Mission Statement

The mission of the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences is firmly grounded in the broader goals set forth in the Role and Mission of the University of Southern California. We are committed to the creation, preservation and communication of fundamental knowledge in all its forms. USC Dornsife faculty endeavor to awaken in each student an appreciation for critical thinking, and a profound understanding of the problems and aspirations of human societies, past and present as well as a lifelong passion for learning and a commitment to the betterment of society.

Just like all of you — the faculty, staff and students of USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences — the Office of Communication uses USC Dornsife’s mission statement as a daily operational guide. As we represent USC Dornsife to its many audiences, we portray the principles of USC Dornsife’s mission not only by the images of words we use but also by the example we set.

The Office of the Communication is responsible for the quality and consistency of USC Dornsife’s communications efforts, including but not limited to event publicity, media relations, news dissemination, publications, advertising, use of logos and USC Dornsife’s official website. We tell the world about USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences every day with accuracy and clarity, and we want this important message, whether in the form of a news release, brochure, magazine or newsletter, or ad, to be consistent in its content and style. Our ultimate goal, and one we all share as representatives of USC Dornsife, is to put a face on USC Dornsife that is so strong and crystal clear that our audiences will immediately connect the USC Dornsife experience with successful students, faculty, staff and alumni.

The Communication staff recognizes that consistent, positive communications about the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences experience can only be accomplished through the spirit of campus-wide cooperation. Because of the naturally wide scope of USC Dornsife’s communications in an effort to serve you better, the Office of Communication has established certain procedures and policies, laid out in this guide, to facilitate this campus-wide cooperation.


Marketing, Publications and Advertising

The Office of Communication is a valuable resource for you. We can advise you on identifying your target audiences, how to get the most for your money, the many different routes available to promote your department or event, how to develop realistic project timelines, and much more.



Generally, Associated Press (AP) style is used in most publications. The entries in this guidebook are based on The Associated Press Stylebook and USC University Communications guidelines as well as on usage particular to the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Photo Guidelines

The Office of Communication maintains an electronic archive of photos of people, buildings and events. We either take photos or help secure the services of a professional photographer for various events throughout the year. Please give us advance notice if you would like our office to take pictures of your event.

Photo Resolution

  • All digital photos or scanned photos submitted or solicited for use in publications should be at least 300 dpi and 4” x 6” in size. Photos with a resolution of less than 300 dpi must be at least 9” x 11” in size. Actual printed photos may also be submitted to the USC Dornsife Office of Communication to be scanned in and promptly returned.

Photo Captions

  • All photos should include captions when applicable, clearly identifying subject, date and place of photograph. Captions are optional only when photos are used for decorative flourish, such as detail shots of campus flora, etc. Photos of people or events may be used without captions to visually support thematic content.

Photo credits

  • Unless otherwise prearranged with contract photographers, photo credits are at the discretion of designers and editors. As a general rule, if photographs are taken of an event, etc., during your normal course of duties, the Office of Communication reserves the right to use those photos, with or without credit, as needed when they are submitted for publications. The design of certain pieces may sometimes necessitate the absence of credits.

Photo usage

  • Photos submitted for publications or for the photo repository managed and maintained by the Office of Communication are the property of the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and cannot be used or reproduced without explicit permission from USC Dornsife or its agents. Photos purchased or otherwise acquired from contract photographers become the property of the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences in perpetuity unless otherwise prearranged. The Office of Communication reserves the right to digitally manipulate images supplied for publications as is normal in the course of graphic design without compromising the photo’s basic integrity. This includes manipulation of color, size and cropping. Every effort will be made to preserve the integrity of photos.

Text Preparation

All text submitted for publications should be composed in Microsoft Word using the font Times New Roman size 12. Text should not be composed in Excel or Publisher. Note that font choice, font size, and other special formatting is determined by the designer or publication editor, so it is not necessary to assign any of these special design elements to the submitted copy. For example, do not indent paragraphs (instead place one return between paragraphs) or use tabs. And, as will be covered in the Editorial Style Guide section, be sure to insert only 1 space after a period in a sentence (except in formal letters and memorandums).



  • “USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences” should be used on first reference and in subsequent references it can be abbreviated as “USC Dornsife.”
  • References to “the College” or “USC College” should be avoided unless absolutely necessary to avoid repetition.
  • “USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences” is used with the article “the” and “USC Dornsife” without, as in: “He is a graduate of USC Dornsife.” Note that “and” rather than “&” should always be used with USC Dornsife’s full name and a comma does NOT follow “Arts” in “College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.”
  • Use the complete title on first reference to various professional schools at USC: the USC Viterbi School of Engineering; the USC Price School of Public Policy; the Keck School of Medicine of USC; the USC Davis School of Gerontology. On second reference, you may refer to Keck School of USC, USC Viterbi, USC Annenberg, etc.
  • Abbreviations using only the initials of a name do not include periods: JFK, LBJ.


  • Acronyms should be included in the first reference to an organization or program. Thereafter the program may be referred to by its acronym: “Joint Educational Project (JEP) is one of the oldest and largest service-learning programs in the country. Each year, some 2,000 students from several courses receive academic credit for their participation in JEP.”

