow the spelling of re-, pre-, co-, and other compounds as given in Webster's dictionary, but do hyphenate re- words when there are back-to-back e's or when the lack of a hyphen could cause confusion.
- re-creation (vs. recreation)
- This is the name for the official district portal for all students, faculty, staff and administrators. Password access is required.
Capitalize this term when using as a noun or an adjective.
- Connecting to the Internet wirelessly
- Using an Internet-enabled cell phone
It's / its
The former is a contraction of "it is," with the apostrophe standing for the missing space and letter. The latter is the possessive form, belonging to "it," which can cause confusion since many other possessive forms do use an apostrophe. These are commonly used improperly, so verify you have chosen the correct form by substituting "it is" for "it's" and checking the meaning.
Correct: It's time to leave = It is time to leave
Incorrect: The College and it's employees = The College and it is employees
Use after a full name on first reference only, with no comma preceding.
- John F. Kennedy Jr.
If there is potential for confusion, use might to mean "maybe" and may to mean "allowed to."
Omit courtesy titles in most contexts, including news articles. Acceptable in quoted material.
- George and Jane Jetson, NOT Mr. and Mrs. Jetson
- "Mrs. Jetson is a stylish dresser," said Rosie.
Your NetID and password
NOT: Your NetID number and password
This is the nickname and mascot for all men's and women's athletic teams of Los Medanos College. The term may be used interchangeably with Los Medanos College and LMC in identifying the team representing the College.
Not only... but also
When using the phrase not only in a sentence, you must always introduce the next clause with the phrase but also, the correlative conjunction. Because the two clauses depend on each other to form the complete sentence, each must be written in the same parallel manner, with the conjunction preceding the same type of phrase (e.g., verb or noun).
- This will not only enhance our reputation, but also restore our confidence.
- The cafe offers not only coffee and tea, but also milkshakes and sodas.
Other examples that must always be paired in text include "either... or," "neither... nor," and "if... then." A more complete list appears in the Chicago guide.
In general, spell out single-digit numbers and use numerals for all others. (This is an exception to Chicago style.)
Ages: When expressing age, always use numerals for people and animals. Hyphenation rules apply for adjectives:
- She was 5 years old
- The 5-year-old dog
For inanimate objects, such as buildings, regular numeral rules apply.
- The library is two years old.
- The campus complex is 35 years old.
Money: Always use numerals and the dollar sign for amounts larger than $1. For smaller amounts, use numerals followed by the word "cents." For amounts over six figures, spell out million/billion/etc.
- 5 cents
- $4; $29,500
- $5 million
Percentages: Always use a numeral, followed by the word "percent" spelled out. Percentages take a singular verb when standing alone or when expressed as a percentage of a singular entity, but take a plural verb when expressed as a percentage of a plural entity:
- 50 percent of the class is failing.
- 5 percent of the students are failing.
Spelling: Write out numbers expressed in quotes and at the beginning of a sentence.
- "I expect nine hundred new freshmen this fall," she said.
- Nineteen students attended the dinner.
Many non-academic, administrative groups on campus are called "offices" and not departments. Capitalize only when listing a department's full formal title:
- Office of Instruction, the Business Office, Office of Financial Aid
- The president's office, the dean's office, financial aid office
On campus, on-campus (a)
Use a hyphen only when the phrase is used an adjective.
Visitors are welcome on campus. On-campus parking is available.
Do not hyphenate these terms. They are generally used as adjectives, but each is acceptable in other uses. To avoid redundancy, do not use "online" with "Web."
- The Web site provides tools...
- NOT: The Web site provides online tools
A single word standing alone on the last line of a paragraph. Avoid in all printed material by rewriting or adjusting spacing earlier in the paragraph. Single words are not considered orphans if they comprise five or more letters.
The preferred style for official publications is to place parentheses around the area code in phone numbers and leave a space between the closing parenthesis and next digit. For clarity, always use the area code.
For on-campus publications, format on-campus extension numbers as follows:
For off-campus directories:
(925) 513-1625 (Brentwood)
In general, add "s" or "es" to pluralize a noun unless the plural has a form change. Consult a dictionary for specifics and proper usage.
