The goal of this style guide is to provide clear, simple guidelines for you, the writer, on grammar, punctuation, spelling and usage in materials produced by and for VCU School of the Arts. In most instances, our style is based on the VCU editorial style guide, the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook online, Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, and Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition. But remember: If you’re unsure about a word, just write the sentence another way.


a capella

a lot, allot

A lot is two words, not one. Allot means “to parcel out.”

a, an

Use the article a for words beginning with consonants or related sounds: a game of chance, a history of Spain, a one-time event. Use the article an before words that begin with vowels or their related sounds: an optical lens, an honest man, an exhibition. If you are not sure which to use, sound out the word and determine if it begins with a consonant- or vowel-like sound.

academic courses

Capitalize titles of academic courses, but not majors (unless a proper noun is included in the name): Fundamentals of Modern Literature. Including informal names of courses: Psych 101, Intro Psych.

See capitalization; course titles; titles of compositions.

academic degrees

Capitalize abbreviated degrees and use periods (B.A., B.S., and Ph.D.). Lowercase cum laude, magna cum laude, and with honors, as well as bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate.

See capitalization; degrees for list of VCUarts degrees by department.

academic majors

Do not capitalize academic majors (history major, chemistry major) unless a major includes a proper noun (English major, American studies major) or unique terminology or branding (Kinetic Imaging major, Craft/Material Studies major).

See capitalization; titles of compositions.

academic titles

Capitalize academic titles when used before the name: Professor of English Daniel Jones; President Michael Rao. They are not capitalized when used after the name, except for endowed chairs: Charles Darwin, professor of natural history; Charles Darwin, the Beagle Professor of Natural History. Do not use Dr. as part of a faculty or staff member’s title unless the person is a physician.

See titles of people.

Academy Awards

Also: the Oscars. An Oscar is appropriate for the award itself. Oscars or Academy Awards for plural.


VCU School of the Arts is accredited by:

  • National Association of Schools of Art and Design
  • National Association of Schools of Dance
  • National Association of Schools of Music
  • National Association of Schools of Theatre
  • Virginia Department of Education
  • Council for Interior Design Accreditation
  • National Council for Accreditation for Teacher Education
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

All visual arts degree programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

Music education is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music, the Virginia Department of Education, and the National Council for Accreditation for Teacher Education.

Theatre education is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation for Teacher Education.

acronyms, abbreviations

Well-known acronyms and common abbreviations of names should be formed without periods: CEO, CIA, FBI, GPA, NATO and SAT. For organizations and terms not widely known, spell out names the first time you mention them. Do not follow a word or phrase with an abbreviation or acronym in parentheses or set off by dashes. If an abbreviation or acronym would not be clear on second reference without this arrangement, do not use it. She was named director of the Institute for Contemporary Art. She also leads two ICA committees.

See addresses; capitalization; CEO/CFO. 


Use commas to set off individual elements in addresses and names of geographical places or political divisions: She flew to Burlington, Vt., and continued to New York City by train. There is no comma between a state and the ZIP code in an address listing: Send mail to the VCUarts Dean’s Office at Box 842519, Richmond, VA 23284-2519. Street addresses and states should be spelled out in return addresses, Web signatures and in “contact us” sections. In the “contact us” section, indicate phone and fax numbers and email addresses as follows:

Virginia Commonwealth University
Division of University Relations
University Marketing
827 West Franklin Street, Room 206
Box 842041
Richmond, Virginia 23284-2041
Phone: (804) 828-1463
Fax: (804) 828-8172

For on-campus addresses, the correct ZIP+4 will incorporate 232 plus the campus box number. Note that “Website:” is not used to introduce the URL. In running copy, use abbreviations if the address includes an actual street number and do not include zip codes: 827 W. Franklin St., Richmond, Va.

See P.O. box.


Lowercase in all uses. The Trump administration had a busy week.

admissions office

Acceptable for Office of Admissions.

affect, effect

Affect is a verb; effect is a noun. It affected him. The effect was startling. Use instead of “impact.” Don’t use “impactfulness.”


Acceptable for an American black person of African descent. Black is also acceptable. The terms are not necessarily interchangeable. People from Caribbean nations, for example, generally refer to themselves as Caribbean-American. Also, be aware that capitalization of “black” or “white” as a descriptor of race can be interpreted as a political statement. Follow a person’s preference.

See hyphens.


Always use numerals; hyphenate if used as an adjective before a noun or as a substitute for a noun: His son is 5; His son is 5 years old; He has a 5-year-old son; He’s a 5-year-old. Set off ages with commas: Her daughter Andrea, 7, takes piano lessons.

See numbers.

all right, alright

Although alright is gaining ground, the correct choice is still all right, or the hyphenated all-right when used as an adjective.


Use graduate (gender neutral), alumnus (male), alumna (female), alumni (all male or both sexes) and alumnae (all female). Students who have completed at least 24 credit hours are considered alumni, so be aware that the term alumnus is not necessarily synonymous with graduate. But in this case, instead write: Joe Smith, who attended VCUarts, …

alumni names, degrees

List as Name (Degree ’Year). Department gets worked into the story; not listed with degree. Be sure apostrophe points to the left. Example: Although he studied sculpture at VCUarts, John Doe (M.F.A. ’90) went on to dance with the New York City Ballet.


Use the ampersand (&) only for formal company names and composition titles. Always spell out and unless the ampersand is part of a formal name. All VCUarts departments use plus signs (+) in place of and or &: Painting + Printmaking, Sculpture + Extended Media.

See plus sign.


Avoid the use of this conjunction unless it appears in a quote or in technical and legal material. Use or instead. The display is equipped to receive audio and/or video inputs. You can study animation, cinema or photography.


Only use annual if the event has occurred for two or more consecutive years. Instead of “first annual,” explain that the sponsors intend to make it an annual event.

See biannual; biennial, biennale.

Art Foundation Program

Not “Arts Foundation” or “Art Foundations” as it is commonly mistaken. Art Foundation, known also as AFO, is the VCUarts program of foundation courses all freshman must complete to gain entry into the school’s fine art and design departments including: Art Education, Communication Arts, Craft/Material Studies, Fashion Design, Graphic Design, Interior Design, Kinetic Imaging, Painting + Printmaking, Photography + Film, and Sculpture + Extended Media.


Hyphenate and, in most cases, lowercase when used generically or following an individual’s name: The department had an artist-in-residence during each of the past five spring quarters. However, since artist-in-residence is a formal title rather than an occupational title, they should be capitalized before a person’s name: When will Artist-in-Residence Scott Adams give his lecture? Capitalize, also, when used as part of a formal name: William Gaskill, Granada Artist-in-Residence.

See academic titles; titles of people.


A person of Asian birth or descent who lives in the U.S. When possible, refer to a person’s country of origin. For example: Filipino-American or Indian-American. Follow the person’s preference.

See hyphens.

augmented reality

A form of software-aided interaction in which digital information overlaps or supplants part of the real world. Examples include QR codes, Google Glass, “Pokémon Go,” and related programs. The abbreviation AR is acceptable on second use. Distinct from virtual reality.

See virtual reality.


Use only as a noun, not as a verb: He is a children’s book author; He writes children’s books.

the Anderson

Not “the Anderson Gallery.” The former VCUarts art gallery at 901 ½ E. Franklin Ave. closed in 2015. The building is now referred to as the Anderson, a dedicated exhibition and program space for VCUarts students. In references to both the new and former gallery, the should be written in lowercase.


between you and me

Not “between you and I.”


Use as an adjective to describe an event that occurs twice per year, or a publication that releases two issues a year: Studio is VCUarts’ biannual alumni magazine.

biennial, biennale

An event that occurs every two years. Tasmeem Doha, a biennial art and design conference. The Italian biennale, sometimes employed interchangeably, should only be used in the title of shows such as the Venice Biennale.

Black History Month

Board of Visitors

Use credentials following names, per AP Style, when listing members of the VCU Board of Visitors. For example: John Smith, Ed.D, J.D. See the full board member listing at


Do not use “broadcasted” for past tense. Instead, broadcast.


Capitalize the names of university structures when using their full titles. For a complete listing of VCU buildings visit

bulleted lists

In a bulleted list, the bullet takes the place of punctuation (such as commas or semicolons) between items in a list. Don’t use any punctuation at the end of bulleted items that are not sentences.


Join the alumni association and receive the following benefits:

  • Special invitations to all VCU sporting events
  • VCU’s alumni magazine
  • Discounts on auto and home insurance
  • Free T-shirts for you and your family

There is also no need for a concluding period at the end of a bulleted list, even when that list continues a sentence.


These conclusions led the alumni association to:

  • Create an incentive for membership
  • Plan a fall event for recent graduates
  • Start a local chapter

Keep bulleted lists consistent. If some of the items in a list are sentences, make all of them sentences and use appropriate ending punctuation.


Residence hall basics:

  • Residents must use their VCU ID cards to access the buildings.
  • Computer labs, mail service, laundry facilities, lounges and basic furnishings for each room are provided in all residence halls.
  • Students living in the freshman halls must subscribe to a meal plan, except students assigned to the Gladding Residence Center Apartments.
  • All rooms are wired for internet access and cable TV.

