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UToday Style Guide

Submitted by darmstro on Thu, 03/17/2016 - 4:08pm

As a world-class institution, the University of Calgary maintains professional standards in its print and online publications. This style guide is designed for members of the campus community who write about the university for broadly-read publications such as UToday. The guide encourages a consistent approach in how we present ourselves to our internal and external audiences — students, faculty, staff, alumni, volunteers, donors, government, media, community partners and others. The guide is compiled and managed by Strategic Communications, University Relations. 

The guide is based on principles and technical guides published in the Canadian Press Stylebook for news agencies and public-facing institutions. Where Canadian Press offers no guidance, we turn to Canadian Style, then MLA Style Manual, then Chicago Manual of Style Online. Other reference materials used to develop this guide include the Oxford Canadian Dictionary and Fowler's Modern English Usage.

Please note that some references contained in the guide have been developed as special cases for the University of Calgary community. These exceptions to CP style are indicated in the guide.

Questions relating to references found in the guide, or recommendations for future additions, may be submitted to

Additional tools and technical guides not found in this edition can be found in the Canadian Press Stylebook and Canadian Press Caps and Spelling, available for purchase through the University of Calgary Bookstore.


Some basic rules, courtesy of George Orwell and others:

  1. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  2. If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out.
  3. Never use the passive voice where you can use the active.
  4. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. In other words, avoid clichés.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

Long sentences, like long paragraphs, should be used judiciously.

Places and Things

Capitalize only full proper names and titles but avoid where possible. Casual reference, in lower case, is more conversational and, thus, preferred:

the University of Calgary (not U of C)
the university

the Faculty of Arts
the arts faculty

the Department of Applied Chemistry
the applied chemistry department

the Board of Governors
the board

the University of Calgary Bookstore
the campus book store

the Dinos, or possessive (Dinos')
not Dino or Dino's

"UCalgary" is not an official name for the University of Calgary, and is not recommended for formal announcements. However, it is widely used as a nickname, in social media, and in less formal communication contexts. 

Do not capitalize faculties, schools, departments and offices when referring to more than one:

the faculties of nursing and law

The proper names of courses are capitalized:
Chemistry 302
300-level chemistry course 

Do not capitalize fields of study/program names or areas of concentration:
The general biological sciences program
You can pursue a degree in applied chemistry
I graduated with a geology degree

When referring to a student studying a particular program/field, do not capitalize the program:
A science student
An engineering student

The names of buildings on campus are capitalized:
Taylor Family Digital Library
the library


The campus community
The large internal groups at the University of Calgary are students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Whenever possible and as appropriate to the message, internal and external communications should include these groups. When grouped together, they should be ordered as presented: 

  • Students: undergraduate and graduate, of primary importance because they are the fundamental reason for the university
  • Faculty: means faculty members or academics
  • Staff: those who provide administrative support services; they should not be referred to as support staff or non-academics
  • Alumni: an important constituent group that is occasionally overlooked when considering internal audiences or the campus community

Ex: Students, faculty, staff and alumni are invited to X.
Faculty and alumni were recognized at a special event.
Students and alumni volunteered at the annual United Way event.

How to refer to the president
Personal voice for general communications (e.g., UToday messages, speaking points, announcement to the campus community):
President Elizabeth Cannon (upper case for the title when it precedes the name)
Elizabeth Cannon, president, University of Calgary (lower case for the title when it follows the name)
second reference is Cannon
Signature line, formal voice (e.g., official letters)
M. Elizabeth Cannon, PhD, FCAE, FRSC      
Signature line, invitations
Dr. Elizabeth Cannon
President and Vice-Chancellor

Titles that precede a proper name are capitalized:
Vice-President (Development) John Smith

also permissible is
VP (Development) John Smith

Titles following a name and set off by commas are not capitalized (this is the preferred usage):
Jane Smith, vice-president (university relations),
John Smith, dean of arts

But: Dean John Smith

Set off long titles with commas; avoid front-loading:
Jane Smith, director of risk management, safety and security,
Director of Risk Management, Safety and Security Jane Smith

Do not capitalize titles standing alone:
Contact the dean of graduate studies for more information.

