Branding Standards Guide

Commonly Used Words

Arranged alphabetically, these sections include spelling, usage, punctuation and capitalization notes for specific words and phrases commonly used in the CSU. An entry without an explanation is simply to indicate the correct spelling of a word or words.


nametag: (one word)

next: Next can be confusing when used in relation to time; it is better to specify the exact date. We will meet Monday, December 4 is clearer than “we will meet next Monday.”

non- (prefix): In general, words with a non- prefix are not hyphenated (nonstate, nonresident, nongovernmental) unless confusion in reading might result (as with non-native). A hyphen is used before a proper noun (non-English).

nonprofit: (not non-profit or not-for-profit)

not only. . .but also: If you use not only, also use but also; a comma is not necessary between phrases. (She not only wrote the book but also drew the illustrations.)


off-campus/off campus and on-campus/on campus: Hyphenate off campus and on campus when used as adjectives preceding a noun. (The off-campus students held a rally.) Do not hyphenate when used as a preposition and noun. (The event was held on campus.)

on: Do not use on before a date or day of the week unless needed for clarity. (The meeting will be held Monday. The symposium will be held February 2.)

online, offline (not hyphenated)


part time/part-time: Hyphenate when this term precedes the noun; do not hyphenate when it follows. (She has a part-time job. She attends school part time.)

percent: Always spell out percent in text and use figures (4 percent). Percent takes a singular verb if used alone (a 10 percent return is good) or if a singular word is the object of of (exactly 78 percent of the product is needed). It takes a plural verb if a plural word is the object of of (only 6 percent of the courses are at graduate level).

percentage: Percentage takes a singular verb when preceded by the (the percentage of people voting this year is higher). When percentage is preceded by a, it takes a singular or plural verb depending on the noun in the prepositional phrase. (A higher percentage of my time is spent in meetings. A higher percentage of people are voting this year.)

policymaker, policymaking (one word)

postbaccalaureate: Most post- prefix words are not hyphenated; an exception is post-master’s when referring to educational level.

presently: Means shortly or in the near future. For at this time, use “now,” “at present” or “currently.”

preservice: Most pre- prefix words are not hyphenated.

president-elect: Uppercase P only when title precedes the name (-elect is lowercase). (It was time for President-elect Jackson to speak. Jackson, the president-elect, conducted the meeting.)

prior/before: Prior is an adjective meaning earlier in time. (Prior approval is needed.) Before is correct as a preposition. (Ask him before you decide.)

program: Do not capitalize program unless it is part of the title.

provide: Usually takes with or for: The course will provide you with the necessary skills. (Not the course will provide you the necessary skills.)


quotation/quote: Quotation is a noun meaning a passage quoted. Quote is a verb meaning to repeat a passage.

quotation marks: See Punctuation section for when to use quotation marks.


re- (prefix): Use a hyphen if the word that follows starts with an e, such as re-elect, re-establish, re-examine; or if it could be confused with another meaning (re-cover/recover, re-create/recreate).

real world (noun), real-world (adj.): No quotation marks; use a hyphen when acting as an adjective preceding the noun. (Service learning incorporates real-world experience.)

RSVP: RSVP is the abbreviation for the French répondez s’il vous plaît (please reply), so it is redundant to add please.


SAT: The College Board uses the terminology SAT I: Reasoning Test or SAT II: Subject Test. The SAT measures verbal and mathematical reasoning abilities that students develop over time, both in and out of school, which are related to successful performance in college. The SAT II: Subject Tests are designed to measure knowledge, and the ability to apply that knowledge, in five general subject areas—English, history, mathematics, science and languages.

schoolchildren (one word)

school teacher (two words)

Senate/senate: Uppercase when referring to the U.S. Senate; lowercase when referring to the state senate.

service learning: Hyphenate when used as a description preceding a noun (service-learning program). Uppercase when the name of a specific program (the Office of Community Service Learning at CSU Stanislaus).

Services to Students with Disabilities: Not Disabled Student Services

Sierra Nevada, the: Not Sierra Nevadas, not Sierra, not Sierra Nevada mountains. Sierra means mountain range.

size: (not sized) Examples: Olympic-size pool, passport-size photo

Social Security number: Lowercase n when spelling out, but SSN when abbreviated.

staff: Staff, like faculty, refers to a body of people and takes a singular verb; staffs is the plural form. (Our staff is ready to help.) Use staff member (singular) or staff members (plural) to refer to individuals. (Many staff members contributed to the report.)

state: State is lowercased unless it is part of the proper name. (The state of California needs teachers.)

statewide: Not hyphenated. See -wide suffix entry in T-Z section.

supersede (not supercede)

systemwide: One word, not hyphenated. See -wide suffix entry in T-Z section.