Quick Reference Writing Guide

Written collateral for UNM communication outlets including, but not limited to: websites, press releases and newsletters, need to be edited in AP Style. 

There are a few exceptions noted in this guide.

The following is a policy section in UNM policy 1010 stating how to refer to the University:

3.2. The University's Full Name

When addressing audiences that might not be familiar with what the abbreviated letters stand for, use the University's full name. In titles, addresses, and written copy, "The" is capitalized. Ex: The University of New Mexico.

Ex: Great students attend The University of New Mexico.

After the name has been used in full within a given body of text, it can be subsequently called the University, lowercase “t” in the, capital “U” in University, or UNM.


Make titles lowercase when used after the name.

Ex: Garnett Stokes, president of UNM

NOT: Garnett Stokes, President of UNM


Make title uppercase if used before a name.

Ex: President Garnett Stokes.


Titles used without a name should be lowercase.

Ex: The president welcomed students to campus.


Abbreviations and Acronyms

  • Abbreviate titles when used before a full name: Dr., Gov., Lt. Gov., Rep., the Rev., Sen. and certain military designations.
  • FERPA, the acronym for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, generally should be avoided. Instead use “privacy laws or the federal law restricting release of student information.”
  • STEM is acceptable on the first reference.
  • Spell out fiscal year: fiscal year 2020, not FY 2020.


Academic degrees

In our AP Style world, the only Drs. are the medical kind. If mention of degrees is necessary to establish someone's credentials, the preferred form is to avoid an abbreviation and instead use a phrase such as:

Ex: John Jones, who has a doctorate in psychology.

Use such abbreviations as B.A., M.A., LL.D. and Ph.D. only when the need to identify many individuals by degree on the first reference would make the preferred form cumbersome. Use these abbreviations only after a full name, never after just a last name. When used after a name, an academic abbreviation is set off by commas: John Snow, Ph.D., spoke.

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).



When talking about people who graduated from the University, be sure to use the proper singular or plural form of the word:
Alumnus: male graduate, singular
Alumna: female graduate, singular
Alumni: male graduates, plural
Alumnae: female graduates, plural **It is also acceptable to refer to a group of female graduates as alumni.

Alum/alums: Fully accepted casual reference


Dates and Numerals


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.


Do not use the year (2020) in writing, if you are in that same year. Just the month and day. Just March 17 not March 17, 2020.


Spell out whole numbers up to (and including) nine.                               

Ex: zero, one, 10, 96, 104

Spell out casual expressions: A picture is worth a thousand words, but a really good one is worth a thousand dollars.

Spell out ordinal numbers up to (and including) ninth when indicating sequence in time or location (Ex: first kiss, 11th hour) but not when indicating sequence in naming conventions (usually geographic, military, or political, Ex: 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals).


Update: AP allows use of "%" rather than percent as of 2019. Here are the updated standards.

Spell out percent in casual use:

  • “We think she has a zero percent chance of winning the game.” 
  • Use decimals rather than fractions with percents: “Current mortgage rates are only 4.25%.”
  • For numbers less than 1%, precede it with a 0: “The population grew by 0.7% last year.”

Use figures for:

  • Academic course numbers: English 101
  • Ages: A 6-year-old boy
  • Centuries: 21st century
  • Decimals, percentages and fractions: 4 percentage points, 3.7 percent interest, 3 ½ laps
  • Dimensions: He is 5 feet 6 inches tall
  • Distances: She walked 5 miles.
  • Speeds: 7 mph
  • Monetary Units: 5 cents

Use “more than” when referring to numbers, not “over.”

Ex: He had to walk more than 10 miles to find the nearest gas station.

NOT: He had to walk over 10 miles to find the nearest gas station.


Use No. (abbreviation for number) and rank.

Ex: The UNM School of Law is ranked No. 12 in affordable law schools.

NOT: The UNM School of Law is ranked 12th in affordable law schools.  

Phone numbers:

use a dash to separate. Ex: 505-277-1889. 

*Note marketing collateral uses periods to separate numbers.

Ex: On business cards 505.277.1889


Use figures for the time of day except for noon and midnight.

Ex: 1 p.m. (do not use :00 for top of the hour) 10:30 a.m.

Lower case p.m./a.m. Don’t forget the periods.

Also: 8 hours, 30 minutes, 20 seconds

Avoid such redundancies as 10 a.m. this morning.

Ex: The museum is open 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. *Preferred *No space between numbers and en dash (–)

The museum is open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

 [Note: The museum is open from 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m.] *do not use “from” with en dash.


Do not capitalize names of seasons unless referring to a semester.

Do capitalize "Fall," "Spring" and "Summer" when referring to academic semesters.

Ex: The campus is beautiful in the spring.

The building will open at the start of the Fall 2021 semester.



Academic Departments:

Only capitalize if it is a proper noun: English department, but not history department.