Do not capitalize unofficial titles preceding a name:
arbitrator John Smith, or the university’s president Elizabeth Cannon, or GM’s vice-president Joe Jones (as opposed to GM’s Vice-President of Development Joe Jones)

Capitalize the proper names of chairs and professorships:
the Nortel Chair in Intelligent Manufacturing
the industry-supported chair in intelligent manufacturing

The title “Dr.” can be applied to all licensed health-care professionals who have earned access to the title by degree and legislation. This includes, for example, medical doctors, psychologists with a doctoral degree, and veterinarians.

Titles of administrative officers are hyphenated, with areas of responsibility in parentheses afterwards. Where possible, follow this style with similar titles: Students’ Union VPs.
vice-president (development)
vice-president (finance and services)
vice-provost (international)
associate vice-president (university relations)

When alumni are mentioned in stories, the style is to follow their name on first or second reference with their degree:
Naheed Nenshi, BComm’93, was elected Calgary's mayor.

Inclusive Language

It’s important to recognize that language around age, race, sex, disabilities and religion must be handled thoughtfully. Use fairness, sensitivity and good taste when identifying age, colour, creed, nationality, personal appearance, religion sex and any other heading under which a person or group may feel slighted.

The university follows Canadian Press Stylebook guidelines for inclusive language. If you have the guide, refer to pages 19-24 of the 14th edition.

Here are some examples:

Aboriginal Peoples

1. CP uses uppercase for Aboriginal Peoples, which includes all Indian, Métis and Inuit people in Canada. First Nations is also uppercase. Other variations — indigenous people, aboriginals (except for Aboriginals of Australia), native peoples — are lowercase.

2. In all references, be guided by the preference of those concerned.

3. Use Indian with discretion. Some people object to it because it originated with the European explorers’ misconception that they had landed in India. Others, especially status Indians, prefer it to be used.

4. Use native advisedly. Aboriginal and First Nations are more specific and are preferred by many in the community.

5. Where reasonable, prefer the actual name of the community — Cree, Mohawk, Tsuu T'ina, Ojibwa — to a generality. For band names, use the spelling the band prefers, which is also the spelling used by the federal government.

Names of races

1. Capitalize the proper names of nationalities, peoples, races and tribes.

Aboriginal Peoples, Arab, Caucasian, French-Canadian, Inuit, Jew, Latin, Negro, Asian, Cree

2. Note that black and white do not name races and are lowercase.

3. The term black is acceptable in all references in Canada and the United States. In the United States, African-American is also used; in Canada African-Canadian is used by some people but not by others.

4. There is usually no need to use hyphenated descriptions such as Polish-Canadian or Jamaican-Canadian, given they may put an inappropriate emphasis on the person’s ethnic background. But these descriptions can be used if the individual prefers and it is relevant.


Shoppers (not housewives) are paying more.

When writing in general terms prefer police officer or constable to policeman, firefighter to fireman, mail carrier to mailman, flight attendant to stewardess.

Some readers find the use of he (him, his) as a word of common or indeterminate gender to be sexist. His or her and the like can be used but may prove awkward. In that case reword the sentence if possible. Instead of: Whoever is promoted will have $50 added to his or her pay, write: Whoever is promoted will get a $50 raise. As a last resort, they (them, their) is an increasingly acceptable alternative to he (him, his).


Gay is usually preferred as an alternative for homosexual men and is also commonly used for women, although lesbian is preferred by many women. Use sexual orientation, not sexual preference. Language is still evolving on what to call the individuals in a same-sex relationship or marriage. Partner, husband and wife are all acceptable options depending on preference.

Abbreviations and Numbers

In general, avoid introducing unfamiliar acronyms if they are to be used only once or twice. When in doubt, spell it out.

