The Editorial Style Guide was created to provide standards for anyone creating documents for news or digital and social media at and/or about the University of Southern Maine. This guide has been compiled by the Office of Public Affairs, which oversees news services and communications for the university. 

The editorial style standards are a guide to the proper style and usage of university terminology, including department names, programs, buildings, initiatives and more, and will continue to evolve over time.

In almost all cases, the Office of Public Affairs follows AP Style. The Office of Marketing and Brand Management, however, uses the Chicago Manual of Style for its print publications. If you are unsure of which style you should use for your work, please contact someone from the Office of Public Affairs.

Editorial Style Standards

We are the University of Southern Maine.

The full name should be used on first reference, followed by “USM” in parentheses (USM). It is acceptable to say “the university,” or “USM” only on second reference and thereafter. The only exception is for social media or a news headline where space is an issue.

Our mascot is the Siberian Husky, known as “Champ.” All athletics teams are the “Southern Maine Huskies” or, simply, “The Huskies,” regardless of gender. (no “Lady Huskies.”)

On first reference, it is preferable to spell out academic degrees. You should capitalize the degree but lowercase the field of study, unless the field of study is a proper noun (i.e. English).

Example: Bob Johnson holds a Bachelor of Science in biology.

You may also refer to degrees as the following: bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, associate’s or doctorate. You may also say doctoral degree.

Example: Sally Jane earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

Degree abbreviations include periods, with the exception of honorary degrees. When abbreviating degrees, the word “degree” should not follow the abbreviation. Common degree abbreviations include:

  • B.A. — Bachelor of Arts
  • B.S. — Bachelor of Science
  • B.F.A. — Bachelor of Fine Arts
  • M.A. — Master of Arts
  • M.F.A. — Master of Fine Arts
  • M.S. — Master of Science
  • M.S.W. — Master of Social Work
  • M.P.H. — Master of Public Health
  • Ph.D. — Doctor of Philosophy
  • J.D. — Juris Doctor (Maine Law)
  • Hon. — Honorary Degree

Example: Bob Johnson has a Ph.D. in history.

Class Year

When writing about USM students or alumni, denote their class year upon first reference. Use an apostrophe to do this, making sure it faces in the correct direction.

Examples: USM was proud to welcome Bob Johnson ’96 to campus.

English major Jen Smith ’18 hopes to pursue a career in marketing.

Academic Honors

cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude

Alumna, alumnus, alumnae, alumni

alumna is female singular

alumnus is male singular

alumnae refers to a group of women who attended a school

alumni refers to a group of all men or men and women who attended

Emerita, emeritus, emeriti

emerita adj. — a female retired college professor able to retain title as an honor

emeritus adj. — a male or female retired professor able to retain title as an honor

emeriti n. pl.

Position Titles

Per AP Style, titles that follow a person’s name should be lowercase, whereas titles that precede a name should be capitalized. If you are referring to a position generally, without including a person’s name, you do not capitalize the title.

Examples: Jane Doe, director of communications, will be available to answer questions.

Director of Communications Sally Jane attended the event.

The position includes other duties as assigned by the vice president.

Academic Degrees and Professional Titles

When referencing a person’s academic degree and title, indicate the degree immediately following the person’s name on first reference only. We do not use honorifics — “Mr.,” “Dr.” or “Miss,” etc. — before a person’s name.

Examples: Jane Doe, Ph.D., professor of history, accompanied students on the trip.

Assistant Professor of Political Science Bob Johnson, Ph.D., led the seminar.

The names of USM campuses, colleges, departments, schools, official programs and administrative offices should be capitalized. They should be spelled out on first reference. After the first reference, you may use a common USM acronym after first including it in parentheses after the full reference. (Please note: Names of Colleges and Schools may stray away from AP Style — they should be referenced using their official names).

Example: The College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (CAHS) is committed to the values of a liberal arts education. CAHS faculty comprise some of today’s leading scholars.


Portland Campus

Gorham Campus

Lewiston-Auburn Campus (LAC)

Colleges and Schools, and USM Foundation

  1. College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (CAHS)
    • Dr. Alfred & D. Suzi Osher School of Music
  2. College of Management and Human Service (CMHS)
    • School of Business
    • School of Education and Human Development
    • Muskie School of Public Service
      • Cutler Institute for Health & Social Policy
    • School of Social Work
  3. College of Science, Technology and Health (CSTH)
    • School of Nursing
  4. Lewiston-Auburn College (LAC)
  5. USM Foundation


Spell out whole numbers one through nine and use figures for 10 and above. Spell out all numbers when they are used at the beginning of a sentence.

Use figures for all dimensions, percentages, distances and measurements.

Grade levels in school should always be spelled out.

Always use figures for ages.

Always use figures when referring to a year, such as 2018 or ’18, or a decade, such as the 1980s, without an apostrophe. 


Time should be expressed as a figure followed by a.m. or p.m., with the exception of “noon” and “midnight,” which stand alone and do not require figures.

