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.


Baldrige, Malcolm (not Baldridge)

benefit, benefited, benefiting (one t)

biannual/biennial: Biannual means twice a year; biennial means every two years.

board of trustees: Capitalize when used formally as in the California State University Board of Trustees or when by itself referring to that entity. It is not necessary to capitalize board or trustees when used alone. (The board met last month.) The Board of Trustees and the board take a singular verb; the trustees takes a plural verb. (The Board of Trustees is voting; the trustees are voting.) As a single entity, the board should be referred to as “it” not “they.” (The board will decide when it meets.)

businessperson (one word)


The California Dream Act: Sometimes abbreviated CADA. Can be referred to on second and subsequent mentions as the “Dream Act.” To refer to a student(s) who is covered under the California Dream Act, use the term “Dreamer(s).” For Dream and Dreamer, capitalize only the D. While “Dream” is an acronym, the state’s official site for the California Dream Act​ does not use all capital letters (i.e., DREAM); the CO style guide follows the same protocol of capitalizing only the D. The California Dream Act allows undocumented and nonresident documented students who meet certain provisions to apply for and receive private scholarships funded through public universities, state-administered financial aid, university grants, community college fee waivers, and Cal Grants. Read more.

California Education Code: The California Education Code sets the laws that regulate the California education system. Refer to a section according to where it is within the code (California Education Code, Part 1, Chapter 2, Article 3) or its name (California Education Code, Educational Equity, Prohibition of Discrimination).

The California State University: The is part of the official name of this system and should be included and capitalized on covers, title pages, contents, headings or whenever the official name of the organization is called for. However, it should be lowercased in textual matter. Lowercasing the in text will avoid such awkward situations as “the University of California, The California State University and the California Community Colleges.” Remember to use the before the abbreviation CSU when practical. (The CSU is increasing access, not “CSU is increasing access.”) System is not part of the official name of the California State University and should not be capitalized.

campuswide: Not hyphenated; see -wide suffix entry in the T-Z section.

capital/Capitol: Capitalize U.S. Capitol and the Capitol when referring to the building in Washington, D.C., and lowercase when referring to state capitol buildings. (The California capitol is a beautiful building, but I was really overwhelmed by the Capitol in Washington, D.C.) Capital is the seat of government and is not capitalized. (The capital of Nevada is Carson City.)

cell phone (two words)

centered around: Centered around is geometrically impossible (as in: the discussion centered around the following points). It would be correct to use centered on or revolved around. (The discussion centered on the following points. The discussion revolved around the following points.)

centuries: Lowercase and spell out if less than 10 (the second century; the 21st century). If part of a proper name, use the organization’s preference. When indicating a period of time that includes the last part of one century and the first part of another, use four digits for both of the defining years (1999-2000), except in tables and charts.

chair/chairman/chairwoman/chairperson: Use the organization’s official title or that preferred and used by the individual. If no preference is indicated, use chair.

chamber of commerce: Lowercase unless naming a specific entity, such as the San Diego Chamber of Commerce. (We met with several members of the local chamber of commerce.)

Chancellor’s Office: Capitalize when referring to the systemwide office as a whole. (The Board of Trustees usually meets at the Chancellor’s Office.) Lowercase when referring to the office of the incumbent chancellor. (I will go to the chancellor’s office to get his signature.) Office of the Chancellor is the preferred form for formal external documents and addresses.

child-care (adj.)/child care (noun): Examples: child-care facility; we need more child care for students.

co-: Most co- prefix words are not hyphenated (cocurricular, coed, coexist). However, hyphenate when forming nouns, adjectives or verbs that designate occupation or status such as co-chair, co-host, co-worker.

collective noun: (faculty, jury, staff, board, etc.) A noun that appears singular in form but denotes a group of individuals or objects. The verb is singular or plural depending on whether the group is being referred to as a group or as individuals. (See “faculty/faculty member” in the D-F section, or see the Writing Clearly section, for examples of verb agreement with collective nouns.)

compare to/compare with: Compare to is used to liken two things or to note similarities. (Her sense of style was compared to Martha Stewart’s.) Compare with is used to note similarities and differences. (He arrived at the seminar at 3:45 p.m., which was early compared with those attendees who arrived at 4:10 p.m.)

competence/competency: Competence means skill or ability. (The test measures the student’s competence in writing complete sentences.) Competency generally refers to a specific skill in a specific area. (The law school program is designed for students to achieve the competencies established by the American Bar Association.)

complement/compliment: Complement describes something that completes or supplements. (The pie charts complement the text.) Compliment denotes an expression of courtesy, respect or admiration (She complimented me on my report), or something given free as a courtesy (a complimentary ticket).

comprise/compose/constitute: Comprise means to be made up of, to contain, to include all or embrace; the whole comprises the parts. “Comprised of” is incorrect. (The CSU system comprises 23 universities.) Compose means to create or put together. (Many ethnic groups compose our nation.) Constitute means to make up the elements of the whole. (Two accountants and three bankers constitute the finance committee.) Use include for a series of items that are only part of the total. (The zoo includes penguins and monkeys. The zoo comprises 125 types of animals, including penguins and monkeys.)

congressman: Use representative instead.

continual/continuous: Continual means repeated steadily. (The campus has a continual need for on-campus housing.) Continuous means uninterrupted. (A continuous stream of students walked into the conference room.)

contractions: Do not use contractions (haven’t, I’m, she’d, etc.) in formal reports.

couple: If you must use couple to indicate an indefinite number, don’t forget of: I have a couple of questions, not I have a couple questions. When used in reference to two people, the word takes a plural verb and pronouns. (The couple are leaving for their vacation.) If the couple is being referred to as a unit, use a singular verb. (Each couple was asked for a $5 donation.)

coursework: (one word)

courtesy titles: In general, in text do not use courtesy titles (Mr., Ms., Miss) when using first and last names. (Use Richard Espinoza and Lisa Kim, not Mr. Richard Espinoza and Ms. Lisa Kim.) The title Dr. should be used in text only for a person with a medical or veterinary degree. Use of Dr. in text for a person with an EdD or PhD is optional. Please note: For consistency, if Dr. is used in a document to refer to a person with an EdD or PhD, all people in the document with PhDs and EdDs must also have the title Dr.

coworker: (not co-worker)

credit hours: Use numerals for credit hours. (I earned 1 hour’s credit; he earned 3 hours’ credit.)

cross-cultural: Hyphenate in general usage; however, if part of a proper name, use the organization’s preference.

currently: Means now; presently means in the near future.