Academic terms

Academic and administrative titles

Capitalize a formal title immediately preceding a name, but lowercase the title if it follows the name or stands by itself.

VCU President Michael Rao
BUT Michael Rao, president of VCU

Department Chair John Doe
BUT John Doe, chair of the department

Lowercase professor before a name, but capitalize professor emeritus (male) and professor emerita (female) as a conferred title before a name.

Example: Professor Emerita Susan Johnson

Courtesy titles, such as Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss and Dr., are not used — even on first reference.

Academic credentials

Include earned doctoral degrees following a person’s name but not bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Do not use Dr. as a formal title. Use the academic abbreviation for the doctoral degree, set off by commas, following the individual’s name.

Example: John Smith, Ph.D.; Annie Wright, M.D. (Note: This is an exception to AP style.)


Not advisor


Use alum when referring to an individual or alums when referring to a group who graduated from VCU. Alum and alums are the preferred terms. These gender-neutral terms can also be used for an individual or group who identifies their gender as nonbinary or as existing outside of the binary definitions of man or woman.

If the gender of an individual or group has been confirmed or designated as male and/or female, use the following parallel terms: alumnus (alumni in the plural) to refer to a man, alumna (alumnae in the plural) to refer to a woman, and alumni to refer to a group of men and women (if all are confirmed as men and women).

Individuals who have received a degree or certificate are considered alums and the term is synonymous with graduate.

Course titles

Capitalize the formal name of courses, without quotes.

Example: She’s taking history. She’s taking American history. She’s taking History 101.


One words in all uses.


Use the following abbreviations or full, formal names when referencing the academic degrees available through VCU’s 225 bachelor, master’s, doctoral, first professional and certificate programs.

B.A.Bachelor of Arts
B.F.A.Bachelor of Fine Arts
B.I.S.Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies
B.M.Bachelor of Music
B.S.Bachelor of Science
B.S.W.Bachelor of Social Work
D.D.S.Doctor of Dental Surgery
D.N.A.P.Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice
D.P.T.Doctor of Physical Therapy
M.A.Master of Arts
M.Acc.Master of Accountancy
M.A.E.Master of Art Education
M.B.A.Master of Business Administration
M.Bin.Master of Bioinformatics
M.D.Doctor of Medicine
M.Ed.Master of Education
M.Envs.Master of Environmental Studies
M.F.A.Master of Fine Arts
M.H.A.Master of Health Administration
M.I.S.Master of Interdisciplinary Studies
M.M.Master of Music
M.P.A.Master of Public Administration
M.P.H.Master of Public Health
M.P.S.Master of Pharmaceutical Sciences
M.P.I.Master of Product Innovation
M.S.Master of Science
M.S.C.M.Master of Supply Chain Management
M.S.D.Master of Science in Dentistry
M.S.H.A.Master of Science in Health Administration
M.S.N.A.Master of Science in Nurse Anesthesia
M.S.O.T.Master of Science in Occupational Therapy
M.S.W.Master of Social Work
M.T.Master of Teaching
M.Tax.Master of Taxation
M.U.R.P.Master of Urban and Regional Planning
O.T.D.Post-professional Occupational Therapy Doctorate
Pharm.D.Doctor of Pharmacy
Ph.D.Doctor of Philosophy

Do not capitalize the names of school or college studies, fields of study, major areas or subjects (except languages) unless a specific course is being referred to.

Example: He is studying philosophy and English.                               

Official, State Council of Higher Education of Virginia-approved degree names must be used when referring to a VCU program of study. Names should reflect the actual degree a student receives. Shortened or unofficial listings are not approved by SCHEV and, therefore, must be avoided to remain in compliance with SCHEV policy. Websites should also be structured so that the approved program of study is easily apparent to visitors, and that subareas are not elevated to appear as an approved degree program.


Incorrect: M.Ed. in school counseling
Correct: M.Ed. in counselor education with a concentration in school counseling

Incorrect: B.S. in business administration
Correct: B.S. in business with a concentration in management/business administration

Incorrect: B.S. in public relations
Correct: B.S. in mass communications with a concentration in public relations

Please refer to the VCU Bulletin for all official, SCHEV-approved program names:

Complete SCHEV guidance can be found at:


Do not use Dr. as a formal title. Use the academic abbreviation for the doctoral degree, set off by commas, following the individual’s name.

