This Writing Style Guide is designed to give helpful guidance to the Eastern University community concerning common questions. Many guidelines are based on the NY Times Manual of Style and Usage. For visual guidelines, view our Brand Guide.

Guidance for Academic Degrees

Academic Degrees:

  • Use lowercase when referring to degrees in a general way:
    •  Mary has a bachelor’s degree from Harvard
  • Use uppercase when writing out a full degree:
    • He earned his Master of Arts in Theology.
  • Apostrophe use: 
    • associate degree, not associate’s degree
    • bachelor’s degree, master’s degree
    • doctorate and doctoral degree
  • Omit periods in Marketing & Communications materials and on the web for abbreviated degrees:
    • AA, BA, BS, BSW, MS, MBA, MSW, MEd, PhD

Degree Years after Names:

  • Use a backwards apostrophe before the year.
  • Only the year is needed for undergraduate degrees. 
  • For graduate degrees, use a comma between the name and the degree.
  • For multiple degrees, use multiple commas.
  • Examples:
    • Sally Thomas '18
    • Trevor Jenkins, MBA '22
    • Maria Martinez '12, MBA '14, PhD '22


Grammatical Guidance


  • Keep letters lowercase. Minutes are not needed for the head of the hour:
    • 10 a.m. not 10:00 a.m.
    • 7:30 p.m.


  • Use the serial (Oxford) comma in a list of three or more:
    • I filled my basket with apples, oranges, and pears.


  • It’s = a contraction meaning “it is.”
    • It's a beautiful day today.
  • Its = possessive.
    • The tree lost its branches.

Quotation Marks:

  • Periods and commas always go INSIDE quotation marks. If inner and outer quotation marks are closing side by side, the period or comma precedes all the marks. Example:
    • She said, “Buy me a copy of ‘Treasure Island.’”
  • Colons and semicolons go OUTSIDE all closing quotation marks.
    •  He defined “missiology”: the study of God’s mission on earth.
  • Question marks and exclamation points may come before or after quotation marks, depending on whether the symbol applies to the entire sentence or just the quoted material.
    • Have you read “The Color Purple”?
    • The crowd shouted, “Long live the king!”


  • Use that for a restrictive clause -- a clause necessary to the reader’s understanding of the sentence. (There should be no commas around the clause.)
    • Eastern is the school that he chose.
  • Use which in a nonrestrictive clause -- one providing added information, not essential to understanding. (Precede which by a comma.)
    • Eastern, which is in St. Davids, is his alma mater. 


  • Use who or whom to refer to people. Use that or which to refer to objects.
    • She is the professor who won the award.
    • We love our alumni, who serve our community faithfully.

Toward, not “towards”


  • You’re = a contraction meaning “you are.”
    • You're our top choice.
  • Your = possessive.
    • Your lights are on.

Common University Words: Correct Spellings

  • alumna (female); alumnae (female plural)
  • alumnus (masculine); alumni (masculine plural or mixed group)
  • biblical (capitalize Bible but not biblical)
  • campus (lowercase), even when used as St. Davids campus
  • capital (city); capitol (building)
  • catalog
  • database
  • Dean’s List
  • Eastern University
    • When referring to Eastern University, capitalize "the University." But the general use of "a university" should NOT be capitalized.
  • email
  • freshman: Try to use "first-year student" but when you can’t, remember that “freshmen” is plural except when used as an adjective (“freshman year”)
  • full time (noun and adverb); full-time (adjective)
  • healthcare (one word)
  • inner city (noun); inner-city (adjective)
  • McInnis Learning Center
  • multi (most compounds formed with multi are one word, such as multicultural)
  • nonprofit
  • online
  • Scripture (capitalized)
  • software
  • sophomore
  • theatre (not theater, per the EU department)
  • versus
  • vita (singular) vitae (plural)
  • worldview (one word)
  • Waterwheel (one word)