A&M System Written Style Guidelines »

This guide uses the Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual, also available online, as its primary source for questions of written style. While there are numerous such publications, the AP stylebook is so extensively used by the media and other popular publications that it provides the most common reference and should be considered the default. Where the AP stylebook does not address a topic, we prefer The Chicago Manual of Style (15th ed. or later), which is generally used in major publishing as well as in literary and scholarly works. Most dictionaries will suffice to address particular word usage, but we recommend Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed. or later).

As do many publications and institutions, The Texas A&M University System has unique and preferred usages that augment or are considered exceptions to AP style. The following A&M System Style Guide provides these variances, which should be followed by system members in order to provide consistency and accuracy in system publications, websites, correspondence, and other written works.

Following the A&M System Style Guide are selected style points from the AP stylebook that are extracted here for your convenience because of their frequent use in academia.

If you have any other questions about system style, please feel free to contact the Office of Marketing and Communications.

 

TEXAS A&M SYSTEM PREFERRED USAGES AND STYLE EXCEPTIONS


Referencing the A&M System

When referencing the A&M System, use "The Texas A&M University System" on first reference (with a capital "T" in "the") and "the A&M System" or "Texas A&M System" on second reference. Do not put a space between the letters and the ampersand (i.e., A & M).

Correct:                The Texas A&M University System
Second reference:  A&M System or Texas A&M System

Incorrect:  TAMUS
                 TAMU System

To prevent confusion in publications for external audiences, always use "the A&M System" or "Texas A&M System" on second reference, not just "system" alone.

In publications for internal audiences, the word "system" can be used alone on second reference. Lowercase "system" unless beginning a sentence.

  • A&M System employees involved in the project were elated.
  • They were proud that so many system members could pull together on a single project.

Website Address

The website address for the A&M System should always be listed as "tamus.edu" or "www.tamus.edu."

Suggested “About the A&M System” or system summary text

Following is a "tagline" that can be used in whole or in part and added to the end of news releases or other documents:

The A&M System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $3.8 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, seven state agencies, two service units and a comprehensive health science center, the A&M System educates more than 131,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. Externally funded research expenditures exceed $820 million and help drive the state’s economy.

Referencing other A&M System members

When listing other universities, agencies and the health science center, always use the institution's complete name on first reference and its preferred acronym or abbreviation on second reference.

InstitutionPreferred Abbreviation
Texas A&M University Texas A&M
   Texas A&M University at Galveston TAMUG
   Texas A&M University at Qatar Texas A&M at Qatar
Prairie View A&M University PVAMU
Texas A&M University-Commerce A&M-Commerce
Tarleton State University Tarleton
West Texas A&M University WTAMU
Texas A&M University-Kingsville
Texas A&M-Kingsville
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi A&M-Corpus Christi
Texas A&M International University TAMIU
Texas A&M University-Texarkana TAMUT
Texas A&M University-Central Texas A&M-Central Texas
Texas A&M University-San Antonio A&M-San Antonio
Texas A&M AgriLife Research AgriLife Research
Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station TEES
Texas A&M Forest Service
TFS
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service AgriLife Extension
Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service TEEX
Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory TVMDL
Texas A&M Transportation Institute TTI
Texas A&M System Sponsored Research Services SRS
Texas A&M System Technology Commercialization STC
Texas A&M Health Science Center TAMHSC


Correct:      Texas A&M University-San Antonio
Second reference:  A&M-San Antonio

Incorrect:      TAMU-San Antonio; TAMUSA

Communicating A&M System affiliation

  • System institutions without the A&M affiliation in their name should add the phrase "a member of The Texas A&M University System" to their stationery, business cards and other external publications.
  • All A&M system universities, agencies and health science center institutions should be referred to as "members" of the system, not parts or components.
  • All universities, agencies or health science center institutions should reference their affiliation with the A&M System in text in the following manner: Tarleton State University, a member of The Texas A&M University System, . . .

Referencing A&M System administration

Following are correct references for the A&M System Board of Regents:

  • Board of Regents
  • The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents
  • Board of Regents of The Texas A&M University System
  • the A&M System Board of Regents (on second reference)
  • Texas A&M System Board of Regents (on second reference)

Lowercase "board" and "regents" if used separately.

