W&L Editorial Style Guide

We use this popular guide from the Associated Press, which most newspapers also use, because the stories we publish on our website are often used by newspapers and other media as the basis for their stories. In addition, we have a few W&L-only style points that we cover in this guide.

AP uses Webster’s New World College Dictionary (Fifth Edition), and so do we.


a, an

Use a before words that begin with consonant sounds:

  • She is a historian of World War II.
  • They made a united front.

Use an before words that begin with vowel sounds:

  • The team made an honorable effort.
  • An 1870s design influenced the architecture.


See individual entries, such as junior, senior, military titles, legislative titles, academic titles, etc.

Academic degrees

Preferred usage when mentioning someone’s academic degree:

  • Karla Murdock has a doctorate in psychology.
  • The job candidate holds a master’s degree in history.
  • He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree with special attainments in commerce.
  • bachelor’s degree
  • Bachelor of Arts
  • B.A.
  • Bachelor of Science
  • B.S.
  • master’s degree
  • Master of Arts
  • M.A.
  • Master of Science
  • M.S.
  • associate degree

AP prefers to use the abbreviations for academic degrees “only when the need to identify many individuals by degree on first reference would make the preferred form cumbersome. Use these abbreviations only after a full name — never after just a last name.”

Example when used after a name: Karla Murdock, Ph.D., studies the effects of cellphones on adolescents.

Note: In most cases, “Dr.” is used only for people with medical degrees.

academic disciplines

Lowercase except for proper nouns and adjectives. Some examples:

  • biology
  • classics
  • economics
  • English
  • history
  • Romance languages
  • sociology
  • Spanish

See also departments.

academic titles

Do not abbreviate professor in any circumstance.

Lowercase it before a name:

  • professor Ted DeLaney

Capitalize it when it’s part of a conferred title:

  • Thomas H. Broadus Professor of English Suzanne Keen
  • Sid Coulling, the S. Blount Mason Jr. Professor of English Emeritus
  • Professor Emeritus Ed Spencer

academic year

The undergraduate academic year consists of two 12-week terms and one four-week term.

Uppercase Fall Term, Winter Term and Spring Term.

The law school consists of two semesters of 14 weeks each.

See semesters/terms


AP says: “A few universally recognized abbreviations are required in some circumstances. Some others are acceptable depending on the context. But in general, avoid alphabet soup. Do not use abbreviations or acronyms that the reader would not quickly recognize.”

Recognizable acronyms are OK to use: CIA, FBI, NBC, etc.

And this particular acronym is OK too: W&L


Use the abbreviations Ave., Blvd. and St. only with a numbered address: 204 W. Washington St.

Spell them out and capitalize when part of a formal street name without a number: Washington Street.

Lowercase and spell out when used alone or with more than one street name: Nelson and Jefferson streets.

Spell out similar words (alley, drive, road, terrace, etc.) Capitalize them when part of a formal name without a number; lowercase when used alone or with two or more names.

Use figures for an address number: 2 South Main St.

Spell out and capitalize First through Ninth when used as street names. Use figures for 10th and above.

Abbreviate compass points: 222 E. 42nd St., 600 K St. NW.

Street names without numbers: East 42nd Street, West 43rd Street, K Street Northwest.

No periods in quadrant abbreviations – NW, SE – unless customary locally.

Use periods here: P.O. Box.


Abbreviation for anno Domini (in the year of the Lord).

When used, it goes before the year: A.D. 87.

Terminology that is viewed by some as being more neutral and inclusive of non-Christian people is to call this the Current or Common Era (abbreviated as CE), with the preceding years referred to as Before the Common or Current Era (BCE).


not advisor

affect or effect

The verb form of affect means to influence:

  • Not studying will affect my grades.

AP recommends avoiding the noun form of affect.

The verb form of effect means to cause:

  • The new president of the EC may effect changes in the rules.

The noun form of effect means intent, purport:

  • The students’ petition had little effect on the curriculum.

African American

No hyphen for this and other dual-heritage terms. Acceptable for an American Black person of African descent. The terms are not necessarily interchangeable. Americans of Caribbean heritage, for example, generally refer to themselves as Caribbean American. Follow a person's preference.

We also use Black.

See the A.P. Style Guide for race-related coverage.


Spell out numerals under 10 when using years old:

  • The six-year-old horse jumped the fence.
  • He is six years old.

Use figures in this construction:

  • The children are 2, 6 and 12.

alumna / alumnae / alumni / alumnus

  • alumna: A woman who attended W&L.
  • alumnae: Two or more women who attended W&L.
  • alumni: Two or more people who attended W&L, all men or both men and women.
    • Note: Alumni are those people who attended W&L. Not all who attended are graduates, however.
  • alumnus: A man who attended W&L.

alma mater

It has two meanings:

  • The first is the school one graduated from or attended.
    • Washington and Lee is my alma mater.
  • The second is a hymn or song of a university. We have “The W&L Hymn,” but we don’t refer to it as our alma mater.

Alston Parker Watt Field

Named for a 1989 alumna.

a.m. and p.m.

Lowercase and use periods.

Use figures except for noon and midnight.

Use a colon when minutes are indicated: 10:30 a.m.

Don’t use a colon with the hour only: 5 p.m.

American Indian / Native American / Alaska Native

Either is correct per AP; use the person’s preference.

Use tribal names when possible: She is an Apache.


In our name, we use the ampersand only in the abbreviation: W&L.

Otherwise, use Washington and Lee University.

If a company’s official name or a magazine title contains an ampersand, then use it: Smith & Hawken (company), Garden & Gun (magazine)

and / or

It’s not wrong, but avoid using it if you can. It can be clunky.

