Empire State University Writing Guide



With every piece of content we create, we aim to:

  • We help our readers know SUNY Empire by using conversational language that motivates, informs and encourages them to take a desired action.
  • Speak TO our readers, not AT them. We don’t talk at our audiences; we communicate with We avoid internal jargon and other grandiose academic/corporate terms and descriptions (funnel, leverage, mode, asynchronous, synchronous, nonmatriculated, etc.). We focus on our strengths in plain, everyday language.
  • We tell our readers what they want and need to know, not just what internal audiences want to hear. With input from key constituents, we give our audiences the information they need and the opportunity to learn more.
  • We are tour guides. We are experts. Whether we’re leading them through the application process or walking them through our online technology requirements, we communicate in a logical, friendly, down-to-earth manner.

To achieve those goals, we make sure our content is:

  • Written in plain English. We use simple words and sentences and strip away arcane internal acronyms and terminology. If we must use a technical term, we briefly define it in a way everyone will understand.
  • Before we start writing, we ask (and answer): What purpose does this serve? Who is going to read it? Why will they care? What do they need to know?
  • Quite simply, we write like humans. And to make our writing more relatable, we sometimes break a few rules. Like starting a sentence with “And.” Or “Like.” Or “Or.”
  • Student centered. We are not writing academic papers, and our audience is not faculty, administration, or staff. Our copy is student-focused (or alumni-focused, as the situation warrants). In copy, pare down the use of “we” in favor of “you.” Our copy should focus on benefits to students, not a recitation of our accomplishments.
  • We need to relate to our students’/prospects’/alumni’s fears, challenges and passions and speak to them in a familiar, warm, accessible way.
  • We use positive language rather than negative language. When possible, avoid words like “can’t” and “don’t.”
  • We stick to the copy and style points outlined in this guide.


Effective content depends upon consistent use of the SUNY Empire voice and tone.

Here’s the difference between voice and tone: You have the same voice all the time, but your tone changes. You might use one tone when you're out to dinner with friends, and another when you're meeting with your boss.

The same is true for SUNY Empire. Our voice doesn’t change, but our tone changes depending on audience and situation.


Our voice reflects our brand’s personality: reliable, hardworking, intelligent, helpful, and encouraging. Our voice is conversational and down-to-earth. It is not preachy or highbrow.

Navigating our many university processes can be confusing for prospects and students. We need to speak like a trusted advisor in this voice at all times—from initial inquiry and application to orientation, graduation, and beyond.


When writing, consider the reader’s state of mind.

  • Are they nervous about applying to university and going back to school?
  • Are they confused and seeking help on a technology issue?
  • Are they a proud graduate eager to donate to our alumni fund?

Understanding their emotional state will help you adjust the tone accordingl


Our mascot, Blue, captures the spirit of SUNY Empire’s personality.

She gestures and high-fives, but she doesn’t talk. With certain exceptions (such as SUNY’s Mascot Madness), we don’t write in Blue’s voice.


Language evolves over time, and social changes bring about modifications in word use. Adhering to certain rules of grammar and mechanics, however, keeps our writing clear and consistent. This section lays out our in-house style, which applies to all of our content, unless otherwise noted in this guide.


AP style sets expectations for consistent spelling, grammar, and capitalization in written content. Although the university adheres to AP style in many cases, such as Connections magazine and press releases, there are times when it is more important to communicate in a style that fits the SUNY Empire brand and/or mirrors the way our audiences search for and talk about us. That means on occasion, we unapologetically bend or break AP guidelines in favor of a more conversational, relatable, authentic voice.


In making our communications to clear to all groups, we need to be mindful of people who have disabilities and use screen readers. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Do NOT use the word ‘here’ when providing hyperlinks.
  • Do NOT spell out long web addresses.

The following is an alphabetical list of common questions regarding content style and how we address them at SUNY Empire.


As of March 22, 2023, SUNY Empire State College is now officially Empire State University. The first time the university is mentioned, use "Empire State University," and use "SUNY Empire" for subsequent copy.


A | B | C | D | EF | G | H | I | KL | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z  


a | an

Use "a" before consonant sounds:

  • a historic event
  • a one-year term (sounds as if it begins with a "w")
  • a united stand (sounds like "you").

Use "an" before vowel sounds:

  • an energy crisis
  • an honorable man (the "h" is silent)
  • an MBA degree (sounds like "em").

Abbreviations and Acronyms

If there’s a chance our reader won’t know an abbreviation or acronym, spell it out the first time. Use the shortened version for all other references.

  • First use: Individual Prior Learning Assessment (iPLA)
  • Second use: iPLA

You don’t need the acronym in parentheses after the phrase if you don’t mention the phrase again in the article.

Don’t assume that an abbreviation or acronym is well known. SUNY, for example, is well known  inside New York state. Outside New York state, SUNY is not a well known term.

If an abbreviation or acronym is well known, such as FAQ, FBI, SAT, FAFSA, GPA, etc., use it on first reference. There is no need to spell it out.


The "Associated Press Stylebook" cautions the avoidance of acronyms that would not quickly be recognized by a reader. There are many acronyms commonly used at Empire State University.

