Copy Style Guide

These guidelines have been assembled using the Associated Press Stylebook as a primary authority because so much of our writing is intended for external audiences. As matters of style and usage continue to evolve, we will review and update the guide as needed.


academic advisor

Academic Career & Transfer Center
Capitalize the name of this center and use an ampersand (&). ACT Center is OK on second reference.

Academic Catalog
Capitalize the name of this college publication

academic counselor

academic degrees
associate degree (singular) or associate degrees (plural). No apostrophes.

  • Associate in Arts, AA
  • Associate in Science, AS

bachelor's degree or bachelor's (singular), bachelor's degrees (plural)

  • Bachelor of Arts, BA
  • Bachelor of Business Administration, BBA
  • Bachelor of Education, BEd
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts, BFA
  • Bachelor of Science, BS

master's degree or master's (singular), master's degrees (plural)

  • Master of Accounting, MAcc
  • Master of Architecture, MArch
  • Master of Arts, MA
  • Master of Business Administration, MBA
  • Master of Education, MEd
  • Master of Fine Arts, MFA
  • Master of Public Administration, MPA
  • Master of Public Health, MPH
  • Master of Science, MS
  • Master of Social Work, MSW

Ph.D. and Ed.D.
When used after a name, an academic abbreviation is set off by commas. John Jones, Ph.D., spoke.

academic departments
Capitalize the formal names of academic departments: Department of Chemistry, Department of English.

Do not capitalize names of academic departments that begin with the subject (except language departments): chemistry department, English department.

academic titles
Capitalize and spell out formal titles such as chancellor, chairman, etc., when they precede a name. Lowercase elsewhere.

Lowercase modifiers such as department in department Chairwoman Jane Wiesner.

Note: MCC uses Dr. as a courtesy title for a person holding a doctorate degree.

Acronyms are acceptable on first reference only when they are easily recognizable, such as FBI.

Spell out names on first reference (with acronym in parentheses); use acronym on second reference:

He received a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH is one of the worlds foremost research centers.

acting, former
Don't capitalize in a formal name.

She said acting Dean John Doe would be there. He introduced former MCC President Jane Doe.

Advising Schedule(s)
Capitalize the name of this college publication (formerly known as the Semester Schedule)

advisory boards
lowercase; capitalize proper name of college advisory body:
Graphic Design Advisory Board; Dental Programs Advisory Board; but: Mary Smith serves on several advisory boards.

African American
No hyphen

Always use numerals. Hyphenate only when the age is used as an adjective before a noun or as a replacement for a noun:
The 3-year-old girl. The competition is for 10-year-olds.
Sally Smith, 41, lives in Bedford. That book is 4 years old.

alma mater
Use lowercase when describing the college one attended.

Headed by Osama bin Laden until his death by U.S. forces in Pakistan in May 2011

Alternative Spring Break
Capitalize this formal service program

alumna, alumnae, alumni, alumnus
alumna - singular, female
alumnae - plural, women only
alumni - plural, men only or men and women
alumnus - singular, male
alum - singular, male or female; appropriate only in informal contexts

a.m., p.m.
Lowercase with periods. Try to avoid being redundant:
3 p.m. in the afternoon.

among, between
Use "among" when referring to more than two people or things. Use "between" to refer to only two people or things.

ampersand (&)
Avoid unless part of an official name.

Do not use unless it refers to an event that has happened at least two years in a row. Never use the term "first annual."

Asian American
No hyphen

Asian American Connections Center

Located on the Lowell Campus (Cowan Center, off the Lowell Campus Cafeteria); offers programs and activities to engage Asian American students.

Assembly Room
The community meeting room in MCC's Federal Building. In a sentence:
The event will be held in MCC's Federal Building Assembly Room.

award, fellowship, scholarship
Capitalize when used with a formal name. Lowercase when referring to more than one formally named award, scholarship or fellowship.

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bachelor's degree, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science
See academic degrees for guidelines.

Not backwards.

Bedford campus
Do not capitalize "campus"
Address: 591 Springs Road, Bedford, MA 01730

Bedford Campus Café East
Use caps, it's the name of a room.

Bedford Campus Cafeteria

Bedford Campus Center
Use caps, it's a building on the Bedford campus.

Bedford Campus Library
Located in Academic Resources (Building 1)

Bedford Campus Student Lounge
Located in Campus Center, first floor

Bedford Campus Quad

between, among
See among, between.