Annual Fund


When used with possessives:

  • plural nouns that do not end in s: the alumni’s cheers
  • plural nouns that end in s: the students’ books
  • collective nouns with singular meaning: the family’s home
  • singular nouns that do not end in s: the Colonnade’s bricks
  • singular nouns ending in s: the duchess’s gown
    • BUT: the duchess’ shovel (the next word begins with s)
  • singular proper names ending in s: Several professors assign Dickens’ books.

AP lists these exceptions for “words that end in an s sound and are followed by a word that begins with s: for appearance' sake, for conscience' sake, for goodness' sake.”

ARC House

Art, Recreation and Culture House. A themed housing option for upper-division students. Also home to Friday Underground, the weekend student coffee house and live music venue.

Artificial Turf Field

Asian American

AP: “A person of Asian birth or descent who lives in the U.S.”

athletic or athletics

As an adjective, use the singular:

  • athletic teams
  • athletic trainers

As a noun, use the plural:

  • Jan Hathorn, director of athletics at Washington and Lee University
  • Washington and Lee Department of Physical Education, Athletics & Recreation
  • Students can participate in many forms of athletics here.

Athletics Department



The ceremony that occurs the day before Commencement. Capitalize.


Abbreviation for before Christ.

  • 57 B.C.

Terminology that is viewed by some as being more neutral and inclusive of non-Christian people is to call this the Current or Common Era (abbreviated as CE), with the preceding years referred to as Before the Common or Current Era (BCE).


Abbreviation for before Christian Era. Use B.C.


Guest house and special events venue. Former home of Frank Gilliam, Class of 1917, the legendary dean.


AP: Use the capitalized term as an adjective in a racial, ethnic or cultural sense: Black people, Black culture, Black literature, Black studies, Black colleges.

African American is also acceptable for those in the U.S. The terms are not necessarily interchangeable. Americans of Caribbean heritage, for example, generally refer to themselves as Caribbean American. Follow an individual's preference if known, and be specific when possible and relevant.

Board of Trustees

Capitalize the full name of W&L’s board:

  • The Washington and Lee University Board of Trustees met in October.
  • The Board of Trustees agreed to discuss that matter at their next meeting.

Lowercase the partial terms:

  • She said she’d like to serve as a trustee. The board is meeting next month.

Building Names/Spaces

Please also refer to the online campus map for buildings and spaces not listed below.

  • Duchossois Tennis Center (indoor center next to Student Activities Pavilion)
  • Hotchkiss Alumni House
  • Hopkins House (Connolly Center for Entrepreneurship)
  • The Red House
  • Richard L. Duchossois Athletic and Recreation Center. Never abbreviate to DRAC.
  • Ruscio Center for Global Learning
  • Simpson House (Office of the Dean)
  • Stephens Colonnade Walk
  • Student Activities Pavilion (Outing Club, climbing walls and bike shop)
  • Gilliam Admissions House
  • Watson Pavilion


Café 77

A restaurant in Elrod Commons.

call letters

WLUR-FM is the campus radio station.

Campus Green

The green space outside the first-year residence halls.

Cannan Green

The green space outside Doremus Gymnasium. Take care with the spelling. Named for Kay and Darrold A. Cannan Jr. ’53.

capital vs. capitol

capital is the town or city: Richmond is the capital of Virginia.

capitol is the building: The U.S. Capitol is in Washington, D.C. The Virginia Capitol is in Richmond.


in titles

AP: “In general, confine capitalization to formal titles used directly before an individual's name.”

  • President Will Dudley took the oath of office in 2017.
  • Ken Ruscio, the president of Washington and Lee from 2006 to 2016, taught politics when he was a professor here.
  • Associate professor Harvey Markowitz teaches Land in Lakota Culture, Economics and History.
  • Harvey Markowitz, an associate professor of anthropology at W&L, teaches Land in Lakota Culture, Economics and History.
  • Henry S. Fox Professor of English Lesley Wheeler is writing a book.
    • Note: The above construction is correct, but to avoid having too many words pile up in front of a proper name, use this construction instead:
    • Lesley Wheeler, the Henry S. Fox Professor of English, is writing a book.

in headlines

Capitalize the first word and proper nouns.

Capitalize the first word after a colon.

Cap’n Dick Smith Baseball Field

Castle House

Faculty housing. Former guesthouse.

catalog / catalogue



In text, spell it out: 2 cents, 15 cents.

Use $ sign for larger amounts: $1.01, $12.99.

In tables, charts, etc., use numerals.


Lowercase and use numerals and ordinals. Note that the ordinals are not superscript.

  • We are living in the 21st century.
  • Washington Hall has a 19th-century design.


Use chief executive officer at first reference, then CEO.

Same for CFO (chief financial officer) and COO (chief operating officer).


A variation of chairman, chairwoman, chairperson.

Capitalize when it’s used as a formal title before a name:

  • Chairwoman Eleanor Roosevelt opened the meeting.

Chavis House

Student residence. Named for John Chavis, Liberty Hall Class of 1799, W&L’s first Black student.

civil rights movement

class years

When abbreviating undergraduate class year:

  • Lauren Jensen ’02

When abbreviating law class year:

  • Robert J. Grey Jr. ’76L

When abbreviating a double-degree holder:

  • Beau Dudley ’74, ’79L

When indicating the parent of a current or past student:

  • Jane Doe P’18
  • John Doe ’84, P’18

When followed by the year:

  • The Class of 1995 directed its 25th class reunion gift to the Harte Center.
  • She is a member of the Class of 2007 Law.


Lowercase the academic field.


A female student. Do not use.


One word, no hyphen.

Cohen Family Amphitheater

Outside Elrod Commons.