Academic Terms

  • If mention of degrees is necessary to establish someone’s credentials, the preferred form is to avoid an abbreviation and instead use a phrase such as: “John Jones, who has a doctorate in psychology.” Full names of degrees are lowercased and periods are not used in the abbreviated form:
    • bachelor of science degree in chemistry; bachelor’s degree in chemistry; BS in chemistry; Bachelor of Arts
    • master’s degree in music; master of arts in music; MA in music; holds two master’s degrees; Master of Science; MS
    • master of business administration; MBA
    • doctorate in history; PhD in history
    • Degrees do not have periods: JD; MS; MA; BS; PhD; PharmD; EdD; RPh; and others
    • Terms denoting student status are lower-case: first-year student; sophomore; junior; senior
    • After first reference, it’s OK to shorten postdoctoral fellow to postdoc; may also be called on first reference postdoctoral researcher or just researcher, scientist or scholar.
    • In addition to graduate student, also consider using doctoral student or doctoral candidate.
    • Use lowercase for academic departments except in the case of words that are proper nouns or adjectives: the classics department; the department of English; the English department. When the department’s official and formal name is used, it should be uppercase: Department of History. If “and” is used in the department name, it should always be written “and” and not with “&.” Note that some departments have plural titles: Slavic LanguageS and LiteratureS; East Asian LanguageS and CultureS.
    • Use lowercase for a major or minor, even when it precedes a name (exceptions same as department): Colin Derval is pursuing a major in biological sciences and a minor in English. Wylene Stainer, a biology major, will attend medical school in the fall.
    • Official names of courses are title-cased and should be placed in quotation marks. Include the course number, outside the quotation marks, whenever possible: Rich enjoyed the course “Introduction to Sociology” (SOCI 200).

Academic Titles

  • Academic titles need to be referenced, but work on incorporating them without stopping the flow of the article. There is a list of all endowed chairs and professors and their “official” names on our website; use it to check titles. Also, check for multiple department appointments for faculty. You may not always include it in the story, but (as in the case of stories on interdisciplinary scholarship) it may be relevant.
    • Except in the case of University and Distinguished Professors, and Endowed Chairs and Professorships, use lowercase titles in clauses after names and set these titles off with commas. For example: “Euripides Greenblat, associate professor of biological sciences, spoke at the conference.” And “University Professor Grover Jorgen spoke at the event.” Note that the articles “a” and “an” should not precede University and Distinguished Professors, and Endowed Chairs or Professorships titles or “professor,” “associate professor,” “assistant professor” and “lecturer.”
    • Capitalize an official title (Professor/Associate Professor/Assistant Professor but not chemist, historian, baseball player) only if it directly precedes a name. In cases of numerous titles, it’s preferred to use only one on first reference and add secondary titles in following paragraphs. “Vice Dean for Students Flip Tisdale spoke at the event. Tisdale, professor of biological sciences, led a discussion.”
    • Once a professor or instructor’s title is mentioned, that professor or instructor should be referred to by his/her last name only without a Professor, Prof., Dr., or Instructor designation.
    • Note that emeritus and emerita are honorary designations and do not simply indicate retired. You can confirm this designation by contacting USC Dornsife Faculty Affairs at farequests@dornsife.usc.edu. Professor Emeritus (masc.) and Professor Emerita (fem.) should always precede the name (Professor Emerita Smithers). In the case of plural Professors Emeriti (masc. and fem.) should be used.
    • Writer in residence — unless it is a University, Distinguished or Endowed position, “writer in residence” is lowercase.


  • Always use figures for designating the age of people and animals (but not for inanimates): The girl is 15 years old; the law is eight years old. When the context does not require “years” or “years old,” the figure is presumed to be “years.”
  • Use hyphens for ages expressed as adjectives before a noun or as substitutes for a noun. Examples: a 5-year-old boy, but the boy is 5 years old. The boy, 7, has a sister, 10. The woman, 26, has a daughter 2 months old. The race is for 3-year-olds. The woman is in her 30s (no apostrophe). The program is for 5- to 7-year-olds.


  • Use the letter-by-letter method, alphabetizing up to the first comma that is not part of a series. Spaces, hyphens, apostrophes, and slashes and the letters that follow them are considered part of one word.


  • Alumna- A female graduate of the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
  • Alumnae- Female (plural) graduates of the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
  • Alumnus- A male graduate of the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
  • Alumni- Male (plural) graduates of the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
  • Alumni- Male and female graduates of the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
  • “Alum” is OK if gender is unknown or the person prefers a gender-neutral term
  • Use of the word alumnus: The word alumnus follows the gender rules in Latin — the female is an alumna or more than one alumnae. The male is an alumnus and more than one alumni. The male takes precedence when the group is of mixed gender — this when three male and two female former USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Science students convene it is a group of alumni. If you do not know the gender, then it is presumed to be male.
  • Apostrophes indicating year of graduation should appear as ’05. It is important to cite an individual’s alumni status often and accurately. The alumni year follows the person; name and one space and consists of an apostrophe curving to the right and the last two digits of the class year (e.g., Matthew Quentin ’98.) In articles on alumni, the class year designation should be used in the first mention of the individual’s name. It should also be used in every reference in a photo caption. In general, we will not use the form “Matthew Quentin, Class of 1998.”
  • All alumni are listed by their first and last name with their year at the end (the year notes the class they identify themselves with as opposed to the year they actually graduated). A middle name is used only when it’s a woman’s former name. Examples: Rachel Nicole ’02; Sandra Kae ’39.
  • If a person actually goes by their middle name, then their first name has been changed to reflect the name that people will know them by. Example: Collery Melondra Dween ’01 is noted as Melondra Dween ’01 (instead of Collery Dween ’01).
  • First names have generally not been changed to reflect nicknames. For example, Lizzy Diane is still listed as Elizabeth Diane ’82 and Fred Brunch is listed as Frederick Brunch ’81. Exceptions to this rule include occasions when the person specifically told us that they wanted to be listed with a particular name (e.g., Larry Sherman ’40 as opposed to Lawrence Sherman ’40).
  • There are a couple of exceptions to the nickname rule. If someone has told us that they go by a name totally different from their first or middles names, that name is included in quotes. Examples: Fulgencio “Kip” Anderson ’77; Winifred “Winnie” Tramport ’91
  • Other exceptions would include women, in particular, who go by their first and middle names, which case their first name file has been changed to include both names. Example: Mary Kay Neal Trumpet ’78 (as opposed to Mary Neal Trumpet ’78)
  • Two alumni married to one another are listed according to their preference for last names. Two alumni with different last names: Kristin Denelle ’66 and Kent Jay ’61. Cases where the woman uses the husband’s last name (but it’s not hyphenated with her own): Betsy Spritlowe ’78 and Kenneth Spritlowe ’78. Cases where the woman has hyphenated the husband’s last name to her own: Stephanie Nelson-Wombat ’85 and Stephen Wombat ’83