Do not begin a sentence with an acronym — spell out the name.

If an acronym must be used, spell it out on first reference if it is not one that would be quickly recognized by a reader.

  • YES: You could benefit from an Individual Prior Learning Assessment (iPLA).
  • YES: For more information, refer to our FAQ page.
  • NO: Everyone is familiar with PLA and PLE.

This applies to committees, offices and programs related to the university as well.

Example: Office of Veteran Military Education (OVME)

Also see Empire State University brand name.

academic degrees

Lowercase and use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree and master’s degree. Lowercase associate degree and do not use an apostrophe.

  • associate degree (it is NOT an associate’s degree)
  • bachelor’s degree
  • master’s degree

Capitalize and do not use possessives in Bachelor of Arts, Master of Business Administration, Master of Fine Arts, or Master of Science.

The field of study should be written in lowercase except when it contains a language or nationality. An exception can be made for headlines, titles, and lists.


  • Jordan is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering.
  • Jordan is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English.

Academic degree abbreviations written with periods:


academic degree abbreviations written without periods


For consistency, use periods for all degree abbreviations when listed together (such as in the course catalog), with the exception of “RN to BSN.”

academic departments / schools

Capitalize names of academic departments or offices when they are used as proper nouns. Do not capitalize the word “department” when it follows the name of the program. The word “department” should only be capitalized when it precedes the name of the program.

Use an ampersand in academic departments/schools only when an ampersand is an official part of the department/school/office name.

When used in plural form, “departments” should not be capitalized. This rule also applies to university offices.

  • The Department of Art and Design offers a number of majors. 
  • The history department offers a number of majors.
  • The departments of psychology and physics are located in the science building.
  • Take your form to the Office of Admissions.
  • The Admissions office will accept your form.

Use the following official school names:

Center for International Education
Harry Van Arsdale Jr. School of Labor Studies (School of Labor Studies on second reference)
School for Graduate Studies
School of Arts and Humanities
School of Business
School of Human Services
School of Multidisciplinary Studies
School of Nursing and Allied Health
School of Science, Mathematics and Technology
School of Social and Behavioral Sciences

academic titles

Use the suffix Ph.D. or Ed.D. instead of the “Dr.” prefix unless the degree holder is a medical doctor.

In articles/long-form copy, refer to academics as “professor” (lowercase, unless starting a sentence) on first reference and then by last name only in subsequent references.

  • Anna Smith, Ph.D.
  • Professor Anna Smith, Ph.D., is writing the grant proposal. Smith says she hopes it will bring much-needed funds to her research program.

Active Voice

Use active voice. Avoid passive voice. In active voice, the subject of the sentence does the action. In passive voice, the subject of the sentence has the action done to it.

  • YES: Jim logged into the account.
  • NO: The account was logged into by Jim.
  • YES: Our financial aid office will mail award notices.
  • NO: Award notices will be mailed by our financial aid office.

One exception is when the person performing the action appears in one sentence and then the next, or when you want to emphasize the action over the subject:

  • Your account was flagged by our IT team.


See mailing address.


Use the gender-neutral “alum” for all singular alumni. SUNY Empire uses alumni as the plural for multiple graduates.

Class years should appear after a graduate’s name in first reference in publications, with the exception of headlines, photo captions, blurbs and other call-out copy.

Use an apostrophe before the year. The apostrophe should face the direction of the “missing” numerals: Joe Smith ’19.

There is no comma between the name and the apostrophe. If there are two graduating years, put a comma between them.

  • Empire State University alumni Erin Hamlin ’11 and Ashley Caldwell ’14 were guests at the White House.
  • John Smith ’96, ’02 will be the guest speaker at the residency.

American ethnicity

Always capitalize. Use a hyphen to designate dual heritage. When possible, refer to a person’s country of origin, rather than region. 

  • Native American — acceptable for those in the U.S. Where possible, use the name of the tribe instead.
  • African-American
  • Asian-American
  • Caribbean-American
  • Filipino-American
  • Italian-American
  • Mexican-American

and | &

Do not use ampersands when referring to degree-specific titles, departments, and offices unless one is an official part of the program/office name.

  • YES: business, management and economics
  • NO: business, management & economics 

Ampersands are used in promotional materials (collateral/brochures, posters, web content, releases, and flyers) to make the content more inviting (outside of degree-specific titles and offices). 

area of study (majors/concentrations)

Don't capitalize general areas of study/majors/concentrations unless that area of study is the name of a language (English, French, etc.).

  • He majored in English, not civil engineering.
  • She is earning a bachelor’s degree in history.


(adj.) designed to aid in learning or teaching by making use of both hearing and sight


(n.) audiovisual teaching materials


Capitalize Autistic when referring to a person but lowercase “individuals with autism” and autism spectrum disorder.


Capitalize "award" only when it is part of the official name of an award.

  • The inaugural Award for Excellence in Environmental Sustainability was presented to Albert A. Stirpe Jr.
  • Receiving SUNY Empire State College's inaugural award is a great honor," said Stirpe.



