Editorial Style Guide
The following guide serves as an effective resource and provides writers and editors with clear, consistent guidelines for writing about San Diego State University. With few exceptions, SDSU uses the Associated Press Stylebook (AP Stylebook) to define its editorial standards for published content. The AP Stylebook, a writing guide for journalists, is used broadly by other universities for communication and news writing. Our goal with the university’s style guide is to present a consistent and high standard of writing that appropriately reflects SDSU’s excellence.
If you have questions or feedback about SDSU’s Editorial Style Guide, please contact Strategic Communications and Public Affairs by emailing [email protected].
Academic degrees: When spelling out degrees, lowercase bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate; but capitalize Bachelor of Arts, Master of Science.
In text, academic degrees when used in a general sense are not capitalized. (SDSU offers bachelor's and master's degrees.) You can also use “bachelor’s” or “master’s” on its own when an informal tone is appropriate, but do not capitalize. Include the apostrophe.
Degree abbreviations: Use periods in the abbreviations of B.A., B.S., M.A., M.S., J.D., Ed.D. and Ph.D. as AP Stylebook dictates. Omit periods from three-word degrees such as MFA, MBA, MPH. The abbreviation for a Doctorate of Humane Letters, an honorary degree, is LHD. Revised 3/29/22.
For campus notices and formal letters and invitations, include the advanced degrees (Ph.D. or equivalent) of all co-signers. Do not include courtesy titles (i.e. Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss) in the body of campus notices, and reserve the use of “Dr.” for the use of individuals who have medical degrees for editorial, per AP, only. The use of “Dr.” is permitted for formal letters, email notices and invitations.
See listing in AP Stylebook for additional detail for editorial writing.
For formal, administrative messages, including those from the Offices of the President and Provost, the use of “Dr.” preceding the name of M.D. holders is permitted. Use of “Ph.D.” after an individual’s signature or title also is permitted.
See Names and Titles for style on identifying doctorate holders.
Academic majors, minors and courses: Lowercase all majors except those containing proper nouns. (His major is English; her major is engineering. Sue is majoring in Asian studies.) General subjects are lowercase (algebra, chemistry), but the names of specific courses are capitalized (Algebra I, Introduction to Sociology, Religious Studies 320).
Academic years and terms: Lowercase words designating academic terms and years (first-year, sophomore, junior, senior, fall semester, fall 2019).
Acronyms: Spell out San Diego State University on the first reference and without (SDSU) in parentheses. SDSU or “the university” (no capitalization) is acceptable for all subsequent references. Do not shorten to San Diego State (except in quotes).
Include an acronym after a full name, such as Engineering and Interdisciplinary Science (EIS), only if the acronym is being used again later in the text or is more widely known by the initials than the spelled-out name. In some cases it may be preferable to use the acronym or abbreviated name first, followed by the full name in parentheses. Smith was accepted into the MESA (Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement) Program.
Ages: Do not identify subjects by age unless it is directly relevant to the subject. Examples would include a child participating in a research study or community program, or someone earning a degree at a very advanced age. Typically, students’ ages are not used. Ages are appropriate for obituaries.
Alumni: SDSU only uses the term alumna or alumnus when an individual has earned a formal degree or certificate from the university. The university will indicate that an individual has “attended” SDSU if they took courses, but did not earn a degree or certificate from SDSU. The university, however, acknowledges in its overall use of the term “alumni” that this broad term includes individuals who have earned a degree or certificate, and those who attended, but never earned a degree or certificate from SDSU.
- alumna—singular female who earned a degree or certificate
- alumnae—plural female who have earned degrees or certificates
- alumni—plural male only or male and female, no matter their degree completion at SDSU (refers to those, in the aggregate, who took at least one SDSU course)
- alumnus—singular male who has earned a degree or certificate
Do not use alum or alums in writing.
In alumni features, follow the popular convention of listing a two-digit graduation year (and sometimes degree) after the person’s name. Joe Smith (’79, B.S., biology) unless these details are to be used later in the article. SDSU acknowledges that when using alumni as a general term, and in the aggregate, individuals have either earned a SDSU degree or certificate, or have taken at least one course at SDSU without earning a degree or certificate.
