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Style Guide

​Style Guide for TCC Publications

Consistency and plain language are the watchwords for Tallahassee Community College publications. Not only do these practices let every stakeholder know what to expect from the College, they are proven strategies for boosting student success.

This guide is intended for contributors to TCC’s Catalog and Advising and Registration Guide; department/division newsletters, brochures and other publications; Foundation and Alumni Association materials; press release and online materials. This is not intended for scholarly, technical or academic work.

Thus, the Communications Office must review your material before it reaches the public. This review is to ensure that all TCC publications express the same commitment and that they all are part of the College’s mission. The goal of the Communications Office is for students to hear the same messages from all TCC faculty and staff members. Consistency in both content and style promotes trust.

Less is more –Plain Language

Gov. Charlie Crist signed the Plain Language Initiative on his first day in office. It is designed to have state agencies speak with Floridians, not at them. TCC publications need to follow the same mantra.

With the Governor’s initiative, each agency’s plan must take into account the unique programs and requirements of that agency and its customers. All Plain Language plans must provide for documents that include:  

  • Clear language that is commonly used by the intended audience;
  • Only the information needed by the recipient, presented in a logical sequence;
  • Short sentences written in the active voice that make it clear who is responsible for what; and
  • Layout and design that help the reader understand the meaning on the first read through (including adequate white space, bulleted lists and helpful headings). 

In sum: less is really more. Please visit for more details.​ 

Tips for Clear, Concise Writing

 So that all TCC publications, including the Web site, are easily understood:

  • Write in the present tense.
  • Use active voice - Passive voice is characterized by use of the verb “to be,” in a verb form typically ending in –ed or –en. For example use: “He broke the vase.” Instead of “The vase was broken.”
  • Use short sentences
  • Avoid slang - Especially given TCC’s global perspective, the College strives to be as widely understood as possible.
  • Avoid using first person (I, we, us) and second person (you) - To maintain an objective tone, use terms such as he, she, it, the committee.
  • Double-check spelling and grammar in Word by clicking on Tools, then on Spelling and Grammar when the pull-down menu appears - Remember, spell-check is not perfect. Nothing beats a second set of eyes in catching those “There car is red” kinds of errors.
  • Use only respected, appropriate online sites for reference - Sites such as the Merriam-Webster dictionary, thesaurus and more at are recommended. (Wikipedia, while helpful on an informal basis, is not considered authoritative in academic or journalist circles.)
  • Use the Associated Press [AP] Stylebook - Available in the TCC Library, Communications Office or online at

Collegiate Terms


“Adviser” should be spelled with an “er,” not an “or,” as in “academic adviser.”


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 or African-American

“Black” is preferred AP style however African-American is acceptable.

Catalog Entries

Brevity, clarity and consistency are required for TCC’s Catalog and Registration Guide, especially the following:

  • Course description
  • Course listing – no space between letters and
  • numerals, as in HUM2271
  • Brief program description
  • Requirements for degree or certificate


Capitalize academic divisions, as in “Division of History and Social Services.” Use lower case for academic subjects as in “She teaches history.”

College or college

Capitalize “College” when referring to TCC. “The College was established in 1966.” Use “college” when referring to another institution. Capitalize “District Board of Trustees,” “Foundation Board of Directors” and “Alumni Association” when referring specifically to those at TCC.


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”).


GPA should be spelled out as “grade point average” for external use but is fine for internal use.


Spell out academic degrees as follows:

  • Associate in Arts
  • Associate in Science
  • Bachelor of Arts
  • Bachelor of Science
  • Master of Arts
  • Doctorate in Education
  • Doctorate in Philosophy

Use “bachelor’s degree” instead of “Bachelor’s degree” as the preferred capitalization. Abbreviate academic degrees with capital letters and no spaces between the periods as follows:

  • A.A.
  • A.S.
  • B.A.
  • B.S.
  • M.A.
  • Ed.D.
  • Ph.D.


Italicize the names of TCC publications such as The Talon or The Eyrie.


Use Fall Semester 2007 but refer to basketball season in the spring.

Tallahassee Community College or TCC

Always on first reference use the term Tallahassee Community College and then refer to the College as TCC.

Theatre or Theater

“TheatreTCC!” is the formal name of the department. Use “TheatreTCC!” is staging a great show tonight” but “His courses are mostly in the theater department,” which is informal.


Capitalize titles before a name but not after. “Dr. Jim Murdaugh, president of Tallahassee Community College, said that TCC Provost Barbara Sloan would oversee the new initiative.”

Other Notable Grammatical and Spelling Hints


Where acronyms are necessary, spell out the full name on first reference, followed by the acronym in parentheses; use acronym thereafter.

Affect versus Effect

“Affect” is a verb, meaning “to produce an effect.”


Ampersands should only be used in names of organizations or departments which use the “&” in their titles and should not be used in place of the word “and.”

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 Brown and Dean Banocy-Payne.”

