Writing Style Guidelines

The following guidelines apply to all formal communications at College of Western Idaho. Guidelines are based on guidance included in The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook and Webster’s New World College Dictionary.

Contact College Relations at communications@cwi.edu with questions related to these guidelines.

  • A

    A

    abbreviations

    Only use abbreviations after a formal name has been introduced with the abbreviation noted in parenthesis.

    • College of Western Idaho (CWI) is excited to announce a new degree option.

    accept / except

    • When used as verbs accept means to receive, while except means to exclude.

    admission / admissions

    • When referencing the Admission Deadline, Admission should remain without an ‘s’ at the end.
    • When referring to the overall process of admissions  applying, and completing the steps to get admitted to CWI — an ‘s’ should be included (e.g., Complete admissions by Aug. 9.).
    • One Stop Student Services references Admission without an ‘s’ within the titles and descriptions of some of their forms. When using phrases such as CWI’s Admission Application or Apply for Admission, follow this same format.

    addresses

    Abbreviate street titles and compass points when numbers are used in an address.

    • 5500 E. Opportunity Dr., Nampa

    Spell out references to street names when a number is not included.

    • The College’s Nampa Campus Academic Building is located on East Opportunity Drive.

    advisor

    • Spell as advisor, not adviser.
    • Only capitalize when referring to an individual's official title. 
    • General references to a group of individuals who advise students should not be capitalized (e.g., Contact your advisor to create a plan.)

    affect / effect

    • When used as verbs, affect means to influence, while effect means to cause.
    • Effect as a noun means result.

    afterward / backward / forward / toward

    These words do not end in ‘s’.

    ages

    Always use figures for ages. Hyphens should be added for ages expressed as adjectives before a noun or as substitutes for a noun.

    • The oldest graduate is 77 years old.
    • Classes started when the College was 2 years old.
    • The 22-year-old graduate was well on his way to a promising future.

    age ranges

    Age ranges are written without an apostrophe.

    • The graduate was in her 30s.

    alumni

    When referring to CWI alumni, use the word ‘graduate’ where possible. Do not capitalize unless used as the first word of a sentence.

    • Jessica Argyle, a 2014 College of Western Idaho graduate, studied Communication.

    The following iterations of alumni may also be used, as necessary. Do not capitalize unless used as the first word of a sentence.

    • alumni – formal, referring to a group of men and/or women
    • alum – informal, plural use for alumnus, alumna, alumni, or a group of unknown gender
    • alumna – formal, feminine, singular
    • alumnae – formal, feminine, plural
    • alumnus – formal, masculine, singular

    a.m. / p.m.

    See time for guidelines. 

    ampersand ( & )

    The ampersand (&) symbol should only be used in select graphic design applications, interior or exterior signage, and in some titles. The word ‘and’ should generally be used in College communications.

    associate degree

    assure / ensure / insure

    • Assure is to give confidence.
    • Ensure is to make certain.
    • Insure is to provide insurance.
  • B

    B

    bachelor’s degree

    • An apostrophe should be used when referencing a bachelor’s degree.
    • When writing out the formal title of a bachelor’s degree, exclude the apostrophe and ‘s’ (e.g., Bachelor of Arts degree in Nursing).
    • See degrees and certificates for additional guidelines.

    backward

    This word does not end in ‘s’.

    Blackboard

    One word, capitalized.

    Board of Trustees

    • When referencing the governing board of CWI, the proper name is the College of Western Idaho Board of Trustees.
    • The CWI Board of Trustees or the Board may be used on second reference.

    bookstore

    The College of Western Idaho Bookstore on first reference. The CWI Bookstore or the Bookstore may be used on second reference. 

    break

    Capitalize when referencing a specific time period in the academic calendar on first reference (e.g., Spring Break, Summer Break, Fall Break, Winter Break). Lowercase break when standing alone.

    bulleted lists

    • Do not start words in bulleted lists with a capitalized letter unless it is a complete sentence, or it is an official title or a proper noun.
    • Punctuate with a period when individual bulleted item forms a complete sentence.
    • Punctuate multiple bulleted items with a semicolon when using as a continuous sentence.
  • C

    C

    campus / campuses

    See locations for guidelines.

    capital / capitol

    • Capitol is the building in which a state legislative body meets.
    • A capital is a city where the seat of a government is located.
    • When used in a financial sense, capital describes money, equipment, or property used in a business or corporation.

