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Editorial Style


A glossary of terms related to diversity, equity and inclusion can be found on the website for the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion under “Research and Resources.” Please understand terms are ever-evolving. Contact if you find any outdated terms or suggest terms that we should consider adding to the list.


The first mention of any organization, firm, agency or group should be spelled out.

When using acronyms, spell out the phrase on the first reference followed by the acronym. For example, renewable energy certificates (RECs). In general, avoid alphabet soup. Do not use abbreviations or acronyms that the reader would not quickly recognize.

Examples of abbreviations:

  • a.m. and p.m. (not pm, P.M., or PM; avoid o’clock) see time of day on page 78
  • A.D. and B.C. (B.C. goes before a date, A.D. follows it)

Use the abbreviations Sr., Jr., II, III for Senior, Junior, Second, Third following a full name. Never use the spelled-out words or the abbreviations with the surname alone. Please note there is not a comma before the abbreviations.

  • Robert Smith Jr.
  • Mrs. Robert L. Smith Sr.
  • Adlai E. Stevenson III

Abbreviate civil, military, professional or religious titles when used before a full name.

  • Sen. William Smith
  • Gov. Joe Smith
  • Rev. Robert Smith

Capitalize when the complete name of the degree is given. There is no possessive.

  • Bachelor of Arts in history
  • Master of Science in biology

Lowercase if no particular degree is mentioned.

  • She received a bachelor of arts degree.

Lowercase academic degrees.

  • bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate

The terms “bachelor’s degree” and “master’s degree” require apostrophes.

When using abbreviations for degrees, please note: two-letter degrees have periods, and three-letter degrees do not.

Ed.D. and Ph.D. retain the two periods
  • B.A., BFA, B.S., BSW, Ed.D., M.A., MAT, MBA, M.Ed., MFA, MPA, M.S., MSA, Ph.D.
  • Exception: MCRT (post-baccalaureate certificate), PCRT (post-master’s certificate)

The word “doctorate” is a noun, and “doctoral” is an adjective.

Lowercase the names of academic disciplines, with the exception of proper nouns.

  • accounting majors, a major in business with an emphasis in accounting, a biology major, a geography major

Always capitalize languages.

  • English major, French major

Alumni are identified by listing the last two digits of their graduation years (with an apostrophe) following their names.

  • Randall Stuckey ’83. (Be careful – some programs autoformat and turn the apostrophe around.)

“Alumnus” is the singular, masculine form; for references to women, use “alumna” (singular) or “alumnae” (plural). “Alumni” may serve as the plural for a group that is composed of men only or of men and women together.

For those who may prefer not to identify by gender, using “alum” is recommended. The graduation year following the person’s name indicates alumni status, so to say “Alum Randall Stuckey ’83” is redundant. (In this case, just use the person’s name and grad year.)

Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding “ ’s.”

  • Steve’s pencil
  • Marx’s theories

Singular proper nouns ending in “s”

  • Dickens’s novels

Plural possessives are formed by adding “ s’ ” unless the word has a special plural construction that does not end in “s.”

  • Students’ rights
  • Women’s studies

Plurals of words should NOT contain apostrophes.

  • Keep up with the Joneses, not the Jones’s
  • thousands of items, not thousand’s

One exception is plurals of single letters, which may require an apostrophe to avoid misinterpretation.

  • She earned all A’s.

REMINDER: “It’s” ALWAYS means “it is”; the pronoun possessive is “its” – with NO apostrophe.

The university celebrated its golden anniversary.

The university style is basically “downstyle.” This means, in general, avoid unnecessary use of capitals. Sentences read more smoothly if the eye isn’t stopped by frequent capitals.

Academic departments, administrative offices and facilities of UNCW are capitalized when the complete and official designation is used. They are lowercase on second reference.

  • Division of Student Affairs
  • the division
  • Department of Film Studies
  • Warwick Center
  • the center
  • geology department

Lowercase fields of study except when a proper noun is part of the name.