Example: John Smith, Ph.D.; Annie Wright, M.D. (Note: This is an exception to AP style.)

Freshman, freshmen

Freshman is the singular noun and also is used in adjective form. Freshmen is the plural form.


Special accommodations

Invitations or fliers, posters, etc., announcing events should include a special accommodations contact phone number or email, or both.

Example: For special accommodations, call (804) 828-XXXX or email


Always hyphenated

The Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute

The should always be capitalized as part of the institute’s formal name.

VCU Honors College

Use VCU Honors College or The Honors College.



General style preferences

Abbreviations and acronyms

An acronym is a word formed from the first letter or letters of a series of words: scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus). An abbreviation is not an acronym.

Do not follow a word or phrase with an abbreviation or acronym in parentheses or set off by dashes. If an abbreviation or acronym would not be clear on second reference without this arrangement, do not use it.


Street addresses and states should be spelledout in return addresses, web signatures and in “contact us” sections.

Virginia Commonwealth University
Division of University Relations
University Marketing
827 West Franklin Street, Room 206
Box 842041
Richmond, Virginia 23284-2041
Phone: (804) 828-1463
Fax: (804) 828-8172

For on-campus addresses, the correct ZIP+4 will incorporate 232 plus the campus Box number.

Note also that website: is not used to introduce the URL.

In running copy, use abbreviations if the address includes an actual street number.

Example: 827 W. Franklin St., Richmond, Va.



If in doubt, use lowercase rather than capital letters.

Lowercase the names of the classes: graduate, senior, junior, sophomore and freshman.

Lowercase commonwealth when referring to Virginia.

Example: VCU is located in the commonwealth of Virginia. State is similarly lowercase in all constructions.

Example: She visited the state of Maine last fall.

Capitalize central when paired with Virginia to describe the region.

Example: The Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU NICU is the oldest and the newest in Central Virginia as well as the first.

Capitalize city if part of a proper name, an integral part of an official name or a regularly used nickname.

Example: Because of its location on the James, Richmond is often called the River City.

Lowercase elsewhere.

Example: The city of Richmond plays hosts to numerous festivals in the summer.

Capitalize class when joined with a year.

Example: The Class of 2012 announced its gift to the school.

Capitalize commencement when referring to the university’s official ceremonies in May and December.

Example: VCU will celebrate 3,000 graduates at its May Commencement.

When a generic term is capitalized as part of an official name, the plural used with another name is lowercase.

Example: Broad and Belvidere streets, the schools of Nursing and Dentistry

Company names

Abbreviate company (Co.), corporation (Corp.), incorporated (Inc.) and limited (Ltd.) when part of the name but do not use a comma before these abbreviations.

Do not use all caps on a company name unless the individual letters are pronounced.

Example: UPS delivered the package on Sunday. The office supply closet has a new bag of Bic pens.

If the company’s name or product begins with a lowercase letter (like iPhone or eBay), try to reorder the sentence so that you can capitalize the name as the company usually does. If reordering is impossible, capitalize the first letter and any other letter the company usually capitalizes.

Example: The new iPhone comes out July 1. EBay is a great way to sell your attic treasures.

Composition titles

Put quote marks around book titles, movie titles, play titles, song titles, computer game titles, poem titles, titles of lectures and exhibits, works of art and TV program titles. Do not use quotes for newspapers, magazines or journals or for books that are primarily catalogs of reference material, such as dictionaries and encyclopedias. Names of most websites and apps are capitalized without quotes: Facebook, Foursquare. Capitalize principal words in titles, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters.

Days of the week and months/dates

Always capitalize and spell out the days of the week.

When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. Spell out months when using them alone, or with a year alone.

When a phrase lists only a month and a year, do not separate the year with commas. When a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with commas.


In tabular material, use these three-letter forms without a period: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.


One word, no hyphen


Not FAQs

Fewer, less

In general, use fewer for individual items, less for bulk or quantity.



Where possible, use sentence-structured, active headlines.

Example: Brandcenter team innovates its way to the top

Capitalize only the first word and proper nouns. The one exception is that the first word after a colon is always uppercase in headlines.

Always use single quotation marks.

Health care

Two words in all uses

Home page

Two words


Always lowercase. The web is a subset of the internet. The two terms are not synonymous and should not be used interchangeably.

Meta descriptions

VCU websites should include a brief description that will show up on internet search results pages below the title of the site. The meta description should include keywords that users would type in during their search of the site. The recommended length of a meta description is 140 to 150 characters.


