Writing Style Guidelines 

Resources

Strategic Communications recommends the following publications as guides:

  • “The Associated Press Stylebook” (2015 edition)
  • “Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary”
  • “Strunk & White’s Elements of Style”

The following recommendations are LSU style as decided by Strategic Communications. Unless otherwise noted below, LSU style defaults to AP Style.

University Style

  • When referring to a college, it is acceptable to say either “The College of Engineering” or “LSU’s College of Engineering.”
  • On first reference, use the full, official name of a unit, college or department. If the same unit is frequently referenced, subsequent references may be abbreviated: “The College of Humanities & Social Sciences houses the Department of English. Humanities & Social Sciences also maintains research units like the English Language & Orientation Program.”
  • There are no periods or spaces in “LSU.” Refer to the university as “LSU,” not as “LSU and A&M College.” “LSU” includes the School of Veterinary Medicine but excludes the Hebert Law Center, the LSU Agricultural Center and the System administration.
  • When referring to grades, put letters in quotes to avoid confusing the reader. For example: He made an “A.”
  • Use “Did You Know?” rather than “Did U Know?”
  • Unless it is within the full name of the university (i.e., Louisiana State University), lowercase “university” when referring to LSU (e.g., the university).
  • When referring to the LSU System, differentiation between the System administration and the collection of all component units or campuses in the System should be made clear by sentence structure and meaning. The word “system” is always capitalized when referring to the LSU System.
  • The LSU Agricultural Center is the unit administratively responsible for the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station and the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service; the College of Agriculture is an administrative unit of LSU. Sentence structure should clearly indicate this differentiation.
  • Both Louisianan and Louisianian are acceptable. Whichever you prefer to use, be consistent within your document.
  • Within a document, list only one telephone number when possible (unless different extensions bring different options).
  • Use “telephone” instead of “phone.” Standard telephone structure is 225-578-1234. To indicate a facsimile number, specify “Fax” before the number.
  • Avoid using courtesy titles (Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr.) within paragraph text or cutlines. On first reference, use “PhD” or a professor’s title to establish expertise. Use a husband’s and a wife’s first names: “John and Mary Smith,” never “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.” Courtesy titles are allowed in donor lists to satisfy donor wishes.
  • Use “first-year” or “first-time” student rather than “freshman.”
  • Use “advisor” rather than “adviser.”
  • Use “students” rather than “coeds.”
  • When addressing international students, be aware of cultural differences. While American students may identify with the Memorial Tower, Tiger or school colors, for example, those symbols may have different meanings for international students.
  • Use gender-neutral language such as “chair” or “chairperson” (rather than “chairman”), “police officers” (rather than “policemen”), and so forth.
  • Use “people with disabilities” rather than “handicapped people.”

Word Choice & Sentence Structure

  • Whether you write in second person (you) or third person (he or she) depends on your audience. Whatever the case, be consistent throughout your document.
  • Whatever the purpose of your publication, assume an audience of intelligent nonspecialists. Avoid technical jargon and abbreviations (unless identified at least once in the beginning of the document). When a specialized vocabulary is unavoidable, be sure to define terms clearly in lay language.
  • Avoid redundancy. State your message once in the strongest, most precise language possible.

Internet Standards

  • Correct spelling and capitalization standards are as follows:
    • email
    • home page
    • Internet
    • online
  • Capitalize “Web” when used as an abbreviation of World Wide Web, but not in website, web page, web address, webmaster.
  • Not all addresses begin with “www” or “http.” When writing web addresses, you should include “http://” only if the address does not begin with “www” or if it includes a variation of “http://.” Examples: Did you know you can visit https://www.google.com/accounts/ to register for a Google account? Students may complete applications for admission and student aid online at www.lsu.edu/admissions, the website for LSU’s prospective students.
  • Check all website addresses for accuracy.
  • Do not underline web addresses. You may bold the address if you find that it is “buried” in the copy.
  • Verify the suffix—.com, .edu, .gov, .net, .org—of websites before printing them.
  • Web addresses should not be separated onto multiple lines of text. If a line break occurs at a web address, move the entire address to the following line.
  • When writing a web address in your copy, avoid placing the address at the end of the sentence, as the end punctuation can confuse the reader: “Visit www.lsu.edu to view the latest LSU Highlights.”
  • The @ symbol should only be used in association with e-mail addresses or Twitter handles, never as a substitution for the word “at” in general body copy or headers (e.g., “The forum is at LSU.” not “The forum is @ LSU.”).

Punctuation

  • No comma is necessary before an ampersand, even if it is the serial comma before the last item in a list.
  • No comma is necessary before “Jr.,” “Sr.,” or any numeral suffix.
  • There should only be one space after periods and colons.
  • When abbreviating academic degrees, do not use periods: “BA, PhD, MS, MBA, JD.”
  • It is not necessary to write “degree” if the full name of the degree is given. For example, it is sufficient to say “Master of Science” rather than “Master of Science degree.”
  • “African American” and “Native American” do not need hyphens.
  • The following words should be hyphenated:
    • first-year or first-time students
    • on-campus and off-campus (as adjectives)
    • pre-professional and other academic fields beginning with “pre”
  • Use a colon to introduce items in a series that rename or amplify material that precedes the colon. If the items are lengthy, use a semicolon to separate them; otherwise, use the semicolon only as a “weak period” to separate closely related independent clauses (as in this sentence).
  • When hyphenating words, the second word should only be capitalized if it is a proper noun (i.e., non-Louisiana). (Chicago 8.169)
  • Commas and periods are placed inside quotation marks; colons and semicolons are placed outside. Depending on meaning, question marks can appear either inside or outside quotation marks.
  • When using a dash to amplify a phrase or show a break in thought, use an em dash (—) rather than an en dash (–) or hyphen (-).
  • No space is needed between dashes or slashes and surrounding text. For example, use “and/or” rather than “and / or”; “Alzheimer’s disease destroys many lives—and families—every day” rather than “Alzheimer’s disease destroys many lives — and families — every day.

University Approval

If your publication contains academic course or degree information, text should be approved by the Office of the University Registrar. Reputation-defining materials (as outlined in PS-10) should be sent to approvals@lsu.edu for review and approval prior to printing.

Visual Identity & Graphic Standards

All LSU publications are required to have the LSU logo, wordmark or signature on the cover or front panel. Consult the LSU Logo Usage Guidelines for proper logo use.