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Community Engagement

Writing style guide

A guide for people producing written material at UFV

Ever wonder:

  • whether to put periods in "UFV"? (Don't.)
  • whether to capitalize "degree"? (Not usually.)
  • how to use a dash, slash, apostrophe, or quotation mark properly?

Then you've come to the right place!

This style guide covers basic capitalization, punctuation, spelling, abbreviation and typesetting guidelines that are adhered to in UFV news releases, the UFV calendar, and other brochures and publications produced by the Community Engagement department. It has been modified slightly for the UFV website, as some rules of typography cannot be adhered to because of the current limitations of the HTML language. It also covers the use of people's names , the UFV name , italics and bolding, and numbers, dates, and times.

Many sources have been consulted in our quest to create a friendly and consistent editorial style. While it's not mandatory that you follow this guide when producing your own material, it will help you to communicate clearly and consistently by following reader-friendly writing and design guidelines.

Use of the UFV name

The institution is generally referred to as the University of the Fraser Valley, but the "the" is not capitalized. When the name is being used as an adjective, as in "University of the Fraser Valley programs", the "the" is dropped.

I work at the University of the Fraser Valley.
It is a University of the Fraser Valley program.

UFV is the most common shortened version of the name. There is no need to put "the" in front of UFV (unless the "the" refers to a noun that UFV is modifying as an adjective) or to put periods in between the letters.

I teach at UFV. Go see a UFV counsellor. Refer to the UFV calendar.

"University" is helpful as a term when referring to a formal matter.

The University Senate.
It is a university policy.

The word "university" should be capitalized when referring to the institution as a legal body, but not when being used as a general adjective.

I teach at the university. The university region.
See a university counsellor.


Although it is tempting to capitalize titles, departments, programs, degrees, committees, and documents, excessive capitalization serves to de-emphasize everything equally and makes a sentence harder to read, especially in a publication with narrow columns.

Example of excessive capitalization
The Kinesiology and Physical Education Department Head and the Fashion Design Program Head made a joint presentation to the Chair of the Program Advisory Committee about a new Athletic Apparel Design Diploma Program.

Example of less daunting, more reader-friendly capitalization
The Kinesiology and Physical Education department head and the Fashion Design program head made a joint presentation to the chair of the Program Advisory committee about a new Athletic Apparel Design diploma program.

We capitalize titles of the President, Board Chair, and all Deans when they precede a name and are not modified by an adjective.

Everyone, including President Skip Bassford, went to the UFV barbecue.

UFV president Skip Bassford was unable to attend the meeting, as he was at the barbecue.
("President" is modified by UFV, and thus it is not capitalized).

The president of UFV will speak at the barbecue.
(The title is not preceding a name so it is not capitalized.)

Beyond that, our practice is to capitalize the components of a title, department, program or committee that distinguish it from other titles, departments, programs, or committees. For example, we capitalize the name of a program, but not the word "program" itself:


the Chilliwack campus
the Bachelor of Arts in Child and Youth Care degree
the Business Administration degree program
the Practical Nurse certificate program
the Accounting certificate program 
Visual Arts program head
the Applied Business Technology department
the Development office
the Web committee
the Learning Environment subcommittee

We capitalize the name of an academic discipline when referring to a department or a course number (the History department, History 101) but not when referring to the subject generally (she is minoring in history; you must take one history course).

Note: This informal, reader-friendly approach to capitalization prevails in media such as newsletters and newspapers. In more formal contexts, such as letters, there is a greater tendency to capitalize titles and departments.

We capitalize the season when referring to a specific semester but not when making a general reference to academic terms. 

Apply now for Fall 2021.
The University of the Fraser Valley is looking forward to welcoming you to the fall semester.


We use English spelling on "our" and "re" words (labour, honour, theatre, centre), but American spelling on other words such as "recognize" and "program". 

We use the spelling "practise" and "license" when using these words as verbs, and "practice" and licence" when using them as nouns.

We use a double "l" for past-tense of single "l" words.

Cancel, cancelled, cancellation. Enrol, enrolled, but enrolment


 We use periods when abbreviating geographic places (B.C., L.A.), time (a.m., p.m.), and titles (Mr., Mrs., Dr., Ms.). We also use periods when abbreviating a word (business admin.) 

Exception: when representing time in tables such as those found in the Continuing Studies booklet or the UFV Today enewsletter, we do not use periods in "am" and "pm".

9 am-4:30 pm

We do not use periods for most acronyms (UFV, RCMP, SFU, OLA, CBC), or for abbreviations of academic degrees (BA, BBA, BSc, PhD, MA, MSc, Dip, Cert).


Compound Words
Quotation Marks


We generally include the comma before "and" in the final element in a series, especially when it would be confusing to not do so.

Degree programs at UFV include Arts, Criminal Justice, Adult Education, and Child and Youth Care.

(Without the final comma one might assume that Adult Education and Child and Youth Care are one program with a very long name.)


Betty Urquhart, the late grammar guru of UFV, never failed to correct our mistakes.

Names after titles or job descriptions are not enclosed in commas.

Instructor Tim Haner teaches the course.

When a title or job description is preceded by a modifier — an article or adjective (such as "the") — it becomes an appositive and the name following it is enclosed in commas:

The Criminal Justice director, Martin Silverstein, took over from Darryl Plecas.


We put hyphens between words forming a compound adjective before the noun modified in order to minimize ambiguity.

It is a third-year course.

