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Rackham Communications Style Guide

Please note that Rackham takes the Chicago Manual of Style as our style guide of record and Merriam-Webster as our dictionary of record. Nuances specific to Rackham and U-M, exceptions to Chicago style, and items of particular relevance to Rackham are listed on this page.


Accomodation Language

To appear in event listings on the website and in Sessions registration pages:

“We want to ensure full and equitable participation in our events. If an accommodation would promote your full participation in this event, please indicate your accommodation requirements. Please let us know as soon as possible in order to have adequate time (one week preferred) to arrange for your requested accommodation(s) or an effective alternative."

Address of the Rackham Building

The address of the Rackham Building in all instances:

915 East Washington Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1070


See advisor.


Not adviser.

affirmative action


alum or alums

Perfectly acceptable term to use to refer to U-M graduates; use your ear and judgment with regard to whether one of these or a more formal variation is appropriate.


Grad years are most often noted parenthetically with the appropriate degree abbreviation:

  • Stanley Cohen (Ph.D. 1949) was the co-winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for discovering growth factors in human and animal tissue.

Grad years can also be written out as part of a larger thought:

  • John Taylor earned his master’s in 1983.

For accepted abbreviations of specific U-M degrees, please see the University style guide.

Exception: M.A. for Master of Arts instead of A.M.

For grad years prior to 2000, list the complete year. For grad years 2000 or later, use only the last two digits.

  • Shari Brown (M.A. ’07, Ph.D. ’11) recently published a book about urban recycling efforts.
  • Karl Henize (Ph.D. 1954) was an American astronaut who passed away during an expedition on Mt. Everest.
  • Victor C. Vaughn (Ph.D. 1876) earned one of the first two doctorate degrees bestowed by U-M.

For grad years of multiple degree holders, list the complete year (if prior to 2000) for the first degree only. For subsequent degrees, use only the last two digits.

  • Elizabeth Douvan (M.S. 1948, Ph.D. ’51), became a professor in the Institute for Social Research.
  • Frank Teasley (M.A. 1999, Ph.D. ’02) never envisioned a life in finance.
  • Lawrence Kasdan (A.B. 1970, M.A. ’72, HLH.D. ’00) worked on The Big Chill and Body Heat, among other films.

For people listed in Rackham stories who are U-M graduates but not Rackham graduates, list their degrees according to the University style guide.

  • John Terkel (A.B. ’02) knows well what it’s like to be married to a graduate student.

For people who attended Michigan but did not graduate, list “U-M” and the last year that they attended.

  • Alfred Taubman (U-M ’48) made the largest gift in history to any school of architecture nationwide.

For Dearborn and Flint alumni, follow this format:

  • Maxine Frankel (A.B. 1966 Dearborn) has been an avid supporter of the art museum.
  • A campus rally in support of John Sinclair (A.B. 1964 Flint) led to his release from prison.


Band Names

Singular band names take singular verbs and pronouns, and plural band names take plural verbs and pronouns.

  • XTC is releasing its first album in 13 years.
  • The Rolling Stones are playing their 21st show at the Hollywood Bowl.



We capitalize the first word after the colon if it’s the start of a complete sentence; leave it lowercase if it’s a fragment.

  • Daniel Klionsky is an example of that change: He throws out the textbook.
  • Eight years old and on top of the world: a Tibetan girl in Namtso.

Comma, Serial

Rackham uses the serial comma:

  • Lions, tigers, and bears—oh my!




Dashes (em and en)

Em dashes do not have a space on either side.

  • She knew that three things—perseverance, courage, and plenty of strong coffee—would carry her through until deadline.

Ranges of numbers, dates, or time are separated by an en dash in print materials:

  • The 2003–04 academic year.
  • He really needed to reread chapters 8–11.
  • The professor holds office hours every Wednesday, 11:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.
    • For web and email accessibility, replace with “to” or omit dashes.
  • He really needed to reread chapters 8 to 11.
  • The professor holds office hours every Wednesday, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.


Specific dates have a comma separating them from the year:

  • April 1, 2003, was fun.

Months are not separated from the year:

  • I came to Ann Arbor in April 2003.

Year ranges are separated by an en dash:

  • The 2003–04 academic year.

When referring to an event, with date and time:

  • March 26–28; 12:00–7:30 p.m.
  • Note: For email and web, use "to" instead of an en dash for accessibility reasons. March 26 to 28; 12:00 to 7:30 p.m.
  • Duderstadt Center, Video South, U-M North Campus

We do not use ordinals (for example, March 23rd).

Dean, The

Mike prefers to be listed as “Mike Solomon” in nearly all instances, reserving “Michael J. Solomon” only for certificates and other formal instances.