    Career Technical Education

    • When referencing this area of education at CWI, the formal name is Career Technical Education.
    • CTE may be used on second reference.
    • Career-technical used as an adjective to describe a type of classes should have a hyphen. Capitalization is not necessary unless used at the start of a sentence (e.g., The College offers several career-technical classes.).

    class / course

    • Use the term class in communication to students.
    • The term course is reserved for academic publication communications. Several classes may exist within a course.

    clubs

    Capitalize both words when referring to a campus club (e.g., International Club).

    College of Western Idaho

    • The College’s official title is College of Western Idaho.
    • College of Western Idaho should be used on first reference with CWI or the College with a capital ‘C’ used on second reference.
    • Do not use fragmented versions or add ‘the’ before the official title.

    commas

    Use an oxford/serial comma before ‘and’ and ‘or’.

    • Contact One Stop Student Services for questions regarding admissions, registration, and financial aid.

    Commencement

    Use in reference to the College’s formal graduation ceremony. Only capitalize when using as part of a formal title.

    • Join us for the Spring 2022 Commencement Ceremony.
    • The speaker for this year’s commencement ceremony is John Smith.

    compound modifiers

    Use a hyphen to join two words that express a single concept preceding a noun, when needed, to clarify the meaning and avoid unintended meanings (e.g., full-time student, two-year college, first-generation student).

    credentials

    List credentials following an individual’s name in the following order:

    • academic
    • professional licensure
    • certificates
    • organizational fellowship

    Include periods (e.g., Ph.D., R.M., etc.).

    currency

    Do not use decimal places when cents are not included (e.g., $136 per credit).

    CWI

    See College of Western Idaho for guidelines. 

  • D

    D

    dashes

    See hyphen / en dash / em dash for guidelines.

    dates

    • Capitalize the names of months in all uses.
    • Abbreviate Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. when writing full dates (e.g., Aug. 8, 2022) and when using the month and day (e.g., Sept. 16).
    • In instances where the month is only accompanied by a year, names of months should be spelled out (e.g., January 2022).
    • March, April, May, June, and July should not be abbreviated at any time.
    • Do not add st, nd, rd, or th after numerals (e.g., 21st, 2nd, etc.).

    days of the week

    Days of the week should always be spelled out and capitalized (e.g., Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday).

    decades

    When used as a noun, there should be no apostrophe. When used as a possessive, include an apostrophe.

    • The 2000s were a profitable time.
    • Back in the ‘90s, gas was much cheaper.
    • Their final paper discussed the 1990s’ culture.

    degrees and certificates

    Capitalize the name of a degree or certificate when used as a proper noun or adjective.

    • College of Western Idaho offers associate degrees in Automotive Technology, Communication, and more.
    • The student was awarded an Associate of Arts degree in Communication.

    Use lowercase when referring to unofficial course/class names or using general degree references.

    • He took a biology class fall semester.
    • She wants to earn an associate degree.

    departments

    • Use title case when referring to the official name of an academic department at the College (e.g., The Department of Biology).
    • The word ‘department’ should remain lowercase when following the department name (e.g., the Biology department).
    • General references to a subject matter should not be capitalized (e.g., She teaches history.).

    directions and regions

    Lowercase words like north, west, northeast, etc. when giving directions.

    • Drive east for five miles to find the Ada County Center.

    Capitalize these words when describing a region.

    • The student spent time in the Midwest and on the East Coast.
    • He has a Southern accent.

    disciplines

    See departments for guidelines.

    disperse / disburse

    • Disperse means to break up and scatter in all directions (e.g., The club dispersed the flyers across campus).
    • Disburse is a financial term referencing a pay out from a public fund (e.g., Financial aid will disburse your funds.).

    dual-credit

    • Capitalize and do not hyphenate when referring to the College’s Dual Credit Program.
    • In general references, do not capitalize unless used as the first word in a sentence.
    • Hyphenate when used as a compound adjective describing a type of student (e.g., dual-credit student).
  • E

    effect / affect

    • When used as verbs, effect means to cause, while affect means to influence.
    • Effect as a noun means result.