College / college

Uppercase when referring to one of the two divisions of the undergraduate side of W&L (the other division is the Williams School):

  • Suzanne Keen is dean of the College at W&L.


  • Her son is going to college next year.


Can be placed at the end of a sentence to introduce something.

  • The professor had two requirements for the students in his course: attendance and participation.

Capitalize the first word after the colon if it is a proper noun or the beginning of a complete sentence:

  • The professor mentioned her main requirement for the course: Students must write five papers.


It means “a series of columns set at regular intervals and usu. supporting the base of a roof structure.”

Capitalize when referring to the five buildings that compose the historic center of the W&L campus:

  • The Colonnade underwent a thorough renovation over the past decade.


  • The colonnade of that building is crumbling.


Do not use a comma in a simple series:

  • Do you want a cookie, cupcake or muffin?

Do use a comma “before the concluding conjunction in a complex series of phrases”:

  • She wants to know if the cookies are homemade, wonders if they have chocolate chips, and says they must be gluten-free.

Use commas to set off non-essential phrases:

  • Samuel T. Student, who lives in New York City, won a scholarship.

Do not use commas for essential phrases:

  • The student who wins that scholarship gets to travel to China.


Uppercase when referring to W&L’s ceremony.

Commerce School

The name from 1905 to 1995 of the Williams School of Commerce, Economics and Politics. Sometimes referred to as the C School.

See also Williams School.


Please refer to the Provost Office website for the most up to date information.

Commons, the

See Elrod Commons.


Abbreviate when using the complete name of a company:

  • The Ajax Widget Co. is conducting interviews on campus.

Use the full word:

  • Ajax Widget is just one company that will be conducting interviews on campus.

See also corporation, incorporated, limited.

compose / comprise / constitute

The first two are often-misused words. The third one can bail you out if the others don’t fit.

AP says: “Compose means to create or put together. It commonly is used in both the active and passive voice.”

  • Bruce Springsteen has composed hundreds of songs.
  • Downtown Lexington is composed of many small businesses.

AP says: “Comprise means to contain, to include all or embrace. It is best used only in the active voice, followed by a direct object.”

  • Washington and Lee University comprises three academic divisions.

AP says: “Constitute, in the sense of form or make up, may be the best word if neither compose nor comprise seems to fit.”

  • I read that 95 counties and 38 independent cities constitute Virginia.

Connolly Center for Entrepreneurship

Named for Leigh and Larry Connolly ’79.

contact / reach out

Use contact. It is simple and direct.


Uppercase when referring to W&L’s ceremony at the beginning of the academic year.


The name of the snack bar when it was located in present-day Holekamp Hall. Some people still use it to refer to the newer dining facilities in Elrod Commons.


Abbreviate when using the complete name of a corporation:

  • The Hanna Sports Broadcasting Corp. has hired several graduates of W&L.

Use the full word:

  • Hanna Sports Broadcasting is a well-run corporation.

See also company, incorporated, limited.

course titles

Uppercase, no quotation marks.

  • Markowitz taught Land in Lakota Culture, Economics and History last year.

courtesy titles

AP says: “Refer to both men and women by first and last name, without courtesy titles, on first reference: Susan Smith or Robert Smith. Refer to both men and women by last name, without courtesy titles, in subsequent references. Use the courtesy titles Mr., Miss, Ms. or Mrs. only in direct quotations or after first reference when a woman specifically requests it: for example, where a woman prefers to be known as Mrs. Smith or Ms. Smith. When it is necessary to distinguish between two people who use the same last name, as in married couples or brothers and sisters, use the first and last name, without courtesy title. In cases where a person's gender is not clear from the first name or from the story's context, indicate the gender by using he or she in subsequent reference.”


The sporting event.


A nickname for the Commerce School, the former name of the Williams School of Commerce, Economics and Politics.

See Williams School.

cum laude

With distinction. Lowercase.

  • She obtained a B.S. cum laude.


As a verb, it means “to organize or manage items in a collection or exhibit.” It is best used in those contexts, i.e., when writing about a museum, art gallery, historical society, etc.

It does not mean to edit a magazine, design a website, furnish an apartment, and so on.

curriculum vitae / résumé

Abbreviate: c.v.

Use accents: résumé



We depart from AP style by using both en dashes and em dashes.

En dashes

Use the narrower en dash between years, numbers, etc.:

  • He served as W&L’s president 2006–2016.

Note that when years are joined by an en dash, from is omitted before the years. So without the en dash, it would read: He served as W&L’s president from 2006 to 2016.

Em dashes

Use the wider em dash, with a space on either side, within sentences “to denote an abrupt change in thought in a sentence or an emphatic pause”:

  • While he had thought he would major in biology — he had always liked that subject in high school — he found that Spanish was his real passion.


Use figures. Do not use st, nd, rd or th.

  • Commencement is on May 25, 2017.

Davis Hall

Home to the Student Health Center. Former residence hall.



dean’s list

Starting in 2017, replaced by the President’s List.


  • the 1870s
  • the mid-1940s
  • the ’60s


See academic degrees.


  • Uppercase: The W&L Department of History or W&L History Department.
  • Lowercase: The University of Virginia has a good history department.

directions and regions

Lowercase for compass directions:

  • The mountains are west of campus.
  • Head south on I-81 to get to the Roanoke airport.

Uppercase for regions:

  • We have several students from the Midwest.
  • Virginia is part of the South.

disperse / disburse

Disperse means “to cause to vanish” or “to break up and spread in many directions”:

  • After the rally, the crowd dispersed.

Disburse means “to pay or give out”:

  • Those funds have been disbursed for the fiscal year.

Doremus Gymnasium

Named for Robert Parker Doremus.

dormitory / residence hall

We use residence hall.

duPont Hall

Renovated and incorporated into the Kenneth P. Ruscio Center for Global Learning. Note the lowercase D.