If some items begin with verbs, begin all items with verbs. In addition, always capitalize the first word of each bulleted item, whether it is a sentence, phrase or single word.

Bulletin, VCU

The Virginia Commonwealth University Bulletins are published yearly for each of the student populations served by the institution. The Undergraduate, Graduate and Professional bulletins contain information about university policies, course descriptions and academic requirements for the programs available to the respective student populations. Visit for more.


call letters

(for Radio and TV stations) Capitalize all letters; use a hyphen to separate the radio transmission system from the call letters: WCVE-FM; WRIC


VCU has two main campuses: Monroe Park Campus and MCV Campus. Do not use the campus names unless needed to note a location.


The 30-minute information session is followed by a walking tour of the Monroe Park Campus.


The university’s campus reflects the character of its host city by mixing modern, high-tech amenities with historical buildings and small-town charm.

The university also has branch campuses and satellite locations in Northern Virginia; Doha, Qatar; Charlottesville, Va.; and Charles City County, Va. In referring to these campuses and locations, the first reference in text copy should be the complete title.

VCU Rice Rivers Center
VCU Medical Center at Stony Point
VCU School of the Arts in Qatar
VCU School of Medicine Inova Campus
VCU School of Pharmacy Inova Campus
VCU School of Pharmacy University of Virginia Division


No hyphen. Also: collegewide, statewide, nationwide, worldwide.

capital, capitol

A capital is the city where a seat of government is located; do not capitalize: The capital of Virginia is Richmond. A capitol is a building; capitalize in all cases: She toured the U.S. Capitol; The meeting was held on Capitol Hill.


  • If in doubt, use lowercase rather than capital letters.
  • Lowercase the names of the classes: graduate, senior, junior, sophomore and freshman.
  • Lowercase commonwealth when referring to Virginia. Example: VCU is located in the commonwealth of Virginia. State is similarly lowercase in all constructions. Example: She visited the state of Maine last fall.
  • Capitalize central when paired with Virginia to describe the region. Example: The Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU NICU is the oldest and the newest in Central Virginia as well as the first.
  • Capitalize city if part of a proper name, an integral part of an official name or a regularly used nickname. Example: Because of its location on the James, Richmond is often called the River City. Lowercase elsewhere. Example: The city of Richmond plays hosts to numerous festivals in the summer.
  • Capitalize class when joined with a year. Example: The Class of 2012 announced its gift to the school.
  • Capitalize commencement when referring to the university’s official ceremonies in May and December. Example: VCU will celebrate 3,000 graduates at its May Commencement.
  • When a generic term is capitalized as part of an official name, the plural used with another name is lowercase. Example: Broad and Belvidere streets, the schools of Nursing and Dentistry

See abbreviations/acronyms; academic courses; academic degrees; chairman/chairwoman; colleges, schools and departments; directions/regions; names; technology terms; titles of people; titles of compositions.


Spell out the word cents and lowercase, using numerals for amounts less than a dollar: 5 cents; 12 cents.

See dollars; money.


Do not capitalize, spell out numbers less than 10: eighth century; 20th century. Hyphenate when compound modifier: 19th-century literature. For proper names, follow the organization’s practice: 21st Century FoxTwentieth Century Limited.


Acceptable for chief executive officer and chief financial officer, respectively.

See acronyms, abbreviations.


Capitalize as a formal title before a name: company Chairman Henry Fordcommittee Chairwoman Margaret Chase Smith. Do not capitalize as a casual, temporary position: meeting chairman Robert Jones. Use “chairperson,” “chair” or “co-chair” if preferred by an organization. If plural, use “chairpersons.” It is acceptable to use “chair” when referring to an endowed professorship or position in an orchestra: She holds the Judy Smith Chair in Physics; He is the first-chair flute in the orchestra. Do not use chair as a verb. He runs the program; She presides over the committee.

See capitalization; titles of people.

Civil War

Also acceptable: American Civil War. Do not use “War Between the States,” “War of Northern Aggression” or any such anachronous distinction.


Lowercase unless referring to a specific class in this manner: The Class of 1998 had its reunion; the Class of ’37 had its reunion; but: The class had its reunion.

class year

Use a closed apostrophe (facing the same direction as a comma) for class year: ’99. Jane Smith ’80; John Smith Jr. ’80; Judy Smith Ph.D. ’80.

See names.

Co., Corp.

Use abbreviation in place of “Company” or “Corporation,” respectively in all proper business names; do not follow with a comma: Pepsi Co.; MetLife Corp.

See Inc.

colleges, schools and departments

VCU has one college and 13 schools:

Note that the School of the Arts on second reference should be VCUarts. Do not capitalize when referring to VCU colleges, schools and departments in a more general sense. When a generic term is capitalized as part of an official name, the plural used with another name is lowercase. Example: the schools of Nursing and Dentistry. With the exception of several VCUarts departments, VCU department and office names do not take ampersands; write out “and.” For a full listing of VCU departments, view the A to Z index at

(Note: VCUarts also has several departments with “+” and “/” in their official name. See departments and degrees.) See school.


The most frequent use of a colon is at the end of a sentence to introduce lists, tabulations, texts, etc. In text, only use them after statements that are complete sentences. Never use a colon after a sentence fragment. Capitalize the first word after a colon only if it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence: He promised this: The company will make good all the losses.


Use a comma to set off independent clauses (in which each phrase is a complete sentence): She took the test, and she passed. Do not use to set off dependent clauses (in which one or more of the phrases is a fragment): She took the test and passed. Do not use a comma to insert a “breath” or ungrammatical pause in a sentence.

Use a comma for clauses beginning with the word which: He took the course, which met every Tuesday night. Do not use for phrases beginning with the word that: She took the course that fit her schedule. Do not use a comma before “Jr.” or Roman numerals that are part of the name.

See Jr., Sr., III, IV, etc.; that, which.

–and lists:

In general, do not use the serial comma (the comma following the second-to-last item in a series). When the absence of a serial comma compromises clarity or when the items are complex phrases, you may use the comma, even though it has not been used throughout the remaining text.

–and adjectives:

Use a comma to separate a series of adjectives equal in rank (meaning you can replace the comma with the word “and” without changing the adjectives’ meanings): She was a helpful, thoughtful student. Do not use a comma when the last adjective before a noun is an integral element of the noun phrase: He was a smart high school student; She wore a robin’s egg blue parka.

–and quotations:

Use a comma to introduce a complete-sentence quotation within a paragraph: Rao said, “The Quest for Distinction is important to VCU.” Use a colon to introduce quotations of more than one sentence: Rao said: “The Quest for Distinction is important to VCU. It received approval from the faculty in May 2002.” If attribution follows a quotation, use a comma inside the quotation marks unless the quotation is a question: “This is an important time for VCU,” Rao said. (but, “Can you send me your address?” he asked. ) If a quoted sentence is broken up by an attribution, use a second comma to indicate the interruption and continue the quote in lowercase unless necessary: “During my time at VCU,” Rao said, “the university has worked to maintain a culture of excellence.”

See quotations.

–and names:

Use a comma when directly addressing a person or people in print: Classmates, please send me news; No, Ann, I did not get your letter. When referring to a family member or friend of another person, do not use commas around that family member or friend’s name unless you know the other person has only one such family member or friend: Bob’s daughter Sarah; Jane’s professor Chris; But: Bob’s eldest daughter, Sara; Jane’s English 101 professor, Chris.

–and cities/states:

Use comma before and after state abbreviation. Example: Fredericksburg, Va., is a pretty great place. However, not after postal codes in addresses: Richmond, VA 23224

See addresses.

–and dates:

Place a comma after all dates that include the year. Example: According to her June 10, 2017, letter, Amy will be here in August. Commas do not separate seasons and months (without dates) from their years. Example: The report will be released in August 2018.


Refers to the university’s graduation ceremonies. Lowercase unless in formal usage: She attended commencement; She spoke at Virginia Commonwealth University’s 221st Commencement. Do not refer to the ceremonies by season (spring, winter) but by month. Example: VCU will celebrate 3,000 graduates at its May Commencement.

complement, compliment

Things that work well together complement each other. Compliments are a form of praise.

compose, comprise, constitute

Compose means to create or put together. It commonly is used in both the active and passive voices: She composed a song. The United States is composed of 50 states. The zoo is composed of many animals.

Comprise means to contain, to include all or embrace. It is best used only in the active voice, followed by a direct object: The United States comprises 50 states. The jury comprises five men and seven women. The zoo comprises many animals.

Constitute, in the sense of form or make up, may be the best word if neither compose nor comprise seems to fit: Fifty states constitute the United States. Five men and seven women constitute a jury. A collection of animals can constitute a zoo. Use “include” when what follows is only part of the total: The price includes breakfast. The zoo includes lions and tigers.