  • The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents today approved new degree programs at three A&M System universities.
  • At its regularly scheduled meeting, the board discussed the importance of collaboration between A&M System universities and agencies.

Referencing specific members of the Board of Regents

Regent first name last name.

  • Regent Jim Schwertner said the new program would be beneficial.
  • Chairman Phil Adams called the meeting to order.

Referencing system executive officers and offices

The offices in the A&M System building in College Station should be referred to as "System Offices." (These offices were formerly called the "System Administrative and General Offices" or "SAGO.") "System Offices" take a plural verb.

  • The System Offices provide support for the members of the A&M System.

Uppercase a title when it comes before a name, but lowercase a title when it comes after a name.

  • Chancellor John Sharp
  • John Sharp, chancellor of the A&M System

Uppercase names of offices.

  • Office of the Chancellor
  • Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

 

SELECTED AP STYLES COMMONLY USED IN ACADEMIC WRITING

abbreviations
In general, do not use abbreviations or acronyms that the reader would not quickly recognize. Never abbreviate university, department or association.

Abbreviations of degrees, expressions of time and names of countries take periods with no space between the elements.

  • M.F.A., a.m., U.S.A.

To prevent awkward line breaks, do not put a space between initials used as a first name.

  • B.J. Crain

Most abbreviations are spelled without periods: CFO, CIA. Add an "s" but no apostrophe to plural forms of abbreviations:

  • The committee was made up of CEOs and CFOs.

The first mention of organizations, firms, agencies, groups, etc., should be spelled out.

  • The Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station is the engineering research agency of the State of Texas. TEES was established in 1914.

 academic degrees (also see doctoral, doctorate)
Readers may not be familiar with academic degrees. It usually is better to use a phrase instead of an abbreviation.

  • John Jones, who has a doctorate in psychology, said the study was flawed.

Use an apostrophe: bachelor's degree, master's degree, and so on.

Uppercase: Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, Doctor of Philosophy, and so on.

Use abbreviations such as B.A., B.S., M.A., M.S. and Ph.D. (with no spaces between letters) only when needed to identify many individuals by degree on first reference or if usage would make the preferred form cumbersome. Spell out all others. Use these only after the person's full name, and set the abbreviation off by commas.

  • John Wimberly, Ph.D., is president of the National Skydiving Association.

academic colleges/departments
Capitalize if referring to a specific department or other academic unit by its full proper name. Otherwise, use lower case.

  • Mays Business School
  • College of Science and Technology
  • history department
  • Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences
  • She is a professor in the college.

academic titles
Lowercase and spell out titles when not used with an individual's name.

  • The dean provided a list of students.
  • The graduate assistant taught a class.
  • The chancellor will speak today at noon.

Capitalize and spell out when a title precedes a name.

  • Chancellor John Sharp met with Dean Jill Burk yesterday.

Very long titles are more readable when placed after a name.

  • Terry Dickson, vice president for business and administration, nominated the work-study student for a national award.

adjunct
Adjunct refers to a temporary faculty appointment; lowercase.

adviser
Use the spelling that ends in -er (not advisor) unless the other spelling is part of an official title.

ages
Always use figures.

  • The 19-year-old student took graduate-level courses.
  • The student, who switched his major 11 times, is 24 years old.
  • The dean is in his 50s. (No apostrophe)

alumnus, alumna, alumni, alumnae
Alumnus (alumni in the plural) refers to a man who has graduated from a school. Alumna (alumnae in the plural, but rarely used) refers to a woman who has graduated from a school. Alumni refers to a group of men and women.

  • Although she was an alumna of Texas Southern University, she gave $1 million to Prairie View A&M University.
  • She joined a dating service for alumni of certain universities.

baccalaureate
In most cases, the less formal bachelor's degree is preferred.

capitalization
Capitalize official names; do not capitalize unofficial, informal, shortened or generic names. Do not capitalize in phrases such as the center, the institute or the recently renovated museum. Do not capitalize seasons or semesters (Spring Break is an exception).

