CoE Style Guide

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The College of Engineering strives for consistency in all aspects of its communication to avoid confusion among audiences. This style guide is based on The Associated Press Stylebook and the Iowa State University Style Guide, along with some original rules chosen for clarity.




  • When using i.e. (that is) and e.g. (for example), always use periods and follow with a comma.
  • Et al. (and others—only referring to people) has a period only after the second word and is most commonly used in bibliographic citations of more than three authors.
  • Don’t use an ampersand (&) unless it is part of the official name. It may be used on covers, displays or similar material at the discretion of the designer.

Academic Degrees

  • If mention of degree is necessary to establish someone’s credentials, the preferred form is to avoid an abbreviation and use a phrase (John Jones, who has a doctorate in psychology.).
  • Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s, master’s degree, etc., but there is no possessive in Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science.
  • Use abbreviations only when identifying two or more individual titles.
  • Include periods in abbreviations (Ph.D., B.S., etc.). Use abbreviations only after a full name—never just the last name.
  • Don’t use periods in degree abbreviations when used with a name to identify a student’s classification or year in school (ConE 4). The preference for referring to classification in stories is to write out the academic year (freshman, sophomore, etc.). Abbreviations may be preferred in a listing of students.
  • For list of abbreviations for Cyclone Engineering majors and degrees, see Degree Abbreviations.

Academic Titles

  • Always capitalize titles when they precede a person’s name (Professor Johnson).
  • Don’t use Dr. before names—list their faculty title and degree only if necessary.
  • Place long titles (generally three or more words) after a name to avoid awkward sentences (John Smith, professor and chair of aerospace engineering).
  • Don’t capitalize titles if they follow the name.
  • Capitalize named titles and include before department titles (Janis Terpenny, Joseph Walkup Professor and chair of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering.).


  • Use advisor, not advisor.

All ready/Already, All Right

  • All ready means completely prepared. Already is an adverb used to describe something that has previously happened (I was all ready to go when he told me he’d already had dinner.)
  • Always use all right, never alright, and hyphenate when used as a compound modifier (He is an all-right guy.).


  • Alumni refers to more than one male graduate, or a group that includes both male and female graduates (plural form).
  • Alumnus and alum both refer to one male graduate (singular form).
  • Alumnae refers to two or more female graduates (plural form).
  • Alumna refers to one female graduate (singular form).

Ames Laboratory

  • Always use Ames Laboratory on first reference, followed by Ames Lab on subsequent references.
  • Use U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory when a formal declaration is necessary.

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Board of Regents

  • Proper name is Board of Regents, State of Iowa. A comma follows Iowa when it appears in the middle of a sentence.
  • Use Iowa Board of Regents, Board of Regents, or Regents on subsequent references and always capitalize Regents.

Building Names

  • Use the full name for buildings on first reference, capitalizing Building, Hall, Center, etc.
  • Shortened versions are acceptable for subsequent references (Catt Hall for Carrie Chapman Catt Hall).
  • For general reference, the auditorium in Hoover is formally called the Kent-Stein Foundation Auditorium, and the one in Howe is formally the Alliant Energy-Lee Liu Auditorium.

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  • Capitalize titles only when they precede names or are used as part of names. Lowercase if they follow names or are used to further identify people (John Smith is the chair of his department.).
  • Official names of organizations and departments are capitalized, except when given in unofficial forms (College of Engineering, Department of Chemistry, the chemistry department).


  • Commas are used to separate two similar adjectives that modify a noun—if “and” could be used between them, use a comma (the happy, smiling dog but the poor old cat).
  • A dependent clause that comes before the main clause is usually set off by a comma; likewise with adverbial phrases (When I’ve finished my homework, I’ll go to bed.).
  • Commas should be used after “that is,” “for example,” “namely,” and similar expressions.
  • A comma is required before a conjunction if there are two independent clauses.
  • Don’t include a comma in the last entry of a series or list (peanut butter, jelly and bread) except in a complex series of phrases.

Company Names

  • Do not use a comma before Inc. or Ltd., even if it is included in the formal name. These abbreviations can be omitted unless they are relevant to text.
  • In running text, company names are best written in full form.

Compound Words and Modifiers

  • Except for cooperate and coordinate, use a hyphen if the prefix ends in a vowel and the word that follows begins with the same vowel.
  • Use a hyphen to join doubled prefixes (sub-subparagraph).
  • If two words are used together to form an adjective, they are often hyphenated unless the first word ends in –ly (well-known scientist, happily married couple).
  • Capitalize both parts of hyphenated compound words in titles.
  • Examples of commonly used non-hyphenated compound words: classroom, nondestructive, postdoctorate, fundraising, testbed (agrees with NSF)
  • The prefixes micro and nano should not be hyphenated if the second word begins with a consonant (nanometer, micromanage).
  • Hyphenate problem-solving per AP guidelines.
  • Words using the suffix -wide usually do not take hyphens (companywide, nationwide).

