SPS Brand Standards

Visual and editorial guidlines and resources for SPS staff

Editorial Guidelines

SPS follows the guidelines in the Associated Press Stylebook. Listed below are guidelines for commonly occurring situations. While AP Style takes precedence, the A to Z Style Guide from Northwestern's University Relations department also provides direction on questions that may arise.

A to X

  A–H   |   I–N   |   M–S   |   T–X


  • Acceptable if part of formal name (Morgan Stanley & Co.).
  • Avoid in running text (Professor Smith, not Prof. Smith).
  • With place names, abbreviate St. (St. Louis) but spell out Fort (Fort Lauderdale).
  • U.S. is acceptable as an adjective, but use United States for the noun. U.S. is one of the few abbreviations for which periods should be used.


  • In running text, spell out North, South, East, West before the street name; Street, Avenue, Road, Drive, Boulevard and the like. In mailing panels, the name of the state may be given with postal abbreviations.
  • State names should be spelled out in running text but may be shown as postal abbreviations in bibliographies, lists, and mailing addresses.
  • Use official names of offices (Office of the Provost, not Provost’s Office).


  • Preferred spelling is adviser.


Correct forms:

  • “alumnus” (male singular)
  • “alumni” (male plural)
  • “alumna” (female singular)
  • “alumnae” (female plural);
  • “alumni” can be used as unisex.

It is important to distinguish between one alumnus and a stadium full of alumni. The problem may be avoided by using the informal abbreviation “alum,” or by using “graduate” or “graduates”


  • Use only when it is part of a company or organization’s formal name. Do not use in text to replace and.


  • Do not use to form plurals (it should be 1940s, not 1940’s) unless it would be confusing without (thus A’s and B’s, not As and Bs; p’s, not ps).
  • Possessives of singular nouns ending in s are formed by adding ‘s (e.g., Russ’s dog).


  • Do not capitalize campus, e.g. Chicago campus, Evanston campus SPS has three locations: The Evanston campus, the Chicago campus and the Loop campus
  • SPS offers courses in Chicago, Evanston and online. (Chicago in this instance incorporates Wieboldt and the Loop.)


  • Insert spaces between letters and em dashes (...late registration — unless noted otherwise — will be...) See below for en dash usage in dates and times.


  • Use an en dash to show a range of dates and do not repeat 20 (2007–08, not 2007—2008).
  • If the day of the month appears, use a comma before and after the year (by the January 15, 2008, deadline). Do not use a comma between the month and the year alone (by the January 2008 deadline).
  • Do not use st, nd, rd, th, even if dates are adjectives (March 1 event, not March 1st event). Months are not abbreviated.
  • Do not use :00 with a time unless it’s a very formal publication in which it would be appropriate — for instance, invitations.
  • Lowercase a.m. and p.m., with a space following the number, e.g. 6 p.m. or 4:30 p.m.
  • It is sometimes permissible to remove the periods in a.m. and p.m. in tables and lists if space is tight, but use the periods in text.
  • Noon, not 12 p.m. or 12 noon.
  • Do not use a dash in place of to in a range of times introduced by from (from 5 to 7 p.m., not from 5–7 p.m.). It is sometimes permissible use an en dash in tables and lists if space is tight, but use “to” in text.
  • Do not use o’clock unless it’s in quoted material or contexts such as formal invitations.

Degrees (academic)

  • Do not use periods in PhD, BS, MBA, etc.
  • Do not capitalize bachelor of science, master of arts, etc. Likewise, do not capitalize the field (bachelor of arts in philosophy) unless, of course, it is a proper noun (bachelor of arts in English).
  • For people with PhDs, do not use PhD after the name or Dr. before it in text. See further discussion under “Dr.” Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree and master’s degree.


  • Most style guides reserve Dr. for medical doctors and dentists, not PhDs. To avoid offending people with PhDs, try to avoid using Dr. for MDs and DDSs. A way to do so is to identify a specialty after the name or use some other language that implies a medical degree (John Smith, an orthodontist; Mary Brown, a professor of pediatrics at the Feinberg School of Medicine).


  • Healthcare should be written as one word.

Hyphens: on campus vs. on-campus

  • Use a hyphen when on is used as a modifier (on-campus study). When it’s not a modifier (courses are offered on campus) do not use a hyphen.

Information Session

  • Capitalize when we refer to SPS Information Sessions. Always spell out — do not use Info Session.


  • Left justify all text.

