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University of Texas at Austin
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Style and Common Rules of Use


Do not capitalize:

  • names of classes: freshman, sophomore, junior, senior
  • names of school subjects unless it is the official course title or the name of a language. Example: math, Algebra I, science, Biology II.
  • the word varsity.
  • district or state when referring to sports unless referring to a particular meet: The 32-5A District Meet but not the district track meet.
  • a.m. and p.m.

Do capitalize:

  • the name of athletic teams: Hawks, Cardinals, but not football team, varsity soccer team.
  • college degrees when abbreviated but not when spelled out: B.A. but not bachelor of arts


Do abbreviate:

  • names of colleges in all caps with no periods or spaces (UT, SMU, TCU).
  • states when preceded by the name of a city.
  • United States when it is used as an adjective.
  • months when they are followed by a date. These months have no abbreviated form: March, April, May, June, July.
  • versus as vs. (with a period).

Do not abbreviate:

  • state names when they stand alone.
  • United States when it is used as a noun.
  • days of the week

Other Rules

  • Lower case abbreviations usually take periods but no spaces: a.m., p.m., m.p.h., c.o.d.
  • Use the abbreviated form on first mention of commonly known and accepted abbreviations (PTSA, NHS, SMU). If the abbreviation is not commonly known, mention the organization in full the first time with the abbreviation in parentheses behind it: Students Against School Rules (SARS). Thereafter, refer to it by the abbreviation.


  • On first mention of a person in a story, use his/her first and last name and appropriate identification (English teacher Carolyn Brown).
  • After first mention, refer to students by their last names in all stories. 
  • When identification follows the name, it is set off by commas and is not capitalized: Sue Smith, junior,; Sue Smith,; Gil Tello, assistant principal.


  • With the exceptions noted below, numbers from one to nine are spelled out. Numerals are used for numbers with two or more digits. (one, 10, 380, etc.)
  • Spell out first through ninth when they indicate sequence in time or location: first grade, the First Amendment, he was first in line, etc.
  • Use figures when referring to ages, dimensions, room numbers, scores, prices, degrees, percents, time ratings and hours of the day. Example: She is a 5-year-old girl.
  • Use a hyphen in a score: the FHS Bears edged the Taylor Ducks, 25-22.
  • Use the numeral and the word cents for any amount less than a dollar.
  • Spell out fractions.
  • Use the words noon or midnight rather than 12 p.m. or 12 a.m.
  • For even amounts of money or even times, eliminate the extra zeroes: 7 p.m., 11 a.m., $10, $59.
  • When writing out a date span, use a hyphen instead of the word to: April 11-30.


  • Exclamation Mark

    • Don't use it; use a period instead. (If someone screamed, saying they screamed is an exclamation.)
  • Commas

    • In a series, do not use a comma before the word and.
    • The comma is used in scores: Marshall 27, Jones 20.
  • Semicolon

    • Use the semicolon to separate phrases containing commas, statements of contrast and statements too closely related.
    • Use the semicolon to separate clauses when the conjunction is omitted.
    • Do not use a semicolon when a period would work as well.
  • Quotation Marks

    • Use quote marks to set off all or part of a quote.
    • Do not use quote marks to emphasize words that are not a quote from someone. He was part of the good-old-boy network. Do not put quotes around good-old-boy.
    • Punctuation is usually placed within the quote marks.
  • Apostrophe

    • Use an apostrophe to indicate possession in singular and plural nouns that do not end in s: Boy's shorts, Margie's books.
    • Use an apostrophe to indicate omitted letters or numbers: '95-96 school year. Do not use an apostrophe behind a year unless you are using the possessive: 60's music but not in the 60's. For example: The Beatles were the top musical band of the 60s.
    • The possessive form of personal pronouns such as its and yours do not take apostrophes.
  • Miscellaneous

    • Use the word said instead of commented, related, stated, etc.
    • Put the attribution at the end of short quote, in the middle of a two or more sentence quote.
    • Put the attribution in normal subject, verb order: Mrs. Moses said.
    • Don't end with a summary, conclusion or an editorial statement.
    • Avoid passive ("to be") verbs. Bob hit the ball, not The ball was hit by Bob.

By Bobby Hawthorne
Former Director, Interscholastic League Press Conference
Please see that Bobby Hawthorne and the ILPC are appropriately credited.