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University of California

Brand Guidelines


Prose + personality

The visual identity is just one component of a successful brand; tone and personality in what we write is another. So it’s got to be energetic, smart and vibrant — our writing should be as intelligent as our people. Tout the great work of the university, with feeling. Don’t be afraid to say something simply, wittily or pithily. Faculty, students and staff are excited by what they do; the language used to describe that work should reflect that passion, personality and commitment.

There is another goal of this style guide: to provide a set of rules that will provide a framework for clear and consistent communication to our many audiences — to the public at large; to the media; to students and parents; to our advocates and allies; and to our colleagues at the Office of the President and throughout the UC system.

Flower guy

Basic style rules

All numbering is per Associated Press: Spell out one through nine except when referring to purely numerical measures (e.g., 6 percent, $8). Use Arabic numerals for 10+ except at beginning of sentences.

Do not use serial commas (“a, b and c” not “a, b, and c”).

Gender rules: Use “his or her” when referring to an individual general subject and either “his” or “her” with recurring, specific examples. Use plural construction or recast the sentence whenever possible to avoid this issue.

Commas (,) and periods (.) always go within quotes: John said, “I'm hungry.”  “Me too,” said Jane.

Hyphenate compound adjectives. This makes it easier to understand the sentence and is proper English. “A real-time feed” but “the feed updates itself in real time.” As a general rule, adjectives appear before the subject. (Do not, however, hyphenate compound adverbs in which the first word ends in -ly: “privately held,” not “privately-held.”)

Avoid unnecessary capitalization of Important Words. Capitalize proper names (of standards, etc.) but not simple technical terms. Do not capitalize titles (except acronyms such as CEO, CFO, etc.) within a sentence (“John Smith, director of marketing, said...”).

All items in bulleted lists have first word with initial cap, rest lower case. No final punctuation unless elements are full sentences. If possible, list elements should be consistent — all sentences or all phrases. Last item in list: no period at the end (unless, of course, one or more items are sentences).

  • Loan programs
  • Payment schedules
  • Frequently asked questions

If for some reason the list is punctuated as a sentence (try to avoid this, but if it is), then last item in list does get a period at the end.

  • Loan programs;
  • Payment schedules; or
  • Frequently asked questions.

A company or organization is “it.” Companies are always “it” — not “they” — when referred to in the singular. “BigCo offers its employees many benefits." (Watch out for using “it” or “its” too often instead of specific names; this is confusing when many organizations are mentioned in a row.)

No double spaces between sentences. This is a convention from when typewriters used the monospace Courier typeface, in which every letter takes up the same amount of space, and one needed the two spaces to visually cue the end of a sentence. Now we have DTP and a wider range of font choices, and we can pretend to be master printers who use one space.

Some general do’s and don’ts:

  • Avoid passive sentence structure and verbs (“Mistakes were made.”). Whenever possible, use active verbs and tenses.
  • Avoid noun chains (a series of nouns, or a series of adjectives, verbs and nouns that also have noun meaning); they are too dense to read. (For example, change “the first outsource site infrastructure solution provider” to something like, “the first company to provide an outsourced solution and infrastructure.”)
  • Avoid too many “adjective adjective” or “adverb adjective” constructions.



acronyms: Follow Associated Press style.


admission/admissions: Admissions is not in the dictionary but is often used to describe the overall admission process:

  • Chronology of events related to freshman admissions criteria and processes
  • Historical outline of undergraduate admissions selection practices
  • Two-tiered admissions selection system at the University of California
  • A letter on implementation of admissions policy
  • University of California policy on undergraduate admissions

Admissions Office, Office of Admissions:

OK to cap when reference to campus (See office names, below). Does one campus have an admissions policy? Yes, because it uses various forms of admission (e.g. admission by exception,admission by examination)

adviser: not advisor

African American, black (noun, adj.): Use terms interchangeably for Americans of African descent, except for UC application or admission reports. No hyphen in noun form; hyphenate for adjective (as per other ethnicities). Do not use African American for people of African descent living in other countries (Canada, Caribbean nations, etc.)

American Indian (adj.): Preferred and mandatory for UC application or admission reports. Native American is acceptable in other contexts. No hyphen in either.

Asian American (noun, adj.): No hyphen in noun form; hyphenate for adjective.

"a-g" or "a-f": Style as shown in text (lowercase, in quotes). In headlines, uppercase, no quotes: A-G Courses

alumni: See Associated Press for various forms

AP Exam(s): The College Board has trademarked "AP" and capitalizes "Exam," but for clarity, we can refer to them on first mention as "Advanced Placement examinations." Also: "AP courses."


B, C

buildings: Capitalize full names: Baskin Engineering Building (formerly Applied Sciences Building)

California Community College(s): Uppercase when referring to system as a whole; lowercase for general reference (The Community College/University of California Memorandum of Understanding targets community college transfers. Joe attended a California community college. He spent two years at a community college.)