Overseas, the term “baccalaureate degree” is the equivalent of a secondary-school diploma. Use the term “bachelor’s degree” whenever possible.

Also see academic degrees.

book titles

See composition titles.


See Empire State University brand name.

bulleted list

See lists.



See Locations.

capital district | capital region

When referring to New York state’s capital and surrounding communities, use Capital Region, not Capital District. Use initial caps.


one word (no hyphen)


The word “century” should be lowercased.

It is ok to use numbers to represent centuries.

It is also ok to use ordinal indicators (st, th, rd, nd) after centuries.

For example: the 21st century


Advanced certificates are offered by the School for Graduate Studies.

Reserve the term "graduate certificate" for internal use only.

Certificate is used for certificates at the undergraduate level. Associate and bachelor's degree program plans may include a certificate.


business and environmental sustainability certificate

Certificate in Business and Environmental Sustainability

innovation and technology transfer advanced certificate

Advanced Certificate in Innovation and Technology Transfer

chairman | chairwoman

Capitalize as a formal title before a name.

Do not use chairperson, chair or co-chair unless it is an organization's formal title for an office.

Also see college titles.


Chairman John Smith

committee Chairwoman Mary Jones

check in | check-in

Use "check in" as a verb. Hyphenate when the term is used as a noun or an adjective.


When you check in at the residency information desk, you will find the necessary check-in materials for the supplementary sessions.

check out | checkout

Use check out as two words when used as a verb. Use checkout as one word when used as a noun or attributive noun.


Checkout is at 11 a.m.

Please check out early if you plan on listening to the luncheon speaker.

class years

Do not capitalize in body copy, even when referring to specific classes.

  • class of 1999
  • class of ’99

Also see Alumni.


Do not capitalize the word "college" without a specific name.

Also see Empire State College brand.


SUNY Empire State College's dedicated faculty and staff use innovative, alternative and flexible approaches to higher education.

The college is committed to critical reflective inquiry.

Vision 2015 is the college's strategic plan.

college brand

See Empire State College brand and acronyms.

college titles — administrative, faculty and staff

Capitalize a person’s title, if used, before the name. 


Dean Thomas Mackey

For more information, contact Master of Arts in Adult Learning Coordinator Dianne Ramdeholl.

Vice President for External Affairs Hugh Hammett

Do not capitalize titles when listed after a name.


Merodie Hancock, president

Desiree Drindak, academic development coordinator

Do not capitalize titles that do not include a name.


Susan McFadden is special events coordinator in the Office of the President.

For more information, contact the appropriate dean or academic coordinator.

Professor, associate professor, assistant professor, mentor, instructor and other titles are not capitalized unless used before a name.


Dean Michael Merrill will lead the committee.

Michael Merrill, dean, will chair the committee.

She was promoted from associate professor to professor in 2002.

Also see chairman, chairwoman, commas and titles and individual references.


one word (no hyphen)


Love it or hate it, the Oxford comma is back. When writing a list or series, use the Oxford (serial) comma.

  • YES: Sara admires her parents, Oprah, and Tom Cruise.
  • NO: Sara admires her parents, Oprah and Tom Cruise.

commas and periods with quotation marks

Always place commas (and periods) inside quotation marks, but always place commas outside quotation marks prior to the quote.


“I am astounded,” Maureen Winney said.

Maureen Winney said, “I am astounded.”

commas and titles

Use commas to set off an identification or title following a name.

Also see college titles.


Mary Caroline Powers, vice president for communications and government relations, convened the meeting.

committee, council and panel names

Capitalize names of specific committees, councils and panels. When not using the full name of the group, write the word in lowercase letters.


The Faculty Senate Steering Committee is seeking new members.

The steering committee is seeking new members.

Commons or the Commons

The Commons is a Web-publishing environment for the Empire State College community sponsored by Information Technology Services.

Unless starting a sentence,  only capitalize Commons and not "the."

composition titles

Apply the guidelines listed here to book titles, computer game titles, movie titles, opera titles, play titles, poem titles, album and song titles, radio and television program titles, and the titles of lectures, speeches and works of art.

  • Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters.
  • Capitalize an article — the, a, an — or words of fewer than four letters if it is the first or last word in a title.
  • Put quotation marks around the names of all such works except the Bible and books that are primarily catalogs of reference material. In addition to catalogs, this category includes almanacs, directories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, gazetteers, handbooks and similar publications. Do not use quotation marks around such software titles as WordPerfect or Windows.

Also see magazine names and newspaper names.


Capitalize the area of study. Use lowercase for the concentration.


The new student is interested seeing how prior college-level learning can be used towards a B.S. in Business, Management and Economics with a concentration in finance.


Contractions give your writing an informal, friendly tone. In most cases, use them as you see fit. Best practices say to avoid contractions when writing content for an international audience.

copy tone and personality

The tone of Empire State College should be confident, positive and upbeat. We do not talk down to our audience — they are intelligent, motivated individuals. Nor do we need to be humble or unassuming — we are a high-quality institution, providing a truly unique service and filling a critical need for our nontraditional students.

Also see voice.

course names

Capitalize the important words when using the formal name of a study or course. Use lowercase if not using the formal name. Do not use course numbers in copy.

