UCalgary News Style Guide

For writers of public-facing communications at the University of Calgary — guidelines for your spelling, capitalization, and language questions 

About the Style Guide

This guide is designed for members of the campus community whose job involves writing about the university for widely read publications. 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.


Our expert sources

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 on questions specific to the university, we turn to Canadian Style, then MLA Style Manual, then Chicago Manual of Style Online. Other references include the Oxford Canadian Dictionary and Fowler's Modern English Usage.

Questions?

As language evolves, we continually add details in areas of the guide relevant to the University of Calgary context. Questions can be submitted to utoday@ucalgary.ca.

The Canadian Press Stylebook and Canadian Press Caps and Spelling are available for purchase through the University of Calgary Bookstore.


1. Energize your writing

Would you like readers outside your immediate circle of friends and colleagues to see your article on the web?

Picture your reading audience as high school students, or the next-door neighbour, or your mother. A UToday article stands a greater chance of attracting more readers and being shared via social media if the writing is conversational, emotionally engaging, and experiential. 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.

Tone

  • 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!

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

 


2. Use language that includes everyone

Indigenous Peoples

The Canadian Press has adopted the practice of using uppercase Indigenous in all references, including generic uses. We use Indigenous Peoples as an umbrella term that includes all First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in Canada. First Nations is also uppercase.

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

Avoid Indian whenever possible, except in cases where it is the stated preference. It is considered offensive by many because it originated with the European explorers’ misconception that they had landed in India. Others, especially status Indians, prefer it to be used.

Avoid the common construction "Canada’s Indigenous Peoples." To many, it offends because it evokes a sense of possession and colonialism. Use "Indigenous Peoples in Canada" instead.

Avoid native. Indigenous and First Nations are more specific and are preferred by many in the community. Whenever possible, ask subjects for their preference; the more detail, the better.

Where reasonable, prefer the actual name of the community — Cree, Mohawk, Blackfoot, Ojibwa — to a generality. For band names, use the spelling the band prefers, which is also the spelling used by the federal government.

The word tribe in its original sense was reserved for primitive peoples. Some natives use it casually and it need not be entirely avoided. But community, people, nation, band, language group are alternatives.

The University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy, unveiled to the campus and the broader community on Nov. 16, 2017, was bestowed the Blackfoot name ii’ taa’ poh’ to’ p, signifying a place to rejuvenate and re-energize while on a journey. Read more about the strategy.

Uppercase Indigenization in reference to the evolution of campus culture, course perspectives, and so forth.

Names of races

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

Indigenous Peoples, Arab, Arabic, African, African-American, Asian, Caucasian, Chipewyan, Chinese, English-Canadian, Gypsy, Hispanic, Indian, Inuk, Inuit, Jew, Jewish, Latin, Negro, Nordic, Pygmy.

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

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. In the United States there is a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, usually identified as the NAACP.

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.


3. Guidelines when writing about gender and sexual diversity

The University of Calgary promotes fair, accurate and inclusive communication when referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. As a general rule, include a reference to sexual orientation or gender identity only when it is relevant to the story. 

It is appropriate, when interviewing an individual on a topic related to his/her/their gender, to ask which pronouns they use. A person’s stated preference for a specific pronoun should be respected. Because he is no longer universally accepted as a generic pronoun referring to a person of unspecified gender, people commonly substitute the third-person-plural pronouns they, them, their, and themselves when referring to a generic subject or a subject whose gender is unknown. It is appropriate to use the pronoun “they” to refer to a singular subject.

Gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation are distinct and often unrelated concepts. Do not make assumptions about a person’s sexuality based on their gender identity or gender expression.

Some broad definitions

  • bisexual as a noun is an individual attracted to more than one gender
  • cis is short for cisgender or cissexual, describing a person who is not transgender. They identify with the gender and sex assigned at birth
  • gay and lesbian describe people who are solely attracted to people of the same sex. Homosexual is considered offensive by some; avoid except in clinical contexts and quotations. Lesbian woman is redundant. Don’t use gay as a noun
  • gender is how you identify and present in the world
    • gender identity is a felt, internal sense of one’s gender and how it informs their larger identity
    • gender expression is how one performs or does not perform their gender identity in the world through mannerisms, clothing, language, etc.
  • Pride capitalized in reference to gender-diverse events and symbols
  • queer: Although some people self-identify using the umbrella term “queer,” avoid unless it has been confirmed as an appropriate term with the person in question
  • sex: a combination of biological and physiological characteristics (including chromosomes, hormones, internal and external reproductive organs)  used to classify someone as male or female as defined by existing medical/legal categories
  • sexual orientation is innate sexual attraction. Use this term instead of “sexual preference,” which implies a conscious choice
  • two-spirit is a term is used by some Indigenous people to describe their sexual gender and/or their spiritual identity. It refers to a person who has both a masculine and a feminine spirit.

Trans

Trans and transgender are umbrella terms that describe people who identify as a gender that is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. It can include trans men, trans women, nonbinary people, and people who understand their genders in other terms.

  • Trans and transgender are adjectives and can be used interchangeably. Avoid the words transgenders or transgendered.
  • Avoid treating transgender people as though they have “a condition.” Use: Monique is transgender. Avoid: Monique is transgendered.
  • The term “transsexual” is not widely preferred but some trans individuals may use it to self-identify.

Two-spirit community

Two-spirit refers to a person who has both a masculine and a feminine spirit. The term is used by some Indigenous people to describe their sexual gender and/or spiritual identity.