  • Use “at” instead of “in” to refer to people, departments, institutes, etc., that are part of USC Dornsife, such as “Corbin Rubberthwaite is a history professor at USC Dornsife.”



  • Capitalize formal titles (Board of Councilors, Board of Trustees), but lowercase otherwise (the board, the councilors, the trustees).

Brackets and Parentheses

  • If there is a phrase or word inserted by the writer or editor in someone’s direct quotation, use brackets: “My team [the Los Angeles Dodgers] might win the pennant.” Otherwise, use parentheses. He said his team (the Los Angeles Dodgers) might win the pennant.

The Bridge@USC

  • On first reference, it is the Bridge Institute at the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience (or the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience Bridge Institute)
  • “Bridge Institute” is acceptable on subsequent reference: All Bridge Institute researchers collaborate to further knowledge of the human body.


  • Terms such as building, fountain, park, room or theatre are capitalized only when part of an official or formal name: Seeley G. Mudd Building, Stauffer Science Lecture Hall.



  • Lowercase university, except when writing the complete formal name of a university as in the University of Southern California. (But always capitalize acronym USC).
  • An individual’s title that appears after a name should not be capitalized (e.g., Janey Shack, director of housing). Do, however, capitalize a title before a name (e.g. Director of Housing Janey Shack).
  • When referring to a specific office at USC Dornsife, it should be capitalized (e.g., “the Office of Communication distributed an editorial guide”).
  • Student designations such as Dornsife Scholar, Renaissance Scholar, Discovery Scholar or Global Scholar should be capitalized.
  • Names of national and international organizations, alliances, and political movements and parties are capitalized. For example, the Democratic Party and Democrat. However, when a term refers to a political philosophy it should be lowercase unless it is the derivative of a proper name. For example, socialism, fascism, but Marxism, Marxist.
  • Capitalize official names of programs and initiatives, but unless it is a part of the official name do not capitalize “program” or “initiative” following the name: Problems Without Passports program, PhD in Literature and Creative Writing program, The Writing Program.
  • Lowercase magazine unless it is part of the publication’s formal title: Harper’s Magazine, Time magazine.

Captions and Credits for Photos

  • If a photo caption comprises complete sentences, a period should appear at the end of each sentence. If the caption comprises only names or phrases, periods should not be used.
  • Photo credits should follow the following formats:
    • (Composite: Debbie Designer. Image source: Stock Company.) – Stock photos composited.
    • (Composite/illustration: Debbie Designer. Image source: Stock Company.) – Stock photos combined with some original illustration.
    • (Image source: Stock Company.) – Stock photo used without significant change (beyond cropping, retouch, etc.)
    • (Photo: Philomena Photographer.) – Original photo when photographer is known.
    • (Image: Arthur Artist.) – Original image when creator is known.
    • (Illustration: Izzy Illustrator.) – Original illustration when illustrator is known.
    • (Photo: Courtesy of Name O’Giver.) – Photo supplied but creator unknown. (Same format for images and illustrations.)
    • (Photo: Courtesy of O’Giver.) – Photo supplied by Name O’Giver and O’Giver is named in the caption.

College Rankings

  • The magazine’s full name should be printed as U.S. News & World Report, using an ampersand. U.S. News is acceptable on subsequent reference.

Colon (use of)

  • A colon introduced an element or a series of elements illustrating or amplifying what has preceded the colon. The study involves three food types: cereals, fruits and vegetables, and fats.
  • A colon may be used instead of a period to introduce a series of related sentences.Henrietta was faced with a hideous choice: Should she reveal what was in the letter and ruin her reputation? Or should she remain silent and compromise the safety of her family?
  • If a complete sentence or proper noun follows a colon, the first word should be capitalized.
  • A colon is normally used after “as follows,” “the following,” and similar expressions: I argue the following propositions: First, … Second, … Third, …
  • A colon often can be effective in giving emphasis: He had only one hobby: the yo-yo.

