Brand Voice and Writing Style Guide

Northern's  voice is part of our identity—it’s the way we communicate with current and potential students, as well as alumni, parents and friends of the university. 

When it comes to voice, our personality needs to shine through. That's why we've created a Brand Voice Guide to help craft our campus messages.

But consistency is also key. That's why we use a clear, professional writing style. Our below writing style guide follows Associated Press style, addressing common grammar and punctuation issues and Northern-specific facts. For questions, please email


Academic degrees:

Academic degrees should be lowercase unless the full name of the degree is used:

associate degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, doctoral degree (or doctorate)

Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts, Master of Science

Correct abbreviation:

B.A., B.S., M.A., M.S., Ph.D., M.S.Ed., MBA


Abbreviate Ave., Blvd and St. when used in a specific address. Spell out when no specific address is used. Always spell out Road, Drive, Lane and any other such words. Examples:

NSU’s address is 1200 S. Jay St.

NSU is located on South Jay Street.

The student lives at 1601 Olive Drive.


Although AP Style calls for “adviser,” NSU uses “advisor” in formal job titles. Thus, the university has decided to use that spelling – “advisor” – in all cases.

And vs. &:

Do not use an ampersand in place of the word “and” unless it is part of an organization’s formal name. Examples:

The NSU College of Arts and Sciences offers several programs.

Northern has again been recognized by U.S. News & World Report.

Canceled, canceling, cancellation

Composition titles:

Put quotes around composition titles – books, movies, plays, songs, television programs, speeches, works of art – rather than using italics. Exceptions to this rule include magazines and newspapers, which should simply be capitalized.


Use just the date and the numeral – no “th,” “nd,” “rd.” Days of the week should always be spelled out. Months should be spelled out unless a specific date is used. Commas should set off the day, date and year. Do not use “of” between the month and year. Examples:

He graduated in December 2012 with a degree in business.

He graduated Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, with a degree in business.

Some months should not be abbreviated, even with a date. Use the following:














The word “dollars” is not needed when using the dollar sign. Example:

The NSU Foundation received a $15 million donation.

Majors and minors:

Capitalize only if a proper noun. Example:

She is majoring in English.

He is majoring in political science.

Nonprofit is one word, no hyphen.


Spell out one through nine. Use numerals for ages and dimensions (height, weight), but spell out one through nine for distance. Use numerals for percentages, and spell out the word percent. Examples:

He is 30 years old and has a 2-year-old son.

She is 5 feet 6 inches tall.

She ran six miles, then biked 10 miles.

NSU experienced a 7 percent growth in enrollment.

Phone numbers:

Use hyphens in phone numbers, not parentheses or periods. Example:



No periods are needed.


Spell out unless included in a listing. When necessary, abbreviate states as follows:

Alabama: Ala.

Arizona: Ariz.

Arkansas: Ark.

California: Calif.

Colorado: Colo.

Connecticut: Conn.

Delaware: Del.

Florida: Fla.

Georgia: Ga.

Illinois: Ill.

Indiana: Ind.

Kansas: Kan.

Kentucky: Ky.

Louisiana: La.

Maryland: Md.

Massachusetts: Mass.

Michigan: Mich.

Minnesota: Minn.

Mississippi: Miss.

Missouri: Mo.

Montana: Mont.

Nebraska: Neb.

Nevada: Nev.

New Hampshire: N.H.

New Jersey: N.J.

New Mexico: N.M.

New York: N.Y.

North Carolina: N.C.

North Dakota: N.D.

Oklahoma: Okla.

Oregon: Ore.

Pennsylvania: Pa.

Rhode Island: R.I.

South Carolina: S.C.

South Dakota: S.D.

Tennessee: Tenn.

Vermont: Vt.

Virginia: Va.

Washington: Wash.

West Virginia: W.Va.

Wisconsin: Wis.

Wyoming: Wyo.

Do not abbreviate Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas, Utah or Canadian provinces.


Use “theater,” not “theatre,” unless it is part of a proper name.


Use periods in a.m. and p.m. and separate them from the number. When using a start and end time, separate with a hyphen or by using “to” and “from,” but don’t use a combination. Examples:

The bookstore is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (correct)

The bookstore is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (correct)

The bookstore is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (incorrect)

Also, if the start and end time are both a.m. or both p.m., list it only after the second time. Example:

The bookstore is open 1-5 p.m.


Capitalize an organization or department only when using its formal name. Examples:

The NSU Marching Wolves performed during the game.

NSU’s marching band performed during the game.

The professor is part of the Northern State University Department of Theater.

The professor is part of the theater department.

Personal titles should be capitalized when they come before a name. When a title is listed after a name, it should be lowercase. Examples:

NSU Vice President John Doe spoke Friday.

John Doe, NSU vice president, spoke Friday.

Web terms:

Capitalize Internet, but lowercase email (and no hyphen). Online and website are also both one word, no hyphen. Web page is capitalized and two words.


Northern State University should be spelled out on first reference. Then Northern, Northern State or NSU are acceptable.


Northern State University

1200 S. Jay St.

Aberdeen, SD 57401

Campus buildings/rooms:

Administration Building or Krikac Administration Building: both are acceptable

Barnett Center: acceptable on first reference, but full name is Joseph H. Barnett Physical Education and Convocation Center

Beckman Building: houses the NSU Foundation

Berggren Recital Hall: located in Johnson Fine Arts Center

Beulah Williams Library or Williams Library: both are acceptable; location of the Round Room

Dacotah Hall

Einstein Bros. Bagels – located in the NSU Student Center (Einstein Bros. Bagels includes the period in its registered trademarked symbol, even though the logo doesn’t have it: That means it should include the period in the written form.)

Graham Hall: Home to the Missouri River Room and James River Room

Harvey Jewett Conference Room: located in Spafford Hall

H.P. Gerber Building: home to the Millicent Atkins School of Education

International Sculpture Garden: located in Baumgart Plaza and home to five sculptures by renowned Vietnamese artist Tuan Nguyen

Krikac Auditorium

Lincoln Hall: home to the Center of Excellence in International Business and Entrepreneurship

Mewaldt-Jensen Building

Spafford Hall

Student Center

Technology Center: connected to Mewaldt-Jensen

Wolf Shoppe: formerly known as NSU Bookstore

Center for Statewide E-learning:

On second reference, e-learning center is acceptable.


Capitalize Northern’s four colleges: College of Arts and Sciences, School of Business, Millicent Atkins School of Education and School of Fine Arts.

Gypsy Day vs. Gypsy Days:

When referring to the week-long celebration, the plural form is correct: Gypsy Days. When referring to a single event, the singular form is correct: Gypsy Day Parade, Gypsy Day football game, etc.

Office of Online and Continuing Education:

This department’s name changed to reflect its varied components, including distance education and professional workshops.

Residence halls:

Briscoe Hall

Jerde Hall

Kramer Hall

McArthur-Welsh Hall: “McWelsh” is a shortened version that is acceptable on second reference

Steele Hall

Wolves Memorial Suites: opening fall 2017

Two new residence halls under construction in 2017 have yet to be named.

Former halls:

Lindberg Hall, formerly home to the NSU Children's Center, demolished in 2017

Seymour Hall