  • The College of Engineering, but the engineering school
  • Texas Task Force 1, but the task force
  • Capitalize names of celebrations, such as Founders Day. Do not capitalize seasons, semesters or academic periods. (The exception is Spring Break.)
  • Dr. Ballard will teach the Philosophy and History of Adult Education class next semester. He will teach advanced geology.
  • She enrolled in fall 2005 but decided to postpone graduate school after she won the lottery.

capital/capitol
Capital refers to the city; capitol refers to the building where the seat of government is housed. Capitalize when referring to the building. Capitol building is redundant.

  • The Capitol is in Austin, which is the capital city of Texas.

chairman
Use chairman or chair in references to positions on the Board of Regents, even for female members.

  • Wendy Gramm was chairman of the Committee on Academic and Student Affairs.
  • She also was chair of an ad hoc committee.

class year
When referring to an alumnus in text, include the last two digits of his or her class year after the name with an apostrophe. When referring to an alumnus with multiple degrees, list the degrees in the order in which they were received. When referring to a couple who are both alumni of the same university, include the last two digits of the class year with an apostrophe after each person's name.

  • Mays Business School is the namesake of Lowry Mays '57.
  • "The campus has changed since I was a student," said John O'Reilly '44, '46 (MBA).
  • Marvin '70 and Marlene Finkelstein Smith '70

commas
Do not use a comma before the and or other conjunctions in a series. Elsewhere, use commas only when the potential for confusion exists without them, such as complex sentences, or before the concluding conjunction of a series if one of the elements in the series contains a conjunction.

  • She served on the committee to review scholarships, grants and financial aid.
  • Texas A&M seeks students who have the skills to excel in a competitive academic environment, who bring a fresh perspective to their area of study, and who show a passion for ideas seen only in leaders.
  • The lecture began with a discourse on the professor's breakfast, which consisted of orange juice, a decaf latte, and ham and eggs.

committee names
Capitalize the names of committees.

  • The Academic Affairs Committee will meet tomorrow.

course work
Two words.

credit hours
Use numerals to refer to credit hours.

  • 3 credit hours

date
When referring to month and year, add a comma after the year unless it ends the sentence. However, do not add a comma following the month unless a date is used. Similarly, when referring to both a city and state, add a comma after the state.

  • Your memo of July 28, 2005, summarized the issue perfectly.
  • She graduated in May 2002.
  • After three years, she started to consider Stephenville, Texas, home.

dean's list
Lowercase.

doctor
Use Dr. on first reference as a formal title before the name of an individual who holds a doctorate in a medical field of study.

  • Dr. Katherine Banks

If appropriate in the text, Dr. also may be used on first reference before the names of individuals who hold other types of doctoral degrees. Since most readers identify Dr. only with physicians, make sure that the individual's specialty is mentioned in the first or second reference. Do not use Dr. on subsequent references, but rather, use the individual's last name. Also, do not use Dr. before the names of people who hold only honorary degrees.

 doctoral, doctorate (also see academic degrees)
Use doctoral as an adjective and doctorate as a noun.

  • She received her doctoral degree last Saturday.
  • She received her doctorate in English.

em dash
Put a space on both sides of the dash in all uses except the start of a paragraph.

  • Integrity — a Texas A&M core value — is central to the character of the university.

emeritus/emerita/emeritae/emeriti
Honorary title bestowed on select retired faculty members. Use emeritus when referring to men, and emerita for women. Emeritae is the plural feminine form; emeriti is plural for a group of men, or a group of men and women.

extension agent
Uppercase extension agent when used as a title before a name. In other uses, uppercase Extension (because it refers to the agency name) and lowercase agent.

  • Extension Agent Tasha Boggs is a 2005 graduate of Tarleton State University.
  • She attended the annual meeting of all Extension agents in College Station.

faculty
When used as a collective noun, faculty is singular.

  • The faculty at Texas A&M International University is known for preparing students for graduate school.

FAQ
Frequently asked questions. Spell it out in copy. If abbreviated in a headline, use all caps, with no apostrophe to make it plural.

