Style Guide for Tallahassee Community College Materials
This guide is for use by TCC faculty and staff members
who develop content for newsletters, brochures, guidebooks, online materials,
news releases and other public information materials. It is not relevant to
scholarly, technical or academic work.
Accuracy, consistency and plain language are
the watchwords for TCC materials. All products should be developed with a
specific purpose and with a specific audience (e.g., prospective students, current
students, media, faculty and staff, community) in mind. This helps create more audience
Accuracy, consistency and plain language are the watchwords for TCC materials.
Materials for external audiences (e.g., prospective
students and families, media, community) must be reviewed by the Office of
Communications and Marketing before publication or posting. This includes all
The purpose of this review is to ensure that
TCC materials reflect the College’s mission, are consistent with the College’s
brand, and are easy to use and understand. The goal is a high degree of consistency
among all the messages that students and other audiences receive from the
College. Such consistency and care promotes trust.
In many cases, materials designed for external
audiences such as the media and prospective students will be submitted for
review by the relevant department and then revised and formatted by staff of
the Office of Communications and Marketing. The Office of Communications and
Marketing also determines the best distribution pathways and methods in consultation
with the content creator.
Note: Materials intended for internal use
within a department or division do not need to be reviewed or approved by the
Office of Communications and Marketing. Materials provided to current students
generally do not need to be reviewed by the Office of Communications and
Marketing, unless they are high-profile materials with long-term use, such as
the student handbook and orientation materials.
If you are not sure whether your material needs
review, or if you would like to request assistance or advice, contact the
Office of Communications and Marketing at firstname.lastname@example.org
TCC’s “House Style”
When practical, TCC follows
the guidelines of the Associated Press Stylebook, the standard used by members
of the media. This is because most materials TCC produces have an audience that
includes the media either directly or indirectly. AP Style is always used in
news releases. The AP Stylebook is available in the TCC library, from the
Office of Communications and Marketing, and online at www.apstylebook.com.
However, AP Style does not address every
situation that may arise when producing materials for the general
public—especially for students. Below is some additional information that
relates to publishing for TCC audiences.
Tips for Clear, Concise Writing
- Use plain
language that is familiar to the target audience. Avoid jargon, slang and “education-ese.”
- Include only the information needed by the
- Organize information in a logical
- Use mostly short sentences. However, if the material is long, do use a
variety of sentence lengths to make it more interesting to read.
- Use the active voice in most cases. The active voice emphasizes the subject
of the sentence—a “doer” who is taking an action. Passive voice de-emphasizes
the “doer” and can seem as if the action happened without a “doer.” Passive
voice is characterized by the use of a form of the verb “to be” with a
past participle (a verb form typically ending in –ed or –en). Active
voice: “He broke the vase.” Passive voice: “The vase was broken.” Active:
The organization gave the College an award. Passive: “An award was given
to the College.”
- Choose whether
to write in first-, second- or third-person voice based on your
audience and purpose and be consistent throughout the document. Materials
addressed directly to students may appropriately be written in second
person (“you,” “your”) and/or first person (“we,” “our”). Third person
(“the student,” “community members”) creates a more formal or professional
tone that is used in many TCC materials.
- Use the spelling and grammar check in
Microsoft Word. Read what you wrote and get someone else to read it as well. Nothing beats a second set of eyes for catching
those “There car is read” kinds of errors.
- Use only respected sources for reference—The Office of Communications and
Marketing recommends Webster’s New World College Dictionary, thesaurus and
other resources at http://www.m-w.com. (Wikipedia can be helpful, but it is
not an authoritative source.)
Frequently Used Terms
- With a person’s name: Outside
of scholarly journals, it is rarely appropriate to include a mention of the
academic degrees held by an individual. If mention of degrees is necessary to
establish an individual’s credentials for a particular reason, avoid an
abbreviation (such as Ph.D.) and use instead a phrase such as: John Jones,
who holds a doctorate in psychology. In most cases, the audience for TCC’s
materials includes current and prospective students, families, and other
members of the public—not academics or scholars. In keeping with AP Style,
individuals who hold a doctoral degree will not be referred to as “Dr.
Somebody” in news releases.
- Use an apostrophe in “bachelor's
degree,” “a master's,” etc. However, use “associate degree” not
- There is no apostrophe in
“Associate in Arts,” “Associate in Science,” “Bachelor of Arts,” or “Master
When referring to a past or present TCC
student, include the graduation year, as in “Freda King, ’07.” “Alumni” is
plural, as in “TCC’s alumni have been very supportive.” “Alumnus” is for a
male, singular and “alumna” for a female. The term “alum” can be used for a
male or female graduate.
“Black” is preferred AP style; however,
African-American is acceptable.
College or college
Capitalize “College” when referring to TCC
specifically. “The College was established in 1966.” Use “college” when
referring to another institution. Capitalize “District Board of Trustees,”
“Foundation Board of Directors” and “Alumni & Friends Association” when
referring specifically to those at TCC.