  • biology
  • English

Capitalize official names of organizations and major historical events. (Some organizations have unusual capitalizations or typography; follow their individual usage, e.g., HarperCollins, U.S. News & World Report

Capitalize the following when the complete title is used, lowercase on second reference:

  • Agencies
  • Committees
  • Boards
  • Programs
  • Course titles
  • Named or distinguished professorships
  • Named scholarships, awards
  • The word “room” when used to designate a location
  • Titles of campus activities
  • All words, except articles, conjunctions and prepositions, in the titles of books and plays 
  • Words designating specific geographical regions

Lowercase the words “division,” “school,” “department,” “office,” “committee,” “board,” “college,” “southeastern” etc., on second and subsequent abbreviated reference.

Lowercase “city of Wilmington” and “state of North Carolina” except when referring to the city’s or state’s government or in legal contexts calling for a corporate name.

  • The governor of the state of North Carolina attended the event.
  • UNCW received a grant from the State of North Carolina and the City of Fayetteville.

Use commas to separate elements in a series, but do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series.

  • The flag is red, white and blue.
  • He would nominate Tom, Mary or Carol.

Put a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series when there is more than one conjunction in that series.

  • We invited professors from the biology, English, and philosophy and religion departments.


Spell out the name of a month when it stands alone or with the year only. When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec.

Put a comma before and after the year when used with month and date, but do not use a comma when a time period is expressed with month and year.

  • The celebration will be held in February.
  • The events of February 2020 are recorded in this paper.
  • The events planned for Dec. 31, 2020, should be interesting.
  • January 2007 was a rainy month.

Always use Arabic figures. Do not use st, nd, rd or th.

  • Dec. 31 not Dec. 31st Use 2020–21 with an en dash, not 2020–2021.

Centuries and decades

  • 18th century, 60s, not sixties

In decades identified with their centuries, use figures and omit apostrophes.

  • 1860s, 1930s

The word email is not hyphenated.

When transferring email copy to publications, make sure quotation marks and apostrophes are converted from straight quotes – " and ' – (which are used to designate inches and feet) to smart quotes – “ and ’ – and make sure all hard returns are removed within paragraphs.

Lowercase except at the beginning of a sentence.

  • The freshman class
  • A group of freshmen

Use a hyphen to connect two or more words used as a modifier.

  • He teaches full time.
  • He has a full-time job.
  • She is teaching an off-campus course.
  • She teaches off campus.

Do not use a hyphen to connect “-ly” adverbs to the words they modify.

  • A heavily loaded truck

Suspend hyphens in a series.

  • Do you want first-, business-or economy-class tickets?


Spell numbers one through nine (and zero); use numerals for 10 and higher. Use either all numerals or all words when several numbers appear together in a passage, even if convention would require a mixture.

Ages should be noted with Arabic numerals.

  • 12 years old, a 29-year-old man (note the hyphens)

Arabic numerals are used with very large numbers (i.e., a million or larger).

  • 7.5 billion

Monetary figures and percentages are also indicated with Arabic numerals.

  • $5, $15.80, $150 million, 8 percent (spell out percent).

When a number is the first word of a sentence, it should be spelled out. However, the sentence usually can be reworked to avoid having to spell out a large or hyphenated number, a monetary figure or a percentage.

Spell out fractional amounts that are less than one in text copy, using hyphens between the words.

  • one-half, three-sixteenths

Use figures for all fractions larger than one, employing split or “case” fractions (i.e., single units) wherever possible. If type fonts create fractions as single units (for example, ¼ or ½, use these); other fractions need to be constructed with a slash (using a hyphen as well to clarify; note that the form is an exception to Associated Press style, which was developed for newspaper typography).

Convert to decimals whenever practical.

  • 4-3/16 should be 4.1875

In general, use the word “percent.” However, the symbol % can be used in scientific, technical and statistical copy.

Should be listed with periods.


Place a comma or period inside the quotation marks. The semicolon and colon are placed outside the quotation marks.

