Editorial Style Guide

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(Laurie Smith-Frailey)

[ B ]

Bachelor of Science in [name of discipline] program

bachelor’s degree

Note that it’s lowercase and singular possessive. Abbreviated S.B. at MIT. See also Academic degrees.

back up (v.); backup (n.)

Back up, the verb, means to duplicate data for storage purposes. Backup, the noun, refers to what you have created after you back up.

benefit, benefited, benefiting

In each case, one t.

beside, besides

See Troublesome pairs.

between, among, amid

See Troublesome pairs (listed under among).

biannual, bimonthly, biweekly

If possible, avoid these confusing terms. (They can mean either twice a year/month/week or every two years/months/weeks.) Instead, specify exactly what you mean:

Instead of biannual, use twice a year or every two years;
Instead of bimonthly, use twice a month, twice monthly, or every two months;
Instead of biweekly, use twice a week, twice weekly, or every two weeks.

See also semiannual, semimonthly, semiweekly.

Bible, biblical

Bible is in roman type, capitalized but not italicized. Note that biblical is lowercase.

bit(s) and byte(s)

In computer science terminology, bit is a blend of b(inary) and (dig)it. It takes eight bits (1’s and 0’s) to make a byte (a representation of a character such as a digit or letter). Generally, bits are used to convey transmission speeds, where bytes convey storage capacity. See also gigabyte, megabyte.

  • In the early 1990s, an Internet connection speed of 2600 bps (bits per second) was considered standard.
  • Today’s computers frequently feature hard drive capacities of 100 gigabytes and more.

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Okay to use, as is African American (no hyphen).

Board of Directors (Trustees, etc.)

Board of Directors should always be capitalized when the full name is used.

  • The Board of Directors met Thursday to decide on the matter.
  • The board advised the president to cut the budget.
  • The trustees’ feedback was positive.

brain and cognitive sciences

Always use in place of neuroscience. (Brain and cognitive sciences is a more inclusive term and is in fact the only term that describes this MIT department accurately.)

brain and cognitive sciences complex

Current name for the new building across Vassar Street from the Stata Center. All lowercase.

bring, take

See Troublesome pairs.

buildings and campus landmarks

Please refer to APPENDIX: MIT campus buildings for many MIT building names. When using the official names of campus buildings and landmarks—as well as MIT offices, departments, programs, and organizations—capitalize each major word. (Follow standard capitalization rules.) Only capitalize the article preceding a building name (or office, department, program, or organization name) if that article is part of the formal name—or if it begins a sentence, of course.


See bit(s) and byte(s).

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