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 2019 with a degree in business.

He graduated Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, 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.


Theater vs. Theatre:

The NSU School of Fine Arts uses “theatre” in all references.



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:

Lowercase internet, online (no hyphen), email (also no hyphen), website and webpage.



Northern State University should be spelled out on first reference. Then Northern is preferred, though NSU is acceptable.



Northern State University

1200 S. Jay St.

Aberdeen, SD 57401


Campus buildings/rooms:

Administration Building or Krikac Administration Building: both are acceptable

Athletic and Recreation Fields and Pavilion

Avera Student Center

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

Caribou Coffee/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.)

Dacotah Hall

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

Harvey C. Jewett IV Regional Science Education Center (opened fall 2019)

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

Mewaldt-Jensen Building

Regional Sports Complex, including Dacotah Bank Stadium and Koehler Hall of Fame Softball Field (opening fall 2021)

South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired: New facility opened in 2020 at the site of the former Jerde Hall; SDSBVI partners with NSU through the Educational Impact Campaign

Spafford Hall

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 colleges: College of Arts and Sciences; College of Professional Studies (which merged the School of Business and Millicent Atkins School of Education); and School of Fine Arts.


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

Great Plains East (opened fall 2018)

Great Plains West (opened fall 2018)

Kramer Hall

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

Steele Hall

Wolves Memorial Suites (opened fall 2017)

Former halls:

Jerde Hall (demolished in 2018 to make way for the new SDSBVI)

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

Seymour Hall


When referring readers to specific documents on or myNSU:

  • Whenever possible, do not share specific document URLs in printed materials or emails
  • Do feel free to share URLs of existing webpages – webpage URLs are very unlikely to change without notice
  • Best practice when referring to webpages is to use vanity URLs. Request these at – Faculty/Staff—Web Systems.