UTHSC Style and Usage

UTHSC writers must be advocates both for our targeted readers and for our institution. Adopting a uniform style gives consistency and unity of voice to our publications. Uniform style also allows copy to be shared among publications without the need for extensive editing.

This section aims to help UTHSC writers produce documents for a general audience. In this section, we target those points we get the most questions about. When writing, make sure to have a trustworthy grammar reference handy for more detailed guidance.

Editorial Notes

Editing is more manageable if you keep in mind that your key function is to be the reader’s advocate.

The chief goal of any communication is to inform, whether in print or in digital form, and the writer’s job is to eliminate barriers to the reader’s quick grasp of the information. If you have to read a sentence more than once to figure out what it means, the sentence probably needs editing. Aim for tightly constructed sentences with modifiers closely attached to the words or phrases that they modify—without extraneous words—and you’ll help your readers get the message you mean to send.

Avoiding wordiness, jargon and bureaucratese

Avoid using these words and constructions:

And/or: Bureaucratic jargon; choose one word or the other.

On a [daily, weekly, monthly, etc.] basis: Bureaucratic inflation; the daily, weekly, monthly, etc. alone.

He walked by daily.

Utilize: Bureaucratic form of use; use use.

They use a variety of vendors.

Prefer the simplest synonym unless a more complex one adds needed precision.

A list of wordy constructions and substitutions follows.

afford an opportunity – let, allow, give a chance
are desirous of – desire, wish, want
are in receipt of – have
at an early date – soon
at a later time – later
at the present time – now
at this point in time – now
at this point – now
beneficial aspects – benefits
by means of – by
comes into conflict – conflicts
despite the fact that – despite
during the course of – during
effect an improvement – effect
for the purpose of – to
for the reason that – because
give consideration to – consider
have a need for – need
in addition to – besides
in agreement with – agree
in a timely manner – soon, time
in close proximity to – near
in large measure – largely, mainly, chiefly
in order to – to, for
in regard to – regarding
in the absence of – without
in the course of – during
in the event that – if
in the very near future – soon, immediately
in view of the fact that – because, since
make a determination that – determine
make an adjustment in – adjust
make provision for – provide
make the assumption that – assume
not in a position to – cannot
over a five-year period – over five years
take action – act, do
take appropriate measures – act accordingly
take into consideration – consider
the extent to which – how much
to a large extent – largely, mostly
until such time as – until
with the exception of – except (for)
with the knowledge that – knowing, aware
without further delay – now, immediately

Gender and language

Avoid unnecessarily gender-specific words and terms, as in using masculine terms for the general case or “he or she” when the case is unknown. Do not avoid them, however, at the expense of correct grammar. Careful writing can eliminate most such language problems, especially he-or-she constructions.

Alternative gender-neutral words: Use words that refer to both sexes in lieu of gender-specific words and terms. The National Council of Teachers of English recommends the following alternatives:

chairman, chairwoman – chair, chairperson

common man – average person, ordinary people

fireman – fire fighter

mailman – mail carrier

man-made – synthetic, manufactured, crafted, machine-made

mankind, womankind – humanity, human beings, people

policeman, policewoman – police officer

Readable text

Type attributes in copy

Don’t underline text; use italics for emphasis, but sparingly.

Use boldface sparingly.

Don’t use all caps unless YOU REALLY WANT TO SHOUT.


It is neither necessary nor desirable to indent the first paragraph in a story or the first paragraph after a subheading. For second paragraphs and thereafter, either indent the first line or add space between paragraphs, but do not do not both. 

Displayed lists

Lists must have at least two items. In other words, a bulleted list must have more than one bullet point.

Use numbers if the list items are ordered in a hierarchy. If they are equally important, use bullets.

UTHSC Editorial Style

Academic degrees

Uppercase the full names of academic degrees

a Bachelor of Science degree

the Doctor of Dental Surgery degree

In copy, lowercase and use possessive if the full name of the degree is not used

the bachelor’s degree in botany

a master’s in Asian studies

doctorate or doctoral degree

Use definite or indefinite articles (the, a, an) preceding the name of a degree rather than possessives (her, his, their).

