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Exceptions to AP Style

OSU follows The Associated Press style with only a few exceptions.


Buying the most recent edition of The Associated Press Stylebook or signing up at can prevent spills down the most slippery of stylistic slopes.

Academic degrees

Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Doctorate or Ph.D. are the preferred terms when noting a degree held. Associate degree doesn’t need an apostrophe because it’s singular and not possessive.


Exception to AP style: OSU can use Dr. in the first reference of any individual who holds a true doctorate of any kind — M.D., DVM, Ph.D., Ed.D., etc. Do not continue the use of Dr. in subsequent references.


Advisor or Adviser?

Advisor is a word you hear quite a bit around a university – and we use it often in marketing/communications pieces, too. And while we typically toe the party line when it comes to AP style around here, we are making an exception for this word, given that their professional association prefers the spelling to be “advisor.” Let’s all get on the same page, so to speak. It’s advisor at OSU, not adviser.



In order to maintain consistency across all campus entities, OSU editorial guidelines require the use of the word “and” rather than the ampersand symbol (&) in the titles of colleges, departments, divisions, etc., as well as in all editorial copy.



Following AP style, OSU does not capitalize academic departments and campus offices unless they contain a proper noun or unless they are part of the official name.


The department of history; the purchasing department; the department of English; the Oklahoma State University Department of Chemistry; the office of the president; the university; Oklahoma State University.


Capitalize formal titles (those that indicate authority, usually governmental) used before a name. Lowercase titles that are set off by commas, titles not used with a name and titles that refer to occupation.


The club president, Eaton, brandished the gavel.
With great diplomacy, President Joe Eaton cultivated a relationship between OSU and other countries.
The president cultivated a relationship between OSU and other countries.
Students enjoyed professor Eaton’s class.


AP views the term professor as an occupation and therefore lowercase before a name.
AP style does call for the capitalization of Professor Emeritus as a conferred title before a name. In compliance with that guideline, Regents Professor should also be capitalized as a conferred title before a name:


Regents Professor Frank Eaton, Professor Emeritus Frank Eaton. (Note: It is not disrespectful to lowercase titles. Plus names are easier to read without them.)


The full names of endowed chairs are also capitalized on first reference:


The V. Brown Monnett Chair in Petroleum Geology, the Bryan Close Professor in Human Development and Family Science, the Hannah D. Adkins Endowed Chair for Political Science and Government Information.



OSU follows AP style, which mandates no comma before the “and” in a simple series. “This, that and the other thing” is correct, but “this, that, and that other thing” is not.
Use a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series, however, not if an integral element of the series requires a conjunction: I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast.


Also use a comma before “and” if you’re linking what could be two full, separate sentences: He did this, and she did that. But: He did this and she that.


Dash (—) vs. hyphen (-)

Long dashes are typed with a space before and after — just like that. Hyphens are used to consolidate things, so to speak, and so, there are no spaces: 2-4 p.m., for example. Hyphens are used to connect two or more words into a single concept. Dashes are used to indicate an interruption, especially in transcribed speech.



Place descriptive words and phrases close to the word described to avoid confusion.


Eaton ran after the bus dragging the bag on the pavement (incorrect if Eaton is dragging the bag; correct if the bus is dragging the bag).
Eaton walked to the bus on the cellphone (incorrect).
Talking on the cellphone, Eaton walked to the bus (correct).


Please note in construction like this:


Talking on the cellphone, Eaton walked to the bus (correct).


That the subject (Eaton) is doing what is described. This type of construction is not correct:


After considering many applicants, Eaton got the job. (Eaton didn’t consider the applicants — he was an applicant.)


Passive construction

Active sentence structure places the subject in the subject position. Passive voice lengthens and confuses the sentence by using phrases to move the subject after the verb.


Passive: Eaton was appointed director by the committee.
Active: The committee appointed Eaton director.


Passive: The Eaton study was awarded a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
Active: The National Science Foundation awarded the Eaton study a $1 million grant.



For instances not dealt with below, consult the AP Stylebook entry on “possessives.”
Plural nouns not ending in s, add ’s: the alumni’s contributions, women’s rights.
Plural nouns ending in s, add only an apostrophe: the churches’ needs, the girls’ toys, states’ rights.


Nouns plural in form but singular in meaning, add only an apostrophe: mathematics’ rules, measles’ effects. Apply the same principle when a plural word occurs in the formal name of a singular entity: General Motors’ profits, the United States’ wealth.


Nouns the same in singular and plural are treated the same as plurals, even if the meaning is singular: one corps’ location, the two deer’s tracks, the lone moose’s antlers.


Singular nouns not ending in s, add ’s: the church’s needs, the girl’s toys, the horse’s food, the ship’s route, the VIP’s seat.


Singular common nouns ending in s, add ’s: the hostess’s invitation, the hostess’s seat; the witness’s answer, the witness’s story.


Singular proper names ending in s, use only an apostrophe: Achilles’ heel, Agnes’ book, Ceres’ rites, Descartes’ theories, Dickens’ novels, Euripides’ dramas, Hercules’ labors, Jesus’ life, Jules’ seat, Kansas’ schools.



Pronoun reference problems occur when the pronoun doesn’t agree in number with the noun it references.


The department listed a job opening in their accounting office (incorrect: the department is singular).
The department listed a job opening in its accounting office (correct).


State names

When writing a state name, OSU will spell out the state name per AP style. Remaining consistent with AP style, a state name appearing alone in text should be spelled out. Cities that don’t need a state name in a dateline (ex. Oklahoma City, Dallas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, etc. — see “datelines entry” in the AP Stylebook) don’t need a state name in the body of a story, chart, photo caption, etc. Oklahoma cities that don’t need Oklahoma: Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Stillwater. Miami, Oklahoma, needs Oklahoma in all references.



OSU uses both italics and quotation marks, depending on the works we are referencing. Titles of books, magazines, albums, movies, television shows, paintings, boats, airplanes and other large stand-alone works go in italic. Titles of smaller works such as poems, song titles, articles and chapters go in quotation marks.


The song “Your Favorite Song” is on The Best Album of All Time.
The professor wrote the article called “Getting Ahead in Academia” that ran in the Chronicle of Higher Education.



University is always lower case on second reference when it stands alone.


Parking on Oklahoma State University’s campus can be challenging. But the university is working on it.



OSU continues to follow AP in the use of “web,” “internet,” “homepage,” “website,” “online” and “email” and in the capitalization of “World Wide Web.”


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