Commonly Used Words

Arranged alphabetically, these sections include spelling, usage, punctuation and capitalization notes for specific words and phrases commonly used in the CSU. An entry without an explanation is simply to indicate the correct spelling of a word or words. Updated August 4, 2020​

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


about/around: Use about for approximately; use around for location. (We had about 60 attendees. I thought that street was around here.)

abbreviations and acronyms: Spell out the full name of the organization, group or program, etc., at the first mention, followed by the abbreviation or acronym in parentheses if the organization will be referred to again. See the Acronyms, Abbreviations and Organization Names section for examples that are often found in university writing. To create a plural, just add s; for the possessive, add 's.

academic degrees: In text, spell out but do not capitalize academic degrees when used in a general sense (bachelor's, master's, doctorate, bachelor of art, master of science). (That campus offers bachelor's and master's degrees.) Abbreviate degrees with no spaces between letters (BA, Ed.D., MSW, Ph.D., M.D., D.D.S.​).

academic year: An annual period beginning with the fall term and ending with the spring term. Summer quarters and sessions are not included in the academic year.

acting/interim: Someone filling in for an administrator temporarily on leave is acting. The correct title when someone is filling in while a permanent replacement is being sought is interim.

admission office (not admissions office)

alumna, alumnus, alumnae, alumni: Use alumna when referring to a female who has attended a school (alumnae is the plural); alumnus is similar reference for a male (alumni is the plural). Use alumni for a mixed group of men and women; do not use alumni/ae. Consequently, if you're a woman, you can be an "alumna" or "alumnae" (plural); if you're a man, "alumnus." The plural for a group of men or a mixed group of men and women is "alumni." Avoid "alum."

AmeriCorps (note capital c)

a.m., p.m.: Lowercase with periods after each letter.

annual: An event cannot be considered annual until it has been held in at least two successive years. The fourth annual symposium will occur in March. It is incorrect to say "first annual," as in "the first annual conference is being held."

archaeology (not archeology)

as follows: As follows (not as follow) is correct to introduce a statement or list.

Assembly/Senate: Uppercase when referring to the California State Assembly or California State Senate. (The bill narrowly passed the State Senate on Tuesday and is now on the Assembly floor.) If referring to the official name, the California State Legislature, each word is capitalized. However, if referring to state legislators or the state legislature, use lowercase.
Assembly Member: Two words; capitalize "member" when preceding an individual's name. This usage is preferred to assemblyman and assemblywoman. (Assembly Member Jones spoke. Martinez, an Assembly member, plays golf.)

associate degree (not associate's degree)


bachelor's degree: Use the possessive form when accompanied by "degree" (bachelor's degree), but  the possessive form is not used in Bachelor of Arts (or Science, etc.).

benefit, benefited, benefiting (one t)

biannual/biennial:Biannual means twice a year; biennial means every two years.

board of trustees: Capitalize when used formally as in the California State University Board of Trustees or when by itself referring to that entity. It is not necessary to capitalize board or trustees when used alone. (The board met last month.) The Board of Trustees and the board take a singular verb; the trusteestakes a plural verb. (The Board of Trustees is voting; the trustees are voting.) As a single entity, the board should be referred to as "it" not "they." (The board will decide when it meets.)

businessperson (one word)


The California Dream Act: Sometimes abbreviated CADA. Can be referred to on second and subsequent mentions as the "Dream Act." To refer to a student(s) who is covered under the California Dream Act, use the term "Dreamer(s)." For Dream and Dreamer, capitalize only the D. While "Dream" is an acronym, the state's official site for the California Dream Act does not use all capital letters (i.e., DREAM); the CO style guide follows the same protocol of capitalizing only the D. The California Dream Act allows undocumented and nonresident documented students who meet certain provisions to apply for and receive private scholarships funded through public universities, state-administered financial aid, university grants, community college fee waivers, and Cal Grants.

California Education Code: The California Education Code sets the laws that regulate the California education system. Refer to a section according to where it is within the code (California Education Code, Part 1, Chapter 2, Article 3) or its name (California Education Code, Educational Equity, Prohibition of Discrimination).