Academic degrees, initializations of

At UTHSC, we leave out the periods and spaces

MD       DDS     PharmD

Advisor vs. adviser

For UTHSC publications and websites, advisor is preferred.

Alumna, alumnae, alumnus and alumni

Use Alumni when referring to a group of graduates. This is the preferred form for a group.

When referring to one female graduate, use alumna. When referring to a group of female graduates, use alumnae. When referring to one male graduate, use alumnus.

UTHSC alumna Karen Creek works for the college.

Sally, Jean and Claire are UTHSC alumnae.

John, who graduated in 1977, is a UTHSC alumnus.

Alumni class years

When referring to a person’s class year, the apostrophe preceding the class curls away from the numbers. Multiple class years (for persons who have received several degrees) are separated by commas,

John Doe, ’82             Jane Smith, ’90, ’92



Use to show omitted figures or letters. The apostrophe preceding the omission curls away from the numbers.

the class of ’62              the ’80s

Use to show plurals of single letters and abbreviations with periods.

Mind your p’s and q’s

But do not use with plurals of numbers or multiple-letter combinations.

The 1980s         his 7s               those SUVs


Form the possessive of singular nouns by adding ’s, no matter what the final consonant is.

Memphis’s government    Jones’s car     witch’s brew

UT’s baccalaureate degree         my boss’s cell phone


Ancient names—Jesus’, Moses’, Rameses’, Xerxes’, etc. especially those with two or more sibilants (s or z sounds) preceding the apostrophe.

Form the possessive of plural nouns by adding ’s if the word does not end in s or z sound.

men’s jobs        women’s rights

Or if the plural noun does end in a sibilant, make it possessive by adding only an apostrophe.

the Joneses’ garden       three dollars’ worth


Eliminate excess and eccentric capitalization whenever possible. When in doubt, do not capitalize.

Building names

Names of buildings that have been officially named or that are used in a formal sense after UTHSC are capitalized.

In the Hyman Administration Building

In the UTHSC Translational Science Building

References to buildings that have common nouns as part of their name—library, center, bookstore, arena—are not capitalized when used informally or when used as second references after the first use of the formal name of the building.

Students using the Health Sciences Library are . . . 

Reference materials are found on the library’s first floor.

Courses and subjects

Capitalize the name of a specific course or course title.

Geology 101      Investigations in Earth Science

Do not capitalize names of school or college subjects, fields of study, majors, minors, curricula, or options—unless they contain proper nouns and no specific course is referred to.

He is studying plastic surgery.

The Department of Surgery offers a specialization in cardiology.

She holds a dual major in philosophy and English.

Departmental and office or program names

Departmental and office or program names are capitalized when written out completely (e.g., the Office of; the Department of . . . ). Words such as school, department, office, and other common nouns are lowercased when used alone.

The College of Dentistry; thereafter, the college

The Department of Bioscience Research; thereafter, the department

The Physician’s Assistant Program; thereafter, the program

The Neuroscience Institute; thereafter, the institute

The Office of Admissions; thereafter, the office or      admissions 


Capitalize the word room only when designating a particular room.

The class meets in Room 204.

The conference room in the SAC is available.     


The names of the seasons and semesters are not capitalized.

In the fall semester, parking is limited.

See you next spring.

Student classifications and classes

Do not capitalize the words freshman, sophomore, junior, senior or graduate when referring to the classification of a student or to the year in which a course is taken. Current style tends away from the freshman–senior categorization in favor of first-year, second-year, etc.

D1, D2, D3 and D4 refer to the first, second, third and fourth years of dentistry training, respectively.

M1, M2, M3 and M4 refer to the first, second, third and fourth years of medical training, respectively.

P1, P2, P3 and P4 refer to the first, second, third and fourth years of pharmacy training, respectively.

That course must be taken in the P3 year.

She is a second-year student.