Course Names

  • Capitalize official course titles and do not use quotation marks (He wanted to sign up for Introduction to Philosophy or Sociology 101.).
  • Lowercase subjects when making a general reference, unless the subject includes a proper noun or adjective (She took English, history and math courses.).

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  • Office policy calls for treating data as a singular noun since it has become common use (the data is monumental). 


  • Dates are written as May 21, 2000, with a comma after the year if the sentence continues.
  • Use an s without an apostrophe to indicate spans of decades or centuries (the 1980s, the 1800s).
  • Don’t use letters after dates (May 21st)
  • When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate months except March, April, May, June and July (Jan. 2 was a cold day, but March 4 was chilly, too.).
  • If just the month and year are cited, there is no comma (May 1987).

Degree Abbreviations

  • Following is a list of degree abbreviations and usage examples from the Alumni Association:
    Aerospace Engineering (‘YR aero engr)
    Agricultural Engineering (‘YR ag engr)
    Biological Systems Engineering (‘YR bio sys engr)
    Chemical Engineering (‘YR chem engr)
    Civil Engineering (‘YR civil engr)
    Computer Engineering (‘YR comp engr)
    Construction Engineering (‘YR con engr)
    Electrical Engineering (‘YR elec engr)
    Cyber Security Engineering (‘YR cyber sec engr)
    Industrial Engineering (‘YR indust engr)
    Materials Engineering (‘YR mat engr)
    Mechanical Engineering (‘YR mech engr)
    Software Engineering (‘YR software engr)


    Multiple degrees: (’97, M.S. ’99 elec engr)

    Graduate degree: (Ph.D. ’08 civil engr)

    Double majors: (’01 aero engr and tech comm)

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  • E-Week when used as a single noun; Engineers’ Week when spelled out. 

Electronic Terms

  • Internet is capitalized, but website, web page, web cam, etc. are lowercase.
  • URLs should be given using all elements after (to the right of) the backslashes (include www but not http://).
  • Electronic commerce should be shortened to e-commerce, same with e-business and others.
  • Online and email are always one word, never capitalized, except at the beginning of a sentence.

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  • Farther refers to physical distance (He walked farther into the woods.).
  • Further refers to an extension of time or degree (She will look further into the mystery.). 


  • Capitalize fellow when following a personal name, as a title (John Smith, Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers.).
  • Lowercase fellowship when generally referring (The fellowship was open to all candidates.).

Footnote Notations

  • The superscript number for a footnote should appear at the end of a sentence or clause. It follows any punctuation mark except for the dash, which it precedes. It follows a closing parenthesis. Normally, the footnote number follows a quotation.


  • Formally means ceremonially or of a formal matter (He was formally known as Dr. Johnson.).
  • Formerly means previously (Johnson, formerly the dean of students, retired last year.).

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  • Only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized.
  • Follow story style in spelling, but use numerals for all numbers and single quotes for quotation marks.
    • Exception: use US, UK and UN (no periods) in headlines.

Health Care

  • Two separate words, never hyphenated. 

Hyphens and Dashes

  • Use hyphens (-) to divide words and place between modifying words that make up an adjective. There are no spaces around hyphens.
  • The em dash (—) is used primarily in place of parentheses or a semicolon. It may separate a parenthetical phrase from the rest of the sentence. We don’t use spaces around the em dash.
  • The en dash (–) is used to indicate continuing or inclusive numbers (dates, time or reference numbers). It is also used in institution names (the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire). There are no spaces around it.
  • For telephone numbers, hyphens should be placed between each set of numbers (515-294-1858).

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Institution Titles

  • Use the before institution titles containing a preposition (the University of Iowa, but Iowa State University).
  • Do not capitalize the in running text, even if it is part of the official school title.

Iowa State University

  • Iowa State University should be spelled out upon first mention; Iowa State and ISU are acceptable on subsequent references.
  • Only use ISU when the reference is clear (i.e., no confusion between Iowa State University, Idaho State University, etc.).
  • Abbreviate Iowa State University Extension and Outreach to ISU Extension and Outreach in subsequent references.

Italics and Quotation Marks

  • Italicize titles of films, books, plays, journals, magazines, newspapers, newsletters, long poems, paintings, drawings, statues and other works of art, and long musical compositions.
  • Use quotation marks for articles, chapter titles, dissertations and theses, papers read at meetings, exhibitions, lectures, plays, short poems, songs, and television and radio shows.
  • Capitalize the principal words in titles, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters.
  • Capitalize an article—the, a, an—or words of fewer than four letters if they are the first or last words in a title.
  • Treat research papers in scientific journals as composition titles (“Engineering Fluid Flow Using Sequenced Microstructures” in the journal Nature Communications).