The California State University:The is part of the official name of this system and should be included and capitalized on covers, title pages, contents, headings or whenever the official name of the organization is called for. However, it should be lowercased in textual matter. Lowercasing the in text will avoid such awkward situations as "the University of California, The California State University and the California Community Colleges." Remember to use the before the abbreviation CSU when practical. (The CSU is increasing access, not "CSU is increasing access.") System is not part of the official name of the California State University and should not be capitalized.

campuswide: Not hyphenated; see -wide suff​ix entr​y.

capital/Capitol: Capitalize U.S. Capitol and the Capitol when referring to the building in Washington, D.C., and lowercase when referring to state capitol buildings. (The California capitol is a beautiful building, but I was really overwhelmed by the Capitol in Washington, D.C.) Capital is the seat of government and is not capitalized. (The capital of Nevada is Carson City.)​​

cellphone: One word.​​

chair/chairman/chairwoman/chairperson: Use the organization's official title or that preferred and used by the individual. If no preference is indicated, use chair.

chamber of commerce: Lowercase unless naming a specific entity, such as the San Diego Chamber of Commerce. (We met with several members of the local chamber of commerce.)

Chancellor's Office: Capitalize when referring to the systemwide office as a whole. (The Board of Trustees usually meets at the Chancellor's Office.) Lowercase when referring to the physical office of the incumbent chancellor. (I will go to the chancellor's office to get his signature.) Office of the Chancellor is the preferred form for formal external documents and addresses.

When referring to the current Chancellor himself, it should appear as Chancellor Timothy P. White. (Not Tim White.) Because there are several other "chancellors" in the state of Californiaincluding a chancellor for each California Community Collegeit's recommended that you include "CSU" when referring to the CSU Chancellor's Office, when it makes sense. (Several California Community College chancellors attended the event at the CSU Chancellor's Office in Long Beach.)

class of 20XX​: Lowercase class.

collective noun: (faculty, jury, staff, board, etc.) A noun that appears singular in form but denotes a group of individuals or objects. The verb is singular or plural depending on whether the group is being referred to as a group or as individuals.

commencement: Lowercase.​

comprise/compose/constitute:Comprise means to be made up of, to contain, to include all or embrace; the whole comprises the parts. "Comprised of" is incorrect. (The CSU system comprises 23 universities.) Compose means to create or put together. (Many ethnic groups compose our nation.) Constitute means to make up the elements of the whole. (Two accountants and three bankers constitute the finance committee.) Use include for a series of items that are only part of the total. (The zoo includes penguins and monkeys. The zoo comprises 125 types of animals, including penguins and monkeys.)

congressman: Use representative instead.

coursework: (one word)

courtesy titles: In general, in text do not use courtesy titles (Mr., Ms., Miss) when using first and last names. (Use Richard Espinoza and Lisa Kim, not Mr. Richard Espinoza and Ms. Lisa Kim.) The title Dr. should be used in text only for a person with a medical (M.D., D.D.S., etc.) or veterinary degree (D.V.M.). Use of Dr. in text for a person with an Ed.D. or Ph.D. is optional. Please note: For consistency, if Dr. is used in a document to refer to a person with an Ed.D. or Ph.D., all people in the document with Ph.D.s and Ed.D.s must also have the title Dr.

coworker: (not co-worker)

credit hours: Use numerals for credit hours. (I earned 1 hour's credit; he earned 3 hours' credit.)

cross-cultural: Hyphenate in general usage; however, if part of a proper name, use the organization's preference.


data: Data can be used with a singular verb (the data is correct) or a plural verb (the data are derived from several reports) so long as it is used consistently in the document.

database (one word)

dates (see Numerals section)

days of the week: Do not abbreviate in text. (The Monday staff meeting has been postponed.)

decades: The first preference is to spell out the decade (the nineties), or use the full four numbers (the 1990s). Use the abbreviated two-digit form (the '80s) only in informal copy and when the century is clear. Use an apostrophe to indicate numerals omitted (the '80s). Add an s only for plurals (the 1990s). Include all four digits when using mid (the mid-1960s).When indicating a period of time that includes the last part of one decade (or century) and the first part of another, use four digits for both of the defining years (1989-1990; 1999-2000), except in tables and charts; however, 1998-99 and 2000-01 are correct.

decision making (noun)/decision-making (adj.): Examples: Now is the time for decision making. It is decision-making time.

doctoral/doctorate:Doctoral is an adjective (doctoral program); doctorate is the degree received.

Dr.: Use of the title Dr. in text for a person with a Ph.D. or Ed.D. is preferred on the second reference. Please note: For consistency, if Dr. is used in a document to refer to a person with an Ed.D. or Ph.D., all people in the document with Ph.D.s must also have the title Dr. It is incorrect to use both Dr. and Ed.D. or Ph.D. (Dr. George A. Chung or George A. Chung, Ph.D. is correct. Never write Dr. George A. Chung, Ph.D.). In addition, when writing about a campus president or chancellor with a doctorate, it is acceptable to omit Dr. in order to defer to the higher title of President.


