SHSU Editorial Style Guide

The SHSU Editorial Style Guide is a tool to help university communicators maintain uniformity in writing and follow a style that is consistent and appropriate for print and online materials. Our team has incorporated basic rules for writing in this style guide using The Associated Press Stylebook and Webster’s New World College Dictionary as primary references. Integrated Marketing Communications adheres to AP style for word usage, spelling, grammar and punctuation, with a few exceptions that are unique to SHSU. 

Please feel free to contact us with any questions or suggestions.

Thank you,

Emily Binetti, Director of Content Communications  936.294.4406

SHSU Editorial Style Guide


A, An

Use the article “a” before consonant sounds and “an” before vowel sounds:

  • a historic event
  • an honorable person (the h is silent)
  • an SHSU student (when sounded out S is used)

Academic Ceremonies

Major college ceremonies, events and named activities are capitalized.

  • Commencement (do not refer to the ceremonies as graduation)
  • Convocation (held in August to open the academic year)
  • Ring Ceremony
  • Raven’s Call
  • Sammypalooza
  • Founders Day
  • Firefest
  • Tree of Light
  • Homecoming

But the same words are lowercase when they refer not to one specific event but to such events as general occurrences:

  • Successful reunions depend on alumni loyalty.
  • Old-fashioned homecomings are popular.

Academic Degrees

  1. Academic Degrees: The preferred style is to spell out all degrees offered by the university: bachelor’s degree instead of BA or BS; master’s degree instead of MA or MS, doctoral degree instead of PhD.

    Use abbreviations if spelling out the degree is unwieldy or space is limited. Lowercase all academic degrees except when using the abbreviations. Using the word “degree” after the title is strongly preferred for clarity.
    Example: bachelor’s degree, bachelor of arts degree, BA degree, master’s degree, doctoral degree, Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography, Master of Arts in English, Master of Business Administration, etc.

    Doctoral degree includes Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Doctor of Education (EdD) and other academic credentials. The word “degree” is not used after “doctorate.” Use Dr. in first reference as a formal title before the name of an individual who holds a doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathic medicine.

  2. Some degrees often drop periods in modern usage. If, for example, MBA is used in a publication, it is preferable to drop the periods in other degrees mentioned. SHSU drops the periods in these cases.
    Example: BA and MBA
  3. Use italics for summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude.
  4. Academic Credentials: Generally, avoid listing degrees after a person’s name (otherwise it can lead to alphabet soup). However, you may spell out his or her degree or provide a description.
    Example: Susan Jones, who holds a doctoral degree ... ; Dr. Charles Henley, who holds a medical degree ... If it is essential to your communication to indicate doctoral designations, do so after the name by adding PhD, DO, EdD.

Academic Subjects

Lowercase the names of subject areas in text, unless the name is a proper noun, such as French.


Preferred spelling, although both adviser and advisor are acceptable.


alumnus – male, singular
alumna – female, singular
alumni – neutral, plural
alumnae – female, plural

Alumni Association

Sam Houston State University
First reference: Sam Houston State University Alumni Association
Second reference: SHSU Alumni Association

First reference: Student Alumni Association
Second reference: SAA

Alumni Center

First reference: John R. Ragsdale Alumni Center
Second reference: SHSU Alumni Center


Do not use “&” in place of “and” in running text. Avoid using the ampersand (&) except in specific business names (e.g., Tiffany & Co.) specific college names or departments (College of Arts & Media) or to shorten web menu headings.

Applied Anatomical Research Center

The Applied Anatomical Research Center at Sam Houston State University. A research facility with a predominant focus on the study of applications of forensic sciences to the human body. SHSU is one of seven Human Decomposition Facilities in the world—six in the USA.

