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.


GPA: Grade point average (all capital letters, no periods). Use two digits after the decimal when expressing grade point average: 2.50, 3.00.

grades: Do not use quotation marks or italics. For scholastic grades, use a capital letter and s for plurals. (He received three As and two Bs.)

graduate (verb): Students graduate from high school; they do not graduate high school.

groundbreaking: One word in all forms. (Groundbreaking was July 4. Many dignitaries attended the groundbreaking ceremony.)


harass, harassment

health care (two words) (She works in health care. That is a health care question.)

historic/historical: Fine distinction: historic means important within the framework of history; historical concerns something that happened in the past. Both are preceded by the article a (a historic event), not an.

home page (two words, not capitalized)

hopefully: Means in a hopeful manner. (He looked hopefully at the sky for a break in the weather.) Do not use to mean it is hoped, as in: Hopefully, that will take care of the problem.

hors d’oeuvres

House of Representatives: Uppercase when referring to the lower house of Congress, even if shortened to House. (He has served in the House of Representatives since the House was run by Sam Rayburn.)

hyphen: See Punctuation section for help with hyphenation.


i.e., e.g.: E.g. means for example; i.e. means that is or in other words. Use periods after each letter; set off both with commas, but do not italicize. Use e.g. when providing examples. (We are working on several projects, e.g., the annual report, the conference and the program for teachers.) Use i.e. when rephrasing a statement to make it more understandable. (The CSU Executive Council, i.e., the chancellor, vice chancellors and presidents met Tuesday morning.)

initials with names: Use spaces between initials when they are part of the name (R.W. Lewis) but not when initials are used alone, without periods (JFK, LBJ).

in-kind: Hyphenate when precedes a noun (an in-kind donation).

inservice (adj.): (not hyphenated) (She is an inservice teacher.)

insure: See assure.

interim: The correct title when someone is filling in while a permanent replacement is being sought is interim. Someone filling in for an administrator temporarily on leave is acting.

Internet (capital I in all references)

intranet (lowercase i)

italics: See Punctuation section for when to use italics.

its/it’s: It’s is the contraction for it is (occasionally it has) and takes an apostrophe. (It’s important to pay attention to details.) Its is the possessive form of the pronoun it and is used as a modifier before a noun. It should never have an apostrophe. (The program lost its funding.)


judgment (not judgement)


last: Last has several meanings and its use in reference to time can be confusing. The phrase during the last month can mean either during the previous month or during the final month. To avoid this confusion, use previous, past or final in place of last, or specify the precise time.

legislature: Lowercase in all uses (the California legislature, the state legislature, the legislature).

liaison (not liason)

lifelong (no hyphen)

long-term: Hyphenate when this term precedes a noun. (He is a long-term employee.)

longtime (adj.) (no hyphen)

-ly adverbs, hyphenating: Do not use a hyphen between adverbs ending in -ly and the adjectives they modify: aptly named building, fully vested employee.


master’s degree: Do not capitalize. The plural is master's degrees, not masters' degrees.

measurements: Do not abbreviate measurements (inches, millimeters, minutes, etc.) in text. (He was five inches shorter. Can you get here in 20 minutes?)

more than/over: More than refers to a quantity or units that can be counted; over generally refers to physical position or spatial relationship, but can be used for degree, quantity or extent when countable items are not being considered individually. (More than 50 students applied. We raised over half a million dollars.)

Mr., Ms., Miss: In general, in text do not use courtesy titles (Mr., Ms., Miss) when using first and last names. (Use William Kerr and Jasmine Singh, not Mr. William Kerr and Ms. Jasmine Singh.)

multicultural, multidisciplinary, multitask, multiyear, etc. (Most multi- prefix words are not hyphenated.)

Multiple Subject Credential (not Multiple Subjects Credential)