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.  

accent marks / diacritical characters  Whenever possible, ascertain and use the correct accent marks and punctuation within words and phrases, especially personal names and place names (e.g., Professor Rick López; Professor Klára Móricz; São Paulo, Brazil; University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa; “résumé”; “quinceañera”). Be aware that some websites and databases (including Amherst’s own) may omit these marks or display them inconsistently. Try to ask the person directly (if it’s a person’s name), or consult a dictionary, encyclopedia or translation site.

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 “former alumni”; use simply “alumni” or “former students.”

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.

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”). 

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.

capitalization of identity terms Capitalize “Black,” “Indigenous” and “Native” when referring to racial or ethnic identities. (But do not capitalize “native” when it simply means “born in or originally from [a place]”—e.g., “He is native to Florida but moved to Massachusetts for college.”) Do not capitalize “white” or “brown” as racial categories. “Deaf” is often capitalized in reference to elements of Deaf culture (such as the use of American Sign Language), but usually lowercase when describing the physiological condition of deafness. “Pride” is capitalized in reference to celebrations of LGBTQ+ identity (e.g., “the Pride parade”), but the terms “lesbian,” “gay,” “transgender,” etc. are usually lowercase. 

Career Center See Loeb Center for Career Exploration and Planning.

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”).

College Police The offical name of the College’s police department is Amherst College Police.

commas In new stories and certain publications, 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”). But the Oxford comma is used on the College’s website and by many departments. 

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, 2022 
    Note the comma.
  • The deadline of Aug. 18, 2022, is strictly enforced. 
    Commas set off the year from the rest of the sentence.
  • August 2022 
    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 2022 
    Do not capitalize the names of seasons.
  • the Fall 2022 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 The Majors 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.”

disability  As with other personal details or aspects of identity, mention a person’s disability or medical condition only if it is relevant to the story or to the purpose of the document. If possible, ask the person how they would prefer their condition to be named or described (e.g., “blind” vs. “visually impaired” vs. “low vision”; “autistic person” vs. “person with autism”). Use neutral, nonjudgmental terminology; avoid using euphemisms or phrases that connote pity (e.g., “disabilities” rather than “special needs”; “They have epilepsy” rather than “They suffer from epilepsy”; “She uses a wheelchair” rather than “She is confined to a wheelchair”). Services, objects and architectural features colloquially called “handicapped” or “disabled” or “special” can often more accurately be described in terms of accessibility (e.g., “accessible parking,” “wheelchair-accessible restrooms”).

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, essays, 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”). 

Michael A. Elliott ’92  Note that the new (20th) president of Amherst College is an alumnus from the class of 1992 and that his surname is spelled with two l's and two t's.

Mount Holyoke College  Do not abbreviate “Mount” as “Mt.” (except in the college’s web address,, and its email addresses).

name changes  If someone you are writing about has changed their name, use only their current name; don’t mention the previous name without the person’s permission. Some people may be uncomfortable with any references to their former names. In some cases, revealing a previous name may undermine a person’s privacy or safety.

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, ’24, is a member of the class of 1990 who has children in the classes of 2017 and 2024.

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.

POC / BIPOC  “POC” stands for “people of color”; it is an umbrella term for people who are not white. “BIPOC” stands for “Black, Indigenous and people of color”; it is also a broad term, but it places emphasis on Black and Indigenous identities and experiences. When writing about a known individual, or an issue that pertains to a particular group, it is usually better to name the relevant identity specifically (e.g., “opportunities for Black students in STEM,” “internment of Japanese Americans during World War II,” “the author is Lakota”) than to use a broad, general term.

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”).

study abroad  See Global Education Office.

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.

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.”