Place question marks or exclamation marks inside or outside quotation marks, depending on the quote.

  • Did the dean say, “The committee will meet this afternoon”?
  • The dean asked, “Will the committee meet in Cameron Hall?”
Lowercase names of seasons, except at the beginning of a sentence.
  • fall semester 2021

Do not use semicolons in place of commas. Instead, semicolons are primarily used to connect two closely related sentences without an “and.”

It is better to inquire diligently than to diligently inquire. There are exceptions: “The university hopes to more than double its enrollment.”

Postal ZIP code abbreviations for states should be used when abbreviating a state name in text copy.

  • CA, MN, NC, WS (instead of Calif., Minn., N.C., Wis.)

The District of Columbia is treated like a state.

  • Washington, D.C., is the nation’s capital.

The pronoun “none” can take either a singular or plural verb. When none means “not one” or “no one,” it takes a singular verb.

  • None of the apples is big enough.

A plural verb is commonly used when “none” refers to more than one thing or person.

  • None are as fallible as those who are sure they’re right.

The collective nouns “faculty” and “staff” can be used in singular and plural senses and can take a singular or plural verb.

  • Staff as a singular group.
  • Staff meaning individual members.
  • The geology faculty meets regularly with other science faculties.
  • The faculty sometimes discuss the issue among themselves.

Plurals of Latin and Greek words take plural verbs.

  • data are (can be singular or plural, but plural is preferred), media are, phenomena are, curricula are

“A number of” takes a plural verb; “the number of” takes a singular verb. Do not try to extend this rule to other nouns; it works only for “number.” “Amount” refers to the quantity of something and is always singular.

A compound subject joined by “and” takes a plural verb. A compound subject joined by “or” takes a verb that agrees with the subject closest to the verb.

Use a singular verb after “each,” “either,” “everyone,” “everybody,” “neither,” “nobody,” “someone.”


“That” is the defining, or restrictive pronoun, “which” the nondefining, or nonrestrictive.

“Which” can introduce restrictive or nonrestrictive clauses. Essential clauses require “that.” Nonessential clauses typically require “which.”

Another hint: if you could put the clause in parentheses or set it off with commas, use “which.”

The following two sentences do not have the same meaning: 

  • The lawn mower that is broken is in the garage. (Restricts the meaning to only one lawn mower.)
  • The lawn mower, which is broken, is in the garage. (This sentence provides the nonessential information that the lawn mower is broken.)

The University of North Carolina Wilmington is to be referred to as UNC Wilmington with external audiences and UNCW with internal audiences on second and subsequent mentions.

  • Do not use a hyphen between UNC and W.
  • Do not use UNC “at” Wilmington.
  • Do not use periods between the letters UNCW.

Lowercase “university” when it stands alone.

Use lowercase noon and midnight, not 12 a.m. or 12 p.m. Use 8 a.m., not 8:00 a.m.

  • Do not capitalize a.m. or p.m. and use periods after each letter.
  • Do not use a.m. or p.m. at the end of a sentence.
  • Use a comma after the time (a.m. or p.m.) when used in a sequence with day, date and location of event.
  • The seminar will start at 8 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 4.
  • For a span of time either 9-11 a.m. (no spaces between numbers) or 9 to 11 a.m. is acceptable.

Capitalize a title before a person’s name. Lowercase a title following a person’s name. Lowercase a professional title when it stands without a name. The title “vice chancellor” is written without a hyphen.

  • John Smith, Ph.D.
  • but not Dr. John Smith, Ph.D.
  • Dean John Smith

Do not use titles in combination with any other title or with abbreviations indicating academic or professional degrees.

Formal titles (denoting scope of authority, professional activity and the like) are capitalized when they immediately precede a name.

  • Dean Harriet Hobbs
  • Chancellor Frank Tunik

Occupational descriptions should be lowercase.

  • psychology professor Joseph Smith

Avoid courtesy titles, such as

  • Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms.

Following AP style, Dr. is used as a courtesy title with regards to a medical doctor. UNCW follows this style and Dr. is not used as a courtesy title for the holders of doctorates.

