General Guidelines


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  • Months

    The following abbreviations may be used for months when used with specific dates:

    Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., Dec.

    Never abbreviate March, April, May, June, and July, even when they are used with dates.


    Incorrect: The meeting will be held in Sept.

    Correct: The meeting will be held in September.

    The meeting will be held Sept. 1.

    Incorrect: The meeting will be held Mar. 1.

    Correct: The meeting will be held March 1.

  • States

    Names of states must be spelled out when they stand alone in text. However, state names may be abbreviated when used with a city. Do not use two-letter U.S. Postal Service abbreviations in text; these abbreviations should be used only in addresses with ZIP codes.

    The following abbreviations are correct:

    Ala. Alabama Neb. Nebraska
    Ariz. Arizona Nev. Nevada
    Ark. Arkansas N.H. New Hampshire
    Calif. California N.J. New Jersey
    Colo. Colorado N.M. New Mexico
    Conn. Connecticut N.Y. New York
    Del. Delaware N.C. North Carolina
    D.C. District of Columbia N.D. North Dakota
    Fla. Florida Okla. Oklahoma
    Ga. Georgia Ore. Oregon
    Ill. Illinois Pa. Pennsylvania
    Ind. Indiana R.I. Rhode Island
    Kan. Kansas S.C. South Carolina
    Ky. Kentucky S.D. South Dakota
    La. Louisiana Tenn. Tennessee
    Md. Maryland Vt. Vermont
    Mass. Massachusetts Va. Virginia
    Mich. Michigan Wash. Washington
    Minn. Minnesota W.Va. West Virginia
    Miss. Mississippi Wis. Wisconsin
    Mo. Missouri Wyo. Wyoming
    Mont. Montana    

    Never abbreviate Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas or Utah.

  • Countries

    Never abbreviate names of countries other than U.S. However, use U.S. as an abbreviation only when it is a modifier:


    Incorrect: The lawyer deals with United States privacy issues. In fact, he is considered one of the best lawyers in the U.S.

    Correct: The lawyer deals with U.S. privacy issues. In fact, he is considered one of the best lawyers in the United States.

  • Addresses

    Abbreviations for street (St.), boulevard (Blvd.), and avenue (Ave.) should be used only with a numbered address.


    He lives at 420 Summer St.

    He lives somewhere on Summer Street.

  • Initials

    In some cases, initials are acceptable in all references because they are well-known and familiar. Examples include FBI and AFL-CIO. Generally, however, spell out on first reference and use initials in subsequent reference.


    Leslie Stevenson is director of the University’s Career Development Center. The CDC helps students as well as alumni with job searches.

    Also acceptable:

    Leslie Stevenson is director of the University’s Career Development Center. The center helps students as well as alumni with job searches.

    In cases of unfamiliar initials, it is acceptable and often preferred to put the initials in parentheses after the name, and before using on subsequent reference.


    The French Club for Rising Juniors (FCRJ) is a new organization designed specifically for business majors who wish to explore a foreign language in their spare time. For more information on the FCRJ, visit the dean’s office.

  • Other Abbreviations

    When used at the end of an official name, abbreviate company (Co.), corporation (Corp.), incorporated (Inc.), and limited (Ltd.)


    General Motors Corp.

    Williams, Drought and Allen Inc.

Capitalization and Names

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  • Capitalization

    Capitalize proper nouns, months, and days of the week.

    Capitalize all words — except articles, conjunctions and prepositions — in the titles of books, plays, lectures, and musical compositions.

    Lowercase seasons.

    Lowercase fall break, winter break, spring semester.

    Capitalize entire geographical names, such as Pacific Northwest.

    Capitalize geographical regions of the country, but not points of the compass.


    A substantial percentage of Richmond students hail from the North and the East.

    The students are heading southwest on their summer break.

    Capitalize names of all races and nationalities.


    Hispanic, Irish, Caucasian, African American, Asian

    Do not capitalize fields of study, curricula, major areas, or major subjects (except names of languages) unless referring to a specific course.


    He is studying economics and English; however, his favorite course is Music of the Middle Ages.