Early-Fielding Memorial Building


e.g. is Latin, exempli gratia = for example. Follow it with a comma.

  • The food at the staff meeting also included some healthy items, e.g., fruit and yogurt.

ellipsis / …

AP says: “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 speaker or writer does not complete. Substitute a dash for this purpose, however, if the context uses ellipses to indicate that words actually spoken or written have been deleted.”

“If the words that precede an ellipsis constitute a grammatically complete sentence, either in the original or in the condensation, place a period at the end of the last word before the ellipsis.”

Omit ellipses from the beginning and end of direct quotes.

Elrod Commons

The John W. Elrod Commons. Named for the president of W&L from 1995 to 2001.


One word.

emerita / emeritus

Indicates retired individuals who keep their rank or title. A woman might prefer to use emerita.

  • Professor of Art Emeritus I-Hsiung Ju
  • Trustee Emerita Virginia Rogers Holton
  • Sid Coulling, the S. Blount Mason Jr. Professor of English Emeritus

endowed professorships / deanships

Capitalize as appropriate:

  • Larry Peppers was the inaugural Crawford Family Dean of the Williams School.
  • The Roger D. Groot Professorship of Law was created by the generosity and cumulative effort of almost 400 alumni, faculty, staff and friends of the Law School.

ethnicity / nationality / race

See the A.P. Style Guide for race-related coverage. We use these terms unless students prefer otherwise:

  • American Indian/Alaska Native
  • Asian
  • Black or African American
  • Hawaiian/Pacific Islander
  • Hispanic/Latino
  • Non-Hispanic/Latino
  • White

Evans Hall

Letitia Pate Evans Hall.

Executive Committee of the Student Body (EC)

The elected leadership of the student body.



AP says: “A collective noun that takes a singular verb.” W&L’s faculty comprises all professors and instructors.

  • The faculty voted to change the class schedule.
  • She is a member of the faculty.


See seasons.

Fall Term

Fancy Dress

The annual dance, held during Winter Term. The tradition began in 1907.

farther / further

Use farther for distance:

  • House Mountain is farther away than you might think.

Use further for more or additional:

  • For further information, please read the footnotes.

fellow / fellowship

  • She was named a Washington and Lee Presidential Fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress.
  • The Elrod Fellowship enables students to explore civic engagement and leadership.

fewer / less

AP says: “In general, use fewer for individual items, less for bulk or quantity.”

  • Fewer students are signing up for the course this term.
  • We need less cake on the menu, not more.


See numerals.


One word.


Use instead of “freshman.”

  • She is a first-year student at W&L.
  • They will live in the first-year residence hall.

It’s OK, however, to use “freshman” and “freshmen” in historical contexts, when only men attended W&L.

Five-Star Generals

W&L alumni who have celebrated their 50th reunion. Note the hyphen.

No hyphen or capitalization in this construction, though:

  • The reviewer gave the restaurant five stars.

foreign language

See world language.


AP says: “Generally spell out amounts less than 1 in stories, using hyphens between the words: two-thirds, four-fifths, seven-sixteenths, etc. Use figures for precise amounts larger than 1, converting to decimals whenever practical. When using fractional characters, use a forward-slash mark (/): 1/8, 1/4, 5/16, 9/10, etc. For mixed numbers, use 1 1/2, 2 5/8, etc. with a full space between the whole number and the fraction.”


One word.


See first-year.

It’s OK to use “freshman” and “freshmen” in historical contexts, when W&L was all male.

Front Lawn

The space between the Colonnade and University Chapel.

full time

  • She works full time.
  • He has a full-time job.


One word.


Gaines Residence Hall

Named for Francis Pendleton Gaines, president of W&L from 1930 to 1959.

gay / lesbian

AP says: “Include sexual orientation only when it is pertinent to a story.”


We use this set of gender preferences:

  • agender/genderless
  • androgyne
  • demigender
  • genderqueer/gender fluid
  • man
  • questioning/unsure
  • trans man
  • trans woman
  • woman

See also sex.

gender-neutral language


For people who identify as neither male nor female or ask not to be referred to as he/she/him/her, use the person's name in place of a pronoun, or otherwise reword the sentence, whenever possible. If they/them/their use is essential, explain in the text that the person prefers a gender-neutral pronoun. Be sure that the phrasing does not imply more than one person.

When they is used in the singular, it takes a plural verb: Taylor said they need a new car. (Again, be sure it's clear from the context that only one person is involved.)

We do not use other gender-neutral pronouns such as xe or ze.

Global Service House

Student residence hall and home to Campus Kitchen.


Abbreviate when used before a full name.

  • Gov. Linwood Holton is an alumnus of W&L.
  • Linwood Holton served as the governor of Virginia.

going forward / moving forward

Avoid using these phrases. They are unnecessary and redundant.

YES: That is what we will do.

Will means in the future.

NO: That is what we will do going forward.

Will and going forward mean the same thing.

grade point average

GPA also acceptable.


Graham-Lees Residence Hall

gray vs. grey


hardy, hearty

  • hardy: robust, sturdy, bold
  • hearty: jovial, vigorous, giving unqualified support

Harte Center for Teaching and Learning

Housed in Leyburn Library, the center is named in memory of Houson H. Harte '50.


Capitalize only the first word and proper nouns. An exception is the first word after a colon, which is uppercase in headlines. Use numerals for all numbers except in casual uses, such as hundreds instead of 100s. Use single quotes for quotation marks.

health care

Two words.

  • Health care will be an issue in the upcoming election.
  • That law professor is an expert on health care issues.

high school

Hill, the

Nickname for the main W&L campus.

