Editorial Style Guide

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(Laurie Smith-Frailey)

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facsimile, fax

In text, the proper abbreviation for facsimile is fax, which can be used as a word. The all-cap version FAX is not acceptable in body copy.

faculty, faculty members

Faculty is a collective noun that refers to an institution’s entire teaching staff. It takes a singular verb.

  • Our faculty is esteemed worldwide.

When referring to the individuals who make up the faculty, use the term faculty members.

  • Many faculty members have already signed up for MIT Charm School this year.

fall semester

Not capitalized.

  • That class won’t be offered again until fall semester next year.

farther, further

See Troublesome pairs.

fewer, less

See Troublesome pairs.


One word.

file server

Two words.

first come, first served

Not first come, first serve.

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first year, first-year (adj.)

Note that first-year student is preferred over freshman.

  • Greg describes his first-year experience in ESG as nothing short of remarkable.
  • This is Mimi’s first year as a photographer for The Tech.

first-class mail

Hyphenate first-class (adj.).


One word, no hyphen.

first-semester course(s)

Hyphenate first-semester (adj.).

fiscal year, FY

Use lowercase when writing out fiscal year in running text (for example, fiscal year 2007); however, the abbreviated version (FY2007) requires capitals .

follow up (v.); follow-up (n. or adj.)

  • I still need to follow up with her about our breakfast meeting next Monday.
  • Sean scheduled his first follow-up exam for two weeks after his surgery date.
  • Thanksgiving dinner was a successful follow-up to Marietta’s small brunch party in October.

foreign students

Avoid! Use international students instead.

foreign words and phrases

… should be italicized unless they’re commonly used and familiar to most. Rule of thumb: If the word or phrase is found in the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, do not italicize it. See Latin words. Here’s a sampling of both:

  • cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude
  • quid pro quo
  • raison d’être
  • Mens et Manus (the Institute’s Latin motto, “mind and hand”)
  • tout de même (“nevertheless; all the same”)
  • veni, vidi, vici (“I came, I saw, I conquered”)

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Write out fractions in words, and hyphenate them, in normal running text. In number-heavy text or in tables, numerical representations are acceptable (½, ¾, etc.).

  • Drive north for two-thirds of a mile, then take your first left.
  • One-fourth of the team has been suspended.

Also, if the numerator (number above the line) of the fraction is 1, write out the word “one” in running text.

  • one-fifth, not a fifth

See also numbers and numerals.

freshman applicants

Not freshmen applicants. Alternatively, use first-year applicants.

Although the term first-year student is preferred when referring to that class, there are still cases where the rest of the world continues to heavily use freshman. (Just be sure to use freshman, not freshmen, applicants.) See academic years.

full time (adv.), full-time (adj.)

  • She works full time.
  • He’s a full-time student.

fund vs. Fund

When referring to a named fund on second reference, capitalize the word “Fund.” Otherwise, don’t.

  • Such a fund could provide discretionary resources for the dean.
  • The couple celebrated their joint reunion with a gift of $50,000 to establish the Show U. Spirit Fund. The Fund will support the activities of the MIT cheerleading squad.

fundraising (n. or adj.)

One word, no hyphen in either case.

  • Fundraising is not a career for the fainthearted.
  • The church committee developed a fundraising strategy at last night’s meeting.

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