Key Terms and Style


Northeastern’s editorial style for marketing and communications writing adheres to The Associated Press Stylebook. For spelling, style, and usage matters that aren’t covered in The Associated Press Stylebook, please consult Webster’s New World College Dictionary.

We also have unique key terms and style points that we return to again and again to tell our story.

A

academic degrees—If mention of degrees is necessary to establish someone’s credentials, the preferred form is to avoid an abbreviation and use instead a phrase such as: John Jones, who has a doctorate in psychology.
Make sure to use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degreea master’s degree, etc., but do not use the possessive in Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science. Also: an associate degree (no possessive).

Use degree abbreviations only when you need to identify several individuals by degree on first reference would make the preferred form cumbersome. Use these abbreviations only after a full name—never after just a last name. When used after a name, an academic abbreviation is set off by commas: Jane Smith, Ph.D., spoke.

Use Dr. only for people who are physicians.

When mentioning college/school affiliation and year of graduation for students and alumni, use Northeastern style for degrees (DMSB, for example).

accent marks—Northeastern style is to use accent marks per Webster’s New World College Dictionary. Note that the preferred Northeastern spelling of resumé is with an acute accent on the second e.

acronyms for organizations’ names—Follow AP style. The acronym may be used for the second mention of the organization; it’s not necessary to set the acronym in parentheses on first reference.

advisor—Spell with an -or.

African American—Don’t hyphenate compound ethnic terms such as African American, Latin American, Asian American, and Native American.

Asian American—Don’t hyphenate compound ethnic terms such as African American, Asian American, Latin American, and Native American.

B

Big Data—Capitalize the B and the D.

Board of Trustees—Capitalize the B and T when referring to Northeastern’s Board of Trustees. Use lowercase letters when discussing a company’s board.

C

capitalization—Follow AP style. For academic titles, do not capitalize unless the title appears as the official title preceding a person’s name. Use capitals for named professorships: Matthews Distinguished University Professor of Psychology

cellphone—One word, no space.

chair—Northeastern style is to use chair, not chairman or chairwoman.

Charlotte—Use Charlotte by itself in display type when referring to our global university system.

cities—Below is a list of stand-alone U.S. city names, which also appears in the Associated Press Stylebook. For cities not listed below, include the state name. Spell out state names in running copy.

Atlanta

Baltimore

Boston

Charlotte Use only for display type.

Chicago

Cincinnati

Cleveland

Dallas

Denver

Detroit

Honolulu

Houston

Indianapolis

Las Vegas

Los Angeles

Miami

Milwaukee

Minneapolis

New Orleans

New York

Oklahoma City

Philadelphia

Phoenix

Pittsburgh

St. Louis

Salt Lake City

San Antonio

San Diego

San Francisco

Seattle

Washington

Class of—Capitalize the C when referring to a particular class with the year: The Class of 1992 celebrated its reunion.

co-op—Word is hyphenated; refers to cooperative education. Co-op, Northeastern’s signature learning program, integrates classroom study with professional work experience, usually related to a student’s major or field of interest. Northeastern undergraduates can take as many as three, six-month co-op experiences; more than nine out of 10 take at least one. “Co-op” is also commonly used to refer to the work experience itself. Jane did a chemistry co-op at Amgen in California. Many of Northeastern’s professional master’s programs—and increasingly, PhDs—include co-op-like experiences, but these should not be referred to as co-ops. See experiential learning for more.

colleges—To see a full listing of the formal names of colleges at Northeastern, as well as departments and programs, you can visit the Office of the Provost academics page.

Sub-brand Naming Conventions

Brevity and readability are keys to conveying information quickly. That’s why nonessential words like division, department, office, and center should be omitted from the names of these units on signage, stationery, and business cards. Degrees such as MS and PhD can also safely be dropped from program names.

cooperative education—Cooperative is never hyphenated.

course titles—Capitalize course titles following headline style and put them in quotation marks.

courtesy titles—Do not use courtesy titles in running text (Mr., Ms., etc.), except as requested in formal, event-based content. When distinguishing between two people with the same last name—married couples or siblings—use the first and last name on first reference, and first names only after that.