Comma (use of)

  • The final comma in a series is not used — a, b, c and d — unless required for clarity in a series of complex elements. Note that when an ampersand (&) is used instead of the word “and,” the same rule applies. If the series involves internal punctuation, or is very long and complex, it should be separated by semicolons.
  • Use commas to separate a series of adjectives equal in rank. If the commas could be replaced by the word “and” without changing the sense, the adjectives are equal: a thoughtful, precise manner; a dark, dangerous street. Use no comma when the last adjective before a noun outranks its predecessors because it is an integral element of a noun phrase, which is the equivalent of a single noun: a cheap fur coat, a new, blue spring bonnet.
  • A comma is used to separate an introductory clause or phrase from the main clause: When he had tired of the mad pace of New York, he moved to Dubuque. The comma may be omitted after short introductory phrases if no ambiguity would result: During the night he heard many noises. However, use the comma if its omission would slow comprehension: On the street below, the curious gathered.
  • A comma rather than a colon is used after said, replied, asked and similar verbs: Danica replied, “I hope you are not referring to me.” Do not use a comma at the start of an indirect or partial quotation: He said that victory put him “firmly on the road to a first-ballot nomination.”
  • Use a comma instead of a period at the end of a quotation that is followed by attribution: “Finish the assignment,” he instructed. Do not use a comma, however, if the quoted statement ends with a question mark or exclamation point: “Why should I?” he asked.
  • Commas precede closing quotation marks, whether double or single. (He read “The Lottery,” but slowly. not “He read “The Lottery”, but slowly.)
  • Do not use a comma before or after a ZIP code: 10054 Halifax St., Ventura, CA 93003.
  • Do not use a comma after a student’s name and graduation year: Bramford Quabbleringer ’00 ran the marathon.
  • Use commas after LLC, PC (as in Professional Corporation) or PLLC.


  • Contractions are fine; use them when they make sense and don’t use them when they don’t.


USC Dornsife Name (use of)

  • On first reference, “USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences” or (more rarely) “USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences” should be used. In subsequent references, it can be abbreviated as “USC Dornsife.”
  • References to “the College” should be used very rarely and only when necessary to avoid repeating “USC Dornsife” too often. Do not use “USC College.”
  • “USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences” and “USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences” are used in sentences with the article — example: He is a graduate of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
  • “USC Dornsife” should be used without the article — example: He is a graduate of USC Dornsife
  • Note that “and” rather than “&” should always be used with USC Dornsife’s full name and a comma does NOT follow “Arts” in “College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.”
  • When referring to entities within USC Dornsife, use “at” and not “in” or “of” — examples: Sweeney Razorflapp, professor of English at USC Dornsifethe Spatial Sciences Institute at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Time, Date, and Calendar Designations


  • The hour of the day or night is followed by a.m. or p.m. Abbreviations may be omitted if the context is clear: The morning flight to Philadelphia leaves at 10:15.
  • Avoid redundancies such as 10 a.m. this morning, 10 p.m. tonight.
  • The letters are lower case and followed by periods. Leave a space after the number and omit “:00” (e.g., 10 a.m., not 10:00 A.M.). Exceptions can be made for purposes of graphic design in posters, invitations, etc.
  • Use noon, not 12 p.m. Use midnight, not 12 a.m.
  • For the sake of parallel construction, the word “to,” never the en dash, should be used if the word “from” precedes the first element; similarly, and, the en dash, should not be used if “between” precedes the first element. The art exhibition ran from December to January in the Fisher Gallery. The band performed between 3 and 5 p.m.


  • Abbreviate the following months (Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec.) when used with the day of the month: Sept. 16.
  • Months should be spelled out and uppercased when used alone or with a year alone.
  • When using month, day and year (such as Oct. 8, 2008) use a comma after the year. (Example: She testified that is was Oct. 8, 2008, when they first met.) Same is true when day and date are used: She testified that it was Friday, Dec. 3, when the accident occurred.
  • No comma is used when only the month and year are used: She received her diploma in May 2004.
  • When typing a month and day (but not a year), do not use a “th,” “nd” or “rd” after the day (e.g. Oct. 8 not Oct. 8th)
  • Inclusive years take an en dash (–) and the second year should be abbreviated: the academic year 1998–99 or the academic year 2004–05.
  • If you place the day of the week in front of a date, use a comma: Friday, April 29


  • Days of the week and months of the year are uppercased; the four seasons are lowercased except when used to denote an academic semester: She enrolled in four courses for Fall 2017.

Decade, Century, Etc.

  • When referring to a specific decade (as long as the century is clear) use ’60s not “the sixties” or “1960s.”
  • It should be: late ’30s and early ’40s. If you write “the mid-1940s,” a hyphen is needed.
  • Lowercase century, spelling out numbers less than 10: the first century, the 20th century.
  • For proper names, follow the organization’s practice: 20th Century Fox, Twentieth Century Fund. If you are writing “17th-century ballads,” there is a hyphen between the number and the word “century.”


  • In stories, note all professors who are members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and who have received Nobel Prizes. For a full list, visit: dornsife.usc.edu/cf/faculty-and-staff/honors-awards-list.cfm
  • Capitalize “prize” when linked to Nobel. Example: George Olah is a Nobel Prize winner. Ariah Warshel is a Nobel-Prize winning biochemist. Lowercase when used without Nobel. Example: She won the peace prize for her sustainability work.
    • If you mention an endowed chair or endowed professor in a story, list his or her full title. Use the USC Dornsife webpage as a reference (not the title faculty use themselves): dornsife.usc.edu/cf/faculty-and-staff/honors-awards-list.cfm
  • If a faculty member is a department chair, use the chair title on first mention.