    Elevation

    Elevation is the official, trademarked title of College of Western Idaho’s magazine.

    ellipsis ( ... )

    • Ellipsis can be used to indicate an omitted section in a quoted text or a temporal break.
    • Ellipsis are constructed with three periods using a space before and after the ellipsis and no space between each period.

    em dash ( — )

    See hyphen / en dash / em dash for guidelines.

    email

    Do not hyphenate. Should not be capitalized unless used as the first word in a sentence.

    email address

    When referencing an email address, use all lowercase letters and no parenthesis (e.g., communications@cwi.edu).

    employees

    Refer to those employed by College of Western Idaho as employees, unless there is a specific reason to differentiate between faculty and staff.

    en dash ( ­­– )

    See hyphen / en dash / em dash for guidelines.

    ensure

    See assure / ensure / insure for guidelines.

    except / accept

    • When used as verbs except means to exclude, while accept means to receive.
  • F

    F

    faculty titles

    When referring to a member of faculty, their official academic title should be used.  

    • Teacher (teach in Adult Education, Fire Service, or Law Enforcement; part-time, non-benefited)
    • Industry Teacher (teach in Workforce Development, part-time, non-benefited)
    • Adjunct Instructor (teach in Instruction, part-time, non-benefited)
    • Instructor (full-time, benefited)
      • Assistant Professor
      • Associate Professor
      • Professor

    Do not use 'professor' as a generic title; it is an earned academic rank. If you are unsure of a person’s official academic rank, use “instructor”.

    Do not abbreviate academic titles.

    FAFSA

    • When referencing the FAFSA, the proper name is Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
    • FAFSA may be used on second reference.
    • The URL studentaid.gov should be used communications. 

    farther / further

    Farther describes physical distance. Further refers to an extension of time or degree.

    • College of Western Idaho can help students further their education.
    • The Nampa Campus is father away than I would like.

    file names

    • PDF
    • PNG
    • JPEG or JPG

    first-generation student

    A student who is the first in their family to attend college. See compound modifiers for additional guidelines.

    fiscal year

    FY23 or fiscal year 2023 are both acceptable when referring to budget years.

    flyer

    When referring to a collateral/promotional piece, flyer should be spelled with a ‘y’.

    forward

    This word does not end in ‘s’.

    foundation

    • When referencing the College’s foundation, the proper name is the College of Western Idaho Foundation.
    • The CWI Foundation or the Foundation may be used on second reference.

    full-time

    See compound modifiers for guidelines.

    further

    See farther / further for guidelines.

  • G

    G

    GED

    GED is a trademark abbreviation for General Education Development tests, a battery of five exams designed by the American Council on Education to measure high school equivalency. GED should be used as an adjective, not as a noun. Those passing the tests earn a GED diploma or certificate, not a GED.

    general education

    Except when used as a title, general education should be hyphenated when used as an adjective.

    graduation

    Graduation is the act of receiving a degree or certificate. Commencement should be used when referring to the College’s formal graduation ceremony.

  • H

    H

    headlines

    Use title case in article headlines, capitalizing all essential words.

    healthcare

    • Use as one word when referencing a CWI class or program (e.g., The College has several healthcare programs.).
    • Use two words in other references (e.g., Health care is a critical industry in Idaho.)

    help desk

    Capitalize when referring to CWI’s Information Technology Help Desk.

    Higher Education in Idaho

    Preferred abbreviations for Idaho colleges and universities are as follows:

    • Boise State University (Boise State)
    • Brigham Young University-Idaho (BYU-I)
    • College of Southern Idaho (CSI)
    • College of Eastern Idaho (CEI)
    • Idaho State University (ISU)
    • Lewis-Clark State College (LCSC)
    • North Idaho College (NIC)
    • Northwest Nazarene University (NNU)
    • The College of Idaho (C of I)
    • Treasure Valley Community College (TVCC)
    • University of Idaho (U of I)
    • Western Governors University (WGU)

    high-tech

    Hyphenated when used as an adjective (e.g., Software development is a high-tech industry.)

    homepage

    One word, not hyphenated. Do not capitalize unless it appears as the first word in a sentence.

    hyphen / en dash / em dash

    Hyphens ( - ) are used as joiners, such as for compound modifiers. Do not add spaces before or after the hyphen.