Titles of persons

Official titles that immediately precede a proper name are capitalized.

Chancellor Smith said . . .

Acting Director John Doe has . . .


General titles describing professions (author, actor, pilot, etc.) are not capitalized before a name.

said author Jim Smith, . . . 

leading actor Joe Doe is . . .

A title is not capitalized when it appears before a proper name used as a nonrestrictive appositive. (A clue to this usage is that the title is often preceded by the word the or the name of an organization.)

. . . the university’s current president, Dr. Jane Doe

 said UT Chattanooga Chancellor James Doe

Titles used as appositives following names are not capitalized unless they contain proper nouns.

Dr. Smith, chancellor of UT Martin, said . . .

Sam Jones, UT professor of English, said . . .

Jane Doe, vice-president of finance, said . . .

Leslie Smith, head of the Department of Comparative Biology, said . . .

Titles without accompanying names are not capitalized.

The chancellor said . . .

University of Tennessee, the/The

We use UT’s full legal name (The University of Tennessee) in display copy only. In copy, follow the lead of the major style guides and lowercase the unless it begins a sentence. This is similar to the accepted treatment of the United States of America.

Lowercase the university unless the full name is used.

I chose the university because . . . 

To me, the University of Tennessee offers a great. . .

Colleges, departments and offices, names of

Refer to “Departmental and office or program names.”

Colon, uses of the

Use a colon only after a word, phrase or sentence that serves as a formal introduction (e.g., “Ladies and gentlemen, my message is this:”)

preceding an element such as a question, quotation, or list;

in a literary styling that joins two or more sentences that say essentially the same thing;

after the salutation of a formal letter or an address;

in religious scriptural references, after the chapter number and before the verse; or

between the hour and the minutes in expressions of time.

Examples of correct uses of a colon

Life has two certainties: death and taxes. (The phrase death and taxes is a two-item list, and both items are in apposition to the plural noun certainties.)

“The Lord bless thee and keep thee: the Lord make his face to shine upon thee: the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace.” (Three sentences that say essentially the same thing.)

My dear Mr. Doe:


Mr. President, ladies, and gentlemen:

These are formal introductions.

Numbers 6:24–26           Surah 20:113

The colon is placed between the chapter number and the verse number in a scriptural reference.

10:20 a.m.                     the 7:40 flight

The colon is placed between the hour and the minutes in an expression of time.

When NOT to use a colon

Do not use a colon before a list UNLESS the list items are all parts of the noun in the introduction.

Make sure you bring
a swimsuit
a towel

No colon is used because the introduction to the list has no noun for which the list items are a part.

Do not use a colon between a verb and its objects or complements, between a preposition and its object, or after “such as.”

Mail your application to
123 Elm Street
Anyplace, OH 55555

No colon between the preposition “to” and its object.

Do not use a colon (or a comma) before an indirect question or quotation.

He asked us were we going to the party?

The question is how to conserve the nitrogen.

Do not use a colon before a list if the introduction is not a complete sentence and at least one of the list items is needed to complete the sentence.

Two types of psychotherapy are

1. Rational-emotive therapy
2. Client-centered therapy


With academic degrees

In copy, when a name is followed by a degree abbreviation, set off the abbreviation with commas.

Leslie Smith, PhD, has been selected . . .

With dates

Do not use commas to set off the year when the month but not the day is used.

It was in April 1982 that . . .


It was on April 18, 1775, that . . .

With numbers

Use a comma with most figures greater than 999. Don’t use commas in street address numbers, broadcast frequencies, room numbers, serial numbers, telephone numbers, years and temperatures.


We do not use serial commas. A serial comma is a comma placed before the coordinating conjunction (e.g., and, or, but, and so) in a series.

She studied German, French and Spanish.


She studied German, French, and Spanish.


When company and firm names are usually styled without commas and with an ampersand.

He worked at Smith Jones & Doe.

NOTE: There is no need to separate the substantives in a phrase like the state of Tennessee Department of Corrections with a comma. If such a phrase feels awkward, consider constructions like the Department of Corrections of the state of Tennessee or the state of Tennessee’s Department of Corrections.