  • The student referred to the website's frequently asked questions page for guidance.
  • FAQs

fiscal year
Do not capitalize when spelled out. When abbreviated, capitalize and put a space between FY and the year.

  • She planned to give all of her lottery winnings to the university in fiscal year 2006.
  • The university's FY 2012 budget will reflect her generous donation.

fundraising, fundraiser
One word in all cases.

grade point average/GPA
GPA is an acceptable abbreviation in all references.

grade point ratio/GPR
GPR is an acceptable abbreviation in all references.

grades
Use a capital letter when referring to a grade. When pluralizing, use an apostrophe before the s.

  • She made all A's last year.

half staff/half mast
Flags are lowered to half staff, not half mast.

international students
This phrase is preferred over foreign students.

Internet
Capitalize. Use Internet instead of 'Net or the Net.

land-grant university
Hyphenate when used as an adjective.

legislation
Refer to bills as House Bill 1 or Senate Bill 1, or as H.B. 1 or S.B. 1 (periods but no space between the letters, then a space between the letters and the number).

legislative
Do not capitalize this adjective unless it begins a sentence.

  • That is a legislative matter, not a judicial one.

legislative special item
Do not capitalize.

  • Texas A&M AgriLife Research requested a new special item for research support.

Legislature
Capitalize in all references to a particular legislative body, such as the Texas Legislature or the Legislature. Do not capitalize when it is used as a generic term.

  • The law-making body in a democracy is called a legislature.

matriculate
Matriculate means to enroll, not to graduate. Use this term sparingly in external communications since many readers outside academia may not be familiar with the term.

Nobel Prize
The correct designations are Nobel Prize in physics (as well as in physiology or medicine). But, it's the Nobel Peace Prize and Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics. A person who has received this prize is a Nobel laureate.

services
Offices' names ending in "services" take a plural verb.

  • Computing Services is located in College Station.

Spring Break
Capitalize. (also see capitalization)

state/federal
Capitalize when referring to a governmental entity, but not when referring to geographical areas or systems/theories of government.

  • The current State budget is the largest in history.
  • The student is from the state of Virginia.
  • The city is seeking federal aid to help with rebuilding costs.
  • The Federal government is not always a supporter of the federal system.

state abbreviations
Do not use the two-letter ZIP code abbreviations in text. Use the abbreviations below, as outlined by the Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual. Do not abbreviate Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah. Use the two-letter U.S. Postal Service abbreviations only with full addresses, including ZIP code.

telephone numbers
Be consistent with usage throughout a document, however you choose to write the number.

  • (979) 555-0000
  • 979-555-0000
  • 979.555.0000

titles
Capitalize a person's title when it precedes the name. Do not capitalize when it follows a name or stands by itself.

  • President Ray M. Keck III
  • Governor John Doe Jr. attended the game with his father, John Doe Sr.
  • John Sharp, chancellor of The Texas A&M University System, spoke at graduation.
  • The president of the faculty senate was late, but the chairman of the Board of Regents was on time.

trademarks
For the first mention of any trademarked brand, use the trade name followed by ® or ™. After the first mention, use the trade name without the ® or ™.

United States
Spell out as a noun; abbreviate (with no space between the letters) as an adjective.

  • The United States is a popular destination for foreign students.
  • The official U.S. policy has not changed.

-wide
Do not hyphenate systemwide when referring to the A&M System. Similarly, do not hyphenate statewide or nationwide. Hyphenate if the word preceding -wide is capitalized.

  • His achievements once were known only systemwide; today they are known Texas-wide.

work-study
Lowercase and hyphenate.

years
In most cases, use the full four digits. Occasionally, the use of only the last two digits is preferred. Do not use an apostrophe to indicate spans of decades or centuries (e.g., 1980s, the 1900s).

  • Enrollment for fall 2011 rose sharply.
  • He graduated in the 1980s.
  • The Legislature is working on appropriations for the 2005-2006 biennium.
  • We have plenty of travel money for FY 2006.
  • The banner read, "The Class of '72 welcomes you to Corpus Christi."