  • Are you studying on the Hill tonight?


The organization that provides facilities, guidance and organization for religious, cultural, educational, community service and interfaith activities for Jewish students and for W&L. It is dedicated to building Jewish identity while nurturing intellectual and spiritual growth.

Also: A common student nickname for the E. Café, the café located within the Hillel House.

Hillel House

The building that houses Hillel, meeting rooms, offices and the E. Café

Hispanic / Latino

See the A.P. Style Guide for race-related coverage. With students, we use either depending on the individual’s preference.

In general, use Hispanic.

Holekamp Hall

Houses part of the Williams School of Commerce, Economics and Politics. Formerly the Co-op and the bookstore. Named for Cliff Holekamp ’96 and family, benefactors.


home page

Two words.

Honor System

Capitalize when referring to W&L:

  • Washington and Lee students are proud of the Honor System.

Lowercase elsewhere:

  • Other schools have honor systems.

Hotchkiss Alumni House

Houses the Alumni Affairs Office. Named for Farris Hotchkiss ’58, longtime W&L development officer, and his wife, Judy.

Howe Annex / Howe Hall

Named for James Louis Howe, a professor at W&L in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Huntley Hall

Home of the Williams School of Commerce, Economics and Politics. Named for Robert E.R. Huntley ’50, ’57L, president of W&L from 1968 to 1983.


AP says: “Hyphens are joiners. Use them to avoid ambiguity or to form a single idea from two or more words. Use of the hyphen is far from standardized. It is optional in most cases, a matter of taste, judgment and style sense. But the fewer hyphens the better; use them only when not using them causes confusion.”

Consult the dictionary when in doubt.

  • The Entrepreneurship Summit featured several small-business owners.
  • Being president of W&L is a full-time job.
  • Don’t drop that 18th-century piece of porcelain.
  • The collection’s items range from 19th- to 20th-century porcelain.

Do not use hyphens with very or –ly words.

  • The freshly baked bread smells delicious.



i.e. is Latin, id est = that is to say. Follow it with a comma.

  • He thought they should have a variety of pastries for the staff meeting, i.e., bagels, doughnuts and crullers.


See also company, corporation, limited.

Abbreviate when used with a full name:

  • Time Inc.


Use periods and no space when a person uses initials instead of a first name:

  • J.R.R. Tolkien






AP does not italicize words in news stories. It does use them, as we have in this guide, to illustrate examples.

its / it’s

Possessive, no apostrophe:

  • The library is selling its surplus books.

Short for it is, use apostrophe:

  • It’s time for the library’s sale of surplus books.


job titles

Capitalize formal titles when they come before a person’s name:

  • Associate Dean of Students Tamara Y. Futrell
  • Administrative Assistant Virginia L. Garrett

However, when a formal title is long, include it after the person’s name, and lowercase it, to avoid a logjam of words in the front:

  • Sidney Evans, vice president for student affairs and dean of students

Uppercase a title after the person’s name when the title itself contains proper names:

  • Mark Rush, the Waxberg Professor of Politics and Law

Do not uppercase a title when it is used alone:

  • Tammy Futrell is the associate dean of students at W&L.

NOTE: An exception to the rule of not capitalizing titles when used alone may be made for such things as manuals, where the titles alone may be used to indicate who performs certain job functions.

  • In case of emergency, the Director of Public Safety issues the alert.
  • The Director of Facilities Management ensures that the buildings are empty.

Johnson Scholars

junior, senior

Abbreviate as jr. or sr. only with a person’s full name. No comma before this abbreviation.

  • John Smith Jr.



See Quran.


lay / lie

AP says: “The action word is lay. It takes a direct object. Laid is the form for its past tense and its past participle. Its present participle is laying. Lie indicates a state of reclining along a horizontal plane. It does not take a direct object. Its past tense is lay. Its past participle is lain. Its present participle is lying. When lie means to make an untrue statement, the verb forms are lie, lied, lying.”

Lee House

The president’s residence since it was built in 1868. Robert E. Lee and his family were the first occupants.

Lee, Robert E.

In W&L contexts, refer to him as President Lee or Lee.

In Civil War contexts, General Lee or Lee.

legislative titles

AP says: “Use Rep., Reps., Sen. and Sens. as formal titles before one or more names. Spell out and lowercase representative and senator in other uses. Spell out other legislative titles in all uses. Capitalize formal titles such as assemblyman, assemblywoman, city councilor, delegate, etc., when they are used before a name. Lowercase in other uses.”

Lenfest Center for the Performing Arts

Named for Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest ’53, ’55L.

Lenfest Hall

Named for Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest ’53, ’55L.


AP says: “Include sexual orientation only when it is pertinent to a story.”

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Resource Center

Also known as LGBTQ Resource Center.

less / fewer

AP says: “In general, use fewer for individual items, less for bulk or quantity.”

Leyburn Library

Named for James Graham Leyburn, dean of the university from 1947 to 1956.

Liberty Hall Fields

Liberty Hall Ruins

The remnants of an early 19th-century campus facility.

lie / lay

See lay / lie.


One word.


Abbreviate after the name of a corporate entity: Wilson Widgets Ltd.

See also company, corporation, incorporated.

login / log in

Noun: My login is not working.

Verb: You can log in to your computer now.


Two words, hyphen.


Two words, hyphen.


One word.


magna cum laude

With great distinction. Lowercase.

  • He graduated with a B.A. magna cum laude.

master’s degree

See degrees.


Capital letters only if they are proper names:

  • She majored in history.
  • He majored in English.

Mattingly House

Named for Earl Stansbury Mattingly, Class of 1925, W&L’s registrar and treasurer from 1940 to 1944, treasurer and secretary of the university from 1944 to 1966.