  • From Line: Dean Mike Solomon, Rackham Graduate School
  • From Address:


Dean is lowercase unless used with a name:

  • The dean said it was one of the biggest challenges facing graduate students today.
  • Dean Fierke left to become provost of Texas A&M.

dean’s office

Dean’s Office is capitalized when used as a formal entity

  • The Dean’s Office is located on the east side of the building.


1920s and ’30s (no apostrophe between the year and “s”)


  • A Master of Arts degree in political science.
  • A master’s in computer science.

See alumni

Departments and Subjects

Departments are capitalized.

  • Skip Lupia works in the Department of Political Science.

Subjects of study are not.

  • Julia studies history.

Only official names of departments and programs are capitalized.

  • Joe Brooks is a professor in the Department of History.
  • Joe Brooks is a professor in the history department.

This holds true of museums as well:

  • Joe Brooks is a curator in the Museum of Anthropology.
  • Joe Brooks is a curator in the anthropology museum.





Three dots together (not separated by spaces) with no space preceding it and a space after

  • He was less sure than ever... could there be a social life in graduate school?

Note: This is an exception to Chicago style.


One word, not hyphenated.


first-year student(s)

Not freshman or freshmen


Use to refer to a handbill, leaflet, etc. or to someone on a plane.


Go Blue!

Always capped.


Simply state the letter grade and add “s” to make plural:

  • He got an A in the class
  • She was getting As every semester




We follow Chicago style and open hyphenation, without hyphens for adjectival compounds unless necessary for clarity.

If you are forming a compound modifier, and the first word of the compound is an adverb that ends in –ly, do not hyphenate between the compound.

Do not hyphenate Americans of any sort, even when they appear in an adjective phrase. (CMOS 7.90) African Americans, an African American, a Chinese American child, French Canadians.



Groups of more than one initial standing for given names are followed by a period and no space.

  • Karl C.K. Ma
  • J. Mo



  • She used the internet in the study lounge.


Leaders and Best

Always capped.

Linked Text

Linked running text should clearly and concisely tell the user where the link will lead.

  • Do not use “click here,” “read more,” “here,” or similar link text


Names and Titles

Always capitalize a title if it comes before a name:

  • To add fuel to the fire, Professor of Mathematics Tilly Smith said she was right.
  • In a world of germs, Professor Howard Markel reigns.

If it comes after the name, leave it lowercase:

  • To add fuel to the fire, Tilly Smith, a professor of mathematics, said she was right.
  • Please plan to join our hosts at a reception to honor Studs McKenna, a professor of molecular biology.

Generic or common roles are not capitalized:

  • U-M developmental psychologist Joan Schulenberg is shocked at the results.
  • It’s widely known that systems analyst Paul Betan works with students daily.

Named professorships or deanships always take caps regardless of placement:

  • Debra Barton is the Mary Lou Willard French Professor of Oncology Nursing.

Use a person’s last name on second reference.

  • Except in quoted material or in rare exceptions to accommodate a person’s stated preference, avoid preceding the name with “Mrs.,” “Dr.,” “Mr.,” etc.


No hyphen.

Numbers and Percents

Spell numbers from one to nine:

  • There were six cats, three birds, and 42 mice.
  • The first time she called, I didn’t mind. By the 19th time, I was irritated.

Spell out any number that begins a sentence.

  • Twenty-four books were stacked in his office.

Spell out percent in running text:

  • There was a six-percent reduction in accidents.

In graphics and charts, the percent sign is used.

  • 25% of Students

Use numerals if there is a decimal:

  • He uses 2.5 percent of his allotted funds.

When noting money, use numbers:

  • $2 million

Some quantities consisting of whole numbers and fractions are often better expressed in numerals:

  • Susan is 5 feet 2¼ inches tall.



If an entire sentence is enclosed in parentheses, the period is inside:

  • (The dinosaur’s eggs were found close to the nest.)

If only a portion or fragment of the sentence is in parentheses, the period is outside:

  • The dinosaur’s eggs were found close to the nest (in Brazil).


  • BC and AD – use them with no periods
  • Periods for D.C., as in Washington, D.C.
  • a.m. and p.m. (lowercase with periods)
  • CEO and VIP do not get periods

Phone Numbers

Separated by periods: 734.657.1041


Website Sizes

  • Carousel: 1800 x 1200
  • Feature: 1800 x 1125 (vertically centered 790 is what appears on homepage in Discover Rackham)
  • Inline: 1800 x 1200

Newsletter Sizes

  • Feature: 1200x600
  • Square: 600x600

Social Media Sizes

  • Facebook: 1200x630 (post), 851x315 (cover)
  • Twitter: 1024x512 (post), 1500x500 (cover)
  • Instagram: 1080x1080 (post), 1080x1920 (story)

Kiosk Size

  • Deck: 1024x768

PowerPoint Size

  • Deck: 1280x720

Video Size

  • HD: 1920x1080

Place Names

Generic terms like mountain, river, delta, etc., are capitalized if they’re part of the name. When these generic terms are used descriptively, they’re not capitalized.

