University System of Georgia Branding Guidelines

External Affairs Division

Writing Style

USG editorial style follows the rules outlined in the Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law — with a few exceptions, which are noted below along with some other commonly used style rules. Although the AP Stylebook is the official reference source for USG Communications, additional style, usage and writers reference sources include the Chicago Manual of Style, the Mailchimp Content Style Guide and Merriam-Webster’s free online dictionary and thesaurus.

Our Name


    The University System of Georgia comprises the public colleges and universities in the state as well as the Georgia Archives and the Georgia Public Library System. This is the reference when discussing the USG overall; e.g., By some measures, the University System of Georgia is the fourth-largest such system in the nation.

    • Write out University System of Georgia the first time the name is mentioned in any publication.
    • Second references may be shortened to USG, not University System or System.
    • It is acceptable but not necessary to include USG in parentheses after the University System of Georgia appears for the first time in a document.

    The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia refers to the USG governing body.

    • If the full name must be split onto two lines, the break should follow the second of.
    • It is also acceptable to refer to the policy-making group composed of individual regents as the Board of Regents or the Board.
    • Never use the phrase Georgia Board of Regents.

General Style Rules

  • abbreviations, acronyms and initialisms

    Use periods in most two-letter abbreviations: U.S., U.N., U.K., B.A., B.C. Use the abbreviations A.D., B.C., a.m., p.m., No. with figures, and abbreviate certain months (Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., Dec.) when used with the day of the month. For examples not listed, go with the first listed abbreviation in Webster’s.

    Acronyms are abbreviations that can be pronounced as words (NATO, NASA). Initialisms are abbreviations that are pronounced letter by letter (FBI, USG). Both should be written in all caps without spaces or periods — unless an acronym has entered the language as a regular word, such as scuba or radar.

    Because acronyms are pronounced as words, there’s typically no need to precede them with the definite article: Which countries belong to NATO? NASA is planning another rocket launch. The opposite is true with initialisms, which usually require a determiner: The FBI has been called in to investigate. What colleges and universities in Georgia are part of the USG?

    Except for widely recognized acronyms and initialisms, you should write out the entire term followed by the abbreviation in parentheses the first time it is used in a document. This is an exception to AP style. Note: There is no need to do this with the University System of Georgia, which can be shortened to USG in subsequent references without the use of the initial parentheses.

    USG Communications agrees with AP that the overuse of abbreviations should be avoided, as it can be jarring and hinder overall readability. Rather than making “alphabet soup,” look for cases in which a simple word will suffice for shortening a longer term (e.g., using the bill instead of repeating HB 101 for House Bill 101).

  • academic degrees

    Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, a master’s, etc., but there is no possessive in Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science. Also: an associate degree (no possessive).

  • Apostrophes/possessives
    • For singular common nouns ending in s, add ’s: the class’s favorite lesson.
    • For singular proper names ending in s, use only an apostrophe: Jones’ batting average.
    • For singular proper names ending in s sounds such as x, ce and z, use ’s: Marx’s theories.
    • For plurals of a single letter, add ’s: He minded his p’s and q’s.
    • For omitted letters and figures, use an apostrophe: I’d, it’s, the class of ’78, the Roaring ’20s.
    • For plurals of numbers or multiple letter combinations, do not use ’s: the 1960s, ABCs.
  • Bulleted lists

    After each bullet, capitalize the first letter and put periods at the end of the item, even if a bulleted item is not a complete sentence. Do not use semicolons at the end of list items. Use punctuation uniformly in a bulleted list and make the list parallel in construction by beginning each item with the same part of speech (noun, verb, etc.) and using the same tense and voice with each item.

  • campuswide

    One word, no hyphen. Also: nationwide, statewide, systemwide.

  • Capitalization
    • Do not capitalize federal, state, department, division, board, program, section, unit, etc., unless the word is being used as part of a formal name: The Strategy and Fiscal Affairs Division oversees budgeting for the University System Office. Angela Smith is head of the new department. Note: USG Communications makes an exception to this for the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, which can be shortened to Board in subsequent references.
    • Capitalize room when used with a number or when part of the name of a specially designated room: Room 145, the Lincoln Room.
    • Lowercase directional indicators except when they refer to specific geographic regions or popularized names for those regions: Turn east on Broad Street. Claire is originally from the Midwest.
    • Capitalize all words in a composition title except articles (a, an, the); prepositions of three or fewer letters (for, of, on, up, etc.); and conjunctions of three or fewer letters (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet, etc.) unless any of those start or end the title.
  • colons

    Capitalize the first word after a colon only if it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence.