Capitalize academic divisions, as in “Division
of History and Social Sciences.” Use lowercase for academic subjects, as in
“She teaches history.” (Exception: Capitalize the name of an academic subject
that is a proper noun: “He teaches English.”)
Spell out amounts less than one, using hyphens
between the words, as in: two-thirds, four-fifths, etc. Use figures for precise
amounts larger than one, converting to decimals whenever practical, as in “1.67”
(as opposed to “1 and two-thirds”).
Grade Point Average
Spell out “grade point average” upon first use
in materials for external audiences and then use “GPA” thereafter. “GPA” can be
used anytime in internal materials.
Capitalize job titles before a name but not
after. “Jim Murdaugh, president of Tallahassee Community College, said that TCC
Provost Feliccia Moore-Davis will oversee the initiative.”
Except in news releases, put the names of
publications such as The Talon or The Eyrie in italics.
Capitalize the name of a TCC semester, as in “Fall
2015,” but refer to basketball season in the “spring.”
College or TCC
Write out the College’s complete name on the
first reference. Thereafter, use “TCC.”
Theatre or Theater
“TheatreTCC!” is the name of the organization. Also,
TCC’s academic department is called the “Theatre Department.” However, “theater”
is correct for other uses, such as the name of a place where plays are put on,
as in: “I like going to the theater.”
Other Grammar and Spelling Hints
- Avoid abbreviations or
acronyms that readers will not quickly recognize.
- Where acronyms are necessary,
spell out the full term on first reference, followed by the acronym
in parentheses, and use the acronym thereafter. (This is in contrast to AP
Style, which does not place acronyms in parentheses, so TCC news releases will
not include acronyms in parentheses. However, they can be helpful in other
publications, such as those intended for students.)
- Avoid using abbreviations and
acronyms in headlines (though “TCC” is often OK in a heading).
- Generally, omit periods in
acronyms unless the result would spell an unrelated word. But use periods in
most two-letter abbreviations.
Affect versus Effect
“Affect” is a verb that means: “to produce an
effect.” In most sentences, the correct choice is “affect” for the verb and
“effect” for the noun. The use of “affect” as a noun is uncommon; it refers to
a person’s facial expression, as in, “He has a flat affect,” meaning the person
shows little emotion. Likewise, the use of “effect” as a verb is rare,
restricted primarily to a construction such as: “This legislation effected a
change in our approach to funding.”
Do not use an ampersand (&) in place of the
word “and” except in the case of an organization that uses the “&” in its
Between and Among
Something may occur between two people, but among
three. “There is a strong bond between Dean Finkelstein and Dean Banocy-Payne,”
but “There is a strong bond among Dean Finkelstein, Dean Stewart and Dean
Capitol or Capital
“Capitol” refers only to a building, as in “The
Old Capitol is located at Apalachee Parkway and South Monroe Street,” whereas
“TCC is located in the state capital.” Note that TCC offers classes at the TCCCapitol Center.
In most cases, materials
produced for TCC’s primary audiences do not include formal reference citations.
However, if a citation to a reference is required, use the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. The format for citation to online material is as follows:
Author. “Title Page.” Title
of Site. Date published. Institution or organization sponsoring site. Date of access.
Handouts of the MLA guide are
available in the TCC library.
A comma is a marvelous punctuation device that
separates the structural elements of a sentence into segments. However, it can
cause much confusion when misused.
- Use commas to separate
independent clauses that are joined by any of these: “and,” “but,” “for,” “or,”
“nor,” “so,” “yet.”
The student explained his question, but the professor still didn’t
- Use a comma after
introductory clauses that begin with starter words such as “after,” “although,”
“as,” “because,” “if,” “since,” “when,” “while.”
While I was studying, the phone rang.
- However, do not use a comma
after the main clause when a dependent clause follows it, as:
He was late for practice because his alarm clock was broken.
- Use a comma after introductory
phrases, as in:
- To get a ticket to the play, you’d better come early.
- Use a comma after common
introductory words such as “yes,” “however,” “well.”
Yes, the test is tomorrow morning.
- Use a pair of commas in the
middle of a sentence to set off clauses, phrases and words that are not
essential to the meaning of the sentence.
Clause: That Thursday, which
happens to be my dad’s birthday, is the only day I can meet.
Phrase: This class is fun. The exam, on the other hand, is really
Word: In this case, however, he seems to have missed the point.
- Do not use commas to set off
essential elements of the sentence, such as clauses beginning with “that.”
I lost the book that I
borrowed from you.
He wishes that he could earn a football scholarship.
- Use commas to separate three
or more words, phrases, or clauses written in a series. However, do not use a
comma before the “and” or the “or” that precedes the final item in the series,
unless one of the items in the series has an “and” or “or” within it.
The candidate promised to lower taxes, protect the environment,
reduce crime and end unemployment.
The candidate promised to lower taxes, protect the environment, and
reduce unemployment and poverty.
- Use commas to separate two or
more adjectives that describe the same noun. Never use a comma between the
final adjective and the noun itself.