Confederate battle flag

The popularly recognized “Confederate flag” is in-fact the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia and not the flag of the Confederate States of America. When referencing the image or design of the so-called “stars-and-bars” flag of the Confederacy, use the phrase “the Confederate battle flag.”

When writing about a physical flag, whether artifact or reproduction, use the article “a.” The film opened with the Confederate battle flag superimposed over a map of the South. She unraveled a Confederate battle flag by hand.

course work

courtesy titles

Refer to both men and women by first and last name, without courtesy titles, on first reference: Susan Smith or Robert Smith. On second reference refer to both men and women by last name, without courtesy titles, in subsequent references. Use the courtesy titles Mr.MissMs. or Mrs. only in direct quotations.

When it is necessary to distinguish between two people who use the same last name, as in married couples or brothers and sisters, use the first and last name, without courtesy title.

In cases where a person’s gender is not clear from the first name or from the story’s context, indicate the gender by using he or she in subsequent reference.

In the case of transgender individuals, use their preferred pronoun. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individual lives publicly.

Note: some professional artists and performers who are transgender will specify their preferred pronouns on their websites; be sure to check.


the Catapult series

Available to all VCUarts students, the Catapult series of lectures and events prepares students for life after college.



Use an em dash (—) to set off an abrupt break or interruption, or to announce a long appositive or summary. Do not set off em dashes with spaces. He explained the skills—research, writing and public speaking—he expected of his students; She took the test—having studied for three days—and left for winter break.

On a PC, em dashes are created by holding down the CTRL and shift keys and hitting the “-” key. On a Mac, they are created by holding down the option and shift keys and hitting the “-”.

Use an en dash (–) to show span, range or duration. Example: You will find this material in chapters 9–12; The 2015–16 season was our best yet. If you introduce a span or range with words such as “from” or “between,” do not use the en dash. Correct: She served as secretary of state from 1996 to 1999. Incorrect: She served as secretary of state from 1996–1999.

On a PC, en dashes are created by holding down the CTRL key and hitting the “-” key. On a Mac, they are created by holding down the option key and hitting the “-”.

See hyphens.



Always use numbers, never use “-st”, “-nd”, “-rd” or “-th”. When referring to a specific date, abbreviate only the months Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept. Oct., Nov. and Dec. When a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with comma: The meeting will be Jan. 5, 2001, in the library. Spell out the month when using alone or with a year and do not include a comma. Example: He arrives in October; The building will open in November 2008. Always capitalize and spell out the days of the week.


  • January 1972 was a cold month.
  • Jan. 2 was the coldest day of the month.
  • His birthday is May 8.
  • Feb. 14, 1987, was the target date.
  • She testified that it was Friday, Dec. 3, when the accident occurred.

When material is presented in a column or a table, use these three-letter forms without a period: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

See commas; numbers.


Acceptable to spell out (the eighties, the nineties) or use numbers (the 1980s, the ’80s). Either way, be consistent within the document.

See numbers.


On first reference to alumni, use after name in parenthesis: John Smith (M.F.A. ’89). Department gets worked into the copy. Do not capitalize the names of school or college studies, fields of study, major areas or subjects (except languages) unless a specific course is being referred to. Example: He is studying philosophy and English.

See departments and degrees.

Degrees offered at VCUarts

B.A. Bachelor of Arts
B.F.A. Bachelor of Fine Arts
M.A. Master of Arts
M.A.E. Master of Arts Education
M.F.A. Master of Fine Arts (In formal documents include after names since this is a terminal degree in fine arts.)
M.I.S. Master of Interdisciplinary Studies
M.M. Master of Music
Ph.D. Doctor of Philosophy (Do not use courtesy title Dr. before names, which is reserved for medical doctors.)

Degrees at VCU

Use the following abbreviations or full, formal names when referencing the academic degrees available through VCU’s 225 bachelor, master’s, doctoral, first professional and certificate programs.

B.A. Bachelor of Arts
B.F.A. Bachelor of Fine Arts
B.I.S. Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies
B.M. Bachelor of Music
B.S. Bachelor of Science
B.S.W. Bachelor of Social Work
D.D.S. Doctor of Dental Surgery
D.N.A.P. Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice
D.P.T. Doctor of Physical Therapy
Ed.D. Doctor of Education in Leadership
M.A. Master of Arts
M.Acc. Master of Accountancy
M.A.E. Master of Art Education
M.B.A. Master of Business Administration
M.Bin. Master of Bioinformatics
M.D. Doctor of Medicine
M.Ed. Master of Education
M.Envs. Master of Environmental Studies
M.F.A. Master of Fine Arts
M.H.A. Master of Health Administration
M.I.S. Master of Interdisciplinary Studies
M.M. Master of Music
M.P.A. Master of Public Administration
M.P.H. Master of Public Health
M.P.S. Master of Pharmaceutical Sciences
M.P.I. Master of Product Innovation
M.S. Master of Science
M.S.C.M. Master of Supply Chain Management
M.S.D. Master of Science in Dentistry
M.S.H.A. Master of Science in Health Administration
M.S.N.A. Master of Science in Nurse Anesthesia
M.S.O.T. Master of Science in Occupational Therapy
M.S.W. Master of Social Work
M.T. Master of Teaching
M.Tax. Master of Taxation
M.U.R.P. Master of Urban and Regional Planning
O.T.D. Post-professional Occupational Therapy Doctorate
Pharm.D. Doctor of Pharmacy
Ph.D. Doctor of Philosophy

departments and degrees

The following is a full list of VCUarts departments with the degrees offered in each. Graduate programs are listed with their available concentrations:

Art Education B.F.A., M.A.E.
    Ph.D in Education: Art Education
Art History B.A.
    M.A. in Art History: Historical Studies, Museum Studies
    Ph.D in Art History: Historical Studies, Curatorial Studies
Cinema B.A.
Communication Arts B.F.A.
Craft/Material Studies B.F.A.
    M.F.A. in Fine Arts: Ceramics, Fiber, Woodworking/Furniture Design,
Glassworking, Jewelry/Metalworking
Dance + Choreography B.F.A.
Fashion Design + Merchandising B.A., B.F.A.
Graphic Design, B.F.A.
    M.F.A. in Design: Visual Communication
Interior Design, B.F.A.
    M.F.A. in Design: Interior Environments, Interior Environments—Post-Professional,
    Interior Environments—Professional Entry Level
Kinetic Imaging, B.F.A.
    M.F.A. in Fine Arts: Kinetic Imaging
Music B.A., B.M.
    M.M. in Music Education
Painting + Printmaking B.F.A.
    M.F.A. in Fine Arts: Painting, Printmaking
Photography + Film B.F.A.
    M.F.A. in Fine Arts: Photography and Film
Sculpture + Extended Media B.F.A.
    M.F.A. in Fine Arts: Sculpture
Theatre B.F.A., B.A.
    M.F.A. in Theatre: Pedagogy/Literature, Pedagogy/Performance,
    Costume Design, Stage Design/Technical Theatre
Media, Art + Text Ph.D.

Degrees offered at VCUarts Qatar

Art History B.A.
Fashion Design B.F.A.
Graphic Design B.F.A.
Interior Design B.F.A.
Painting + Printmaking B.F.A.
Design M.F.A.

directions, regions

Lowercase north, south, northwestern, etc., when they indicate a compass direction: They traveled west. Capitalize these words when they designate regions: They traveled to the West Coast; She lives in Northern Virginia.

See capitalization.


Use disk for magnetic media (floppy disk, disk drive). Disc is used for optical media (CD, DVD).


Acceptable for disc jockey.


Use figures and the $ sign in nearly all cases: She spent $3; The project is expected to cost $2 million.

See cents; money.


These are not the preferred terms for on-campus student housing.

See residence hall.




Do not use Dr. for those holding academic or honorary doctorates. Use the abbreviation of the appropriate degree set off by commas: John Smith, Ph.D., gave a lecture in Paris. In most cases, it is not necessary to use the formal title Dr. before the name of an individual who holds a medical degree. The context often is enough: Judy Smith opened a pediatric practice; John Smith is an emergency room doctor. Or use abbreviations: John Smith, M.D.

See names.


Digital Video Disc. Distinct from Blu-ray Disc, a form of high-definition media.

See technology terms.

the Depot building

The gallery at the Depot (“The Depot Gallery”) is no longer active and should only be mentioned historically. For event promotion, the Depot is acceptable.



Use ellipses (…) to indicate where words have been removed from direct quotations. Ellipses within a quotation are set off by spaces: “We took the short cut … and got lost.” Ellipses at the end of a sentence follow the period and are set off by a space on either side: “We figured it would be better to take the bus. … It didn’t save much time.” Do not use ellipses at the beginning or end of a quotation.

As a general rule, a speaker’s words should not be omitted or altered except in cases where their message would seem unclear to the reader or too lengthy for the space. Never omit or change words to alter or skew the speaker’s intended message.

See quotations.


No hyphen and lowercase (except at the beginning of a sentence).


