The Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District’s printed materials and web content communicate a message to the public and that message can be positive if publications look sharp and are clear and grammatical. Districtwide consistency in writing style conveys the subtle but direct message that we know what we are doing around here – and we take pride in it.
Following is a collection of rules, guidelines, words and writing challenges with which people often wrestle, as well as terms and labels specific to the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District. In general terms, this guide follows the Associated Press Stylebook.
Help the Reader
People read web pages and blog posts more like a newspaper than a book. They scan for information. Make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for.
Use a Conversational Tone
While any faculty member at any college or university is highly educated and steeped in research, and while many of our professors and administrators have earned a Ph.D., keep your reader in mind when writing. Your audience includes high school students and parents who have emigrated from other countries. Keep it simple. Avoid jargon. And avoid the alphabet soup of acronyms that only an academic familiar with the inner workings of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District might be familiar with.
Abbreviate the words `avenue,’ `boulevard,’ and `street’ in numbered addresses, but not when used without numbers. Other words, such as `drive,’ `road,’ `lane,’ and `parkway’ are always spelled in full.
EXAMPLE: You’ll find Grossmont College on Grossmont College Drive. The address is 8800 Grossmont College Drive.
Cuyamaca College is at 900 Rancho San Diego Parkway in El Cajon.
San Diego City Hall is at 202 C St. (abbreviate `street’ with a specific address.)
San Diego City Hall is on C Street. (spell out `street’ when not with a specific address.)
When a month is used in a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept. Oct., Nov. and Dec. Spell out all months when using without a date or with a year alone.
EXAMPLE: A sale is slated for Feb. 3, 2012.
February 2007 was our biggest month ever.
While everyone who works in the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District knows that an AA degree stands for associate of arts, many people perusing our website do not. To many people, AA may mean something else, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or the Automobile Association. Thus, it is best to avoid abbreviations when referring to a degree. That said, if you do abbreviate, here are some examples of how to do so:
MBA, Ph.D., B.A, B.S., AA, AS
AA-T - Associate in Arts for Transfer
AS-T - Associate in Science for Transfer
OK: He had an A.A. in political science.
Preferred: He had an associate of arts degree in communications.
OK: He has a Ph.D in physics.
Preferred: He has a doctorate in physics.
Community colleges offer an Associate Degree, not an Associate's Degree or the Associates Degree.
Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District should always be spelled out on first reference, though GCCCD or District is preferred on second reference. Always spell out Grossmont College and Cuyamaca College.
In general, avoid unnecessary capitals. Use a capital letter only if you could justify it. For example, always capitalize a proper noun. And remember, brand names are proper nouns.
He threw the trash in a Dumpster.
He grabbed a Kleenex.
Don’t capitalize generic nouns unless they are part of a proper name.
Do you know what committee on which she serves?
She is serving on the Citizens Advisory Committee.
He is the former president of the college.
Capitalize references to specific departments, but not general references.
Music Department members are involved in computer technology.
Each department is invited to make suggestions for improvement.
Capitalize the word `building’ or 'room' when it is used in a specific reference.
Student Services is located in Building 10. You’ll find Ornamental Horticulture in Room M-105.
Capitalize subjects such as art, geography and accounting only if part of a specific department or a specific course. Do not capitalize a subject when discussing a major.
She is a psychology major and plans to enroll in Psychology of Women this fall.
The Psychology Department will hold a meeting on Friday.
Wrong: He is studying Business Administration.
He has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science.
Capitalize a season only if the word is part of a title: Pick up a copy of the Grossmont College Class Schedule, Fall 2015 if you are interested in finding out what courses are offered during the fall 2015 semester.
In titles and subtitles used in fliers on documents and other papers, capitalize the first and last words and all other words except articles (a, an, the), the coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet) and prepositions four or fewer letters long (including on, at, by, in, of); capitalize the first word following a colon.
Example: Looking Back: A Chronicle of the Sixties.
Capitalize “office” only when it is used as part of a formal name:
Financial Aid Office
Public Information Office
Admissions and Records Office
Job titles are capitalized only when they precede a name and only if the title is specific, rather than generic:
Science instructor Leslie Snider (generic title) will give the lecture.
Facilities Director Don Skelton (specific title) will lead the tour.
The design will be created by Patti Gollong, a graphics coordinator.
Cuyamaca College President John Smith
John Smith, president of Cuyamaca College.
Capitalize the second part of a hyphenated word only when that word is part of a title or when both words are proper nouns:
Please refer to the Bond Oversight Committee’s Five-Year Construction Plan.
Five-year plans are useful.
He belongs to an African-American organization.
Use lower case when using part of a title on second reference:
The Grossmont College Foundation is working on a noteworthy project. The foundation has been successful in its efforts.
Capitalize Words in Headlines
All major words in a headline should be capitalized, except for:
Capitalize the first and last word in the headline, even if it violates the rule above
Other notes on capitalization:
Internet is capitalized; website is not.
Academic Senate is capitalized
Words such as `college’ and `university’ are lower case unless they are part of a complete name, such as San Diego State University or Cuyamaca College.
Parking Lot 1A; parking lots 1A and 2C
Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges. Not Grossmont and Cuyamaca Colleges.