E, G, H


Ellipsis (…)

  • In general, treat an ellipsis as a three-letter word, constructed with three periods (no spaces between) and one space before and after. (Kyle drove Samantha home … then went to work.)
  • For more detailed information, especially for complex usage, see the AP Stylebook entry for “ellipsis.”


Gender and Ethnicity Terminology

  • Chicano/a and Latino/a
  • Per AP Style, no hyphen with dual heritage terms such as African American, Asian American, etc.
  • Capitalize the B in “Black” but do not capitalize “white” when referring to race.

Governmental Terms

  • Capitalize the full proper names of government agencies, departments and offices: the U.S. Department of State, the Georgia Department of Human Resources, the Boston City Council.
  • First and last names of sitting U.S. presidents should be included on first reference.



  • Headlines for news stories should be in sentence case. Subheads for news stories should be in sentence case and include ending punctuation (period, question mark, etc.).

Hyphens and Dashes (use of)

Hyphen (-)

  • Hyphens are joiners. Use them to avoid ambiguity or to form a single idea from two or more words. The fewer the hyphens the better; use them only when not using them causes confusion (e.g. small-businessman; He recovered his health. He re-covered the leaky roof.)
    • When a compound modifier — two or more words that express a single concept – precedes a noun, use hyphens to link all the words in the compound except the adverb “very” and all adverbs that end in “-ly”: a first-quarter touchdown, a bluish-green dress, a full-time job, a well-known man, a know-it-all attitude, a very good time, an easily remembered rule.
    • When a modifier that would be hyphenated before a noun occurs instead after a form of the verb “to be,” the hyphen must be retained to avoid confusion: the man is well-known. The children are soft-spoken.
    • Duplicate vowels and triple consonants should be avoided: anti-intellectual, pre-empt, shell-like.
    • In the case of suspensive hyphenation the follow form should be used: He received a 10- to 20- year sentence in prison.
    • Commonly hyphenated terms include the following:
      3D contains no hyphen; co-author; co-founder; college-bound; deal-breaker; decision-maker and decision-making; first-year student; four-year institution; graduate-level (when used as a compound adjective); nonfiction (no hyphen); nonprofit (no hyphen); postdoctoral (no hyphen); question-and-answer; service learning (no hyphen); short- and long-term; short-term; long-term; student-oriented; well-being is always hyphenated

En dash (–)

  • The principal use of the en dash is to connect numbers and less often, words. In this use it signifies up to and including (or through). Her college years, 19982002, were the happiest in her life.
    • No space immediately before and after an en dash.
    • For the sake of parallel construction the word “to,” never the en dash, should be used if the word “from” precedes the first element; similarly, and, the en dash, should not be used if “between” precedes the first element. The art exhibition ran from December to January in the gallery. The band performed between 3 and 5 p.m.

Em dash (—)

  • The em dash is the most commonly used and most versatile of the dashes.
    • To avoid confusion, no sentence should contain more than two em dashes; if more than two elements need to be set off, use parentheses. Some common uses include:
    • Amplifying/Explaining: It was a revival of the most potent images of modern democracy — the revolutionary idea.
    • Separating subject from pronoun: Broken promises, petty rivalries, and false rumors — such were the obstacles he encountered.
    • Indicating sudden breaks: “Will he — can he — obtain the necessary signatures?” asked Daleburt.
    • One space should be inserted before and after an em dash.



  • No spaces should be inserted between initials to prevent them from being placed on two lines in typesetting: T.C. Boyle, M.G. Lord, e.e. cummings, T.S. Eliot.

Institute, Center, Program and Project Names

  • Use complete capitalized title on first reference, and make sure it’s identified as a USC Dornsife unit or the relationship is explained.
    • Examples: The USC Wrigley Institute for Environment and Sustainability based at USC Dornsife; The Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life at the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences; the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC), a consortium of 54 institutions headquartered at USC Dornsife.
  • On second reference, lean toward using just “the institute,” “the center,” “the program,” etc.
  • On second reference to the Master of Professional Writing Program, use “MPW,” not “the MPW program.”
  • It is “Joint Educational Project” NOT “Joint Education Project.” Use “JEP” on second reference.
  • Partial list of center and institute full names (for first mention) followed by the shortened version or accepted acronym (for subsequent mentions):
    • Brain and Creativity Institute; BCI
    • The Bridge Institute at the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience; the Bridge Institute
    • Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life; the Casden Institute
    • Center for Economic and Social Research; CESR
    • Center for Religion and Civic Culture; CRCC
    • Center for the Political Future; CPF (rarely)
    • East Asian Studies Center; EASC
    • Equity Research Institute; ERI
    • Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West
    • Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies; IACS
    • Institute of Armenian Studies
    • Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics; Unruh Institute
    • Korean Studies Institute; KSI
    • Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics; Levan Institute
    • Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute
    • Mind and Society Center
    • Southern California Earthquake Center; SCEC
    • Spatial Sciences Institute; SSI
    • USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future
    • USC Dornsife Washington D.C. Program
    • USC Sea Grant
    • USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute; EMSI
    • USC Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture; Shinso Ito Center
    • USC Wrigley Institute for Environment and Sustainability; Wrigley Institute
    • Visual Studies Research Institute; VSRI

Internet Terms and Usage

  • “World Wide Web” is capitalized.
  • Use “website,” not “web site” or “Web site.” Also, “the web” not “the Web.”
  • “Internet” is lower case, per AP Style.
  • “Intranet,” a network confined to a smaller group, is a generic term that should not be capitalized.
  • Do not use “http://”or “www.” unless necessary when including a URL: dornsife.usc.edu
  • Be sure to check internet links for accuracy and accessibility.
  • URLs and email addresses should appear in italics (not underlined) within publications.
  • If a website address appears at the end of the sentence, it should be followed by a period: You should be able to find an archived version of the article at nytimes.com. 