Special abbreviations

Do not use commas before or after these unless the structure of the sentence calls for it: Jr.; Sr.; Inc.; or II, III, and so forth.

  • John Smith Jr. is the chair of . . .
  • We asked John Smith III about the . . .
  • She now works for Smith Inc., but she hopes to . . .

Compose vs. comprise

These two verbs have separate though related meanings, but they are not interchangeable. Remember, “The parts compose the whole; the whole comprises the parts.” The phrase is comprised of is never correct.

Copyright ©

(see Trademark)

Date, time and place

To locate an event for the reader, we often use a series of prepositional phrases separated by commas. It is also acceptable to use elliptical commas in place of the prepositions. Do not set off the year from the month with commas unless the date is given.

Dr. Doe will speak about his specialty at 6 p.m., Monday, April 12, 2004, in the Hodges Library Auditorium.

Dr. Roe will visit us in May 2003 to advise us on our program.

Don’t use the suffixes -th or -nd with the numerals of a date.


No hyphen is used. Lowercase email except at the beginning of a sentence or a line of display copy. Email may be used as a verb.

The email did not contain all the details.

I emailed a response yesterday.

Emeritus and emerita

This adjective means “retired from active service,” and it is conventionally placed after the noun it modifies. If you need a modifier before the noun, use “retired.” (The word “former” is not as clear because it can apply both to an honored retiree and to someone who is fired for cause.)

Faculty is vs. faculty are

Faculty is a collective noun and as such takes a singular verb, so “the faculty is” is correct. If you are speaking of the faculty as individuals, use “members of the faculty are” or “faculty members are.”


Short for facsimile; lowercase except at the beginning of a sentence or a line of display copy. May be used as a verb.

Grade point average/GPA

Use grade point average on first reference. GPA is fine thereafter, assuming the meaning is clear.



Use a hyphen when making a compound modifier preceding the noun.

The part-time faculty; on-campus housing 

Hyphenate a cardinal numeral used with a unit of measurement only if the compound precedes a noun.

3-mile limit
100-yard dash
10-meter ban
4-year-old boy

Adjective forms

Check the dictionary to determine whether words formed with prefixes are hyphenated or one word. In general, words formed with this list of prefixes are used without a hyphen when used as adjectives.

pre, post
over, under
intra, extra
infra, ultra
sub, super
pro, anti
re, un, non, semi
pseudo, supra, co


When the second element is capitalized or a figure

      un-American; pre-1914 

To distinguish homonyms:

      re-cover vs. recover                   re-creation vs. recreation 

When the second element more than one word; in such cases, use an en-dash

      pre–Civil War

More than vs. over

More than is preferred with numerals. Over generally refers to spatial relationships.

            He had more than $30.

            The plane flew over the city.


Spell out below 10; use numerals for 10 and greater except when they begin a sentence; use commas in 4-digit numbers; use figures with ages and units of measure; spell out all numbers in direct quotes. (For more on numbers, see page 9.)

Figures or words?

In general, use figures for numbers 10 or greater, including ordinal numbers.

Eight     nine    10       11 (Cardinal numbers)

Eighth  ninth   10th    11th (Ordinal numbers)

When several numbers appear together in a single context, the style of the largest number sets the style of the smaller numbers.

When she was 20 years old, she had published 9 articles in peer-reviewed journals, . . . the first of 6 coauthors. 


Always use figures for ages and units of measure unless they begin a sentence.

Jane’s height when she was 2 years old was exactly half her adult height of 5 feet 8 inches.

Spell out all numbers in direct quotations.

“I wish I had known at eighteen that girls were just as insecure as I was,” sighed 30-something Fred.

Numbers beginning sentences

Do not begin a sentence with figures. Spell out the figures or rework the sentence.


It is acceptable, but not the best form, to begin a sentence with a figure identifying a calendar year. (Warning: Some readers will consider such a usage an error.)

1976 was a good year for contributions.

