Style guide: Check up on WashU editorial standards

The style manual helps us independently develop communications that collectively build the university's reputation.

The Washington University in St. Louis style manual is used by the Office of Public Affairs for writing standards. The manual helps us establish consistency throughout communications with the university’s audiences.

When writing and editing text for your website, you should be guided by the hierarchy:

  • Washington University style
  • Associated Press (AP) style
  • Webster’s New World College Dictionary

The information below highlights selections from the Public Affairs Style Manual. Please refer to the full manual for all writing conventions.

Open style manual (PDF) »

Washington University

“Washington University in St. Louis” is the first reference to the institution on every page of a site.

University is not capitalized when used on its own to refer to Washington University, i.e. “Global engagement is a strategic priority for the university.”

Schools, departments, etc.

The official names of many centers, institutes and other business units are agreed upon by the university and donors or partner institutions. These official names should be honored in all communications.

  • Spell out the full name of your office or department as the first reference on every page of the site.
  • When referencing “the school,” “the department,” “the center,” etc. on its own, do not capitalize.
  • Avoid using group-specific acronyms, like WUSM or SEAS, unless your website is for an internal audience only.
  • The official title of the majority of university departments takes a “Department of” construction. When making first reference on a page to any of the departments, programs, centers or units in Arts & Sciences, “in Arts & Sciences” is to be included.

Official names

Use the full school name, as listed below, as the first reference to the school on each Web page.

Arts & Sciences

  • College of Arts & Sciences
  • Graduate School of Arts & Sciences
  • University College in Arts & Sciences

John M. Olin School of Business (Olin Business School is acceptable)

Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts

  • College of Art
  • College of Architecture
  • Graduate School of Art
  • Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design

School of Engineering & Applied Science

Washington University School of Law

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis (The Brown School or Brown is acceptable in all subsequent references. Never use GWB, Brown School of Social Work or School of Social Work.)

People’s names, degrees and titles

Full name, degree(s), title
Second reference: Last name only

Example: Marge J. Simpson, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, is investigating ways to use the immune system to fight cancer.

  • Capitalize university titles, like dean and professor, when directly before the individual’s name, but use lowercase after a name.
    • Example: Chancellor Mark Wrighton shook hands with David C. Van Essen, PhD, the Alumni Endowed Professor of Neurobiology at Washington University School of Medicine.
  • To prevent difficult sentences, a person’s title may be included in a follow-up sentence instead of with the first reference.
    • Chancellor Mark Wrighton selected David C. Van Essen, PhD, to receive the Carl and Gerty Cori Faculty Achievement Award. Van Essen, the Alumni Endowed Professor of Neurobiology at Washington University School of Medicine, has also led the Human Connectome Project…
  • In general, university faculty members are of various departments in various schools.
  • People earn a degree; they do not receive a degree — unless it is an honorary degree.
  • If a person has multiple degrees, list degrees in the order specified in the Bulletin.
  • Do not include periods in abbreviations of degrees (e.g., PhD, MD, MPH)

Contact and time details

  • Phone number format is XXX-XXX-XXXX; no parentheses or periods.
  • “Email” is neither hyphenated nor capitalized (except when, like this, it’s the first word of a sentence!)
  • Use a.m. and p.m., single digit times for hours (8, not 8:00).
  • For ranges of time, use a hyphen: 10 a.m.-1 p.m.; 3-5 p.m.


  • Commas: See AP style for instructions on the use of commas in a series. Briefly, use commas to separate elements in a series, but do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series.