The following editorial style guide provides written style guidelines that should be followed by Texas A&M AgriLife units to provide consistency and accuracy in publications, websites, correspondence and other written works.
This guide relies on the Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual as its primary source for questions of written style. 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. The following includes selected style points from the AP stylebook that are frequently used in academia.
In addition, this guide provides unique and preferred usages of The Texas A&M University System that augment or are considered exceptions to AP style.
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).
The Texas A&M University System Names
The Texas A&M University 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.
First reference: The Texas A&M University System
Second reference: A&M System or Texas A&M System
Incorrect: TAMUS, TAMU System, Texas A & M System
Exception: TAMUS is allowed in digital applications such as website URLs and social media for hashtags (i.e. #TAMUS) and account names (i.e. @TAMUSystem).
In publications for internal audiences only, 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.
The website address for the A&M System should always be listed as “tamus.edu” or “www.tamus.edu.”
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.
|Texas A&M University||Texas A&M|
|Texas A&M Health Science Center||TAMHSC|
|Texas A&M University at Galveston||TAMUG|
|Texas A&M University at Qatar||Texas A&M at Qatar|
|Prairie View A&M University||PVAMU|
|Tarleton State University||Tarleton|
|Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service||AgriLife Extension|
|Texas A&M AgriLife Research||AgriLife Research|
|Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station||TEES|
|Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service||TEEX|
|Texas A&M Forest Service||TAMFS|
|Texas A&M International University||TAMIU|
|Texas A&M System Sponsored Research Services||SRS|
|Texas A&M System Technology Commercialization||TTC|
|Texas A&M Transportation Institute||TTI|
|Texas A&M University-Central Texas||A&M-Central Texas|
|Texas A&M University-Commerce||A&M-Commerce|
|Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi||A&M-Corpus Christi|
|Texas A&M University-Kingsville||Texas A&M-Kingsville|
|Texas A&M University-San Antonio Correct: Texas A&M University-San Antonio Second reference: A&M-San Antonio Incorrect: TAMU-San Antonio; TAMUSA||A&M-San Antonio|
|Texas A&M University-Texarkana||TAMUT|
|Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory||TVMDL|
|West Texas A&M University||WTAMU|
A&M System administration
The 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.
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.
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
Texas A&M AgriLife Names
Texas A&M AgriLife
When referencing Texas A&M AgriLife, use “Texas A&M AgriLife” for every reference.
Incorrect: AgriLife, A&M AgriLife, Agrilife, agrilife
Administration and Professional Services Units
Texas A&M AgriLife Administrative Services
Texas A&M AgriLife Marketing and Communications
Texas A&M AgriLife Digital Education
Texas A&M AgriLife Information Technology
Texas A&M AgriLife Office of External Relations
Texas A&M AgriLife Office of Federal Relations
Texas A&M AgriLife Office of Outreach and Strategic Initiatives
Texas A&M AgriLife Office of University and System Relations
First reference: College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Second reference: the College
Incorrect: College of Agriculture, COALS
The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has 15 departments.
Department of Agricultural Economics
Department of Animal Science
Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics
Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering
Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology
Department of Entomology
Department of Food Science and Technology
Department of Horticultural Sciences
The Gardens at Texas A&M University
Second reference: The Gardens
Department of Nutrition
Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology
Department of Poultry Science
Department of Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management
Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences
Department of Soil and Crop Sciences
On first reference, “…the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Entomology…”
On second reference for all departments, follow AP guidelines: Use lowercase except for words that are proper nouns or adjectives: the department of history, the history department, the department of English, the English department.
Texas A&M AgriLife Research Stations are located in Barnhart, Beeville, Bluff, Bushland, Chillicothe, Eagle Lake, Halfway, Pecos and Sonora. Refer to the research stations as ‘Texas A&M AgriLife Research Station at _________’ and as ‘the research station’ in a second reference.
Correct: Texas A&M AgriLife Research Station at Beeville
Incorrect: Texas A&M AgriLife Research Station in Beeville
Incorrect: Texas Agricultural Experiment Station in Beeville
Selected AgriLife Extension Programs
Battle Ground to Breaking Ground
Better Living for Texans
Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program
Junior Master Gardener
Master Wellness Volunteers
Path to the Plate
Stiles Farm Foundation
Texas 4-H Youth Development Program
Texas 4-H Youth Development Foundation
Texas 4-H Friends and Alumni Association
4-H’er, 4-H member
National 4-H Council
Texas Agricultural Lifetime Leadership Program
Texas Extension Disaster Education Network (Texas EDEN)
Texas Master Naturalist
Texas Rural Leadership Program
Texas A&M AgriLife People and Titles
When introducing a Texas A&M AgriLife person, use the most relevant Texas A&M AgriLife title and affiliation first. Give other relevant affiliation(s) on second reference to the person.
AgriLife Extension: If referring to a specialist or agent, use the following: AgriLife Extension XXX specialist, (location); AgriLife Extension (type of) agent in XXX County. IF discussing the practice of extension, then lowercase.
AgriLife Research: AgriLife Research plant pathologist, (location), or AgriLife Research wheat breeder, (location) etc.
When addressing someone with a notable degree, such as DVM, Ph.D., M.D., etc., state the degree following the person’s name. We avoid the use of “Dr.” except in quotes to alleviate confusion among what type of degree the person has obtained. See more on degrees in the glossary.