Spell out numbers one through nine and their corresponding ordinals and use numerals for 10 or more.

Example: three blind mice, 24 black birds

If the same category contains numbers both above and below nine, use numerals within that category.

Example: Alice took first-place in the contest by eating 13 pies while Norm, who came in second, only ate 9.

When a number begins a sentence, spell it out. The exception to this rule is years.

Example: 2011 marked the first year the VCU Rams went to the Final Four.

Use No. as the abbreviation for number in conjunction with a figure to indicate position or rank.

Example: No. 1 program, No. 8 seed


One word in all uses for the computer connection term

Over, more than

Over generally refers to spatial relationships.

Example: She threw the ball over the fence.

More than is preferred with numerals.

Example: VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students. (Note: This is an exception to AP style.)

Page titles

The page title on a VCU website should spell out Virginia Commonwealth University on the home page. Sublevel pages should list the page name, followed by the name of the site (with VCU abbreviated).


PDF /Doc

When including links to PDFs and Word documents on websites, place the respective identifier next to the hyperlink to alert users of the download.



Use numerals for percentages, even in running text. Spell out percent and percentage in text and headlines. The percent sign (%) may be used in tables.


Hyphenated in all uses

Residence hall

Use residence hall, not dormitory or dorm, when referencing one of VCU’s residence halls.


Use figures and capitalize room when used with a figure.

Example: Room 2, Room 211


No periods


Lowercase the four seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter.

State names

Spell out the names of the 50 U.S. states when used in body copy, whether standing alone or in conjunction with a city, town, village, etc. When Richmond is used in the same sentence as Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia is not used. Example: Virginia Commonwealth University is located Richmond, a capital city teeming with real-world opportunities.

Use the following state abbreviations in lists, tabular materials and datelines. The names of eight states are never abbreviated: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah.



Use figures except for noon and midnight. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes.

Example: 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 9-11 a.m., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Avoid redundancies such as 10 a.m. this morning, 10 p.m. tonight or 10 p.m. Monday night. Instead, use 10 a.m. or 10 p.m. Monday, etc.

For formal invitations, the construction 4 o’clock is acceptable, but time listings with a.m. or p.m. are preferred. (Commencement invitations are an exception.)

Telephone and fax numbers

Use figures and set off area codes with parentheses. (Note: This is an exception to AP style.)


Capitalize top when it is the formal name of a ranking, but lowercase in more casual references.



VCU does not use register mark, service mark or trademark symbols (®, ™, ©), except on merchandise, but capitalizes the marked text according to AP style.

Underserved, underrepresented

No hyphens

University Student Commons

Not Student Commons

Universitywide, campuswide

No hyphens


As a best practice, the cleanest, shortest working URL should be used in print pieces, websites and on stationery. Most sites, including addresses no longer require the www (even if they appear on the landing page). As long as the URL works without www, http:// and https:// they can be removed. However, because some sites do still require these prefixes, the URL should be tested in multiple browsers (IE, Firefox and Chrome) before removing any part of the address.

The same rule applies to suffixes such as /index. html, which appear in the browser bar but aren’t needed to access the site.

For example, index.html can become

If the website if part of a list and some URLs in the list require www and others don’t, include www in all entries for consistency.

For print publications when the URL does not fit entirely on one line, break it into two or more lines without adding a hyphen or other punctuation mark, and carry any punctuation in the URL to the second line.


The URL should always be the last item in a sentence.

Example: To make a donation to the school, contact Troy Smith at (804) 555-5555, or make a gift online at

Do not use http:// or https:// in URLs that do not require it.

On websites, use a hyperlink versus spelling out the URL in text.


The abbreviation is acceptable as a noun or adjective for United States.

Web, website, webcam, webcast, webmaster

As a shortened form of World Wide Web, web is lowercase. Website, webcam, webcast and webmaster are also lowercase.

Web signature

In accordance with VCU’s Web Standards and Guidelines, all VCU websites must include a signature/ footer block in order to provide consistent methods for visitors to contact the respective department and to notify visitors that the site is kept up to date. View the required content outlined by VCU Technology Services at webstandards.vcu .edu/compliance/content.

A single space follows all punctuation, including periods and colons.

Periods and commas are always placed inside quotation marks; all other punctuation is placed outside quotation marks, unless part of the material is being quoted.

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