Ampersand (&): Do not use the “&” sign as a substitute for the word “and.” At SDSU the “&” is almost never part of the official name of a department, school or college even if it appears that way in their publications and web pages. It is the College of Arts and Letters, University Relations and Development, Hospitality and Tourism Management. Do not use a “+” symbol in School of Art and Design. Exceptions at SDSU include:
- Analytic Studies & Institutional Research
- Center for Communication, Health & the Public Good
- Counseling & Psychological Services
- SDSU Well-being & Health Promotio
- Student Life & Leadership
Antisemitism, Antisemitic: Write as one word and lowercase: "antisemitism" and "antisemitic." A change from previous style (anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic).
Arts Alive SDSU: Include “SDSU” in any first reference to distinguish from a San Diego Museum of Art program with a similar name.
Associated Students: Spell out on first reference. Abbreviated as “A.S.,” with periods. SDSU’s student governance organization and an independent, student-directed corporation operating as a non-profit auxiliary of CSU. Its full-time, professional staff is led by an executive director.
Aztec: The civilization known historically as the Aztecs were Nahua people; their language was Nahuatl. Nahuatl is still spoken today by Indigenous Mexicans.
Black: Capitalize Black as a racial identifier for people, community or culture. “Black” refers to those of the African diaspora and within Africa and is not synonymous with “African American;” it reflects the shared cultures and experiences of Black people and is inclusive of recent immigrants.
Do not use “Blacks,” “black Americans” or “Afro Americans.” “Black people” is appropriate. When ethnicity is relevant or a person chooses to self-identify, use the preferred ethnic identifier. “African American” does not have a hyphen.
Buildings: A building’s full name is necessary for people who may not frequent it, especially when identifying the location of an event. Adams Humanities, not AH. The word “building” is typically not part of the official name of SDSU buildings, so when it is necessary for context it should be lowercase, Professional Studies and Fine Arts building. Do not abbreviate the word “building.”
Campuswide, universitywide: One word, no hyphen.
California State University: Spell it out on first reference where possible. The abbreviated “CSU” system is acceptable for second reference.
The “CSU system” has 23 campuses; it is led administratively by a chancellor and governed by a Board of Trustees.
Mind the differences in campuses that go by CSU (location) vs. those that are (location) State University, and the use or nonuse of commas. Several campuses that are technically “California State University (location)” prefer to go by “(location) State” and we should try to respect this. Pomona and San Luis Obispo put the word “Polytechnic” in different places; “Cal Poly” is acceptable however for either one as long as it is followed by the geographic reference. San Marcos and two other campuses do not use commas.
As defined by the CSU, the formal names are:
- California State University, Bakersfield
- California State University Channel Islands
- California State University, Chico (campus preference: Chico State)
- California State University, Dominguez Hills
- California State University, East Bay (campus preference: Cal State East Bay)
- California State University, Fresno (campus preference: Fresno State)
- California State University, Fullerton
- California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt (campus preference: Cal Poly Humboldt)
- California State University, Long Beach
- California State University, Los Angeles (campus preference: Cal State LA)
- California State University Maritime Academy (campus preference: Cal Maritime)
- California State University, Monterey Bay
- California State University, Northridge
- California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
- California State University, Sacramento (campus preference: Sacramento State)
- California State University, San Bernardino
- San Francisco State University
- San José State University
- California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
- California State University San Marcos
- Sonoma State University
The CSU style guide supports using “The CSU campuses of Bakersfield, Humboldt, San Francisco,” etc., when listing a large number of campuses with different name styles.
The CSU Style Guide is located online.
Campanile Foundation, The: An official 501(c)(3) auxiliary that accepts and administers all gifts to SDSU. The acronym "TCF" may be used on second reference if added in parenthesis on first reference: "The Campanile Foundation (TCF)."
Captions: As a general rule, try always to identify every recognizable person in the photograph accompanying a news story unless they are being used in a stock and/or royalty free photos.
When describing an action depicted in the photo, use past tense. Former astronaut Ellen Ochoa toured the EIS building.