- dog, dogs
- box, boxes
- child, children
- goose, geese
Do not use an apostrophe in plurals of nouns or acronyms:
Exception: single letters, such as grades, take an apostrophe for clarity:
Add 's to form the possessive for all nouns, including proper names and those ending in "s."
- President Garcia's speech; Mary's umbrella
Exception: the possessive of "it" does not use the apostrophe. See entry for it's / its.
When adding a postscript to a letter, use capital letters and place a period after each letter. Continue the postscript on the same line.
P.S. Your support is crucial to our goal of increasing funding for scholarships at Los Medanos College.
It is acceptable to end sentences with prepositions (to, with, from, at) — despite what your grammar school teacher may have said.
- I saved the check and the envelope it came in.
- VS: I saved the check and the envelope in which it came.
As in the example above, prepositional phrases can be awkward when rewritten, bringing to mind Winston Churchill's famous line
- That is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I shall not put.
If it can be avoided or rewritten easily, move prepositions from the end of a sentence; otherwise, relax.
- I saved the check and the envelope, too.
As a title, capitalize before the name; lowercase otherwise.
See entry for Garcia, Peter
Capitalize when used as a formal title before a name, lowercase otherwise.
- Professor Cindy McGrath taught the class.
- The professor lectured to students.
The title professor may be abbreviated when it precedes the first name or initials; spell out titles when they are used before the surname alone.
- Prof. Diane Jorgensen; Professor Jorgensen
Do not abbreviate adjunct when used in a title.
- Adjunct Professor Doug Beavers from the Department of Music
- Jason Dearborn, adjunct professor of automotive service technology
When referring to Los Medanos College faculty members, use the title or rank given to them by the College. When naming lecturers, instructors, teaching assistants, or staff members, verify their exact titles personally or by using the campus directory.
On second reference, use the spelled-out title and last name or last name only.
These are placed around directly quoted speech or text. Use them sparingly to indicate a colloquial or unusual term.
Punctuation with: The period and the comma always go within the quotation marks. The dash, semicolon, question mark, and exclamation point go within the quotation marks only when they apply to the quoted matter. They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence. If a title or quote is contained within quoted material, use single quotes inside the double quotations, running single and double marks together if the quoted material comes at the end of a statement.
- "She told me 'not in a million years,'" he said.
In headlines: use single quotation marks for terms and quotes.
- President calls student 'awesome'
Use all capital letters and no periods. To avoid redundancy, do not use "please" before RSVP; the term is an abbreviation of the French expression repondez s'il vous plait, which means "please reply."
Do not capitalize the word departments when referring to more than one department.
- departments of English and geography
Do not capitalize the word department in a second reference, unless it is standing as an entity in formal writing and there is no potential for confusion between multiple departments.
On first reference: Use the full name.
- The Department of Mathematics is working on accreditation materials.
- The college was founded in ...
- BUT: Support for the College is an investment in our students.
When alphabetizing college and department names, organize them by their discipline and not by the "Department of" part of the name. Thus, the Department of Education would be listed between the Department of Business and Department of Mathematics.
Use of the comma preceding "and" in a list of three or more items in text is standard in American grammar. Most books, magazines, textbooks, and literary publications include the serial comma, also referred to as the "Harvard" or "Oxford" comma for its common inclusion in academic presses.
In lists, the serial comma ensures clarity and avoids confusion. In the famous following example, the lack of the concluding comma makes the meaning unclear:
- "This book is dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand and God."
Instead of referring clearly to three separate entities, it can be read as a thank you to a single entity ("my parents"), with the comma setting off a non-essential descriptive apposition (defining the parents as Ayn Rand and God).
Inclusion of the comma delineates discrete elements.
- He thanked his friends, his lawyer, and his dog.
The terminal comma in this sentence makes it clearer that three separate entities are being named, rather than implying that the speaker's only friends are his lawyer and his dog.
In modern American grammar, it is acceptable to split an infinitive verb with a phrase (generally an adverb) or qualifier if the construction sounds more natural or when the interjection is emphasized.
