In general, the Amherst College Office of Communications follows the Associated Press Stylebook for its publications. The style guide below covers points that are of particular concern at Amherst, as well as exceptions we make to AP style.
abbreviations / acronyms / initialisms Many offices, departments, centers, student organizations, etc. come to be known by shortened names (e.g., the Center for Humanistic Inquiry becomes “the CHI”; the Department of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought becomes “LJST”; Valentine Dining Hall becomes “Val”). These abbreviations can be useful, but be aware that readers might not automatically understand what they mean, especially if the readers or the organizations are new to the Amherst community. Always use the full name on first reference, and introduce an abbreviation only if that abbreviation is going to appear later in the document.
academic degrees Lowercase degrees: "bachelor's degree," "bachelor of arts" and "doctorate," for example.
academic titles Whenever practical, use a faculty member’s full official title on first reference. Endowed professorships are always capitalized; other titles are capitalized only when they appear immediately before a person’s name (e.g., “Rhonda Cobham-Sander, the Emily C. Jordan Folger Professor of Black Studies and English”; “Associate Professor of Biology Josef Trapani”; “Josef Trapani, associate professor of biology”). Do not abbreviate “Professor” as “Prof.” And, though most Amherst professors have doctorates, we generally use the title “Dr.” only for medical doctors.
alumna / alumnae / alumnus / alumni / alum “Alumna” is the feminine singular term for someone who has attended a school; “alumnae” is its plural, meaning multiple women who have attended a school. “Alumnus” is the masculine singular term. “Alumni” is plural, used for multiple men or for a mixed-gender group (so it does not make sense to refer to an individual as “an alumni”). The shortened, gender-neutral forms “alum” and “alums” can be used in less formal contexts. There is no such thing as a “former alumnus”; use simply “alumnus” or “former student.”
Amherst (magazine) The title of the College’s quarterly magazine is simply Amherst (italicized, as all magazine titles are). The title does not include words such as Magazine, Quarterly, Alumni, Bulletin or Notes.
Art and the History of Art What used to be called the Department of Fine Arts, and then the Department of Art and Art History, is now known as the Department of Art and the History of Art.
artist-in-residence / playwright-in-residence / writer-in-residence So hyphenated.
and / & In general, spell out the word “and” rather than using “&” (e.g., “Department of Theater and Dance”; “Archives and Special Collections”; “peanut butter and jelly”). Exceptions are when the official title of an organization, product, business, book, film, etc. includes “&” (e.g., Procter & Gamble; Roger & Me), or when the ampersand is useful for clarity (e.g., “She is a double major in law, jurisprudence & social thought and theater & dance”).
Biddy Martin Though the Amherst College president’s first name is Carolyn, she is almost always identified, even on first reference, by her nickname, Biddy.
Career Center See Loeb Center for Career Exploration and Planning.
College Police The offical name of the College’s police department is Amherst College Police.
commas In most instances, we omit the serial comma (also known as the “Oxford comma”) when making a list within a paragraph (e.g.: “The workshop is open to students, faculty and staff” instead of “The workshop is open to students, faculty, and staff”).
class years Leave the word “class” lowercase (e.g., “the class of 1957”; “members of the class of 2003”; “the class of ’91”; “the most recent graduating class”). Also, note the direction in which the apostrophe curves: “the class of ’19,” not “the class of ‘19.”
College / the College Capitalize the C only within the full name of a specific college (e.g., Hampshire College) or in reference to Amherst College as “the College.” Use a lowercase c when referring to colleges in general (e.g., “She will soon complete her college applications”; “He is the first member of his family to attend college”).
Commencement This is the official name for the ceremony at which students graduate from Amherst. Commencement Weekend is the long weekend of events on campus leading up to and including each year’s Commencement ceremony.
Connecticut River Valley / Pioneer Valley / The Valley “Pioneer Valley” is a colloquial and promotional name for the part of the Connecticut River Valley that runs through Massachusetts—the valley in which Amherst and its surrounding towns are located. Use “Pioneer Valley” only if it is part of the official name of a business or organization. Otherwise, use “Western Massachusetts,” “Connecticut River Valley” or simply “The Valley.”
course titles Place quotation marks around course titles (e.g., “Philosophy of Science”; “Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales”).
dates Here are examples of the various formats we use for dates:
- Tuesday, Aug. 18
Note the comma.
- Aug. 18, 2020
Note the comma.
- The deadline of Aug. 18, 2020, is strictly enforced.
Commas set off the year from the rest of the sentence.
- August 2020
Do not abbreviate the month or use a comma when mentioning only the month and the year.
- Aug. 18
In many contexts, the year is understood and does not need to be included.
- March 18
Do not abbreviate the names of months that have five or fewer letters.
- summer 2020
Do not capitalize the names of seasons.
- the Fall 2020 semester
Do capitalize “Fall” and “Spring” when referring to academic semesters.
dean of the faculty Make sure to include “the” in the middle of the phrase.
department names Capitalize “the Department of _______,” but use lowercase for “the _______ department” (e.g., “This event is sponsored by the Department of History”; “They took many courses in the history department”).
departments / majors / programs This page can help to clarify whether a particular major at Amherst has its own department, exists alongside other majors within the same department, or is a program that might involve courses in multiple departments. Classics, for instance, is a department that offers several different majors, and Amherst has a “neuroscience program” rather than a “neuroscience department.”
emerita / emeritus This term denotes that a retired individual has retained a rank or title. “Emerita” is the feminine form, and “emeritus” is masculine. Place it within the person’s title (e.g., Leah Hewitt, professor emerita of French) except when it is an endowed professorship, in which case it goes after the title and a comma (e.g., William H. Pritchard ’53, the Henry Clay Folger Professor of English, Emeritus).
first-generation student Amherst uses this term for any (self-identifying) student who does not have a parent or guardian who has obtained a four-year college degree within the United States. Do not abbreviate it to “first-gen” unless the context is informal and you are sure that your audience is familiar with the term.
first-year student(s) We generally use the term “first-year student(s)” or “first-year(s),” rather than “freshman” or “freshmen.”