There is no need to use a hyphen when the first word of a compound is an adverb, as the adverb's only role is to qualify the word next to it, and thus there is no ambiguity.

It is a poorly placed ad, not a poorly-placed ad.

We do not use hyphens for words with prefixes unless better clarity is achieved by doing so.

subcommittee, but re-enrol, post-secondary

Compound words and terms

A compound word or term is a combination of two or more words that have evolved into one through frequent use together. The evolution in the English language tends to be from two separate words (web site), to two words joined by hyphens (web-site), to one compound word (website). We generally help this process of evolution by adopting compound phrases early on for the sake of readability (less spaces for the reader to stumble over). However, in some cases, we retain the hyphen for greater clarity:

online not on-line
website not web site
fundraiser not fund raiser
childcare centre not child care centre

home-made not homemade
home-page not homepage or home page
record-keeping not recordkeeping


We use long or "em" dashes (-- or —) , not hyphens (-), to indicate a pause in a sentence.
We put a space before and after the long dash.

Faculty and staff members — at least those who know how to have a good time — will be at the UCFV barbecue.

We use an "en" dash (–) to join two words of equal value, or to replace "from ... to" and "between ... and".

The Chilliwack–Abbotsford courier run.
Pages 3–10,
9 am–noon
3-5 pm 


We follow a period ending a sentence with one space, not two. This is a longstanding standard practice for professional typographers. 

Quotation marks

When placing quotation marks around a word or words for emphasis, we generally place the punctuation outside the quotation marks, unless the punctuation mark forms part of the quotation.

Student Gwen Coates wrote a play that explores the notion of "female speak" and "male speak".

We use single quotation marks to emphasize a word/words within a quote.

"My play explores the notion of 'female speak' and 'male speak'," says Coates.

Note: When using single or double quotes, the first in the set should always consist of "sixes" and the second of "nines". There has been a plague of "backward" quotation marks in recent years due to typographically unfriendly wordprocessing programs, such as Word. "Curly" (sixes and nines) quotation marks always look better than "straight" ones, although they are difficult (perhaps impossible) to achieve in HTML.

Apostrophes are used to indicate that something is missing:

'06, wine 'n' cheese, the '90s

There is a tendency to use a backward apostrophe in these cases (`96). This is incorrect, although hard to avoid in Word, which automatically turns an apostrophe into a "six" of "left" quotation mark if it is the first symbol typed in a word. To correct this, delete the backward apostrophe, then go to the "insert" menu in Word. Choose 'symbol', then 'special character', then 'single closing quote'.


Activities/Athletics will be fundraising on campus. There should be no space between the words and the slash.

The backslash (\) is used only to divide directories on your computer.


Numbers, dates, and times

We spell out numbers from one to nine, and use numerals from 10 onwards, except for millions, and when the number begins a sentence.  

More than 26 students enrolled in the course; nine failed.
There are 25 million Canadians, and 60,000 people in Chilliwack.
Exceptions are for decimal point numbers, time, ages, and page numbers.

A 2.1% increase, 1:30 p.m., ages 7 and 8, continued on page 3

We don't use "th" or other endings on dates:

You are invited to forums on March 23, April 22, and May 29.

Using zeroes when referring to time and money is redundant:

8:30 am to 7 pm, (not 7:00 pm) $15 (not $15.00)

Italics and bolding

We use italics for the names of books, magazines, plays, courses, conferences, and reports when referred to in a body of type:

The Glorious 12th, The Piano Man's Daughter, Training for What?, Women in the Valley

We also use italics, or sometimes bolding, or both, to emphasize a word or phrase in a body of copy. Underlining was used in the days of typewriters in instances where a professional typesetter would use italics. Now that we all have access to italics, the need for underlining, which can look tacky when the letters hang down over the line, is eliminated.

Names of people

We use the full name and sometimes a title on first reference in formal stories, and last name only on all other references. In informal stories, we sometimes used first-name reference.

Facilities director Craig Toews made a presentation to the UFV Board. Toews talked about the Safer Campuses initiative. 

Geography professor Dave Gibson retired. Dave had worked for UFV for more than two decades.

Typesetting tips


Our general practice for headlines and headings in newsletters and brochures is to capitalize only the first letter and any proper names

UFV to host student job program

Capitalizing the first letter of all words makes a headline harder to read:

UFV To Host Student Job Program

Capitalizing all letters in a headline or body copy is the equivalent of shouting at the reader and should be done sparingly (although it is sometimes useful as a way of differentiating between heads and subheads).



The most reader-friendly type of justification is left-justified, or "ragged right". (This guide is set in this style.) Full justification rarely works well, especially in publications with wide columns, as large, poorly spaced gaps tend to result, which diminishes readability.

Centering copy occasionally
for visual relief in ads
or publications
can work well.


Generally, it's best to use a "serif" font such as Times or Century Schoolbook when you're presenting a lot of densely packed type, in a newsletter story, for instance. "Serifs" are the dangling things on letters in this type of font, and they help the reader to read more quickly. "Serif" fonts also work well in headings.

"Sans serif" fonts, such as Arial or Verdana, work best in headings, ads, and other places where there is a minimal amount of type. They don't work well when the reader has a lot of type to plow through, although the page may look cleaner. (Of course, when working in HTML on projects that will be viewed through browsers on the World Wide Web, it's the reader, not the designer, who decides in which font to view the material — a maddening blow to typographers everywhere!)

Have questions or comments about this guide? Email