  • Italicize the following:
    • Book titles (Exception: Do not italicize the titles of long religious books such as the Bible or the Koran)
    • Research journals (but put research paper titles in quotes)
    • Long poems
    • Newspapers
    • Movies
    • Plays
    • Record albums (but put song titles in quotes)
    • Television programs (but put episode titles in quotes)
    • Podcast series (but put episode titles in quotes)
    • Art works such as paintings and sculptures
    • Anthologies (but put story titles in quotes)
    • Ships, trains, airplanes and spacecraft
    • Scientific (Latin) names
  • URLs and email addresses should appear in italics (not underlined) within print publications, but not online.
  • Italics can be used for emphasis: I do not care what you think!
  • Italicize words used to reproduce sound. (Bees buzz, but they go bzzzzzz. Dogs bark, but they go woof!)

N, O, P, Q



Proper Names

  • Include articles if they are part of a proper name (The New York Times and not New York Times)


Faculty Members

  • Use first and last name
  • Avoid including the middle name or initial
    • Exceptions can be made for those who insist on using a middle initial
  • Do not use their academic degree(s)


USC Presidents, Provosts and Deans

  • Include their title in front of their first and last name (Provost Michael QuickDean Amber D. Miller)


U.S. Politicians

  • Use their title followed by first and last name (President Abraham LincolnRep. Kyndra SleevepakSen. Wyatt Hornswoggle)


Celebrities, dignitaries (except U.S. politicians) and other famous individuals

  • Use their most commonly known name (Awkwafina but not Nora Lum for the rap artist/comedienne/actress; Jay-Z and not Shawn Carter for the rap artist)


  • In general, spell out numbers one through nine and use figures for numbers 10 on up. There are many exceptions that always take figures, however. Most, but not all, involve units of measurement. Common exceptions include:
    • Age (always numerals for people and animals)
    • Percent (always numerals — both “percent” and the “%” symbol are acceptable)
    • Time (always numerals — no extra zeroes needed after hours)
    • Dates (always numbers only — example: Aug. 4, not Aug. 4th)
    • Temperatures (one exception: X degrees below zero)
    • Dimensions (height and weight are always written as numerals)
    • Money (the amount is always written in numerals; “cents” is spelled out; for dollars use the dollar sign)
  • Always spell out numbers at the beginning of a sentence or reword the sentence to avoid spelling out a large number. The exception is a numeral that identifies a calendar year: 1963 was a very good year.
  • Spell out ordinal numbers first through ninth when they indicate sequence in time or location: first base, the First Amendment, he was first in line. Starting with 10th, use figures.
  • For numbers of four digits or larger, use a comma: 1,500; 35,000. Very large numbers should be expressed with both a numeral and word: 450 million.
  • For large amounts of money use figures with million or billion: $16 million gift, not 16 million dollar gift. Note that a hyphen is not used to join the figures and the word million or billion. Do not drop the word million or billion in the first figure of a range: He is worth from $2 million to $4 million.
  • Percentages are always given in numerals: Students of color make up 31% of the class. However if the sentence begins with a percentage, the numeral should be spelled out: Fifty percent of USC Dornsife students receive financial assistance.
  • Telephone numbers should always use hyphens with the area code in parentheses: (555) 647-2256. Periods should not be used.
  • When referring to a specific decade (as long as the century is clear) use ’60s not “the sixties” or “1960s.” However, when denoting age, do not use an apostrophe: “He is an older gentleman in his 80s.”
  • Lowercase century, spelling out numbers less than 10: the first century; the 20th century. For proper names follow the organization’s practice: 20th Century Fox, Twentieth Century Fund. If you are writing “17th-century ballads” there is a hyphen between the number and the word “century.”
  • Always use figures for designating the age of people and animals (but not for inanimates): The girl is 15 years old, the law is eight years old. When the context does not require “years” or “years old,” the figure is presumed to be “years.”


Period (use of)

  • Place a period after a quotation and the source that appears in parentheses: “You have been my friend” (Charlotte’s Web).
  • Insert only one space between sentences.
  • Periods precede closing quotation marks, whether double or single. (“Lend me your ears.” not “Lend me your ears”.)

Personal Names

  • An individual’s first and last name should appear the first time he/she is introduced. In subsequent references, use only the individual’s last name. An exception to this rule is if employing a casual tone and you wish to convey a friendlier air (i.e., Class Notes section of the alumni magazine).
  • Maiden names precede married names and are not placed in parentheses or quotation marks: Shirley Craven Gumble ’90.
  • Commas should not be used before or after Jr. and Sr. or to set off II, III, etc. Winston W. Wilson Jr. has eclipsed his father’s fame. Wilberforce A. Chortle III is the son of Wilberforce A. Chortle Jr.
  • Use diacritics (accent marks) for proper names whenever possible.

Place Names (Cities, States, Regions, Countries, etc.)

