University communications publications and magazines.

Editorial Style Guide

Montclair State University Communications uses a combination of AP style and Montclair State style when writing and editing University publications. The following are frequently used examples of both styles. This guide is updated as new questions arise. For any style questions, email Robert Gano at or Laura Griffin at

Find information on Branding and Visual Identity Guidelines here.

Editorial Styles

Reference to the University

Use Montclair State University (never MSU, except in Athletics). Use “the University,” “Montclair State” or “Montclair” on subsequent references (without quote marks).

Research designation

Montclair State is an R2: Doctoral University -High Research Activity, as designated by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

Common Information

  • We are an NCAA Division III school.
  • Enrollment: 21,000 (as of fall 2020)
  • We are considered 12 miles from New York City and have two train stations on campus.
  • We have 300 programs of study and 10 schools and colleges.

Academic titles

Capitalize and spell out formal titles such as chancellor, chairman, etc., when they precede a name. Lowercase when they come after the name or appear generically elsewhere. Examples: College of Science and Mathematics Dean Lora Billings OR Lora Billings, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics

Academic degrees

If mention of degrees is necessary to establish someone’s credentials, the preferred form is to avoid an abbreviation and use instead a phrase such as: John Jones, who has a doctorate in Psychology.

Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, a master’s, etc., but there is no possessive in Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science. Use the abbreviations BA, MA and PhD only when the need to identify many individuals by degree on first reference would make the preferred form cumbersome. Use these abbreviations only after a full name, never just a last name. (Montclair State style, no periods: PhD, PhDs)

When used after a name, academic abbreviations are set off by commas, but are usually only used in that way in a listing. Example: John Snow, PhD. Do not precede a name with a courtesy title for an academic degree and follow it with the abbreviation for the degree in the same reference.

Academic departments

Use lowercase when generic, except for words that are proper nouns or adjectives: the history department, the English department. Capitalize when department is part of the official and formal name: Montclair State University Department of Art and Design or referring to the official department without the school name, such as Department of Theatre and Dance, Department of English, College of the Arts, Feliciano School of Business, etc.


Generic course names are lowercase. Proper nouns and courses with numbers are capped. Examples: geology, history, civics, philosophy, French literature, English or Linguistics 101.


Formal names of school clubs are capitalized, i.e., Student Government Association or Honors Student Organization, but lowercase any informal or shortened terms for clubs, such as crew.


The word alumni is plural. The singular is either alumnus (male) or alumna (female).

Use the alumnus’ or alumna’s graduation year following the last name. Example: Stacy Albanese ’08, ’17 MA. (Please note the direction of the apostrophe – it should turn away from the number.)

Composition Titles

Apply the guidelines listed here to titles of books, computer games, movies, operas, plays, poems, albums and songs, radio and television programs, and the titles of lectures, speeches and works of art. The guidelines, followed by a block of examples:

  • Use title case for titles: Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters.
  • Italicize movies, books, plays, TV shows, newspapers, magazines, operas. Examples: Gone With the Wind, Of Mice and Men, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Time After Time, the NBC-TV Today show, the CBS Evening News, Saturday Night Live, The New York Times.
  • Capitalize the words “the,” “a,” or “an” – or words of fewer than four letters – if the word is the first or last word in a title, otherwise use lowercase. Examples: Of Mice and Men, For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Italicize the names of all literary works except the Bible and books that are primarily catalogs of reference material such as almanacs, directories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks and similar publications.
  • Use quotation marks also for the title of an episode, a chapter of a book or the title of an article in a magazine or newspaper. Example: “Father Knows Worst,” is an episode of The Simpsons. “Math in the Air” is an article in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Montclair
  • Names of most websites and apps are capitalized without quotes: Example: Instagram, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Exception: Computer game apps are in quotes, i.e. “FarmVille” or “Word Crush.”
  • Foreign works: Use the English title unless the original title is better known or the piece is being performed in its original language. Example: Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro if sung in English but Le Nozze di Figaro if sung in Italian. Mozart’s The Magic Flute if sung in English but Die Zauberfloete if sung in German. However, musical compositions in Slavic languages are always referred to in their English translations.
  • For other classical music titles, use quotation marks around the composition’s nicknames but not compositions identified by sequence. Examples: Dvorak’s “New World Symphony.” Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9.

Magazines, newspapers

If the word “magazine” is officially part of the name, it is capitalized and italicized: Examples: Montclair magazine; O, The Oprah Magazine; The New York Times Magazine, TIME magazine, People magazine.

If the “the” in newspaper names is part of the paper’s official name, capitalize and italicize it. If not, use lowercase. Examples: The New York Times, the New York Daily News, The Montclarion, the Tampa Bay Times.


In the sense of mass communication, such as magazines, newspapers, the news services, radio, television and online, etc., the word is plural: The news media resist attempts to limit their freedom.


Use web (short for World Wide Web), website, webcam, webcast and webmaster. Also it’s the internet, email, e-book, e-reader, iPhone, Google.

Avoid URLs that are particularly lengthy and complicated, unless essential to guide the reader to a particular document (ask the webmaster for a short URL, or a shortcut for a long url). Also don’t use https://www. Example: Use rather than


Radio stations’ call letters appear in all caps. Use hyphens to separate from AM or FM: WDAY-FM, KFYR-AM.


Athletic director

Use the singular athletic (not athletics) unless otherwise in a formal title, but also director of athletics


Lowercase as a job description, not a formal title. Capitalize when used as a term of address. “Coach told me,” or “Coach Taylor told me.” When used as a full title before the name, capitalize but lowercase after the name.