Ed.D.: The Ed.D. is the doctoral degree in education.

Education Code: See California Education Code.

e.g., i.e.: E.g. means for example; i.e. means that is or in other words. Use periods after each letter; set off both with commas, but do not italicize. Use e.g. when providing examples. (We are working on several projects, e.g., the annual report, the conference and the program for teachers.) Use i.e. when rephrasing a statement to make it more understandable. (The CSU Executive Council, i.e., the chancellor, vice chancellors and presidents met Tuesday morning.)

-elect: Hyphenate and lowercase (President-elect Pham was there. The president-elect looks tired.)

email: Do not use a hyphen. Use email except at the beginning of a sentence, in a title or headline, or as part of an address, when the e should be capitalized (Email: abcd@calstate.edu).

emerita, emeritus, emeriti:Emerita refers to a woman, emeritus to a man and emeriti to a mixed group or a group of either sex. The emeritus designation follows the main title, as in professor emeritus, trustees emeriti, President Emerita Anne Williams. It is not necessary to italicize. Capitalize when part of a formal title that immediately precedes or follows a name. (Robert Garcia, Trustee Emeritus, spoke at the dinner.)

ethnicity and race: Current preference for the names of non-European ethnic groups is without hyphens (African American, Asian American, Mexican American). Categories are generally bureaucratically derived, such as for state or federal reports. (See Diversity Style Guide.)

ex officio (two words, no hyphen, no italics, not capitalized in text). This phrase means by virtue of office or position. (The chancellor is an ex officio member of the CSU Board of Trustees.) Do capitalize (Ex Officio) when part of a listing, such as for committee members in the Board of Trustees' Agenda.


faculty/faculty member:Faculty refers to an institution's entire instructional staff and takes a singular verb. (The CSU faculty is having a planning meeting.) Its plural is faculties. In referring to an individual, use faculty member. For a group of individuals numbering less than the entire faculty, use faculty members. If referring to a distinct group, use the plural. (The anthropology faculty are conducting a dig.)

farther/further:Farther refers to physical distance. (How much farther to the city?) Further refers to extent or degree. (We must take further steps to ensure that this does not happen again.)

FAQ: Acronym for Frequently Asked Questions. OK to add s for plural. ​

fax: Acceptable short version for the noun facsimile (not FAX). It is not a verb. Use: Send me a fax, not "please fax me." Capitalize when used as part of an address listing [FAX: (562) 555-5515].

federal: Lowercase unless part of the proper name (Federal Aviation Administration; federal grants).

fieldwork (one word)

first-come, first-served

first-hand (adj.)/first hand (adv.): Examples: We had first-hand information. He learned first hand.

foreign terms: Italicize words that have not been incorporated into everyday English use. If the word is in a standard English dictionary, it is common enough not to need italics. When using an obscure foreign term more than once in an article, second and later appearances should not be italicized.

freshman/freshmen: Use freshman when referring to one first-year student, freshmen when referring to more than one. Use freshman as a modifier; it is not freshmen dorms any more than it is juniors dorms.

FTE/FTEF/FTES: Do not use just FTE. It is either FTEF (Full-time Equivalent Faculty) or FTES (Full-time Equivalent Students).

full-time/full time: Hyphenate when this term precedes the noun; do not hyphenate when it follows. (She has a full-time job. She attends school full time.)

fundraising/fundraiser: Use as one word, with no hyphen in all uses. (Her job involves fundraising. The fundraising committee worked hard. A fundraiser was hired. A fundraiser was held.) If part of a proper name, use the organization's preference.

FY: Spell out fiscal year when first referenced in text. For subsequent references, use FY.


GPA: Grade point average (all capital letters, no periods). Use two digits after the decimal when expressing grade point average: 2.50, 3.00.

grades: Do not use quotation marks or italics. For scholastic grades, use a capital letter and s for plurals. (He received three As and two Bs.)

graduate (verb): Students graduate from high school; they do not graduate high school.

groundbreaking: One word in all forms. (Groundbreaking was July 4. Many dignitaries attended the groundbreaking ceremony.)


harass, harassment

health care (two words) (She works in health care. That is a health care question.)

historic/historical: Fine distinction: historic means important within the framework of history; historical concerns something that happened in the past. Both are preceded by the article a (a historic event), not an.