When referring to a medical doctor, M.D. should follow the last name.

  • John Smith, M.D.

“Professor” is never abbreviated. The title “doctor” is generally abbreviated; however, avoid it when its use is not critical to the subject of the text.

Titles (and, in most cases, first names) should be dropped on second reference and thereafter. Exceptions are familiar and frequently used occupational titles such as coach or chancellor.

Use quotation marks to designate titles of short stories, short poems or articles; individual chapters in books; individual songs; conference presentations or papers; and radio and television shows (or single episodes of a continuing series).

Italicize titles of books, films, long poems, magazines, plays, record albums, large musical works, newspapers and continuing TV/radio series.

Internal programs for events with UNCW personnel only:

Charles Hardy
Dean, College of Health and Human Services

Internal programs for events with UNCW and external speakers

Charles Hardy
Dean, UNCW College of Health and Human Services

  • Drop http:// and www.
  • Break a url before or after the discrete units that begin the url.
  • Don’t break the url with a hyphen, but before a punctuation mark.
  • If a sentence ends with a url, add a period at the end.

To aid in directing the public to campus events, publicize locations with the building listed first, then the room. Include the abbreviation as additional information, not as the sole location information as not everyone is familiar with UNCW building abbreviations.

  • Wagoner Hall, Madeline Suite
  • Alderman Hall, Room 215

University Facilities & Landmarks Naming Conventions

  • Alderman Hall
  • Bear Hall
  • Burney Center
  • Cameron Hall
  • Congdon Hall
  • Cultural Arts Building
  • DeLoach Hall
  • DePaolo Hall
  • Dobo Hall
  • Education Building
  • Film Studies Building
  • Fisher Student Center
  • Fisher University Union
  • Friday Annex
  • Friday Hall
  • Hoggard Hall
  • James Hall
  • Kenan Auditorium
  • Kenan Hall
  • King Hall
  • Kresge Greenhouse
  • Leutze Hall
  • McNeill Hall
  • Morton Hall
  • Oriole Burevitch Laboratory
  • Randall Library
  • Sartarelli Hall
  • Teaching Laboratory Building
  • Truist Hall
  • Veterans Hall
  • Wagoner Hall
  • Warwick Center
  • Belk Hall
  • Cornerstone Hall
  • Galloway Hall
  • Graham Hall
  • Hanover Hall
  • Hewlett Hall
  • Honors House
  • Innovation House
  • Loggerhead Hall
  • Pelican Hall
  • Sandpiper Hall
  • Schwartz Hall
  • Seahawk Crossing
  • Seahawk Landing
  • Seahawk Village
  • Terrapin Hall
  • University Suites
  • Almkuist-Nixon Sports
    Medicine Complex
  • Boseman Softball Field
  • Brooks Baseball Field
  • Fisher Field House
  • Greene Track and Field
  • Hanover Hall Gymnasium
  • Natatorium
  • Nixon Annex
  • Student Recreation Center
  • Trask Coliseum
  • Amphitheater
  • Bluethenthal Wildflower Preserve
  • Campus Commons
  • Chancellor’s Walk
  • Cross City Trail
  • Eaton Plaza
  • Gazebo
  • Kenan House
  • Wise Alumni House
  • Beckwith Recital Hall
  • Blackbox Theatre
  • Bookstore
  • Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE)
  • Center for Marine Science (CMS)
  • Clock Tower Lounge
  • CREST Research Park
  • Dub’s Café
  • Ev-Henwood Nature Preserve
  • Hawk’s Nest
  • The Hub
  • Isaac Bear Early College High School
  • Madeline Suite
  • Mainstage Theatre
  • MARBIONC Building
  • Marine Sciences Operations Facility
  • Onslow Extension Site
  • Shellfish Research Hatchery
  • Shops at the Crossing
  • Teal Terminal

Contact University Relations

Office of University Relations (OUR)

737 St. James Drive
Wilmington, NC 28403