Memorial Gate

A structure at the entrance to the University Chapel visitors’ parking lot. It holds the names of alumni who died in military service and on Sept. 11, 2001.

military titles

They are usually abbreviated before a person’s name:

  • Maj. Gen. Mary Jones
  • 1st Lt. John Smith

With exceptions such as:

  • Ensign
  • Chief Petty Officer
  • Gunnery Sgt.
  • Airman

See the AP Stylebook for a complete list.


7 cents, $10 bill, 12 euros, 6 pounds, $2.25.


Capitalize their names.

With specific dates, abbreviate Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. Spell out the rest of the months.

Spell out the months when using them alone, or with a year alone.

With month, day and year, surround the year with commas. On July 4, 2017, the university will be closed.

With month and year, omit the commas. We anticipate a lot of people taking vacations during December 2017.

move-in / move in

Noun: Move-in takes place on Sunday.

Verb: Students can move in next week.

Morris House

Guest house named for Joella and Stuart Morris.

moving forward

See going forward.


One word.


names of programs, centers

Capitalize since they are proper names.

  • Harte Center for Teaching and Learning
  • Ruscio Center for Global Learning
  • Roger Mudd Center for Ethics
  • Shepherd Program
  • Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program


Opened in February 2017. Not capitalized.

  • The natatorium is near the Law School.

Native American / American Indian

Either is correct per AP; use the person’s preference.

Use tribal names when possible: She is an Apache.

Newcomb Hall

Named for Josephine Newcomb, who donated funds in memory of her husband, Warren Newcomb.

Non Incautus Futuri

Washington and Lee’s motto. Latin for “not unmindful of the future.”

Uppercase all words. Do not enclose with quotation marks.

To include the meaning with it in text: W&L’s motto is Non Incautus Futuri (not unmindful of the future).


One word.


In most instances, spell out one through nine.

Use figures for 10 and above; preceding a unit of measure; referring to ages of people, animals, events and things; in tables and in statistical and sequential forms.

See AP Stylebook for exceptions and other uses.



Capitalize when it’s part of a proper name: W&L’s Business Office.

Lowercase: Take the books to the office down the hall.

Omicron Delta Kappa / ODK

The national leadership honor society, founded at W&L in 1914.

It’s best to use the full name at first mention with the abbreviation in parentheses, then use the abbreviation:

  • The Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK) initiation took place yesterday. Several ODK members participated in the ceremony.


One word.

Outing Club Barn / House

over / more than

Either term is fine to indicate greater numerical value.

  • Over 50 people jammed into the room for the talk.
  • We will have more than 100 registrants for the conference.



AP advises their infrequent use.

Punctuation placement when they are used:

  • Outside the parenthesis: The building will open in October (unless bad weather extends the renovation).
  • Inside the parenthesis: (The renovation may be delayed.)

Parents Fund

Note that we don’t use an apostrophe after “Parents” to indicate the possessive.

Parents and Family Weekend

Note that we don’t use an apostrophe after “Parents” to indicate the possessive.

Parmly Hall

Named for   George Allen Parmly '22  ?

part time / part-time

No hyphen after the verb: He works part time in the bookstore.

Use a hyphen when it is a compound modifier: The bookstore is advertising for part-time employees.

Payne Hall

Named for Judge Barton Payne, the major contributor to the Colonnade fireproofing and renovation.


Use the % sign when paired with a numeral, with no space, in most cases.

  • About 75% of students get less than the recommended eight hours of sleep a night.

Use figures:

  • 1%, 4 percentage points.

In casual uses, use words rather than figures and numbers.

  • She has a zero percent chance of passing her class.

Constructions with the % sign take a singular verb when standing alone or when a singular word follows an of construction.

  • The professor said 59% was a failing grade.
  • She said 50% of the membership was there.

It takes a plural verb when a plural word follows an of construction.

  • She said 50% of the members were there.

Use percentage, rather than percent, when not paired with a number.

  • The percentage of people agreeing is small.

P.O. Box

political parties

Capitalize party when part of the organization’s proper name:

  • Democratic Party
  • Republican Party


See apostrophes.

pre words

See the dictionary for examples of when pre is set off, or not, with a hyphen.

  • pre-orientation
  • preeminent

President’s List

Starting in 2017, a replacement for the dean’s list.

professor / doctor

In academic usage, professor is preferred:

  • Professor Mohamed Kamara teaches French.

Save doctor for people with medical degrees:

  • That alumna, Dr. Jane Smith, is a neurologist.
  • He wants to be a doctor in a rural health clinic.


Capitalize when they are proper names, such as:

  • Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability
  • Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program


AP says: “Use that and which in referring to inanimate objects and to animals without a name. Use that for essential clauses, important to the meaning of a sentence, and without commas: I remember the day that we met. Use which for nonessential clauses, where the pronoun is less necessary, and use commas: The team, which finished last a year ago, is in first place.”

AP also says: “If you can drop the clause and not lose the meaning of the sentence, use which; otherwise, use that. A which clause is surrounded by commas; no commas are used with that clauses.)”


Uppercase when it’s a title in front of a proper name: Provost June Aprille retired in 2011.

Lowercase otherwise: June Aprille served as W&L’s provost.



A nonprofit that connects students with W&L.

Note the capitalization of the two letters.


With direct quotations, use double quotation marks to surround the exact words of a speaker or writer in a story.

With running quotations, AP says: “If a full paragraph of quoted material is followed by a paragraph that continues the quotation, do not put close-quote marks at the end of the first paragraph. Do, however, put open-quote marks at the start of the second paragraph. Continue in this fashion for any succeeding paragraphs, using close-quote marks only at the end of the quoted material. If a paragraph does not start with quotation marks but ends with a quotation that is continued in the next paragraph, do not use close-quote marks at the end of the introductory paragraph if the quoted material constitutes a full sentence. Use close-quote marks, however, if the quoted material does not constitute a full sentence.”

