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Communications and Public Affairs

Editorial Standards

Having a consistent editorial style is as important as consistency in messaging, voice and tone. These standards contain specific usage guidelines for university references as well as frequently used terms.

Our grammar and style guideline gurus are AP Style and Merriam-Webster with only a few exceptions. Review our specific editorial standards below.

University of South Carolina

  • Use “University of South Carolina” on the first reference. Thereafter, use “South Carolina and “the university” to add variety. Do not use “USC.” "UofSC" is preferred in headlines, social media handles and contexts in which the formal and primary names are too long. When using “South Carolina,” make sure that the context clearly distinguishes the university from the state of South Carolina and its government. Our nomenclature page offers further guidance.
  • Lowercase the “t” when formally referring to the University of South Carolina, and omit “the” when the name stands alone.
  • References to “the university” or "university" should be lowercased. Capitalizing “University” is acceptable only in limited, highly formal communications to internal audiences.


  • Refer to all University of South Carolina institutions collectively as the University of South Carolina system.
  • Formal written references to institutions in the university system should consist of “University of South Carolina” followed by a space and then the name of the institution. Do not use a hyphen, dash or comma before the institution name. Examples: "University of South Carolina Aiken," "University of South Carolina Beaufort."
  • In a system context, subsequent references should follow this format: "Aiken," "Beaufort," "Columbia," "Upstate," etc. 
  • Refer to Columbia as a research university.
  • Refer to Aiken, Beaufort and Upstate as comprehensive universities.
  • Refer to Lancaster, Salkehatchie, Sumter and Union as Palmetto College campuses. Do not refer to them as two-year or branch campuses.
  • Do not use prepositions such as “in” or “at” in references to system institutions.

Academic Units

  • Use “the Darla Moore School of Business” for the first reference. “Moore School” is an acceptable second reference.
  • Use “Arnold School of Public Health” for all standard references. The full name — “The Norman J. Arnold School of Public Health” — should be used only for formal occasions (e.g., commencement) or for legal purposes. “Arnold School” is an acceptable second reference.
  • Refer to the university's medical schools as "School of Medicine Columbia" and "School of Medicine Greenville."
  • The official name of “The Graduate School” includes “The,” and it is always capitalized.

Degrees Listed with Alumni Names

When listing earned degrees with alumni names, the preferred order is year, degree type (lowercase), discipline (if listed, lowercase). Do not place a comma between the year and degree name, but do place a comma between the degree type and discipline. Use of parentheses around degree information is optional.

  • Madison Dinkum, 2003 law
  • Madison Dinkum, 1998 master's
  • Madison Dinkum, 1996 B.A., history
  • Madison Dinkum (1998 master's, history)
  • Madison Dinkum (‘03 law)


Coronavirus and COVID-19 Terminology and Guidance

* Denotes an exception to established AP style

Coronavirus: A coronavirus is one of a family of viruses named for crownlike spikes on its surfaces. While there are many coronaviruses, it is acceptable to use “the coronavirus” on first reference in stories about COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2. In stories, use the article “the” with “coronavirus.” Omitting “the” is acceptable in headlines. See also, “COVID-19.”

COVID-19: “COVID-19” is the acronym for “coronavirus disease 2019,” the disease caused by a coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2. Use only in all caps. See also, “coronavirus.”

Face coverings: Cloth face coverings are washable and help contain a wearer’s respiratory emissions. They are different from disposable commercial face masks and medical-grade face masks, and should not be referred to as “masks.”

*Physical distancing: The preferred term for maintaining physical distance from others during the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike “social distancing,” “physical distancing” allows for the important distinction that maintaining social relationships is important to mental well-being. 

*Social distancing: Do not use the term “social distancing” in campus signage or marketing materials; the preferred term is “physical distancing.” Both “physical distancing” and “social distancing” are acceptable in stories. 


Communications Corrections

We strive to publish material that is accurate, informative and quotes our sources fairly. Any factual errors should be corrected and updated as soon as they are discovered and the new information can be verified. 