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 TCC Capitol Center.


When citing an online source, MLA Style is most appropriate for public information purposes. The
format is:  
Author. “Title Page.” Title of Site. Date published. Institution or organization sponsoring site. Date of

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 when they are joined by any of these: and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet.

The student explained his question, but the professor still didn’t understand.

Use commas after common starter words for introductory clauses such as after, although, as, because, if, since, when, while.

While I was studying, the phone rang. 

However, don’t put a comma after the main clause when a dependent clause follows it, as:

He was late for practice because his alarm clock was broken.

Common introductory phrases should be followed by a comma, as: 

To get a ticket to the play, you’d better come early.

Common introductory words that should be followed by a comma include 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. Use one comma before to indicate the beginning of the pause and one at the end to indicate the end of the pause. 

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 hard.
Word: In this case, however, he seems to have missed the point.

Do not use commas to set off essential elements if 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.

The candidate promised to lower taxes, protect the environment, reduce crime and end unemployment. 

Use commas to separate two or more adjectives that describe the same noun. Never add an extra comma between the final adjective and the noun itself or use commas with non-coordinate 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 you answer yes to these questions, then the adjectives are coordinate and should be separated by a comma. Here are some examples of coordinate and non-coordinate adjectives:

He was an angry, stubborn child. (coordinate)

They lived in a gray frame house. (non-coordinate)

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 joyously. (correct) 

Use commas to set off all geographical names, items in dates (except the month and day), addresses (except the street number and name) and titles in names.

Tallahassee, Florida, is in the north central part of the state.

June 12, 2007, was a momentous day in his life.

John Ness, MD, will be the speaker.

When you use just the month and the year, no comma is necessary:

“The average temperatures for July 2007 are the highest on record for Tallahassee.” 

Use a comma to set off a quote, as:

Julie said, “We’ll go tomorrow.”


Contractions are not appropriate in most College publications, including the Catalog. Is the setting formal or informal? If uncertain, please e-mail

“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.”  

Non Words

Non words are typically not followed by a hyphen.The Non-Profit Institute is an exception.


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.

Phone Numbers

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.


Abbreviations for the United States:

as a noun, United States: 

He left for the United States.

as an adjective, U.S. (no spaces):

A U.S. soldier was killed yesterday.

as part of organization names 

(see the AP Stylebook under “U.S.”)

Abbreviations for States as follows:

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:

  • Ala. 
  • Ariz.
  • Ark. 
  • Calif. 
  • Colo.
  • Conn. 
  • Del.
  • Fla.
  • Ga.
  • Ill.
  • Ind.
  • Kan.
  • Ky. 
  • La. 
  • Md.
  • Mass.
  • Mich.
  • Minn.
  • Miss.
  • Mo. 
  • Mont.
  • Neb.
  • Nev.
  • N.H.
  • N.J.
  • N.M.
  • N.Y.
  • N.C.
  • N.D.
  • Okla.
  • Ore.
  • Pa.
  • R.I.
  • S.C.
  • S.D.
  • Tenn.
  • Vt.
  • Va.
  • Wash.
  • W.Va.
  • Wis.
  • Wyo.  

Place a comma between the names of cities and states and another after the state unless at the end of a sentence, as in “She traveled from Los Angeles, Calif., to attend college in Tallahassee, Fla.”

Technology Terms

Capitalize the “I” in “Internet” and “W” in “Web site.”

“Online” is one word; so is “Webmaster.” “Home page” is two words.

“E-mail” is correct at the start of a sentence and “e-mail” within it.


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.


To indicate times 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 9:37 a.m. Do not use zeros, as in 9:00 a.m. Avoid “12 noon” or “12 midnight.”

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).

To Cap or Not to Cap


  • books, computer games, movies, operas, plays, poems, songs, television programs, lectures, speeches and works of art
  • newspapers and magazines
  • “The” in the title if that is a publication’s usage, but lowercase before a list of publications, some of which use the as part of the name and some of which do not, as in: Time, Newsweek, The Washington Post and The New York Times.
  • places
  • names of U.S. regions: The Northeast depends on the Midwest for its food supply.

Use lower case for:

  • compass directions: The warm front is moving east.
  • 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 preferred.
  • seasons, as in “spring,” “summer,” and “fall” and “winter” unless part of a formal name: “I love Paris in the springtime” or “the Winter Olympics.”

See previous page for semester capitalization.


Finally, if you have a style-related question, please e-mail it to

Contact Information

For more information contact the Communications Office by phone (850) 201-6049 or e-mail

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444 Appleyard Drive | Tallahassee, FL 32304 | (850) 201-6200 | | Copyright © 2015.
Tallahassee Community College does not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, genetic information, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, or age in programs or activities. Inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies may be directed to: Renae Tolson, Equity Officer | Room 239 Administration Building | 444 Appleyard Drive | Tallahassee, FL 32304-2895 | (850) 201-6074 | (Other Languages)
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