A phrase such as, He was the master of ceremonies, is preferred. Only use “M.C.” when part of a performer’s name.

emeritus, emeriti; emerita, emeritae

Emeritus and emeriti (male); emerita and emeritae (female). Always follows the noun: She is professor emerita of music. Capitalize before the name and as part of endowed title: Professor Emeritus Frank Smith, or Frank Smith, John Smith Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus.

Emmy Awards

Also: the Emmys. An Emmy is appropriate for the award itself. Emmy awards for plural.

entitled, titled

Most often entitled means a right or claim to something. It can also mean to confer a title on a person, but it should not be used before the name of a book, lecture, article, speech, etc. Use titled instead: Stephen Freund will present a lecture titled “Stopping the Software Bug Epidemic.”


fall, fall semester


Not FAQs or FAQ’s.

farther, further

Farther is for physical distance; further is for metaphorical distance. How much farther? Our plan can’t go any further.



Lowercase. A university fellow; a research fellow; a Fountainhead fellow. But: a Fountainhead Fellowship.


capitalize as part of a full official name; lowercase otherwise:

He received a Fountainhead Fellowship.
He received a research fellowship.

fewer, less

In general, use fewer for individual items, less for bulk or quantity. Individual items: I had fewer than 50 $1 bills in my wallet. Bulk item: I had less than $50 in my bank account.

fiancé, fiancée

Masculine and feminine forms, respectively.


foreign words

Many foreign words and their abbreviations are not understood universally, although they may be used in special applications such as medical or legal terminology. If such a word or phrase is needed in a story, place it in quotation marks and provide an explanation: “ad astra per aspera,” a Latin phrase meaning “to the stars through difficulty.”


Capitalize as part of a full official name; lowercase otherwise. The Windgate Foundation; foundation grants.


Spell out and hyphenate when necessary: Three-quarters of the class attended; A fifth of the class attended. The Anderson is located at 907 ½ Franklin Street.


freshman, freshmen

VCUarts prefers the term first-year student or first year in reference to students that have just begun their education at the school.

If writing out the terms within a quote: freshman is the singular noun and also is used in adjective form. Freshmen is the plural form. Examples: “I was a freshman at VCU.” “My first year, the university welcomed incoming freshmen with a party in Monroe Park.”

full time

Hyphenate as an adjective before the noun, do not hyphenate when using as an adverb: He is a full-time professor; She teaches full time.

fundraising, fundraiser

Fundraising begins in the fall; The college planned a fundraising dinner; The college held a fundraiser.



Used as a descriptor for people who are attracted to those of the same sex, though lesbian is also used to describe women. Homosexual should only be used in clinical contexts. Sexual orientation should only be discussed if the topic is relevant to the subject or theme of a piece of writing. Do not stylize as “sexual preference” or “alternative lifestyle.”



Acceptable for “grade point average.”

Grammy Awards

Also: the Grammys. A Grammy is appropriate for the award itself. Grammy awards or Grammys for plural.


But great-grandchild; step-grandson.

gray, grey

Gray is the American spelling. Grey is the British spelling.

Guggenheim Fellowships

One of the top awards available for artists in the U.S. Guggenheim Fellowships are awarded by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and intended for those who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts. VCUarts alumni and faculty have earned a total of 8 Guggenheim Fellowships since 2002.



Used to mark conversations or content in social media. #vcu, #rva, #vcuartsalumni. Usable on most social media platforms, but don’t overdo it. If mentioning a hashtag campaign, no quotes necessary: the #whyliberalarts campaign aims to…


Where possible, use sentence-structured, active headlines. Example: Brandcenter team innovates its way to the top. Capitalize only the first word and proper nouns. The one exception is that the first word after a colon is always uppercase in headlines. Always use single quotation marks.

health care

Two words, no hyphen: health care costs.

high school

No hyphen, whether a noun or adjective: He runs a high school program; She led a group of high school students on a campus tour.

home page


Use to avoid ambiguity. She re-covered the hole. vs. He recovered from the fall. Use to avoid duplicated vowels or triple consonants: anti-inflammatory, shell-like. Use to create two-thought compounds: socio-economic.

See dashes.

–and a compound modifier:

Use to link all the words (except the adverb “very” and all adverbs ending in “-ly”) preceding a noun: a full-time job, a first-period goal, a very good grade, an easily remembered concept. When using a string of modifiers before a noun, put the modifier in quote marks instead of using hyphens, for clarity: He won the “Best Roommate in East Hall” award at reunion.

–in suspensive form:

Suspensive hyphenation takes this form: a 10- to 20-year study; but: a 3-percent to 5-percent chance, a $5 million to $6 million project.

See millions/billions; percentages; ranges.

–and spelling:

Unless the dictionary makes an exception, do not hyphenate: Decision making takes place on many levels; Fundraising is fun.

–and numbers:

Use to separate numerals in odds (he has a 5-1 chance), ratios (the student- teacher ratio is 11-1, she won 3-2), fractions that are spelled out (three-fourths). When large numbers are spelled out as in the beginning of a sentence, use to connect a word ending in “-y” to the next word: Fifty-five (but: three hundred).

See numbers; ratios.

–and compound proper nouns:

Use to designate dual heritage: Italian-American; Australian-Czech; African-American. Note that Native American, French Canadian, and Latin American are not hyphenated.

Steven Holl Architects

The firm that designed the VCU Institute for Contemporary Art; note that a team designed the ICA, not simply Steven Holl himself.


i.e., e.g.

Use i.e. to mean “that is”; use e.g. to mean “for example.” Use periods and set off in commas: The course is difficult, i.e., people who usually get A’s get B’s; The course covers several topics, e.g., plant and animal biology.


Acceptable for “identification.”


Avoid this overused word unless describing a physical collision. Don’t use “impactfulness.”

See affect, effect.


Always use hyphens around “in”: father-in-law; mother-in-law. If you’re talking about more than one, the first word should be plural: brothers-in-law; sisters-in-law.


Use abbreviation in place of Incorporated in all proper business names; do not set off with a comma: Houghton-Mifflin Inc.; The Walters Group Inc.

See Co., Corp.


Use periods in initials in personal names, unless specified: Barbara M. Smith; J.D. Salinger (note there is no space between two initials).

Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University

The Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University on first reference, ICA after that. The building has been named the Markel Center and can be referred to as such when writing about the structure itself.


No longer uppercase according to AP style. The web is a subset of the internet. The two terms are not synonymous and should not be used interchangeably.


This is not a word. The correct choice is regardless.

Islamic Art symposium

The Hamad bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art is a biennial conference co-sponsored by VCUarts Qatar, VCUarts and the Qatar Foundation. The conference is held every two years in various locations of historical significance to Islamic art and design.


AP style does not use italics—this includes magazine titles, newspapers, or titles of artwork.

See quotations.


Iterate means to perform or utter repeatedly. Do not use “reiterate,” which is a redundant construction.

its, it's

Use it’s as a contraction for “it is.” Do not use it as a possessive. i.e. The company is holding its anniversary event, and it’s going to be amazing.


Jr., Sr., III, IV, etc.

These are not preceded by a comma: Cal Ripkin Jr.

See commas; names.



lay, lie

Subjects lie down; objects are laid down. He should lie down. Lay the reports there.


Acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender,” or “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning/queer.” Acceptable in reference to advocacy groups or social organizations and communities, but not for individuals.

See gay.

like or such as

If you can substitute “for example” in a sentence, then use such as. Use like to compare things. Example: She has a computer like mine.



MacArthur Fellowship

Several VCUarts alumni have received the MacArthur Fellowship, which is awarded by the MacArthur Foundation. The fellowship is granted to individuals who show exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for still more in the future. Individuals cannot apply for this award; they must be nominated. Tara Donovan (M.F.A. ’99), Teresita Fernández (M.F.A. ’92) and Daisy Youngblood, who attended VCUarts, have been recipients of this fellowship. This fellowship is sometimes called a “genius grant.” Do not refer to it as such in formal materials.


Capitalize the initial letters of the name but do not place it in quotes. Lowercase magazine unless it is part of the publication’s formal title: Harper’s Magazine, Newsweek magazine, Time magazine. Check the masthead if in doubt.


VCU’s athletic teams are formally called the Rams. When used as an adjective, use the singular form. Example: Ram spirit; VCU’s mascot is Rodney the Ram.

meta descriptions

VCU websites should include a brief description that will show up on Internet search results pages below the title of the site. The meta description should include keywords that users would type in during their search of the site. The recommended length of a meta description is 140 to 150 characters.

middle Of broad, mOb

A design lab at VCUarts, created as a joint project by the departments of Graphic Design, Fashion Design and Interior Design. It is located at 205 East Broad Street. Often stylized with lowercase middle and broad and uppercase Of (with the acronym mOb), though it can be more traditionally capitalized and abbreviated in formal materials. Projects developed by middle Of broad should be described in general terms like “projects,” “activities,” “artworks,” “exhibitions” and the like instead of the lab’s term “mObjOb.”


millions, billions

Always use numerical figures: More than 2 billion people; $5 million; The project will cost $2 million to $3 million.

See numbers; ranges.