    • Bryson is a first-generation student.

    En dashes ( – ) are used for date or time ranges. Add a space before and after an en dash.

    • Spring Break is March 21 – 25.
    • In Microsoft Word, ALT + 0150 will create an en dash.

    Em dashes ( — ) are used to signal an abrupt change, to set off a series within a phrase, before attribution to an author, after datelines, and to start lists. Add a space before and after an em dash.

    • Each program offers unique — and exciting — classes to students.
    • In Microsoft Word, type two hyphens in a row (--) or ALT + 0151 to create an em dash.
  • I

    I

    insure

    See assure / ensure / insure.

    internet

    Lowercase unless used as the first word in a sentence.

  • J

    J

  • K

    K

  • L

    L

    Latinx

    Latinx is a term predominately used in higher education as a non-gendered reference to a person or group culturally or nationally identifying with a Hispanic or Latin-American culture. Latinx is often used interchangeably with Hispanic and Latino/Latina. See race / ethnicity for additional guidelines.

    library

    The College of Western Idaho Library on first reference. The CWI Library or the library on second reference. Do not capitalize ‘library’ when standing alone.

    locations

    Use the official title of campus locations when referencing locations. Acronyms may be used on second reference.

    • Ada County Center
      • Ada County Center Lynx Building (ALYN)
      • Ada County Center Mallard Building (AMAL)
      • Ada County Center Pintail Building (APIN)
      • Ada County Center Quail Building (AQUL)
    • Canyon County Center (CYNC)
    • CWI Horticulture (HORT)
    • Nampa Campus
      • Nampa Campus Academic Building (NCAB)
      • Nampa Campus Administration Building (NADM)
      • Nampa Campus Aspen Classroom Building (NASP)
      • Nampa Campus Micron Education Center (NMEC)
      • Nampa Campus Multipurpose Building (NCMP)
      • Willow Building A (NCWA)
      • Willow Building B (NCWB)
      • Willow Building C (NCWC)

    login / log in

    • One word if used as a noun or an adjective (e.g., Use your login information to access the site.).
    • Two words without a hyphen is used as a verb (e.g., Please log in to access your schedule.).
    • When referencing a way to log in to a site or portal, Sign In is preferred.
  • M

    M

    master’s degree

    • An apostrophe should be used when referencing a master’s degree.
    • When writing out the formal title of a master’s degree, exclude the apostrophe and ‘s’ (e.g., Master of Arts degree in Nursing).
    • See degrees and certificates for additional guidelines.

    midnight

    See time for guidelines.

    months

    See dates for guidelines.

    myCWI

    One word, not hyphenated. Do not capitalize the ‘m’ unless it appears as the first word in a sentence.

  • N

    N

    noncredit

    Not hyphenated. Do not capitalize unless it appears as the first word in a sentence.

    nonprofit

    Not hyphenated. Do not capitalize unless it appears as the first word in a sentence.

    noon

    See time for guidelines.

    numbers

    • Add an ‘s’ without an apostrophe to plural numbers (e.g., 2000s).
    • Spell out numbers one through nine and use numerals for numbers 10 and above.
      • He earned three degrees.
      • They have 17 students in the class.
    • In sentences beginning with a number, the number should be spelled out.
      • Eleven of the programs have certificate options.
    • Fractions standing alone are spelled out. Use numerals for fractions used with whole numbers.
      • About one-third of students use financial aid.
      • This program takes 2 1/2 years to complete.
    • Use commas in four-digit numbers and greater (e.g., 8,974).
    • Use numerals and a dollar sign for large sums of money (e.g., $1.2 million).

    number ranges

    When referring to money:

    • The College is seeking $10 million to $12 million in funding.
    • The Biology Club hopes to raise between $50 and $100 at the fundraiser.

