Editorial Style Guide

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Campaign for MIT (The)

Always italicize the full name of MIT’s most recent capital campaign. In addition, capitalize “The” when referring to the full name of the campaign in running text. As a rule, however, a reference simply to “the campaign” is not capitalized (or italicized).

  • (CR)2 was the official newsletter of The Campaign for MIT.
  • Gifts supporting key objectives of the campaign continue to pour in.


Note the hyphen. (Institute-wide is treated similarly.)

Campus Visit

Capitalize both words in the name of this recurring event.

can, may

See Troublesome pairs.

capital, Capitol

capital: When used in the sense of “the city where a seat of government is located,” do not capitalize.

  • The MIT Summer Internship Program gives students the opportunity to work on important policy issues in the nation’s capital.

Capitol: Capitalize U.S. Capitol and Capitol when referring to that particular building in Washington.

  • The meeting was held in the west wing of the Capitol.

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career development professorship (CD professorship)

Except for the acronym portion, note the use of lowercase. If the professorship is named, however, use title case. CD professorship is just shorthand for career development professorship.

  • A career development professorship serves as an expression of faith in a younger teacher-researcher’s promise, as testimony to the respect of his or her peers.
  • The inaugural holder of the Irwin and Helen Sizer Department of Biology Career Development Professorship (1996) was Jacqueline Lees, then an assistant professor.


The preferred variant of catalogue.


Stands for compact disc or discs. Note uppercase; a lowercase s makes it plural.

CD-ROM (adj., n.)

All caps.


No periods in either, and no apostrophe in the plural version (similar to CDs). For possessives, use CEO’s (singular) and CEOs’ (plural).

chair, chairperson

In general, these are the acceptable references for the leadership position formerly known as chairman or chairwoman. However, some bodies follow strict rules to the contrary, so it’s always advisable to check specific cases first.

  • Please welcome Chairman of the MIT Corporation Dana Mead.
  • Randall served as chair of the Carlisle School Committee for nearly 10 years.

cite, sight, site

See Troublesome pairs.

class names

At MIT, courses are fields of study, and classes (or subjects) comprise the curriculum for each course. Formal class names are in caps, not italicized or put in quotes. Languages are always capitalized.

  • She is taking The American Revolution, Introduction to Planetary Science, and a French class.
  • He loves his math class.

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Class of 19__, Class of 20__

Capitalize Class in this instance. See also academic years.

  • She’s a member of the Class of 2009.

class years

When appending the class year to an alumnus’ or alumna’s name, follow these rules. (Note that you may see different rules applied to donor plaques.)

If referring to an individual alumnus or alumna, the two-digit class year follows the full name. Make sure the apostrophe points toward what’s missing, i.e., to the left.

  • Abhay Parekh ’86

If referring to a couple where only one person is an MIT alumnus or alumna, insert the two-digit class year after the first name of the graduate, or following the middle initial if used.

  • William R. ’56 and Betsy P. Leitch

If a husband and wife are both alumni, place class years internally for both.

  • Derry ’75 and Charlene ’79 Kabcenell

close by

Two words.

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“co” words

Close up most “co” words:

  • coexistence
  • cocurricular

However, hyphenate those that refer to one’s occupation or status:

  • co-author
  • co-editor
  • co-founder
  • co-host


As a title, use coach as you would professor in front of a name.

  • Dave Hagymas is head coach of men’s tennis at MIT.
  • The diving coach, Dawn Gerken, spoke with parents after the meet.
  • Following his presentation, Coach Taylor ran laps with the team.


See Punctuation for how to use commas in dates or in place names , and for using commas in a series (serial commas) .

complement, compliment

See Troublesome pairs.


This is the spelling if you mean “free.”

Computational and Systems Biology Initiative (CSBi)

Mentioned here because the lowercase final letter in the acronym is unusual. For acronyms in general, see Acronyms.

co-op; cooperative

Co-op is the correct spelling of the short version of cooperative, since coop implies a cage or enclosure (the MIT–Harvard Coop notwithstanding!).

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compare to, compare with

See Troublesome pairs.

complement, compliment

See Troublesome pairs.

continual, continuous

See Troublesome pairs.

Corporation (the MIT)

When referring to MIT’s Board of Trustees, always capitalize Corporation.

  • The membership of the Corporation includes distinguished leaders in science, engineering, industry, and education.

council, councilor; counsel, counselor; consul

See Troublesome pairs.

couple (usage note)

From the American Heritage Dictionary * :

“When used to refer to two people who function socially as a unit, as in a married couple, the word couple may take either a singular or a plural verb, depending on whether the members are considered individually or collectively:

  • The couple were married last week.
  • Only one couple was left on the dance floor.

“When a pronoun follows, they and their are more common than it and its:

  • The couple decided to spend their [less commonly, its] vacation in Florida.

“Using a singular verb and a plural pronoun, as in The couple wants their children to go to college, is widely considered to be incorrect. Care should be taken that the verb and pronoun agree in number:

  • The couple want their children to go to college.”

* Pickett, Joseph P. (exec. ed.). The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4thed. (Boston:Houghton Mifflin, 2000), 419.

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course title(s), course work

Two words.

credit hour

Don’t hyphenate.

  • a 4 credit hour course

cross country (n. phrase), cross-country (adj.)

Cross country (noun phrase), as in racing, is a sport where a person moves or is directed across open country—as opposed to along tracks or roads.

  • She’s a member of the MIT cross country team.

Cross-country (adj.), as in from one end of the country to the other, is hyphenated.

  • His cross-country flight last week went more smoothly than usual.



Stands for Computational and Systems Biology Initiative (CSBi).

cum laude

Means “with honor.” Because this term is commonly used and familiar to most people, it is not italicized. It is also not capitalized. (Please note that MIT does not confer academic honors of this sort.)

  • Caitlin is a cum laude graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara.
  • He graduated cum laude in 2001.

curriculum (singular), curricula (plural)

curriculum vitae (singular), curricula vitae (plural); CV (singular), CVs (plural)

Unlike a résumé, the curriculum vitae (CV) stresses academic achievements: teaching experience, publications (books, articles, research papers, unpublished manuscripts, or book chapters), and academic honors and awards.

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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