University of Southern California

Style Guidelines

The Catalogue Style Guide contains editorial guidelines for grammar and punctuation as well as university-specific conventions, such as the proper names of schools and departments. It is intended to provide a set of consistent editorial standards specifically for Catalogue Office publications. It is not designed to be a guideline for technical or academic writing.

Guidelines are based on university style as well as the AP Stylebook and Merriam Webster online dictionary ( Additions will be made as needed.

For more information about these guidelines, contact the Catalogue Office at or (213) 740-1207.


Academic and Administrative Titles
Academic Degrees
Majors and Minors
Buildings and Structures
Schools and Administrative Units
Web Style
Word Style


Ampersand (&)

  • Do not use as an abbreviation for and. Use the ampersand only when it is part of an official name.

Academic degrees

  • Use periods with two-letter degrees and no periods with most three-letter degrees.
  • Use B.A., B.S., M.A., M.S., MBA, Ed.D., Ph.D., etc.


  • Does not need to be spelled out on first use.

General education

  • Spell out general education. Avoid using GE.


  • Use periods and spaces between C. and L. in President C. L. Max Nikias.
  • Use periods but do not use spaces when a person uses initials instead of a first name in all other cases.
    Example: T.C. Boyle

United States

  • U.S. as an adjective; United States as a noun

Academic and Administrative Titles

  • The general order of academic titles listed in the school sections of the Catalogue: professor, associate professor, assistant professor, instructor, lecturer, adjunct, visiting professor. Full-time faculty are listed before part-time faculty.
  • Faculty members who hold endowed chairs or professorships, or who are Distinguished Professors or University Professors, may have such honors included in their titles.
  • Do not list Dr. before a doctor’s name in text when referring to a medical doctor or someone holding a doctorate. List the terminal degree after the doctor’s name.
    Example: George Tirebiter, M.D.; not Dr. George Tirebiter, Dr. Tirebiter or Dr. George Tirebiter, M.D.

Academic Degrees

  • Use periods for two-letter degrees, such as B.A., B.S., M.A., J.D., etc. In general, do not use periods for three-letter degrees, such as MBA, MFA, etc.
  • Undergraduate Programs

    Abbreviation Full Official Name
    B.A. Bachelor of Arts
    BBA Bachelor of Business Administration
    BFA Bachelor of Fine Arts
    B.M. Bachelor of Music
    B.S. Bachelor of Science
    LL.B. Bachelor of Laws

    Master’s Programs

    Abbreviation Full Official Name
    LL.M. Master of Laws
    M.A. Master of Arts
    MAT Master of Arts in Teaching
    M.S. Master of Science
    MAcc Master of Accounting
    MBA  Master of Business Administration (always abbreviated)
    MBT Master of Business Taxation
    MCL Master of Comparative Law
    M.E. Master of Education
    M.Ed. Master of Education
    MFA Master of Fine Arts (always abbreviated)
    MFT Master of Marriage and Family Therapy
    MHA Master of Health Administration
    MHP Master of Historic Preservation
    MLA Master of Landscape Architecture
    M.LL. Master of Laws
    MLS Master of Library Science
    MLIS Master of Library and Information Sciences
    M.M. Master of Music
    MMM Master of Medical Management
    MPA Master of Public Administration
    MPAS Master of Public Art Studies
    MPH Master of Public Health
    MPl Master of Planning
    MPP Master of Public Policy
    MPT Master of Physical Therapy
    MPW Master of Professional Writing (nearly always abbreviated)
    MRED Master of Real Estate Development
    MSIA Master of Science in Information Assurance, or
    Master of Science in Information Administration
    MSW Master of Social Work

    Doctorate Programs

    Abbreviation Full Official Name
    DDS Doctor of Dental Surgery
    DMA Doctor of Musical Arts
    DMD Doctor of Dental Medicine
    DPA Doctor of Public Administration
    DPPD Doctor of Policy, Planning, and Development
    Ed.D. Doctor of Education
    J.D. Juris Doctor
    JSD Doctor of Judicial Science
    LL.D. Doctor of Laws, or Legum Doctor
    M.D. Doctor of Medicine
    OTD Doctor of Occupational Therapy
    Pharm.D. Doctor of Pharmacy
    Ph.D. Doctor of Philosophy
    Psy.D. Doctor of Psychology
    SJD Doctor of Judicial Science