- To boldly go; to never harm another
Always avoid splitting infinitives when the construction would impair clarity.
Do not abbreviate names of states when following names of cities and towns, except in footnotes and class notes. When abbreviating, use two-letter U.S. Postal Service abbreviations in capital letters instead of AP abbreviations.
- Hayward, California;
- Bend, Oregon
- Seattle, WA
Exception: news stories follow AP guidelines for state abbreviations and dateline cities, and does not include the state name for locations of Contra Costa Community College District campuses.
- Bend, Ore.
Always abbreviate the District of Columbia to Washington, DC. Omit periods from DC and surround with commas where necessary in running text.
- Students traveled to Washington, DC, to meet with the senator.
This term is hyphenated, unlike campuswide. It is the preferred term when referring to things that span all California State University campuses/locations.
In describing objects, use that for essential clauses that affect the structure and meaning of the sentence. Use which for nonessential clauses, which are informative but not necessary to the meaning. Which, like all nonessential clauses, requires a comma; that does not.
- I just bought the book that my mother recommended.
- The book, which was released last week, is already a best-seller.
For people, use who (or whom as appropriate) instead of that or which.
The abbreviations a.m. and p.m. following a numerical time should be set in lowercase type with periods. Generally, numerical times are preferable to "o'clock" (an exception to Chicago).
Titles, academic and professional
Capitalize and spell out fully before names; lowercase after, and do not abbreviate in running text.
- I am studying chemistry with Assistant Professor John Doe
- John Doe, assistant professor of chemistry
If the formal or informal name of an office, department, or college is part of the title, capitalization rules apply:
- Michael Leung is dean of the College of Science
- Mary Lew, chair of the history department
For other titles (e.g., military, foreign, nobility) consult the Chicago manual.
See entries for Dr., department names, Mr./Mrs./Ms., president, professor
Use italics for all titles of books, plays, magazines, newspapers, movies, television shows, albums, or works of art; capitalize words longer than three letters.
Set the titles of songs, TV episodes, and individual articles within periodicals or academic journals in quotation marks.
For articles, capitalize only the first word and other proper nouns.
- Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing
- "Drive My Car" on the Beatles' Rubber Soul
- "Storybook season" in Cal State East Bay Magazine
This acronym stands for "uniform resource locator." It is acceptable in text on first reference and preferred to "Web address." In printed materials, URLs should be set in plain type, not underlined or italicized. Do not print the http:// portion of a URL or concluding slashes, but do include all other punctuation required to make a page display properly.
In Web copy, descriptive text is preferred to uncoded URLs. In print, avoid breaking over multiple lines of text. If a URL can't be listed on one line, do not break with a hyphen; rather, break after a period or slash, or rework the paragraph.
Use periods when abbreviating United States. The abbreviated form may be used as a noun for headlines but is preferably used only as an adjective.
Vice president, vice chair
These titles are never hyphenated. Title capitalization rules apply: capitalize before a name, lowercase otherwise.
Web, which is considered a proper noun, should be used with a capital W in all constructions. (This may change globally with next few years.) It is typically used as a separate adjective, but can be used as a noun in more informal writing.
- Web page
- Web site
- Web strategy
- On the Web
This usage is evolving, however, and some common phrases are better understood when written as a single word.
Web site, titles of
Because titles of sites and the URLs do not always match, it is preferable to use the title of a Web site in running text and provide the URL in parentheses immediately following.
- The Chronicle of Higher Education (www.chronicle.com)
- The online edition of the San Francisco Chronicle (www.sfgate.com)
- Los Medanos College’s Web site (www.losmedanos.edu)
Always use numbers for years. Express a range of dates with "from... to" or an en dash, but do not use dashes with "from."
- 2003-05, from 2003 to 2005
- Not from 2003-05
Use full four digits for years, unless the first two digits are the same for the start and end years of a range:
For decades, use numerals and do not use apostrophes to pluralize, but do use them to stand in for missing numerals:
- the 1980s, not the 1980's
- the '80s, not the eighties
Note the direction of the apostrophe in two-digit years, facing away from the numbers; this frequently needs to be typeset specially and will not autoformat.