AP Guidelines

Associated Press (AP) Guidelines and Inclusivity Style Guide

In general, MCLA uses AP Style when writing College materials. When drafting a press release or any other College communication, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind. When in doubt, please email brand@mcla.edu; someone from the Office of Communications and Marketing can help.

  • Names. After the first mention of a person’s name, refer to them only by their last name.
  • Quotes. The proper format for a quote is as follows: “MCLA is awesome,” said (insert name here). Please note that the comma after the quote is placed inside the quotation mark, and use “said” instead of “says.”
  • Titles. Only capitalize formal title when they precede an individual’s name. If it falls after, use lowercase. (Example: Mayor Tom Bernard signed the proclamation. Or: Tom Bernard, mayor of North Adams, signed the proclamation.)
  • Numbers. One through nine should be written out. Use figures for numbers 10 and above. (Example: John bought four books, six pencils and 12 binders.) 
    • For percentages, use numerals with “percent,” not “%”
  • Months and seasons. When using a month with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec., and spell out when using alone or with just a year. (Hint: The months never abbreviated fall chronologically and are five letters or fewer – March, April, May, June and July. The seasons – winter, spring, summer and fall – never are capitalized.
  • Dates. Do not use 1st, 2nd or 3rd, etc. when listing a date. (Example: Jan. 1)
  • Times. Use “a.m.” or “p.m.” 
    • Use 7 p.m., 7:15 or 7:30 p.m. 
    • Do not use 7:00 p.m.
  • States. For a complete listing of AP state abbreviations, go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._state_abbreviations 
    • Common abbreviations you may use include:
      • Massachusetts = Mass.
      • Vermont = Vt.
      • New York = N.Y.
      • Connecticut = Conn.
  • Street addresses. Street, Avenue and Boulevard are abbreviated only when used with a numbered address. Roads and other related causeways such as court, drive, lane and way are not abbreviated. (Examples: 375 Church St., 17 Bumpy Road)
    • Another example: MCLA Gallery 51 is in one of the storefronts on Main Street.)
  • The MCLA name. Please, do not use “the” Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. In addition, please use the full names for various MCLA locations (Examples: MCLA Church Street Center, MCLA Gallery 51). Capitalize "College" on second reference. (Example: MCLA values its students, so the College is always adding new programs to fit their interests and professional goals.)
  • Referencing grade levels: Please do not use "freshmen" or "freshman." Opt for the gender-neutral "first-year student" instead to keep language inclusive.
  • Class years. It's MCLA's editorial practice to write the class year after a person's name: John Doe '88, Jane Deer '19. For brevity's sake, try to avoid "a member of the class of..." or other phrasing around class years.
  • Do not use the following in a press release:
    • Italics 
    • The “&” symbol

Inclusivity Style Guide

Use of Alumnus, Alumni, Alumna, or Alumnae

You may use alumna when referring to a woman who has attended a school; alumnus when referring to a man who has attended a school; or alum or graduate as a singular, gender-neutral option. Use alumni or graduates when referring to a group of multiple genders. Use alumnae when referring to a group of women only.

Use of First-Year

Use the term “first-year” as a gender-neutral way to replace the word “freshman.”

Listing Multiple MCLA Degrees

List abbreviated graduate degree following undergraduate degree. i.e. Mary Brown ’81 M.S. ’95

Invitations and Name Tags

Certain additions or deletions to the standard rules for listing alumni degrees and grad years may occur for special use in invitations and name tags.

Honorary titles may be used with discretion as long as they are used consistently. For alumni who have earned a doctorate at another school, a “Dr.” may appear in front of the name, but that information should not appear in the listing of the degrees that happens after the name

Event organizers may choose to abbreviate or delete certain alumni degree and grad year listings on name tags, but we suggest always keeping the grad year/s at a minimum.


Because English has no generic singular or common-sex – pronoun, we have used “he,” “his,” and “him” in such expressions as “the student...he.” When we constantly personify “the judge,” “the critic,” “the executive,” “the author,” and so forth as male by using the pronoun he, we are subtly conditioning ourselves against the idea of a female judge, critic, executive, or author. There are several alternative approaches.

  • Recast into the plural
    Use: Give students their papers as soon as they are finished. Not: Give each student his paper as soon as he is finished.

  • Reword to eliminate gender problems
    Use: The average student is worried about grades. Not: The average student is worried about his grades.

Chair; Chairperson

Use chair or chairperson, even if you know the gender of the person involved.


Although “man” in its original sense carried the dual meaning of adult human and adult male, its meaning has come to be so closely identified with adult male that the generic use of “man” and other words with masculine markers should be replaced with non-gender specific language.

  • mankind humanity, people, human beings

  • man’s achievements human achievements

  • the best man for the job the best person for the job

  • man-made synthetic, manufactured, machine-made

  • the common man the average person, ordinary people

  • man the stockroom staff the stockroom

  • nine man-hours nine staff-hours


Avoid the use of “man” in occupational terms when persons holding the job could be either male or female.
  • chairman chairperson, coordinator (of a committee or department), moderator (of a meeting), presiding officer, head, chair
  • businessman business executive
  • fireman firefighter
  • mailman mail carrier
  • steward and stewardess flight attendant
  • policeman and policewoman police officer
  • congressman congressional representative

Adapted from UMBC Brand and Style Guidelines