Our Grammar and Editorial Guide will help you communicate in a clear and consistent way when writing for the campus audience or the Cal Maritime community.
Public Affairs generally follows the AP Style Guide. Additionally, a Cal Maritime Stylebook and Reference Guide has been drafted by Public Affairs for campus communicators, and will be updated regularly. For information not addressed here, look to the CSU's Editorial Style Guide or 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.

For acceptable abbreviations, see the following categories:

Academic Degrees

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

  • Bachelor of Arts, BA degree
  • Bachelor of Science, BS degree
  • Master of Science, MS degree

2. There is a possessive in bachelor's degree and master's degree and should be lowercase.

  • Sue earned her bachelor's degree from California State University Maritime Academy.

Academic/Maritime Titles

1. Capitalize a title before a name. If a title appears before a name, no comma is needed. See "Licensing" for information on the appropriate usage of maritime licenses.

  • Professor of History Jane Doe; Professor Jane Doe; Instructor Jane Doe; Chief Mate 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.
  • Jane Doe, third mate of the Training Ship Golden Bear, started their new position on Monday.

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 ensure student success.


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

  • 200 Maritime Academy Dr. Vallejo, CA 94590
  • The Administration Building is located on Maritime Academy Drive.


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 Cal Maritime 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.

Campus Names

California State University Maritime Academy is the formal name of the University and should always be used upon first reference. Use the short form "Cal Maritime" in subsequent and abbreviated references. Note: there is no comma between "University" and "Maritime." 

For more information and a full list of CSU campus names, click here.

Class Year

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

  • 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 CAPS counselors in front of the library.

College Name

1. Use California State University Maritime Academy on first reference and on all covers of campus publications. Use CSU Maritime Academy or Cal Maritime on subsequent references.

  • California State University Maritime Academy is located in Vallejo, CA. Students are called cadets at Cal Maritime.
  • California State University Maritime Academy's campus sits on a beautiful waterfront. With three schools and seven majors, CSU Maritime Academy offers a specialized education for cadets.


1. A colon introduces an element or a series of elements illustrating or amplifying what has preceded the colon. Please note the use of the Oxford comma.

  • 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 (also known as the Oxford 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
  • Lowercase, not lowercased
  • Photocopy, not Xerox
  • Aid/Aide. Aid is assistance. An aide is someone who serves as an assistant.
  • On board or aboard, not onboard (when referring to a vessel)
  • Centered on, not centered around
  • Regardless, not irregardless


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 Cal Maritime. 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

  • Cadets must pass the 3-unit course

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

  • Cadets 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. Military time should only be used for a cadet-specific audience.

  • 2 p.m., 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. Capitalize the names of months in all uses. When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. Spell out when using alone, or with a year alone.

  • This year, Alumni Reunion Weekend is Oct. 6-7, 2023.
  • Cal Maritime's annual campus door decoration competition usually takes place in December before winter holiday break.

4. 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.

55. 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.

Cal Maritime is divided into the following schools and departments. When referencing a school and/or its respective department, it should always be written as follows:

  • School of Engineering
    • Department of Mechanical Engineering

    • Department of Engineering Technology

  • School of Letters and Sciences
    • Department of Culture and Communication

    • Department of International Strategy and Security

    • Department of Sciences and Mathematics

  • School of Maritime Transportation, Logistics, and Management
    • Department of International Business and Logistics

    • Department of Marine Transportation

    • Department of Naval Science


Within each school there exists specific academic departments. Capitalize a formal name (Department of Mechanical Engineering). Do not capitalize an informal name (mechanical engineering department) unless it is a proper noun.

  • The Department of Mechanical Engineering is one of two departments in the School of Engineering. Cadets can go to the mechanical engineering department to view their final grades.

On subsequent reference, after the official name of the department has been used, it is appropriate to capitalize the department's name as a standalone term.

  • The Department of Athletics and Physical Education hosted a Keelhauler Fit event last week. On Monday, Athletics hosted an activity to enhance self-care for cadets, faculty, and staff on campus.

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 (www.csum.edu).
  4. Be sure to check Internet links for accuracy and accessibility.


Capitalize when using the official name of a specific license. Lowercase when referring to licensing in a general sense.

  • Cal Maritime's licensed candidates can qualify to test for their USCG third assistant engineer or third mate exam.
  • The USCG administers a licensing exam during the final semester of a cadet's senior year.
  • Jane Doe is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in marine transportation and a Third Mate Unlimited License with the United States Coast Guard.
  • John Doe is a master mariner with an Unlimited Tonnage License. 


  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.
    • The manufacturer hopes to achieve a 10 percent decrease in carbon dioxide emissions.
  8. If the sentence begins with a numeral, it should be spelled out.
    • Fifty percent of orders at the Keelhauler Shops bookstore are placed by alumni.
  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.


Lowercase spring, summer, fall and winter unless part of a formal name (Summer Olympics).

Don't see a term you're looking for? Check out our Cal Maritime Stylebook and Reference Guide that has been drafted by Public Affairs for campus communicators. It will be updated regularly. Additionally, the CSU's Editorial Style Guide provides further guidance for CSU-specific terms.