Refers to twice each year; "semiannual" may also be used.

Refers to once every two years.

Board of Trustees
Capitalize, use "board" after first reference.

hyphenate: A book-signing will follow the presentation.

building names and building codes
Always uppercase

Lowell Campus

  • Cowan Center (LC)
  • Derby Building (LD)
  • Federal Building (LF)
  • Howe Building (LH)
  • Lowell Middlesex Academy Charter School (LMACS)
  • Merrimack Building (LM)
  • Pollard Building (LP)
  • Talbot Building (LT)

Bedford Campus

  • Academic Resources (AR) (Building 1)
  • Bedford House (BH) (Building 5)
  • Campus Center (CC) (Building 8)
  • Cataldo Administration Building (CA) (Building 10)
  • Enrollment Center (EC) (Building 9)
  • Facilities Management (FM) (Building 11)
  • Farm House (FH) (Building 2)
  • Henderson Hall (HH) (Building 3)
  • North Academic (NA) (Building 6)
  • South Academic (SA) (Building 7)
  • Trustees' House (TH) (Building 4)
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OK for Computer Aided Design on second reference

MCC has a Bedford campus and a Lowell campus.
(Note: Do NOT use "Cowan Center Campus" for the Lowell campus.)

One word

capitalization rules
Names of programs of study - capitalize name of program of study when referring to specific MCC programs:
Computer Science certificate program, Criminal Justice degree program, Nursing degree program; Nursing classes; Dental Hygiene coursework; but: She is providing nursing care to clients.

Campus buildings, rooms -- capitalize proper names
North Academic Hall, Federal Building, Henderson Hall Gallery, Lowell Campus Library; Bedford Campus Center Café East; Cowan Center Fifth Floor, etc.

In Bedford: Use name of building and follow with number in parenthesis:
Academic Resources (Building 1); Bedford House (Building 5); North Academic Hall  (Building 6)

An abbreviation for "Compact Disc Read-Only Memory"

chair, chairperson
Do NOT use these as a leadership title. Use instead, "chairman" or "chairwoman"

One word

Cowan Center Building
Don't capitalize "the" before it, unless at start of a sentence:
Classes will be held in the Cowan Center on the Lowell campus. The Cowan Center is located on Kearney Square.
Address: 33 Kearney Square, Lowell, MA 01852

class identification of graduates
Follow the examples:
John Doe AA-'71, BS-'73
Jane Doe AS-'94

commas (use in a series)
Use commas to separate elements in a series, but do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series:
The flag is red, white and blue. He would nominate Tom, Dick or Harry.
However, do use a comma at the end if an integral element of the series that requires a conjunction:
I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs, for breakfast.

college placement test

One word

Lowercase; commonwealth of Massachusetts (see state)

Communication Department
(no "s")  Name of college department, as well as Programs of Study (Communication Career, Communication Transfer)

One word

Court Room
MCC Federal Building (Room 310)
(See "Assembly Room" entry)

One word

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Use commas to set off the year when using full dates:
She was born on September 15, 1985, in Los Angeles.

Do not use commas when using only month and year constructions:
Planning began in September 1985.

Use the year only if not the current calendar year:
If publishing in May 1998:
John and Joan Jones had a baby in December 1997; or The Smiths had a baby in January.
(See also months)

Day option
Capital "D" designates this is a special program offered during the day.

Dean's List
Uppercase when used as part of MCC's Dean's List; Lowercase in all general uses:
He made MCC's Dean's List.
She is on the dean's list.

Use Arabic figures to indicate decades of history. Use an apostrophe to indicate numerals that are left out; show plural by adding the letter s
'90s, 1980s

See academic degrees

See academic departments.

Derby Building
Address: 88 Middle St., Lowell, MA 01852

distance education

distance learning

Do not precede a name with a courtesy title for an academic degree and follow it with the abbreviation for the degree in the same reference. Example: Pam Jones, Ed.D.


One word

drop out (v.)
dropout (n.)

Dual Enrollment Academy

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Abbreviated term for electronic book.

(no hyphen) Abbreviated term for electronic mail.

Enrollment Center
Capitalize the name of this campus building/department

Capitalize MCC events: Celebrity Forum, One World Series, Civility Day, etc.