  • the Black Forest
  • the Hawaiian Islands (but the islands of Hawaii)
  • the Amazon basin
  • the Hudson River valley


House style is to use a single apostrophe at the end of a single name or entity regardless of whether it ends in “s.”

  • Paul’s boutique
  • Jimmy James’s mic control
  • Dallas’s problem

Postdoctoral or Postdocs

Not hyphenated.


In headline capitalization, lowercase all prepositions four letters or shorter, and cap all prepositions longer than four letters

  • A Room with a View
  • A Farewell to Arms
  • A River Runs Through It
    Exception: Capitalize prepositions if they are used adjectivally or adverbially.
  • Rec & Ed to Step Up Its Game

P.S. and P.P.S.

Uppercase, with periods.


QR Codes

QR codes require an app to read them and have been shown in numerous studies to be ineffective for conversion. U-M’s Office of VP Comm does not recommend their use on printed materials. Instead, use the university URL shortener. Plus, QR codes kill kittens.



Capitalize Black when referring to race (preferred to “African American”), but not “white.”

Also, capitalize specific race terms:

  • Asian American (also, no hyphen, even if it’s modifying something).
  • Caucasian


For students who capitalize “white” with reference to race in their blog posts, please flag and let them know that, while our style is to lowercase this term, we will follow their preference in their post.

Rackham Graduate School

Use “Rackham” informally.

The full formal name is the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, though this is rarely used.


Capitalize the formal name “Board of Regents.” Otherwise, lowercase.

  • The issue was set to go before the regents.
  • The March regents meeting was interrupted by protesters.
  • Andrea Fischer-Newman, a regent with close ties to the issue, disagreed.
  • Regent Mark Bernstein led the initiative.


State Names

Spell out state names in all instances except as part of a postal address on an envelope.


We don’t use them.




Use complete times and lowercase “a.m.” and “p.m.” Always use periods, though sometimes “a.m.” and “p.m.” can be capped if part of display text in all caps. Put a space before “a.m.” and “p.m.”

  • 12:00–1:00 p.m.
  • 10:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
  • 6:30–8:30 P.M. | VANDENBERG ROOM

For events that don’t span noon or midnight, it’s not necessary to use “a.m.” or “p.m.” twice.

  • 12:00–1:00 p.m.
  • 8:30–9:30 a.m.

Titles: Books, Movies, Art, TV shows, Music, Plays, Newspapers and Magazines

For web, do not italicize linked text.

Titles of books and movies are italicized.

  • The book Mailman made her cry.
  • Star Wars: A New Hope is the fourth movie in the storyline.

Titles of TV shows are italicized.

  • Happy Days jumped the shark.

Specific episodes of TV shows are put into quotes.

  • “The Soup Nazi” was one of Seinfeld’s most memorable episodes.

Works of art are italicized.

  • The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci.

Named photographs take quotes.

  • “North Dome” is one of Ansel Adams’s photographs of Kings River Canyon.

Titles of operas, albums, and other long musical compositions are italicized. Titles of songs are set in quotation marks.

  • Lennon and McCartney’s song “I Will” appeared on the Beatles’ famous White Album.
  • Handel’s Messiah

Titles of plays are italicized.

  • A play based on Chekhov’s The Seagull.

Titles of poems take quotes.

  • “Annabelle Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe.

Titles of court cases are italicized.

  • Brown v. Board of Education

Names of newspapers and magazines are italicized, but do not cap or italicize “the” as part of the name.

  • He purchased a copy of the New York Times so he could do the crossword.
  • The Atlantic ran a story on off-track betting in the Himalayas.


Not “transgendered.”


United States

The abbreviation is permissible when used as an adjective.

  • U.S. dollars (with periods)
  • United States as a noun should be spelled out.


Do not capitalize university unless using the complete and proper name: University of Michigan. Lowercase in running text.

  • LSA is the largest college at the university.


Web Addresses

Exclude the http:// and www:

  • Students are asked to visit for more information.


One word, lowercase

  • The flier encouraged students to visit the organization’s website.

Words and U-M terms

  • U-M (never “the U-M”)
  • Go Blue!