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Grammar & Writing Styles

As a general guide, the SVC Public Information Office works to incorporate grammar and style outlined used in the Associated Press Stylebook.  The following guide examples have been compiled from the the Associated Press Stylebook, as well as from other colleges, to help us craft consistent messaging for SVC:

College Name and College Locations
  • Skagit Valley College (not Skagit Valley "Community" College)
  • Mount Vernon Campus (capital "C" for the official campus name and NOT Mt. Vernon)
  • Whidbey Island Campus
  • South Whidbey Center
  • San Juan Center
  • Skagit, Island, and San Juan counties (lower case "c" when referring to three counties)
  • Mount Vernon and Whidbey Island campuses (lower case "c" when referring to two campuses)
Commonly Used Words
  • The website is one word, no capital.
  • And email is one word, no capital.
  • And online is one word, no capital.
  • And voicemail is one word, no capital. Generic titles like academic advisor are not capitalized.
  • The internet is not capitalized.
  • An associate's degree in science is not capitalized.
  • Generic building reference is not capitalized.  "In the library building" versus the "Norwood Cole Library/Media Center" (official building name)
Dates, Month

Do not abbreviate days of the week, such as Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, or months of the year, unless you are using them in a tabular format and need to save space.

Academic Titles or Certifications

Provide the initials of a doctorate degree after the first reference of an individual. On second reference, refer to the person as Dr.

  • Olaf Olsen, EdD., is the president of Jones College.
  • Dr. Olsen is starting his second year at Jones College.

A certification or special designation can be included after a person's first name on first reference, if the designation is related to the context of usage.

  • Ron Brown, CPA, teaches accounting
  • Ron Brown, faculty member, emceed last year's service awards

An individual's title is written in lower case if it follows the name, but is written in upper case if it precedes the name.

  • Vice President for Instruction Karen Carter came to the seminar
  • Karen Carter, vice president for instruction, came to the seminar

References to the president, chancellor, vice president, or other individual by title only are always lower case.

  • The vice president for student services led the meeting
  • The president was in the room
Academic Words


    An SVC staff member who helps students identify educational goals and how to achieve them. (Not adviser)

    Alumna, alumnus, and alumni

    • Alumna refers to one woman
    • Alumnus refers to one man
    • Alumnae refers to a group of women
    • Alumni refers to a group of men and women

    Possession of a degree or certificate is not a prerequisite to being a member of our alumni.

    Emeriti, Emeritus, and Emerita

    • Emeriti: A man who is retired but retains an honorary title corresponding to that held immediately before retirement.
    • Emeritus: A group that has retired but retains an honorary titles corresponding to that held immediately before retirement.
    • Emerita: A woman who is retired but retains an honorary title corresponding to that held immediately before retirement.


    Use apostrophe and lower case for all references, unless used in a specific listing.

    • Mary Jones has a bachelor's degree in journalism.
    • Mary Jones, B.A., Journalism, 1978, University of Oregon.

    Capitalize the full and formal name of the degree. Do not capitalize general references to degrees:

    • Skagit Valley College offers an Associate of Science degree.
    • Skagit Valley College offers associate degrees.

    Use an apostrophe when referring to other degrees, such as bachelor's degree and master's degree.

    Faculty and staff

    Faculty is a singular noun that requires a singular verb, unless there is more than one faculty. It refers to a single group of people.

    • The faculty at Skagit is excellent.

    Use "faculty member" (singular) or "faculty members" (plural) to refer to individuals.

    Staff is a singular noun that requires a singular verb.  It refers to a collective group of people.

    • The staff at SVC is very professional.

Generally, only proper nouns should be capitalized. Exceptions:

  • If a title used before a person's name; in that event, the title becomes part of the person's name.
  • When referring to an academic discipline taught at SVC, such as Psychology, Mathematics, Culinary Arts, etc.
  • Do not use capital letters to emphasize the importance of something.
  • Do not write phrases or sentences in all capital letters to shout their importance.
  • Seasons, such as fall, winter, spring, and summer are lower case.
Book Titles, Articles and Magazines

Book titles and other lengthy words, such as plays, movies, compositions, long poems, etc., should be italicized when possible.

  • Gone With the Wind

Titles of articles and other short works should be referenced with quotation marks.

  • Mary Jones wrote "As I See It" in Time magazine.

Magazines and periodicals, such as newspapers, should be referred to in plain text.

  • The Seattle Times
Numbers in text

Numbers used in text may be written out for numbers zero through nine, with the exception of hours, which are always used as figures. Numbers 10 and above should always be written in figures. The exceptions are scientific matter dealing with physical quantities, academic credit, and course numbers. Always use figures with percent.

  • 4 percent
  • He has four chairs
  • 4 a.m.
Times of Day
  • The period of time between midnight and noon should be referred to as "a.m."  8:30 a.m.
  • The period of time between 12 noon and midnight should be referred to as p.m.  3:30 p.m.
  • Generally, there should be one space between the hour and the a.m. or p.m. 
  • Delete the colon and two zeros on times that do not include minutes.   8 a.m.-1 p.m.
Commonly misspelled words:
  • Prerequisite is one word.
  • Timeframe
  • Lifelong
  • Course work  (Two words)
Spellcheck will not find these errors

Search and check context of:

  • Than and then
  • From and form
  • For and fro
  • You, your, and you're
  • A podcast is one word, no hyphen.
  • Ongoing has no hyphen.
  • Two-word modifiers are hyphenated:
    • In-person registration  (registering in person)
    • Top-quality faculty  (our faculty!)
    • Non-resident students
    • Pre-calculus, pre-algebra, pre-major, pre-college
  • Do not use hyphens in compound nouns with vice:
    • vice president
    • vice chancellor
    • vice chairman
Commonly misused words
  • "Then" is a point in time or introduces a logical conclusion. 
  • "Than" is a comparative (higher enrollment than winter quarter).
  • The expression is: "flesh it out," not "flush it out"
  • Irregardless is not a word.
  • And "alot" is not a word.
  • Orientated is a word, but not the one you might think it is.
  • Use "We will try to . . ."   (not "try and . . ." )
  • March 7, 2007 is correct. March 2007 does not have a comma.