Always use numerical figures. For dollars, use the $ sign: A $5 book; $50 million. For cents, spell out the word cents: 10 cents; a 5-cent tax.

See cents; dollars.

monthlong, monthslong



Acceptable for “miles per hour.”



In reference to orchestral works, capitalize titles but do not use quotations marks: Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 in C major, Stravinksy’s Three Pieces for Clarinet. Works with a specific and unique title, no matter the genre, should be listed with quotation marks: “Rhapsody in Blue,” “A Day in the Life.”

See titles of compositions.


Send the e-mail to Bob and myself is an example of a hypercorrection—when a writer over-applies a grammatical rule and actually gets it wrong. The correct form would be: Please send it to Bob and me.



Note that when referring to any of the five boroughs, there is no need to follow the name with N.Y. She is looking for an apartment in New York City. She is looking for an apartment in Staten Island.


On second reference refer to people by last name: John Smith (M.F.A. ’99) had an exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in May. Smith’s work is reflective of his Virginia roots.

National Portfolio Day

Recruitment event attended by undergraduate admissions team because VCUarts is a member of the National Portfolio Day Association (NPDA). VCUarts usually hosts a NPDA event each year.


No hyphen. Also: campuswide, collegewide, statewide, worldwide.

See -wide.


Some prominent U.S. newspapers, with owners, in alphabetical order. Note some capitalize “The” in their names.

  • Chicago Sun-Times, Sun-Times Media LLC
  • Chicago Tribune, Tribune Publishing Co.
  • Daily News, New York, real estate billionaire Mortimer B. Zuckerman
  • The Dallas Morning News, A.H. Belo Corp.
  • The Denver Post, Digital First Media
  • Houston Chronicle, Hearst Corp.
  • Los Angeles Times, Tribune Publishing Co.
  • New York Post, News Corp.
  • The New York Times, The New York Times Co.
  • Newsday, Long Island, N.Y., Cablevision Systems Corp.
  • The Orange County (Calif.) Register, Freedom Communications Inc.
  • The Philadelphia Inquirer, Interstate General Media
  • The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Advance Publications Inc.
  • San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, Digital First Media
  • Star Tribune, Minneapolis, The Star Tribune Media Co.
  • The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J., Advance Publications Inc.
  • Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, The Poynter Institute for Media Studies
  • USA Today, Gannett Co.
  • The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Co., part of News Corp.
  • The Washington Post, owned by Jeff Bezos’ WP Express Publications LLC, a division of Nash Holdings LLC

It is unnecessary to provide state identification for a newspaper cited in the body of a story if the newspaper is in the same state as the dateline. For example, a story datelined Newport, R.I., would reference the Providence Journal, not the Providence (R.I.) Journal.

However, the state should be included and spelled out in the body of undated stories or stories datelined in other states: Tampa (Florida) Tribune in a story with a Georgia dateline.


No hyphen. As opposed to a not-for-profit business, which may pay members and owners with any surplus money, nonprofits drive all excess revenue into expansion or towards its mission.


In general, spell out “one” through “nine” and “first” through “ninth.” Spell out or use numerals for decades, being consistent within a document (the ’80s, the 1990s, the seventies). Use numerals for “10,” “10th,” and larger. Always use numerals for street addresses (9 West 57th St.); ages (a 5-year-old girl, she is 5); dates (June 2); millions and billions (2 billion people); money (3 cents; $5; $2.50); percentages (a 4 percent increase); ratios (10:1); and time of day (9:30 a.m., 9 p.m.).

Always spell out a number when it begins a sentence, except in the case of years: Four hundred people attended the event. 2011 marked the first year the VCU Rams went to the Final Four. Use commas in numbers larger than 1,000, except when referring to years. In large numbers (millions and billions) do not go beyond two decimal places: $235 million; 1.23 million people. Use “No.” as the abbreviation for number in conjunction with a figure to indicate position or rank. Example: No. 1 program, No. 8 seed

See dateshyphens; millions, billions; ranges; ratios; time of day.




over, more than

Over generally refers to spatial relationships. Example: She threw the ball over the fence. More than is preferred with numerals. Example: VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students. (Note: This is an exception to AP style.)


P.O. box

“P.O. Box” is a trademark of the United States Postal Service. Simply say Box both in addresses and in sentences.

See addresses.

part time, part-time

Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier: She works part time. She has a part-time job.


When including links to PDFs and Word documents on websites, place the respective identifier next to the hyperlink to alert users of the download.


  • Pay Action Worksheet [DOC]
  • University administration [PDF]

Additionally, be sure to name documents appropriately. Naming conventions may change depending on users, purpose and workflow, but it is generally expected that a PDF or Word document include title, version date and the initials of the editor in the file name.


Always use numerals and spell out the word percent: a 4 percent increase; costs will decrease by 13 to 15 percent. The percent sign (%) may be used in tables. For amounts less than 1 percent, precede the decimal with a zero: The cost of living rose 0.6 percent.

See hyphens; numbers; ranges.


Follow a period with a single space.

Ph.D., Ph.D.s

Ph.D.s do not get Dr. in front of their names. That is only for medical doctors.

See degrees.


Add “s” or “es” (without an apostrophe) in common or formal nouns: The Smiths, the Harrises, 1980s. Exception: Use an apostrophe after single letters or after acronyms ending in s: x’s, y’s, SOS’s.

plus sign

Five VCUarts programs use plus signs in their names: Dance + Choreography, Fashion Design + Merchandising, Media, Art + Text, Painting + Printmaking, Photography + Film, Sculpture + Extended Media.

political parties and philosophies

Capitalize the name of the party when referring to the entire group or one of its members: the Democratic Party; She is a Republican. Lowercase when referring to a philosophy in noun or adjective form: The liberal senator believes democracy is paramount.


  • Plural nouns not ending in s: Add ‘s: the alumni’s contributions, women’s rights.
  • Plural nouns ending in s: Add only an apostrophe: the churches’ needs, the girls’ toys, the horses’ food, the ships’ wake, states’ rights, the VIPs’ entrance.
  • Nouns plural in form, singular in meaning: Add only an apostrophe: mathematics’ rules, measles’ effects. (Note: See inanimate objects below.) Apply the same principle when a plural word occurs in the formal name of a singular entity: General Motors’ profits, the United States’ wealth.
  • Nouns the same in singular and plural: Treat them the same as plurals, even if the meaning is singular: one corps’ location, the two deer’s tracks, the lone moose’s antlers.
  • Singular nouns not ending in s: Add ‘s: the church’s needs, the girl’s toys, the horse’s food, the ship’s route, the VIP’s seat.
  • Singular nouns ending in s sounds: (Such as ce, x, and z) Always use ‘s if the word does not end in the letter s: Butz’s policies, the fox’s den, the justice’s verdict, Marx’s theories, the prince’s life, Xerox’s profits.
  • Singular common nouns ending in s: Add ‘s unless the next word begins with s: the hostess’s invitation, the hostess’ seat; the witness’s answer, the witness’ story.
  • Singular proper names ending in s: Use ‘s: Achilles’s heel, Agnes’s book, Ceres’s rites, Descartes’s theories, Dickens’s novels, Euripides’s dramas, Hercules’s labors, Jesus’s life, Jules’s seat, Kansas’s schools, Moses’s law, Socrates’s life, Tennessee Williams’s plays, Xerxes’s armies. (Note: This breaks with AP style.)
  • Special expressions: The following exceptions to the general rule for words not ending in s apply to words that end in an s sound and are followed by a word that begins with s: for appearance’ sake, for conscience’ sake, for goodness’ sake. Use ‘s otherwise: the appearance’s cost, my conscience’s voice.
  • Pronouns: Personal interrogative and relative pronouns have separate forms for the possessive. None involve an apostrophe: mine, ours, your, yours, his, hers, its, theirs, whose. Note: If you are using an apostrophe with a pronoun, always double-check to be sure that the meaning calls for a contraction: you’re, it’s, there’s, who’s. Follow the rules listed above in forming the possessives of other pronouns: another’s idea, others’ plans, someone’s guess. Respecting someone’s self identification means using the gender pronouns they most identify with. It’s a good practice to ask which pronouns a person uses.
    See GLAAD Style Guide.
  • Compound words: Applying the rules above, add an apostrophe or ‘s to the word closest to the object possessed: the major general’s decision, the major generals’ decisions, the attorney general’s request, the attorneys general’s request. See plurals. Also note: anyone else’s attitude, John Adams Jr.’s father, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania’s motion. Whenever practical, however, recast the phrase to avoid ambiguity: the motion by Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania.
  • Joint possession, individual possession: Use a possessive form after only the last word if ownership is joint: Fred and Sylvia’s apartment, Fred and Sylvia’s stocks. Use a possessive form after both words if the objects are individually owned: Fred’s and Sylvia’s books.
  • Descriptive phrases: Do not add an apostrophe to a word ending in s when it is used primarily in a descriptive sense: citizens band radio, a Cincinnati Reds infielder, a teachers college, a Teamsters request, a writers guide. Note: The apostrophe usually is not used if “for” or “by” rather than “of” would be appropriate in the longer form: a radio band for citizens, a college for teachers, a guide for writers, a request by the Teamsters. An ‘s is required, however, when a term involves a plural word that does not end in s: a children’s hospital, a people’s republic, the Young Men’s Christian Association.
  • Descriptive names: Some governmental, corporate and institutional organizations with a descriptive word in their names use an apostrophe; some do not. Follow the user’s practice: Actors’ Equity, Diners Club, Ladies’ Home Journal, the National Governors Association.
  • Quasi possessives: Follow the rules above in composing the possessive form of words that occur in such phrases as a day’s pay, two weeks’ vacation, three days’ work, your money’s worth. Frequently, however, a hyphenated form is clearer: a two-week vacation, a three-day job.
  • Double possessive: Two conditions must apply for a double possessive—a phrase such as a friend of John’s—to occur: 1. The word after “of” must refer to an animate object, and 2. The word before “of” must involve only a portion of the animate object’s possessions. Otherwise, do not use the possessive form of the word after “of”: The friends of John Adams mourned his death.(All the friends were involved.) He is a friend of the college. (Not college’s, because college is inanimate.) Note: This construction occurs most often, and quite naturally, with the possessive forms of personal pronouns: He is a friend of mine.
  • Inanimate objects: There is no blanket rule against creating a possessive form for an inanimate object, particularly if the object is treated in a personified sense. See some of the earlier examples, and note these: death’s call, the wind’s murmur. In general, however, avoid excessive personalization of inanimate objects, and give preference to an “of” construction when it fits the makeup of the sentence. For example, the earlier references to mathematics’ rules and measles’ effects would better be phrased: the rules of mathematics, the effects of measles.
  • VCU and its schools: Avoid writing VCUarts and its department names with apostrophes. Alternate constructions are helpful: A new project by VCUarts; The first Painting + Printmaking class of the semester.
    See Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts, VCU School of the Arts.