Commencement—Capitalize in all instances when referring to Northeastern’s Commencement. Use commencement lowercase if referring to graduation ceremonies at other institutions.

company names—Follow AP style for external organizations and companies; style company names as the company refers to itself, including ampersands. The AP Stylebook contains a list of major company names as a reference. For internal names of Northeastern departments, research centers, and institutes, do not use the ampersand; spell out and, regardless of how the entity styles its name.

composition titles—Follow Chicago Manual of Style on this point. Use italics for book titles, journal titles, magazine titles, movie titles, play titles, newspaper names, and TV shows—not quotation marks. Use quotation marks for chapter titles, song titles, and poem titles. Note: Capitalize The in a newspaper’s or organization’s name if that is the way the publication prefers to be known: He is a reporter at The New York Times. But use lowercase the before all newspaper names that appear in a list of papers, when some use the as part of the name but others do not. He is a reporter at the New York Post, the Boston Globe, the Financial Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

cyber—Use without a hyphen for any word that begins with a consonant (cybersecurity, cyberterrorist).

D

D’Amore-McKim School of Business—Write out the full name D’Amore-McKim School of Business the first time the school is mentioned. On second reference, it’s acceptable to use D’Amore-McKim, instead of writing out the entire name again. The alumni read about the new D’Amore-McKim program on entrepreneurship. Jane Smith is a second-year D’Amore-McKim student.

daycare—One word, no space.

departments—Capitalize the name of the department only when the proper name is used. For instance, use Department of Biology or the biology department, not the Biology Department.

E

emeritus, emerita, emeriti—An honor earned upon retirement from the faculty or other group (emeritus for a man; emerita for a woman; emeritae for a group of women; emeriti for a group of men or men and women).

enrol—The Canadian spelling of enroll. Use this spelling in our Canadian locations.

experiential learning—Northeastern’s distinctive approach to learning for undergraduate and graduate students alike, and always styled lowercase. Co-op is the flagship experiential program, but by no means the only one. Research, community service, and study abroad are other ways that Northeastern students learn through experience. Students in many professional graduate programs, including some in online or hybrid formats, have opportunities for project-based experiences or corporate residencies. The university is also pushing students to be more aware of what they are learning in their extracurricular activities on campus and defining that as a component of experiential learning. See the Experience section of this guide for additional information.

experiential PhD—The university’s approach to research-based doctoral studies, formally introduced in 2018. Students embed with a partnering company or organization on a project aligned with their own doctoral research.

F

female—Use female as an adjective, NOT woman.
Correct: She is the first female governor of North Carolina.
Incorrect: She is the first woman governor.

G

gender—Respect a person’s chosen personal pronoun. Some transgender and gender-expansive people identify as he, she, or ze, but some may identify as both male and female or neither. When writing about people who identify as neither male nor female or ask not to be referred to as he/she/him/her, use the person’s name in place of a pronoun, or otherwise reword the sentence whenever possible. If the person prefers to use the pronouns they/them/their, then explain in the text that the person prefers a gender-neutral pronoun (For example, Jordan prefers a gender-neutral pronoun). Be sure that your phrasing does not imply more than one person.

For gender-specific terms and titles, use the gender-neutral version. For example, use chair instead of chairmanmail carrier instead of mailman, and fire fighter instead of fireman.

When referring to Northeastern graduates, we recommend using the word alumni because it’s nonbinary. If your audience particularly prefers a more expansive use of gender-neutral language, you may use alumnx instead.

gender bias—Use gender-neutral language: actor, not actress. Anchor, not anchorman or anchorwoman. For the Board of Trustees list, use chair, not chairman or chairwoman.

global university system—This term describes Northeastern’s expansion of its research and education enterprise around the world. The system comprises the university’s locations in Boston; Charlotte, North Carolina; London; the San Francisco Bay Area; Seattle; Toronto; and Vancouver. It also includes our 255,000 alumni around the world, our 3,000 co-op partners, corporate learning partners, and research collaborators. The term global university system is not branded and should be lowercased when used.

H

healthcare—One word, no space for use as a noun or adjective.

Homecoming—Capitalize when referring to the Northeastern event held each fall.

Honors Living Learning Community—Capitalize the name of Northeastern’s Honors Living Learning Community (LLC).

honors student—Use a lowercase h unless using the full name of the University Honors Program.

humanics—a curriculum that Northeastern has pioneered and is adopting universitywide under its 10-year academic plan, Northeastern 2025. Humanics is a model that enables learners to understand and apply knowledge of the highly technical world around them while building their capacity for creativity and mental agility. As outlined in Robot-Proof by Northeastern president Joseph E. Aoun, learners will need to master these knowledge areas—which he refers to as human, data, technological literacies—in order to be successful in an age of increasingly intelligent machines.

