The grammar and editorial guide will help you communicate in a clear and consistent way when writing for the campus audience or PCC community.

We generally follow the AP Style Guide. This list includes some exceptions, extra important topics and PCC specific guidelines. For issues not addressed here, look to the AP Style Guide for more information.


As a general rule, you should avoid using what the Associated Press Stylebook calls “alphabet soup" — too many abbreviations. You should not use abbreviations or acronyms that your readers will not readily or quickly recognize. 

There are few universally recognized abbreviations that are required in some circumstances. Some others are acceptable depending on the context. All other abbreviations should be avoided.

Acceptable Abbreviations:

Academic Degrees

1. Spell out a degree on first formal use and then use the abbreviation without periods.

  • Associate in Arts, AA degree
  • Associate in Science, AS degree
  • John Jones, who has an Associate in Science degree, joined the Parsons Corporation.

2. There is no possessive in associate degree. Use lowercase when not referring to a specific area of study.

  • Sue earned her associate degree from Pasadena City College.

Academic Titles

1. Capitalize a title before a name. If a title appears before a name, no comma is needed.

  • Professor of History Jane Doe; Professor Jane Doe; Instructor Jane Doe.

2. If the title does not precede the name, do not capitalize it. The same applies for dean and president.

  • Jane Doe, professor of history, will introduce a new course starting next semester.
  • John Jones, dean of the college, spoke at November’s Rotary event.

3. Once a professor or instructor’s title is mentioned, that professor or instructor can be referred to by his/her last name only.

  • Professor Sam Smith’s history class is one of the most popular on campus. Smith expects to teach two new classes the next semester.


1. Acronyms should be included in the first reference to an organization or program. The program may be referred to by its acronym on subsequent references. No periods are used with acronyms.

  • The Program for Academic Support Services (PASS) is designed to increase the retention, graduation and transfer rates of students who are low-income and/or the first in their family to go to college. PASS offers various services to insure student success.

2. Please refer to Appendix 1.1 for a complete list of the official acronyms used at PCC.


1. Use the abbreviations Ave., Blvd., and St. only with a numbered address. Spell them out and capitalize when part of a formal street name.

  • 1570 E. Colorado Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91106
  • PCC is located on Colorado Boulevard.


1. Always use figures when dealing with ages. Use hyphens for ages expressed as adjectives before a noun or as substitutes for a noun. When using decades for age, do not use an apostrophe.

  • The student is 18 years old. She is an 18-year-old student.
  • “He is an older gentleman in his 80s.”


1. Use an ampersand when it is part of a company’s formal name or a composition title. It should not be used in place of and, except for some accepted abbreviations. Exceptions can be made for creative use in graphic design as needed.

  • Procter & Gamble; EOP&S.

Building Room/Space Names

1. When referring to a PCC campus location, you should always start with the building, followed by the room number. In the long version, a comma separates the building and the room number. In short version, a dash (-) separates the building and the room number, with spaces on either side of the dash.

  • Long Version: R Building, Room 100
  • Short Version: R-100

2. The long or short version can be used at writer’s discretion

3. Please refer to Appendix 1.2 for approved names of all campus locations.


PCC has 5 campus locations:

  • Pasadena City College Main Campus (formal); Pasadena City College
  • Pasadena City College at Rosemead (formal); PCC at Rosemead (informal)
  • Pasadena City College Foothill Campus (formal); Foothill Campus (informal)
  • Pasadena City College at John Muir High School (formal); PCC at John Muir High School (informal)
  • Child Development Center (CDC)

Class Year

1. Use first-year student rather than freshman. Terms denoting student status are lower cased.

  • Registration for first-year students starts on Wednesday, August 2; registration for second-year students begins Thursday, August 3.

2. Use future students rather than prospective students.

  • Future students can meet with Pathways counselors in front of the library.

College Name

1. Use Pasadena City College on first reference and on all covers of campus publications. Use PCC on subsequent references.

  • Pasadena City College is located in Pasadena, CA. Students from all over Los Angeles attend PCC.


1. A colon introduces an element or a series of elements illustrating or amplifying what has preceded the colon.

  • The study involves three food types: cereals, fruits and vegetables and fats.

2. A colon may be used instead of a period to introduce a series of related sentences. If a complete sentence follows a colon, the first word should be capitalized.

  • Jane was faced with a choice: Should she accept the internship? Or should she remain working at her current job?


1. The final comma in a series does not need to be used unless required for clarity in a series of complex elements.

  • She studies math, science and history.