Evening option
Capital "E" designates this is a special program offered during the evening

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Takes singular verbs and pronouns:
The faculty has approved the measure.
Faculty members have been invited.
See group.

Faculty Staff Association (FSA)

See seasons

fall semester
See semester

Lowercase. Used for facsimile.

Federal Building
Don't capitalize "the" before it, unless at the start of a sentence:
Classes will be held in the Federal Building on the Lowell campus. The Federal Building is located on Merrimack Street.
Address: 50 Kearney Square, Lowell, MA 01852

See award, fellowship, scholarship

field trip

first responder
Two words; hyphenate when used as a modifier
The program is designed for first responders. The first-responder community was devastated.

First-Year Experience Program

Preferred for handbills

Flexible Studies
Formerly "Self-Paced Studies"

food pantries
Please use full name on first reference: MCC Bedford Campus Food Pantry; MCC Lowell Campus Food Pantry. On second reference, "Bedford Campus Food Pantry" or "Lowell Campus Food Pantry" is OK. (Always include the word "campus" in the title to avoid confusion with town food pantries.)

former, acting
See acting, former

full time, full-time
Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier:
She is a full-time student.
Otherwise no hyphen:
She attends school full time.

fundraising, fundraiser
One word in all cases.

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GEAR UP: Massachusetts Program
Precollegiate TRIO student-support program; "GEAR UP" OK on second reference

gift card(s)
Two words

One word

Acceptable in all references for "grade point average"

Acceptable in all references for "Global Positioning System"

Use a letter grade with quotation marks; no apostrophes when referring to more than one letter grade:
He received a "B" in history.
She received two "As" and three "Bs" on her report card.

grade, grader
Hyphenate in combining forms: a fourth-grade pupil, a 12th-grade student, first-grader, 10th-grader

Takes singular verbs and pronouns:
The group is reviewing its position.

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Health Careers Division

Health Careers Programs

Health, Science & Technology Center
Located in the Talbot and Derby buildings on the Lowell campus.
Address: 88 Middle St.

high school diploma
No hyphen

high school teacher


home school
Hyphenate only when used as a modifier:
I am home schooling my children. She is a home-schooled student. The college has a special home-school program.

Honors Program, Commonwealth Honors Program

Lowercase, unless used in a title.
All students enrolled in the humanities are eligible. Professor John Doe, Humanities Division; Humanities Professor Jane Doe.

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Informal for identification (see user ID).

Use periods after each initial, but no space: A.E. Burdick

Lowercase in all cases. An interim job title in academia is a position to which a person is appointed between the times an incumbent of a position steps down until a new person is hired to fill that position permanently.

internet -- lowercase as of 4/16 (as per AP)

internet access


it's, its
"It's" is only a contraction for "it is" or "it has."
"Its" is a possessive form of the pronoun it:
The university raised its enrollment requirements.

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One word, no hyphen

Liberal Arts and Sciences

One word

login, logon, logoff (n.)
But use as two words in verb form: I log in to my computer.

Lowell campus
Lowercase "C" (Note: Please do NOT use "Cowan Center Campus" for the Lowell campus.) Address: 33 Kearney Square, Lowell, MA 01852

Lowell Campus Cafeteria
Use caps, it's the name of a place on campus.

Lowell Campus, Lower Cafeteria
Do not use "Lower Cafe"

Lowell Campus Library
Located in the Federal Building

Lowell Campus Student Lounge
Located at 45 Middle St.

Lowell National Historical Park
LNHP is OK on second reference

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MCC students do NOT major in an academic subject; they enroll in a "major program of study" or simply a "program of study"

master's degree
See academic degrees for guidelines.

Spell out on first reference; abbreviate on second reference, and Middlesex also can be used:            
Students who begin their Middlesex experience
Middlesex staff and faculty have one aim.

MCC Concert Hall
Located in North Academic Hall (Building 6) on the Bedford campus.

MCC Foundation
Two words; OK on second reference for Middlesex Community College Foundation

One word, two caps

Middlesex Community College Foundation
See MCC Foundation

Middlesex Interactive
Two words, with caps

Middlesex Meetinghouse
Supported by the MCC Foundation
Address: 294 Concord Road, Billerica, MA 01821 - (near MCC's Bedford campus)

Do not put a 12 in front of it (and do not use "12 a.m."). It is part of the day that is ending, not the one that is beginning.