NCAA is acceptable in all references for National Collegiate Athletic Association. We are Division III not Division 3.

Team names

Capitalize teams, associations and recognized nicknames: Red Hawks, the Big Ten, the A’s, the Colts, the New Jersey Devils. A team is a unit and is therefore singular. The women’s basketball team won its 26th game this season.

Commonly Used Punctuation (AP Style)

Quotation Marks (for direct quotations)

To surround the exact words of a speaker or writer when reported in a story: 1. “I have no intention of staying,” he replied. 2. “I do not object,” she said, “to the tenor of the report.” 3 .Franklin said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” 4. A pundit said the practice is “too conservative for inflationary times.”

Quotes within quotes

Alternate between double quotation marks (“or”) and single marks (‘or’): She said, “I quote from his letter, ‘I agree that the female of the species is deadlier than the male, but the phenomenon is not an unchangeable law of nature.’” (Note that at the end of the example, the use of three marks together because the two quoted elements end at the same time.) Placement with other punctuation: Follow these long-established printers’ rules: 1. The period and the comma always go within the quotation marks. 2. The dash, semicolon, question mark and exclamation point go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only. They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence. Use a space on either side of the dash when setting something – words, for instance – apart.


The following guidelines treat some of the most frequent questions about the use of commas. (For detailed guidance, consult the punctuation section in the back of Webster’s New World College Dictionary.)

In a series:
Use commas to separate elements in a series, but do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series: The flag is red, white and blue. He would nominate Tom, Dick or Harry. Put a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series, however, if an integral element of the series requires a conjunction: I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast. Use a comma also before the concluding conjunction in a complex series of phrases: The main points to consider are whether the athletes are skillful enough to compete, whether they have the stamina to endure the training, and whether they have the proper mental attitude.
With introductory clauses and phrases:
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.
With conjunctions:
When a conjunction such as and, but or for links two clauses that could stand alone as separate sentences, use a comma before the conjunction in most cases: She was glad she had looked, for a man was approaching the house.
Introducing direct quotes:
Use a comma to introduce a complete one- sentence quotation within a paragraph: Wallace said, “She spent six months in Argentina and came back speaking English with a Spanish accent.” But use a colon to introduce quotations of more than one sentence. See colon. Do not use a comma at the start of an indirect or partial quotation: He said the victory put him “firmly on the road to a first-ballot nomination.”
Before attribution:
Use a comma instead of a period at the end of a quote that is followed by attribution: “Rub my shoulders,” Miss Crawley suggested. Do not use a comma, however, if the quoted statement ends with a question mark or exclamation point: “Why should I?” he asked.
With hometowns and ages:
Use a comma to set off an individual’s hometown when it is placed in opposition to a name (whether of is used or not): Mary Johnson, South Orange, New Jersey, and Meg Fisher, Westchester, New York, were there. If an individual’s age is used, set it off by commas: Meg Fisher, 18, Westchester, New York, was present.
Names of states and nations used with city names:
His journey will take him from Dublin, Ireland, to Fargo, North Dakota, and back.
In large figures:
Use a comma for most figures greater than 999, i.e., Montclair State has 21,000 students. The exceptions are street addresses (1234 Main St.), broadcast frequencies (1460 kilohertz), room numbers, serial numbers, telephone numbers, and years (1876).
Placement with quotation marks:
Commas always go inside quotation marks.
With full dates:
When a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with a comma: Feb. 14, 2020, is the target date.


Follow these AP STYLE guidelines:

Abrupt change:
Use dashes to denote an abrupt change in thought in a sentence or an emphatic pause: Through her long reign, the queen and her family have adapted – usually skillfully – to the changing taste of the time. But avoid overuse of dashes to set off phrases when commas would suffice.
Series within a phrase:
When a phrase that otherwise would be set off by commas contains a series of words that must be separated by commas, use dashes to set off the full phrase: She listed the qualities – intelligence, humor, conservatism, independence – that he liked in an executive.
Use a dash before an author’s or composer’s name at the end of a quotation: “Who steals my purse steals trash.” –Shakespeare.
With spaces:
Put a space on both sides of a dash in all uses.

Colon (:)

The most frequent use of a colon is at the end of a sentence to introduce lists, tabulations, texts, etc. Capitalize the first word after a colon only if it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence: He promised this: The company will make good all the losses. But: There were three considerations: expense, time and feasibility.

For emphasis:
The colon often can be effective in giving emphasis: He had only one hobby: eating.
Use the colon in such listings as time elapsed (1:31:07.2), time of day (8:31 p.m.), biblical and legal citations (2 Kings 2:14; Missouri Code 3:245-260).

Semicolon (;)

In general, use the semicolon to indicate a greater separation of thought and information than a comma can convey but less than the separation that a period implies. The basic guidelines:

To clarify a series
Use semicolons to separate elements of a series when the items in the series are long or when individual segments contain material that also must be set off by commas: He is survived by a son, John Smith, of Chicago; three daughters, Jane Smith, of Wichita, Kansas, Mary Smith, of Denver, and Susan, of Boston; and a sister, Martha, of Omaha, Nebraska. Note: The semicolon is used before the final “and” in such a series.

Exclamation Point (!)

Avoid overuse. Use a comma after mild interjections. End mildly exclamatory sentences with a period. Use exclamation point only with a high degree of surprise, incredulity or other strong emotion.

Placement with quotes
Place the mark inside quotation marks when it is part of the quoted material: “How wonderful!” he exclaimed. “Never!” she shouted.
Branding and Visual Identity Guidelines

Last Modified: Tuesday, November 23, 2021 11:18 am