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  • Hyphenate when used as an adjective (Iowa State is a land-grant university.).


  • When separated from text, lists should be indented, with bullets, numbering, etc., with about two spaces between bullets and subsequent text. (standard formatting in a Word processor)
  • Use a colon to introduce a list or series (The chapter included use of the three most common punctuation marks: periods, commas and question marks.), but not if the listed items could complete the sentence themselves (The three most common punctuation marks were periods, commas and question marks.).
  • Keep tenses consistent in lists (She went running, biking and hiking, instead of she went running, biking and hiked).
  • For in-text lists separated by numbers or letters, use parentheses on both sides (She had to (a) clean her room, (b) wash the dishes, and (c) take the dog out.).

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Named Faculty Positions

Names—Subsequent References

  • Use last names only upon second references, unless two or more names are the same, in which case, use first names only.


  • Numbers less than 10 should be spelled out, but always use numerals for ages and measurements (The 9-year-old girl had three birds, nine cats and a dog that stood 2 feet tall.).
  • Avoid beginning a sentence with a number unless there is no other way to phrase it. Spell out numbers beginning a sentence.

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Over/More Than

  • Use over in the literal sense, as in above. Use more than when describing numbers (He has served the college for more than 20 years.). Same rule for under (use less than) and around (use about or approximately). 

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  • Always use the numeral for percentages, but spell out the word percent in general text (The class was 70 percent full today.).
  • In scientific and statistical copy, it is preferred to use the number and symbol (He found that 17% of the cultures tested were defective.).
  • For amounts less than 1 percent, precede the decimal with a zero (The cost of living rose 0.6 percent.).

Pull Quotes

  • Pull quotes are partial quotes pulled from the text. They need to be in quotation marks exactly as they appear in the text.
  • Don’t place a pull quote too close to its original appearance in text to avoid double vision for readers.

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  • The period and the comma always go within the quotation marks. (“It was a warm day,” she said.).
  • The dash, semicolon, question mark and exclamation point go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only. (She said, “Can you please explain this?”) Place them outside quotation marks when they apply to the whole sentence. (Did he say, “Meet me there at noon”?).
  • See AP Style Guide for more.

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Following is a list of reference samples:


Smart, N. 1976. The Religious Experience of Mankind. 2nd ed. New York: Scribner.

Cartwright, P. 1956. Autobiography of Peter Cartwright, the Backwoods Preacher. Ed. W. P. Strickland. Cincinnati, Ohio: L. Swormstedt and A. Poe.

Edited Book

Kamrany, N. M., and R. H. Day, eds. 1980. Economic Issues of the Eighties. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Book Section

Ogilvy, D. 1965. The Creative Chef. In The Creative Organization. Ed. G. A. Steiner, 199–213. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Conference Proceedings

McDaniel, T. J., D. D. Gemmill, D. R. Flugrad, and M. S. Devgun. 1990. An Interdisciplinary Approach to Design Education. In Proceedings of the 1990 North Midwest Section of ASEE, ed. J. H. Krouse, 299–304. 30 September–2 October, Michigan Technological University, Houghton.

Journal Article

Martin, S. W. In press. An Evaluation of Ionic Conductivity in AgI Glasses: The Graded Percolation Model. Solid State Ionics. (Note that “In press” or “Accepted” are the only phrases that replace the year.)

Breitbach, K. L., and L. S. Chumbley. 1991. Comparison of Nanocrystalline Material Produced Using Mechanical Milling and an RF-Plasma Heating Source. Scripta Metallurgica 25 (11): 2553. (Note that all volume numbers are Arabic, even if the reference itself uses Roman numerals.)

Hori, S. 1979. Some Problems Regarding Ch’ing Rule Over Southern Sinkiang (in Japanese). Shigaku Zasshi 88 (March): 1–36.

Wipf, T. J., F. W. Klaiber, and M. J. Hall. 1990. Strengthening of Steel Stringer Bridges by Transverse and Longitudinal Stiffening. Transportation Research Record 1223:54–62. (Note that if there is no month or issue number in parentheses, there is no space after the colon.)


Iowa High Technology Council. 1988. Development of Amorphous Cutting Tools by Laser Processing. Final report.

Dreiser, D. J. 1987. One Million to One—Odds Are Against You. Report no. 192 to the State Lottery Commission. Champaign: University of Illinois Press.

Thesis or Dissertation

Ross, D. 1976. The Irish-Catholic Immigrant, 1880–1900: A Study in Social Mobility. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Sociology, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.


Matthews, M. A., V. M. Shenai, and B. L. Hamilton. 1991. Diffusion in Liquid and Supercritical Fluid Mixtures. Paper presented at AIChE Fall National Meeting, 17–22 November, Springfield, Massachusetts.


Danofsky, R. A., and R. A. Hendrickson. 1971. Testing Apparatus for Count-Rate Circuits Using Pulses. U.S. Patent #3,609,536.

