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University Publications | Editorial Style


Use Webster’s Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary and the latest edition of the Chicago Manual to check on capitalization of non-University-related words. Consult the Penn State Information section of this manual for the capitalization of University-related words. Whether to cap a word depends on many factors, including the word’s position in a sentence and its function.

armed forces/military titles

Full names of armies, navies, air forces, etc., are capitalized (U.S. Marine Corps, Royal Air Force, the British Navy, Army Corps of Engineers). The words army, navy, etc., are lowercased when not part of an official title.

See academic and administrative titles in the Penn State Information section for guidelines on capitalizing titles with names. The same rules apply for military titles, with two exceptions: General of the Army and Fleet Admiral, which are capped to avoid ambiguity.

astronomical terms

Capitalize the names of stars, satellites, planets, etc. Capitalize Earth when it is used as the planet name; lowercase when it is used to mean soil or when it is used in a phrase such as the earth sciences.

brand names, registered trademarks

Brand names and registered trademarks are capitalized: Band-Aid; Kleenex; Xerox; Styrofoam; Frisbee; Velcro.But whenever possible, use the generic term, such as adhesive bandage, tissue, photocopy.

buildings, other structure names

Names of buildings, thoroughfares, monuments, etc., are capitalized: the White House; the Capitol (when referring to the U.S. Capitol building); the Mall (including those on the University Park campus and in Washington, D.C.—not shopping malls).


Lowercase, even in campus names: Altoona campus, Shenango campus, University Park campus (see also Penn State campus names).

cardinal directions

north, south, east, west, central, southeastern, northwestern, central Pennsylvania; but the Northwest, the South, the Far East, the West Coast, the Eastern Seaboard. See the Chicago Manual for details.

college names within the University

Uppercase College when used as part of the proper name of a college; lowercase when used with the unofficial name of a college. Lowercase when used alone, whether it refers to a specific college or not.

They enrolled in the College of the Liberal Arts.

Belinda was most interested in the engineering college.

The college offered a number of psychology courses.


The word commencement is lowercased, as is the semester (spring commencement, fall commencement).

committee names

In general, committee names are not capped. However, if lowercasing a committee name confuses readers, cap it.


Cap when referring to Pennsylvania.

We are being asked to obey the laws of The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (note cap on The in this case; alone, make it the Commonwealth).

Cap in vice president of Commonwealth Campuses.

Continuing Education/continuing education

Lowercase when referring to the function; cap when referring to the unit or program.

She wanted to enroll in the course to further her continuing education efforts.

The courses were part of Penn State’s Continuing Education program.

He received credits through Continuing Education at Penn State.

cultural movements, periods, and styles

Numerical period designations are lowercased unless they are part of a proper name: eighteenth century (but Eighteenth Dynasty).

In general, most historical or cultural period names are lowercased except for proper nouns and adjectives (baroque period, classical period, colonial period, romantic period; but Hellenistic period, Victorian era) or to avoid ambiguity (Bronze Age, Enlightenment, Middle Ages, Reformation, Renaissance).

Capitalize names of cultural movements and styles if they are derived from proper nouns; otherwise they should be lowercased: Cynicism, Doric, Gothic, Neoplatonism, Pre-Raphaelite, Romanesque; but baroque, classical, cubism, Dadaism, modernism, neoclassicism, postmodernism, romanticism.

For more information, see section 8.85 of the Chicago Manual.

Dean’s List



Lowercase unless it is the first word in a contact line:

Robin considered his fax machine a good investment.

federal, state


The program is awaiting state and federal funding.

Fortune 500

Be sure to cap. It is not necessary to italicize registered trademarks. (See the Chicago Manual.)

G.I. Bill

Caps, periods on G.I., no space; cap Bill.


Cap when referring to Penn State’s Homecoming. Lowercase in general use:

June looked forward to her son’s homecoming.

musical notes and keys

For musical notes and keys, use roman caps for major and roman lowercase for minor. For clarity, use the words major and minor with the letters when naming keys.

One of Mozart’s best-known symphonies is in g minor.

middle C; key of G major; the D triad

Olympic, Olympic-size

Always cap.

op. and opus

Music reference—lowercase

Pennsylvania General Assembly

Capitalize, but do not cap the informal name, Pennsylvania legislature.

political parties, philosophies

Names of national and international political organizations, movements, and alliances and of members of political parties are capped, but not the words party, movement, platform, etc. Nouns and adjectives designating political and economic systems of thought and their proponents are lowercased, unless they come from a proper name. In other words, the party is capped, the philosophy is not.

program names

See fields of study, Penn State programs and option, major, program in the Penn State Information section.


Per Webster’s Eleventh. Cap when referring to a real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of Realtors. Use real estate agent if you’re not sure.

scientific and medical terms

See sections 8.127–8.152 of the Chicago Manual for guidelines on capping scientific and medical terms.

seasons of the year; semesters; holidays

The four seasons are lowercased. Semesters are lowercased: fall semester, spring break, summer session. Religious holidays are capitalized, as are most secular holidays.

senate, congress

Lowercase when used alone.

Social Security

Cap the words Social Security only. Do not cap number, tax, office, etc.

A student’s Social Security number no longer doubles as his/her student ID number.

I tried to reach the Social Security office all afternoon.


Capitalize The when used as part of the University’s full name: The Pennsylvania State University. Also cap when used as part of the following names: Penn State Erie, The Behrend College; Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus; The Four Diamonds Fund; The Nittany Lion Inn; The Mary Jean and Frank P. Smeal College of Business Administration; The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel; The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Otherwise, do not cap the as part of the name of an organization, newspaper, etc.

titles of departments and administrative areas

On first mention, use the full name of the department or administrative area and cap all words except prepositions. On subsequent reference, when only a partial name is used, lowercase.

The Department of University Publications prepared this manual.

The University publications department provides editing and design services for Penn State.

titles of works

Cap all words except prepositions, unless the writer did otherwise or the style manual requires otherwise. See the Chicago Manual for a more complete listing of capitalization rules for titles.


©2009 The Pennsylvania State University