    Do not capitalize designations of officers of a class or social organization.

    Capitalize names of athletic clubs and teams.


    The Spiders are looking strong this season.

    John is president of the Campus Activities Board and was recently elected vice president of the first-year class.

    Capitalize formal names of standardized tests.


    Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), American College Testing (ACT)

  • Composition Names

    Names of all published books, proceedings, collections, periodicals, newspapers, magazines, films, television, and radio programs, and plays are set in italics. Unpublished works, such as theses and lectures, are set in roman type and quotation marks. Published articles are set in roman type and quotation marks.


    Richmond Times-Dispatch

    Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen

    His lecture, "The Uses of Bacterial Pathogens," will be presented on Friday.

    The article "Are You Ready for Taxes?" was published in an April issue of Newsweek.

    Schindler’s List

    Titles of operas, oratorios and other long musical compositions are italicized. Titles of songs and short compositions are usually set in roman (non-italic) type and quotation marks.

    Many musical compositions do not have titles, but are identified by the name of a musical form plus a number or key or both. When used as the title, the form and key are usually capitalized, but no italics are used.


    Symphony No. 5 in C Minor; Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony

    A descriptive title given to a work, either by a later critic or performer, is italicized if the work is long, but quoted if it is short.


    Air with Variations ("The Harmonious Blacksmith") from Handel’s Suite No. 5 in E.

    Titles of paintings, drawings, statues, and other works of art are italicized.

    Titles of exhibitions are put in quotation marks.

  • Course Names

    When using the full name of a course, use capitalization rules for titles, but do not italicize, set in quotes, or treat as a composition name. A subject and level descriptor suffice if trying to avoid overly long titles.



    He taught "Pollutants in the Environment" during the spring semester.

    She’s taking CHEM 102: Adventures with the Noble Gases.


    He taught Pollutants in the Environment during the spring semester.

    She enrolled in Principles of Advanced Molecular Biology.

    He teaches upper-level chemistry course with elements of forensic science.

  • City Names

    Richmond does not require an identifying state because it is the hometown of the University. The following city names also do not require identifying states:

    Las Vegas
    Los Angeles
    New Orleans
    New York
    Oklahoma City
    St. Louis
    Salt Lake City
    San Antonio
    San Diego
    San Francisco


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  • Numbers

    Generally, write out whole numbers under 10. Use figures for 10 and above. Fractions standing alone are spelled out. For fractions with whole numbers, use figures.


    She owns four apartments and 11 houses. About three-fourths of her salary goes to pay rent. Of course, she makes 2 1/2 times my salary each week.

    When a number is the first word of a sentence, spell it out even if it would normally be expressed in figures.


    Thirteen students passed the final exam.

    Ratios and proportions may be expressed in one of two ways: 1 to 20 or 1:20

    Use figures for ages.


    She is 30, and her daughter is 5.

    Drop zeros in numbers with seven or more digits; use words instead.


    3 billion, 17 million

    Avoid using more numbers than needed, especially when expressing hours and time. The same is true when expressing amounts of money.


    Incorrect: He told me he would return the $20.00 he borrowed at 7:00 p.m.

    Correct: He told me he would return the $20 he borrowed at 7 p.m.

    Keep numerals for credit designation.


    3 credits but a three-hour lecture

  • Telephone Numbers

    Preferred: (804) 555-5555

    Acceptable: 804-555-5555

  • Time

    When expressing time, use a.m. or p.m. Use periods; do not capitalize. Use "noon" for 12 p.m., and "midnight" for 12 a.m. Time zones may be abbreviated such as EST (Eastern Standard Time) or CDT (Central Daylight Time), if linked to a clock time. Otherwise, they must be spelled out.

  • Centuries

    Spell out numbers of centuries from first through ninth in lower case, but use numerals from the 10th century on.


    That wall dates from the eighth century, but the dwelling is from the 16th century.

    When expressing two dates that indicate a period of time within the same century, the first two numbers in the second date may be dropped (1962-82). If the dates are in different centuries, full years must be used (1825-1912).