Do not use periods for well-known acronyms:

A few well-known campus abbreviations don't require formal introduction:
Mac Hall, for the large performance space in MacEwan Student Centre. This is not an abbreviation for MacEwan Student Centre.
the Oval, for the Olympic Oval

Most buildings and groups, though known by many, should still be formally introduced on first reference:
General Faculties Council; subsequently, GFC
The University of Calgary Faculty Association; subsequently, TUCFA

Omit periods in abbreviations for university degrees:
Bachelor of Arts, BA
bachelor's degree


(See below for specific degrees.)

Geographical abbreviations receive periods:
U.S. is the abbreviation for the nation known as the United States
US denotes the currency
eg. The loonie climbed to 99 cents US. (Where possible, simply convert to Canadian dollars to avoid altogether.)

When using the month and date, abbreviate the month:
Feb. 9
and not
February 9
and not Feb. 9th
Abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec.
Do not abbreviate March, April, May, June, July.

When referring only to the month or with a year alone, spell it out:
Exams were held in December
January 1997 was a watershed month (no comma)

Use a hyphen to connect associated years:
the 2013-14 school year

Seasons are always lower case:
The new philosophy course will be offered in the winter of 2008
The fall semester saw an increase in fundraising

The modifiers a.m. and p.m. have periods:
Classes begin at 8 a.m.
Do not use unnecessary ciphers:
8 a.m.
and not
8:00 a.m.
Do not use the 24-hour clock.

Spell out whole numbers below 10, and use figures for 10 and above. Spell out numbers in fractions below one and standing alone:
200 students attended the seven sessions
12 one-hundredths

Avoid starting a sentence with a number; if you must, spell it out.

When writing about money, use the $ symbol. When referring to denominations smaller than a dollar, write cents:
$248-million budget
lemonade costs five cents


Hyphens are useful for avoiding ambiguity. Use a hyphen to join two or more words serving as a single adjective modifying a noun. Do not use a hyphen with words ending in -ly. The -ly suffix is adequate notice that the next word is being modified.

Use hyphens with ex-, self-, all-, post- and -elect. Some words which begin with co- also take a hyphen, such as co-worker, or when a hyphen avoids doubling a vowel, such as co-operate or co-ordinate.

Almost all punctuation marks go inside quotation marks. If more than one paragraph of quotation from a single speaker runs in succession, use quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph but at the end of the last paragraph only.

Omit the last comma before “and” in a list of three or more items, unless a comma is needed to prevent confusion.
Professors, students and administrators rallied against the government.
The smooth grey of the beech stem, the silky texture of the birch, and the rugged pine were skillfully depicted in a variety of brushstrokes. (Without the comma after birch, the rugged pine assumes a silky texture.) — Fowler’s

Use an em-dash with a space before and after, such as: The biology field school — the first of its kind in Canada — offers 20 students a chance to study in Ghana each summer.

Capitalization and Spelling


alumnus: a male graduate
alumni: a group of male grads, or a gender neutral reference to a group of grads
alumna: a female graduate
alumnae: a group of female grads
alum: an acceptable shortform of alumni
anaesthesia (Department of Anaesthesia)
analyze not analyse
archaeology, not archeology


bachelor's degree
biological sciences (the field of study)
Biological Sciences (the building)
the Department of Biological Sciences (proper name of the administrative entity)
book store - however, the proper name of the retail outlet in the basement of the student centre is University of Calgary Bookstore (one word)


Campus Food Bank
Campus Security
Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI)
centred on, never centred around
Cogeneration Plant