Commencement: Lowercase when using as a common noun. Every spring we look forward to commencement. Uppercase when it is the formal title, or part of the formal title, of an SDSU event. San Diego State University will host a Virtual Commencement Celebration.
Composition titles: AP Style: Titles of magazines, newspapers and journals are in a regular typeface without quotation marks or italics. Titles of books, movies, plays, poems, albums, songs, tv shows, podcasts, lectures, speeches and works of art are in quotation marks. Capitalize the in a newspaper's name if that is the way the publication prefers to be known. e.g., The San Diego Union-Tribune and the Los Angeles Times.
Copyright: If necessary, the format is “© 2020 San Diego State University”.
Course titles: Are capitalized whether used with a course number or in full. Hernandez enrolled in Astronomy 101. A new course this spring is Understanding Evil.
COVID-19: Stands for coronavirus disease 2019, which is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2. When referring specifically to the virus, the COVID-19 virus and the virus that causes COVID-19 are acceptable. Do not shorten to COVID, even in headlines, unless part of a quotation or proper name.
Dashes: Per AP, use em dashes (shift+option+minus on a Mac or insert+special character+em dash on a PC) not the narrower en dashes to signal abrupt change; as one option to set off a series within a phrase; before attribution to an author or composer in some formats; after datelines; and to start lists. Use spaces on both sides of the em dash, for example: She listed the qualities — intelligence, humor, independence — that she liked in an executive. AP uses hyphens, not en dashes, for ranges, such as Jan. 1-4. There should be no spaces surrounding a hyphen.
Dates: Identify upcoming events by time, day, date and location in that order. The program is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4, in Montezuma Hall. When referring to a month and date within the current year, do not include the year.
For dates, use Arabic figures, without st, nd, rd or th. (July 2 not July 2nd).
Spell out month names when using alone or with a year alone. With a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. (Aug. 10, 2019)
Degree abbreviations: See academic Degrees.
Departments (Campus): Capitalize the full, formal name (Department of History), but lowercase informal names (history department).
Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering: The comma after Construction is correct.
Em dashes: See Dashes.
Emeritus: Goes after the position: professor emeritus, president emeritus. Emeritus is a status conferred by the University Senate. A retired president is not automatically granted the title of president emeritus. Emerita may be used, per her preference, for a woman who is the former holder of an office.
En dashes: Don't use, per AP. See Dashes.
Eyay e’Hunn: Kumeyaay saying meaning "My heart is good."
First/biggest/only: Do not accept claims like this unless they are obvious on their face (example: first female president) or can be substantiated beyond any doubt.
Founder’s Day: March 13, 1897, marks SDSU’s founding. As of March 13, 2022, SDSU was 125 years old.
Fowler College of Business: Do not refer to the college as Business Administration.
Freshman: Avoid this term; use "first-year student" or similarly gender-neutral terminology. Sophomore, junior and senior are all acceptable.
Global Campus: SDSU Global Campus is the unit formerly known as SDSU World Campus (and previously the College of Extended Studies).
GPA: GPA is acceptable in all references for grade-point average.
Headlines: Should be composed with the intention of drawing readers or arousing their curiosity, and kept as short as is practical. In headlines it is typically not necessary to refer to SDSU.
A subhead or summary should not repeat information from the headline and ideally not use any of the same words.
Please use the CSU Style Guide for capitalizing words in headlines (see examples below):
Capitalize all nouns, pronouns, verbs (even the two-letter is), adjectives, adverbs and subordinating conjunctions (because, if, since, when, etc.). Lowercase articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, for, nor) and prepositions of three or fewer letters (of, for, at, in, by) should not be capitalized unless they are the first or last word of the title. Lowercase the infinitive to. The capitalization of as depends upon its function. If as is used as a preposition, it is lowercase; if as is used as an adverb, conjunction or pronoun, it is uppercase. (Most uses will be uppercase.)
Hispanic-Serving Institution: Hyphenate “Hispanic-Serving.” SDSU is an HSI, defined by federal law as an accredited, degree-granting, public or private nonprofit institution of higher education with 25% or more total undergraduate Hispanic full-time equivalent student enrollment.