  • He is taking Introduction to Creative Writing and Editing for Clear Communication this summer.
  • He plans to take a writing course this summer.

course numbers

Do not use hyphens when using or listing courses by number.

  • YES: NURS 6065
  • NO: NURS-6065


One word, not two.

courtesy titles

See individual references.


Capitalize and include the number when referring to the disease. Use without the number if need space for headlines.

Lowercase names of variants such as omicron.

credits | credit hours

Use numerals to refer to credits.


4 credits

Nondegree students are limited to no more than three graduate courses (up to 9 credit hours) of study.


One word, not two.



Although AP style allows for abbreviations of certain months, we spell out days of the week and all months, as it is cleaner and easier to read.

  • Saturday, January 24

Do not use ordinal indicators (st, th, rd, nd) after dates. Use numerals only.

  • YES: October 12
  • NO: October 12th

When listing only a month and year, spell out the month and do not separate the month and year with commas.

  • March 2020

When writing a date range, the use of “to” is preferred, unless there are numerous dates being listed in a row or column, such as the Term Bookmark. In that case, please use the en dash.

  • YES: October 12 to 14
  • NO: October 12-14

days and time

When listing days and times, the time is given first, then the day and date followed by the location.


A reception will take place from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 19, in the lobby of 2 Union Ave., Saratoga Spring, N.Y.

See also time.


See numbers - decimals and fractions.


See academic degrees, academic degree abbreviations, graduate degrees and undergraduate degrees.


Lowercase north, south, east, west when they indicate compass direction. Capitalize if you’re talking about a region.

  • To get there, travel north on the highway.
  • She’s from the Midwest.

Also see regions.

Diversity, equity and inclusion language

When referring to students who are of disadvantaged backgrounds or historically underrepresented or unrepresented, we prefer the phrase ‘historically marginalized groups.’

Individuals are NOT diverse; groups are.


one word (with hyphen)


one word (no hyphen)


e.g. (never eg)

The abbreviation for the Latin "exempli gratia" (meaning "for example)"is always followed by a comma.


Treat an ellipsis as a three-letter word, using three periods with a space on either side ( … ).

Em dashes

Use the em dash to create a strong break in sentence structure. They can be used in pairs like parentheses — that is, to enclose a word, or a phrase, or a clause — or they can be used alone to detach one end of a sentence from the main body. A good rule of thumb is to reserve em dashes for those places where the comma doesn’t provide a strong enough break. SUNY Empire uses a space on both sides of the em dash. (See en dash on the following page).


one word (no hyphen)

email addresses

When writing out an email address, only capitalize letters if:

  • The email address is a person’s first and last name.
  • The email address is a city or town.
  • The email address has multiple words that are more readable with initial caps on each word.

If there are no proper names or multiple words in the email address, use all lowercase letters. If a sentence ends in an email address, you will still use a period at the end of the sentence.

  • Smith@sunyempire.edu
  • FortDrum@sunyempire.edu
  • FinancialAid@sunyempire.edu
  • apply@sunyempire.edu
  • apply@sunyempire.edu/MarchForward


Identify retired faculty and staff in the following manner:

Emerita: feminine singular

Emeritae: feminine plural

Emeritus: masculine singular

Emeriti: masculine plural or masculine and feminine plural.

Empire State University brand name

The first time the university is mentioned, use "Empire State University," and use "SUNY Empire" for subsequent copy.

Example: Empire State University serves a higher percentage of adult and working learners than any other undergraduate degree granting university in NYS. SUNY Empire...

When referring generically to the university, use all lowercase.

Example: The university offers undergraduate degrees and certificates

En dashes

The en dash is a mid-sized dash (longer than a hyphen, but shorter than an em dash) that means “through” and is mostly used to show ranges in numbers and dates. It can also be used for clarity in forming complex compound adjectives. The en dash is meant to be the same width as the letter N. On a Mac, press the option and minus keys. Do not put a space on either side of the en dash.


All lowercase except when starting a sentence or appearing in initial caps titles.

exclamation points

Use exclamation points sparingly, and never more than one at a time. Can’t decide whether or not to use an exclamation point? Read your copy aloud. If your voice doesn’t get louder and/or more excited, don’t use an exclamation point.

Exclamation points go inside quotation marks. Like periods and question marks, they go outside parentheses when the parenthetical is part of a larger sentence, and inside parentheses when the parenthetical stands alone. Like all other punctuation, there is no space between the last letter of a sentence and the exclamation point.


FAQ (not FAQs)

Common abbreviation for “frequently asked questions.” Written in all caps. No need to spell out on first reference. Do not add an “s” after FAQ, as “questions” is already plural.


Fax is preferable for facsimile or facsimile machine.

Unless the first word of the sentence, fax is not capitalized.

File Extensions

When referring to a file extension type, use all uppercase without a period. Add a lowercase s to make plural.

  • GIF
  • PDF
  • HTML
  • JPGs
  • PNG

first-come, first-served

Use the expression 'first-come, first-served,' not 'first-come, first-serve.' This is the correct expression.

flier (not flyer)

Flier is the AP style preferred term for a handbill or advertising circular.

forms and informal documents

Don’t capitalize the titles of forms or informal documents, such as exemption request forms, immunization forms, or leave requests.