MILES (Middlesex Institute for Lifelong Education for Seniors)
No periods, but please include definition of acronym (as above) on first reference

Mini-mester (Mini-mesters) Mini-mester I Mini-mester II
Short, 8-week accelerated sessions offered twice each semester (use Roman numerals to distinguish sessions)

Minute Man National Historical Park
MMNHP is OK on second reference -- situated within the towns of Lexington, Lincoln and Concord, MA

Names of months are spelled out in text when they are not accompanied by a specific date. They are spelled out when accompanied only by a year.
The fall semester begins in August.
In December 2000 Arkansas had a terrible ice storm.

The following months are abbreviated in text when preceded by a day of the week in the date: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec.
The next club meeting is Monday, Nov. 12, 2001. Graduation will be held on May 18, 2012.

more than, over
Use "more than" to discuss numbers: The United Way raised more than $50,000.
Use "over" to discuss spatial relationships: A plane flew over the building.

An exception to the general rule of using a hyphen in "multi-" constructions.

Multicultural Center
Cowan Center Building, Ground Floor
Address: 33 Kearney Square, Lowell MA 01852

my mcc
Lowercase, two words, referring to the Middlesex web portal.

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One word

Nesmith House

The John Nesmith House; owned by the MCC Foundation and gift-leased to the college. Address: 229 Andover St., Lowell, MA 01852 - (near MCC's Lowell campus).

In general, no hyphen when forming a compound that does not have special meaning and can be understood if "not" is used before the base word: noncredit

However, use a hyphen before proper nouns and in awkward combinations: non-nuclear

No hyphen needed

May also use "not-for-profit"

Do not put a 12 in front of it (and do not use "12 p.m.")

Spell out zero through nine.
Use numerals for 10 and greater.
Use a comma with numerals of 1,000 and above (except dates): 5,000, 42,000.
Exceptions to the rules:
• Use numerals when referring to academic credit:
The student earned 3 hours of credit.
• Use numerals when referring to a page number:
The quotation begins on page 5.

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off-campus (adj.), off campus (adv.)
Hyphenate when used as an adjective:
The university is looking at off-campus housing as an option.

Write two words, without hyphenation when used as an adverb:
The student moved off campus.
Guidelines are the same for "on-campus" and "on campus"

Capitalize when part of an official name:
She submitted her story to the Office of Marketing Communications.
Use lowercase in all other uses:
He visited the dean's office.

One word when discussing computer connections.

on-campus (adj.), on campus (adv.)
Same as "off-campus"

One word

One word when referring to computer communications.

online learning
No hyphen needed

over, more than
See "more than, over"

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One word

part time, part-time
Hyphenate only when used as a compound modifier: She works part time.
He has a part-time job.

Program for Asian American Student Advancement (PAASA)
Offers holistic support for Asian American students via the Asian American Connections Center on the Lowell campus.

Patriots Day

One word, always spelled out. Do not use symbol (%) in written copy.

Always use numerals, but spell out the word percent.
The  university saw a 4 percent increase in enrollment.
She received a 90 percent on her test.

Performing Arts Concentration

phone numbers
See telephone numbers.

p.m., a.m.
See a.m., p.m.

One word, no hyphen

Not presentor.

Capitalize president only as a formal title before a name:
President Carole A. Cowan
Use lowercase in all other cases:
There will be a reception in the president's office.

Presidents' Day

One word

professional development
Lower case, unless referring to MCC's Office of Professional Development, which is a proper name.

Capitalize these titles as a formal title before a name:
Assistant Professor Joe Smith is teaching that class.
Lowercase in all other cases:
Jane Doe is a professor of art.

Capital "P" if it's a formal name:
Nursing Program, Computer Forensics Certificate Program, Service-Learning Program, Summer Sprint Program, Links Program; but: program of study.

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Bedford Campus Quad; "quad" OK on second reference

quotation marks
The period and the comma always go inside quotation marks.
The dash, the semicolon, the question mark and the exclamation point go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only.
They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence.

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returning-adult student

rooms and room numbers
Use the room number, after the building name:
Cowan Center Building, Room G1
For named rooms, use:
Federal Building Assembly Room

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Lowercase, unless part of a formal name:
summer, spring, Winter Olympics, UCA Fall Festival

Lowercase: spring semester, fall semester
Program begins fall semester 2006.