California State University:

  • California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo)
  • California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly, Pomona)
  • California State University, Bakersfield (CSU Bakersfield)
  • California State University, Channel Islands (CSU Channel Islands)
  • California State University, Chico (Chico State)
  • California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSU Dominguez Hills)
  • California State University, Fresno (Fresno State)
  • California State University, Fullerton (CSU Fullerton)
  • California State University, East Bay (CSU East Bay) — previously CSU Hayward
  • California State University, Long Beach (Long Beach State)
  • California State University, Los Angeles (CSU Los Angeles)
  • California State University, Monterey Bay (CSU Monterey Bay) (CSUMB)
  • California State University, Northridge (CSU Northridge)
  • California State University, Sacramento (Sacramento State)
  • California State University, San Bernardino (CSU San Bernardino)
  • California State University, San Marcos (CSU San Marcos)
  • California State University, Stanislaus (CSU Stanislaus)
  • Humboldt State University (Humboldt State)
  • San Diego State University (San Diego State)
  • San Francisco State University (San Francisco State)
  • San Jose State University (San Jose State)
  • Sonoma State University (Sonoma State)
  • California Maritime Academy (Cal Maritime)

Campuses (UC):

  • In body text and heads, use campus name: UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCLA, UCSF, UC Merced, UC Santa Cruz, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC San Diego...
  • In tables and other vertical lists, and in subheads, use city name: Berkeley, Davis, Los Angeles...

campuswide (adj.)

Capitalization of majors, departments, etc.:

  • Majors, minors and programs are not capitalized: history, English literature, biotechnology, East Asian studies, biomechanical engineering.
  • Tracks, concentrations, emphases within majors are lowercased: an oboe concentration within the music major. (An exception is when capitalized concentrations are presented in a vertical list, as in the “Undergraduate Majors” section of QR or A4T.) 
  • Course names are capitalized if they represent specific UC courses: Algerian Military History 1812–1824. General course descriptions — she took courses in French, military history and statistics — are lowercased unless usually capitalized as proper nouns.
  • Schools, colleges, divisions and departments are capitalized: the College of Environmental Design, the School of Social Ecology. Generic references are lowercased: The school is one of many outstanding academic assets to UC Berkeley.
  • Disciplines or fields of study or industry are lowercased when not mentioned as part of a department, major, etc.: a job in biotechnology, students interested in electrical engineering, etc.

capitalization in headlines:

  • Up: first word


  • Refer to campus style for spelling
  • Initial cap if used in formal title (UCLA General Catalog)
  • Exception: UC Irvine General Catalogue
  • Generic use: catalog

cell phone (2 words)


  • Use instead of “chairman”: the department chair
  • “Chairwoman” or “chairman” may be used with a name: Chairwoman Judy Yung

Chicano/Latino/Hispanic/Mexican American:

  • Follow latest UC policy, not Associated Press style (UC uses Chicano or Chicano/Latino; AP prefers Hispanic)
  • Mexican American is not hyphenated, in exception to AP

child care (n.); child-care (adj.)

coed (adj.; never use as noun)

College (see separate University entry; also Schools, colleges, divisions and departments)

Initial cap unless general reference: The College of Letters and Science, one of several colleges

  • Stevenson College
  • Kresge and Porter colleges
  • the college system
  • the 10 UC Santa Cruz colleges


course list

D, E


  • Capitalize formal names for degrees (John Smith, Doctor of Law; The department offers a Master of Arts.)
  • Capitalize abbreviations and insert periods: A.B., B.A., B.S., M.A., Ph.D. (Robert Kerr, Ph.D. candidate)
  • Lowercase short forms and degrees referred to in general terms: bachelor of arts degree; master’s; doctorate; graduate certificate
  • Avoid mixing forms, as in he received his master’s and doctoral degrees. (Master’s and doctor’s degrees would be preferable in such a case, or rewrite the sentence.)

departmental (adj.); department (n.)

Disciplines or fields of study or industry are lowercased when not mentioned as part of a department, major, etc.: a job in biotechnology, students interested in electrical engineering, etc.

Capitalize disciplines when part of the department name:

  • Department of Sociology
  • Sociology Department

Dr. Use for medical doctors (per AP)

early modern (adj.)

Earth science, Earth system science

Eligibility Index
Initial cap if reference to UC Eligibility Index
Lowercase if generic reference: the eligibility index at right...

ellipses: AP: space before and after.

email (not “e-mail” or “Email” or “E-mail”)

  • In publication directories, no need to preface email addresses with "email:"

em-dashes (—) should have surrounding spaces. Do not use hyphens (-) as dashes.

en-dashes: Do not use en-dashes (–) except in spans of numbers (“pages 87–89”; in this case, no surrounding spaces). Do not use hyphens (-) as dashes.