  • When referring to the United States, use U.S. not US, except in headlines. Use “United States” on first reference and “U.S.” thereafter.
  • Whether used alone or with a city in body text, the names of U.S. states should be spelled out, except when referring to political affiliation (as indicated below).
  • Use a comma after the city and state name. (She has resided in Glendale, California, all her life.)
  • The following state names are never abbreviated: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, Utah.
  • When indicating political affiliation, abbreviate state names (except those listed above) and offset with commas, as per AP Stylebook. (U.S. Sen. Mary Jones, R-Calif., ran again.)
  • Use commas after country names. (They visited Siuna, Nicaragua, with friends.)
  • Use commas in and after “Washington, D.C.” (She has lived in Washington, D.C., all her life.)
  • Dateline cities (e.g., Los Angeles, New York, London) stand alone in regular text. (Check AP Stylebook when in doubt.)
  • After first reference, abbreviate Los Angeles as L.A. (Using the full “Los Angeles” after first mention is acceptable when needed to avoid repetition.)
  • In general, lowercase north, south, northeast, northern, etc., when they indicate compass direction. Capitalize these words when they designate regions.
    • Central America; Central American countries; central Europe (unless referring to the political division); central New York; upstate New York
    • The East; the East Coast; eastern; the Middle East; eastern Europe (unless referring to the political division)
    • The Midwest, midwestern, a midwesterner
    • The North/the South; northern/southern; the Northwest; northwestern; Southern California
    • The West; West Coast; western United States; the Western world (considered as a cultural entity)
    • The state of California
    • The Bay Area; the Old World; the Third World (the economically developing nations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America)


  • For plural nouns ending in “s” and singular proper names ending in “s,” use only an apostrophe: the ships’ wake, Agnes’ book, Kansas’ schools.
  • For singular common nouns ending in “s,” add “’s” unless the next word begins with “s”: the hostess’s invitation, the witness’ story.



  • Quoted words, phrases, and sentences run into the text are enclosed in double quotation marks. Single quotation marks enclosed quotations within quotations.
  • Periods and commas precede closing quotation marks, whether double or single.
  • A comma rather than a colon is used after said, replied, asked and similar verbs: Kirby replied, “I hope you are not referring to me.”
  • Use a comma instead of a period at the end of a quotation that is followed by attribution: “Finish the assignment,” he instructed. Do not use a comma, however, if the quoted statement ends with a question mark or exclamation mark: “Why should I?” he asked.
  • Titles of short stories, songs, and courses should be placed in quotation marks.


Scientific (Latin) Names

  • When referring to organisms by their Latin names, use italics and capitalize name of genus but not of species. On second reference, use first initial of genus and complete species name.
    • Example: Sturdevant Klopwaddle studies the bacterium Shewanella putrefaciens. His studies show that S. putrefaciens metabolizes iron and manganese.

Semicolon (use of)

  • The semicolon, stronger than a comma but weaker than a period, can assume either role, though its function is usually closer to that of a period. Its most common use is between two independent clauses not joined by a conjunction: Mildred intends to go to Europe; her plans, however, are still quite vague.
  • When items in a series involve internal punctuation, they should be separated by semicolons.


  • Gay is an adjective that has largely replaced homosexual in referring to men who are attracted to other men. Avoid using as a singular noun. For women, lesbian is generally used. To include both, use gay men and lesbians. In headlines where space is an issue, gay is acceptable to describe both.
    • Example: The foundation serves the needs of gay men and lesbians at USC.
  • Use queer only if there is a compelling reason, as the term is still considered pejorative.
  • In describing the larger and inclusive gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community, “LGBT,” “LGBTQ” and “LGBTQ+” are all acceptable. Example: Professor Blumford describes herself as an original advocate of the LGBTQ movement.


  • Use only one space between sentences.


  • Do not use a space before or after a slash (/): e.g., environmental/environmental justice

Stylistic Preferences

  • Use academia when referring to the larger academic community.
  • advisER or advisOR (both are fine)
  • Use after, not following
  • afterward, not afterwards
  • For alumni, use “Don Johe ’85 speaks” and not “Don Johe ’85, speaks” nor “Don Johe, ’85 speaks” nor “Don Johe, ’85, speaks”
  • best-seller (all uses)
  • co-author (with hyphen)
  • co-founder (with hyphen)
  • data is considered a plural noun, it normally takes plural verbs and pronouns. When data is regarded as a unit, it takes a singular verb: The data have been carefully collected (individual items). The data is sound (a unit).
  • deal-breaker (all uses)
  • decision-maker, decision-making (all uses)
  • email not e-mail
  • Use exhibition and exhibit for an art show
  • flyer not flier when referring to an advertising circular
  • faculty
    • If the term is being used as a collective noun and represents individuals acting as a unit, the corresponding verb is singular. (The faculty includes five tenured professors.)
    • If the sentence indicates clearly that the individuals are acting separately, the corresponding verb is plural. (The faculty gather to discuss courses.)
  • fundraising and fundraiser (no hyphens)
  • health care is two words (all uses)
  • nonprofit (no hyphen)
  • nonfiction (no hyphen)
  • on campus, off campus (adv.), on-campus, off-campus (adj.): The master class takes place on campus. She lives in an off-campus apartment.
  • postdoctoral (no hyphen)
  • RSVP (all caps and no periods)
  • Prefer said instead of says for direct quotes. Says may be used when describing a person’s beliefs, thoughts or behavior: Hortence says it is important to be there. “We should be there,” Hortence said. (Note: As of summer 2019, we have begun to accept says for direct quotes, if the tone and context allow.)
  • socio-economic not socioeconomic
  • theatre not theater
  • titled not entitled: Titus Grone wrote a book titled Strange Are the Monikers.
  • toward, not towards
  • transfer students or transfer student, not transfers or transfer
  • Use website, not web site or Web site
  • well-being is hyphenated
  • Do not hyphenate interdisciplinary, multimedia or multidisciplinary.
  • The convention in scholarship is to use the adjective Maya and not Mayan, except when referring to a language or writing. In reference to people, neither “the Mayas” nor “The Mayans” is ever used, just “the Maya,” “the ancient Maya,” etc.
  • many is preferred over a lot (use sparingly in quotes)

T, W



  • Capitalize “the” in a newspaper’s title if that’s how the publication prefers to be known. Lowercase “the” before newspaper names if a story mentions several papers, some of which use the as part of the name and some of which do not.