Imperial Valley: Use “SDSU Imperial Valley” on first reference and wherever possible. There is no single Imperial Valley campus, it has sites both in Calexico (the principal site) and Brawley. Do not use “IVC,” and do not use “SDSU-Imperial Valley.”
Indigenous: Capitalize Indigenous in reference to original inhabitants of a place.
International Affairs: SDSU International Affairs is the unit previously known as SDSU Global Affairs.
Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank, The: Full name of the partner organization for Aztecs Rock Hunger. “The” and an ampersand are both parts of the complete name.
Job titles: Capitalize and spell out formal titles such as President, Assistant Vice President, etc., when they precede a name.
Lowercase after a name. Exceptions: If a job title appears after a name in an address, in a letter signature, in a display/list format or on a separate line in a pull quote attribution.
Long job titles should be used after the name. Smith, associate vice president of…,
In general, do not precede a faculty member’s name with Professor or Prof. or another academic position. Instead, use it in a descriptive form. Joe Smith, a biology professor. Where possible, avoid the academic position altogether: SDSU biologist Joe Smith…
Kumeyaay: SDSU recognizes that the university resides on Kumeyaay land through a Land Acknowledgement formalized in 2019. A Land Acknowledgement is a formal statement that recognizes and respects Indigenous peoples as traditional stewards of a given geographic area and the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their ancestral territories. Per AP guidelines, and in line with the SDSU style guide, please do not use “Indian” in reference to American Indians, Indigenous or Native American peoples.
More information is available on the Land Acknowledgment page on the Student Affairs and Campus Diversity website.
Latinx: Use in place of Latino, Latina, Hispanic, Chicano/a and Mexican-American unless the subject prefers a different term or if the alternate word is part of a proper name or title, a direct quote or is being used in a historical context. Plural form: Latinxs. This change was adopted at SDSU on Sept. 3, 2019.
LGBTQIA+: Acceptable for all references to the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer or questioning/intersex/ally (or asexual) community. The I, A, and + can be considered optional depending on source preference.
Library: Use San Diego State University Library on first reference. It consists of two buildings: the Malcolm A. Love Library, completed in 1970, and the Love Library Addition, the underground extension completed in 1997 and featuring a glass dome. "SDSU Library" or "University Library" are acceptable on second reference to the combined library facility. Only use "Love Library" in specific reference to the original structure, not the combined library facility. "Library Addition" may be used without "Love" when Love Library has already been referenced.
Logos: Consult Logos on Brand Central for information on the proper use of SDSU logos.
Mascot: SDSU does not have a mascot. In 2018, following deliberations on the university's Aztec identity, SDSU ended the use of the Aztec Warrior as a mascot. At that time, the Aztec Warrior was newly identified as a Spirit Leader but, in 2021, this was also retired. References to the mascot should be placed in a historic context. Additional information is available on the Aztec Identity site. See also the entry below for Monty.
Measurements: We typically use U.S. measurements and not the metric system. It is sometimes necessary to use metric references in science and research stories, especially if a researcher has rounded off to 100 kilometers, for instance. Consider adding the U.S. measurement in parentheses. Measurements should be consistent within individual stories.
Middle initials: In general, avoid the use of a middle initial unless the subject is someone commonly identified by the initial in normal usage (Michael J. Fox).
Mission Valley: See SDSU Mission Valley.
Monty: The use of this nickname for SDSU’s mascot and for faculty and alumni awards ended in 2018 as part of a decision for a more dignified approach to Aztec identity. Do not reference awards given before 2018 as Montys, even if they were bestowed as such. They may be called faculty excellence awards. Same rule applies to the Zuma awards previously given to staff.
Named facilities: For facilities, buildings, programs and professorships (or dean positions) that have been named for a sponsor or donor, always use the complete name. Fowler School of Business, Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union, the Lee & Frank Goldberg Courtyard, Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre. In second (and subsequent) references, a lowercase form without the proper names may be considered (the courtyard).
Names and titles: If mention of academic degrees is necessary to establish someone’s credentials, the preferred form is to use it in a phrase, such as, John Jones, who has a doctorate in psychology and not John Jones, Ph.D.
