skip main site navigation go to current site section navigation
Technology@McCombs | Web Team

McCombs Supplemental Style Guide

As one of the largest universities in the nation, when it comes to getting everyone on the same page, we’ve got our work cut out for us. It is our aim to offer a user-friendly website while maintaining high standards for uniformity.  If you write something and submit it for publication on the McCombs School of Business website, it is crucial that it fit in with the overall tone, design and writing style of every other page.

We encourage you to refer to this guide in order to

  • ensure that documents and images conform to university standards and legal requirements
  • understand which style issues are negotiable and which are firm
  • improve consistency within the website, regardless of the content writer
  • remind you of style decisions for each type of webpage
  • become familiar with AP Style: a popular standard in professional, non-academic settings

To help facilitate this goal, this document offers McCombs-specific style guidelines. You will find words often used in business and marketing environments. These are intended as a supplement, not a substitute, for The University of Texas at Austin’s Official Style Guide, written by the Office of Public Affairs (OPA).

Notes on this guide

These are not optional. They are to be followed for all news- and information-oriented publications from the McCombs School, including Web releases, Web features, printed magazines, printed press releases and admissions brochures.

The instructions do not apply universally to all written materials. For example, these instructions do not apply to academic papers. Some recommendations here will contradict the style guides you use for academic writing. English grammar and style are not written in stone. The AP Style Guide is our reference as mandated by OPA.

What about non-news and information communication? If you deviate from the AP Style, be sure to follow another style guide as your source. Here are some online resources:

What about references to the University of Texas at Austin or the McCombs School of Business? Please use this and the official University of Texas Style Guide as a bible and do not deviate. Consistency is key. If constituents complain, inform them that the university is attempting to follow one unified style guide for public communications, and then refer them to the guide online.

Punctuation

Apostrophes

Use apostrophes when writing a year of graduation. It is important that the apostrophe points down and to the left.
Ex. Allison Stevens, MBA ’05, credited the Plus Program with her interest in business.  

Bullets

There are no hard and fast rules for bulleted lists, and you will see many different styles. We recommend

  • Capitalize the first letter of a bulleted item, even if it’s not a complete sentence.
  • Add a period only to the end of complete sentences.
  • For non-sentence fragments, the bullet itself is considered punctuation and no other mark is required.
  • Only use colons preceding a bulleted list where periods would also work. In the following example, notice there is no colon after “including.”

Composition Titles (books, articles, magazines, movies, radio & television, speeches and lectures)

  • Capitalize an article or research paper. Only capitalize the, a, an when they appear as the first word in the 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, gazettes, handbooks and similar publications.
  • Do not use quotations marks around software titles such as WordPerfect or Windows.
  • Translate a foreign title into English unless a work is generally known by its foreign name.
  • Television programs appear in quotations marks.       Ex. "Countdown With Keith Olbermann"
  • Reference works do not require quotations marks.       Ex. Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language
  • Names of most websites and apps are capitalized without quotes.       Ex. Facebook, Foursquare
  • Foreign works:       Ex. Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa"

Commas

In a list, do not use a comma before “and.” (This is called a “serial comma” or “Oxford comma.”)

 Ex. Students came from all disciplines, including accounting, management and finance.

Note: While this runs contrary to academic inclinations, it is proper AP style and now university style for news and information. However, a serial comma is permitted when the last two items in the list contain several words. In this situation, using a comma before “and” can clarify an otherwise confusing sentence. The following example shows that, without the serial comma, sometimes two meanings can be derived from the sentence.

Ex. Jennifer was proud of her new muffin recipes: blueberry, peanut butter and chocolate chip and coconut.

Dashes

Use an “em dash” to create a strong break in the structure of a sentence. Do not confuse the long em dash (—) with the much shorter hyphen (-). Dashes can be used in pairs like parentheses—that is, to enclose a word, or a phrase, or a clause—or they can be used alone to detach one end of a sentence from the main body. Do not use a space between the text and the em dash.

Ex. Andrew Winston, McCombs professor of information management and director of the Center for Research in Electronic Commerce, argues that the two worlds—business and e-business—have many characteristics that are unique from each other.

Ellipsis ( ... )

In general, treat an ellipsis as a three-letter word, constructed with three periods and two spaces, as shown here. Use an ellipsis to indicate the deletion of one or more words in condensing quotes, texts and documents. Be especially careful to avoid deletions that would distort the meaning. An ellipsis also may be used to indicate a thought that the writer or speaker does not complete.

Exclamation Point

AVOID OVERUSE: Use a comma after mild interjections. End mildly exclamatory sentences with a period.