2. Do not use a comma before or after a ZIP code

  • 1427 E. 60th St., Chicago, IL 60637

3. Do not use a comma after a student name and their graduation year.

  • John Doe ’00 ran the marathon.

4. A comma rather than a colon is used after said, replied, asked, and similar verbs.

  • Garrett replied, “I hope you are not referring to me.”

Commonly Misused Words

Following are some commonly misused words:

  • Afterward, not afterwards
  • Toward, not towards
  • Forward, not forwards
  • Photocopy, not Xerox
  • Aid/Aide. Aid is assistance. An aide is someone who serves as an assistant.


The use of contractions is directly related to tone. It is acceptable to use contractions in informal writing such as the website and other marketing materials. Webster's New World College Dictionary includes many entries for contractions: aren't for are not, it’s for it is, for example. The contractions listed in the dictionary are acceptable to use.

Credits, Units and Grades

1. Unit is the favored term for credit received at PCC. Use the term “unit” any time it appears with a numeral. Use numerals to refer to the number of units.

  • The course is 3 units.

2. Hyphenate between the numeral and unit when using it as an adjective

  • Students must pass the 3-unit course

3. The word credit may be used as a general word for a non-specific number of units.

  • Students will receive credit for this course.

Days, Months and Dates

1. In a calendar listing, move from the particular to the general — time, day, date.

  • 2 pm, Friday, April 29

2. No comma is used when only the month and year are used or when only the month and day are used.

  • She received her diploma in May 2014. The ceremony was on May 15.

3. When typing a month and a day (but not a year), do not use a “th,” “nd” or “rd” after the day.

  • When typing just a day, you should use the complete name of the day (i.e. Monday).
      • October 8 not October 8th.

4. Abbreviations for days are used when you are displaying the hours that a center or location is open. Abbreviations should be as followed, with no periods:

  • M | T | W | Th | F | Sa | Su

Divisions, Section, Courses, Department

Courses and Sections

Capitalize the simple names of academic courses (Math 125). Use standard rules of capitalization for the full name of the course. (Math 010: Linear Algebra and Applications). On first reference, use the full name of the course. On subsequent references, use the simple name.

  • There are 15 sections in the Math 125: Beginning Algebra; Math 125 meets in room 103.


PCC is divided into the following twelve schools. When referencing a division, they should always be written as follows:

  • Health Sciences Division
  • Natural Sciences Division
  • Math & Computer Science Division
  • Social Science Division
  • English Division
  • Languages & ESL Division
  • Kinesiology, Health, & Athletics Division
  • Performing & Communication Arts Division
  • Visual Arts & Media Studies Division
  • Business, Engineering & Technology Division
  • Library, Learning Resources & Distance Education Division
  • Noncredit Division


Within each division there exists specific academic departments. Capitalize a formal name (Department of Geology). Do not capitalize an informal name (geology department) unless it is a proper noun.

  • The Department of Math is within the Math & Computer Science Division. Students can go to the math department to view their finals grades.

Hyphens and Dashes

1. Hyphen (-) Do not use a space between hyphens. Do not use a hyphen in cases such as African American, Asian American, etc. Commonly hyphenated terms include:

  • First-year student
  • Two-year or four-year institution
  • Question-and-answer
  • Short-term, long-term
  • Student-oriented, college-bound

2. En dash (–) The en dash signifies up to and including (or through). There’s no space immediately before and after a long en dash.

  • Her college years, 1998–2002, were the happiest in her life.

3. Em dash (—) The em dash is the long dash. It is the most commonly used dash and shows an abrupt change in thought. Insert a space on both sides of an em dash.

  • Steve Jones — a first-year student — received a Fullbright scholarship.


1. Capitalize grade names when using them as proper nouns.

  • B grade, grade of B, a grade of Incomplete.

2. Do not capitalize grade names when using them as adjectives

  • The professor marked her math assignment incomplete.

Internet Terms and Usage

  1. Use the term website rather than Website or web site.
  2. Capitalize Internet; lowercase intranet.
  3. Do not use http:// when including a url (
  4. Be sure to check Internet links for accuracy and accessibility.