House of Representatives: Uppercase when referring to the lower house of Congress, even if shortened to House. (He has served in the House of Representatives since the House was run by Sam Rayburn.)

hyphen: See Punctuation section for help with hyphenation.


i.e., e.g.:E.g. means for example; i.e. means that is or in other words. Use periods after each letter; set off both with commas, but do not italicize. Use e.g.when providing examples. (We are working on several projects, e.g., the annual report, the conference and the program for teachers.) Use i.e. when rephrasing a statement to make it more understandable. (The CSUExecutive Council, i.e., the chancellor, vice chancellors and presidents met Tuesday morning.)

initials with names: Use spaces between initials when they are part of the name (R.W. Lewis) but not when initials are used alone, without periods (JFK, LBJ).

in-kind: Hyphenate when precedes a noun (an in-kind donation).

inservice (adj.): (not hyphenated) (She is an inservice teacher.)

interim: The correct title when someone is filling in while a permanent replacement is being sought is interim. Someone filling in for an administrator temporarily on leave is acting.

internet: Lowercase.​


liaison (not liason)

lifelong (no hyphen)

long-term: Hyphenate when this term precedes a noun. (He is a long-term employee.)

longtime (adj.) (no hyphen)


master's degree: Do not capitalize. The plural is master's degrees, not masters' degrees.

Mr., Ms., Miss: In general, in text do not use courtesy titles (Mr., Ms., Miss) when using first and last names. (Use William Kerr and Jasmine Singh, not Mr. William Kerr and Ms. Jasmine Singh.)

multicultural, multidisciplinary, multitask, multiyear, etc. (Most multi- prefix words are not hyphenated.)

Multiple Subject Credential (not Multiple Subjects Credential)


non- (prefix): In general, words with a non- prefix are not hyphenated (nonstate, nonresident, nongovernmental) unless confusion in reading might result (as with non-native). A hyphen is used before a proper noun (non-English).

nonprofit: (not non-profit or not-for-profit)


off-campus/off campus and on-campus/oncampus: Hyphenate off campus and on campus when used as adjectives preceding a noun. (The off-campus students held a rally.) Do not hyphenate when used as a preposition and noun. (The event was held on campus.)

OK: Do not use okay

on: Do not use on before a date or day of the week unless needed for clarity. (The meeting will be held Monday. The symposium will be held February 2.)


part time/part-time: Hyphenate when this term precedes the noun; do not hyphenate when it follows. (She has a part-time job. She attends school part time.)

percent: Always spell out percent in text and use figures (4 percent). Percenttakes a singular verb if used alone (a 10 percent return is good) or if a singular word is the object of of (exactly 78 percent of the product is needed). It takes a plural verb if a plural word is the object of of (only 6 percent of the courses are at graduate level).

percentage: Percentage takes a singular verb when preceded by the (the percentage of people voting this year is higher). When percentage is preceded by a, it takes a singular or plural verb depending on the noun in the prepositional phrase. (A higher percentage of my time is spent in meetings. A higher percentage of people are voting this year.)

Ph.D.: Doctor of Philosophy; used with periods
(PLEASE NOTE: DPT, Doctor of Physical Therapy is WITHOUT periods. It is correct in the Acronyms and Abbreviations section.

policymaker, policymaking (one word)

postbaccalaureate: Most post- prefix words are not hyphenated; an exception is post-master's when referring to educational level.

pre- (pre) (prefix): In general, do not hyphenate, As per a 2019 change to the AP Stylebook, do not hyphenate double-e combinations with pre-, such as preeclampsia, preelection, preeminent, preempt,preestablished. (See also re- entry.)

prerequisite: Not pre-requisite.

preservice: Most pre- prefix words are not hyphenated.

president-elect: Uppercase P only when title precedes the name (-elect is lowercase). (It was time for President-elect Jackson to speak. Jackson, the president-elect, conducted the meeting.)

program: Do not capitalize program unless it is part of the title.

provide: Usually takes with or for: The course will provide you with the necessary skills. (Not the course will provide you the necessary skills.)


re- (re) (prefix): Do not use a hyphen for words with a double-e combination (e.g., reelect, reestablish, reexamine). (This is a 2019 update to the AP Stylebook; see also the pre- entry.)

real world (noun), real-world (adj.): No quotation marks; use a hyphen when acting as an adjective preceding the noun. (Service learning incorporates real-world experience.)

road map: Two words.​


SAT: The College Board uses the terminology SAT I: Reasoning Test or SAT II: Subject Test. The SAT measures verbal and mathematical reasoning abilities that students develop over time, both in and out of school, which are related to successful performance in college. The SAT II: Subject Tests are designed to measure knowledge, and the ability to apply that knowledge, in five general subject areas-English, history, mathematics, science and languages.

schoolchildren (one word)

school teacher (two words)

Senate/senate: Uppercase when referring to the U.S. Senate; lowercase when referring to the state senate.

service learning: Hyphenate when used as a description preceding a noun (service-learning program). Uppercase when the name of a specific program (the Office of Community Service Learning at CSU Stanislaus).