Hyphenated in all uses.

premier, premiere

Premier is top quality: She went to the premier resort in the Bahamas. It can also be used as a noun for a head of state. The Premier of Bermuda Michael Dunkley. Premiere is a first performance: He attended the premiere of the new play.

Pulitzer Prize

Hyphenate to form the compound adjective: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist; but: He won the Pulitzer Prize; Pulitzer Prize winner Jane Doe; She was a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Theresa Pollak Prizes

Richmond magazine’s annual Theresa Pollak Prizes for Excellence in the Arts recognize the region’s makers and creators through reader nominations and panel selection. Many VCUarts faculty and alumni have been recipients.

Theresa Pollak; Pollak building

Founder of VCUarts (1899–2002); the Pollak building is named in her honor. Note spelling (not Pollock, Polock, etc).


Q-and-A format

Short for “question-and-answer.” Alternatively, Q-and-A session. Use Q-and-A in the body of a story. On websites, use Q-and-A in reference to an interview, Frequently Asked Questions (or FAQ) in reference to a list of answers to common questions.

Quest for Distinction

VCU’s strategic plan is the Quest for Distinction, written without quotation marks or italics. Visit for more information.


Periods and commas always go within quotation marks. Dashes, colons, semicolons, question marks and exclamation points go within quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter. They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence: “Did you take the test yet?” she asked; He thus defined the “crux of the matter”: equal pay for equal work.

  • Use single quotation marks in headlines. Quotation marks are not required in formats that identify questions and answers by Q: and A:.
  • AP style uses quotation marks for the following titles: albums, art, books, classical music, apps and software, individual lectures, movies, operas, plays, poems, radio programs and series, songs, speeches, television programs and series and video games. Italics are not used. See titles of compositions.
  • Try to avoid quotations that run over several paragraphs. If a full paragraph of quoted material is followed by a paragraph that continues the quotation, do not place close-quote marks at the end of the first paragraph.


“The professor challenged us,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d pass the final.

“But in the end, I did better than I expected,” she added.


  • In most cases, you can run the quoted material in a single paragraph.


“The professor challenged us,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d pass the class. But in the end, I did better than I expected.”


  • If a paragraph ends with a partial quotation or quoted phrase, and the next paragraph continues the quote, place close-quote marks at the end of the first paragraph.


He called the class “the most difficult ever.”

“But in the end,” he said, “it was also the most rewarding.”


If excerpting comments from a quotation, do not put ellipses at the beginning or end of the quotation. Ellipses are only necessary when taking words within a sentence out of a quotation. E.g., if a quotation reads: “The professor challenged us,” Jane said. “I didn’t think I’d pass the class. It was the most difficult ever. But in the end, I have to say, it was the most rewarding,” it can be excerpted thus: “In the end … it was the most rewarding,” Jane said. Never omit words if the change will alter the speaker’s intended message.

See ellipses.



Include the measurement after each number for millions, billions, etc.: They plan to raise $1 million to $2 million. But with percentages it’s not necessary to include percent after each number: The committee expects costs to decrease by 3-5 percent; There will be an increase of between 10 and 20 percent.

See numbers; percentages.


We promote VCUarts as “the top ranked public art and design school in the country” or “the #1 public arts school in the country”; however, this fact has been surmised from the official rankings by U.S. News & World Report, which does not separately list public schools. We are trying to limit our use of these rankings in favor of more general language: VCUarts is one of the world’s great schools of art and design with campuses in both Richmond, Va., and Doha, Qatar. Or: VCUarts is a global powerhouse for arts and design education with campuses in both Richmond, Va,. and Doha, Qatar.



Use figures and hyphens: the ratio was 2-to-1, a ratio of 2-to-1, a 2-1 ratio, 1 in 4 voters. As illustrated, the word “to” should be omitted when the numbers precede the word ratio. Always use the word “ratio” or a phrase such as a 2-1 majority to avoid confusion with actual figures.

See hyphens; numbers.


Do not use. Iterate means to perform or utter repeatedly. So “reiterate” is a redundant construction.

residence hall

Use residence hall, not dormitory or dorm, when referencing one of VCU’s residence halls.



Acceptable for all informal mentions of reunion. Use Reunion Weekend when referring to the entire weekend in a formal way.

Richmond Times-Dispatch


Use figures and capitalize room when used with a figure. Also applies to suites. Room 2; Suite 201.


No periods. Acronym for the French phrase repondez s’il vous plait, meaning please reply.



Lowercase unless using the proper name: arts school, VCU School of the Arts. On second reference, it should be VCUarts. Can also be referred to as school.

See colleges, schools and departments.


seasons, semesters

Do not capitalize fall, winter, spring, or summer unless part of a title.


At VCU, service-learning refers to an intentional teaching strategy that engages students in organized service activities and guided reflection. The service activities benefit the community and, in combination with reflection and other classroom-based learning activities, enhance the academic curriculum of participating students. Always gets a hyphen even when used without being followed by a noun: VCUarts faculty members Melanie Buffington and Kristen Caskey were selected as 2014–2015 Service-Learning Faculty Fellows. Service-learning at Virginia Commonwealth University is an educational experience in which students participate in an organized service activity that meets community-identified needs.

sex, gender

Sex is a biological distinction; gender is socially constructed: She took sex education classes; He is majoring in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. Gender can be substituted if the use of sex is ambiguous: They do not give race or gender preference. But it is generally easier to rewrite the sentence: They do not give preference to race or sex.


Do not use in text unless part of branding; if subject uses the phrasing in quote, write out the word slash offset with hyphens. “It’s a theatre-slash-restaurant,” she said.


Capitalize when referring to the southern region of the country; lowercase when referring to a direction: The wind blew from the south. The American Civil War was between the North and the South.


spring break

Do not capitalize.

spring semester

square feet, foot

No abbreviations for either square or foot. Use hyphens and the singular form foot when the term is employed as an adjective. A 68,000-square-foot facility; The Depot is 2,000 square feet.



Spell out the names of all 50 U.S. states when used alone: The meeting was in Wisconsin. Use the state abbreviations listed below when a state name is preceded by the name of a city, town, village, or military base. Set off the state name in commas: He moved to Williamsburg, Va., after graduating from VCU. When Richmond is used in the same sentence as Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia is not used.

Example: Virginia Commonwealth University is located Richmond, a capital city teeming with real-world opportunities.

If the city is well known, the state name isn’t necessary: She moved to Chicago. Use the following state abbreviations in lists, tabular materials and datelines (use zip code abbreviations in mailings; see state names). The names of eight states are never abbreviated: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah.