General Usage and Capitalization

* Denotes an exception to established AP style

Academic degrees: Avoid abbreviations; use “bachelor’s degree” instead of B.A. and “master’s degree” instead of M.A. “Bachelor’s” and “master’s” are also acceptable. Capitalize when referring to a specific degree; lowercase when referring to a general type of degree. Do not use “Dr.” or “doctor” for someone who holds a nonmedical doctoral degree. Examples: Bachelor of Fine Arts,” “Master of Philosophy,” “bachelor’s degree,” “master’s degree,” doctorate.” “She earned her doctorate in chemical engineering.”

  • Associate degree: No apostrophe
  • Bachelor's degree, master's degree: Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree and master’s degree. Do not use an apostrophe when referring to a specific degree. Examples: “I have two bachelor’s degrees and one master’s degree.” “I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts.”
  • Abbreviation of academic degrees:
    • Use such abbreviations as B.S., M.S., LL.D., J.D., and Ph.D. only when you need to identify many individuals by degree on first reference and doing so in the above style would be cumbersome. Use abbreviations like these only after full names, never after just a last name.
    • Use periods in two-letter abbreviations: B.A., M.A., M.S. Do not use periods in MBA, MSW, MPH, etc. Exception: Pharm.D.
    • Never precede a name with a courtesy title for an academic degree and then also follow it with the abbreviation for the degree in the same reference.

Acronyms: Stick to well-known abbreviations and minimize use of acronyms. When using acronyms (first letter of each word), use full caps with no periods. Exception: UofSC. Examples: ROTC, MIT

ACT: Use initials only; do not use “American College Testing.”

*Advisor: Not “adviser.” Example: “She’s going to see her advisor this afternoon.”

African American: Not hyphenated. Example: African American Studies Program.

Ages: Use figures.

Alumnus, alumna, alumni, alumnae: “Alumnus” denotes one male graduate. “Alumna” is one female graduate. “Alumni” is the plural reference to a mixed gender group of graduates or to a group of male graduates. “Alumnae” is a group of female graduates.

Ampersand (&): Do not use in place of the word “and.” The ampersand is acceptable in body copy as part of a proper name such as, Proctor & Gamble.

*Board of Trustees: Refer to the “Board of Trustees” on first reference and “trustees” or “the board” thereafter.

Catalog: Not “catalogue.”

College, department, center, institute, association and other names: Official names of colleges, departments, centers and associations are capitalized as proper nouns when their full name is used. However, subsequent, shortened references are not capitalized. Examples: “He is a professor at the Institute of Mind and Brain. The institute is doing fascinating work in cognitive neuroscience.” “She enrolled in UofSC’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; she’ll be working with a top professor in the department.”

Columbia, S.C.: In short-form communications such as lists, tabular materials, brochures and letters, identify the location of UofSC Columbia as Columbia, S.C., unless the communications piece is aimed at a local audience, in which case S.C. should be omitted.

*Composition titles: Use italics for the titles of complete works and publications such as books, journals, movies, plays, magazines, newspapers, albums, long-form musical compositions (such as symphonies or concertos), paintings and exhibitions. Exception: Use quotes for lecture titles, chapter titles, poems, songs and the titles of journal articles. 

Compound modifiers: Use when two words collectively modify another word. Examples: “first-year experience”; “fast-paced novel.” Not used with words ended in “ly”: “nationally ranked program” (the “ly” signals that the next word is another modifier). Exception: “family-based program”

Conferred, educational and occupational titles: For job titles and other types of formal titles, capitalize only when used before an individual’s name. Examples:  “Dean Tayloe Harding has been working closely with key music faculty to increase the school's community outreach. “William Hubbard, dean of the School of Law, welcomed guests from throughout the city to the launch of the Palmetto LEADER bus.” Exception:  Do not capitalize "professor" before a name. 

Course titles: Course titles should be capitalized. Example: Intro to Financial Accounting.

Coursework: Not “course work”

Decades: Use figures; use an apostrophe to indicate when numbers are left out. Examples: 1983. The 1970s. The ’70s.

Doctor: “Dr.” is reserved for medical doctors, including dentists, not those who hold doctoral degrees. 

Doctorate and doctoral: “Doctorate” is a noun; “doctoral” is an adjective. Examples: “She earned her doctorate in biochemistry.” “He holds a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering.”