Athletic Facilities

Elliott T. Bowers Stadium – Football
Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum – Basketball
Bearkat Softball Stadium
Kelly & Ina May McAdams Tennis Center
Meredith & Miriam York Track and Field Center
Joseph Pritchett Field – Soccer
The Woodforest Bank Athletics Center
The Brian and Danielle Osterhaus Training and Rehabilitation Center
Ron Mafrige Field House

Austin Hall

First used in October 1852, Austin Hall is the oldest continuously used state-owned higher education facility west of the Mississippi.


Battle of the Piney Woods (BOTPW)

One of the oldest rivalries in the state of Texas, the Battle of the Piney Woods pits the SHSU Bearkats against the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks. The Bearkats versus the Lumberjacks rivalry dates back to 1923 when the first game was held in Huntsville. Today, the game is played at NRG Stadium in Houston, and to date, Sam Houston holds a 58-34-2 edge in the series.


The university mascot.

Bearkat Alley

The alumni tailgate area next to Bowers Stadium.

Bearkat Course

Formerly the Raven Nest Golf Club. A daily-fee course operated by the Sam Houston State PGA Golf Management program.

Bearkat Plaza

See Frank Parker Plaza

Bell Tower

The Ruth and Ron Blatchley Bell Tower.

Board of Regents

The Texas State University System is governed by a nine-member Board of Regents appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. Board terms are staggered so that three members of the Board are appointed every two years during the legislative session. A non-voting student regent is also appointed annually to the board for a one-year term.


Capitalize the word “building” as part of the name: the Dan Rather Communications Building. When referring to a room in a building, give the building’s name and the room number and capitalize “Room”: Pirkle, Room 234.

For the academic buildings with numerical identification, use Roman numerals. (i.e. Academic Building III, Academic Building IV)



Brian McCall, is the chancellor of the Texas State University System, the first university system established in Texas, comprising seven institutions with more than 86,000 students and 16,000 faculty and staff.


Use this term to describe the head of an academic department at Sam Houston State. This is a deviation from AP style, which prefers chairman or chairwoman. Do not use those terms unless they are part of an official title.

Chair, endowed

A professor who holds the chair in a discipline should be referred to as the professor of the discipline, keeping the name of the chair capitalized, even in shortened casual references. Example: Peter Roussell, Philip G. Warner Endowed Chair in Mass Communication, led the discussion, or Peter Roussell holds the Philip G. Warner Endowed Chair in Mass Communication.

Chief Diversity Officer

Spell out on first reference. Second reference: CDO

Class Ring

First reference: Official SHSU Class Ring
Second reference: SHSU Class Ring

Class Years

When writing the year out fully, capitalize “class.” Example: The 800 members of the Class of 2020 arrived on campus yesterday

Note: An apostrophe is not a single opening quote. In other words, if the punctuation curls toward the right, it’s wrong. If its tail is pointing left, it’s right. 2009 becomes ’09 (not ‘09)


Capitalize when used before a name: Coach K.C. Keeler. Lowercase in all other uses.


Capitalize the name of each college:
College of Business Administration (COBA)
College of Criminal Justice (CJ)
College of Education (COE)
College of Arts & Media (CAM)
College of Health Sciences (COHS)
College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS)
College of Science & Engineering Technology (COSET)
College of Osteopathic Medicine (COM)

The abbreviation for each college may be used after the second reference.


SHSU holds three commencement ceremonies for graduate and undergraduate students: Spring, Summer and Fall.

In Commencement stories, say "crossing the graduation stage" instead of "walking across the graduation stage." This keeps your content inclusive of individuals with very levels of physical ability.

Common Reader

The overarching goal of the Common Reader Program is to provide a campus-wide common intellectual experience, leading to informed and educated perspectives about complex subjects.

Course work

Two words. Not coursework.


Date and Time

Always spell out days of the week, unless being used in a compact, tabbed format (such as a schedule of courses or calendar). Example: Judy’s final exam is on Wednesday, May 12. Note: In tabular formats where space is limited, abbreviate days: Monday (M), Tuesday (T), Wednesday (W), Thursday (Th), Friday (F), Saturday (Sa), Sunday (Su) – without periods. Spell out months when standing alone or used with a year. Abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. when used with a specific date. (March, April, May, June and July are always spelled out). Always use periods in “a.m.” and “p.m.” when specifying a time. Use a colon when referencing a certain time within the hour. Example: December is Cathy’s favorite month. Pat’s class starts on Aug. 21 at 10:30 a.m.