Hyphenate, with caps, when referring to MCC's Service-Learning Program


space-available basis
Hyphenate this compound modifier

See seasons

Spring Break
Capitalize this formal break period (also "Alternative Spring Break")

spring semester
See semesters

Takes singular verbs and pronouns:
The staff has reviewed the document.Staff members are encouraged to arrive early.
See group.

Lowercase; the state of New York; (see commonwealth)

state abbreviations
State names that are fewer than five letters long and states that are not a part of the contiguous United States (Alaska and Hawaii) are not abbreviated. ZIP code abbreviations in parentheses.

Ala. (AL)
Ariz. (AZ)
Ark. (AR)
Calif. (CA)
Colo. (CO)
Conn. (CT)
Del. (DE)
Fla. (FL)
Ga. (GA)
Ill. (IL)
Ind. (IN)
Kan. (KS)
Ky. (KY)
La. (LA)
Md. (MD)
Mass. (MA)
Mich. (MI)
Minn. (MN)
Miss. (MS)
Mo. (MO)
Mont. (MT)
Neb. (NE)
Nev. (NV)
N.H. (NH)
N.J. (NJ)
N.M. (NM)
N.Y. (NY)
N.C. (NC)
N.D. (ND)
Okla. (OK)
Ore. (OR)
Pa. (PA)
R.I. (RI)
S.C. (SC)
S.D. (SD)
Tenn. (TN)
Vt. (VT)
Va. (VA)
Wash. (WA)
W.Va. (WV)
Wis. (WI)
Wyo. (WY)

not abbreviated:
Alaska (AK)
Hawaii (HI)
Idaho (ID)
Iowa (IA)
Maine (ME)
Ohio (OH)
Texas (TX)
Utah (UT)

One word

STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)
Use full entry on first reference; "STEM" alone is OK on second reference

student body

student ID card
No caps when referring to a generic ID card.

Student Information Center
Always capitalized.

Student Lounge
One on each campus
Bedford Campus Student Lounge: Bedford Campus Center, first floor
Lowell Campus Student Lounge: 45 Middle St.

Student Union Government Association
Always capitalized. May use abbreviation, SUGA, after first reference.

See seasons

summer semester
See semesters

Summer Sprint Program

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Talbot Building
Address: 44 Middle St., Lowell, MA 01852

telephone numbers
Include the "1" when writing a "1-800" number.
When including an area code, separate the area code with a hyphen (no space) between the area code and the phone number:
Bedford campus numbers begin 781-280-(ext.)
Lowell campus numbers begin 978-565-(ext.)

One word

Use "re" spelling unless "er" form is part of a proper name

Theatre Concentration/Theatre classes
Upper case references to MCC's degree program of study:
Students may take elective Theatre classes.

three-D and two-D
3-D is preferred. 2-D is preferred.

Use figures except for noon and midnight. Never write 12 noon or 12 midnight -- this is redundant.
Only use a colon when separating hours from minutes: 3 p.m., 7:30 a.m. Never write 3:00 p.m.
Always include a.m. or p.m. with the time.
Avoid using o'clock when referring to time.

Capitalize all college titles. For all other titles, follow AP style.

titles of events
Put quotation marks around the names of all full, formal titles of workshops, conferences, seminars, speeches, art exhibitions, and similar events:
A workshop, titled "Technology in the Classroom," will be held on Wednesday.

Do not capitalize articles "a, an, the" or words fewer than four letters unless it is the first or last word in the title.

As in "transferable credits"

Trustees' House
Plural possessive
Location: Building 4 on the Bedford campus

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UML Inn and Conference Center
Address: 50 Warren St., Lowell, MA - "adjacent to MCC's Lowell campus"

University of Massachusetts
University of Massachusetts Lowell. No comma, no "at"
UMass Amherst, UMass Boston, UMass Dartmouth, UMass Lowell


user ID
Two words

One word

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Veterans Day

video conference
Two words

video game

voice mail
Two words, no hyphen

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web -- lowercase as of 4/16 (as per AP)
An abbreviated name for the world wide web, which is a global system of linking documents, images, sounds and other files across the internet.



deviates from AP

One word, no capital.

For the wireless networking standards

Winter Break
Capitalize MCC's formal break between semesters

Condensed, three-week session offered in early January during Winter Break

Work Study Program

Capitalize when referring to the federal financial aid program.

world wide web -- lowercase as of 4/16 (as per AP)

One word.

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Last Modified: 10/13/23