You do not use the :00 when referring to an hour. Use a dash in between times when indicating a time span if the span does not crossover between noon or midnight. For time spans that do crossover between noon or midnight, a.m. and p.m. must be designated, with the times separated by “to.”

Examples: The launch will occur at 8:30 a.m.

The event will take place between 2-3 p.m.

The conference will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.


Commas set off the sequence of the day, month and year.

Example: The presentation will take place Wednesday, September 24, 2018, sometime in the afternoon.

When using the word “from” to express a date range, only include the year in the final date.

Example: The exhibition ran from May 12 to May 23, 2006.

Certain months are abbreviated when using dates. These include Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., Dec., Jan. and Feb. Do not abbreviate March, April, May, June and July.

When referring to specific semesters, capitalize the time of year.

Example: Fall 2018, Spring 2018, Summer 2018 

Letters such as “th” or “st” or “nd” do not follow the numerals in a date.

Example: The event will occur on Jan. 22.

Phone Numbers

Use parentheses around the area code, rather than a dash following it.

Example: (XXX) XXX-XXXX

When referring to a USM phone extension, use “ext.” before the number.

Example: For more information, call the Proofreading Office at ext. XXXX.

Street Addresses

Use the address abbreviations Ave., Blvd., and St. with numbered addresses only. When the formal street name appears without a numbered address, however, spell out the full name and capitalize it.

Example: I work at 106 Bedford St.

I live on Chamberlain Street.

Always spell out Road and Lane, even when using numbered addresses.

Cities and States

When referring to a city and state, you should place a comma after the city and then indicate the state. Always spell out state names; do not use postal abbreviations.

Example: Portland, Maine

Los Angeles, California

Zip Codes

While there isn’t specific guidance on whether to use five-digit or nine-digit zip codes, you should stay consistent within each document in using one style or the other.

Ampersand (&)

Only use an ampersand when it is part of a formal name, otherwise use “and.”

Apostrophes (’)

Use the rounded apostrophe rather than the straight one.

Example: ’15

Bulleted Lists

According to AP style, writers should start each bulleted entry with a capital letter and should put a period after each entry; however, we have decided to only use periods for lengthier bulleted phrases and when bulleted entries form complete sentences.


We use the hyphen to break up words that must appear on two lines due to layout restrictions. We also use the hyphen within certain words for clarity.

Examples: Co-op, re-signed, re-admitted, etc.  *please note – certain tech terms no longer include a hyphen, such as website, email, hyperlink, etc.

En Dash and Em Dash

The en dash is wider than the hyphen and is used between ranges of numbers or years.

Examples: Pages 201–204

Read pages 265–279.

The em dash is used to indicate a break in thought or a parenthetical phrase: There are spaces before and after it. It can also be indicated by two hyphens.

Example: The orca whale — really a type of dolphin — was explored extensively.


The ellipsis is used to indicate the deletion of one or more words in the condensing of quotes or text. It is used with a space before and after the three periods. An ellipsis may also be used to indicate a pause or hesitation in speech, or a thought that is not completed.

Example: “The professor came into the room … he asked for my paper.”


AP style does not use italics to represent titles. Books, plays and movie and TV show titles should be enclosed in quotation marks (see “Quotation Marks” below).

Example: An article in the Portland Press Herald cited USM’s record of community service.

Example: The USM Department of Theatre presented “Hamlet.”

Quotation Marks

Use quotation marks for the titles of books, articles, lectures, papers, exhibits and presentations. Also use quotation marks for articles and chapters within periodicals. Likewise, the names of television shows and radio shows receive quotation marks.

Example: A program called “Maine Calling” airs on MPBN.

In almost all cases, closed-quotation marks go outside a comma or period.

Example: The Aquarium Club named Bob Johnson its new president, citing his “Extraordinary knowledge of reefs.” (not “ … reefs”.)

Serial Commas

In a series of three or more items, no comma should be used to separate the final two items. However, when a sentence is complex and would be unclear without the additional comma, you should insert a comma.

Example: At USM you can study, biology, chemistry or physics.


Use one space after periods, not two.

The Slash

AP style does not include the slash as a signifier of alternates/options/choices. You may use it, however, in USM publications. If/when you use it, please do so without spaces following it.

Some documents, such as job postings and admissions materials, require boilerplate information or inclusion of a nondiscrimination notice. 

Boilerplate Information

Situated in Maine’s economic and cultural center, the University of Southern Maine (USM) is a public university with 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students taking courses online and at campuses in Portland, Gorham and Lewiston-Auburn. Known for its academic excellence, student focus and engagement with the community, USM provides students with hands-on experience that complements classroom learning and leads to employment opportunities in one of the nation’s most desirable places to live. 

Nondiscrimination Notice

“The University of Maine System does not discriminate on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, including transgender status and gender expression, national origin, citizenship status, age, disability, genetic information or veteran’s status in employment, education, and all other programs and activities.”

Visit the Office of Equal Opportunity page for more information.