Texas A&M AgriLife Executive Leadership
Susan Ballabina, Ph.D., deputy vice chancellor for Agriculture and Life Sciences
Jeff Hyde, Ph.D., director of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Al Davis, acting director of Texas A&M Forest Service
Bruce Akey, DVM, director of Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory
Additional members of the Vice Chancellor’s Executive Committee
Joe Cox, assistant vice chancellor for external relations, Texas A&M AgriLife
Clare Gill, Ph.D., executive associate dean and associate dean for research, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Ron Lacewell, Ph.D., assistant vice chancellor for federal relations, Texas A&M AgriLife
Elizabeth Parker, DVM, associate director for operations and strategic initiatives, Texas A&M AgriLife Research
Capitalize: Panhandle, South Texas, West Texas, South Plains, High Plains, Rolling Plains, Coastal Bend, Central Texas, North Texas, East Texas
Boilerplates for Promotional Items
The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $6.3 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, a comprehensive health science center, eight state agencies, and the RELLIS Campus, the Texas A&M System educates more than 153,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceeded $996 million in FY 2017 and helped drive the state’s economy.
Texas A&M AgriLife
As the largest comprehensive agriculture program nationally, Texas A&M AgriLife brings together a college and four state agencies focused on agriculture and life sciences within The Texas A&M University System. With over 5,000 employees, and a presence in every county across the state, Texas A&M AgriLife is uniquely positioned to improve the quantity and quality of food production to benefit human health and lower health care costs, while increasing profitability for producers and ensuring environmental sustainability.
Texas A&M University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Agriculture and the life sciences have been an integral part of Texas A&M University since 1876, when it was founded as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas. Today, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is widely recognized as a leader in dozens of academic disciplines. The achievements of its students, faculty and staff are improving nutrition and agriculture worldwide. From long-established majors such as agronomy and animal science to newer programs such as forensics and spatial sciences, the College offers nearly 100 degree programs.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is a unique education agency that provides programs, tools and resources on a local and statewide level that teach people how to improve agriculture and food production, advance health practices, protect the environment, strengthen the economy and enrich youth. With 250 county offices serving Texans in all 254 counties, county agents serve families, youth, communities and businesses throughout the state.
Texas A&M AgriLife Research
Texas A&M AgriLife Research is the leading research and technology development agency in Texas for agriculture, natural resources and the life sciences. Its discoveries yield economic, environmental and health benefits that are key to Texas’ success and vital to the lives of Texans. Headquartered in College Station, the agency has a statewide presence and collaborates with scientists and staff on other Texas A&M University System campuses and at the 13 regional Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Centers. AgriLife Research is a national leader for agricultural research expenditures.
Texas A&M Forest Service
Texas A&M Forest Service, TAMFS, is the leader in forestry for Texas and the nation. The agency works to ensure the state’s forests, trees and related natural resources are conserved and continue to provide a sustainable flow of environmental and economic benefits. TAMFS is also the incident management agency for state disasters such as wildfires, flooding and hurricanes, and it delivers wildfire response and protection through the Texas Wildfire Protection Plan. In coordination with local fire departments, Texas A&M Forest Service has responded to 198,363 fires over 11.2 million acres, saving $17.1 billion and 126,539 homes since 2005.
Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory
Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, TVMDL, tests thousands of specimens from clients across Texas, in neighboring states and around the world every business day, protecting the health of livestock, poultry, companion animals, exotic animals, racing animals and wildlife. Veterinarians, animal owners, animal industries and government agencies depend on TVMDL’s expertise for early detection and control of diseases. TVMDL also belongs to a nationwide network of laboratories that provide surge-testing, response and recovery capacity in the event of an animal disease outbreak. Over its history, TVMDL has played a critical role in recognizing and containing outbreaks of anthrax, avian inﬂuenza, chronic wasting disease, equine piroplasmosis and many other economically devastating animal diseases.
General Editorial Guidelines
In general, use the Associated Press Stylebook, with some notable deviations that follow System and University guidelines.
Do not use superscript in reference to the 12th Man Foundation or the tradition of students standing during football games and other athletic events.
Avoid using in running text, and as a rule do not use unless it is an official part of a name or title. Change “&” to “and” in most cases.
Lowercase. Insert one space between numeral and a.m. Use 11:59 p.m. or 12:01 a.m. instead of 12 a.m. to avoid confusion with dates. Avoid repetition: The meeting will be held from 9 to 11 a.m.
Artistic license regarding whether to include the periods may be taken in materials like invitations for reasons of space or design decisions.
abbreviations and acronyms
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.
To prevent awkward line breaks in printed material, do not put a space between initials used as a first name.
- E.B. White
Do not use periods in abbreviations of phrases longer than two words or when each letter is pronounced.
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. If you will be using a second reference, put the initials behind the name.
- The Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, TEES, is the state’s primary engineering research agency. TEES was established in 1914.
academic degrees (also see Dr. and doctoral/doctorate)
Try to use a phrase instead of an abbreviation.
- John Jones, Ph.D., said his study found that the salaries of web designers should be doubled.
- associate degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, doctorate.
Uppercase when spelled out.
- 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 Association of Underwater Basketweaving Professionals.
academic colleges and departments
Capitalize only if referring to a specific academic unit by its full, proper name.
- College of Geosciences
- history department
- Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics
- She is a professor of mechanical engineering.