See numbers - decimals and fractions.

full time | full-time

Hyphenate only when used as a compound modifier (when two or more words collectively modify a noun).

  • She works full time.
  • She is a full-time employee.


graduate degrees awarded at Empire State College

Master of Arts — M.A.

Master of Arts in Adult Learning — MAAL

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies — M.A.L.S.

Master of Arts in Teaching — MAT

Master of Business Administration — MBA

Master of Science in Nursing — MSN

graduate school

See Empire State College brand.


hashtags (#)

A hashtag is metadata (data that provides information on other data) used to “theme” topics on social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Limit your hashtags to three or fewer per post.

See “Web Standards” for more information.

headings on Webpages

Headings at all levels should use title case.

Headings that are true, punctuated sentences should use sentence case.

Heading levels should be nested to show the proper hierarchy of the page structure

The webpage's title is always a first-level heading <H1> and the only <H1> on the page.

Main sections in the page are second-level headings <H2>.

Subsections of the main section are third-level <H3> and then fourth-level <H4> headings.

For more information, see Writing for the Web located in the Web Standards and Practices Guide.


Headlines are written in title case. Do not use punctuation in a headline unless the title is a question.

  • Flexible and Affordable Online Education
  • Explore Our Degree Offerings


one word (no space).


one word (no space)


Used most commonly to combine words (making compounds such as advanced-level, for example) and to separate numbers that are not inclusive (phone numbers and Social Security numbers, for example).

Do not put a space on either side of the hyphen, unless the hyphen is being used as a minus sign or as a hanging hyphen (“nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature”). By definition, a hanging hyphen will have a space after it but not before it.


i.e. (never ie)

The abbreviation for the Latin "id est" (meaning "that is") is always followed by a comma.

Incident Ticket

Capitalize Incident Ticket.

Include or Including 

If a list is comprehensive, do not use the word ‘include.’ Include is used only when the list offers a few examples.

individualized learning

The university is moving away from this term in web copy, as SEO research tells us it is not being searched by our prospects. Use “personalized learning” instead.

Also see personalized learning.

informal documents and forms

Do not capitalize the titles of forms or informal documents such as an exemption request form, a learning contract or a leave request.


Lowercase in all instances, unless at the beginning of a sentence.

Internet address — a URL

In text, try to use the name of the website rather than the Web address, in the same fashion that you would use the name of a place and not its address in the physical world. Use ".com" only if it is part of the legal name, as in Amazon.com Inc.

If the Internet address is used, do not include the protocol (http, https, mailto) and :// portion of the address.

Also see Web addresses.



Keywords are ideas and topics that define what your content is about. For SEO, they're the words and phrases that users enter into search engines, also called "search queries." For a list of SUNY Empire keywords, see “Web Standards” for more information.


lecture titles

See composition titles.


Give context to lists with a brief introduction.

Only number lists when the order is important, such as describing steps of a process. Don’t use numbers when order doesn’t matter.

The university uses bullets (not dashes or other symbols) for list items and punctuates them as follows:

  • Capitalize the first letter of each bullet point.
  • If one of the list items is a complete sentence, use proper punctuation and capitalization on all of the bulleted items.
  • If list items are not complete sentences, don’t use punctuation after list items, but do capitalize the first word of each item.
  • Do not use semicolons at the end of list items.


There are operational differences (hours, staffing, services) that define a “campus” and a “learning hub.” The following are designated campuses. Everything else is a learning hub.


  • Cheektowaga/Buffalo
  • Hartsdale
  • Newburgh
  • Rochester
  • Saratoga Springs
  • Syracuse


  • Brooklyn
  • Garden City
  • Hauppauge
  • Manhattan
  • Selden
  • Staten Island

log in | log on

Two words when used as a verb to initiate interaction with a computer or network.

login | logon

One word when used as a noun or part of a noun: “login screen.”


magazine names

Capitalize the initial letters of the name but do not place it in quotes.

Lowercase magazine unless it is part of the publication's formal title: Harper's Magazine, Newsweek magazine, Time magazine.

mailing address

Abbreviate avenue (Ave.), boulevard (Blvd.) and street (St.). All similar words (alley, drive, road, terrace, etc.) always are spelled out.

Use the official two-letter U.S. Postal Service abbreviations only when listing mailing addresses.


Write to Admissions, Empire State College, 2 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.

master's degrees

See academic degrees and graduate degrees.

meta descriptions

Meta descriptions are used behind the scenes. Search engines pull meta descriptions and use them to describe the search listing.

Meta descriptions should be written in short sentences (150 characters max) and should accurately describe the page.

Example: SUNY Empire’s School of Nursing is CCNE-accredited. We offer nursing programs that can be completed part time, online, and onsite.


Abbreviate certain months when used with a specific date: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec.

For print publications, Empire State College also abbreviates Mar. and Apr. when used with a specific date.

Spell all months out when used alone or with a year alone.