Do not use “Dr.” before a name; the few exceptions (typically for practicing medical degrees and for formal, administrative communications) are in the AP Stylebook, are very rare at SDSU and are used only on first reference. Use within quotes, however, is fine. “Dr. Schwartz is a fine researcher,” President Alfredo Martinez said.
See Headlines for additional information on words to capitalize.
Noon, midnight: Per AP style, do not use “12 a.m.” or “12 p.m.” or “12 noon” or “12 midnight.” Instead, in referencing this time of day, use “noon” or “midnight.” See Time for further clarity.
People of color, racial minority (new): Per AP Style, and in line with the SDSU style guide, the terms "people of color" and "racial minority/minorities" are generally acceptable terms to describe people of races other than white in the United States. Avoid POC.
When talking about just one group, be specific: "Chinese Americans" or "members of the Kumeyaay," for example. Avoid referring to an individual as a minority.
Percent: In 2019, AP changed its stylebook to support using the % sign with all numerals.
Phone numbers: See Telephone numbers.
Photo credits: In NewsCenter, the format is (Photo: Scott Hargrove) in parentheses as part of the caption. The magazine will have a different format.
Program: Capitalize the word program only when it is part of the formal name (see alternate uses as examples: International Student Mentor Program, Aztec Mentor Program, Presidential Scholars program).
Q&A: For interviews presented in a Q&A (transcript) format, write the questions in bold and the answers in a regular typeface. It is not necessary to begin entries in the text with the letters Q. and A. or to number the questions, nor to use quotation marks for either section.
Rankings: To identify a spot in a list of rankings, we use No. 7, No. 8, etc., and not the # symbol, ordinals or 7th, 8th, etc.
RedID: No spaces. Can refer either to the personal identification number assigned to all SDSU students and employees or the card identification card itself.
Reserve Officers’ Training Corps: ROTC is acceptable in all references. When the service is specified, use Army ROTC, Navy ROTC or Air Force ROTC, not AROTC or AFROTC.
Residence hall: The preferred term for living spaces once known as dormitories or dorms (words which were derived from the Latin term for sleep). SDSU’s Nahuatl names should not be referenced by their nicknames or colloquial names, even in quotes, no matter how widely used they may be or whether they were used in other SDSU publications. These nicknames are disparaging to Aztec identity.
Said/says: In NewsCenter and newsletter storytelling, the past tense is preferred. “Said” is best used after the first sentence in a quote; avoid using long quotes (multiple sentences) in which the speaker is not immediately obvious. In general, it is best to avoid such substitutes as “admitted,” “explained,” “or “remarked,” although “added” is a good way to continue a long quote into a second paragraph (of two sentences or more). The use of “says” is generally found in narrative storytelling. Please use consistent form of “said” or “says” throughout a single article, without interchanging the use of these terms.
San Diego communities: Where possible, identify off-campus locations within the City of San Diego by community. Downtown is capitalized. A map of the city’s official planning district boundaries can be found on the city’s Community Profiles site.
The College Area may be referred to as “near SDSU.”
San Diego State University: Always spell out San Diego State University on first reference and without putting (SDSU) in parentheses. SDSU or “the university” (no capitalization) is acceptable for all SDSU subsequent references. Do not shorten to San Diego State.
SDSU campuses: The 2020-25 Strategic Plan identifies SDSU as a multi-campus university of equal parts. It consists of a San Diego campus, SDSU Imperial Valley, SDSU Georgia, SDSU Global Campus, a future SDSU Mission Valley, regional microsites at community colleges and other "programs around the globe and online." Under this concept there is no main campus. To avoid confusion with San Diego Mesa College, do not refer to a Mesa campus. "The mesa" may be used sparingly in an offhand manner to reference the tract of land known as Montezuma Mesa; most suitably for athletics articles.
School of Theatre, Television, and Film: The comma after Television is correct.
SDCCU Stadium: See San Diego Stadium.
SDSU Mission Valley: The expansion of SDSU under development in and around the Mission Valley stadium site. Do not use SDSU West as it refers to the ballot initiative and is not the name of the campus expansion. Do not refer to the development as the "SDSU Mission Valley project". "SDSU Mission Valley Innovation District" is correct for the first reference and "SDSU Innovation District" for second reference.
See SDSU Timeline for a brief history of SDSU.