    Abbreviation Full Official Name
    ATC Certification in Athletic Training
    BCG Board Certified in Gerontology
    CCC-SLP Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology
    CCS Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Certified Specialist
    CHT Certified Hand Therapist
    C/NDT Certification in Neuro-Developmental Treatment
    CSCS Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
    CWCE Certified Work Capacity Evaluator
    FAHA Fellow of the American Heart Association
    FAPTA Fellow of the American Physical Therapy Association
    NCS Neurologic Certified Specialist
    OCS Orthopaedic Certified Specialist
    OTR/L Occupational Therapist, Registered, Licensed
    SCS Sports Certified Specialist
  • Lowercase bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree.
  • Uppercase Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts, etc.
  • B.A. or A.B., M.A. or A.M. Although USC does not award the A.B. or A.M., other universities do. Do not change A.B. or A.M. in lists of previous degrees for faculty or degree candidates.

Academic Majors and Minors

  • In general, in running text, do not capitalize a major or minor; only capitalize words that are proper nouns.
    – a master’s degree in American studies and ethnicity
    – a minor in English
  • If the sentence pairs the major with the degree, capitalize.
    – a Master of Arts in American Studies and Ethnicity


  • Explain or spell out an acronym on first use. Periods are not necessary after the letters that form an acronym.
    – Health Sciences Campus (HSC)
  • Spell out the name of a building.
    – Hubbard Hall not JHH
  • For building and room numbers, uppercase the name of the building; do not use “room” before the room number.
    – Hubbard Hall 101

Buildings and Structures

  • Capitalize terms such as building, fountain, park, plaza, room or theatre when part of an official name.
    – Seeley G. Mudd Building
    – Stauffer Science Lecture Hall
  • For a complete list of building names, visit


Academic degrees

  • Lowercase bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees.
  • Uppercase Bachelor of Arts, Master of Science, etc.

Academic programs

  • Lowercase general education.


  • University Park Campus; Health Sciences Campus

Department names

  • Lowercase, except when used with full names.
    – history department; the department; Department of History


  • Capitalize the first letter of all words except most prepositions, articles and the second word of a hyphenated compound. Capitalize the second word of a hyphenated compound if it is the last word of a heading or headline. Capitalize the following prepositions: from, through, into.

Job titles

  • Capitalize job titles only when they immediately precede the individual’s name.
    – President C. L. Max Nikias; C. L. Max Nikias, president of USC


  • Capitalize S when referring to Southern California, the region.

Majors and programs

  • Lowercase academic majors and minors unless the major includes a word that is normally capitalized.
    – history major, English major
  • Capitalize formal names of programs.
    – Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program

Offices and departments

  • Capitalize formal office names.
    – Orientation Programs, but lowercase orientation
    – USC Alumni Association; but lowercase alumni association
    – USC Bookstore; the bookstore

Sessions and semesters

  • Lowercase fall, spring, summer.

USC names, schools and campuses

  • Capitalize the University of Southern California and USC but lowercase the university.
  • USC Board of Trustees, USC Board of Directors.
  • Trojan Family. Use a capital F for Family.
  • Always use a capital C for Commencement.

Chairs and Professorships

  • Capitalize the name of endowed chairs and professorships.
    – Henry Salvatori Chair in Computer Science


  • Do not use ordinal numbers in dates. Example: January 8 not January 8th
  • List dates as month, day and year.
  • Use an en dash for continuing or inclusive numbers in dates. Do not use a dash as a substitute for the word to.
    – The 2014–15 academic year turned out to be a record-breaking year.
    – The professor taught from 2000 to 2014.


Bulleted and Numbered

  • If the sentence introducing the list is a complete sentence, it can end in a period or a colon. If the introductory material is not a complete sentence, use the punctuation mark that’s appropriate for the context, whether that’s a comma, semicolon, dash or nothing at all.
  • Example: A photocopy documenting one of the following will serve as proof of immunity:

    1. Two doses of the combination MMR vaccine; or
    2. Two doses of the measles vaccine and two doses of mumps vaccine; or
    3. Documentation from a physician.