    Other references:

    • I am expecting a pay increase of 12 – 15%.
    • Employees are hoping for a pay increase between 10 and 15%.
  • O

    O

    office

    Use title case when referencing the official or commonly used named of a campus office.

    • Business Office
    • Office of the Registrar / Registrar’s Office

    on

    Do not use ‘on’ before a date or day of the week when its absence would not lead to confusion, except at the beginning of a sentence (e.g., The meeting is Monday. Classes begin Aug. 22.).

    One Stop Student Services

    Title should not be abbreviated (e.g., One Stop) or hyphenated (e.g., One-Stop), and each word in the title should be capitalized.

    online

    Not hyphenated. Do not capitalize unless it appears as the first word in a sentence.

  • P

    P

    parenthesis

    Use parentheses to include information in a quote that is not part of the original.

    • This year’s budget (2009) has been finalized. 

    part-time

    See compound modifiers for guidelines.

    percent

    Use the % symbol when paired with a numeral with no space (e.g., 30% of students take classes online).

    periods

    Use a single space after a period at the end of a sentence.

    phone numbers

    Use periods in phone numbers (e.g., 208.562.3000).

    plural proper nouns

    Lowercase the common noun element in plural uses (e.g., Ada and Canyon counties).

    p.m. / a.m.

    See time for guidelines.

    prefixes

    Words formed with prefixes such as non-, pre-, post-, un-, re-, co-, etc. are spelled without a hyphen.

    • noncredit
    • reapply
    • nonprofit

    programs

    • Use title case when referring to the official name of an academic program at the College (e.g., Law Enforcement program).
    • The word ‘program’ should remain lowercase when following the program name (e.g., the Criminal Justice program).
    • General references to a subject matter should not be capitalized (e.g., The student is interested in a career in law enforcement.).

    Visit cwi.edu/programs for the most up-to-date list of programs.

  • Q

    Q

    quotes

    Attribution of a quote should be included after the first sentence to quickly identify the speaker (e.g., “Financial aid is not boring,” said Director of Financial Aid, Jeneé Snyder.).

    quotation marks

    • Use double quotation marks ( “ “ ) for direct quotes or around words used to express irony.
    • Use single quotations marks ( ‘ ‘ ) for quotes within quotes and in headlines.
    • Use a single quotation mark followed immediately by a double quotation mark ( ... ‘“ ) when quoted elements end at the same time.
    • When quotation marks are placed with other punctuation:
      • Periods and commas always go inside the quotation marks.

    Dashes, semicolons, colons, question marks, and exclamation points go inside the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only and outside when they apply to the entire sentence.

  • R

    R

    race / ethnicity

    The College uses the following categories to indicate race and ethnicity when reporting student demographics in alignment with definitions provided by the United States Census Bureau:

    • American Indian / Alaska Native
    • Asian
    • Black / African American
    • Hispanic / Latino
    • Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander
    • White

    room names and numbers

    When referring to a specific room, suite, or designated location on campus it should always be preceded by the official building name or acronym.

    • Nampa Campus Administration Building, Suite 102
    • Nampa Campus Academic Building, 2nd Floor Atrium
    • NCAB, Room 122
    • APIN, Student Commons
  • S

    S

    schools

    School should be capitalized when using the formal name of the organizational group (e.g., School of Communication and Technology).

    seasons

    Do not capitalize unless being used as a proper noun.

    • Registration for the Spring 2023 semester is open.
    • Classes are offered in the fall and spring semesters.

    semesters

    Only capitalize fall, spring, or summer when immediately preceding the semester year (e.g., Fall 2022 semester, fall semester).

    services

    • Use title case when referring to an official service provided at the College (e.g., Tutoring Services, Counseling and Wellness Services, etc.).

    social media terms

    • Facebook
    • Instagram
    • LinkedIn
    • Snapchat
    • TikTok
    • YouTube

    special character shortcuts

    • é = ALT + 0233 
    • ñ = ALT + 0241
    • em dash ( – ) = ALT + 0150
    • em dash (—) = ALT + 0151
    • degree ( ° ) = ALT + 0176
    • cents ( ¢ ) = ALT + 0162

    State Board of Education

    State Board of Education should be capitalized. SBOE may be used on second reference.

    states

    Spell out the name of states when using in the body of an article.

    stationary / stationery

    • Stationary is an adjective used to describe objects or things that are fixed or unchanging.  
    • Stationery is a noun used to describe writing materials and office supplies. Hint: E is for envelope.

    symbols

    In general, words that can be referred to with symbols should be spelled out in writing (e.g., at / @, and / &, equals / =).