Below are three options for describing humanics:

  • Northeastern is pioneering humanics, a unique curriculum designed to prepare students to thrive in an age of increasingly intelligent machines. We integrate three areas of learning: human literacies, such as teamwork, creativity, and empathy; data literacies, the ability to make meaning out of the sea of information being generated by the digital world; and technological literacies, to understand the possibilities and limitations of new technologies.
  • Humanics, Northeastern’s unique curriculum, integrates human literacies—such as teamwork and creativity—with knowledge of data and emerging technologies, empowering students to thrive in an age of artificial intelligence.
  • Humanics integrates learning in technological, data, and human literacies, empowering students in an age of artificial intelligence.

Huskies—Northeastern’s nickname. Use only when referring to an athletic team.

hyphenated compounds in headlines—Use these guidelines for capitalizing hyphenated terms in a title or heading:

  • Always capitalize the first word in the heading.
  • Capitalize subsequent words except for articles, prepositions, or conjunctions (such as and, but, for, or, nor).
  • If the first element is a prefix or combining form that could not stand by itself as a word (anti, pre, etc.), do not capitalize the second element unless it’s a proper noun or proper adjective.
  • Capitalize the second element in a hyphenated simple fraction (two-thirds in two-thirds majority).
    Examples: What It Takes to Write a Best-Seller; Self-Fulfilling Prophecies; Anti-intellectualism in Modern Life

I

institute names—It’s preferable to use the full name of the research center or institute on first reference, and the institute on subsequent references. If you have a limited word count or you’re writing about several institutes repeatedly, then acronyms may be used on subsequent reference. The recommended acronyms for our interdisciplinary institutes are as follows:

Institute for Chemical Imaging of Living Systems—CILS
Coastal Sustainability Institute—CSI
Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute—CPI
Institute for Experiential Robotics—IER
Global Resilience Institute—GRI
Kostas Research Institute LLC—KRI
Network Science Institute—NSI
Institute for the Wireless Internet of Things—WIOT

internet—Use a lowercase i.

internet of things—Use a lowercase i and t.

italics—Follow Chicago Manual of Style on this point. Use italics for book titles, journal titles, magazine titles, play titles, newspaper names, and TV shows—not quotation marks. Use quotation marks for chapter titles, song titles, and poem titles. Note: Capitalize the in a newspaper’s or organization’s name if that’s the way the publication prefers to be known: i.e. He is a reporter at The New York Times.

L

Latin American—Don’t hyphenate compound ethnic terms such as African American, Asian American, Latin American, and Native American.

lecturer, senior lecturer, principal lecturer—Note that these terms are not proper nouns, so they do not require capitalization.

lifelong learning—Use lowercase l.

M

majors—Academic majors should appear in lowercase, except for any proper nouns that are part of the major’s name. Use combined major, not dual major or double major.

millennial—Use lowercase letters for this term.

months—When a month is coupled with a specific date, abbreviate only these months of the year: Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. Exceptions to this rule may be made when the specific date appears in display type, as in a poster or advertisement. In formal invitations, always spell out the name of the month.

more than, over, older than—Over refers to spatial relationships: The plane flew over the village. Use more than to discuss quantity or numeric amounts: She donated more than $5,000 this year. When referring to age, use older than: All students older than 18 may attend the event.

most important—NOT most importantly.

N

Native American—Don’t hyphenate compound ethnic terms such as African American, Asian American, Latin American, and Native American.

NEU, neu—Never use this outdated abbreviation. In external communications, including website copy, use Northeastern or Northeastern University. If you must use an abbreviation, use NU—and then, only for internal communications. (For exceptions, see NU, below.)

Northeastern vs. Northeastern University–In narrative copy, use “Northeastern University” on first reference for external audiences, and “Northeastern” on subsequent references. For internal audiences, including alumni, “Northeastern” can be used on first reference.

NU—Use only in the following contexts: social media icons, student groups, and informal correspondence.

numerals—Spell out numbers one through nine; use numerals for 10 and above. Formal publications, such as invitations from the Office of the President and the Commencement program, should spell out numerals 10 to 99 (at ten o’clock in the afternoon). See the AP Stylebook for detailed rules on numerals.

numeric rangeFor the sake of parallel construction, the word to, not an en dash, should be used if the word from precedes the first element in a pair. Likewise, and, not an en dash, should be used if between precedes the first element.

These constructions are correct: The years 1993–2000 were exciting ones for Northeastern students. She attended Northeastern from 2000 to 2005. This construction is incorrect: He worked at Northeastern from 2008–2011.