The Fall 1 term runs from Sept. 9, 2014 to Dec. 20, 2014.

February 2014 may be the coldest on record for Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

more than | over

The preferred use is “more than” to indicate greater numerical value.


names (individual references)

Refer to individuals by first and last name, without courtesy titles, on first reference. After the first reference, use the last name only, regardless of the person’s rank and title.

All titles are lowercase when they do not immediately precede a name.

Only use courtesy titles (Mr., Miss, Ms. or Mrs.) in direct quotations.

Do not use middle initials unless using one helps to distinguish between two or more people.

Refer to “academic titles” for additional guidance.

New York

New York City (aka New York, N.Y.) is used to differentiate from New York state. State is not capitalized.

newspaper names

Capitalize "the" in a newspaper's name if that is the way the publication prefers to be known.

Do not place the name in quotes.

non or non-

In general, don’t use a hyphen when forming a compound that does not have special meaning and can be understood if "not" is used before the base word.

non traditional | nontraditional

SEO research indicates that SUNY Empire prospects search for/find us using the term “non traditional” with no hyphen and a space. You will see us write it this way when referring to “non traditional students” in web copy.

In print, the word will be written as “nontraditional.” No hyphen, no space.

The university is moving away from the term “non traditional learning” and toward “blended learning” when referring to the ways in which students can study—online, onsite, or both.


one word (no hyphen)


one word (no hyphen)


one word (no hyphen)


one word (no hyphen)


one word (no hyphen)

# not No.

When creating forms, use the # sign not No.



numbered list

See lists.

numbers - cardinal

Spell out zero and whole numbers below 10.

Use numerals for 10 and above, unless the number starts a sentence or identifies a calendar year.

Always use numerals for percentages.

Always use numerals for credits or credit hours.


She had nine students in her 4-credit group study.

1972 was the year Empire State College was founded.

Less than an hour before the opening bell, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 110 points or 1 percent.

Spell out casual expressions.


Thanks a million!

numbers - ordinal

Spell out first through ninth if used to indicate sequence in time or location. Starting with 10th, use digits.

Use 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and so forth when the sequence is assigned in forming names.

Never use ordinal numbers with dates.


He was ninth in line.

The 10th Annual Run for Life was held early this year.

The 1st Ward supports the creation of urban gardens.

numbers: decimals and fractions

Use a decimal point and numerals to represent decimal amounts. For amounts less than 1.0, use zero before the decimal point.

  • The ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter is approximately 3.14.
  • The number of applicants rose 0.9 percent in January.

Spell out fractions less than one and use hyphens between the words.

Use numerals for precise amounts larger than one with a space between the whole number and the fraction. Whenever practical, convert to decimals.

  • Approximately two-thirds of the students attended the guest lecture.
  • The walk from our hotel to the National Museum of Dance is 1.75 miles.

numbers - ratios

Use numerals and hyphens to represent ratios. The word "to" is omitted when the numbers precede the word "ratio" or similar phrase.


The 3-1 ratio of apples to oranges made for an interesting fruit cup.

Although she had often been to the thoroughbred track, it wasn't until she read a book about horse racing that she understood what 2-1 odds really meant.

numbers and hyphens

All compound numbers between twenty-one and ninety-nine are hyphenated when spelled out.

Use to show numerical ranges, meaning “up to and including” — of dates, ages, pages, etc.


Seventy-six trombones led the big parade.

Abraham Lincoln was president during the Civil War (1861-1865).

Use a hyphen before a numeral.

Use hyphens for ages expressed as adjectives or as substitutes for a noun.


pre-1950 mentality

Many theaters are now showing 3-D movies. My 11-year-old niece did not enjoy the movie, but she is not the typical 11-year-old.


Spell out numbers zero through nine—unless you are using the number to specify someone’s age. Write numbers 10 and over in numeric form.

  • She said there are seven revisions to the viewbook.
  • The admissions office requested 12 additional copies.
  • Ava is 4 years old.

Spell out numbers when they begin a sentence.

  • Ten new students signed up for the information session.

If the sentence starts with a large number, consider rewriting it.

  • NO: 955 people attended the conference.
  • YES: The conference drew 955 people.

A sentence CAN begin with a year.

  • 2002 was a wonderful year.

Common exceptions where numbers are preferred over words:

  • Addresses
  • Ages (but not for inanimate objects)
  • Credits/Credit Hours
  • Dollars and cents
  • Dates
  • Dimensions
  • Highways
  • Percentages
  • Speed
  • Temperatures
  • Times

Numbers greater than 3 digits get commas. Seem obvious? You’d be surprised!

  • 1,000
  • 150,000

nursing program | nursing school

See Empire State College brand.



University offices should be written as follows in publications and other marketing and communications copy.

  • First reference: Office of Admissions
  • Second reference: admissions office
  • First reference: Office of Financial Aid
  • Second reference: financial aid office

one to one

Only hyphenate if one to one is modifying a noun. It is not written as “one on one.”

  • Work one to one with your mentor.
  • We offer one-to-one mentoring.


One word (no hyphen) in all cases.


One word (no hyphen) in all cases.