Lowercase and spell out titles when not used with an individual’s name.
- The dean gave the Mays Business School communications staff the week off.
Capitalize and spell out when a title precedes a name.
- President Young and Chancellor Sharp met yesterday to discuss the dean’s decision to give the communications staff the week off.
Very long titles are more readable when placed after a name.
- Jerry Strawser, Ph.D., executive vice president for finance and administration, and chief financial officer, read the newspaper while drinking coffee.
Use the abbreviations “Ave.,” “Blvd.” and “St.” only with a numbered address (123 S. Main St.) Spell out addresses and capitalize when part of a formal street name without a number (The car wash is on South Main Street.) Lowercase and spell out when used alone or with more than one street name (Hawthorne and First streets). All similar words (Alley, Drive, Road, Terrace) are spelled out.
While the Associated Press prefers adviser unless advisor is part of an official title, both spellings appear to be in use at Texas A&M. Texas A&M AgriLife utilizes advisor.
Always use figures.
- The 17-year-old took graduate-level courses.
- The student, who switched his major 11 times, is 32 years old.
- The dean is in her 60s. (No apostrophe)
See Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band
See Federation of Texas A&M University Mothers’ Clubs
alt text (Also see AgriLife Today and Digital Guidelines)
Alt text (alternative text) is a word or phrase that can be inserted as an attribute in an HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) document to tell Web site viewers the nature or contents of an image. The alt text appears in a blank box that would normally contain the image.
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 is plural and includes men and women. In most cases, “former student” is preferred for a Texas A&M graduate or student who attended without graduating.
- Although she was an alumna of the University of Texas (and chair of its alumni association), she encourages everyone she knows to attend Texas A&M.
- Several former students are well-known authors of science fiction: Steven Gould, Russell Lutz, Martha Wells ’86 and Gene Wolfe.
Use only to describe an event that has been held every year for at least two years. Do not use the word annual to describe a first-time event. Instead explain that it is planned to be held annually.
Use to indicate possession (the doctor’s stethoscope, the nurse’s stethoscope), or omitted letters or figures (don’t, ’50).
Use with degree names (bachelor’s degree, master’s degree). Exception: associate degree has no apostrophe.
In alumni graduation years and other instances to indicate missing text, make sure apostrophes face toward the missing characters (’50s, grab ’n go, ’til).
Do not use to indicate plurals in numerals or acronyms (1990s, HMOs, RNs).
Use only an apostrophe with singular proper names ending in “s” (Achilles’ heel, Agnes’ book, Descartes’ theories, Hercules’ labors, Texas’ schools, Tennessee Williams’ plays).
Use an apostrophe and an “s” with singular common nouns ending in “s” (the hostess’s invitation, the witness’s answer).
To indicate ownership, use a possessive form after only the last word if ownership is joint: Fred and Sylvia’s apartment (indicating that they share the apartment). Use a possessive form
after both words if the objects are individually owned: Fred’s and Sylvia’s books (indicating that some books in question belong to Fred, others to Sylvia).
Always use ’s if the word does not end in the letter “s”, even for words that end with an “s” sound (Butz’s policies, the fox’s den, the justice’s verdict, Marx’s theories, the prince’s life, Xerox’s profits). The following exceptions to the general rule for words not ending in s apply to words that end in an s sound and are followed by a word that begins with s: for appearance’ sake, for conscience’ sake. Use “‘s” otherwise (the appearance’s cost, my conscience’s voice).
Do not add an apostrophe to a word ending in s when it is used primarily in a descriptive sense (citizens band radio, a Cincinnati Reds infielder, a teachers college, a writers guide). An ’s is required, however, when a term involves a plural word that does not end in s: (a children’s hospital, a people’s republic).
Follow the rules above in composing the possessive form of words that occur in quasi-possessive phrases (a day’s pay, two weeks’ vacation, three days’ work, your money’s worth). Frequently, however, a hyphenated form is clearer (a two-week vacation, a three-day job). See hyphens.
Opt for the less formal “bachelor’s degree”.
A trademark of The Texas A&M University System. Do not use the trademark symbol in news releases.
One word, lowercase.
Board of Regents
Use The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents for the first reference. Use the following after the first reference.
- A&M System Board of Regents
- Texas A&M System Board of Regents: Lowercase “board” and “regents” if used separately.
- At its last meeting, the board voted to hire more writers to help tell the Texas A&M story.
book and magazine titles
Use italics for the titles of books, magazines, newspapers, journals and other periodicals. Use quotation marks for the titles of magazine and journal articles, book chapters, movies, songs, lectures and speeches, exhibits and conferences. Note that this is a departure from AP Style.
Texas-Mexico border, U.S.-Mexico border, U.S. border with Mexico along the Rio Grande River and the southern border are all acceptable ways to refer to the border areas on first reference. Thereafter, “the border” suffices.
capitalization (see also committee names and dean’s list)
Capitalize official names; do not capitalize unofficial, informal, shortened or generic names. Do not capitalize when used in phrases:
- The museum expects record attendance at its new exhibit, “Brand Council: The Untold Story.”
- The College of Engineering (but the engineering college)
- Texas Task Force 1 (but the task force)
Capitalize names of celebrations or events:
- Parents’ Weekend
- March to the Brazos
Do not capitalize seasons, semesters or academic periods other than Spring Break:
- Rollins will teach the Philosophy and History of Adult Education class next semester. He will not teach advanced geology.