Hyphen (-)

Joiners used to avoid ambiguity or to form a single idea from two or more words. Use of the hyphen is far from standardized, but the fewer hyphens the better. Use them only when not using the causes confusion.

Hyphen usage in compound proper nouns and adjectives:

Use a hyphen to designate dual heritage.       Ex. Italian-American, Mexican-American
No hyphen, however, for      Ex. French Canadian or Latin American

Parentheses

Use to insert necessary background or reference information, but be sparing with them. Parentheses are jarring to the reader. The temptation to use parentheses is a clue that a sentence is becoming contorted.

Quotation mark placement within a question

If the quotations marks are meant to identify a proper noun, they should appear before ending punctuation.       Ex. Who wrote "Gone With the Wind"?
As part of a full quote the quotation marks appear outside the ending punctuation.       Ex. He asked, "How long will it take?"

Semicolon (;)

In general, use the semicolon to indicate a greater separation of thought and information than a comma can convey, but less than the separation that a period implies.
Use semicolons to separate elements of a series when the items in the series are long or when individual segments contain material that also must be set off by commas.

Ex. He is survived by a son, John Smith, of Chicago; three daughters, Jane Smith, of Wichita, Kan.,, Mary Smith, of Denver, and Susan, of Boston; and a sister, Martha, of Omaha, Neb.

 

Words and Phrases

The following is an evolving guideline for writing in the A.P. Style on the McCombs website.  

acronyms
Spell out the entire name followed by acronym in parentheses. This is only necessary the first time.

Ex. 
The president of The University of Texas Investment Management Company (UTIMCO) is Bob Boldt. Boldt has been with UTIMCO for ten years.

Exceptions are CEO, MBA, BBA, or other widely-used acronyms. One can reasonably assume the audience will be familiar with these.

alumnus, alumni, alumna, alumnae
Use alumnus (alumni in the plural) when referring to a man who has attended a school. Use alumna (alumnae in the plural) for similar references to a woman. Use alumni when referring to a group of men and women.

capitalization
In general, avoid unnecessary capitals. Use a capital letter only if you can justify it by one of these principles.

  • Do not capitalize titles unless they are part of the name.       Ex. Chairman John Jameson       Ex. Katherine Braxton is the chairman of the board.
  • Capitalize proper nouns: nouns that constitute the unique identification of a specific person, place or thing.       Ex. John, Mary, American, Boston, England
  • Capitalize proper names: Only capitalize common nouns like party, river, street and west when they are used as the name of a particular entity.       Ex. General Electric, Gulf Oil

chaired professorships
Capitalize the official names of honorary chaired and university professorships. For those titles that are not honorary or for references after the name of the professor, use lower case.

Capitalize the official names of honorary chaired and university professorships. For those titles that are not honorary or for references after the name of the professor, use lower case.

Ex. Ehud Ronn, who holds the Jack S. Josey Professorship in Energy Studies, coordinated the conference.

Ex. Sanford Levinson, the W. St. John Garwood and W St. John Garwood, Jr. Centennial Chair in Law, donated his collection to the School of Law.

classifications
Don’t capitalize freshman, sophomore, junior or senior, unless it is part of a formal title. Hyphenate first-year and second-year in classifications.

Ex. The second-year MBA student chaired the Women in Business Leadership Conference.

dean
Capitalize “Dean” when it comes before a name. Do not capitalize it after the name. Follow the same rules for assistant deans and other titles.

Ex. Dean George Gau unveiled the strategic plan.

Ex. George Gau, dean of the McCombs School of Business, announced that Southwest Airlines Founder Herb Kelleher would be the commencement speaker.

degrees
Identify past and current students by using the abbreviation for the alum’s academic degree with the last two digits of the graduation year.

Ex. Allison Stevens, MBA ’05, credited the Plus Program with her interest in international business.

If the person received more than one degree from the University of Texas at Austin, use both years and put a comma between them.

Ex. Bill Jones, BBA ’84, MBA ’89, was elected president of the New York City chapter of Texas Exes.

departments
Don’t capitalize department when it stands alone.

Ex. She’s been with the department three years.

Capitalize names of specific departments.

Ex. He’s a lecturer in the Finance Department.

She heads the Department of Accounting.

Note: Both “Department of Accounting ” and “Accounting Department” are correct; just try to be consistent within documents.

email
One word, lowercase, no hyphen.

firm
A business partnership is correctly referred to as a firm. Do not use firm in reference to an incorporated business entity. Use the company or the corporation instead.

first quarter / first-quarter
Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier.

Ex. Profits are up fifty percent in the first quarter.
Ex. We have met our first-quarter goal.