Personal Communication

Colonel William Rich, telephone conversation with author, Oak Park, Illinois, 12 October 1989

World Wide Web

Burka, Lauren P. 1993. A hypertext history of multi-user dimensions. The MUDdex.  HYPERLINK “” (accessed 5 December 1994).

Email Message

Franke, N.,  HYPERLINK “” 29 April 1996. Use the subject line as the title. Type (personal email, distribution list, office communication) goes here, followed by date of access. (3 May 1996).

Book Review

Boehnke, M. 2000. Review of Analysis of Human Genetic Linkage, 3rd ed., by J. Ott. Am. J. Hum. Genet. 66:1725.

Play, Movie, TV, Concert, Etc. Review

Kauffman, S. 1989. Review of A Dry White Season (MGM movie). New Republic, October 9, 24–5.


Bolinger, D. Language: The Loaded Weapon (London: Longman, 1980), 192n23.


Cricket, J. 1952. The Rise and Fall of Scrambled Eggs. Abstract. Journal of Breakfast Cuisine 6 (67): 621.


House, E. M. 1979. The Art of Origami. Yale University Library.

Extension Publication

Iowa State University Extension. 1995. Eat Wisely for You and Your Baby. PM 813. Ames, Iowa.


Winfrey, R. 1967. Statistical Analyses of Industrial Property Retirements. Bulletin 125 (revised). Engineering Research Institute, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.


FileMaker®Pro 3.0 for Macintosh. 1990, 1992–1996. Santa Clara, California: Claris Corporation.


Cleese, J., T. Gilliam, E. Idle, T. Jones, and M. Palin. 2001. “Commentaries.” Disc 2. Monty Python and the Holy Grail, special ed. DVD. Directed by T. Gilliam and T. Jones. Culver City, California: Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment.


Art Institute of Chicago. 1971. American Art of the Colonies and Early Republic; Furniture, Paintings, and Silver from Private Collections in the Chicago Area. Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago.


A live performance is unrecoverable data, and therefore not subject to citation. If you get arguments about that, use the following (and, by the way, this was quite a performance):

Gostele, C. 1998. Leaving Your Oldest Child on a College Campus for the First Time and Not Breaking Down in Front of Him. Des Moines, Iowa: Drake University. Summer/Fall.

Product Development

This is an obscure category. There has to be documentation for any product that has been developed, but that could be in many forms from reports to patents to Web pages. My suggestion is to use whichever of those formats applies (and this really covers any of the other citation styles in this list).

Expert Testimony

Solomon v State of New York (146 AD2d 439, 440 [1st Dept 1989], quoting Addington v Texas, 441 US 418, 427 [1979]). Info: Case Name (Vol. Reporter firstpage, jumppage [court year], appellatehistory appellate decision [year]


Balmer, M. 2005. Database for reference citations. Panel member, First Annual ECSS Employee Conference, Acapulco, Mexico, January 2–30.


Ferguson, C. J., and B. A. Schaal. 1999. Phylogeography of Phlox pilosa subsp. ozarkana. Poster presented at the 16th International Botanical Congress, St. Louis.


Nass, C. 2000. Why Researchers Treat On-line Journals like Real People. Keynote address, annual meeting of the Council of Science Editors, San Antonio, Texas, May 6–9.

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Spacing Between Periods

  • Use only one space after a period, unless a specific journal or publication calls for two.

State Names

  • Always spell out cities and states.
  • Use a comma after the city and state when used in the middle of a sentence (I live in an apartment in Ames, Iowa, with my friends.).


  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
  • Since it has become generally well-known, it is ok to use STEM on first reference with the full name set off in em dashes (Many new students are choosing careers in STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering and Math—fields.).
  • Use STEM in subsequent references.

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  • Use that in restrictive clauses and which in nonrestrictive clauses—which is always preceded by a comma.
    • Restrictive clauses are not set off by commas (Jane took the class that made a final project instead of an exam.).
    • Nonrestrictive clauses are set off by commas (He used the Cystorm supercomputer, which can figure trillions of calculations per second.).


  • Use periods and no spaces between time abbreviations, and don’t include zeros on the hour (10 a.m. or 11:25 p.m.).
  • Use midnight or noon instead of 12 a.m. or 12 p.m., respectively.
  • Avoid such redundancies as 10 a.m. this morning or 8 p.m. tonight.


  • Always use toward, not towards.

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United States

  • United States is spelled out when used as a noun.
  • Abbreviate to U.S. (no space between periods) when used as an adjective. No periods when used in headlines.

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  • Correct form is Veishea, not VEISHEA because it has become more of a name than an acronym.

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  • If the word can be replaced with him/her/them, use whom (To whom does the journal belong?).
  • If the word can be replaced with he/she/they, use who (Who is the department chair?). 

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