State Abbreviation Zip Code Abbreviation
Alabama Ala. AL
Alaska Alaska AK
Arizona Ariz. AZ
Arkansas Ark. AR
California Calif. CA
Colorado Colo. CO
Connecticut Conn. CT
Delaware Del. DE
District of Columbia D.C. DC
Florida Fla. FL
Georgia Ga. GA
Hawaii Hawaii HI
Idaho Idaho ID
Illinois Ill. IL
Indiana Ind. IN
Iowa Iowa IA
Kansas Kan. KS
Kentucky Ky. KY
Louisiana La. LA
Maine Maine ME
Maryland Md. MD
Massachusetts Mass. MA
Michigan Mich. MI
Minnesota Minn. MN
Mississippi Miss. MS
Missouri Mo. MO
Montana Mont. MT
Nebraska Neb. NE
Nevada Nev. NV
New Hampshire N.H. NH
New Jersey N.J. NJ
New Mexico N.M. NM
New York N.Y. NY
North Carolina N.C. NC
North Dakota N.D. ND
Ohio Ohio OH
Oklahoma Okla. OK
Oregon Ore. OR
Pennsylvania Pa. PA
Rhode Island R.I. RI
South Carolina S.C. SC
South Dakota S.D. SD
Tennessee Tenn. TN
Texas Texas TX
Utah Utah UT
Vermont Vt. VT
Virginia Va. VA
Washington Wash. WA
West Virginia W. Va WV
Wisconsin Wis. WI
Wyoming Wyo. WY


No hyphen. Also: campuswide, collegewide, nationwide, worldwide.

See -wide.

stepchild, stepdaughter, stepson, step-grandchild

Steven Holl Architects

The firm that designed the Institute for Contemporary Art; note that a team designed the ICA, not simply Steven Holl himself.



Tasmeem Doha

VCUarts Qatar hosts the biennial design conference Tasmeem Doha, or simply Tasmeem for short, which presents contemporary topics on art and design and brings international designers, artists, academics and industry professionals in for a week of innovation and dialogue.

technology terms

Try to avoid obscure technology references and long email addresses and URLs. (You can use to shrink long web addresses. Or you can direct readers to the right page: Visit, click on “Alumni,” and then “Golf Tournament.”) For websites, do not include the tag http://. Instead:; If you are printing a document with a URL or email address in it, be sure to remove the hyperlink. See capitalization.

Common technology terms:

Blu-ray Disc
CD (for music or file storage)
email (unless it begins a sentence, then Email is acceptable)
home page
internet (acceptable for web and World Wide Web)
iPhone, iPod, iPad, iOS (always leave “i” lowercase)
list server
web (acceptable for World Wide Web and internet)

teen, teenager, teenage

Do not use “teenaged.”

telephone and fax numbers

Use figures and set off area codes with parentheses. (Note: This is an exception to AP Style.) Do not list 1- before a long-distance number.

television program titles

Put quotation marks around show only if it is part of the formal name. The word show may be dropped when it would be cumbersome, such as in a set of listings. Treat programs named after the star in any of the following ways: “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Mary Tyler Moore” or the Mary Tyler Moore show. But be consistent in a text. Use quotation marks also for the title of an episode: “Pawnee Zoo,” an episode of “Parks and Recreation.” Also: “NBC Nightly News,” the “Today” show, “The Tonight Show.”

See titles of compositions.


Use a numeral in all cases but zero, spell out degree: It was 2 degrees yesterday; They had 80-degree weather; The temperature was easily below zero; The temperature dropped to minus 2 degrees; The temperature never got above 2 below zero.


that, which

That is used to introduce essential clauses and is never preceded by a comma: She took the course that fit her schedule. Which is used to introduce nonessential clauses and is always preceded by a comma: He took the course, which met every Tuesday night.

See commas.


A building; use this spelling unless proper name is Theatre or if referring to the study of theatre


The study of theatre, departments and referring to a theatre program: the Department of Theatre at VCUarts.

Third World

Avoid use of this outdated term originating from the Cold War, which denoted nations outside of the NATO-aligned First World and Communist Second World. This description for less wealthy countries can sometimes be seen as derogatory. AP style recommends the terms developing nation or economically developing nation. Alternatively, newly industrialized country.

time of day

Use figures except for noon and midnight. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes. Example: 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 9–11 a.m., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Avoid redundancies such as 10 a.m. this morning, 10 p.m. tonight or 10 p.m. Monday night. Instead, use 10 a.m. or 10 p.m. Monday, etc. For formal invitations, the construction 4 o’clock is acceptable, but time listings with a.m. or p.m. are preferred.

titles of art works

When writing labels or captions for works of art, the artist’s name should be listed with their nationality, birth year or lifespan, followed by the title of their work, the year it was made, media, size, accession number if part of a collection, method of acquisition and photo credit.


Lalla Essaydi (Moroccan, b. 1956)
“La Grande Odalisque” from the series “Les Femmes du Maroc,” 2008
color photograph
71 x 86 in.
Gift of Mary and Donald Shockey, Jr.
Photo by Travis Fullerton

In the above format, media should always be written in lowercase unless the material is trademarked (i.e. Plexiglass).

In running text, the above artwork would be written as such:

Lalla Essaydi (Moroccan, b. 1956), “La Grande Odalisque” from the series “Les Femmes du Maroc,” 2008. Color photograph, 71 x 86 in. 2012.78. Gift of Mary and Donald Shockey, Jr. Photo by Travis Fullerton.

titles of compositions

Apply the following guidelines to book titles, video game and software titles, movie titles, opera titles, play titles, poem titles, album and song titles, radio and television program titles, and the titles of lectures, speeches, works of art and exhibition titles:

  • Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters.
  • Capitalize an article–the,aan–or words of fewer than four letters if it is the first or last word in a title.
  • Put quotation marks around the names of all such works except the Bible and books that are primarily catalogs of reference material. In addition to catalogs, this category includes almanacs, directories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, gazetteers, handbooks and similar publications. Do not use quotation marks around such software titles as WordPerfect or Windows. See websites and apps below.
  • Translate a foreign title into English unless a work is generally known by its foreign name. An exception to this is reviews of musical performances. In those instances, generally refer to the work in the language it was sung in, so as to differentiate for the reader. However, musical compositions in Slavic languages are always referred to in their English translations.


“The Star-Spangled Banner,” “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” “Gone With the Wind,” “Of Mice and Men,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Time After Time,” the NBC-TV “Today” programthe “CBS Evening News,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
See television program titles.


Reference works:

IHS Jane’s All the World’s AircraftEncyclopedia BritannicaWebster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second Edition.


Names of most websites and apps are capitalized without quotes:

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Amazon.


Video games and other digital content should have its titles in quotes:

“FarmVille,” “Minecraft,” “Pokémon Go,” “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.”


Foreign works:

Rousseau’s “War,” not Rousseau’s “La Guerre.” But: Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” if sung in English but “Le Nozze di Figaro” if sung in Italian. Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” if sung in English but “Die Zauberfloete” if sung in German. “Die Walkuere” and “Goetterdaemmerung” from Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen” if sung in German but “The Valkyrie” and “The Twilight of the Gods” from “The Ring of the Nibelung” if sung in English. Janáček“From the House of the Dead,” not Janáček “Z Mrtveho Domu.”

For other classical music titles, use quotation marks around the composition’s nicknames but not compositions identified by its sequence: Dvorak’s “New World Symphony.” Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9.

See academic courses; academic majors; acronyms, abbreviations; capitalization; course titles; courtesy titles; music.

titles of people

Only capitalize formal titles when they precede an individual’s name. If the title falls after the name, then it’s lowercase: VCU President Michael Rao was joined by Lisa Freiman, director of the Institute for Contemporary Art. In all other cases, lowercase formal titles: John F. Smith, president; John Doe, English department chairman; she was named chairwoman of the chemistry department.

Use lowercase for terms that are job descriptions rather than formal titles: She talked to attorney John Smith; He took a class with biology professor Jane Smith. The team honored head coach Will Wade. Exception: Titles of endowed chairs and formal professor emeritus (male) and professor emerita (female) designations are always capitalized: Judy Smith, Ebenezer Fitch Professor of Astronomy; John Smith, Professor of Art, Emeritus.

See capitalization; chairman/chairwoman; names; courtesy titles.

titles, magazines and newspapers

Note some newspapers have “the” as part of their official name: The New York Times, The Washington Post, but Richmond Times-Dispatch.

See newspaper, magazine.

today, tonight

Avoid use of these terms in copy outside of direct quotations, common phrases, and social media. Use days of the week where possible for clarity.

See dates.

Tony Awards

The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Broadway Theatre. Also: the Tonys. A Tony is appropriate for the award itself. Tony awards or Tonys for plural.


Capitalize top when it is the formal name of a ranking, but lowercase in more casual references. Examples: VCU moved into the top 50 for American public research universities. The National Association for Female Executives named the VCU Health System to the 2011 NAFE Top 50 Companies.


Not towards, which is the British spelling. American English spells the word without the ending “s.”  The same goes for forward, backward, upward, downward, etc.


VCU does not use register mark, service mark or trademark symbols (®, ™, ©), but capitalizes the marked text according to AP style.


Adjective for those whose gender identity differs from their birth sex. Only identify people as such if they publicly describe themselves as transgender and only if the information is relevant to the subject matter.  Christiana is a transgender woman. Also acceptable: trans on second reference and headlines: He became the first trans man sent into orbit. Do not use transgender as a noun, and avoid use of the terms “transgendered” or “transsexual.” “Cross-dresser” and “drag performer” are not synonyms. Be sure to use the name a transgender individual uses in public.