    When using symbols in tables or forms, be sure to leave a space before and after these symbols:

    Do not leave spaces when & appears in an abbreviation with all caps such as AT&T, and do not leave spaces before these symbols:

    • %
    • °
    • ¢
    • #
  • T

    T

    that

    ‘That’ may usually be omitted when a dependent clause immediately follows a form of the verb (e.g., The employee said she had signed the report.).

    time

    • Write a.m. and p.m. lowercase with periods, no capitalization, or spacing (e.g., 2:30 p.m.).
    • Include a space between the hour or minutes and a.m. or p.m. (e.g., 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.).
    • Noon should be used to indicate 12 p.m. Do not capitalize unless it is the first word of the sentence (e.g., 11 a.m. – noon).
    • Midnight should be used to indicate 12 a.m. Do not capitalize unless it is the first word of the sentence (e.g., The application closes at midnight.)
    • Use :00 for consistency (e.g., 3:00 – 4:30 p.m.)

    titles

    • Capitalize titles preceding a person’s name (e.g., President Gordon Jones).
    • Lowercase titles following a person’s name (e.g., Gordon Jones is the president of the College.).
    • The following titles are capitalized and abbreviated when used before a name both inside and outside quotations: (Dr., Gov., Lt., Rep., Sen.)

    title case

    • Use title case for document and article headings.
    • Title case displays initial capital letters in words except for articles (a, an, the) and short prepositions (of, for, on, in, by).

    titles of publications

    • Use italics for titles of separately published catalogs or pamphlets (e.g., CWI Catalog, CWI Student Handbook, Fall 2022 Class Schedule, etc.).
    • Use quotation marks for titles of articles or chapters within a separately published work (e.g., View the “Transcripts” section in the CWI Catalog to learn more.).

    toward

    This word does not end in ‘s’.

    trademarked names

    Trademarked brand names used in everyday language should be capitalized (e.g., Band-Aid, Clorox, Post-it Notes, Q-tips, etc.).

    Treasure Valley

    When referencing the area encompassing Ada and Canyon counties, use Treasure Valley as a proper noun.

    two-year

    See compound modifiers for guidelines.

  • U

    U

    United States

    • Spell out when used as a noun (e.g., He came to the United States to get an education.).
    • Abbreviate with periods and no spaces when used as an adjective (e.g., Extension is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture).

    university

    • Do not capitalize when used as a common noun.
    • Always reference the full name of universities, and abbreviate if necessary after first reference.

    URLs

    Do not include http:// or www. in front of web addresses unless needed for clarification (e.g., Visit cwi.edu to learn more.).

  • V

    V

  • W

    web

    Lowercase in all uses.

    web addresses

    See URLs for guidelines.

    web terms

    • homepage
    • internet
    • myCWI
    • URL
    • website
    • web page
    • Wi-Fi

    website instructions

    When documenting instructions for using a website, use either bold or italic font or both consistently throughout for specific actions.

    • click Save
    • choose Address Change
    • select OK from the drop-down menu

    western

    When referencing the area CWI serves, ‘western’ is not capitalized.

    work-study

    • Capitalize when using the official name of the program or job title (e.g., Federal Work-Study Program, Federal Work-Study funds, College of Western Idaho’s Work-Study Program, Work-Study Coordinator).
    • FWS Program/Funds or CWI’s Work-Study Program may be used on second reference.
    • Use lowercase for work-study student, work-study position, and work-study supervisor
  • X

    X

  • Y

    Y

    years

    See dates for guidelines.

  • Z

    Z

    ZIP code

    Use all caps for ZIP (Zone Improvement Plan) but always lowercase for code (e.g., ZIP code)

    Zoom

    Zoom meeting, not ZOOM or zoom.