Academic Departments: Only capitalize if it is a proper noun: English department, but not history department.

Only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized in headlines. Use numerals for all numbers and single quotes for quotation marks. Exception, US, UK, and UN (no periods) in all headlines.

Ex: 3 die in crash

Ex: Lincoln offers an ‘out,’ but Davis declines

UNM main campus consists of central, north and south campus. Alone, main campus is still lowercase, not a proper noun.

Central campus refers to the campus between Lomas Blvd. and Central Ave., and includes some facilities south of Central Ave.

Other necessary capitalizations:

Black Lives Matter, not Black lives matter
Black when used in in a racial, ethnic or cultural sense, conveying an essential and shared sense of history, identity and community

Citing publications

Magazines and newspapers are not italicized, just capitalized. 

Films, TV shows, works of art, etc., use quotation marks around them.

Ex: She read The New York Times before she turned on the television to watch “Survivor.”

Note the University adheres to the Chicago Manual of Style for citing books and other similar freestanding works. 

When quoted in text or listed in a bibliography, titles of books, journals, plays, and other freestanding works are italicized. Titles of articles, chapters, and other shorter works are set in roman and enclosed in quotation marks.

Ex: We read A Separate Peace in class. (title of a book)

Ex: That Time magazine article, “Your Brain on Drugs,” was fascinating.


States names

Spell out the names of the 50 U.S. states when they stand alone in textual material.

Never abbreviated in datelines or text: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah.

Required abbreviations when used with a city name time text:

Ala., Ariz., Ark., Calif., Colo., Conn., Del., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Kan., Ky., La., Md., Mass., Mich., Minn., Miss., Mo., Mont., Neb., Nev., N.H., N.J., N.M., N.Y., N.C., N.D., Okla., Ore., Pa., R.I., S.C., S.D., Tenn., Vt., Va., Wash., W.Va., Wis., Wyo.

Put one comma between the city and the state name, and another comma after the state name, unless ending a sentence or indicating a dateline.

Ex: He was traveling from Nashville, Tenn., to Austin, Texas, en route to his home in Albuquerque, N.M.

Those pesky Oxford Commas: A comma in a list before the word “and.”

Sometimes it is just needed.

“We don't ban Oxford commas! We say: If omitting a comma could lead to confusion or misinterpretation, then use the comma.” —Mr. AP

“But: If a comma doesn't help make clear what is being said, don't use it. ‘The flag is red, white and blue’ is clear.” —Mrs. AP

Ex: I’d like to thank my parents, Mother Teresa, and the Pope. = Oxford comma needed for clarity.

Accessibility Note: Oxford commas should be used when writing video captions. 


Common Trouble Words

  • health care is always two words – not healthcare or health-care
  • well-being is hyphenated – not well being
  • startup is always one word – not start-up or start up
  • student-athlete is hyphenated – not student athlete
  • first-year is hyphenated when referring to a student level – first-year student, First-year Convocation


Other Notes

  • Do not double-space after a period to start another sentence. Single space only.
  • Avoid positive adverbs. Ex: Please join us…
  • Write in an active voice. Avoid first-person: I, our, us.
  • Toward does not end in an “s.” Neither does forward, backward, upward, or Costco.
  • When directly addressing someone, the person’s name or title should be set off with commas: We could not have done it without you, Lisa.
  • Avoid parentheses to set-off information. Use commas.
  • Use one word for snowsuit, snowplow, snowfall, snowman and snowflakes. Snow day, snow cover, and wind chill are two words.
  • Temperatures can rise or fall, get higher or lower. They don’t get warmer or cooler.
  • When a phrase includes a month, day and year, the year should be followed by a comma. i.e., Her arrival on Monday, April 11, 1988, was considered a turning point for the company.
  • Terms such as Asian Americans and African Americans are hyphen-free. It also urges people to use whatever source a person prefers when talking about their ethnicity—Japanese American instead of Asian American.
  • AP Style dictates that when a prefix ends in a vowel and the word it’s attached to begins with the same vowel, then hyphenate. Ex: re-engineer, pre-eminent, anti-icing
    • Reelect and reelection have now become exceptions to that rule. 


Em dash, en dash, hyphen

  • Em dash (—) or long dash is used to signal abrupt change, set off a series within a phrase, to start a list or before attribution to an author or composer. An em dash is approximately the width of a capital letter M in the typeface being used. In the UNM brand writing style, it is often used to separate an interjection in the middle of a sentence. AP style typically calls for space on both sides of a dash. UNM brand writing style calls for no space.
Ex: (AP Style for news purposes) This is a place where you’ll be supported — academically, culturally, in every way.
Ex: (UNM Brand Style for use in marketing collateral) This is a place where you’ll be supported—academically, culturally, in every way. 
  • En dash (–) or short dash is used to indicate ranges. It is half the width of an em dash and approximately the length of a capital letter N.
  • Hyphens are used to join words.