- After losing the bet, he let his beard grow from the fall semester through Spring Break.
- She enrolled in fall 2016 but decided to postpone her education after winning the lottery.
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, the capital city of Texas.
Use figures for centuries numbering 10 or higher (21st century). Spell out for numbers nine and lower (fifth century).
The modifier “mid” standing alone uses one hyphen: the mid-20th century. As a compound modifier, two hyphens: mid-20th-century America. When talking about two centuries, spell out the word “to” for clarity: late-19th century to mid-20th century.
Use chairman or chair in referencing the Board of Regents, even for females.
check up, checkup
Two words (verb); one word (noun): Schedule a regular checkup to check up on the patient.
As appropriate, include the last two digits of the class year after the name, with an inverted apostrophe, as in the examples below. When referring to a former student with multiple degrees, list the degrees in the order in which they were received. When referring to a couple who are both former students, 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.
- “Northgate had fewer bars and more pickup trucks when I was a student,” said John O’Reilly ’77, ’79 (MBA).
- Marvin J. ’98 and Marlene D. Finkelstein Smith ’03, Ph.D.
Capitalize the full names of committees.
- The Academic Affairs Committee will meet tomorrow. The committee will discuss proposed new courses.
Capitalize the first word after a colon when it is the start of a formal quotation or complete sentence. Also, use colons only at the end of independent clauses, never after a linking verb. (Wrong: The winners are: Jonathan, Marisa, Mark and Emily. Right: There were four winners: Jonathan, Marisa, Mark and Emily.) Colons may also be used with introductory phrases, such as “To Whom It May Concern:”
In general, do not use the serial comma at the end of a short list before the word “and” unless needed for clarity.
One exception is in official names, such as the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications.
Use the serial comma when one element in a series contains a conjunction: I had coffee, a ham and cheese sandwich, and an apple for lunch.
Use the serial comma in a complex series of phrases: She drove across Texas, giving presentations on AP Style to communications specialists, researching fine points of serial comma usage, and scouring local newspapers for typos.
Use semicolons to separate elements of a series that contain internal commas.
Before Jr. and Sr.: omit the comma.
Before Inc.: follow the company’s style, but generally omit the comma.
counties, topographical features, names of public places
a plural noun that normally takes a plural verb and plural pronoun (these data show). Singular is datum. Consult the AP Stylebook, under collective nouns, for exceptions. If you’re still in doubt, you can’t go wrong sticking with the plural verb.
Put a zero in front of a number less than one (0.15), and never go more than two decimal places without a specific need.
Dr. (also see academic degrees, and titles)
Since most readers outside academia identify “Dr.” only with physicians, make clear what their title is by utilizing their professional degree following their name instead of using Dr., unless specified in a quote.
Example: Mark Smith, Ph.D.
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.
Put a space on both sides of the dash.
- Leadership — a Texas A&M core value — is developed through more than 1,000 student-led clubs and organizations.
Do not use in AgriLife Today stories; use a hyphen instead.
- 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
For promotional materials, an en dash is a mid-sized dash (longer than a hyphen but shorter than an em dash) that is mostly used to show ranges in numbers and dates. It can also be used for clarity in forming complex compound adjectives. The en dash derives its name from the fact that it is meant to be the same width as the letter N.
- 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
No hyphen and lowercase every letter in an email address.
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.
When referring to extension and/or research in general terms, do not capitalize.
- The initiative seeks to solve critical organic agriculture issues through the integration of research and extension activities.
If referring to research and extension at multiple university systems, either lowercase both or say, “research and outreach.”
When referencing AgriLife Extension, use the full name of “Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service” on first reference and “AgriLife Extension” on second reference.
Singular when used as a collective noun.
- The faculty was protesting the requirement to end each class with “Thanks, and Gig ’em!”
See U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Federation of Texas A&M University Mothers’ Clubs
Also known as the “Aggie Moms,” this group — the only one of its kind — was organized in 1928. It contributes nearly $300,000 per year in scholarships and donations to Texas A&M.
Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band
Use an apostrophe to indicate the missing “g.”
Do not capitalize when spelled out. When abbreviated, capitalize and put a space between FY and the year.
- She planned to give her lottery winnings to the university in fiscal year 2018.
- The university’s FY 2019 budget will reflect her generous donation.
follow up, follow-up
Two words as verb: The doctor will follow up with the patient next week. Hyphenated as noun or adjective: The study included a six-month follow-up.
Spell out fractions less than one that are not used as modifiers, using hyphens between the words: two-thirds, four-fifths, seven-sixteenths.
In quotations, use figures for fractions, with a forward slash and a full space between the whole number (if any) and the fraction: “He was 2 1/2 laps behind with four to go.” Use numerals for precise amounts larger than one, converting to decimals whenever practical: 2.5.
One word in all cases.
genus, species and other Latin names
In scientific or biological names, capitalize the first, or generic, Latin name for the class of plant or animal and lowercase the species that follows: Homo sapiens, Tyrannosaurus rex.
In second references, use the abbreviated form: P. borealis, T. rex.
Two words. Capitalize and use an inverted apostrophe.
grade point average
GPA is acceptable on all references. GPAs normally have two numerals after the decimal point (3.25).
Use a capital letter when referring to a grade. When plural, use an apostrophe.
- She made all A’s last year.
Do not use “graduate level program.”
