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Ethnicity, Nationality, and Race

The terms “black” and “white” should only be used when racial identification is pertinent:

  • Barack Obama is the first black U.S. president.

Do not hyphenate any terms that designate ethnicity. Do capitalize their proper names:

  • African American, Asian American, German American, Native American

NOTE: Whenever possible, use a specific designation, such as “Puerto Rican” or “Cuban” rather than the more generic “Latino/a.” Some Native American groups prefer to be called Indian Americans. Where possible, use a specific tribal designation, such as “Cherokee” or “Lenni Lenape.”

Events at Penn

Capitalize the names of the following campus events. Lowercase references to such events at other institutions:

  • Alumni Weekend, Commencement, Convocation, Homecoming, Spring Fling, Reunion
  • Mary Smith, C’08, spoke at her high-school commencement.


The word faculty is a plural noun and takes a plural verb. To avoid possible confusion, use “faculty members”:

  • The faculty are all in agreement.
  • Faculty members from two departments are co-chairing the event.


Do not hyphenate.

Gender-Neutral Language

As a rule, use nonsexist language. Avoid saying “he” when referring to an unspecified person. Recast the sentence in the plural or avoid the use of pronouns altogether. If you must use a singular pronoun, use “he or she” not “he/she”:

  • chair (not chairman, chairperson)
  • business executive (not businessman)
  • female student (not coed student)
  • humankind (not mankind)

Do not use “first-year student” instead of “freshman” to refer to members of the first-year undergraduate class. At Penn, female and male first-year students are referred to as “freshmen.”


Capitalize all words (including verbs) in headlines, except articles (a, and, the) and prepositions of fewer than five letters. Do not break headline after preposition.

Quotations as part of a headline are set in single quotation marks:

  • Stock Market Is in an ‘Up’ Cycle, Which Is Good for Everyone

Use sentence-style capitalization for subheads (first word and proper nouns only):

  • Going for broke: Falling up and down the mountain of debt