Five College Consortium / Five Colleges, Inc. Spell out the word “Five.” “Five College” is not hyphenated.
Global Education Office Amherst’s study abroad office is now called the Global Education Office or the Office of Global Education.
hyperlinks When inserting a link into online text, there is no need to use a separate phrase such as “Click here” or “Follow this link.” Instead, insert it directly into the phrase that best describes the linked page (e.g., “The Mead Art Museum will be open this week.”)
italics In a departure from Associated Press style (which does not italicize any words), we use italics for the titles of newspapers, magazines, books, plays, boats, newsletters, academic and literary journals, podcasts, radio shows, paintings, museum exhibitions, TV programs, music albums and movies. Words placed in emphasis should also be in italics, not in all caps. Use quotation marks, rather than italics, for the titles of lectures, classes, short stories, news articles, songs and poems. Nothing should be underlined.
Latinx and Latin American Studies This is the name of an interdisciplinary program major established at Amherst in 2017. “Latinx” is a gender-neutral or gender-inclusive term used instead of “Latino” or “Latina.”
Loeb Center for Career Exploration and Planning What used to be called the Career Center is now known as the Loeb Center for Career Exploration and Planning.
Mammoth(s) Amherst College’s mascot is the Mammoth (e.g., “Will a student dress up as the Mammoth?”). The plural should be used in reference to our athletic teams (“the Mammoths are playing against the Ephs”), the idea being that every Amherst athlete is a Mammoth. In a phrase (or a logo depicting a phrase) such as “Mammoths hockey,” do not use an apostrophe after “Mammoths.” The first letter is capitalized when referring to the mascot or athletic teams but lowercase when referring to the actual animal (“The Beneski Museum displays the skeleton of a mammoth”).
Mount Holyoke College Do not abbreviate “Mount” as “Mt.” (except in the college’s web address, mtholyoke.edu, and its email addresses).
names of people In general, after first reference, identify a person by last name only (e.g., Jane Doe ’21 becomes “Doe”; Associate Professor of Economics Jun Ishii becomes “Ishii”). In some cases—such as when multiple people in an article have the same last name or the tone of an article is casual or personal—it might be best to use first names. In any case, be consistent within an article or publication; do not, for example, refer to faculty members by last names and students by first names.
parents The format for identifying someone as a parent of an Amherst student or graduate is illustrated by the following (fictional) example: Lee Smith ’90, P’17 ’20, is a member of the class of 1990 who has children in the classes of 2017 and 2020.
phone numbers When giving a phone number in a piece of writing, always include the area code in parentheses . Use en dashes rather than hyphens between parts of the phone number. E.g.: (413) 542–2927.
Powerhouse The name of the student activity space on the east side of campus, the Powerhouse, is spelled as one word, with a lowercase h.
pronouns The Queer Resource Center offers this guide to personal pronouns as they relate to gender. Make an effort to ask about and use every person’s correct pronouns when speaking and writing. “They,” “them” and “their(s)” are acceptable not only as plural pronouns (as in “The students all said they would return to their dorms”), but also as singular pronouns for a person whose gender is unknown (“Someone left their phone behind when they exited the building”) or for a person who specifically uses those pronouns (“Taylor remembers the day they received their acceptance letter from Amherst”).
Science Center Capitalize this phrase in reference to the science facility built on the east side of campus and opened in fall 2018.
Sexuality, Women’s and Gender Studies What used to be called the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies (abbreviated “WAGS”) is now known as the Department of Sexuality, Women’s and Gender Studies (“SWAGS”).
times of day Here are examples of the formats we use:
- 3:30 a.m.; 3:30 p.m.
Note that “a.m.” and “p.m.” are lowercase, with periods.
- 3 a.m.; 3 p.m.
When a time is exactly on the hour, don’t include the colon and double-zero.
- 1:15 to 3:15 a.m.; 1:15 to 3:15 p.m.
When both times in a range are a.m. or both times are p.m., write “a.m.” or “p.m.” only after the second time.
- 9:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.; 9:15 p.m. to 3:15 a.m.
When one time in a range is a.m. and the other is p.m., make this clear.
- 3:30 in the morning; 3:30 in the afternoon
Including “a.m.” or “p.m.” would be redundant here.
- noon; midnight
To avoid confusion, do not refer to these as “12 p.m.” and “12 a.m.” Also, “12 noon” and “12 midnight” would be redundant.
study abroad See Global Education Office.
Town of Amherst Use this phrase to distinguish the town from the College, and capitalize “Town.” Ordinarily, a reference to a small town would include the state (e.g., “the Sugar Loaf, N.Y., resident”), but in College publications, it is understood that Amherst College and the Town of Amherst are in Massachusetts, so the state need not be listed.
University of Massachusetts Amherst / UMass Though many universities use dashes or commas between the names of the universities and their cities, notice that in this case, there is no punctuation between “Massachusetts” and “Amherst.” The abbreviation “UMass” can be used after first reference, if the tone of the article is not especially formal. Do not put the abbreviation entirely in capital letters (“UMASS”).
upperclass students This term refers to students in the sophomore, junior and senior classes. However, it can be erroneously interpreted as referring to students from higher socioeconomic classes. For that reason, avoid using it except when necessary. In many cases, “sophomores, juniors and seniors” is an effective substitute. Do not use “upperclassman” or “upperclassmen.”