  • We offer classes onsite.
  • We offer onsite classes.

ordered list

See lists.

over | more than

The preferred use is “more than” to indicate greater numerical value.

See more than | over.


part time | part-time

Hyphenate only when used as a compound modifier.

  • He goes to school part time.
  • He is a part-time student.


one word (no space)


It might break AP guidelines, but we use the % symbol instead of spelling out “percent.” It’s a quicker, cleaner way to show statistics in headlines, body copy, and infographics. Exceptions include press releases, magazine articles, and other more formal types of journalistic and academic writing.

Always use numerals for percentages. If a percentage starts a sentence, rewrite it.

  • More than 90% of the class completed the final project on time.


Periods go inside quotation marks. They go outside parentheses when the parenthetical is part of a larger sentence, and inside parentheses when the parenthetical stands alone.

Use one space after a period.

person or voice

Our student-centered writing style is written in first- and second-person plural (we, us, you).

If you must write copy in third person, use third-person plural (they/them/their) to avoid using the clunky “he/she” and “his/her.”

personalized learning

Use this term when writing about the customization of degrees and programs at SUNY Empire, particularly in web copy, as SEO research tells us it is searched by our prospects far more than the terms “individualized” and “customized.”

photo captions

Nearly all AP captions follow a simple formula. The first sentence of the caption should follow this structure.

  1. The first clause should describe who is in the photograph and what is going on within the photo, in the present tense, followed by the city and state where the image was made, following AP style for the city and state as appropriate.
  2. Captions must give attribution for action not seen (e.g., the scene of accident where more than 10 died, according to police).
  3. The last portion of the first sentence should be the date, including the day of the week if the photograph was made within the past two weeks, and preceded by a comma. (e.g., Tuesday, May 13, 2014).

These three elements are mandatory and no caption is complete without all of them.

Names should always be listed in order, left to right, unless it is impossible for the caption to read normally otherwise. With multiple people identified within the caption, enough representations to placement are necessary so there is no confusion as to each subject's identity. Do not use middle initials.

The second sentence of the caption is used to give context to the news event or describe why the photo is significant. A photo caption's second sentence should be carefully crafted to include information or additional relevant observations from the photographer on scene. There may be some instances when a second sentence is not needed.

Whenever possible, try to keep captions to no more than two concise sentences, while including the relevant information. Try to anticipate what information the reader will need.

Do not use periods in captions that are not full sentences.


one word (with hyphen)


Generally do not hyphenate when using a prefix with a word starting with a consonant.

Three rules are constant, although they yield some exceptions to first-listed spellings in Webster's New World College Dictionary:

  • Except for cooperate and coordinate, use a hyphen if the prefix ends in a vowel and the word that follows begins with the same vowel.
  • Use a hyphen if the word that follows is capitalized.
  • Use a hyphen to join doubled prefixes, such as sub-subparagraph.


When using prepositions in title case, capitalize prepositions of four letters or more.

pronouns (he, she, they)

The word ‘they’ is the preferred pronoun when referring to individuals of unknown gender identity, and acceptable as a singular pronoun. It helps avoid the clunky “he/she” and “he or she” construct and is inclusive of all gender identities. For example, “Every student should do the best they can.”


Q-and-A format

Write out "and" and use hyphens.

quotation marks

Use quotation marks (" ") for direct quotes and the actual words said in partial quotes.

See composition titles for guidelines on the use of quotation marks in book titles, movie titles, etc.

Put quotation marks around a word or words used in irony and for the first use of unfamiliar terms.

For Web writing, use quotation marks for words used as examples and to highlight words. For print publications, italics may be used instead.

Use single marks (' ') for quotes within quotes.

Also see commas and periods with quotation marks.


Franklin said, "A penny saved is a penny earned."

The "debate" turned into a free-for-all.

Do you remember the days before "email" and "PCs" were needed to do your job?

She said, "The dean told me, 'We'll convene the curriculum committee next month,' so I was pleased to see the announcement this week."



See numbers - ratios.


In general, lowercase "north," "south," "northeast," and so forth, when they indicate compass direction.

Capitalize compass points when they designate regions or widely known sections.

Capitalize recognized regions of New York state, such as those identified by Empire State Development.


The Capital District abuts the North Country, Mohawk Valley and Mid-Hudson regions.

A turning point for the North was the Battle of Saratoga.

The Lower East Side of New York City was the first home to many immigrants.



The word “school” is capitalized only when it precedes an official unit name.


The college includes a School for Graduate Studies.

The college is known for its School of Nursing.

The college has two schools: graduate studies and nursing.

School for Graduate Studies

See Empire State College brand.

School of Nursing

See Empire State College brand.


(n.) process by which individual access to a system is controlled by identifying and authenticating the user in reference to credentials used by the user; also often used as an adjective in compound nouns such as sign-in sheet

sign in

(v.) to establish communication and initiate interactions with a computer or network


(n.) process of terminating a connection

sign off

(v.) to terminate a connection


Use the state name (unabbreviated) when standing alone in text.


The college serves more than 20,000 students worldwide at more than 35 locations in New York state and online.