  • BA — Bachelor of Arts
  • BComm — Bachelor of Commerce
  • BCR — Bachelor of Community Rehabilitation
  • BEd — Bachelor of Education
  • DipEd — Diploma of Education
  • BFA — Bachelor of Fine Arts
  • BHRM — Bachelor of Hotel and Resort Management
  • BKin — Bachelor of Kinesiology
  • LLB — Bachelor of Laws
  • BMus — Bachelor of Music
  • BN — Bachelor of Nursing
  • BPE — Bachelor of Physical Education
  • BSc — Bachelor of Science
  • BSc (Eng) — Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering; Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering; Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering; Bachelor of Science in Geomatics Engineering; Bachelor of Science in Manufacturing Engineering ; Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
  • BSW — Bachelor of Social Work
  • MArch — Master of Architecture
  • MA — Master of Arts
  • MBA — Master of Business Administration
  • MCS — Master of Communication Studies
  • MCE — Master of Continuing Education
  • MEc — Master of Economics
  • MEd — Master of Education
  • MEng — Master of Engineering
  • MEDes — Master of Environmental Design
  • MFA — Master of Fine Arts
  • MKin — Master of Kinesiology
  • LLM — Master of Laws
  • MMus — Master of Music
  • MN — Master of Nursing
  • MSc — Master of Science
  • MSW — Master of Social Work
  • MD — Doctor of Medicine
  • PhD — Doctor of Philosophy
  • LLD — Doctor of Laws
  • EdD — Doctor of Education

Individuals possess a bachelor's degree, a master's or a doctorate


Energy Environment Experiential Learning (does not have commas)
Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall


fellowship, but Killam Fellowship
field work: (two words) an investigation or search for material, data, etc., made in the field as opposed to the classroom or lab
Murray Fraser Hall (the former Professional Faculties Building, Block B)
fundraising, fundraiser, fundraise
fundraising drive


governors, not governers
gynaecology (Department of Gynaecology)


High Density Library
home page
honorary degree




MacKimmie Library
master's degree
Medical Research Council of Canada (MRCC)
Mount Royal University (MRU)
Murray Fraser Hall (the former Professional Faculties Building, Block B)


Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)
the New University Television Society (NUTV)
The Nickle Galleries


Obstetrics and Gynaecology


paediatrics (Department of Paediatrics), paediatrician
Pepsi, Pepsi-Cola
per cent (avoid the symbol %), percentage, six per cent increase (no hyphens)
program, not programme
Professional Faculties Building


Rozsa Centre
Royal Society of Canada


Senate (national legislature)
the university senate, the senate
the University of Calgary Senate
Senator Heather Travers; Hal Godwin, University of Calgary senator
sizable (not sizeable)
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)
Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT)
Students' Union (SU)
Students' Legislative Council (SLC)


Taylor Family Digital Library (not the Taylor). Second reference TFDL is acceptable but full spelling is preferred.
TUCFA - The University of Calgary Faculty Association
town hall (two words)


U.S. - the abbreviation for the nation
US - the abbreviation denoting American dollar currency, goes after the amount as in $100 US

University of Calgary in Qatar

University of Calgary Downtown Campus
University Technologies International Inc. (UTI)
UVic, U of A - abbreviations for post-secondary institutions well known to campus readers are acceptable




web – lowercase
web page, website, webcast, webmaster, web server
World Wide Web – upper case (it is a proper name)


Yamnuska Hall

A special case: Use of capitalization, italics, and quotations in research-related titles

Names of major publications, scholarly journals, films, works of art

Use italics, and capitalize the principal words, in the titles of independently published books, periodicals, journals, newspapers, broadcast programs, films, plays, poems, songs, works of art, and other significant compositions. (Sources: Canadian Press Stylebook, Canadian Style)

  • Examples: Science. New England Journal of Medicine. Gone With the Wind. 
  • Example sentence: New animal research from the Cumming School of Medicine, published online in the journal Cell Reports, has made a new discovery that provides more insight into the mechanisms of pain.
  • Definition of principal words: All words except articles, conjunctions of fewer than four letters, and prepositions of fewer than four letters. Includes words that follow hyphens in compound terms.