GPA (grade point average also is acceptable)
Use of Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges
Always strive to write Grossmont College and Cuyamaca College on all references, though it is OK to refer to the “college” on subsequent references.
Cuyamaca College has been ranked as a top veteran-friendly school. The college is the first choice for many local veterans and military dependents.
Common words and phrases
Correct form/spelling of commonly used words and phrases
biannual (every other year)
child care (example: We need child care)
child-care (example: This is a child-care facility)
collegewide (not college-wide. Nationwide, not nation-wide)
ext. (when used with a number; otherwise spell it out)
flier (not flyer)
fund raising (example: We believe in fund raising)
its (example: Its value is apparent)
it’s (a contraction for `it is’ or `it has’)
no credit (example: I took the class for no credit instead of a grade)
part time (example: I work part time)
percent (spell it out; don’t use %)
self study (example: The college participated in a self study)
self-study (example: The self-study survey was lengthy)
semiannual (twice a year)
Note: Many compound constructions are only hyphenated in the adjective form. Examples: Students live off campus because there is no on-campus housing. Our part-time students also often work part time.
Some acronyms – such as PTA and CIA – are so well known that it is not necessary to write out what they stand for on first reference. For other acronyms, spell out the full name on first reference followed by the acronym in parenthesis; the acronym may be used alone in subsequent references:
The Strategic Planning for Information Technology Committee (SPIT) has been working on the issue for months. Shar Jorgensen chairs the SPIT Committee.
Note: Be careful about making alphabet soup in sentences with plenty of acronyms.
Do not use periods in acronyms.
Use a.m. and p.m., not AM and PM.
Avoid superfluous letters and numbers
The show starts at 5 p.m. (not 5:00 p.m.)
The catalog costs $5. (not $5.00)
The show runs through Dec. 6 (not Dec. 6th)
The program runs from 7-9 p.m. (not 7 p.m.-9 p.m.)
COMMAS. Be careful about becoming comma-tose. There are many grammatical rules for comma usage, but what follows is just a partial list regarding the most common usages.
Use commas between the date and the year, but not between the season or the month of the year:
Classes for the spring 2015 semester are going well. Classes began Jan. 19, 2012. We hope that by May of 2012 we will have our files in order.
When a date appears in the middle of a sentence, follow the year with a comma:
Classes that began on Jan 19, 2012, have been full since the registration began.
Commas ALWAYS go inside quotation marks.
“If you fail to complete your assignment by the due date, you will fail the course,” said the professor.
When a conjunction such as and, but or for links two clauses that could stand alone as separate sentences, use a comma before the conjunction when the subject of each clause is expressly stated (e.g., She was glad she found a more convenient flight, but she was disappointed that there were no seats left in first class). Do not use a comma when the subject of the two clauses is the same and is not repeated in the second clause (e.g., She was glad she had found a more convenient flight but disappointed that there were no seats left in first class).
Use a comma to attribute a full quote:
President Smith said, “This is the most beneficial class any student has ever taken.”
Use a commas before and after a descriptive phrase in a sentence. “LaHoma Satterfly, secretary in the Public Information Office, has a long work history at the college.”
Use an apostrophe to indicate the omission of letters and numbers:
The ‘90s brought many changes to education.
Apostrophes are not needed when referring to plural letters (he received straight As), plural numbers (there are too many 9s in this report) or words (no ifs, ands or buts about it). However, if confusion can result from the lack of an apostrophe, use one. (Example: He never does cross his t’s.)
Other rules for apostrophes:
In a series, use semicolons instead of colons if any item in the series requires commas:
The play is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 4; Saturday, Dec. 5; and Sunday, Dec. 6.
Hyphenate two or more words used as an adjective. “The newspaper’s back-to-school issue was full of ads.
Be careful about using exclamation points! Exclamation points should be used sparingly! And never use more than one exclamation point!! It looks silly!!!
Spell out any number that begins a sentence or rework the sentence so that this is not necessary. Do not begin a sentence with a numeral.
One hundred people attended.
Approximately 100 people attended.
Always use figures for a person’s age, except at the start of a sentence (which should be avoided anyway)
He is 50 years old.
She’s a healthy 4-year-old child.
Use figures with percentages and do not use the % symbol except in tables.
Expenses are up 25 percent.
Use figures with million or billion
A $1.5 million grant. More than 1 billion people.
Note: Generally speaking, write out as words numbers less than 10 and use numerals for 10 and over. Exceptions are made if the number starts a sentence.
Avoid consistently using “he” or “his” to replace “he or she” or “his or hers.” Consider rewriting the sentence to avoid the problem.
Each student should submit his or her application to Admissions and Records.
Students should submit their applications to Admissions and Records.
She is the chair of the department (not chairwoman, chairman or chairperson).
Other common problems
Subject/verb agreement can be tricky, especially when a clause or phrase separates the subject from the verb.
Incorrect: The highway that runs through these isolated mountain towns are steep and narrow.
Correct: The highway that runs through these isolated mountain towns is steep and narrow.
Incorrect: The pleasures of traveling through the country includes getting away from it all and enjoying the scenery.
Correct: The pleasures of traveling through the country include getting away from it all and enjoying the scenery.
Make sure your pronoun agrees with what precedes it in the sentence:
Incorrect: A student should have their ID card handy.
Better: Students should have their ID cards handy.