San Marcos: A North County satellite campus of SDSU opened at a middle school in Vista in 1979 and moved to an office building in San Marcos in 1982. California State University San Marcos, was established by legislation signed in 1989 and began operating from the former SDSU satellite location in 1990. The permanent location opened in 1992. To learn more, visit the CSU San Marcos Campus History site.
Seasons: Use lowercase fall, spring, etc. in conjunction with the particular season, year or semester.
Student-athlete: With a hyphen to conform to NCAA style. Can be used generically to refer to any student participating in an NCAA sport. At SDSU, “scholar-athlete” is an award bestowed upon individuals who have maintained a specified GPA. Neither student-athlete or scholar-athlete should be capitalized.
Telephone numbers: Use the form 619-594-5200 without parentheses for the area code. (AP Stylebook) Do not use periods instead of hyphens. Always include the area code as it is needed for all local dialing in San Diego County.
Theater, theatre: Use the American spelling of theater unless Theatre is part of a proper name or program. At SDSU this includes the School of Theatre, Television, and Film, the Don Powell Theatre, the Little Theatre, the Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre, the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union Theatre and all of the undergraduate and graduate theatre degree programs.
The History of SDSU: The institution now known as SDSU was established March 13, 1897, as the San Diego Normal School, and has operated under several names since then. It is permissible to use SDSU in a sweeping historical context, such as “SDSU’s 123-year history.” In general, however, be careful to use the correct name with the moment in time being referenced. You cannot say, Jane Smith graduated from SDSU in 1970. Instead, Jane Smith graduated in 1970 from San Diego State College or “…what was then…” if appropriate for context. For convenience you can say SDSU has had nine presidents, but not that Samuel Black was the first president of SDSU.
This also applies to departments that have changed their names over the years.
These are the names and dates of SDSU through history:
- 1897 (founding): San Diego Normal School. (The word “state” was not part of the name).
- July 28, 1921: San Diego State Teachers College (full, official name).
- September 15, 1935: San Diego State College.
- June 1, 1972: California State University, San Diego. During the brief period in which this was the official name, San Diego State University also was unofficially but widely used.
- Jan. 1, 1974: San Diego State University (official name change).
They/them/their: Third-person, singular pronouns for non-binary individuals or by the preference of the source. Please ask how people would prefer to be identified.
Time: Use lowercase a.m. and p.m. with periods. Always use figures, with a space between the time and the a.m. or p.m. Also, when referring to an exact hour do not include the “:00” and instead, use “11 p.m.” For time ranges, use a hyphen with no spaces: 9-11 a.m.
Titles: See Composition titles; Course titles; Job titles; Names and titles.
Trademarks: Do not use the symbols © or ™ in running text.
University of California San Diego: University of California San Diego recently rebranded and no longer includes a comma after “California.” Always spell out on first reference. Please use “UCSD” on subsequent references.
University Police should be referenced as the “San Diego State University Police Department,” not merely University Police. Please use “UPD” on subsequent references.
University Senate: The University Senate is a delegate assembly at SDSU that represents university faculty, administration, students and staff, sets educational policy and advises the president. It is headed by a chair. Avoid the use of “Faculty Senate,” given the broad representation.
For a more detailed description, consult the Senate Constitution, known as the policy file. The corresponding CSU body is the Academic Senate.
Wallace, Shatsky, Blackburn, Courage Through Cancer Fund: The commas are part of the official and legal name of the fund, established in September 2018 by Tammy Blackburn to aid students affected by the disease.
Website addresses: Use simple internet addresses such as “sdsu.edu” within the story or body copy, or list sites for additional information at the end of the written piece. More complicated URLs should be referenced with a hyperlink. (For more information, visit SDSU.edu; do not use “click here” in the hyperlink).
We Rise We Defy: Do not include a comma in the main title of SDSU's strategic plan, "We Rise We Defy: Transcending Borders, Transforming Lives."
White: Do not capitalize white as a racial reference. This is consistent with AP Stylebook.
X-ray: Capitalize X and hyphenate; not x-ray or xray.
Years, academic: Use the following style:
2019-20. The only exception would be 1999-2000.
Zuma: See Monty.