Use single quotation marks for quotes within quotes, and for quotations within headlines:

  • “It’s true! She said ‘I am pleased to donate $1 million’ at the meeting.”
  • Meet the ‘Mayor’ of the Upper-Division Village.

quotation marks

AP says: “The period and the comma always go within the quotation marks. The dash, the semicolon, the question mark and the exclamation point go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only. They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence.”

Do NOT use quotation marks to indicate irony or humor or unusual words.


Use instead of Koran unless otherwise preferred by an organization, or if it’s in a title or name.



AP says: “Use figures and hyphens: the ratio was 2-to-1, a ratio of 2-to-1, a 2-1 ratio, 1 in 4 voters. As illustrated, the word to should be omitted when the numbers precede the word ratio. Always use the word ratio or a phrase such as a 2-1 majority to avoid confusion with actual figures.”

reach out

See contact.

Reeves Center

Named for Louise Herreshoff Reeves and her husband, Euchlin Reeves, Class of 1927 Law.

Reid Hall

Named for _____?

renown / renowned

One is an adjective (renowned); the other is a noun (renown):

  • Rockbridge County is renowned for its scenic beauty.
  • W&L has earned renown for its excellent academic offerings.


residence hall

Not dormitory.

resident adviser

Not advisor. R.A.


  • The class is having its 25th reunion next year.
  • Black Alumni Reunion 2017 is coming up soon.


Abbreviate when used before a full name:

  • The Rev. William Graham was one of W&L’s founders.

Spell out when it is a noun:

  • She is studying to be a reverend.

Richard A. Peterson Data Center

Named for the late chief technology officer at W&L.

Richard L. Duchossois Athletic and Recreation Center

Expected to be completed in summer 2020, the facility for indoor athletics comprises a restoration of the existing Doremus Gymnasium and a rebuild of what was known as Warner Center. Named for Richard L. Duchossois ’44.

Richard L. Duchossois Tennis Center

Named for Richard L. Duchossois ’44.

Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper, begun in 1897.


Saint or St.

Use St. in names of saints and places:

  • St. Paul, Minnesota
  • St. Bridget
  • St. Patrick’s Catholic Church

Spell out when it’s a noun or part of a proper name:

  • New Orleans Saints
  • Saints preserve us!

say / share

Share does not mean say or tell.

Use say and said when you mean “to speak or express in words.”

  • He said he was pleased at the number of fellowships awarded.
  • Are you going to say yes to the job offer?

Use share when you mean “to distribute in shares, to give out a portion; apportion; to receive, use, experience, etc., in common with another or others.”

  • She shared the prize money with her friends.


Science Addition


Lowercase unless they are part of a proper name:

  • spring
  • springtime
  • summer
  • summertime
  • fall
  • winter
  • Spring Term
  • Summer Olympics

semester / terms

Uppercase in W&L undergraduate contexts:

  • Fall Term
  • Winter Term
  • Spring Term

Law students take classes during two four-month semesters, fall and spring.


AP says: “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.”

In a series: “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.”

  • She has a daughter, Jane Doe, of Lexington; three nephews, John Smith, of Roanoke, Mike Smith, of Blacksburg, and Sam Smith, of Danville; and a niece, Amanda Jones, of Tucson, Arizona.

Use the semicolon before the final and in such a series.

To link independent clauses without coordinating conjunctions:

  • He studied on the steps of Payne Hall; the afternoon sun warmed him.

Note: Semicolons go outside of quotation marks.


  • male
  • female

See also gender.


A folk song that is often performed at W&L celebrations such as Baccalaureate.

It’s also known as “Oh Shenandoah” and “Across the Wide Missouri.”

Shenandoah: The Washington and Lee University Review

The university’s literary journal, published since 1950. Since 2011, it has been published online only.

The Shepherd Program

Minor: Poverty and Human Capability Studies.

spaces after periods

Use only one space after a period.

Note: This is a recent design and typographical change from the olden days of typewriters, when one automatically entered two spaces after a period.

Speaking Tradition

Uppercase both words.

Special Attainments in Commerce

Students of accounting and business administration, business administration and public accounting may obtain a Bachelor of Science with Special Attainments in Commerce.


See seasons.

spring break

Lowercase both words.

Spring Term

Uppercase both words.


One word.

state names

Spell them out in text: W&L is located in Lexington, Virginia.

Use the two-letter postal abbreviations (such as VA, NM, NJ) only in addresses:

  • Washington and Lee University
    204 W. Washington St.
    Lexington, VA 24450-2116

Student Activities Pavilion

summa cum laude

With highest distinction. Lowercase.

  • He holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, summa cum laude.


See seasons.

sunrise sandwich

A favorite W&L breakfast item.

Sustainability House

Sydney Lewis Hall

Home of the School of Law since 1977. Named for Sydney Lewis, Classes of 1940 and 1943L.


teen, teenage (nouns)

teenage (adjective)

Not teen-aged.

telephone numbers

Use figures and hyphens: 540-458-8400


Use figures for everything but zero. Do not use the minus sign.

  • When it’s 5 below zero, we still come to class.
  • The temperature was 93 degrees at Commencement.

terms (academic)

  • Fall Term
  • Spring Term
  • Winter Term

that / which

Use that to indicate a restrictive clause — a clause that is essential to the meaning of the sentence:

  • We need the canoe that has paddles for the Outing Club’s trip.

Use which to indicate a nonrestrictive clause — a clause that is not essential to the meaning of the sentence:

  • The canoe, which has a hole in the bottom, could use a new paint job.

theater / theatre

Use theater in most instances, unless it’s part of a proper name.