Daylight Saving Time

Not savings and do not capitalize.


Capitalize when used as a formal title before a name: Dean Phillip Lyons. Lowercase otherwise: Mitchell Muehsam, dean of the College of Business Administration.

Dean’s List

Should always be lowercase when used in a sentence.


Capitalize the formal names of departments and offices; do not capitalize informal names and incomplete designations:

  • Department of Accounting
  • Department of Economics and International Business
  • Department of General Business and Finance
  • Department of Management and Marketing
  • Department of Educational Leadership
  • Department of Counselor Education
  • Department of Library Science
  • Department of Art
  • Department of Dance
  • Department of Theatre and Musical Theatre
  • Department of Communication Studies
  • Department of English
  • Department of World Languages and Cultures
  • Department of History
  • Department of Political Science
  • Department of Psychology and Philosophy
  • Department of Sociology
  • Department of Biological Sciences
  • Department of Chemistry
  • Department of Computer Science
  • Department of Geography and Geology
  • Department of Mathematics and Statistics
  • Department of Population Health
  • Department of Family and Consumer Sciences
  • Department of Kinesiology
  • Department of Nursing
  • Department of Military Science (ROTC)


See Academic Degrees

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Spell out on first reference. Second reference: DE&I


Capitalize the names of all university divisions:
Academic Affairs
Finance & Operations
Strategic Enrollment and Innovation
Student Affairs
University Advancement


Refrain from using the word “donation” in copy. Instead, refer to as: gifts/giving, support/supporting, and sometimes contributions/contributing.


East Texas

Capitalize both words when referring to this region.

Eat ’em up Kats

Said to show Bearkat pride.


An honorary title bestowed after retirement.


Frank Parker Plaza

Formerly known as Bearkat Plaza, The Mall, and The Yard. Frank Parker Plaza or Parker Plaza is the open, outdoor space situated on the south side of the Lowman Student Center between the Lowman Student Center and the Lee Drain building. It extends in length from the east near the Sam Houston statue and to the west toward the Blatchley Bell Tower.


General’s Market

An all-you-can-eat dining facility on the south end of campus. This facility houses independent dining stations, where all the food is stored, prepared and cooked right in front of you.

Grade point average

Do not hyphenate or put periods in the initials GPA.

Greek Life

Capital G, Capital L


Refer to as Gaertner Performing Arts Center on first reference. GPAC is acceptable on second reference.


Heritage Magazine

The official magazine of Sam Houston State University.


Capitalize when referring to Sam Houston State University’s Homecoming. Lowercase in general use: Kathy looked forward to her son’s homecoming.



The KatApp app brings the SHSU Alumni Association to a smart phone. Available for Apple and Android devices.


The emergency notification system used by the university.


Life Member

Always use a capital L and capital M


Sam Houston State University has three locations:

  • Sam Houston State University
  • The Woodlands Center
  • College of Osteopathic Medicine


Refer to as Lowman Student Center on first reference. LSC is acceptable on second reference.


March to the Grave

This event has been a SHSU Tradition since 1893, in celebration of Sam Houston’s birthday on March 2. Faculty, staff, students and alumni march from Old Main Pit down University Avenue to Sam Houston’s grave site, where a ceremony is held.

Member Statement

Member Texas State University System. This statement is used in all external university communications.


The SHSU motto is “The measure of a Life is its Service.” The “m” in measure is always lowercase.


Always refer to as Sam Houston Memorial Museum.



Refer to as Newton Gresham Library on first reference. NGL is acceptable on second reference.


Follow AP style for numerals. Spell out whole numbers less than 10 and use figures for 10 and higher.