P
page numbers—Use a lowercase p and an Arabic numeral: He turned to the story on page 8. 

phone numbers—Use periods (not hyphens or parentheses). In address constructions, do not include “(phone)” as an identifier. If multiple phone numbers are offered, include identifiers in parentheses only as needed to improve clarity. Include “(fax)” to distinguish from phone number.

617.373.5000
617.373.5001 (cell)
617.373.5100 (fax)

postdoctoral—One word, no hyphen.

professor of the practice, distinguished professor of the practice—Note that these are not proper nouns so they do not require capitalization. In addition, a faculty member may be referred to as a professor of the practice of [academic discipline]: She is a professor of the practice of journalism.

Public Art Initiative—Capitalize the P, the A, and the I when referring to Northeastern’s presidential initiative, launched in 2014, to bring more art to public spaces campuswide.

Punctuation 

ampersand—Do not use the ampersand as part of any internal Northeastern department, major, college, school, or center name; spell out and. Use the ampersand only for external organizations if it is an official part of the company name.

em dash—Do not use spaces—before or after—the em dash in either online or printed material. Example: Richard’s first boat—a 10-foot sailboat—fueled his lifelong interest in being at sea.

en dash—Use en dash for numeric ranges. Example: 5–10 samples.

hyphens—Follow AP style. Use a hyphen following the prefix co when applied to occupation or status.

phone numbers—Use periods (not hyphens or parentheses). In address constructions, do not include “(phone)” as an identifier. If multiple phone numbers are offered, include identifiers in parentheses only as needed to improve clarity. Include “(fax)” to distinguish from phone number.

617.373.5000
617.373.5001 (TTY)
617.373.5100 (fax)

serial comma—Use a serial comma before the word and when listing a series of items. Example: scallops, oysters, and clams.

R
R & D—May be used as an abbreviation for research and development.

residence hall—Not dormitory or dorm.

resumé—Use an acute accent on the final e.

S
seasons—Lowercase spring, summer, fall, and winter, unless it’s part of a formal name: Winter Olympics. Use lowercase when referring to academic terms: fall semester, spring quarter.

servicemembers—One word, no hyphen.

state names—Spell out state names that follow the name of a city or town; do not abbreviate state names in running text. Example: He works at Northeastern’s Marine Science Center in Nahant, Massachusetts (not Nahant, Mass.) Certain major city names should continue to stand alone in running text. Example: Following graduation, she continued to live in Boston. Refer to the “cities” entry above for a list of these stand-alone city names.

street names—Spell out street, avenue, etc. when the street name stands alone. Abbreviate the street name when it’s part of an address. Example: The group of students was looking for 360 Huntington Ave.

student-athleteHyphenate this term.

T
time—Use a.m. and p.m. in copy, except for the most formal presidential invitations where in the morning or in the afternoon should be used: at four o’clock in the afternoon.

toward—Not towards.

U
university—The word university should appear as lowercase when it refers to Northeastern.

universitywide—Do not hyphenate this word.

University Honors Program—Capitalize the name of Northeastern’s honors program, but use lowercase for honors student.

use-inspired research—The intent and purpose behind all research at Northeastern. Even when our faculty are seeking to solve a fundamental problem within their discipline—so-called “basic” research—their goal is to yield a discovery that will unlock the solution to a specific societal problem.

W

web—Use a lowercase w when referring to the World Wide Web.

website—The word website should appear as one word, all lowercase.

-wide—Do not use a hyphen (campuswide, nationwide, statewide, universitywide).

www—Note that not all links work without the “www” prefix. It is important to check all links before you publicize a URL, and to confirm a URL works without the “www.” For ease of readability, use the briefest URL that will work.

Web Style 

email—Spell email without hyphens or initial capital letter.

em dash—Do not use spaces—before or after—the em dash in either online or printed material. Example: Richard’s first boat—a 10-foot sailboat—fueled his lifelong interest in being at sea.

neu—Avoid neu.edu construction for university URLs. Do not use NEU to refer to Northeastern in any communications.

phone numbers—Use periods (not hyphens or parentheses). In address constructions, do not include “(phone)” as an identifier. If multiple phone numbers are offered, include identifiers in parentheses only as needed to improve clarity. Include “(fax)” to distinguish from phone number.

617.373.5000
617.373.5001
617.373.5100 (fax)

URLs—URLs should be broken after the slash or before the period when they don’t fit entirely on one line. Do not use a hyphen to indicate a break in a URL. Lead-in copy before a URL is unnecessary. Do not use constructions such as: For more information, visit northeastern.edu/experience.

website—This word should appear as one word, all lowercase. When referring to the World Wide Web, use a lowercase w (web).