  • Department of Theater, Dance and Film Studies
  • The Johnson Theatre and the Keller Theatre are in the Lenfest Center for the Arts.
  • In World War II references: The Pacific Theater.


AP says: “Use figures except for noon and midnight. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes: 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 9-11 a.m., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Avoid such redundancies as 10 a.m. this morning, 10 p.m. tonight or 10 p.m. Monday night. Use 10 a.m. or 10 p.m. Monday, etc. . . . The construction 4 o'clock is acceptable, but time listings with a.m. or p.m. are preferred.”

titles of works

Regarding book titles, computer and video game titles, movie titles, opera titles, play titles, poem titles, album and song titles, radio and television program titles, and the titles of lectures, speeches and works of art, AP says: “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, gazetteers, handbooks and similar publications. Do not use quotation marks around such software titles as WordPerfect or Windows.”

titles of people

See individual entries for military titles, legislative titles, academic titles, etc.

toward / towards

Use toward.


  1. President Robert E. Lee’s warhorse (c. 1855–1870). His stall is in what is now the Lee House garage; his grave is outside University Chapel.
  2. Traveller Safe Ride Program for students, which includes Traveller Dispatch, Traveller Transit and Traveller Express.
  3. W&L Traveller: Educational travel program for alumni and others.

trustee / trustees

Lowercase when the word is used by itself:

  • She is a trustee of Washington and Lee.
  • The W&L trustees elected a new rector.

Uppercase the full name of the group only when referring to W&L:

  • He belongs to the Washington and Lee Board of Trustees.
  • She sits on the board of trustees of Arizona State University.


Tucker Hall

Building on the Colonnade. Named for John Randolph Tucker, first dean of the W&L Law School, which occupied Tucker Hall from 1900 to 1977.



Use sparingly and with care. Its first definition is “one and only; single; sole.” Second definition is “having no like or equal; unparalleled.” Third definition is “highly unusual, extraordinary, rare.” Do not write very unique or more unique or similar constructions; that’s gilding the lily.


Lowercase when it is used alone, even if it refers to W&L:

  • The university hosted a reunion last weekend.

Uppercase when using the entire name:

  • Washington and Lee University is located in Lexington, Virginia.

University Chapel and Museum

No ampersand.

upper-division students

Lowercase. Refers to sophomores, juniors and seniors. Do not use upper-class students.


Uniform Resource Locator, an internet address. Uppercase, no periods.

When a URL is used in text, it should be written as http://www.wlu.edu


Abbreviation for United States. Use periods. (But no periods when used in a headline.)


Abbreviation for United States of America. No periods.



Use with care. Its first meaning is “a profusion of words usu. of little or obscure content.” (It is often misused to mean any collection of words.)

vice president

No hyphen.

Village, the

The housing for upper-division students that opened in fall 2016. It includes the Village Townhouses and the Village Apartments.

voice (active vs. passive)

In most of our everyday writing, it’s best to use the active voice, which is clear and succinct and keeps the subject of the sentence up front:

  • YES: The student won the Coulling Prize for her English thesis.
  • YES: The English Department gave the Coulling Prize to the student.
  • NO: The Coulling Prize was given to the student for her English thesis.



The abbreviation for Washington and Lee University. The only time we use the ampersand in our name.

“The W&L Hymn” / “The Washington and Lee Hymn”

“The W&L Swing” / “The Washington and Lee Swing”

The fight song of the university. It was co-composed between 1906 and 1910 by Mark W. Sheafe (Class of 1906), C.A. Robbins (Class of 1910), and Thornton W. Allen (Class of 1913) and published in 1910. Many other schools have adopted it, and many musicians have recorded it.

Washington and Lee University

No ampersand in this usage. (Seriously, people, no ampersand.)

Washington Break

Uppercase, two words. A week in late February when undergraduate classes are not in session.

Washington, George

In most contexts, refer to him as Washington.

Washington Hall

The central building of the Colonnade. Houses the President’s Office.

Watson Pavilion

Houses the Reeves Collection and the Japanese Tea Room.


Lowercase, one word. So are webmaster, webcam, webpage and the like.


Lowercase. Short for World Wide Web.

who / whom

Use whom when it is the object of a preposition: The student whom we saw in Reid Hall was taking an exam. To whom should I reply?

Use who most other times. Who is taking an exam in Reid Hall? I would like to know who to ask about the Honor System.

When in doubt, take Bill Bryson’s advice in “Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words”: “We can check the correctness of such sentences by imagining them as he/him constructions,” or she/her constructions.

William C. Washburn Tennis Courts

Named for William C. Washburn, Class of 1940, Alumni Secretary.

Williams School

The commonly used name of the Williams School of Commerce, Economics and Politics. Named in 1995 in honor of Ernest Williams II ’38.

Sometimes called the C-School or the Commerce School, its name from 1905 to 1995.

Wilson Hall

Part of the Lenfest Center for the Performing Arts. Named for John D. Wilson, university president from 1983 to 1995.

Wilson Field

Part of the Duchossois Outdoor Athletic Complex. Named for William L. Wilson, university president from 1897 to 1900.


See seasons.

Winter Term

The academic term that runs for 12 weeks from January through April.


The campus radio station.

Woods Creek Apartments

The student-residence complex on East Denny Circle. It includes Woods Creek East, Woods Creek Central and Woods Creek West.


  • She has a work-study job.
  • He is a work-study student.
  • That department has five work-studies.

world language

Replace foreign language(s) with world language(s) and change all reference to Foreign Language Teaching Assistants (FLTAs) to World Language Teaching Assistants (WLTAs).



One word, no hyphen.