Job descriptions

When writing in general terms regarding professions or roles, remove reference to gender where possible:

  • From policeman to police officer or constable
  • From fireman to firefighter
  • From mailman to mail carrier
  • From alderman to councillor
  • From stewardess to flight attendant

LGBTQ2S+

LGBTQ is a popular acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning, and is widely used within the news media as inclusive terminology to describe the community. For broadly read publications written on behalf of the University of Calgary, we recommend LGBTQ2S+ as a standard acronym to describe the community. By adding “2S” to the shorter version of the acronym, we explicitly acknowledge those with a two-spirit identity.  

Remember: Be respectful and use the terms people prefer. If you are unsure, ask.

Resources:


4. Writing about university people

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

The title “Dr.”

Use the title Dr. in front of the names of any faculty, staff member or postdoctoral scholar who has been awarded a doctoral degree from the University of Calgary or other post-secondary institution. Include the abbreviation for the specific academic credential after the name. Doctorates awarded by UCalgary include the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), Doctor of Education (EdD), or Doctor of Business Administration (DBA).  For example:

  • Dr. John Smith, MD, who specializes in pediatric oncology …
  • Dr. Mary Hastings, PhD, a professor of sociology in the Faculty of Arts …
  • Dr. Matthew James, MD, PhD, a kidney specialist ... (holds both degrees) 

The title Dr. should be used at least once in an item for publication, preferably in the first reference. If placement in the first reference leads to awkward readability, the title can be applied later in the article at the writer’s discretion. For example: 

Green goo, slimy snails, potent chemicals, and wastewater — who could resist it? Not Jose Luis Rodriguez Gil. An Eyes High postdoctoral scholar originally from Spain, Dr. Rodriguez Gil, PhD, simply could not say no to the chance to study the ecological effects of wastewater at the City of Calgary’s one-of-a-kind Advancing Canadian Wastewater Assets facility.

Note: We avoid the repetition of using Dr. in headlines or photo captions. 

Exceptions

Executives: When referring to the president and members of the Executive Leadership Team (ELT), there are two options:

  • Option 1: Use the title Dr. in front of their name, and their position behind the name:
    • Dr. Ed McCauley, president
  • Option 2: Use the position in front of the name:
    • President Ed McCauley

Honorary degrees: The University of Calgary bestows the degree, a Doctor of Laws (Hon. LLD), on individuals whose notable achievements and community service merit personal recognition. The title of Dr. can be used during the convocation ceremony itself and at related events. For example, during convocation: Dr. David Werklund. Otherwise: David Werklund, Hon. LLD.  

How to refer to the president

Personal voice for general communications (e.g., UToday messages, speaking points, announcement to the campus community):
President Ed McCauley (uppercase for the title when it precedes the name)
Dr. Ed McCauley, president (lowercase for the title when it follows the name)
Second reference is McCauley

Signature line, formal voice (e.g., official letters)
Ed McCauley, PhD     
President
 
Signature line, invitations
Dr. Ed McCauley
President and Vice-Chancellor
 
Salutation
Sincerely,

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):
Dr. John Smith, dean of arts

But: Dean John Smith

Set off long titles with commas; avoid front-loading of long titles:
Jane Smith, director of risk management, safety and security,
not
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 job descriptions preceding a name:
arbitrator John Smith

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

Titles of administrative officers are hyphenated, with areas of responsibility in parentheses afterwards. 

vice-president (development)
vice-president (finance and services)
vice-provost (international)
associate vice-president (university relations)

UCalgary alumni

When University of Calgary alumni are mentioned in alumni publications or in other articles with a strong focus on alumni, the style is to follow their name on first or second reference with the abbreviation for their degree and the year they graduated from the program. Applies to bachelor, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Examples: 

  • Naheed Nenshi, BComm’93, was elected Calgary's mayor
  • Dr. Lori Egger, BA’87, MSc’90, PhD’94 (In this example, all degrees were granted by UCalgary, and the PhD merits the title Dr.)

5. Writing about university places and things

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

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

the Faculty of Arts
but the arts faculty

the Department of Applied Chemistry
but the applied chemistry department

the Board of Governors
but the board

the University of Calgary Bookstore
but 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
but 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
but the library

University websites:
On university websites: headings, menu items, and occupation titles should use Title Case for clarity.

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

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
but bachelor's degree

PhD
but doctorate

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
and
January 1997 was a watershed month (no comma)

Use a hyphen to connect associated years:
the 2013-14 school year
but 1998-2002

Seasons are always lowercase:
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
one-third
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


6. How to capitalize references to research titles

Following is a distillation of best practices, in order, from Canadian Press Stylebook, Canadian Style, MLA Style Manual, and the Chicago Manual of Style.

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.

  • 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.

  • 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”

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

7. Abbreviations, spellings, etc.

A

adviser (not -or)
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
a.m.
anaesthesia (Department of Anaesthesia)
analyze not analyse
archaeology, not archeology

B

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)

C

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

D & Degrees

Downtown campus

Degrees:

  • 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

 

E

email
Energy Environment Experiential Learning (does not have commas)
enrol
enrolled
enrolment
Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall
Eyes High (italicized when referring to the university motto)
Energize: the Campaign for Eyes High

F

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

G

governors, not governers
gynaecology (Department of Gynaecology)

H

High Density Library
home page
honorary degree
honour

I, J, K, L

Indigenous
Internet

M

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

N, O

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

Obstetrics and Gynaecology
online

P

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

Q, R

Rozsa Centre
Royal Society of Canada

S

Senate (national legislature)
the university senate, the senate
the University of Calgary Senate
senator
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)
Spyhill campus
Students' Union (SU)
Students' Legislative Council (SLC)

T

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

U

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

V

vice-president
vice-provost
vice-chancellor
vice-chair

W

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

Y

Yamnuska Hall