General Style Guide


Choice of “a” or “an” is determined by the pronunciation of the word that follows:

  • URL; an hour; a hotel; an honor; a history of

Academic Degrees

When referring to academic or professional degrees generically, use lower case:

  • baccalaureate
  • bachelor’s
  • master’s
  • doctorate

When abbreviating degrees, do not use periods:

  • BA
  • BS
  • MA
  • MBA
  • MS
  • PhD
  • MD
  • LLD

Names of degrees are set lowercase:

  • Smith earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Oxford University.
  • Jones has a BS in physics from the University of Chicago. Her medical doctorate is from Northwestern University.

Set off schools/degrees and post-nominal titling with commas when used with names:

  • Conference presenters included John Doe, M’76, and Mary Smith, L’82.
  • John Trojanowski, MD, PhD, heads the CNDR.

At PMDAR, our policy is to use post-nominal titling, rather than prefixing the name with a courtesy or professional title:

  • Bob Smith, MD
  • Bob Smith, MD, PhD

And we use school affiliation(s) for alumni, instead of generics:

  • Bob Smith, M’67

Academic Disciplines

Capitalize a discipline only when it is a proper noun. As a general rule, if the word is regularly capitalized in general, it should remain capitalized when used in this context. See also Departments, Offices, and Programs:

  • She is a scholar of English literature.
  • He is a professor of physics and astronomy.

Academic Term/Year

Uppercase season and use full year in formal contexts:

  • Summer Session 2010
  • Spring Break 2010
  • Fall Term 2010