  • Capitalize full name of system: Narrative Evaluation System (UC Santa Cruz)
  • Lowercase short and general forms: narrative evaluations; evaluation system

F, G

fellow, fellowship: lowercase when used alone and when referring to faculty members of a college or in combination with a granting organization:

  • Elizabeth Bennett, an AAEA fellow
  • a Guggenheim fellowship
  • a fellow of the American Economics Association

financial aid: Capitalize the names of specific grants, scholarships, and loans (Regents Scholarships, Regents Fellowships, University Loans, Pell Grants)


  • Capitalize the formal names of forms (Application for Undergraduate Admission and Scholarships, Request for Graduate Application Fee Waiver)
  • Lowercase shortened or general forms (admission application, fee waiver form)

full time, part time (adv., adj.)

  • She attends school full time.
  • She has a part-time job.

freshman/freshmen: Adjective form: freshman (It’s not freshmen dorms any more than it is sophomores dorms.)

fractions: Hyphenate (one-third, one-half, etc.)

FY 2005 (space between)

general education requirements: lowercase unless a specific program

gigabytes (GB)

governor: Follow AP: lowercase if standalone. Cap and abbreviate if used as title before a name (Gov. Brown).

GPA: Acceptable in most usages; spell out at editor’s discretion for clarity.

grade averages: Do not use quotes or italics to set off letter grades (a student with a B average; a grade of C or better)

grades for courses: Capitalize course notations and grades (Pass, No Pass, Incomplete, In Progress, Withdrawal; P, NP, I, IP, W; A, B, C, D, F). Do not enclose in quotation marks or use italics; instead, rephrase sentence if needed for clarity.

grade levels: seventh-grader; seventh-grade students; the seventh grade


H, I

headlines: see Capitalization in headlines

health care: two words (not healthcare)

high school (n.); high-school (adj.)

IB exam(s): Use “International Baccalaureate exam(s)” on first mention; after that,
“IB exam(s).”

hyphenation is largely per Webster's. Exceptions are listed in this document.

  • Specific, recently established hyphenation choices: junior-level, upper-division (when used before the noun
  • Hyphenation and capitalization in heads and other initial-capped text: Compound words in heads are not capped

impact is a noun, not a verb. Use: have an impact on

internet: Do not capitalize, in keeping with updated AP style. When at all possible, avoid using on the web or (worse) on the internet. Use online.

intranet: Do not capitalize

L, M

legislature: Follow AP: lowercase only if generic (not referencing the California Legislature. If California is implied, then cap: the Legislature; the state Legislature. Also: the California Legislature.

log in (v.), login (n.), log-in (adj.)

low-income (adj.)

majors, minors and programs are not capitalized (except English literature etc.): history, biotechnology, East Asian studies, biomechanical engineering.


medieval (adj., lowercase)

megabytes (MB)

middle initials: Try to avoid in publications but OK when used as a signature (UC Provost Jane M. Smith)

midnight (follow AP)


months: When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. (per AP)

multidisciplinary (adj.)

N, O

nonprofit (adj.)

nonrefundable (adj.)

noon (follow AP)

now (not "at this time")

numbers: follow AP:

  • seventh-graders
  • 11th-graders
  • 8–10
  • grades 6–10

office names, administrative and academic: Capitalize full names of offices (and their shortened forms when it’s a clear reference to a campus):

  • Office of the Department of Theater Arts; Theater Arts Department Office
  • Office of the Chancellor; Chancellor’s Office

Note: some campus offices prefer complete names (e.g. Office of the Registrar, Office of Admissions)

online (not “on-line”)

P, Q

PATHWAYS: Avoid whenever possible — being phased out.

PDF (not PDF format)

percent: one word, spell out; do not use % unless in a table or chart

phone number formats for U.S. numbers: (212) 727-2074. Use a hyphen, not an en dash.


pre-register (v.); pre-registration (n.)

program titles: Initial cap, in quotes (“Faculty Forums for Freshmen”)

publication titles: No italics.

public service (adj.)

quarter, term

  • Lowercase names of quarters (winter quarter).
  • No comma is used between quarter and year (spring quarter 2005).
  • In general, use quarter instead of term, though the latter may be necessary with references that include UC Berkeley and UC Merced.



reentry (n.); re-entry (adj.)