For four-digit numbers, use a comma to separate thousands from hundreds, except when in addresses.

Spell out the word “percent.” Use figures when stating percentages, no matter the number, except at the beginning of a sentence.


Old Main

Old Main was a two-story, Victorian Gothic building that contained classrooms, administrative offices, and, on the second floor, the Memorial Auditorium. Facing downtown Huntsville, it was the first permanent building constructed by the state for teacher training, described in a 1983 memorial brochure as “the most beautiful building owned by the State of Texas.” It was destroyed by fire in 1982.

Old Main Market

Located just behind Belvin-Buchanan Hall, Old Main Market is a cafeteria style with a fresh food concept—that is a restaurant with no kitchen. This facility houses independent dining stations, where all the food is stored, prepared and cooked right in front of you.

Orange Keys

The Orange Keys are official ambassadors of SHSU and serve as hosts for university functions such as banquets, luncheons, meetings, speakers, visitation days and career fairs.


Parker Plaza

See Frank Parker Plaza

Phone Numbers

The preferred method of writing 10-digit phone numbers is to use periods in the place of parentheses and dashes.
Example: 936.294.1833.

Piney Woods

The City of Huntsville is located in the Piney Woods region of East Texas. The forests stretch across eastern Texas, northwestern Louisiana and Southwestern Arkansas.


Capitalize before a name: President Alisa White. But lowercase elsewhere: Alisa White, president of Sam Houston State University; the president of the university.


Raven’s Call

The ceremony has been an annual campus tradition since 2012 and honors the lives of fallen students, faculty and staff who have passed away within the previous year.

Residence Hall

Not dormitory or dorm.


Sammy the Bearkat

The official mascot of SHSU.


Do not capitalize winter, spring, summer or fall, unless part of a formal name: Winter Olympics. Do not capitalize seasons as part of an academic period: spring semester, spring break, spring 2019.

School Colors

The official colors for Sam Houston State University are orange and white.

SHSU Online

Two words.



If you’re using which properly, it typically is preceded by a comma:

  • The announcement about his department’s hiring efforts, which was reported in the media, pleased the director
  • The director was pleased with the announcement in the media that reported on his department’s hiring efforts.


Use this spelling in all references.


Job titles that precede a name should always be capitalized.
Job titles that follow a name should always be lowercase.


The name of SHSU’s news website is one word.


A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, design or a combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods/services of one party from those of others.

SHSU Federal Trademarks

  • Sam Houston®
  • Sam Houston State University®
  • SHSU®

The registered mark symbol ® should be used in connection with these marks only for trademark use (that is, when using the mark as an adjective, not as a noun, not when referring to the university itself).
For example:

  • Correct—SHSU® jewelry, SAM HOUSTON® educational services, Sam Houston State University® athletic apparel (the marks serve as an adjective to the generic or descriptive words that follow).
  • Incorrect—Sam Houston State University® was established in 1879, SHSU® offers the best education, Sam Houston® is located in Huntsville (here, the wording is referring to the entity itself, so that is not proper trademark usage).



On first reference, Sam Houston State University. On subsequent references, use Sam Houston State, Sam Houston or SHSU.

When using as a standalone word, do not capitalize the word “University.”
Example: The university will begin fall registration on April 4.

University Trademark

Please refer to “What is a Trademark” section in the SHSU Brand Guide.


Refer to as Sam Houston State University Police Department on first reference. UPD is acceptable on second reference.


Western Athletic Conference

Sam Houston State University joined the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) a NCAA Division I conference, in 2021. The WAC covers a broad expanse of the western United States with member institutions located in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Utah and Washington, along with the Midwest state of Illinois and the Southern state of Texas. SHSU is one of 12 institutions in the WAC which includes: Abilene Christian University, California Baptist University, Chicago State University, Dixie State University, Grand Canyon University, Lamar University, New Mexico State University, Seattle University, Tarleton State University, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Utah Valley University.