Editorial Style Guide

The intent of this Editorial Style Guide is to serve as an effective resource for communicators across the Brown campus to establish consistency in editorial style for websites, print publications, social media and more. Learn more about the Editorial Style Guide or download a PDF of the style guide.


# A B C D E F G H I J L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y

abbreviations and acronyms

Abbreviations and acronyms may be used on first reference only if widely recognized.

  • DNA
  • FBI
  • NASA

Otherwise, spell out the complete name or phrase on first reference and follow with the abbreviation in parentheses if and only if the abbreviation will be referenced subsequently.

  • The collaboration includes Brown University and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

In general, abbreviations and acronyms with only two capitalized letters use periods; for those with three or more capitalized letters, omit the periods between the letters.

  • U.S.
  • CIA

When an acronym serves as a proper name and exceeds four letters, capitalize only the first letter.

  • Unesco
  • Unicef

When an abbreviation follows an indefinite article, choose between “a” or “an” as determined by the way the abbreviation would be read aloud.

  • an HMO
  • a UFO

(See: “academic degrees”)

(See: “state names”)

academic degrees

Undergraduate degrees offered by Brown include:

  • bachelor of arts (A.B.)
  • bachelor of science (Sc.B.)
  • bachelor of arts and bachelor of science (combined A.B./Sc.B.)

A.B. and Sc.B. refer to the fact that Brown awards its degrees in Latin. Do not use B.A. or B.S. to abbreviate.

All references to academic degrees should be lowercase unless an abbreviation is used.

  • Johnson earned a master of public health.

The word “degree” should not follow an abbreviation.

  • She has an A.B. in English literature.

If the word “degree” is used with “bachelor” and “master,” add an apostrophe and “s.” Brown does not award associate degrees, but if referencing one from another institution, do not use an apostrophe and “s.”

  • She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in comparative literature.
  • He received an associate degree from Community College of Rhode Island in 2009.

For degrees with only two capitalized letters, place periods before and after the final letter:

  • A.M. (master of arts)
  • M.D. (doctor of medicine)
  • M.D.-Sc.M. (doctor of medicine and master of science in population medicine)
  • Ph.D. (doctor of philosophy)
  • Sc.M. (master of science)
  • Sc.MIME (master of science in innovation management and entrepreneurship)

For degrees of three or more capitalized letters, omit the periods between the letters:

  • MAT (master of arts in teaching)
  • MFA (master of fine arts)
  • MPA (master of public affairs)
  • MPH (master of public health)
  • MPP (master of public policy)
  • EMSTL (executive master in science and technology leadership)


not “advisor”

affect, effect

“Affect” is almost always used as a verb, meaning “to influence,” “to act on” or “to produce an effect or change in.” (Uses of “affect” as a noun are considered nearly obsolete, with an exception being as a term in psychology, reflecting an emotional response to stimulus.)

  • The news stories affected the election.

“Effect” is almost always used as a noun, meaning “result” or “outcome.” (When used as a verb, “effect” immediately followed by a noun means “to make happen” or “to bring about.”)

  • His test score had a positive effect on his final grade.
  • The best way to effect change is to become an active participant.

African American

Do not use a hyphen, whether as a noun or adjective.

alumni designations

“Alumnus” refers to one male graduate.

“Alumna” refers to one female graduate.

“Alumni” refers to two or more former students, if some or all are male.

“Alumnae” refers to two or more former students, if all are female.

Do not use the informal “alum” or “alums” unless part of a direct quotation.

alumni designations/class affinity

For communications for external audiences, do not use abbreviations or possessive numerals for class year, parent designations or any other Brown affiliations or honors. Instead, include this information in copy as relevant and necessary.

  • Anna Barclay, a 1987 graduate of Brown and parent of two current Brown students, chairs the committee. (Not Anna Barclay ’87…)
  • Anna Barclay of the Class of 1987 chairs the committee.

(See: “class years”)

For communications destined exclusively and solely for internal campus or alumni audiences, use of abbreviations for class year, parent designations or any other Brown affiliations or honors is acceptable. Use a reverse apostrophe (hit the apostrophe key twice) before the year when referring to class years.

  • Lila Blackstone ’16 (Her only degree is a bachelor’s.)
  • Robert Santos ’88, ’90 A.M., ’94 Ph.D. (He has three degrees from Brown.)

In fundraising and Family Weekend contexts, refer to the parent of a Brown student or graduate in this manner:

  • Ana Tran P’12

If the parent also is a Brown graduate, the parent’s class year precedes the child’s year:

  • Ana Tran ’98, P’12

To indicate a parent of more than one Brown student or graduate, include the class years of all children in chronological order, separated by one space:

  • Roger Levine P’19 ’21

For use only in relevant contexts where a person’s role as a grandparent relates to the content (example: a profile about a family in a fundraising brochure to parents), refer to grandparents of Brown students in this manner:

  • Anthony Ferrara GP’18

In this example, a grandparent is an alumnus and a Brown parent:

  • Frank Nelson ’60, P’89, GP’18 ’20


Do not use an ampersand unless it is an official part of a formal name. Otherwise, spell “and”:

  • Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island
  • Sock & Buskin presents a number of major productions each year.

art installations on campus

For the correct names of art installations on campus, refer to the Public Art Committee website: 

Asian American

Do not use a hyphen whether as a noun or adjective.

athletics terminology

Lowercase team names:

  • women’s basketball
  • men’s baseball

the Bears

Division I

ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference)

Ivy League

NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), NCAA championship, NCAA tournament

pregame, preseason, postgame, postseason