Wrong: That is an exciting, elaborate and enlightening, game you are
- Do not use commas with
noncoordinate adjectives. Coordinate adjectives are adjectives with equal
(“co”-ordinate) status in describing the noun; neither adjective is subordinate
to the other. You can decide if two adjectives in a row are coordinate by
asking the following questions:
- Does the sentence make sense
if the adjectives are written in reverse order?
- Does the sentence make sense
if the adjectives are written with “and” between them?
If the answer to these
questions is “yes,” the adjectives are coordinate and should be separated by a
comma. Here are some examples of coordinate and noncoordinate adjectives:
- He was an angry, stubborn child. (coordinate—you might say
“stubborn, angry child”)
- They lived in a gray frame house. (noncoordinate—you would not say “frame
- Use a comma near the end of a
sentence to indicate a pause or shift.
You’re one of the best students in that class, aren’t you?
- Use commas to set off phrases
at the end of the sentence that refer back to the beginning or middle.
Bob waved at his parents as he received his diploma, laughing
- Use commas to set off
Tallahassee, Florida, is in the north central part of the state.
- Use a comma to set off a
said, “We’ll go tomorrow.”
- Commas in dates: See below.
- tions are not
appropriate in most College publications.
- “It’s” is the contraction of
“it is.” “Its” is possessive. So: “The committee reached its decision
yesterday” but “It’s a tight budget year.”
- “Who’s” is the contraction of
“who is.” “Whose” is possessive. So: “Who’s making this decision?” but “Whose
turn is it to chair the meeting?”
To indicate dates, use numbers without st, nd,
rd or th. Capitalize the months.
When a month is used with a specific
date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. When
naming only a month and year, do not separate them with commas, as in “His best
monthly performance was in February 1980.”
When a phrase refers to a month, day and year,
use a comma to separate the day and year, as in “Aug. 31, 2007, was the day she
had waited for.”
Words that take the prefix “non” are typically
not followed by a hyphen (e.g., noncredit, nonfiction, nonacademic), unless
they include a proper noun, as in The Non-Profit Institute or Non-English
Spell out numbers one through nine. Use figures
for 10 and up. Use commas in all dollar amounts of $1,000 or more.
Spell out “percent” as one word.
Do not use a numeral to begin a sentence. Spell out
the number, capitalizing its first letter, or restructure the sentence so it
does not begin with a number.
In a formal setting, give phone numbers with
the area code, as in: (850) 201-6100.
In an informal setting, such as an inter-office memo, 488-1234 is fine.
- United States
- Either “United States” or “U.S.” is
acceptable. (Use periods in “U.S.” with no extra spaces.)
- Abbreviations for states:
- Spell out names of states
when they appear alone:
Wildfires continued to rage throughout northern Florida.
- Abbreviate state names that
appear in conjunction with a city or military base:
Needham, Mass., Oxnard Air Force Base, Calif.
- Do not abbreviate Alaska,
Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas or Utah.
Abbreviate state names as follows:
Use a comma between the name of the city and the
name of the state and another comma after the name of the state, as in “She
traveled from Los Angeles, Calif., to attend Tallahassee Community College.”
Here are the TCC spellings and letter cases for commonly used
- Web page
- the Web
- home page
To indicate time of day, use numerals for all
but noon or midnight, as in “8 p.m.” or “11 a.m.” Use a colon to separate hours
from minutes, as in “9:07 a.m.” Do not use double zeros, as in “9:00 a.m.”
Avoid “12 noon” or “12 midnight”; use simply “noon” or “midnight.”
Type URLs in normal font. Do not use boldface
or italics. Omit the http:// at the beginning of the URL and the forward slash
at the end. If the URL is too long to fit on one line, insert a line break
after a forward slash or period.
Which or That?
Which and that are both used to introduce
subordinate clauses, but they are not interchangeable. When the clause is not
essential to the sentence, use which and set off the clause with commas. When
it is essential, use that and do not use commas (unless they are needed for
some other reason).
- “Dogs that bark scare me.”
- “Dogs, which make great pets,
can be expensive.”
To Cap or Not to Cap
- Proper nouns.
- Most words in the titles of books, newspapers,
magazines, computer games, movies, operas, plays, poems, songs, television
programs, lectures, speeches and works of art. Do not capitalize articles
(“the,” “a,” “an”) or prepositions, unless they are the first word of the
- Regions of the U.S.: The Northeast depends
on the Midwest for its food supply. We live in the Big Bend.” She has a
Use lowercase for:
- Compass directions: The
warm front is moving east.
- Directions with the name
of a city, state or nation: “north Florida,” “eastern Canada,”
- Ethnic groups. The
preferred usage for “African-American” is “black” and for Caucasians
is “white,” neither capitalized. The preferred usage for Asian people
is “Asian,” capitalized. “Native American,” capitalized with no hyphen, is
- Seasons (“spring,”
“summer,” “fall,” “winter”) unless part of a formal name: “I love Paris in
the springtime,” but “the Winter Olympics.” (Exception is when referring
to a TCC term, as in: Fall semester.)
If you have a style-related question, please send
it to email@example.com.