Use “one and one-half” in formal or scientific context; “one and a half” is appropriate in more conversational contexts.
Flags are lowered to half-staff, not half-mast.
Provide hyperlinks directly on the referenced word or phrase; do not use words like, “Click here.”
Hyphens are joiners. Use them to avoid ambiguity or to form a single idea from two or more words. When a compound modifier (two or more words that express a single concept) precedes a noun, use hyphens to link all the words in the compound (a well-qualified student, a well-known physician).
The only exceptions are the adverb “very” and all adverbs that end in “-ly” (a very good time, a highly trained lab tech, an easily remembered rule).
Use to designate dual heritage: Italian-American (but no hyphen for French Canadian or Latin American).
This phrase is preferred over “foreign students.”
Associated Press style no longer requires capitalization.
Following AP Style, we generally do not use italics in news stories. One exception is journal titles, which we write in italics based on usage in Texas A&M Today.
Hyphenate when used as an adjective.
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, with a space between the letters and number).
Do not capitalize unless it begins a sentence.
- That is a legislative matter, not a judicial one.
legislative special item
Do not capitalize.
Capitalize when referencing a particular legislative body. Do not capitalize when used as a generic term.
- The law-making body in a democracy is called a legislature.
- The Legislature meets every other year in Austin.
Matriculate means to enroll, not graduate. Use this term sparingly in external communications since many readers might not be familiar with the term.
Always use a person’s first and last name the first time they are mentioned. Use only last names on second reference.
When someone uses two initials as a name, there should be no space between them, but do use periods (C.J. Cregg).
Do not use courtesy titles such as Mr., Mrs., Miss or Ms., unless they are part of a direct quotation or are needed to differentiate between people who have the same last name.
Do not use “Dr.” in front of a name unless quoting someone. Also see degrees or Dr. for more information.
- “Dr. Sheppard is an excellent candidate for this award,” said Meredith Grey, M.D.
In scientific or biological names, capitalize the first or generic Latin name for the class of plant or animal and lowercase the species that follows (Staphlyoccucus aureus).
In second references, use the abbreviated form: S. aureus. (In this case, staph is also an acceptable abbreviation.) Note this is a departure from AP Style.
It’s the Nobel Prize in physics, physiology or medicine, but the Nobel Peace Prize and the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics. A recipient is a Nobel laureate. “Received” or “was awarded” is preferred over “won.”
In general, spell out one through nine. Use figures (also called numerals) for 10 or above and whenever preceding a percentage, address, time, monetary unit or unit of measure (such as distance, dimensions, weights or speeds) or referring to ages. Do so even if it means items in a list or sequence will be done differently. (They had 10 dogs, six cats and 97 hamsters.) Numerals can also be used in all tabular matter and in statistical and sequential forms (Page 1; magnitude 6 earthquake; Rooms 3 and 4; Chapter 2; line 1 but first line).
Always spell out numbers that begin a sentence, except for years. Also spell out numbers in indefinite, fanciful, and casual uses, or in a proper name. If two numbers appear next to each other, spell out the first one and use a number for the second one (forty-two 5-digit codes).
Use numerals with million or billion except in casual uses:
- I’d like one million flowers; he gave $1 million to the school.
In large figures: Use a comma for most figures greater than 999. The major exceptions are street addresses, broadcast frequencies (1460 kilohertz), room numbers, serial numbers, telephone numbers and years.
Lowercase. Insert one space between numeral and “p.m.” Use numerals for all times except noon and midnight.
Use “noon” instead of 12 p.m. Avoid repetition of “p.m.”
Do not use “12 a.m.” Avoid using “midnight” if it might lead to confusion about dates. Consider using a construction such as “11:59 p.m. Tuesday” or “12:01 a.m. Wednesday.”
- The meeting will be held 2-4 p.m.
Artistic license regarding the periods may be taken in promotional materials, such as invitations.
Avoid parentheses when possible. Instead, rewrite text or use dashes or commas to set off the information. If parentheses are required, place the period inside the parentheses when the parenthetical is a complete, independent sentence; if it is not, the period goes outside the parentheses.
part time, part-time
Two words as adverb, hyphenated as adjective: She works part time at her part-time job.
Use the % sign when paired with a numeral, with no space, in most cases: NIH research funding grew by more than 13% last year.
“Percent” takes a singular verb when standing alone or when a singular word follows an “of” construction: The professor said 60% was a failing grade.
It takes a plural verb when a plural word follows an “of” construction: He said 50% of the members were there.
All numbers, even those less than 10, are numerals when used with the symbol: The increase was more than 5%.
Use the % symbol with every citation of a percentage: 40% to 50%, not 40-50%.
For amounts less than 1%, precede the decimal with a zero: The cost of living rose 0.6%.
John Smith, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension economist
photo captions (Also see alt text)
A photo credit should not end with a period. Employ parallelism when mentioning a number of people and their titles in a caption. Such terms as top, bottom, left, right, above, below, from left, or clockwise from left usually precede the phrase identifying the object or person.
Use commas, not colons. With a group of people, begin with from left. With two people, the person on the left is generally indicated: Bill Jones, left, and Bob Smith, unless clear: Bill Jones and Mary Smith. Use “a” NOT “the” when the same award (or title or other terms) is given to multiple people. (Jane Smith, M.S., receives a Business Communicator Award.) Don’t use quotation marks when mentioning the name of the award. (John Smith, M.D., received the 2010 Continuing Educator of the Year Award.)
