Editorial Style Guide

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(Laurie Smith-Frailey)

[ S ]

S.B.; S.B. degrees; S.B.s; Bachelor of Science; Bachelor of Science degree(s); bachelor’s degree; bachelor’s

See Academic degrees.


No periods; no apostrophe in the plural version.

School [of Architecture and Planning, Engineering, Science, Management, Humanities ...], Schools

Always capitalize references (even short references) to MIT’s five Schools.

  • Each of our five Schools makes unique contributions—to MIT, and also to the larger society.
  • Donors may make a gift to any School- or department-based initiative using MIT’s secure online giving form.

schoolchild, schoolchildren

seasons and semesters

Do not capitalize. See also fall semester.

second-semester courses

Hyphenate second-semester (used as adj.).

secondly, thirdly (etc.)

“Unless you are prepared to begin with firstly and defend it (which will be difficult), do not prettify numbers with –ly. Modern usage prefers second, third, and so on.” *

* Strunk, Jr., William, and E.B. White. The Elements of Style, 4th ed. (Boston:Allyn and Bacon, 2000), 57.

semiannual, semimonthly, semiweekly

In theory, semi means half. Since semi and bi (which means two) are often used interchangeably, however, it’s best to avoid these confusing terms altogether and specify exactly what you mean:

Instead of semiannual, use every six months, every half-year, or twice a year;
instead of semimonthly, use every half-month, twice a month, or twice monthly;
instead of semiweekly, use twice a week or twice weekly.

See also biannual, bimonthly, biweekly.

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One word, no hyphen.

short term (n. phrase) ; short-term (adj.)

  • In the short term, that seems a good solution.
  • The market experienced short-term gains.

site, cite, sight

See Troublesome pairs.

sixties; the ’60s; the 1960s

Same for seventies, the ’70s, the 1970s; eighties, etc.


Not sized.

  • A popular feature of the Zesiger Center is its Olympic-size pool.

Sloan School (of Management)

Out of date! Always use MIT Sloan School or MIT Sloan School of Management. This change is a result of increased efforts to telegraph that the School is part of MIT.

“smart quotes”

See Punctuation—apostrophe and quotation mark.

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Social Security number; SSN



Do not capitalize if referring only to a compass direction. See east.

southeast, southwest


The official dictionary used for this style guide is The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. If that dictionary is not available, most American Heritage dictionaries will agree on questions of spelling. See also http://www.bartleby.com/61/.

split infinitives

Split infinitives call on the writer to compare “correct” grammar with how a sentence sounds. When you split an infinitive, you place an adverb between “to” and a verb. While splitting infinitives is viewed by some as resulting in weak sentence construction, it is generally acceptable according to today’s grammar standards. (Most of us routinely split infinitives already.)

  • To boldly go is split.
  • To go boldly is not split.
  • To strongly object is split.
  • To object strongly is not split.

spring semester

Do not capitalize. See also fall semester.


As for Jr., do not precede with a comma.

  • His full name is Henry Hans Ostermann Sr., and his “handle” is H2O.

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start-up (n.)


Stata Center; Ray and Maria Stata Center

This is a case where the donors have explicitly stated their preference for how this building should be known. Either of the above versions is fine; please henceforth omit the “…for Computer, Information, and Intelligence Sciences” extension.

state-of-the-art (adj.)

Do your best to avoid this clichéd term. Check your thesaurus, but substitutions might include: advanced, modern, contemporary, revolutionary, innovative, inventive. Note that the noun phrase state of the art does not use hyphens (and is also not as overused).

  • Even 10 years ago, the state of the art in digital photography was vastly different than it is today.


stationary, stationery

See Troublesome pairs.

Stratton Student Center

However, use student center by itself (i.e., no caps).

Student Life and Learning

Note and, not &, although this initiative is sometimes referred to internally as SL&L.


One word, no hyphen.

summa cum laude

In roman type, not italicized, not capitalized. Means “with the greatest honor.” See cum laude. (Please note that MIT does not confer academic honors of this sort.)

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