Em dashes: Em dashes are used to create a strong break within the structure of a sentence. Use a space before and after the em dash. Do not use more than two em dashes in a sentence. Example:  “Although sickle cell testing after birth is routine in the United States — about 2,000 babies are diagnosed annually — it is rare in Sierra Leone.”

Fields of study, major subjects, curricula, etc.: Lowercase unless a specific course is referenced. Exception: Languages. Examples: “He is studying philosophy and English.” “Each student must meet core requirements in biological sciences and liberal arts.” “The university offers a curriculum in textiles and clothing.”

First annual: Do not use the term “first annual.” Use “inaugural” instead. An event cannot be described as annual until it has been held at least two successive years.

Freshman, freshmen: “Freshman” is an adjective or singular noun. “Freshmen” is a plural noun. Examples: “The freshman class has grown considerably since the time when I was in school.” “I’ve seen a lot of freshmen at Chick-fil-A.”

Full time, full-time: Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier. Example: She is a full-time instructor.

Fundraising (noun), fundraising (adjective), fundraiser (noun): One word in all cases

GPA: Use to indicate grade-point average. Do not use GPR.

Health care: Two words, not “healthcare”

*Homepage: The primary page of a website. Lowercase, one word.

Internet, web and related terms: Internet, web, website and email addresses should be written all lowercase, unless the address is case sensitive. Example: “When I told my professor that my information came from the internet, she insisted that I be more specific.”

Oxford comma: Avoid the Oxford comma in all cases except where it is absolutely necessary to establish clarity.

*Percent: Spell out in most instances: “10 percent,” not “10%. Exception: In headlines, short-form marketing copy or graphic content such as posters or social media graphics, “%” is acceptable.

Ranking style: Rankings are presented as No. 1, No. 10, etc. Example: “Our international business program is ranked No. 1 in the country.” Exception: For marketing graphics, “#1,” “#10,” etc., are acceptable.

*Says, said: In feature writing and press releases, "says" is the preferred style for quotations. Example:  “As our national reputation continues to flourish, we are able to attract diverse, stellar faculty, staff and students,” says UofSC Nursing Dean Jeannette Andrews. Reserve "said" for quotations that have a specific time element. Example: "We're very proud of the partnerships we are building with major corporations," Bill Kirkland said at the economic development event on Sept. 30. The website of the University of South Carolina is Do not use or other variations. 

South/Southern: Capitalize when referring to a region. Examples: “The restaurant’s interpretation of Southern cooking is first-rate.” “He went to high school in the South.”

*State House: Use “State House,” two words, when referring to the S.C. General Assembly or the capitol grounds.

State names: In stories or other long-form communications, state names should be spelled out.

Toward: Do not add an s. This rule also applies to “backward,” “forward,” “upward” and “downward.”

University Libraries: The uppercase term “University Libraries” denotes the administrative unit of the university, while the physical locations are referred to as “university libraries.”

Web addresses: When referring to a website, do not use "http," "https" or "www" in front of the address. The only exception is if the page in question will not load without using such prefixes.

Web headlines: Headlines for stories and announcements posted on, including all unit and subunit sites, should always make clear what the content that follows is about. Web headlines should be active (include a verb) and should generally be six to nine words or 50-70 characters; short headlines of two to four words do not give audiences the context they need. In addition: 

  • Headlines should use search-friendly terms. Ask yourself: “If I were searching for a story on this subject, what would I type into a search engine?” Use those terms in your headline.
  • Headlines should engage the reader without seeking to be overly clever. Puns and cultural references are more likely to confuse than engage your readers.
  • Use “UofSC” when referencing the university in a story or announcement headline.
  • Use “SC” when referencing the state of South Carolina in a headline.
  • Exception: Stories produced in the enhanced feature template by the Office of Communications and Public Affairs may be presented with shorter, magazine-style headlines. Nonetheless, all promotion of those stories — including social media, story lists, news feeds and email newsletters — must adhere to headline guidance above. In most cases, this can be achieved by replacing the headline with the subhead.

Well-being: Two words, hyphenated.


Equal Opportunity Statement

  • For bulletins, catalogs, applications and formal announcements: The University of South Carolina does not discriminate in educational or employment opportunities on the basis of race, sex, gender, age, color, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, genetics, veteran status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.
  • For official university stationery: An equal opportunity institution

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