Study beyond the M.D. or Ph.D. degree. One word, no hyphen. Except when quoting someone, use the more formal “postdoctoral fellow” rather than “postdoc.”
As a general rule, do not use hyphens with well-known prefixes such as anti-, bi-, multi-, non-, post-, pre-, pro- and uni-, or if the base word starts with a consonant (antihistamine, multidisciplinary, nonprofit, predoctoral, postoperative, postgraduate).
If the prefix ends in a vowel and the word that follows begins with the same vowel, a hyphen might be required (anti-inflammatory). Do not hyphenate double-e combinations with pre- and re-. Examples: cooperate, coordinate, preeclampsia, preeminent, preexisting, preemerge.
Also use a hyphen when the addition of a prefix results in two conjoined vowels or repeated letters that impede readability (bio-adhesive, pre-registration).
Use a hyphen if the base word is capitalized (non-English- speaking).
When using the prefix co-, include the hyphen when the word describes occupation or status, or when the hyphen is needed for readability (co-author, co-chair).
When using the prefix self-, always use a hyphen (self-care, self-evident).
Closing quotation marks follow commas and periods ending the statement being quoted (“Tuberculosis is devastating,” he said.) In other words, commas and periods should be inside quotation marks in every use. Dashes, colons, semicolons, question marks and exclamation points should be inside the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only: “To be or not to be?”
They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence: Do you know how to spell “Guillain-Barré syndrome”? The registrar declared that “students must register first”; additional regulations are listed below.
For a quote within a quote, bookend the internal quotation within single quotation marks (‘ ’): “I always pass on the left because, as my father used to say, ‘You shouldn’t get careless on a highway.’” Otherwise, use double quotation marks in the body of the text.
If a quote extends through more than one paragraph, place quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph and closing quotation marks at the end of the last paragraph.
Close quotes at the end of intervening paragraphs are not necessary.
When quoting someone who has already been identified, end the quote with …xxx,” Cirillo said. Do not use said Cirillo unless you need to continue listing Cirillo’s credentials, in which case you could continue with Cirillo, who is the head of…
Do not capitalize names of seasons, semesters or academic periods. (Spring Break is an exception.)
Use in a sentence to separate two complete and related thoughts: Jane Smith went to New York; it was her first visit there. A semicolon is also used to clarify a series: The team was made up of Sam Jones, who has been with the hospital many years; and Dennis Johnson, who just transferred from New York last month.
Use to separate names in photo captions: John Jones, M.D., Ph.D.; Jane Johnson, M.D., J.D.; Jane Doe, PA-C; John Doe, MSN.
Put only a single space after a period at the end of a sentence.
Capitalize when referring to a governmental entity, but not when referring to geographical areas or systems/theories of government. Lowercase in “state of” constructions.
- The current State budget is the largest in history.
- The student is from the state of Arkansas.
- The city is seeking federal aid to help with rebuilding costs.
This phrase is preferred over student worker.
The Texas A&M University System
Use “The Texas A&M University System” on first reference (with “The” capitalized) and “A&M System” or “Texas A&M System” on second reference. Do not put a space between the letters and ampersand (e.g., A & M).
Texas A&M University System members
When referencing A&M System universities and agencies, always use the institution’s complete name on first reference and its preferred acronym or abbreviation on second reference. Texas A&M’s two branch campuses use “at” in their names, and the other universities use an en dash. See Using our Names.
Texas Department of Agriculture continuing education units
We spell this out on the first reference. When specifying what the units are in (laws and regulations, integrated pest management, etc.), you may just refer to them as “units” as long as you have already stated they are Texas Department of Agriculture continuing education units.
We do not ever use CEUs at first reference. Other organizations may also offer units or credits that can be earned at Texas A&M AgriLife events; use the organization or institution’s full name and the word credits or units as appropriate.
It’s 3-D, with hyphen, in all uses.
Use figures for time of day except for noon and midnight.
Also designate with a.m. or p.m.—with periods—and do not use :00 (11 a.m.; 3:30 p.m.; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; 8 hours, 30 minutes, 20 seconds). See also a.m. and p.m.
Spell out numbers less than 10 standing alone and in modifiers (I’ll be there in five minutes. He scored with two seconds left. He works an eight-hour day.)
Avoid such redundancies as 10 a.m. this morning. An acceptable abbreviation for all day, every day is 24/7.
Capitalize when used before a name (but not after), and for the full names of offices.
- President Michael Young
- John Sharp, chancellor of the A&M System
- Office of Admissions
Avoid trademarked names in general. When you can’t avoid mentioning a trademarked product — such as when highlighting work affiliated with Texas A&M AgriLife — use Texas A&M University style. Use the trade name followed by ® or ™ on first reference. After the first mention, use the trade name without the ® or ™ mark.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Adjective after the first reference is “FDA-approved.”
The abbreviation, U.S., is acceptable as a noun or adjective for United States. In headlines, it’s US (no periods).
- The U.S. is a popular destination for students from China.
- The official U.S. policy has not changed.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture on first reference; USDA on subsequent references. Agriculture Department also works on first reference if the context is federal.
units of measurement
Spell out “inch,” “pound,” “foot,” etc. Follow Webster’s for metric abbreviations: cm, mm, ml, but spell out for clarity on first reference: 7 centimeters (cm).