Google
Google, Googling and Googled are used informally as a verb for searching for information on the Internet, and should be capitalized.

gross domestic product (GDP)
The sum of all goods and services produced by the U.S. Lowercase in all uses, but GDP is acceptable in later references.

honorary degrees
All references to honorary degrees should specify that the degree was honorary. Do not use Dr. before the name of an individual whose only doctorate is honorary.

Ex. Boston (AP) — The House has adjourned for the year.

incorporated
Abbreviate and capitalize as Inc. when used as part of a corporate name. Do not set off with commas.

Ex. Time Warner Inc. announced…

Internet
A decentralized, worldwide network of computers that can communicate with each other. In later references, the Net is acceptable. Internet is capitalized because it is a proper noun.  

intranet
A private network inside a company or organization, only for internal use. Always lowercase.

letters
Use a colon—not a comma—after the salutation.      

Ex. Dear John:

McCombs School terminology
Do not capitalize the in the McCombs School.
It is acceptable to write only McCombs.
Capitalize McCombs School.
Use lowercase school; not School when it stands alone.
Capitalize School of Business and Business School, even if they stand alone, when referring to McCombs.
Avoid writing, Red McCombs School. We brand like Wharton, Kellogg and other named business schools, meaning our preferred usage in all instances is the last name only, McCombs School, with the exceptions only on official University letterhead, where it is appropriate to write out the complete name.

metadata
Data about data. Examples of metadata include descriptors indicating when information was created, by whom and in what format. Always lowercase.

Nasdaq
The nation’s largest all-electronic stock market. Formerly an acronym, it is now a proper name. Parent company is Nasdaq Stock Market Inc.

New York Stock Exchange
NYSE is acceptable on second reference as an adjective for the stock exchange or the exchange for other references. Its shares are publicly traded. Headquarters are in New York.

numbers
Write out numbers one through nine as words.       Ex. He only needs five more credits to finish.
Write 10 and above as numbers.       Ex. She has 18 papers due by the end of the semester.

one-time / onetime / one time

Ex. He is the onetime (former) heavyweight boxing champion.
Ex. She is the one-time (once) winner in 2004.
Ex. He did it one time.

online
One word in all cases for the computer connection term.

offices
Capitalize when it’s part of an official title. Otherwise, use lowercase.

Ex. The Office of the Dean issued the detailed report.
Ex. The dean’s office sponsored the holiday festivities.

professors' titles
Avoid preceding a professor’s name with his title. Instead, use the following construction:

Ex. Vijay Mahajan, professor of marketing at the McCombs School, stepped down from his post at the Indian School of Business.

programs
Capitalize only if it’s part of an official title. Note that programs, like the “McCombs MBA,” only have one official title. It is not also the “MBS Program,” although the “McCombs MBA”is managed in part by staff in the “MBA Program Office.”

Ex. Plus Program
MBA program
MBA Program Office

time
Use figures except for noon and midnight. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes. Use lowercase letters and periods for a.m. and p.m.

Ex. 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

titles
Don’t use a comma after a person’s name if they have a suffix.

Ex. John Carpenter III; Shelby Carter Jr.

University abbreviations

Avoid using abbreviations for The University of Texas at Austin, but if necessary (for internal audiences), use UT Austin. You have latitude to define “internal” when addressing alumni.

Avoid: UT—Austin or UT-Austin

University terminology
Capitalize The University of Texas at Austin. On the second reference, capitalize University, but never the.

Note: the OPA style guide says you can choose to capitalize or not capitalize University (in reference to UT Austin) on second reference, so long as you do it consistently. For the sake of consistency we recommend capitalization.

Web
Short form of World Wide Web, it is a service, or set of standards, that enables the publishing of multimedia documents on the Internet. The Web is not the same as the Internet, but is a subset. Other applications, such as email, exist on the Internet. Capitalize in short form and in terms with separate words: the Web, Web page and Web feed.

website, webcam, webcast, webmaster
One word, lowercase.

Ex. My favorite website is icanhazcheezburger.com!

Commonly used tech acronyms

CC carbon copy (BCC - blind carbon copy)
CD compact disc (plural CDs)
dpi dots per inch (lower case, never spelled out)
EPS encapsulated postscript
FAQ frequently asked question
FPS frames per second
FTP file transfer protocol
GIF graphic interchange format
GUI graphical user interface (plural GUIs)
HTML hypertext markup language
IP Internet protocol
ISP Internet service provider
JPEG joint photographic experts group
LAN local area network
OOP object-oriented programming
RAM random access memory
ROM read-only memory
RSI repetitive strain injury
TCP/IP transmission control protocol/Internet protocol
TIFF tagged image file format
WAN wide area network


If you spot an error, a necessary update, or you’d just like to submit something helpful to this style guide, please contact the
McCombs School of Business Web Team.