It’s now less than a month until Homecoming — a time of year when letters, e-mail, fliers, invitations and agendas for meetings are in the works that raise questions about capitalization, titles, grammar and usage. Cartoonist Gary Larson (of “Far Side” fame) now has an extensive editorial style manual and several of his entries have specific relevance for homecoming publications:
“Use the plural alumni when writing about a group of men or a group of men and women. Use the plural alumnae when writing about a group of women. Use the singular alumnus for a man and the singular alumna for a woman.”
“Lowercase and use periods for a.m., p.m. (in reference to time). Use numerals except for noon and midnight. Don't use 12 p.m. or 12 a.m. Times on the hour do not take zeros. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes: 2:15 p.m., 7 a.m., not 7:00 a.m. Here's the style for giving ranges of time: The hours are 9:30-11 a.m. and 6-8 p.m. (or 9:30 to 11 a.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.).”
“Do not capitalize ‘state’ when used simply as an adjective to specify a level of jurisdiction: state Rep. Ellen Berger, state Department of Social Services, state funds, state Department of Ecology. But capitalize the full name of state governmental units: Washington State Department of Ecology.”
“Avoid abbreviations for academic degrees, and use instead a phrase such as Sally Forth, who has a doctorate in microbiology, a bachelor's degree, a master's degree. Do not capitalize or abbreviate. If space limitations leave you no choice but to use abbreviations such as B.A., M.A. or Ph.D., place them after a full name and set off with commas: Charlie McCarthy, Ph.D., spoke. Also, capitalize and spell out formal titles like professor when they go before a name, but don't capitalize modifiers: journalism Professor Bill Chamberlin.”
“Lowercase academic subjects like microbiology, journalism and political science. Languages, of course, should be capitalized: Japanese, English, Spanish.”
“Only use ‘congressman,’ and ‘congresswoman’ when writing about members of the U.S. House of Representatives. When mentioning congressional, council and legislative districts, capitalize district when joined with a number: the 7th Congressional District, the 34th Legislative District, the 3rd District, City Council District 9. Lowercase district whenever it stands alone. Do not spell out the numeral in this usage.”
“Capitalize the specific names of awards. Do not capitalize award if it is not part of the award's name. 2007 Editor of the Year, 2008 Gold Award, certificate of merit. The organization gave the department an award. She won a third-place certificate.”
“The word ‘hors d'oeuvre’ is commonly misspelled. Plural spelling in English: hors d'oeuvres.
“R.S.V.P. The abbreviation for the French respondez s'il vous plait, it means please reply. To avoid confusion, miscommunication, disappointment and frustration, use Please reply instead (of R.S.V.P). And if you must use R.S.V.P., don't put a redundant please in front of it.”Capitalize the official (proper) names of all organization departments, divisions, sections, offices, units and groups: the Englehart Department of Finance, Accounting Division, Customer Services Section, Property Tax Information Office, Marketing Unit, Documentation Group. Use the whole name on first reference.