Note also that numbers in units of measure are generally not spelled out, even when nine and under: 4 pounds, 6 ounces. Plurals of abbreviated units do not require an “s.”
Unless otherwise noted, insert a space between the number and the unit of measurement. The exception is in units of temperature, in which there is no space (30°C or 80°F).
Lowercase and hyphenated
In most cases, except to indicate a graduating class year, use the full four digits. Do not use an apostrophe to indicate spans of decades or centuries.
- Enrollment for fall 2016 rose sharply.
- He graduated in the 1990s.
- Her research topic was French literature from 1650 to 1700.
- The banner read, “The Class of ’07 welcomes you to Aggieland.”
Commonly Misused Words
Accept means to receive. Except means to exclude.
Affect, as a verb, means to influence: The game will affect the standings.
Affect, as a noun, is best avoided. It occasionally is used in psychology to describe an emotion, but there is no need for it in everyday language.
Effect, as a verb, means to cause: He will effect many changes in the company.
Effect, as a noun, means result: The effect was overwhelming. He miscalculated the effect of his actions. It was a law of little effect.
Comprise, Compose, Constitute
Compose means to create or put together. It commonly is used in both the active and passive voices: She composed a song. The United States is composed of 50 states. The zoo is composed of many animals.
Comprise means to contain, to include all or embrace. It is best used only in the active voice, followed by a direct object: The U.S. comprises 50 states. The jury comprises five men and seven women. The zoo comprises many animals.
Constitute, in the sense of form or make up, may be the best word if neither compose or comprise seems to fit: Fifty states constitute the U.S. Five men and seven women constitute the jury. A collection of animals can constitute a zoo.
Use include when what follows is only part of the total: The price includes breakfast. The zoo includes lions and tigers.
In general, use fewer for individual items, less for bulk or quantity.
Writers or speakers imply in the words they use. A listener or reader infers something from the words.
Tips and Tricks
Is a useful expression when information needs to be attributed to an agency, institution, document or statement, rather than a named individual.
Any symbol design that fits the piece may be used for bullet points. Punctuation should be consistent within a section. For instance, all bullet points in a section should be written as sentences. Or, none should be written as sentences.
Bulleted lists in AgriLife Today stories follow AP style. Use one space between the dash or bullet and the first word of each item in the list. Capitalize the first word following the dash or bullet. Use a period, not a semicolon, at the end of each item, whether it is a full sentence or a phrase. Use parallel construction for each item in a list.
Introduce the list with a short phrase or sentence: Our partners: or These are our partners: or Our partners are:
Because AgriLife Today stories generally have a statewide impact or sources from several locations, we do not use datelines in AgriLife Today stories.
AP does not use multiple locations in a dateline: one location only or no dateline. The Stylebook’s dateline selection entry states a dateline should tell the reader that AP obtained the basic information for the story in the datelined city. However, when a story has been assembled from sources in widely separated areas, the story may be transmitted without a dateline.
Months in quotes
The month is abbreviated with a date within a quote. Without a date, the month is spelled out.
Spell out numbers under 10, with the following exceptions:
AGES: a 6-year-old girl; an 8-year-old law; the 7-year-old house. Use hyphens for ages expressed as adjectives before a noun or as substitutes for a noun. A 5-year-old boy, but the boy is 5 years old. The boy, 5, has a sister, 10. The race is for 3-year-olds.
DIMENSIONS TO INDICATE DEPTH, HEIGHT, LENGTH AND WIDTH: He is 5 feet, 6 inches tall, the 5-foot-6 man (“inch” is understood), the 5-foot man, the basketball team signed a 7-footer. The car is 17 feet long, 6 feet wide and 5 feet high. The rug is 9 feet by 12 feet, the 9-by-12 rug. A 9-inch snowfall. Exception: two-by-four. Spell out the noun, which refers to any length of untrimmed lumber approximately 2 inches thick by 4 inches wide.
DISTANCES: He walked 4 miles. He missed a 3-foot putt.
Use the % sign when paired with a numeral, with no space, in most cases (a change in 2019): Average hourly pay rose 3.1% from a year ago; her mortgage rate is 4.75%; about 60% of Americans agreed; he won 56.2% of the vote. Use figures: 1%, 4 percentage points. For amounts less than 1%, precede the decimal with a zero: The cost of living rose 0.6%.
Placement of Punctuation
The period and comma always go within the quotation marks.
The dash, semicolon, question mark and 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.
The shorter word, preventive, has meanings such as “something that prevents,” when used as a noun, and “devoted to or concerned with prevention,” when used as an adjective. Preventative means the same thing. The question of which one you should choose depends much on your appetite for nit-pickery.
AP says: Generally, it’s easiest to read and certainly closer to the way people speak to put the attribution after the name: Caire said. Flipping the order in a construction like that isn’t wrong; it’s just not especially pretty.
No spaces on either side of hyphens in time spans.
Accessible Image Guidelines
Accessible images help anyone who has ever had a problem with their mouse, their screen, a broken image link or audio that inexplicably doesn’t work. What’s more, they make web pages more visible to search engines. And, of course, accessible images also allow people with visual impairments to fully understand visual content.
While we strive for high-resolution images in print — images at 300 pixels per inch or higher, with file sizes starting at 2 MB — large image sizes can be detrimental on the web. For websites, compressing and scaling images to the desired display size improves both user experience and search engine rankings.