Titles (Book, Magazine, Film, etc.)

  • Italicize stand-alone works including book titles, movie titles, academic journal titles, play titles, podcast titles, record album titles, television show titles (when referring to the show itself, not an individual episode), names of newspapers, names of magazines, works of art, and musical compositions. Place the publisher name and years in parentheses after a book. Case of Hidden Gender (Routledge Press, 1999).
  • Titles of book chapters, articles in academic journals or magazine, doctoral theses (dissertations), individual television show episodes, songs, etc., should be placed in quotation marks.

Trojan Family

  • Always capitalize the “f” in “Trojan Family.”


Word Choice

  • Affect/Effect Affect, as the verb, means to influence: The game will affect the standings. Affect, as a noun, is best avoided. It is occasionally used in psychology to describe an emotion, but there is no need for it in everyday language. Effect, as a verb, means to cause: He will effect many changes in the company. Effect, as a noun, means result: The effect was overwhelming. He miscalculated the effect of his actions.
  • Aid/Aide Aid is assistance. An aide is someone who serves as an assistant.
  • All ready/already All ready (everyone is prepared; all are ready) and already (he completed the action already).
  • Below/less than Use less than, not below, when something is quantifiable. For example: The total cost was less than $5,000, not below $5,000.
  • Compose, Comprise, Constitute Compose means to create or put together. It commonly is used in active and passive voices: She composed a song. The U.S. is composed of 50 states. Comprise means to contain, to include all or to embrace. It is best used only in the active voice, followed by a direct object: The U.S. comprises 50 states. The jury comprises seven women and five men. Constitute, in the sense of form or make up, may be the best word if neither compose nor comprise seems to fit: Fifty states constitute the U.S.
  • Dived/Dove Both dived and dove are used as past tense for dive, although dived is more immediate past tense and dove is further in the past.
  • Every day/Everyday Every day is an adverb; Everyday is an adjective: She goes to work every day. He wears everyday shoes.
  • Like/Such as As a general rule, such as is preferred. Such as precedes an example that represents a larger subject, whereas like indicates two subjects that are comparable: Steve has recordings of many great jazz musicians such as Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis. Steve wants to be a great jazz musician like Ben Webster and Lee Konitz. Keep in mind that like excludes; such as, includes.
  • Over/More than Use more than, not over, when writing about something that is quantifiable (such as numbers and percentages).
  • Principle/Principal Principal is a noun and adjective meaning someone or something first in authority, rank, importance or degree. Principle is a noun that means a fundamental truth, law, doctrine or motivating force.
  • Who/Whom Who is the pronoun used for references to human beings and to animals with a name. It is grammatically the subject (never the object) of a sentence, clause or phrase: The woman who rented the room left the window open. Whom is used when someone is the object of a verb or preposition: The woman to whom the room was rented left the window open.
  • Who/That Who refers to people. That refers to groups or things. Anya is the one who rescued the bird. Lucas is on the team that won first place.

Terminology Specific to Offices

Office of Admission Terminology

  • On official USC Dornsife documents, use Office of Admission, not Office of Admissions.

Overseas Studies Terminology

  • Overseas Studies not Study Abroad

Office of Advancement Terminology

  • Fundraising and fundraiser are one word and not hyphenated. Fundraise should not be used as a verb.
  • Annual Fund is always capitalized.

Tags (Topics) for Online News Stories

Tags (sometimes called “Topics”) and categories appear at the bottom of online news stories and are used to group similar or related stories together. They also can affect search results.

Use only tags that appear in the official list of tags, and use them exactly as they appear.

  • Tags affect which stories appear as suggested further reading. Bear this in mind when applying tags.
  • When choosing tags, consider keywords someone might search for.
  • Aim to use no more than five (5) tags, unless additional tags are highly relevant.
  • Whenever possible, include the appropriate division tag(s): “humanities”; “social sciences”; “natural sciences”
  • Include relevant department tags as indicated in the official list. These enable departments to share the story on their websites.

Categories and Tags for Online News Stories

Categories function in a fashion similar to tags but are generally much broader than tags. They are selected within the content management system. Do not include a tag if it is also a category; just select the category.

List of Categories

  • alumni
  • arts and culture
  • commencement
  • dornsife global
  • faculty
  • health
  • politics
  • science and technology
  • social impact
  • student
  • sustainability

Commonly Used Tags

  • academy in the public square
  • awards and honors
  • campus news
  • community engagement
  • diversity equity and inclusion
  • expert viewpoint (usually used for op-eds and The Conversation articles)
  • graduate (usually paired with “student” category)
  • humanities
  • natural Sciences
  • obituary
  • public exchange
  • research
  • social sciences
  • undergraduate (usually paired with “student” category)
  • usc dornsife leadership
  • video

Find a list of all categories and tags (topics) here.