    Example: Lottery dates are as follows:

    • Fall housing residents/commuters – April
    • Fall term – May
    • Spring term – November
    • Summer term – May
  • If any or all of the items in a vertical list are complete sentences, punctuate all items in the list with periods.
  • Capitalize material after a colon if it constitutes a complete sentence.


  • Spell out one to nine. Use numerals for 10 and above. Exceptions: Use numerals for percentages, decimals, credit hours, GPAs, book sections and pages, quantities combining whole numbers and fractions, and when symbols rather than abbreviations are used for units of measure.
  • Use numerals with units
    – 4 inches, 5 megabytes
  • Use the word percent in formal running text. Use the percent sign in tables and charts.
  • Use a comma for numbers with more than three digits unless they represent SAT scores or years.
  • Spell out numbers at the beginning of a sentence or rephrase the sentence to avoid beginning with a number. Per AP, the only exception is years, which can begin a sentence. Try to avoid this construction.
  • Use numerals without double zeroes with a.m. or p.m. (lowercase letters) to indicate specific times.
    – 2 p.m., not 2:00 p.m.
  • For GPAs, use only one zero.
    – He had a 3.0 GPA.
  • For telephone numbers, area codes go in parentheses: (213) 740-2200.
  • Use numbers for centuries. Don’t spell out.
    – 12th century or 7th century.
  • Use an en dash for a range of numbers.
    – See pages 30–40 of the text.



  • Use an ampersand (&) only as part of an official name, not as a substitute for and.


  • The possessive of a singular common noun is formed with the addition of an apostrophe and s.
    – the student’s book
    – the parents’ organization
  • Apostrophes are required for bachelor’s degree and master’s degree.


  • Use a colon to introduce a series or a list.
  • Use a colon to introduce an explanatory phrase or sentence. Capitalize material after a colon if it constitutes a complete sentence.


In Lists
  • In a series, use a comma before the conjunction and the elements but not the final element in a list.
    – Those in attendance included students, faculty and staff. Not Those in attendance included students, faculty, and staff.

With Appositives
  • Use commas with appositives that are nonrestrictive (not essential to the meaning of the sentence). Do not use a comma with appositives that are restrictive (essential to the noun it belongs to).
    – Traveler, the beloved mascot of USC, is memorialized in bronze in Hahn Plaza.

With Compound Sentences
  • Join compound sentences (two subjects and two verbs) with a comma. Do not use a comma to separate compound objects of verbs.
    – He went to the bookstore, and he bought a sweatshirt.
    – He went to the bookstore and bought a sweatshirt.

With Dates
  • No comma is needed between a month and a year. Do use a comma before and after the year if month, date and year are used.
    -The deadline is April 1, 2015, for on-campus applicants and May 1, 2015, for off-campus applicants.
    A hiring decision will be made in May 2015.

With Nonrestrictive and Parenthetical Phrases
  • Use commas to set off nonrestrictive and parenthetical phrases.
    – That bike, which is a racing model, is great for getting around campus.
    – The USC bus, also known as the intercampus shuttle, goes between UPC and HSC.

With Place Names
  • Names of states (or countries) are enclosed in commas when they are preceded by a city or state.
    – The football team’s first game will be in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sept. 2, but the first home game will be on Sept. 11.

With Jr., Sr. and Inc.
  • Omit comma before Jr., Sr. or Inc.

En Dashes

  • Use en dashes between inclusive numbers with no spaces before and after en dashes.
    – Examples are listed on pages 23–26 of the handbook.

Em Dashes

  • Em dashes are used to denote a sudden break in thought that causes an abrupt change in sentence structure. Do not overuse em dashes.
  • Set with a space on either side.
    – Spectrum Design Studio came up with 10 ideas that were not just good — they were good enough to steal.


  • Use hyphens between compound adjectives that precede nouns only when necessary to avoid ambiguity.
  • Do not use a hyphen between a compound that begins with an adverb ending in ly.
  • Do not hyphenate compound titles.
    – Vice president not vice-president

Punctuating Composition Titles

  • Put quotation marks around book titles, computer game titles, play titles, poem titles, album and song titles, radio and television program titles, and the titles of lectures, speeches and works of art but not the Bible, almanacs, dictionaries, encyclopedias and software titles.