Making images accessible involves filling out an alternative text description — also called alt text, alt tag, or alt attribute — of the image. Well-written alt text contains:
- Around 125 characters, the cutoff for most screen readers.
- A detailed description of the image.
- Any text that appears in the image.
- An explanation of why the image is important to the overall message.
Alt text should be added to:
- Audio and video files.
- Clip art and shapes.
- Embedded objects such as maps, charts and tables.
- Social media posts.
To add alt text in Microsoft Office software:
- Right click on a visual object.
- Choose Format Picture.
- Click on the Layout and Properties icon.
- Click on ALT Text.
To add an alt tag in WordPress:
- When uploading an image to the media library, simply fill out the Alternative Text field.
- In general, add exactly what is happening in the picture.
- To add alt text to an image, open post or page to edit the content, click on the pencil icon next to an image to edit it, and fill out the “Alternative Text” field.
- Click “Update.”
For better search engine optimization, consider including your focus key phrase in the alt text.
WordPress image guidelines
In general, avoid using text in images in materials such as flyers, unless they are fully ADA accessible and alt/description tags are completely filled out. Instead, choose a relevant, in-focus Texas A&M AgriLife photo. Save graphics for social media.
- One image per post is sufficient.
- Fill out all meta descriptions, i.e. alt text and description.
- If using a header image, crop to size appropriately, and upload new image to use. They are long and wide, in the 1200 x 400 px range. Images must be wider than 1024 pixels to upload.
Social media image and video guidelines
When we post on social media, we follow The Texas A&M University System Social Media Guidelines.
Size recommendations for social platforms:
- Shared image suggested size: 1,200 x 630 pixels
- Profile picture suggested size: 180 x 180 pixels
- Cover photo suggested size: 820 x 312 pixels
- Header image size: 1500 x 500 pixels, 5 MB maximum file size.
- Profile photo: 400 x 400 pixels, 2 MB maximum file size.
- Shared image: 1200 x 657 pixels, 16:9 recommended aspect ratio. Maximum file sizes are 5 MB for images, 5 MB for GIFs on mobile and 15 MB for GIFs on web.
- Videos must maintain a 16:9 aspect ratio.
- In order to qualify as full HD, your dimensions must be at least 1280 x 720 pixels.
AgriLife Today Posting Guidelines
Heading hierarchy is important for search engine optimization (SEO), helping web users to find your content, as well as for accessibility, as headings help users using a text reader to understand the hierarchy of the story as it is read aloud. Different levels of headings have different hierarchy in web search rankings. The lower the number, the greater the importance. For example, an H1 heading is more important than an H5 for how sites are ranked by web search engines.
Use H1 for webpage title headings. Keep the title under 160 characters for best appearance on web search. Use H2 for a subheading under the title. Use H3 for in-text subheads. If no subheading exists under the title, any in-text subheadings should be styled H2.
What to avoid in headings and text
Changing font size and bolding the titles and headings does not improve SEO and accessibility but only creates a visual change.
Therefore, do not use bold, ALL CAPS, or larger font for headings. Headings should be styled purely for search engine optimization, not for a visual effect. Pull quotes can be used for visual effect instead. Be aware that copying and pasting from Word or another word processor may not retain heading styles. One way to avoid this is to copy and paste plain text into WordPress and apply heading styles within WordPress. Alternatively, the document can be copied and pasted into WordPress; if you select all the text and click the “clear formatting” button, the excess code from the word processor will be removed.
LiveWhale Events Calendar Guidelines
- Sign in at https://calendar.tamu.edu/livewhale/?events_list
- Enter Title. Do not use dashes or parentheses. Do not copy event release title from WordPress. Do not place the date in the title.
- Event Name: Location
- Add all relevant information.
- Date, Time, Location, RSVP, write up in Event Description, Contact Information
- Use only the tags provided. Do not make new ones.
- Crops and Produce
- Conservation/Water/Natural Resources
- Insects and Pests
- Drought and Disaster
- 4-H and Youth Programs
- Food, Nutrition and Wellness
- Gardening and Landscaping
- Research and Technology
- Add tag related to the type of event:f
- County, name county
- Region, name region
- State (statewide event, open to anyone)
- Label as appropriate category provided. Usually Training, Workshop, Conference.
- Add a photo if applicable. Otherwise, add Texas A&M AgriLife Default Image. Search “Default.”
- SAVE the event. Make sure the gold star is selected on the Your Events Dashboard. This is how it links to the website.
- Suggest Texas A&M AgriLife to the suggested calendar section.
Email sent from an “ag.tamu.edu” address is considered official university correspondence. Personal quotes, logos or icons are not permitted in email signatures. Email signatures should not include images, such as JPG, PNG or SVG files. Confidentiality statements are superfluous, as any correspondence from an ag.tamu.edu address is subject to open record requests. Limit use of university or college taglines to one and hyperlink Texas A&M AgriLife website addresses.
If desired, gender pronouns may be added to an email signature. Pronouns should be displayed in parentheses immediately after the person’s name, used in lowercase, italic and separated by forward slash.
Full Name (pronouns) | Title
Department, College or Unit name | Texas A&M AgriLife
0000 TAMU | College Station, TX 77843-0000
ph: 979.XXX.0000 | mobile: 979.XXX.0000 | firstname.lastname@example.org
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TEXAS A&M AGRILIFE