Abbreviate states in the body of any work when used in conjunction with the name of a city, county, town, village, or military base. Do not abbreviate states with six or fewer letters.


The All College Conference is held in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Fredonia is a village in Chautauqua County, N.Y.

Use the official two-letter U.S. Postal Service abbreviations only when listing mailing addresses.


Write to Admissions, Empire State College, 2 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.


one word (no hyphen)

street address

Abbreviate avenue (Ave.), boulevard (Blvd.) and street (St.) in numbered addresses. All similar words (alley, drive, road, terrace, etc.) always are spelled out.


The Office of Communications and Marketing is on Union Avenue.

The Print Shop is at 111 West Ave.

Also see mailing address.


Do not capitalize freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, graduate, postgraduate, postdoctoral, nondegree or any similar designation, unless it is part of a title, a headline or the official name of an organization.

study or course names

Avoid including study or course numbers in text.

Capitalize the important words when using the formal name of a study or course. Use lowercase if not using the formal name.


Introduction to Creative Writing and Editing for Clear Communication are offered alternate terms.

He plans to take a writing course this summer.


one word (no hyphen)


one word (with hyphen)


one word (no hyphen)



one word (no hyphen)

telephone numbers

Use numerals for telephone numbers in the format: area code-exchange-number. Use hyphens to separate the components.

If an extension number is included, use a comma to separate the main number from the extension. Abbreviate extension as "ext." with a period.

Do not precede toll-free numbers with a "1."



800-847-3000, ext. 2420

TerminalFour or t4


Time should be written without a colon or double zeros unless listing a specific time after the hour.

Use lowercase and periods for the abbreviations "a.m." and "p.m."

Use "noon" and "midnight" instead of 12 p.m. and 12 a.m., respectively. Both are lowercase.

A hyphen with no spaces indicates a time frame. Depending on the context, using "to" is also acceptable.


Leaving for lunch at 11:45 a.m., instead of noon, is preferable on days with a 1 p.m. meeting.

The study group is scheduled for 9 a.m.-noon on Saturdays.

A reception will take place from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

time zones

Capitalize the full name of the time in force within a particular zone: Eastern Standard Time, Eastern Daylight Time, and so forth.

The abbreviations for the time zones are acceptable for zones used within the continental United States, Canada and Mexico only if linked with a clock reading. There is a space between the time and the time zone.

Eastern Standard Time = EST
Eastern Daylight Time = EDT


The online course will change to Eastern Daylight Time in early March.

The one-hour webinar begins at 11 a.m. EST, Monday, May 5, 2014.

Also see days and time.


undergraduate degrees awarded at Empire State College

Associate of Arts — A.A.

Associate of Science — A.S.

Bachelor of Arts — B.A.

Bachelor of Professional Studies — B.P.S.

Bachelor of Science — B.S.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing — BSN


Do not use underline for emphasis or to denote headings or for composition titles.

In print publications, include the Web address, but do not include the protocol (http, https, mailto) and :// portion of the address.

In Web publications, create an active link, preferably with meaningful words rather than the Web address.

Also see composition titles.

United States — U.S.


As part of transitioning to "one college" language, do not use centers or units when referring to one of the 35 locations across New York where the college has a presence. For example, instead of the Niagara Frontier Center's Lockport Unit, use Empire State College at Lockport.


Empire State College at Latham

Empire State College at Fort Drum.

URL — Uniform Resource Locator, an Internet address

In text, try to use the name of the website rather than the Web address, in the same fashion that you would use the name of a place and not its address in the physical world.

Use ".com" only if it is part of the legal name, as in Amazon.com Inc.

If the Internet address is used, do not include the protocol (http, https, mailto) and :// portion of the address.

Also see Web addresses.


one word (no space)



one word (no hyphen)

voice or person

To promote a friendly, inviting atmosphere, promotional materials (including the website) should be written in first and second person plural (as in, we and you).

If copy must appear in third person, use of third person plural is used to avoid the cumbersome he/she or his her.


Students work closely with their mentors to design a degree that meets their specific needs.


note the mixed uppercase and lowercase


Web — short form of World Wide Web

always capitalize

Web addresses

Do not italicize, bold, underline, capitalize, or use all capital letters to emphasize Web addresses.

Avoid putting a period at the end of the address. If possible, recast your sentence.

For writing on the web, create links using descriptive words.


See also our information on how to request an Empire State College transcript.

Web browser

two words (capitalize Web)

Web conference

two words (no hyphen)

Web feed

two words (capitalize Web)

Web manager

two words (capitalize Web)

Web search

two words (capitalize Web)

Web stream

Generally, AP style does not use "Web streaming" in any form, but "streaming" alone, which is understood in context.


one word (lowercase)


one word (lowercase)


one word (lowercase)


one word (lowercase)


one word (lowercase)


one word (lowercase)


always capitalize

writing for the Web

See Writing for the Web in the Web Standards and Practices Guide.



Use an "s" without an apostrophe to indicate spans of decades or centuries.

Years are the lone exception to the general rule that a numeral is not used to start a sentence.


SUNY Empire State College opened in the early 1970s.

He is in his 20s.

1996 was a very good year.

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