Brand Standards: Editorial

Writing Style Guide

How do you write about USU: What’s capitalized? What’s not? How do you refer to academic degrees or job titles? This section explains and gives examples.


Official names and proper nouns are capitalized. Use the full, official name the first time it appears in a document or section of a document. On subsequent references, any common nouns in shortened forms of official names are lowercased. Accepted acronyms can be used in subsequent references as well.

The Case for Lowercase

In general, avoid unnecessary capitalization.

When too many words are capitalized, they lose their importance and no longer attract attention.

Copy is more easily read when it is not peppered with initial caps or all caps.

Using lowercase letters in no way diminishes the stature or credibility of an individual’s position or a department’s reputation. After all, even the title “president of the United States” is lowercased in running text when it does not immediately precede the president’s name.

DO NOT Capitalize:
  • college, the.
  • degrees: doctorate, master’s, bachelor’s, baccalaureate.
  • department, the.
  • form names, unofficial (e.g., admission form, drop/add form).
  • orientation.
  • program, the.
  • school, the.
  • spring break.
  • spring, summer, fall, winter.
  • state of Utah, the – in reference to geography. Do capitalize in formal reference to official state government: The recreation area is managed by the State of Utah.
  • university, the (when it stands alone in reference to the Utah State University).

*Note: Do capitalize official names, e.g. Department of History, College of Science, etc.

Academic and Administrative Titles

Capitalize and spell out occupational titles, such as professor or dean, when they precede a proper name. Lowercase elsewhere. Lowercase former when referring to a person who previously had a position, but retain capitalization of the title itself when it comes directly before a name.
Professor of History John Doe; Dean Jane Doe; former Dean Jane Doe; John Doe, professor of history.

Exception: Named and endowed chairs and professorships are always capitalized, as they are honorary titles. Always identify faculty members by their academic rank and department in published materials.

Academic Degrees

Capitalize the names of specific degrees. Lowercase a degree when it is referred to generically, as in the second example.

Specific: Julie earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Utah State University.
Generic: Larry earned a master’s in mechanical engineering last year.

Academic Departments

Use lowercase except for words that are proper nouns. Capitalize only when using the full formal name.

Academic and Nonacademic Units and Bodies

Capitalize only the complete and official names of colleges, schools, divisions, departments, offices, and official bodies (such as Utah Board of Higher Education, Faculty Senate Executive Committee, Utah State University Student Association). Lowercase informal and shortened versions of such names.

All of the regents attended the Utah Board of Higher Education meeting last week.
The USU Division of Student Affairs includes a variety of services provided to help students navigate college and thrive in their education. Offices within student affairs are primarily located in or near the Taggart Student Center.


Capitalize the names of an official certificate name. Lowercase certificate name when it is referred to generically, as in the second example.

Specific: The Geographic Information Science certificate applies industry standard GIS and remote sensing tools to natural resource issues.
Generic: USU offers an interdisciplinary certificate program in museum studies.

Department Names

Capitalize official department names and office names in running text. References using shortened or unofficial names should be lowercase.

A big change comes about as W. Farrell Edwards announces his retirement this spring from the faculty of USU’s Department of Physics.
Tyler Brough, of economics, is now an associate professor.
Tadd Truscott, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Utah State University, excels in breaking down complicated fluid dynamics concepts.

First/Second Reference in Copy

The first reference should include the full name of the entity and be capitalized. Second references may be shortened and are not capitalized. When referring to a professor, the full name should be used on first reference, followed by the last name only from second reference on.

The Center for Integrated Biosystems is an active and vibrant focal point for life science activities at Utah State University. A multifaceted core facility at USU, the center is dedicated to agricultural and environmental biotechnology research.
Professor Jane Doe teaches English at Utah State University. Doe’s research focuses on literary composition.

Names With Titles

Capitalize formal titles only when they immediately precede the individual's name.

Professor Michelle Baker, biology; or Michelle Baker, professor of biology.
President Elizabeth R. Cantwell; or Elizabeth R. Cantwell, president of Utah State University.

Use lowercase for titles that serve as occupational descriptions.

features editor Jane Smith; astronaut Scott Carpenter; writing instructor Glen Moore.

Story Titles

Capitalize the following in titles:

  • Initial cap all nouns, verbs (including short verbs, such as is, are, be), pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions of four or more letters (with, before, through), and conjunctions of four or more letters (that, because).

Do not capitalize the following in titles (unless they fall into one of the previously listed categories):

  • Articles (a, an, the), unless they are part of a proper noun.
  • Conjunctions of fewer than four letters (and, but, or, for, nor, so, yet).
  • Prepositions of fewer than four letters (on, of, to, by).

Utah State University

There is still considerable confusion about whether to capitalize university when the word refers to Utah State University. There is a foolproof solution: DO NOT use capitalization unless spelling the full name of the university. In most cases, context will clearly indicate when university refers to Utah State University. In cases where there may be ambiguity, writers can easily substitute using “the university” or “USU.”

Utah State University is recognized for its student engagement. In fact, the university has more than 200 student clubs and organizations, including the Special Olympics and Best Buddies programs, which are some of the largest in the country.

USU and Its Campuses

For external audiences, spell out the complete name of a campus the first time you refer to it, unless the context and nature of the document require an abbreviation (for example, in an advertisement).

Approved names and abbreviations for Utah State University follow:

Utah State University

  • USU (no periods).
  • Utah State.
  • the university. In a sentence DO NOT capitalize the or university, unless it is the first word in a sentence.
*DO NOT use U State when referring to the university in copy, unless referring to the official logo.

Utah State University Eastern

Spell out on first reference. Second reference: USU Eastern (no hyphen: NOT USU-Eastern).

*DO NOT use USUE when referring to the USU Eastern in official copy.

Statewide Campuses

Spell out full campus name on first reference:

  • Utah State University Moab.
  • Utah State University Brigham City.

On second reference, full names may be shortened (no hyphen: NOT USU-Moab):

  • USU Moab.
  • USU Brigham City.

USU Centers

Spell out on first reference:

  • Utah State University Castle Dale.

On second reference, full names may be shortened (no hyphen: NOT USU-Castle Dale).

  • USU Castle Dale.

USU Colleges

  • Caine College of the Arts (Caine College is acceptable on second reference).
  • College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences (CAAS is acceptable on second reference).
  • College of Engineering (COE is acceptable on second reference).
  • College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHaSS is acceptable on second reference).
  • College of Science (CoS is acceptable on second reference).
  • College of Veterinary Medicine.
  • Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services (the college is acceptable on second reference).
  • Jon M. Huntsman School of Business (Huntsman School or HSOB is acceptable on second reference).
  • S.J. and Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources (Quinney College or QCNR is acceptable on second reference).

USU and Its Facilities

Be sure to check correct spelling for all USU facilities, building names, etc. Not all names may be spelled in a conventional manner.

Maverik Stadium (not Maverick with the conventional "ck").