Grade point averages

Use figures to express GPAs to one decimal place. Add extra decimal places only when greater accuracy is essential.

2.0        3.5        3.95

Identification numbers

Use figures.

Channel 2          Highway 35       Henry VIII         Apollo 13


For amounts of $1 million or more, use the $ sign and numerals up to two decimal places. Don’t use a hyphen between the figure and the word unless the amount is used as a temporary compound adjective preceding the noun it modifies.

worth $4.35 million                     more than $10 million                  an $8-billion contract

For amounts less than $1 million:

one dollar          $10       $100     $1,000 $100,000

For amounts under one dollar, use numerals and the word cents. Use the $ sign and decimals for larger amounts.

5 cents             12 cents            $1.12

Do not spell out amounts in parentheses following the figures, and never use both the dollar sign and the word dollars together.

Pages and divisions

Use figures.

page 10 part 4      exercise 2       chapter 12 

Percentages and decimals

Use figures for decimal fractions and percentages (including academic grades). Use the word percent in general copy. Reserve the percent symbol % for use in scientific or statistical copy in tables.

about 3 percent voted
3.8 and 95 are equivalent grades

Time of day

Use figures with a.m. and p.m. Zeros after the colon are optional, but their use should be consistent throughout.

11 a.m.        4:00 p.m.

In formal text (e.g., an invitation or announcement) for hours earlier than 10, spell out the number and use o’clock. For hours 10 and later, use a numeral.

four o’clock        12 o’clock

Position titles

Uppercase a position title only if it immediately precedes the name of the person who holds the office.

They quickly broached the topic of tuition hikes with President Doe.

Representing UTHSC, Assistant Professor John Doe of the history department had breakfast with the senator and 800 of his closest friends.

Fred was immediately appointed interim dean of students, succeeding Dean Emeritus Jane Doe.

Does anyone receive more speaking requests than Chancellor Emeritus Pat Wall?

The commentary by Tim Hottel, DDS, MBA, dean of the College of Dentistry, was in the style of an old friend.

Quotation marks with other punctuation marks

Set quotations marks outside periods and commas. Set them inside colons and semicolons, because these are sentence punctuation.

Exclamation and question marks: Set quotation marks outside these marks when they are part of the quotation, inside the marks when they are not.

Ellipsis points: Be careful to place quotation marks so they indicate clearly whether the omitted material is part of the quotation or not.

Registration mark ®

(see Trademark)

Service mark (SM)

(see Trademark)

Spacing after end punctuation

Do not double-space at the end of a sentence.

State names and abbreviations

In running copy, you may leave off the word Tennessee after the Tennessee cities of Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga. For all other municipalities located in the state, follow with Tennessee.

Dyersburg, Tennessee        Bristol, Tennessee

For all other cities, the state name must follow. Do not use abbreviations for state names in running copy unless you must conserve space, in which case, use traditional abbreviations rather than the two-letter all-caps ones preferred by the Post Office: Okla. rather than OK; Minn. rather than MN.

DO use the Post Office abbreviations in return addresses.

Also, in running copy, set off the name of a state following the name of a city with a pair of commas.

He lived in Topeka, Kansas, for 25 years.

Telephone numbers

At UTHSC, we place parentheses around the area code and add a space after the closing parentheses.

(901) 448-2000

That vs. which

That generally introduces a restrictive (essential for the meaning of the sentence to be clear) clause, and restrictive clauses are never set off with commas. Which introduces a nonrestrictive (extra information not essential to the meaning of the sentence) clause, and these are always set off with commas.

He’s interested in only those courses that apply to his chosen career.

She found Art History 101, which was one of her electives, to be her most interesting class.

Time of day

Use a numeral followed by a space and lowercased letters with periods and no spaces for a.m. and p.m.

We’ll meet at 2 p.m. to hammer out the details.

Exceptions: noon, midnight


Many people at UTHSC have a number of professional and honorary titles that may be used with their names. Avoid excessive repetition of these titles. In the first reference to a person, use only those titles that seem necessary to identify the person for the reader.