Services to Students with Disabilities: Not Disabled Student Services

Sierra Nevada, the: Not Sierra Nevadas, not Sierra, not Sierra Nevada mountains. Sierra means mountain range.

size: (not sized) Examples: Olympic-size pool, passport-size photo

smartphone: One word.​

Social Security number: Lowercase n when spelling out, but SSN when abbreviated.

staff: Staff, like faculty, refers to a body of people and takes a singular verb; staffs is the plural form. (Our staff is ready to help.) Use staff member (singular) or staff members (plural) to refer to individuals. (Many staff members contributed to the report.)

start-up: hyphenated as an adjective; one word as a noun. ​

state: State is lowercased unless it is part of the proper name. (The state of California needs teachers.)

states (U.S.): The names of the 50 U.S. states should be spelled out when used in the body of a story, whether standing alone or in conjunction with a city, town, village or military base. The names of eight states are never abbreviated: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah.

statewide: Not hyphenated. See -wide suffix entry.

STEM: use STEM on first reference, followed shortly thereafter with an explanation, if necessary in that context, of what it stands for (in lowercase).

supersede (not supercede)

systemwide: One word, not hyphenated. See -wide suffix entry; university-wide is preferred. ​


teachers college (no apostrophe): Do not uppercase unless it is the formal name of a college of education, such as Teachers College in New York City, which is affiliated with Columbia University.

team-teach (team-taught): This verb form is hyphenated, but team teaching (noun) is not.

that/which: That defines and restricts and is used to introduce an essential (restrictive) clausea clause that cannot be eliminated without changing the meaning of the sentence. It serves to identify the noun preceding it. It is not set off from the rest of the sentence with commas. (Catcher in the Rye is a book that meant a lot to me when I was a teenager.)
is used to introduce a nonessential clausea clause that can be eliminated without changing the meaning of the sentence, and must be set off by commas. The clause serves to add information rather than to define or limit what has gone before. (Catcher in the Rye, which meant a lot to me when I was 16, is still enjoyed by teenage readers.)

theater: Use this spelling unless the proper name includes Theatre. If referring to a specific program at one of the campuses, use that campus's preference.

time (a.m., p.m.): Except for schedules or agendas, use 2 p.m. rather than 2:00 p.m. (We will meet at 1 p.m. to discuss the program.) However, if any of the times include minutes (2:15 p.m.), include minutes for all times. (The first meeting was scheduled at 3:15 p.m. and the second at 4:00 p.m.) In text, say from 2:15 to 2:45 p.m., not "from 2:15-2:45 p.m." Use "noon" rather than "12 p.m."​

Title 5 (not Title V)


university: ​Do not capitalize the u when referring to the CSU system.

university-wide: ​Hyphenated, preferred over systemwide. See -wide ​suffix entry.


Veterans Affairs, Veterans Day (no apostrophe)

vice president, vice chancellor (no hyphen)


Washington, D.C.: Use periods and set off with commas on both sides when used in text. (He was in Washington, D.C., over the holiday.) Do not use periods when used as part of an address. (Please send to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC 20500.)

well-being (hyphenated)

-wide (suffix): Hyphenate suffix when base word is three or more syllables, such as university-wide but campuswide, systemwide, statewide.

Wi-Fi: abbreviation for wireless networking

workforce (one word)

workplace (one word)

workstation (one word)

work study: Hyphenate when used as an adjective preceding a noun (our work-study program); do not hyphenate when used as a noun (We have work study available). If a proper noun, use the program's preference (Federal Work-Study).

worldwide (one word as adjective or adverb)


years: Use four digits when naming a year in text. (We had more students in 1998 than in 1997.) If the time period you are describing encompasses years that are in the same century, it is not necessary to include all four digits in the second year. (The data from 2006-07 show that we had more students than in 2000-10. The 2008-09 annual report is complete.) If the years are in different centuries, use all four digits for both years. (The report includes data from 1999-2000.)


ZIP code (not zip code, Zip Code, or Zip code)