Capitalize only as a formal title before one or more names, or when referring to the organizational body by formal name:

  • the Board of Regents of the University of California
  • the Board of Regents
  • the regents (per AP)
  • Regent Richard Blum
  • Regents Richard Blum and Sherry Lansing

UC requirements (lowercase):

  • American history and institutions requirement
  • English/reading and composition requirement
  • entry
  • language other than English requirement
  • subject requirement
  • scholarship requirement
  • examination requirement
  • (subject, scholarship and examination requirements)



San Francisco Bay Area; or Bay Area

Schools, colleges, divisions and departments are capitalized: the College of Environmental Design, the Jack Baskin School of Engineering. Generic references are lowercased: The school is one of many outstanding academic assets to UC Berkeley.

Social Security number


  • Capitalize if used as part of a formal name (State Lands Commission)
  • Lowercase in all “state of” constructions and when used as an adjective to indicate jurisdiction: The state of California; state Sen. Tom McClintock; The state Department of Transportation

Summer Session: Do not capitalize when referring to a specific program or when referring to the period of time (She took the class during the first summer session; the summer session at UC Davis is popular.)


Subject A, Subject A Examination, Subject A requirement: Avoid whenever possible — being phased out.


telephone numbers: (510) 987-9200

time: per AP: a.m./p.m.

titles, academic and administrative: In general, capitalize formal or courtesy titles — president, chancellor, senator — before names. Lowercase titles after names of individuals.

  • Esperanza Nee, director of financial aid
  • The chancellor has agreed
  • the dean of the Division of Graduate Studies
  • the provost of Crown
  • M.R.C. Greenwood, chancellor
  • Karl Pister, chancellor emeritus
  • history professor Ruth Rosen
  • UC President Mark G. Yudof
  • Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood
  • Chancellor Emeritus Karl S. Pister
  • professor emerita Audrey Stanley
  • professor of history Ruth Rosen
  • Dean Steve Kang
  • associate professor Olga Najera-Ramirez

Occupational or descriptive titles are lowercased:

  • novelist Toni Morrison
  • historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

tomorrow: Use only in direct quotations and in phrases that do not refer to a specific day.

tracks, concentrations, emphases within majors are lowercased: an oboe concentration within the music major. (An exception is when capitalized concentrations are presented in a vertical list, as in the "Undergraduate Majors" section of QR or A4T.)



transfer students (not “transfers”)

TTD, TTY: The terms are not interchangeable acronyms. TTD stands for teletype device (most current technology)

3-D (adj.)




units: use numerals even for 1–9 (7 units)

university: Lowercase

  • South Dakota and Texas have hired university faculty.
  • UC’s drug policy is consistent with previous university policy.
  • The university is comprised of 10 campuses.

University of California campuses

Format: University of California, Campus Name. Do not use “at” between the main elements. Instead, use comma after campus name:

  • The University of California, Santa Cruz, opened in 1965.
  • University of California, Davis, is the name of the northernmost UC campus.

UC campuses: Full name on first reference is preferred. The following short forms are acceptable:

  • UC Berkeley
  • UC Davis
  • UC Irvine
  • UCLA
  • UC Merced
  • UC Riverside
  • UC San Diego
  • UC San Francisco, UCSF
  • UC Santa Barbara
  • UC Santa Cruz


universitywide (adj.); do not capitalize when referring to “throughout the UC system”

upper-division, lower-division: hyphenate as a modifier (upper-division transfer students, lower-division transfer students)


  • Cut http:// but retain www.
  • Use http:// if there is no www. Example:
  • https:// — Required to access secure sites. Do not cut.
  • Breaking URLs across lines in print documents or PDFs: Avoid doing so if possible. If necessary, break after a slash or a dot.
  • For very long internal URLs, consider using a shorter redirect.

U.S. (not “US” or “America”). Use only as adjective; for noun, use “the United States.”

user name

very low-income (adj.)

visas: Cap letter and hyphenate: F-1 visa

voicemail (not “voice-mail” or “voice mail”)

wait list (n.); wait-listed (adj.)

web, the web

  • Do not capitalize; however, the World Wide Web is a proper noun (a unique “place”)
  • Avoid antiquated usages like on the web; instead use online
  • In publication directories, no need to preface URLs with "Web:"
  • See URLs, above, for details on representing or breaking URLs across lines in print documents or PDFs'

web-based (adj.)

website (n.) in keeping with AP’s newly amended style

webinar (n.) lower case

well-xxx (hyphenated before and after the noun: well-regarded, well-edited, etc.)

Western Hemisphere (l.c.)

work force (n.)

work in progress: No hyphens

work-study: always hyphenated

year-round (adj.)

years: Connect with en dashes.

  • Use as follows: 1996–97; 1999–2000; 2000–01; 2004–05
  • Avoid constructions such as the following: 1996–1997, 1996/97, 1996/1997, 96-97, 96/97)


Terms should be made consistent, based on (in order of weight):

  1. Specific terms and rules listed in this document
  2. The Associated Press Stylebook (online or print)
  3. First reference for spelling, style, usage and foreign geographic names:
    Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, Wiley, Hoboken, N.J.