On second reference, you may use a single academic or professional title (Dr., Professor, Director, etc.) and the last name if desired, or on second reference (and thereafter), you may use simply the last name.

Professor Leslie Smith, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, was recently honored by the National Association of Arts Educators. Dr. Smith, who was named dean in 1995, was cited. . . Smith’s achievements in the field . . .

Dr. Shane Doe, director of research, was recently honored         

            for work in. . .  

            Doe has been associated with the university since. . .  

Mr., Miss, Mrs., Ms.

Avoid the use of these nonacademic titles. Use either a professional or academic title or only the last name.


The abbreviations Prof. and Profs. can be used before the first name or initials.

Prof. J. C. Doe

Profs. Leslie Doe and Shane Smith

But spell out the titles when used with the surname alone or with additional terms of rank.

Professor Doe

Professors Doe and Smith

Assistant Professor Smith

Head vs. chair

Heads of academic departments at UTHSC are to be referred to as department chairs, chairman, etc.

Titles of publications, works of art, and objects

Italicize these:

  • Titles of plays, motion pictures, television series
  • Collections of poetry, epic poems
  • Names of ships, trains, aircraft, spacecraft
  • Works of art including paintings, drawings, and sculpture
  • Legal citations (but el al., ex parte, and v. within the citation are not italicized)

Put these in quotation marks:

  • Titles of separate publications—books, periodicals, newspapers, bulletins, long musical works (operas, oratorios, motets, etc.)
  • Minor titles—short stories, essays, short poems, songs, articles from periodicals, and subdivisions of books
  • Titles of episodes of television series
  • Preferred spellings and usage

Trademark, copyright, service mark, registration mark

All of these designations assert proprietary claims on work products and unique identifiers. When one of these marks is used, capitalize it. Though their accompanying symbols are used on packaging and in advertisements, they need not be used in copy.

Conventionally, a trademark comprises a name, word, phrase, logo, symbol, design, image, or any combination of these. Trademarks and service marks alert the public that the user claims sole rights to use the marked elements, and these marks may be used whether or not the user has applied to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to register them. A registration mark (®), as well as a copyright mark (©), means that legal rights to the sole use of the marked elements have been conferred on the owner by USPTO or by the U.S. Copyright Office.

trademark (™)

A trademark is an element of intellectual or industrial property that a business uses to identify itself and its products and services to its customers. A trademark identifies the commercial source or origin of products or services and acts as a badge of origin. The owner of a trademark claims exclusive right to use it on the product it was intended to identify and on related products. A copyrighted work may also have trademark protection of its title and the names of its characters, for example, Winnie the Pooh™. The International Trademark Association is a helpful source of information; find their checklist at www.inta.org/tmcklst1.htm.

copyright (©)

A copyright protects an original work of authorship. Copyright issues can be complex, so be careful in quoting copyrighted material. Such quotes must always be attributed, but for “substantial” quotes, you may also need the copyright holder’s written permission. For copyright information, go to http://lcweb.loc.gov/copyright/.

service mark (SM)

In some countries, notably the U.S., the service mark is used to identify a service rather than a product. The word realtor, for example, is a service-marked term used to refer to a member of the National Association of Realtors. When a service mark is used, capitalize it. The preferred form, however, is to use a

lower-cased generic term unless the service mark is essential to the text.

registration mark (®)

The federal registration symbol ® may be used only after USPTO actually registers a mark, but not while an application is pending. The registration symbol may be used only on or in connection with the goods and/or services listed in the registration documentation of the trademark.

URLs in copy (EXCEPT web copy)

A uniform resource locator (URL) is a web address. When it is the last element in a sentence in copy, follow it with a period, as you would for any other element. (Even if the reader enters the final period in his/her web browser, it usually will still locate the desired URL.) This office usually styles URLs in bold or italics to unify the string, which is interrupted with symbols that would otherwise be end punctuation.

Web/web terms

web, website, webcast, webmaster and webpage.