Scholarly articles published in journals

Use capitals and quotation marks for titles of research works published within larger works such as academic journals. (Sources: Canadian Style, MLA Style Manual)

  • Example: “Randomized Assessment of Rapid Endovascular Treatment of Ischemic Stroke”

Unpublished theses, dissertations, manuscripts, poster papers

Use capitals and quotation marks around the titles of unpublished works such as theses and dissertations, manuscripts, working papers, and poster papers.

  • Example: “Enhancing Green Building Performance: A Human Experiential Approach” (Source: Chicago Manual of Style).

Speeches, themes, strategies, seminars, courses etc.

Capitalize the complete titles of speeches, themes (such as research strategies), series, conferences, seminars, workshops, courses, and high school science fair projects.

  • Example sentence: Her 3MT talk was entitled Permanent Breast Seed Implant: Improving Patient Experience in Early-Stage Breast Cancer (Source: MLA Style Manual).

Energize your writing for an external audience

Would you like readers outside your immediate circle of friends and colleagues to see your article on the Web? A UToday article stands a greater chance of attracting more readers and being shared via social media if the writing is emotionally engaging, experiential, and conversational. Here are some best practices for writing for a broad audience. These recommendations are based on feature newswriting guidelines in the Canadian Press Stylebook, as well as strategies described by Jack Rawlins and Stephen Metzger in their textbook The Writer’s Way about writing for an audience.


  • Story conveys values associated with the university such as curiosity, creativity, discovery, surprise, vision, optimism, and transformation.

Writing style

  • Avoid long sentences, keep “bureau-cratese” to a minimum, prefer concrete to abstract, and define any specialist term — or better yet, describe the term in plain language.
  • First sentence: Lead the reader into the story with an enticing first line or passage.
  • Where possible, use anecdotes or feature-writing techniques to emphasize human experience and context.

Google News

  • UToday is recognized as a university news source by the Google search engine. To comply with their global standard, a UToday story should contain original reporting, honest attribution, clear authority and expertise, demonstrable facts.

What hurts readability? An over-reliance on acronyms, proper nouns, specialist language, jargon, buzzwords, lengthy job titles, long sentences. In other words, the language common to government and business internal communications.

What sorts of stories have the greatest potential to make an emotional connection with readers?

  • Tell the story from the perspective of a person
  • Paint a live scene, give a description
  • Pose a riddle, a mystery, or a research problem
  • Write like you enjoy it! Read it out loud!



“On Sept. 28, when the eyes of the world were riveted on Dennis Kimetto — the Kenyan marathoner who set a world record marathon time of 2:02:57 in Berlin — the people in Kinesiology’s Human Performance Lab were focused on his shoes.” UToday, Oct. 17, 2014

“A Hotchkiss Brain Institute trainee looking for the next big discovery in multiple sclerosis research got a surprise break while on a ski trip to Banff with some new friends — unveiling a new approach to repair damaged nerve cells.” UToday, May 16, 2016

“Six-thousand donated books, countless festive treats, seven barbecues, one holiday market and a batch of homemade guacamole have helped push the Cumming School of Medicine's United Way event fundraising total past the $10,000 mark.” UToday, Dec. 11, 2015

Good advice: Read it out loud

“You are writing primarily to please yourself, and if you go about it with enjoyment you will also entertain the readers who are worth writing for.” — William Zinsser, On Writing Well

“Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.” — Joseph Pulitzer, American publisher, 1847-1911

“Good writing knows it’s a performance. Good writers are hams on the page. They feel the presence of the audience the way a stage actor does. The only difference is that the writer’s audience must be imagined. People who read aloud well are usually good writers, and a simple way to write well is to write something you’d love to read out loud.” — Rawlins & Metzger, The Writer’s Way

Robert Gunning’s 10 Principles for Clear Writing

  • Keep sentences short
  • Prefer the simple to the complex
  • Prefer the familiar word
  • Avoid unnecessary words
  • Put action in your verbs
  • Write the way you talk
  • Use terms your readers can picture
  • Tie in with your reader’s experience
  • Make full use of variety
  • Write to express, not to impress

— From The Technique of Clear Writing