See sex, gender.


Acceptable in all uses for television.



The abbreviation is acceptable as a noun or adjective for United States. Example: Tomorrow she returns to the U.S.; She attended a U.S. conference on aging. In headlines, omit the periods: US

U.S. News & World Report

underserved, underrepresented


Only capitalize when used with a proper name: Virginia Commonwealth University. Don’t capitalize when referring to the university or on second reference.

See –wide.

University Student Commons

Not “Student Commons.”


No hyphen. Also: campuswide, statewide, nationwide, worldwide.

See –wides.


As a best practice, the cleanest, shortest working URL should be used in print pieces, websites and on stationery. Most sites, including addresses no longer require the www (even if they appear on the landing page). The prefixes www, http:// and https://  can be removed as long as the URL works without them. However, because some sites do still require these prefixes, the URL should be tested in multiple browsers (IE, Firefox and Chrome) before removing any part of the address.

  • The same rule applies to suffixes such as /index.html, which appear in the browser bar but aren’t needed to access the site. Example: can become
  • If the website if part of a list and some URLs in the list require www and others don’t, include www in all entries.
  • For print publications when the URL does not fit entirely on one line, break it into two or more lines without adding a hyphen or other punctuation mark, and carry any punctuation in the URL to the second line.


  • The URL should always be the last item in a sentence. Example: To make a donation to the school, contact Troy Smith at (804) 555-5555, or make a gift online at
  • Do not use http:// or https:// in URLs that do not require it.
  • On websites, use a hyperlink versus spelling out the URL in text.

See technology terms.


VCU School of the Arts in Qatar, VCUarts Qatar

VCUarts in Qatar is also acceptable. Do not use “VCUQ,” “sister campus” or “sister school.” VCUarts Qatar is a branch campus of Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Richmond, Virginia. It is located in Doha, Qatar’s Education City. It was established in 1998 through a partnership with Qatar Foundation and offers the following degrees:

Art History B.A.
Fashion Design B.F.A.
Graphic Design B.F.A.
Interior Design B.F.A.
Painting + Printmaking B.F.A.
Design M.F.A.

Virginia Commonwealth University

The university’s official name is Virginia Commonwealth University. On second reference and in headlines, VCU is preferred.

For websites, spell out Virginia Commonwealth University on the first reference for each index (or section) page. Virginia Commonwealth University does not require a callout (VCU) following the first reference to be abbreviated in subsequent references.

Do not use periods in VCU. When Virginia Commonwealth University is followed by a college, school or department name, the full name may or may not take the possessive form. For example, the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts or Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts.

When Virginia Commonwealth University or VCU is followed by the name of a center, institute or program, Virginia Commonwealth University is not possessive. Example: Virginia Commonwealth University Rice Rivers Center or VCU Pauley Heart Center.

Do not capitalize “university” when it stands alone and refers to Virginia Commonwealth University. Drop “university” from the beginning of internal names when preceded by Virginia Commonwealth University but keep “university” when preceded by VCU.


  • Virginia Commonwealth University Student Commons
  • Virginia Commonwealth University Conference and Scheduling Services
  • VCU University Student Commons
  • VCU University Conference and Scheduling Services

Historical context

References to the Medical College of Virginia and Richmond Professional Institute as separate institutions may occur only in historical context before 1968, the year that Virginia Commonwealth University was established.


  • A graduate who obtained an M.D. in 1949 is an alumnus of MCV.
  • A graduate who received a B.F.A. in 1961 is an alumnus of RPI.
  • All graduates after 1968 are alumni of VCU. The Medical College of Virginia does not exist as a stand-alone entity (except in historical context before 1968), and references using only these initials are incorrect (i.e., VCU/MCV, MCV/VCU or MCV). However, MCV Foundation and MCV Alumni Association are exceptions to this rule.

Virginia Commonwealth University Health System

VCU Health System is the employer name for personnel working at VCU Medical Center and VCU Community Memorial Hospital; it should only be used in reference to employment (i.e. job postings). On first reference, “Virginia Commonwealth University” does not need to be spelled out; on subsequent references, health system is acceptable. Do not use the abbreviation “VCUHS.”

VCU Health System should be used in reference to employment only (i.e., job postings); do not use VCU Medical Center in reference to employment. As a component of VCU Medical Center, VCU Health System is the official governing and management organization for MCV Hospitals, MCV Physicians and the Virginia Premier Medicaid HMO. In an effort to streamline formal names and to more accurately reflect the comprehensive nature of VCU’s academic medical center, the preferred designation for VCU Health System (including its hospitals and clinics) and the health sciences schools of VCU is VCU Medical Center.

Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, VCU Health

VCU Medical Center refers specifically to the hospital and clinics in Downtown Richmond. Spell out Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center the first time you refer to it. On subsequent references, VCU Medical Center or medical center is acceptable. Do not use “the” in front of VCU Medical Center unless it is followed by a department or division name.


  • At VCU Medical Center, we’re striving to become America’s safest health system.
  • In 2011, VCU Medical Center’s Virginia Coordinated Care program established the Complex Care Clinic.
  • The VCU Medical Center Department of Performance Improvement implemented “Safety First, Every Day.”

VCU Health is the primary brand identity for the health-related components of VCU, including schools, hospitals, centers, institutes, practices, health plans and clinical programs or services. Use this name unless you are referring to the specific buildings or location of the Medical Center. VCU Health does not need to spelled out as “Virginia Commonwealth University” on first reference; the name should only be written as VCU Health, never “VCUH” or “VCUHealth.”

Many of the departments and divisions within the medical center also have teaching components within the health sciences schools. The context should drive the usage.


  • Students in the School of Medicine’s Department of Internal Medicine participate in a collaborative curriculum with the Department of Theatre.
  • The VCU Medical Center Department of Internal Medicine provides patient care in cardiology, nephrology and rheumatology.

Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts, VCU School of the Arts

Use proper name on first reference or in letters from Dean Brixey. Use VCUarts on second reference. Do not use “SOTA” as an abbreviation for the School of the Arts or VCUarts. Avoid writing VCUarts as a possessive noun.

See colleges, schools and departments; university; possessives.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Richmond’s largest collecting art museum, opened in 1936. Use VMFA on second reference.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowship

Fine arts fellowships awarded annually to undergraduates and professional Virginia artists; also called VMFA Fellowship.

virtual reality

A form of software- and hardware-based interaction in which one or more users wears a headset (sometimes with other peripherals) to navigate a digitally-constructed space. This can take the form of a game, an art installation or virtual person-to-person interaction. Examples include the Oculus Rift headset, Maurice Benayoun’s “The Tunnel Under the Atlantic, “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes,” and related hardware and media. The abbreviation “VR” is acceptable on second use. Distinct from augmented reality.

See augmented reality.


This service is now written as a single word per AP Stylebook.


Washington, D.C.

Use Washington within the body of a story; Washington, D.C. if it may be confused with the state.

See states.


Short for “World Wide Web.” The web is not a synonym for internet; it is a subset, not unlike email. As a short form and in terms with separate words: the webweb page and web browser.

web page titles

The page title on a VCU website should spell out “Virginia Commonwealth University” on the home page. Sublevel pages should list the page name, followed by the name of the site (with “VCU” abbreviated).

web signature

In accordance with VCU’s Web Standards and Guidelines, all VCU websites must include a signature/footer block in order to provide consistent methods for visitors to contact the respective department and to notify visitors that the site is kept up to date. View the required content outlined by VCU Technology Services at


A location on the World Wide Web that maintains one or more pages at a specific address. Also, webcam, cast and webmaster. But as a short form and in terms with separate words, the web, web feed and web page.

who, whom

Use who and whom for references to human beings. Use “that” and “which” for inanimate objects and animals without names (See that, which). Who is a subject: Who is the person handling reunion this year? Whom is an object: To whom should I address this question?

As a general rule, a sentence will still make sense if you can replace who with “he” or “she”: Who handles reunion? She does. Whom can be replaced by “him” or “her”: To whom should I address this question? To her.

Windmueller Lecture

Lecture series at VCU featuring renowned professionals in the world of art and design. Past lecturers have included artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, architect Steven Holl, and MoMA’s senior design curator Paola Antonelli. Support comes from the Windmueller Art Series in memory of Otti Y. Windmueller.


No hyphen with the suffix -wide. Also: campuswide, collegewide, statewide, nationwide.

See –wide.




Always use numerals: 2017. When accompanied by a month and day, the year should be set off with a comma: On Nov. 28, 2017, the new facility will open. When referring to centuries or decades, use an s without an apostrophe: the 1990s, the 1600s.



Always spell out: He has worked there for four-plus years. Better: use more than (but not “over”): She spent more than four years conducting research.


No hyphen with the suffix -wide. Campuswide, collegewide, statewide, worldwide.


Abbreviate when referring to the creation, display and manipulation of objects on the computer screen in two dimensions, such as 2D CAD programs; when referring to the adjective two-dimensional, always spell out.


Use this abbreviation for three-dimensional when referring to graphics.

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