Northwestern University

  • Official Full Name: The full name of our institution is “Northwestern University.” Use the full name on first mention in publications and in any situation where it’s not immediately obvious that you’re referring to a university. 
  • Official Informal Name: Colloquially, we all refer to this institution as simply “Northwestern.” This shorthand is acceptable in all content where it’s apparent that the communication is coming from a university. Using it can lend a more conversational tone to communications. 

Northwestern University School of Professional Studies

  • When referring to SPS, write out Northwestern University School of Professional Studies on first reference. “School of Professional Studies” and “Northwestern” may be used on second reference. “SPS” may be used on second reference if it has been previously defined.
  • Incorrect usage:
    • Northwestern University’s School of Professional Studies
    • The School of Professional Studies at Northwestern University
    • Northwestern School of Professional Studies
    • Northwestern’s School of Professional Studies


Do not use NU for Northwestern in any but very informal publications. Avoid this term, as it’s too generic to identify us, and too casual to represent our University. 

Post-baccalaureate programs

Hyphenate post-baccalaureate; use lower case (post-baccalaureate) except at the start of a sentence (Post-baccalaureate). The b is always lower case.

Program names

Do not capitalize in reference to a curriculum (sports administration), or program level (undergraduate study). This includes course subjects and undergrad majors unless name is a proper noun.
Do capitalize the formal name of the program, e.g. Master of Arts in Sports Administration Program, Certified Treasury Professional).


Follow AP style and do not use a serial comma when listing items in a sentence. For a series of complex terms, = commas may be used after each for clarity.
To maintain a serious professional and academic image, avoid using of exclamation points. Rare exceptions are generally only when messaging and creative content take a lighter tone.

Quarters (fall, winter, spring)

Do not capitalize.

Second references

  • Capitalize the University in reference to Northwestern. Do not capitalize the school or the college in second references to the individual schools.
  • Second and subsequent references to a person generally use only the last name, except in obituaries. Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., Rev., Dean, and Professor should not be used in second references except in quoted material. An exception may be made for donors when a development officer requests it and in programs honoring the person.


Use a single space after punctuation that ends a sentence (period, question mark, exclamation point).


  • States should not be abbreviated. Exceptions may be made when states appear with city names in class notes, tabular material, and mailing addresses (use postal codes then).
  • Not required for Evanston and major cities widely associated with a state. These include Atlanta, Baltimore, Berkeley, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, El Paso, Fort Worth, Honolulu, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis and Tucson. If there is a major city of the same name in another state, however, include the state name.
  • Use with smaller and lesser-known cities.
  • Use commas before and after state names when they appear with cities (Wilmette, Illinois, is north of Evanston — not Wilmette, Illinois is north of Evanston).
  • If a high school bears the name of its city, insert the state in parentheses: Downers Grove (Illinois) High School.
  • A similar rule applies to newspapers, but italicize the state within an italicized newspaper name: Aurora (Illinois) Beacon News.

Summer Session

Capitalize when it’s Northwestern’s (but summer, summer school, etc. should be lower case).

Telephone numbers

In text, use a hyphen between area code and number.


  • Uppercase preceding a name if it’s a title by which the person may be called (President Schapiro, Dean Gibbons, Professor Smith), but lowercase a functional title (program director Jane Johnson). Plurals are lowercased (literature professors Walter White and Jesse Pinkman).
  • Lowercase when titles precede names when set off by a comma: The assistant dean, Peter Kaye, commented that...     Peter Kaye, assistant dean, had this to say...

The web and email

  • Do not hyphenate email; lowercase it except at the start of a sentence. Email can be used as a verb, just like fax, another noun that common usage turned into a verb.
  • Do not hyphenate online.
  • World Wide Web is not needed; web is sufficient.
  • Capitalize Internet but lowercase web.
  • Use website as one word.
  • Use home page as two words.
  • Use database as one word.
  • http:// is not needed at the start of a web address unless the address doesn’t start with www. or there might be some confusion about whether it is a web address.
  • If an address does not fit on one line, do not introduce hyphenation when breaking it. For instance, do not hyphenate northwestern in a web or an email address; readers might think the hyphen is part of the address. An unavoidable line break should come after a // or other punctuation mark (except a period) within a URL.
  • Do not break a line after a period within a web or an email address. Bring the period down to start the next line (e.g.: sps.northwestern  (break)  .edu/registration ).


  • Close up
  • Put W and CARD in caps.


  • Lowercase x except in titles and upstyle headlines
  • Hyphenate