  • Commas

    OXFORD (SERIAL) COMMA: Don’t use a comma before a conjunction in a simple series: The University System of Georgia’s priorities are efficiency, affordability and degree attainment. However, it is acceptable to use the serial comma in a series if an integral element of the series requires a conjunction, or if you are listing a complex series of phrases. Note: Consistency is paramount. If a document calls for the serial comma, or a guide other than the AP Stylebook is governing your document’s style, make sure to apply the serial comma throughout.

    WITH EQUAL ADJECTIVES: Use commas to separate a series of adjectives equal in rank. If the commas could be replaced by the word and without changing the sense, the adjectives are equal: The book was a quick, easy read. John rode his bike slowly down the long, winding road.

    OTHER USES: For detailed guidance, consult the punctuation section in the back of Webster’s New World College Dictionary.

  • dates

    When a phrase contains only a month and a year, do not separate with commas: The next semester begins in September 2020. Do use commas to set off a date that includes the month, day and year: The professor was awarded tenure on Nov. 3, 2010, after four years with the university.

    Abbreviate months having more than five letters when a specific day and year are included: Sept. 16, 1980. Spell out when used with a year alone: September 1980. Never abbreviate March, April, May, June and July.

  • Fiscal year

    Use fiscal year or simply fiscal on first reference and FY with the numerical year thereafter: The USG’s fiscal 2019 ran from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019. FY 22 requisitions are due May 30.

  • full time, full-time

    Hyphenate only when used as a compound modifier: He goes to school full time. She is a full-time instructor.

  • hyphens

    Use hyphens to link all the words in a compound adjective. Hyphenate combinations that come before a noun but not after: Andrea is a well-known singer. The doctor is well known in Atlanta social circles. Do not use a hyphen if the construction includes very or an adverb ending in –ly.

  • internet

    Do not capitalize except when the word begins a sentence.

  • Login, log in

    Login (n.), but use as two words in verb form: I log in to my email account.

  • numerals

    In general, spell out one through nine. Use figures for 10 or above and whenever preceding a unit of measure or referring to ages of people, animals, events or things.

  • parentheses

    If parentheses are necessary, the rules are: Put a period outside a closing parenthesis if the material inside is not a sentence (just like this here). (If the material is a complete sentence like this, the period goes inside.) When a phrase in parentheses (this is one example) would typically count as a complete sentence but is dependent on the surrounding material, do not capitalize the first word or end with a period.

  • quotation marks
    • Use quotation marks for direct quotes, composition titles, dialogue and conversation, to indicate a word or phrase being used ironically, and to introduce foreign or unfamiliar words. (Do not place quotation marks around subsequent references to foreign or unfamiliar words.)
    • Put quotation marks around the titles of books, movies, plays, poems, albums, songs, operas, radio and television programs, lectures, speeches, and works of art. The exceptions to this are the Bible, the Quran and other holy books, and books that are primarily catalogs of reference material, which includes almanacs, directories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, gazetteers, handbooks and similar publications.
    • Do not use quotation marks around software titles, apps, or the names of video, online or analog versions of games.
    • Always enclose periods and commas in quotation marks. The dash, the semicolon, the colon, the question mark and the exclamation point go within quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only. They go outside the quotation marks when they apply to the whole sentence.
  • setup, set up

    One word (n. and adj.) but two words in verb form: When can we set up a meeting to go over our strategy?

  • titles
    • Capitalize formal/academic titles that come directly before a name: Gov. Angela Brown, Professor Ingrid Rivers.
    • Lowercase titles that appear on their own or follow a name: The secretary-general invited Walter Rogers to speak. Mike Reynolds, executive director of Community Cars Inc., has propelled the company to record profits. Note: USG Communications makes exceptions to this rule for Chancellor, which is capitalized when it appears with or without a name. Additionally, it is acceptable for a title to be capitalized following a name in specific documents such as presentations or websites.
    • Never capitalize job descriptions, regardless of whether they come before or after a name: shortstop, police officer, actor. If there is doubt about whether a title is formal or occupational, it is better to set the title or name off with commas.
    • Capitalize and abbreviate the following titles as shown when used before a name both inside and outside quotations: Dr., Gov., Lt. Gov., Rep., Sen. and certain military ranks.
    • Lowercase modifiers, such as department in department Chairman Jerome Wiesner, and the qualifiers with formal titles that an individual formerly held, is about to hold or holds temporarily: former Sen. Bob White, President-elect Jorge Riviera.
  • web

    Lowercase except when it begins a sentence. Also: website, webcam, webcast, webfeed, webmaster, webpage, but: web address, web browser.

  • Year-end

    Hyphenated (n. and adj.).