Quotation Marks

  • Commas and periods always go inside quotation marks. Colons and semicolons always go outside quotation marks. With question marks and exclamation points, it depends: If the punctuation is part of the quotation, put it inside the quotation marks; if it’s not part of the quotation, put it outside.


  • Use semicolons in lists when items include commas.
    – Board members at the meeting included: Tommy Trojan, president; I.M. Traveler, vice president; and George Tirebiter, secretary.

Schools and Administrative Units


  • USC School of Architecture
  • USC Roski School of Art and Design
    – USC Iovine and Young Academy
  • USC Marshall School of Business
    – USC Marshall School of Business
    – USC Leventhal School of Accounting
  • USC School of Cinematic Arts
  • USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
    – USC Dornsife College or Dornsife College – second reference
  • USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
    – School of Communication
    – School of Journalism
  • USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance
  • Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC
  • USC School of Dramatic Arts
  • USC Rossier School of Education
  • USC Viterbi School of Engineering
  • USC Davis School of Gerontology
  • USC Independent Health Professions at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry
    – Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy
    – USC Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
  • USC Gould School of Law
  • Keck School of Medicine of USC
  • USC Thornton School of Music
  • USC School of Pharmacy
  • USC Price School of Public Policy
  • USC School of Social Work

Administrative Units

  • USC Graduate School – do not capitalize the
    – The following degrees are awarded by the Graduate School.

Departments or Schools

  • Within the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, there are three schools, which should not be listed as departments:
    – School of International Relations
    – School of Philosophy
    – School of Religion

Divisions or Departments

  • USC Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy not the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
  • Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy not the Department of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy

Web Style

  • When a URL ends a sentence, add the necessary period.
  • It is preferable to use the shortest version of a URL as possible.
  • Use italic type for URLs.
  • It is not necessary to include the http:// or www. at the beginning of URLs or the forward slashes at the end.
  • Many Websites now use pre-address subdirectories ( instead of Though will work, it is never necessary and makes addresses unnecessarily long.

Web Terms

  • email
  • homepage
  • Internet – always capitalize
  • login, logon, logoff; but use as two words in verb form: I log in to my computer
  • myUSC – lowercase m unless used at the beginning of a sentence
  • offline
  • online
  • URLs
  • Web
  • Web page
  • Website
  • World Wide Web

Word Style

Word List

  • adviser not advisor
  • advisory not advisery
  • catalogue not catalog
  • chair not chairman, chairperson, or chairwoman
  • course work not coursework
  • data — always plural
  • email not e-mail
  • fundraising not fund-raising
  • grade point average not grade-point average
  • Graduate Record Examinations not Graduate Record Examination
  • greek not Greek (when referring to fraternities and sororities)
  • health care not healthcare
  • international students not foreign students
  • online not on-line
  • resident adviser not residential adviser
  • resident coordinator not residential coordinator
  • résumé not resume
  • theatre not theater
  • toward not towards
  • X-ray not x-ray

Word Distinctions

alumnus, alumni, alumna, alumnae

  • Use alumnus (alumni in the plural) when referring to a man who has attended a school. Use alumna (alumnae in the plural) in similar references to a woman. Use alumni when referring to both men and women.


  • Compose means to create or put together.
  • Comprise means to be made up of. Comprised of is redundant.
  • Constitute means to be the elements of and may work best when neither compose nor comprise seem to fit.
    – The United States comprises 50 states. The United States is composed of 50 states. Fifty states constitute the United States of America.


  • Doctoral is an adjective; doctorate is a noun.


  • Follows professor (professor emeritus, not emeritus professor).
  • Use emeritus for a man, emerita for a woman and emeriti for the plural.


  • These are not interchangeable.
  • That defines and restricts; which does not. Which is preceded with a comma.
    – USC provides residential opportunities that complement the academic mission of the university.
    – USC’s online application system offers applicants a roommate-matching feature, which sorts potential roommates based on living preferences.

United States

  • Spell out when used as a noun. Use U.S. (no space) only as an adjective. Example: U.S. Court of Appeals.