  1. Spell out whole numbers from one through nine and any number beginning a sentence. For other numbers, numerals are used.
    • There were 32 students at the conference. We saw three of my friends.
    • One hundred and ten candidates were accepted.
  2. Use figures for academic course numbers and addresses. Spell out numbered streets nine and under.
    • History 6, Philosophy 209
    • 210 Main Street; 5 Sixth Avenue, 3012 50th St.
  3. Spell out ordinal numbers in text.
    • First, second, third—not 1st, 2nd, 3rd.
  4. For numbers of four digits or larger, use a comma.
    • 1,500; 35,000.
  5. Very large numbers should be expressed with a numeral and word. Decimals are preferred where practical.
    • 450 million; 1.5 million
  6. In headlines, abbreviate only millions and billions.
    • Announcing the $5M capital campaign.
  7. Percentages are always given in numerals and the word percent is used.
    • Males make up 31 percent of the class.
  8. If the sentence begins with a numeral, it should be spelled out.
    • Fifty percent of PCC students receive financial assistance.
  9. When referring to a specific century it should be spelled out and in lowercase.
    • The new technology was invented in the twenty-first century.

PCC-Specific Terms 

Academic Resources

  • Canvas
  • Learning Management System (LMS) and not CMS
  • Enrollment (not matriculation)
  • LancerPoint

Academic Programs

  • Pasadena City College Extension (formal); PCC Extension (informal)
  • Distance Education (DE)
  • Honors Transfer Program


  • Future Students (not prospective)
  • International Students
  • Alumni
  • Student-athlete
  • Library patrons (not users)


  • The Pasadena City College Foundation (formal); The Foundation (informal)
  • President’s Circle (Annual Fund)
  • Associated Students
  • Clubs

Misc. Terms

  • Tuition fees vs. fees. Tuition, or standard enrollment fees, in 2015 are $46 per unit for instate students; the cost is $193 for out-of-state and international students (plus the standard enrollment fee). This amount covers the costs of instruction.
  • Fees fall into the category of costs other than tuition, such as parking, health, student representation, student activities and capital outlay (for non-California residents).
  • Commencement, not graduation
  • Assessment vs. Placement Test.  Assessment Services is the office that administers the placement test to students at PCC. Students take the math and the english or ESL placement test as part of their initial enrollment at the college.
  • Student Success Centers refers to the various academic tutoring/support centers on campus including the Learning Assistance Center as well as subject specific learning centers.

PCC Sports Teams and Conferences

1. PCC teams are members of the South Coast Conference (SCC), which is affiliated with the California Community College Athletic Association, CCCAA.

2. Use an apostrophe when referring to the Lancers as a possessive. Additionally, use a plural possessive when referring to the specific type of team

  • The Lancers’ women’s basketball team won the game.

Personal Names

1. An individual’s first and last name should appear the first time he/she is introduced. In subsequent references, use only the individual’s last name.

  • John Smith is the new President of Pasadena City College. Previously Smith was President of Glendale Community College.

2. Maiden names precede married names and are not placed in parentheses or quotation marks.

  • Elizabeth Smith Brown ’90.

3. Commas should not be used before or after Jr. and Sr. or to set off II, III.

  • George W. Wilson Jr. has eclipsed his father’s fame. John A. Doe III is the son of John A. Doe Jr.


1. Rule: The semicolon’s most common use is between two independent clauses not joined by a conjunction.

  • Julia intends to transfer to UCLA; her plans, however, are still quite vague.


1. Do not use a space before or after a slash (/).

  • Environmental/environmental justice.


1. Capitalize when referring to a specific semester or session. Otherwise, lowercase.

  • Fall Semester 2018. She will offer the course in fall.


1. The letters are lowercase and not followed by periods. Leave a space after the number. Do not add “00” to the time. Exceptions can be made for purposes of graphic design in posters.

  • 10 am, not 10:00A.M.

2. The hour of the day or night is followed by am or pm. You can omit abbreviations if the context is clear.

  • The morning flight to Philadelphia leaves at 10:15. It lands at 2:15 pm

3. Use noon, not 12 pm. Use midnight, not 12 am.

  • The seminar is at noon. We expect the meeting to run until midnight.


Page Titles and Headings at Levels 1 and 2:

  1. Capitalize the first word of the title/heading and of any subtitle/subheading;
  2. Capitalize all “major” words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns) in the title/heading, including the second part of hyphenated major words (e.g., Self-Report not Self-report); and
  3. Capitalize all words of four letters or more.

Headings Levels 2, 4, and 5

  1. Capitalize the first word of the title/heading and of any subtitle/subheading;
  2. Capitalize any proper nouns and cer

The Differences Between etc., i.e. and e.g.

1. etc. (etcetera) is used to say, “and so forth.”

  • Equipment for the trip includes tents, sleeping bags, etc.

2. i.e. is used to say, “in other words.”

  • She is held up at the office (i.e., she’ll be late).

3. e.g. (exempli gratia) is used to say, “for example.”

  • I prefer savory dishes, (e.g., steak and eggs).